LA: JUSTICE Act would amend PATRIOT Act provisions eroding patron privacy

Contact: Jenni Terry

Press Officer

ALA Washington Office

(202) 628-8410

For Immediate Release

September 17, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Library Association (ALA) applauds the sponsors of the “Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts” (JUSTICE) Act, which was introduced in the Senate today and would reform the USA PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act and other surveillance authorities to safeguard the constitutional rights of Americans while also ensuring the federal government has the necessary tools to fight terrorism.

“Three key sections of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire at the end of the year, and we are pleased to see Sens. Feingold and Durbin as well as Sens. Tester, Udall, Bingaman, Sanders, Akaka and Wyden take this opportunity to conduct a comprehensive review of these surveillance tools,” ALA President Camila Alire said.

“We believe that our nation must return to the rule of law, and we welcome this legislation, which addresses provisions of the PATRIOT Act that we believe erode the public’s civil liberties. This bill would restore the balance between the needs of law enforcement and our privacy rights.”

The JUSTICE Act would reauthorize Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, often referred to as the “library provision,” but with additional checks and balances. The bill would permit the government to obtain an order for records if they have reason to believe a specific individual has some connection to terrorism while also allowing the target of the investigation to challenge the use of the records. The bill would also provide judicial review of Section 215 orders.

Additionally, the JUSTICE Act would address problems with national security letters and increase judicial review and public reporting on these surveillance tools.

“We appreciate the sponsors of this bill for their efforts to correct what has been a long-standing issue for America’s libraries and our mission to protect patron privacy and other civil liberties,” Alire said.