As both chambers of Congress prepare to take up and debate long-needed surveillance law reform, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) bill (introduced late yesterday) to simply reauthorize the “library provision” (Section 215) of the USA PATRIOT Act until 2020 without change of any kind was met today by a storm of opposition from leading privacy and civil liberties groups with ALA in the vanguard. In a statement released this morning, American Library Association (ALA) President Courtney Young said unequivocally of S.1035:
“Nothing is more basic to democracy and librarianship than intellectual freedom. And, nothing is more hostile to that freedom than the knowledge that the government can compel a library—without a traditional judicial search warrant—to report on the reading and Internet records of library patrons, students, researchers and entrepreneurs. That is what Section 215 did in 2001 and what it still does today.
“The time is long past for Section 215 to be meaningfully reformed to restore the civil liberties massively and unjustifiably compromised by the USA PATRIOT Act. For libraries of every kind, for our hundreds of millions of users, ALA stands inimically against S. 1035 and the reauthorization of Section 215 without significant and urgently needed change.”
In the coming days and weeks the ALA Washington Office will be working intensively to fight for real changes to Section 215 and other provisions of the PATRIOT Act, but it will need the help of all librarians and library supporters to succeed. Sign up now for the latest on ALA and its coalition partners’ efforts, and how you can help sway your Members of Congress when the time comes. That will be very soon, so don’t wait!