Patriot Act Petition Campaign Gathering Steam

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Since early January -- when ABA launched a petition campaign to gather signatures of bookstore customers who support amending Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act -- booksellers have been actively collecting signatures toward an ABA-member goal of garnering at least one million signatures. ABA is now urging booksellers who have yet to join the petition campaign to do so, and is also strongly encouraging those booksellers who are participating in the campaign and are sending back signed petition lists to keep collecting signatures. It is recommended that petition campaign participants periodically mail signed petitions to ABA.

Thus far, petition campaign participants who spoke to BTW said they're pleasantly surprised with their customers' reaction to the petition.

Nancy Beattie of Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, New York, recently sent in her "first batch of signatures," she said. "It's exciting, we just put [the petition] on the counter and people just sign it. They don't even ask. It's been phenomenally successful…. In all honesty, I don't have strong political leanings -- I may be more conservative than most booksellers -- but this is just right. [The USA Patriot Act] is an infringement that shouldn't be there."

At Prince Books in Norfolk, Virginia, owner Sarah Pishko echoed Beattie's sentiments, noting that she didn't have to explain to anyone what the USA Patriot Act was. Nor, did she have to persuade any customer to sign it. "I put it on the counter and people just sign away," she said. "People were even thanking me for doing it." She said she usually stays out of politics, but "I just felt okay with this one."

At The Bookloft in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the petition campaign is going really well, reported Eric Wilske. "I'm doing this because I'm a citizen who feels [the USA Patriot Act] is onerous, and as a bookseller who feels it's even more onerous because I wouldn't be able to even contact a lawyer" if the FBI came in search of customer records.

Booksellers who spoke with BTW noted the importance of their customers' privacy. However, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, law enforcement officials have broad authority to demand that libraries or bookstores turn over books, purchase records, papers, and documents.

Chinook Bookshop's Dick Noyes put the petition out because "it's called the freedom to read. Second, it's the principal, and, third, do you want someone coming in and messing with your records? People should read what they like."

Wilske said he senses that his customers are angry with the Patriot Act, and "they're grateful that they can do something" by signing the petition.

For those booksellers who wish to participate in the campaign, the petition is now available as a downloadable PDF. Booksellers can also order the petition by calling ABA's Information Department at (800) 637-0037, ext. 1292 or 1293.

For those booksellers already collecting signatures, ABA recommends that, rather than wait until they are finished collecting signatures, booksellers should periodically mail their signed petitions to: ABA, Restore Reader Privacy, Attn.: Oren Teicher, 828 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591.

For any bookseller who has questions regarding ABA's petition campaign, ABA has prepared a USA Patriot Act petition campaign FAQ.