Groups seeking to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act launched a campaign today to obtain one million signatures in support of legislation that would protect the privacy of bookstore and library records that were eliminated by the act.

Dubbed the Campaign for Reader Privacy, the effort is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association and Pen American Center and aims to collect signatures in bookstores, libraries and on a new Web site (

“Booksellers are deeply concerned about the chilling effect of Section 215 and President Bush’s stated intent to seek blanket reauthorization of the Patriot Act,” ABA chief operating officer Oren Teicher said in a prepared statement.

“This isn’t about stripping law enforcement of the power to investigate terrorism,” Larry Siems, director of PEN’s Freedom to Write Program, commented. “It’s about restoring confidence that our reading choices aren’t being monitored by the government.”

In connection with the campaign, some 40 organizations and 81 companies have issued a joint statement of support for proposed legislation that amends Section 215. Among the companies signing: Barnes & Noble, Borders, Ingram, Random House, Simon & Schuster and Holtzbrinck Publishers.

The statement reads, in part: “Our society places the highest value on the ability to speak freely on any subject. But freedom of speech depends on the freedom to explore ideas privately. Bookstore customers and library patrons must feel free to seek out books on health, religion, politics, the law, or any subject they choose, without fear that the government is looking over their shoulder. Without the assurance that their reading choices will remain private, they will be reluctant to fully exercise their right to read freely.”

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