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ALA: Senate Judiciary Committee takes step toward fix for PATRIOT’s ‘library provision’

Contact: Jenni Terry
Press Officer
ALA Washington Office
(202) 628-8410

For Immediate Release
March 10, 2011 

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  The American Library Association (ALA) says the Senate Judiciary Committee’s passage of the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2011 (S. 193) today was a critical step in reauthorizing and reforming Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. The committee passed the bill with a vote of 10-7. 

Section 215, the business records provision in the PATRIOT Act, has often been referred to as the “library provision.” The bill reported by the committee requires the government to demonstrate a connection to terrorism or espionage before it can obtain library and bookstore records in intelligence investigations. 

“The Senate Judiciary Committee has done the right thing by recognizing that there should be a higher level of judicial review for law enforcement to obtain readers’ records from libraries and bookstores,” Lynne Bradley, director of the ALA Office of Government Relations (OGR), said. 

“How people use their libraries should be subject to greater privacy protection because reading and accessing information is such an inherent part of First Amendment activities.”   

Section 215 and two other sections of the USA PATRIOT Act are scheduled to sunset on May 27, 2011. 

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced S. 193 in February.  As introduced, it required that the government prove a connection to a terrorist or spy before it can access an individual’s library records under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  Under current law, the government need only demonstrate mere relevance to an investigation. Today the committee adopted an amendment to extend this special protection to bookseller records as well. 

“We thank Senator Leahy and all of the senators who supported the readers’ privacy language,” Bradley said. 

“The library community will be working with all stakeholders to preserve this important provision as S. 193 moves to the Senate floor and as the House proceeds with its work on reauthorization of Section 215.”


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