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Ask Your Senator for More Debate on Privacy Bill

We the PeoplePlease contact both of your senators as soon as possible to request that the Senate take time before voting on re-authorization of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) during this Congress.

ALA asks all senators to support a group of their bipartisan colleagues including Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), who are asking for more time for the Senate to debate and consider amendments that would increase privacy protections and add transparency requirements.  The FAA is due to sunset at the end of the year, so many in the Senate want to move quickly and just reauthorize it without any debate or consideration of amendments.

Please head to the Legislative Action Center to write your senators and ask them to ask their senate leadership to schedule time for debate and full consideration of reform proposals from Senators Wyden, Paul and Lee.  Do not merely reauthorize the FAA as it currently stands.  Reforms to better protect the public from warrantless wiretaps are necessary now.

This action is important to the library community because of our long standing principles of patron privacy and more recent concerns about online privacy and Internet freedoms for our patrons and the general public.

Background:   The FAA is the 2008 law that, among other things, legalized the Bush administration’s warrant-less wiretapping program.  Congress must now reauthorize the FAA before the January 1, 2013.  ALA is one of many organizations that continue to seek reform to the FAA and to urge that the warrantless wiretap provision include judicial review to obtain warrants.  As it did in 2008, ALA opposes the warrantless wiretap program because the public is at risk of being needlessly spied upon with little or no legal recourse, as the law reads now.

Many organizations, including ALA, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have signed onto a letter being sent to the Senate urging them to slow down and consider reforms.   While the time is very short, there is time for the Senate to address these issues in FAA.   Merely extending the existing FAA continues threaten the privacy rights of the American public.

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Ted Wegner is a former member of the Washington Office government relations team.


  1. Leigh Leigh

    This is a hard issue to address if you’re not following a political agenda on one side or the other so let me make this clear up front-I agree that the government should not have the ability to do warrant-less wiretapping.

    My problem has to do with the needless politicizing of the issue. This is always referred to as the “Bush administration’s” program by the ALA. I’ve gone through over ten years of having a Bush bashing erupt at every single national library event I’ve been to. Got it. He did it. It was wrong. I agree. I can also add many more complaints about things he did as president that we’re paying for now and will pay for long into the future.

    Now tell me why the ALA isn’t concerned about the Obama administration’s National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2012, specifically sub-sections 1021 and 1022 which gave the president indefinite detention authority. This isn’t about the current president either, who maintains that he will never interpret the loose wording to use it against honest Americans; this gives the same abilities to the next Richard Nixon or George W. Bush that gets elected president- the power to detain Americans “suspected” of involvement in terrorism without charge or trial and imprison them indefinitely.

    In a nutshell-if you speak out against the government (wiretapped or not) and it’s loosely interpreted as threatening to the welfare of the country (remember how loose that interpretation was under Richard Nixon) you can be picked up and detained without trial indefinitely. The ACLU has even said that although the President has stated serious reservations about the provisions it still gives sweeping indefinite detention capabilities to this and future presidents far from any battlefield.

    It doesn’t matter whether someone is on my side or the other side if he’s taking my rights away and if the ALA is going to be vocal about protecting the rights of American citizens they owe those same American citizens the obligation to stay politically neutral and give the people of this country a reason to trust in us with confidence for information and the Pavlovian response to the invocation of Bush’s name among librarians does not engender that trust.

  2. Thank you for your comments and making us aware of perceptions of language in yesterday’s report. The phrase about the “Bush administration” was meant to identify the source and context of the original FAA proposal. Obviously, there were people in Congress from both sides of the isle that were also influential in getting the FAA results in 2008.

    We have used similar phrases about the “Obama administration” on various issues as well, including Obama positions that ALA cannot support. Being aware of your concerns, we will continue to monitor our language which was not intended to politicize the issue — certainly it’s been politicized enough by all sides in Congress and elsewhere.

    I am glad to see that we are in agreement about reforms to prevent intrusions into our civil liberties and privacy rights. We have often individually thanked senators and representatives on both sides of the isle for their support for reforms in bills like FISA, PATRIOT, etc. Many library issues have bipartisan support – and ALA appreciates it all in order to improve library and information services to the public — and to protect our basic rights.

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