The Senate is preparing to vote on S. 1038, the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011. The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Certain USA PATRIOT Act provisions expire Friday, May 27, including the Section 215 “library provision”.
Senators Reid and McConnell and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH-8) made a last-minute, closed-room deal to extend these expiring provisions without meaningful debate or reforms.
S. 1038 would simply extend the expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act until June 1, 2015. Identified problems with this law would not be addressed but instead extended another 4 years. The lack of additional protections for libraries in S. 1038 is especially troubling in light of a recent Department of Justice report to Congress that found that the government made 96 applications for Section 215 orders in 2010, up from 21 applications in 2009.
AALL supports an important bipartisan amendment expected to be offered by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) which would reform the expiring provisions, including the Section 215 provision. The Leahy/Paul amendment* is essentially the language in S. 193, which was supported by AALL and reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2011.
Among other important improvements, the Leahy/Paul amendment would require the government to show relevance to an authorized investigation and a link to a foreign group or power in order to obtain highly sensitive library circulation records or patron lists, and bookseller records. The Department of Justice in December 2010 wrote the Judiciary Committee stating that it has, on a voluntary basis, implemented many of the changes in S. 193. While this is a positive step, Congress must now follow through to make these practices permanent.
Urgent Action Needed
Please call the Capitol Hill Switchboard NOW at (202) 224-3121 to speak to your Senators. Ask for the Senator’s counsel who handles Judiciary Committee/PATRIOT Act issues. AALL strongly opposes extending current law. The PATRIOT Act expiring provisions must be reformed to balance the government’s interest in protecting national security with defending the constitutional rights of the American people.
(1) Inform your Senators that you, as a constituent and law librarian, strongly oppose an automatic extension of PATRIOT Act expiring provisions for FOUR years and strongly oppose S. 1038 as introduced. Without meaningful reform, Congress should only pass a short-term extension of the expiring provisions.
(2) Urge your Senators to co-sponsor and/or vote for the bipartisan Leahy/Paul amendment which includes AALL-supported reforms to current law. AALL also supports amendments that may be offered by Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to specifically address the library provision.
(3) Please remember to report your contacts to AALL’s Government Relations Office, and your Senators’ responses to your request. E-mail Julie M. Strandlie, Director, Government Relations, at email@example.com. Thank you for participating in this important AALL Advocacy Team effort.
*Leahy/Paul Amendment Co-sponsors Include: