Washington, D.C., May 11, 2015 – The Campaign for Reader Privacy, a coalition including PEN American Center and booksellers, publishers, librarians, and authors, is asking the House of Representatives to quickly pass without weakening the bi-partisan USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 and is urging the Senate to rapidly take similar action. The House Judiciary Committee recently approved the bill, H.R. 2048, by a vote of 25-2, and it is expected to come up for a vote on the House floor this week. The legislation would restore some privacy safeguards to the government’s surveillance activities and would, among other things, end the bulk collection of data under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. 

The Campaign for Reader Privacy, comprising the American Booksellers for Free Expression, the American Library Association, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN American Center, was created in 2004 to safeguard the integrity of the library and bookstore records of ordinary Americans from unwarranted government intrusion under the PATRIOT Act.  To this end the Campaign has sought to change the standard under which the government can seize sensitive records under Section 215 from one of “relevance” to an ongoing terrorism investigation to an individualized standard of suspicion, i.e., requiring the government to show a connection to a suspected terrorist or spy.

While the FREEDOM Act retains the “relevance” standard, the new legislation greatly reduces the danger that Section 215 can be used by the government to conduct “fishing expeditions” in bookstores and libraries by requiring that all Section 215 orders include information identifying a specific person or account.  In addition, the FREEDOM Act contains other privacy and free speech safeguards, including added protections for non-disclosure orders associated with Section 215 and National Security Letters.  


Katy Glenn Bass, Deputy Director of Free Expression Programs: 212-334-1660, x 4818