ACLU Letter to Congress Urging Support of the Freedom To Read Amendment to Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Appropriations Bill of 2004
Dear Member of Congress:
Make a Difference
Your support helps the ACLU stand up for human rights and defend civil liberties.
We are writing to ask that you support an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Appropriations Bill of 2004, being offered by Reps. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Butch Otter (R-ID), and John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), which would help restore the privacy and First Amendment rights of library and bookstore patrons.
With the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, the FBI gained the unprecedented power to search libraries and book-buying records without probable cause of any crime or intent to commit a crime. Furthermore, librarians and others who are required to turn over records are barred from informing anyone that the search has occurred or that records were given to the government. This means that average Americans could have their privacy violated wholesale without justification or proper judicial oversight.
The Sanders-Otter-Conyers Amendment would prohibit the expenditure of funds for an order under section 215 of the Act, which authorized the new power, if directed at a library or bookstore. This amendment would allow the FBI to follow normal procedures already in current law to obtain warrants and retrieve records from libraries or bookstores for terrorist related or criminal investigations.
Librarians and booksellers want to protect Americans from terrorist attacks but at the same time, they must protect the right of every citizen to read, learn, and purchase books without undue government interference.
We urge you to support the Sanders-Otter-Conyers Amendment to the 2004 Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Appropriations Bill to be considered on the floor this week.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
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Laura W. Murphy
Director, Washington National Office