FOLUSA honored Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) with its 2006 Public Service Award during a ceremony held May 2, 2006, in conjunction with National Library Legislative Day in Washington DC. These two senators received the award for their sponsorship of the Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE Act) of 2003 which was designed to amend the USA PATRIOT Act placing reasonable limitations on the use of surveillance and the issuance of search warrants, and for other purposes.
“Senator Craig and I are on opposite sides of the political spectrum,” said Senator Durbin. “Yet we have come together with the understanding that whether you are conservative or progressive, all Americans value our civil liberties.”
Specifically, this legislation would have provided that libraries would not be treated as wire or electronic communication service providers under provisions granting counterintelligence access to provider subscriber information, toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records. “The SAFE Act was drafted to safeguard the liberties of law-abiding citizens while preserving the law enforcement authorities essential to a successful war on terror,” said Senator Craig.
Though the March 2006 reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act did use some language from the SAFE Act, the strength of its protections for library users was watered down leaving privacy rights at risk. The section dealing with library records and patron privacy in the Patriot Act (Section 215) is now scheduled to sunset December 31, 2009. Librarians and civil liberties groups vow to continue their commitment to affect reasonable safeguards for privacy for future iterations of the Act.
Regarding his co-sponsorship of the SAFE Act and its importance Senator Craig said, “Protecting both our national security and our civil liberties is extremely important to me and the citizens of Idaho. They are not mutually exclusive ideals.”