Senate holds first mark-up of USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization legislation

The first in what will likely be a series of mark-ups of USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization legislation was held today in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Hours before the mark-up, a bill negotiated by Sens. Patrick Leahy (VT-D) and Dianne Feinstein (CA-D) was substituted in place of S. 1692, the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2009, introduced by Leahy on September 22.

The substitute bill substantially weakened the reforms the library community has sought relevant to Sec. 215 and national security letters.

A specific library amendment introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin (IL-D) would have provided preferable reforms; however, it did not pass. During the debate, Durbin recognized ALA for its work on preserving the confidentiality of library records and also for being a champion for the privacy rights of the American public.  During the same debate, Sen. Jeff Sessions (AL-R) referred to the library community’s concerns as “unwarranted” and “irrational.”

The progress toward reform made last week with the introduction of Sen. Russ Feingold’s (WI-D) JUSTICE Act and Leahy’s original bill seems to be losing ground with the introduction of this substitute bill.

This is a critical time for grassroots pressure to keep needed reforms in the bill. As we continue to closely monitor this complex and highly fluid process closely, we call upon advocates to continue contacting their senators.

For more information on how to contact your senator as well as additional talking points, please go to the Legislative Action Center: http://capwiz.com/ala/home/.

Lynne Bradley
Director, ALA Office for Government Relations

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