107 in Congress Join Sanders in Co-Sponsoring the Freedom to Read Protection Act

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Rep. Bernie Sanders

Last week, 107 fellow members of Congress joined Rep. Bernie Sanders in reintroducing federal legislation that would remove a threat to the privacy of bookstore and library records created by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. Under the Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157), the FBI would be barred from seeking personally identifiable information concerning a patron of a bookstore or a library. The proposed legislation would not change current law, under which the government may attempt to subpoena this information if it can can show probable cause.

Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act significantly expanded the government's power to seize business records, even the records of individuals not suspected of terrorism or any other crime, by using orders from a secret foreign intelligence court. A bookstore or library receiving such an order has no legal avenue to challenge the seizures and is barred by a gag order from informing anyone that the records have been searched.

On March 9, Sanders announced the reintroduction of H.R. 1157 at a press conference on Capitol Hill. Representing independent booksellers at the press conference were Linda Ramsdell of The Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick, Vermont, and ABA COO Oren Teicher.

"We fully intend to push for a vote on this legislation in the Congress, and we expect to win," Sanders said at the conference. "We already start from a strong position. Over 200,000 Americans, through the Campaign for Reader Privacy [a nationwide grassroots petition drive to raise awareness about the threat to the privacy posed by the USA Patriot Act], have written their Representative in Congress to express opposition to the Patriot Act and Section 215, and encouraged them to cosponsor the Freedom to Read Protection Act."

In advance of the reintroduction of Sanders' legislation, ABA e-mailed a letter to independent booksellers who have participated in the Campaign for Reader Privacy that strongly encouraged them to urge their members of Congress to support Sanders' legislation and to become a co-sponsor of his bill. Attached with the e-mail was a template letter that booksellers can send to their members of Congress.

"Last year, booksellers, librarians, publishers, and writers launched the Campaign for Reader Privacy to restore safeguards for the privacy of bookstore and library records," noted ABA's Teicher. "We collected nearly 200,000 signatures on petitions in bookstores and libraries, and on our website, www.readerprivacy.org, and we are going back to the grassroots this year to collect even more."

Click here to view the list of H.R. 1157's co-sponsors.