On Thursday, Congress passed the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act and President Obama signed it electronically, just prior to the sunset date of May 27th. The reauthorization included no reforms to three sections of concern to libraries—Section 215 known as the library provision, lone wolf and wire tap. The new sunset date for the PATRIOT Act is four years from now on June 1, 2015. Several amendments were considered, which is encouraging, but they all failed. Thank you for all of your advocacy efforts. The votes in both the Senate and the House did not fall strictly along party lines. Further analysis of the votes will come from the American Library Association (ALA) at a later time.
Several Senators, including Senator Cardin, have introduced a new bill, S 1125, the USA PATRIOT ACT Improvements Act of 2011, to attempt to make some needed changes. ALA will release more information about this bill after further review.
For more information, please see the District Dispatch posting.
S 1038, the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, may be voted on soon, before the May 27th sunset date. The bill sets the new expiration date of 2015 for three provisions—Section 215 known as the “library provision,” the roving wire taps and the lone wolf. The American Library Association (ALA) opposes this bill without amendment.
ALA does support the following amendments:
- Senator Rand Paul’s amendment to return Section 215 to its pre-2001 form and protect the privacy of library users is ideal.
- Senator Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul’s amendment to add reforms from Senator Leahy’s bill, S 193, is good because it includes improved reader privacy protections.
- If nothing else, amend the bill to include a sunset in 2013, rather than 2015, to allow for meaningful debate on these issues to occur sooner.
For more details on these amendments and ALA’s endorsement, please see the District Dispatch posting for details on why ALA supports this change.
Please contact Senators Mikulski and Cardin asking for their support of these amendments. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.
HR 1800, which was just introduced last Friday, passed out of the Judiciary Committee today with no amendments. This bill would reauthorize the “John Doe” wiretap and Section 215, or “library provision,” until 2017, as well as make the “lone wolf” provision permanent. It would allow for very little oversight of government authority in these areas for the next six years. For more information on HR 1800, see the District Dispatch posting.
S 193 is the Senate bill which is more favorable for libraries and public privacy. It passed out of committee in early March, but has not been voted on yet by the full Senate. For more information on this bill, see the District Dispatch posting.
The USA PATRIOT Act is set to expire on May 27th. It is not clear if and when HR 1800 or S 193 may make it to the floor for a vote. Regardless, it is important to contact members of the House and Senate now to support PATRIOT Act reforms. A Capwiz Action Alert has been set up, with a pre-written letter, to facilitate contact with Congress.
Thank you in advance for any advocacy assistance you can provide!
On Friday, the House defeated Conyers Amendment #524 to HR 1, the Continuing Resolution for the FY2011 Budget. It would have made improvements to reader privacy in Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
Additionally, both the House and Senate passed a bill to extend the sunset of three provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were set to expire soon. These provisions, one of which is Section 215, will now expire at the end of May 2011. The president is expected to sign the bill. This will allow another three months of debate over improvements, such as those in Amendment #524.
For a few more details, see the District Dispatch posting.
The House will vote again next week on HR 514 to extend the expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. HR 514 failed to pass on February 8th because it did not get a 2/3 majority vote—a requirement of bills on the suspension calendar. The vote next week will be under normal rules and will require only a simple majority in order to pass.
The American Library Association (ALA) is asking people to contact members of the House and ask them to vote against HR 514 and instead support S 290, which includes preferred proposed changes. You may use Capwiz to do so. (ALA is also asking people to contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding S 290, but Maryland has no members on this committee.)
See the earlier posting for the voting record of Maryland’s representatives and links to additional information. Updated information on this scheduled new vote is available on the District Dispatch. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide!
Last night, the House voted on HR 514—a bill to extend, with no changes, the expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 until December 8, 2011. The bill did not pass.
Maryland’s delegation had an interesting split on the vote:
- For: Harris, Ruppersberger, Hoyer and Van Hollen
- Against: Sarbanes, Edwards, Bartlett, Sarbanes
Background information on this bill and issue from the American Library Association (ALA), as well as details on S 290 (a version of the bill that is supported by ALA) are available.