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ALA: House takes lead with strong surveillance reform bills

Contact: Jenni Terry
Press Officer, ALA Washington Office

Washington, D.C. — The USA Patriot Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 3845) and the FISA Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 3846), introduced into the House of Representatives Tuesday, would together systematically reform our national surveillance laws.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee failed to pass a bill that would restore the balance between protecting civil liberties and ensuring law enforcement has the tools it needs to fight terrorism, but leaders in the House have boldly stepped up to reopen the public debate on these challenging issues and address the need for reform,” American Library Association (ALA) President Camila Alire said.

H.R. 3845  and H.R. 3846 were introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA).

H.R. 3845 calls for reform to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, often referred to as the library provision, by improving the standard for issuing a Section 215 order, providing recipients of Section 215 orders with the ability to immediately challenge both the underlying order and any gag order associated with it, and prohibiting a request for Section 215 records to a library or bookseller for documentary materials that contain personally identifiable information concerning a patron.

This bill would also make needed reforms to national security letter (NSL) policy by ensuring that the FBI can obtain basic information without a court order while also adding reasonable safeguards, improving the issuance standard for NSLs, and authorizing meaningful, constitutionally sound judicial review of NSLs and associated gag orders.

“Libraries have been on the receiving end of both Section 215 orders and NSLs, and we know reform is needed to these broad, sweeping policies in order to prevent the abuse of these tools and to protect innocent Americans from the unwarranted surveillance, collection and retention of their personal information,” Alire said.


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  1. jim jim

    As the House and Senate move forward on the reauthorization of Patriot Act provisions with little to no journalistic attention, it’s great to see the ALA issue a statement.

    Wouldn’t now be a good time to add H.R. 3845 and H.R. 3846 actions to the ALA Congressional Action web page?

  2. Jim – done and done.

    Call your member in the House of Representatives and urge her/him to reform the USA PATRIOT Act now! Please ask your representative to co-sponsor the USA PATRIOT Amendments Act of 2009 (H.R. 3845), introduced by Rep. Conyers (MI-14) and others on October 20, 2009.
    Mr. Conyers and the other cosponsors should be thanked for introducing H.R. 3845. To access the bill text, please click here:|/bss/111search.html

    A mark-up in the House Judiciary Committee is currently scheduled for Wednesday, November 4. Your calls are urgently needed before this mark-up! Call your individual representative’s office or the U.S. Capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

    BACKGROUND: Three PATRIOT Act provisions are set to expire on December 31, 2009. This is the best chance we have had in the last eight years to get significant reforms to Section 215, often called the “library provision,” and to national security letters (NSLs).

    The USA PATRIOT Amendments Act of 2009 protects constitutional speech and privacy rights by:
    – Amending the NSL statute to ensure that the government only obtains financial, communication and credit records of people believed to be terrorists or spies;
    – Requiring the government to convince a court that a national security gag order is necessary; and
    – Ensuring that Section 215 does not authorize collection of library and bookstore records if they contain individualized information on the patron.
    Library grassroots advocacy efforts have helped lead to the introduction of this strong Conyers bill to bring balance back to our civil liberties while allowing law enforcement to fight terrorist threats. We must do everything we can to ensure that the House of Representatives passes H.R. 3845, a bill that can lead to genuine reform of the deeply-flawed USA PATRIOT Act.

    This is especially so because the Senate is set to pass a bill with far, far weaker reforms. Also, as expected, there is significant opposition to these reforms, including from the White House, the Department of Justice and the House Intelligence Committee. Many calls from library supporters and others will be needed to overcome this opposition. Call now with the following message:

    To find out who your member of Congress is, please go to the Legislative Action Center:

    – Pass H.R. 3845 to protect reader privacy and other First Amendment activities in libraries and bookstores;
    – Reform Section 215 and national security letters so that a higher legal standard is required to obtain these types of orders;
    – Ensure and maintain the legal right to challenge gag orders and require judicial review and reassessment to continue such gag orders;
    – Continue the required audits and public reports so that Congress and the public can assess the impact of these laws; and
    – Maintain the sunsets so that there can be regular Congressional and public oversight to protect against abuses of law enforcement powers.

  3. jim jim

    Jacob, that’s great! One thing: the Thomas link is unfortunately a *temporary* link, and unfortunately it has expired.

    The permanent link to H.R. 3845 is:

    (This link needs to be fixed in your great capwiz call to action as well.)

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