The House voted Wednesday to block a provision of the USA Patriot Act that makes it easier for federal investigators to review the records of libraries and bookstores on national security grounds.
Critics of the new federal power approved in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks said it was an excessive grant of authority to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department that threatened privacy and fundamental constitutional rights.
Those who challenged the provision, a coalition of liberals and conservatives, said the 238-to-187 House vote should send a message to the administration that lawmakers are leery of maintaining all elements of the law even as President Bush seeks to renew the act.
"Congress has begun to hear that civil liberties and privacy issues are important to Americans," said Representative Bernard Sanders, the independent from Vermont who led the effort to block the provision through a $57.5 billion spending measure. It covers the Justice, State and Commerce departments as well as federal science programs.
The above is from Carl Hulse's "House Blocks Provision for Patriot Act Inquiries" in this morning's New York Times.
From the ACLU:
The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the House of Representatives for adopting the "Freedom to Read" proposal - offered by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). It denies funding for FBI access to library and bookstore records under section 215 of the Patriot Act. A bipartisan majority (238-187) approved the measure as an amendment to a Department of Justice funding measure.
The following can be attributed to Gregory T. Nojeim, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
"It bodes well that the first vote Congress has taken on the Patriot Act this year has been in favor of liberty and freedom. After weeks of hearings on the Patriot Act, fair-minded lawmakers - from both sides of the aisle - know that the Patriot Act must be brought in line with the Constitution by restoring proper checks and balances."
"By its own admission, the Department of Justice has not used section 215 to target libraries, and yet it insists that it needs this extraordinary power. These records are available in investigations to prevent crimes, including terrorism, when there is sufficient evidence of criminal activity. Acting to protect our ‘freedom to read’ is a step in the right direction. We call on Congress to amend this provision of the Patriot Act to put in place checks and balances on the use of this power, and to examine other controversial provisions in the same spirit. The Patriot Act can - and must - be amended to preserve our fundamental freedoms."
For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to:
From Bernie Sanders' web site:
Congressman Sanders today led a tri-partisan coalition in restoring Americans' constitutionally guaranteed right to read and access information without governmental intrusion or monitoring. With 199 Democrats, 38 Republicans and one Independent (Sanders) voting in support, the House passed Congressman Sanders legislation to amend Section 215 of the Patriot Act in order to keep the federal government from accessing Americans' reading records without a traditional search warrant.
Sanders said, "This is a tremendous victory that restores important Constitutional rights to the American people. The passage of this amendment helps reign in an Administration intent on chipping away at the very civil liberties that define us as a nation. We must do all we can to protect Americans from terrorism, but we must do it in a way that does not undermine the basic constitutional rights that makes us a free country. American citizens from across the political spectrum have made it clear that they do not want the government monitoring their reading habits. This amendment ensures that Big Brother will not be reading over our shoulders."
Click here to read more.
Remember that the John Conyers hearings on the Downing Street Memo are today. You can listen via Pacifica.
From their web page on the hearings:
John Conyers' Hearing on the Downing Street Memo
The John Conyers' Hearing on the 'Downing Street memo' has changed the start and end time. The new time is from 2 PM to 6 PM EST.
For our sister and affiliate stations, use the right channel on the KU. If you are an online listener, you can hear it streaming here at Pacifica.org.
Our special broadcast will be anchored by Mitch Jesserich from Free Speech Radio News and Verna Avery Brown, Pacifica Washington Bureau Chief, and will include guest analysts, live hearing coverage, and post event listener calls.
Confirmed guests for our Pacifica special broadcast include:
Congressman John Conyers (Chair of the Hearing),
Ray McGovern (CIA analyst, witness for Hearing),
George Galloway, Member of Parliament/United Kingdom,
Frances Boyle, University of Illinois Law Professor who has drawn up Impeachment papers, and more.
Initially prevented from holding the Hearing on Capitol Hill by the Republicans, Conyers was to hold it at the Democratic National Committee Building in Washington, but now reports indicate the Hearing may in fact happen on Capital Hill. Stay tuned!
The e-mail address for this site is email@example.com and for anyone who missed it yesterday evening, Kat posted her latest review (Coldplay's X & Y).