It’s Almost Safe to Read Again, Rollback of Patriot Act Provision
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) expresses support for yesterday’s vote in the US House of Representatives to halt the FBI’s ability to obtain library and bookstore records. Federal law enforcement’s ability to seize this information was included as a provision in the PATRIOT Act, a measure that increased federal law enforcement authority that passed without any significant debate shortly after September 11, 2001.
The final vote on Congressman Bernie Sanders’ (I-RI) amendment, entitled “Freedom to Read Act,” was 238-187. Many Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in halting the Department of Justice and FBI’s powers to seize this information because of their concern of government intrusion. The amendment does not overturn all of the provisions within Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, but only those directly connected to library and book purchase records. In 2003, ADC joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others in a lawsuit challenging Section 215. To read more about this pending lawsuit please see: https://www.adc.org/index.php?id=2054
Sanders’ amendment was attached to a spending bill for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments. Republican leadership has vowed to remove the provision once it goes to conference with the Senate version. President Bush who is on a speaking tour supporting renewal of the most controversial sections of the PATRIOT Act has promised to veto any bill that includes provisions to limit-or rollback-parts of the PATRIOT Act.
Both the House and Senate have been holding a series of hearings on provisions within the PATRIOT Act due to sunset, or expire, this coming December. ADC has been working with coalition partners and Members of Congress to express concerns with the most controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act and its hindrance on the civil liberties of all Americans. ADC is also working with Congress to pass, or incorporate in parts of the PATRIOT Act’s reauthorization the Civil Liberties Restoration Act or CLRA. CLRA would remove the most egregious parts of the PATRIOT Act; those sections that hinder civil liberties and are ineffective. For more information on CLRA please see: http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/?id=13
ADC President Hon. Mary Rose Oakar responded to the vote by saying, “It’s good to see that the first vote this year on the PATRIOT Act was one to uphold civil liberties. We are thankful for the many of Members of Congress that stood up for the civil liberties of all Americans and hope this provision remains in the final bill and is accepted by the President. We also hope that Congress will incorporate and pass CLRA as it reexamines matters stemming from the rush to pass the PATRIOT Act in the aftermath of the tragedy of September 11.”
To learn how your Members of Congress voted on the Sanders’ amendment, please see the roll call vote at: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2005/roll258.xml
ADC encourages its members, supporters, and friends to thank their Representative if they voted for the Sanders’ amendment. You can reach your
representative in Congress by calling the House of Representatives main operator at: (202) 224-3121.