Backed by 40 organizations representing libraries across the country and 81 publishing and distribution companies, including Barnes and Noble, Borders, Random House, Simon and Schuster and International Publishers, the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and PEN American Center, announced Feb. 17 a campaign to gather 1 million signatures to support legislation to restore the freedom to read. Such freedom was stripped away by the Bush administration’s 2001 USA Patriot Act.

Librarians, writers and booksellers cite Section 215 of the Act as most onerous. Section 215 allows the FBI to search library and bookstore records, secretly, without probable cause, and bars the library or bookstore from telling anyone that their records were requested or searched.

“Booksellers are deeply concerned about the chilling effect of Section 215 and President Bush’s plan to seek blanket reauthorization of the Patriot Act,” said ABA Chief Operating Officer Oren Teicher.

Larry Siems, a spokesman for PEN, said, “This isn’t about stripping law enforcement of the power to investigate terrorism. It’s about confidence that our reading choices aren’t being monitored by the government.”

In his Jan. 20 State of the Union speech, Bush announced that he would seek reauthorization of the entire Patriot Act, unchanged. As of Feb. 4, 253 states, counties, cities and towns, representing over 43 million residents, have passed resolutions opposing the Patriot Act.

Copyright © 2004 People’s Weekly World. All rights reserved.

>> Back to Press