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PATRIOT Act reader privacy Amendment #524 fails in House vote

The House has defeated in a 196 “yeas” to 232 “nays” vote this afternoon the Conyers-Paul-Nadler-Jones Amendment, # 524 that would have improved reader privacy protections in Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  This amendment could have returned the legal standard for law enforcement to obtain library and bookstore records to require a warrant or grand jury subpoena for the government to obtain reader records from libraries and bookstores.

The amendment had been proposed as part of several hundred amendments debated as part of H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution for FY2011 appropriations.  Note previous reports in “Digital Dispatch” about defeat of Amendment #35 which would have eliminated funding for the Library Services and Technology Act.

At this writing, the House has still not taken a final vote on H.R. 1 — although it is expected to do so by the end of the day.   The Senate has already recessed for the Presidents’ Day “district work period” and the House wants to leave town also.

NEXT STEPS:   FY2011 — Continuing Resolution
Once passed in the House, the Continuing Resolution, H.R. 1, (C.R.) will go to the Senate, which is out for a one week recess.  Time is running out.  If the Senate does not pass the House version of H.R. 1, when it returns the week of February 28, the federal government would close down.  Even if the Senate passes its own version, a conference committee could become deadlocked.   While all of this proceeds, discussions will also start soon on appropriations for FY2012.  Watch for more on both FY2011 and FY2012 appropriations bills.

NEXT STEPS:  Reauthorization of USA PATRIOT Act sections, including Section 215
The sunsets for the three expiring sections, including Section 215, of the USA PATRIOT Act were extended this week in both the House and Senate until the end of May 2011.  At this writing, it is assumed that President Obama will sign the bill authorizing this new sunset.  That gives another three months for further debate.  While it is a disappointing loss, the changes proposed in Amendment #524 can be re-introduced as the debate moves forward on the PATRIOT Act.  Stay tuned for more on this PATRIOT reauthorization.

The library community could not have gotten Amendment #35 withdrawn — nor have gotten close to 200 votes on Amendment #524 — without your grassroots help.  Please use this “district work period” time to find out where and when your representative and senators will be conducting town hall meetings or other venues where you can speak up about library needs.  Receptions and other informal events are also good venues to approach your congressional officials.  Sometimes you can corner an official’s staff at these events to give them your card and advocate for full funding for libraries and other issues.

Lynne Bradley
OGR Director

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