Magazine article American Libraries

Bills Would Limit FBI's Access to Library Records

Magazine article American Libraries

Bills Would Limit FBI's Access to Library Records

Article excerpt

Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) introduced legislation July 31 designed to limit the government's ability to secretly view library and bookstore records under the USA Patriot Act.

The Library, Bookseller, and Personal Records Privacy Act (S. 1507) would restore a pre-Patriot Act requirement that the FBI make a factual, individualized showing that the records sought pertain to a suspected terrorist and limit the agency's subpoena to only relevant library records, such as borrowing records or computer sign-in logs. It also would place similar limits on another federal law-enforcement power expanded by the Patriot Act, the FBI's National Security Letter authority, which gives the agency "administrative subpoena" powers that don't require court approval.

Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, said his proposal "would restore the privacy of Americans, while also allowing the FBI to follow up on legitimate leads," adding that it "recognizes that under certain circumstances the FBI should have access to library, bookseller, or other personal information and simply puts safeguards in place to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens."

The same day, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) introduced the Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act, intended to restore some civil-liberties protections weakened by the Patriot Act. Among its provisions, the bill would restore pre-Patriot Act limits on the FBI's ability to obtain records through a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court order, and would require even higher, probable-cause standards on requests for library, bookstore, and medical records. …

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