ALA criticizes House reauthorization of PATRIOT Act

For Immediate Release:

July 22, 2005

Contact: Bernadette Murphy

Washington Communications Director

(202) 628-8410

ALA criticizes House reauthorization of PATRIOT Act

(WASHINGTON, DC) Today the American Library Association expressed dismay that the House of Representatives failed to adopt essential reader privacy safeguards when it voted to reauthorize the USA PATRIOT Act (257-171) and extend Section 215 for another decade. Despite a 238-187 vote in the House on June 15 to cut off funds for bookstore and library searches under the USA PATRIOT Act, Thursday the House voted against amendments that would have permanently reinstated protections for reading records.

"We are very disappointed that the House has refused to recognize the American public's desire to protect library records from FBI scrutiny," said American Library Association President Michael Gorman.
"Forty-eight states have laws that specifically protect library records from government fishing expeditions. Almost 400 communities - representing roughly 62 million Americans- have passed resolutions objecting to portions of the USA PATRIOT Act. We are discouraged to find that Congress has ignored these Americans'legitimate concerns".

"Rep. Sensenbrenner was correct in 2001 when he insisted on adding sunset provisions to the PATRIOT Act," said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office. "Sensenbrenner understood then that sunset provisions would compel the administration to provide information Congress needs to oversee these radical provisions. The House missed an opportunity to establish a more reasonable sunset. We hope that the Senate bill will offer a more realistic schedule for the continued necessary oversight," she concluded.

S. 1389 was marked up Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee and provides a more stringent standard to which the FBI must adhere when seeking an order under Section 215. It also allows the recipient of a Section 215 order to consult an attorney and to challenge the order in the FISA court under rules and procedures to be established. Similar amendments to the House bill were voted down. "We are hopeful that reader privacy protections will be restored when H.R. 3199 is conferenced with the Senate bill, S. 1389," Sheketoff concluded.