“In September 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft called out the librarians. The American Library Association and civil liberties groups, he said, were pushing “baseless hysteria” about the controversial Patriot Act. He suggested that they were worried that spy agencies wanted to know “how far you have gotten on the latest Tom Clancy novel.” Ashcroft was 17 speeches into a national speaking tour defending the Patriot Act, a law expanding government surveillance powers that passed nearly unanimously in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. And all along the way, the librarians showed up to protest.” (via The Washington Post)
Chicago Tribune – “The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to extend expiring provisions of the Patriot Act for four years despite objections of a coalition of conservatives and liberals. Because of the Obama administration’s strong support for the anti-terrorism law, a bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate is expected to finish the legislation this week, keeping the provisions in force. They are scheduled to expire Friday.”
WSJ – “The House voted 279-143 Thursday to allow a three-month extension of key provisions of the Patriot Act, the antiterrorism law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The Senate passed an identical measure Tuesday night, and Congress will use the next three months to consider a longer extension and increased oversight of government surveillance. The provisions were set to expire Feb. 28. President Barack Obama, who wants a three-year extension, is expected to sign the measure.
The provisions in question give law enforcement access to troves of personal information, including business and library records, if a judge approves. They also permit roving wiretaps on terrorism suspects who change numbers and allow surveillance of foreign terrorism suspects who appear unaffiliated with known groups such as al Qaeda.”
The New American – “Librarians are virtually united in opposing the renewal of the Patriot Act provisions that are set to expire this December 31, 2009. Thirty-two state chapters of the American Library Association (ALA) have passed resolutions calling for Congress to allow Section 215 of the act to expire.”
AP – “Defying the Obama administration, the House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to remove from the USA Patriot Act a tool for tracking non-U.S. citizens in anti-terrorism investigations. The committee, dominated by Democratic liberals, also voted to amend the anti-terrorism law to curb the government’s surveillance and seizure powers.”
Huffington Post – “While I love to talk books with friends and colleagues, reading for me is a private and personal matter. Government agents secretly privy to what I read might be a fact of life in a dictatorship but it isn’t anything I need to worry about in this country. We have a First Amendment that entitles us to read and think freely. Right?”
American Constitution Society – “The surveillance powers authorized by the USA PATRIOT Act endanger civil liberties, but their impact pales in comparison to that of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) passed by Congress last summer. That law eviscerated Americans’ protections against domestic spying by intelligence agencies and granted immunity to telecommunications companies that illegally assisted in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping. The PATRIOT renewal debate offers the first, best, and perhaps last meaningful opportunity to reform that law, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urges members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to support any amendments to the FAA offered by Senator Feingold when it considers PATRIOT renewal tomorrow morning.”