The San Francisco Chronicle reports that, under President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, what you read could still be held against you. Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act allows federal agents to demand bookstore and library records when investigating terrorism or espionage. Section 215 also places a gag order on the bookseller or librarian. The provision is scheduled to “sunset” at the end of this year, but Holder said in his confirmation hearing that he would support Section 215’s renewal. Booksellers, librarians, and many free speech groups oppose Section 215 for the threats it poses to reader privacy.
Chris Finan, President of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), commented on Holder’s support for the law:
“I was disappointed” that Holder supports the bookstore and library searches, “although maybe not entirely surprised,” Chris Finan, spokesman for the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, said Friday.
The provision Holder wants Congress to renew, known as Section 215, “gives the government far too much power to conduct fishing expeditions in the records of bookstore customers and library patrons,” Finan said. “We never expected that the change of administration would mean we had any less of a fight on our hands.”
ABFFE has supported amending Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act by alerting booksellers to the threats it poses to reader privacy and by helping booksellers to communicate their concerns to Congress. ABFFE has also joined with other free speech groups in submitting amicus briefs in relevant court cases and in supporting relevant legislation.
The Campaign for Reader Privacy was started in 2004 “to restore the safeguards for reader privacy that were eliminated by the USA Patriot Act.”