USAPA Hearings, Day One

I was scanning some of the testimony from today’s hearings about renewing the USAPA. If you just want the updates, please read Declan over at If you’d like to really see what people had to say about it, perhaps your representative, you can read the testimony here. I’ll quote a bit from what my Senator had to say.

For example, many of us have expressed concerns with the business records subpoena power in section 215, and its implications for libraries and booksellers. I have cosponsored legislation, introduced by Senator Feingold, that addresses this provision.

Before we rush to renew any controversial powers created by the PATRIOT Act, we need to understand how these powers have been used, and whether they have been effective. A few weeks ago, we celebrated the first National Sunshine Week with a hearing on open government and bipartisan calls for responsiveness and accountability. We should carry that theme into this process of oversight and legislating.

And you can also read Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez repeating nearly word for word what Ashcroft had to say about Section 215.

Even though libraries and bookstores are not specifically mentioned in the provision, section 215 does prohibit the government from using this authority to conduct investigations “of a United States person solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” In other words, the library habits of ordinary Americans are of no interest to those conducting terrorism investigations, nor are they permitted to be.

just in time for National Library Week — USAPA hearings!

I’ve been seeing Declan McCullagh’s face staring back at me from the web a lot lately. His beat is technology and politics. Mine is usually technology, politics and the public sphere, aka libraries. Today he’s talking about the USA PATRIOT Act, its history and what’s going on as the Senate and the House of Representatives begin hearings to determine whether to try to renew key provisions of USAPA that are set to expire. [genehack]

Has the PATRIOT Act been used or not?

The USA PATRIOT Act is never far from my mind. An ALA Councilor has urged the ALA to sign on with a bipartisan group called Patriots to Resore Checks and Balances. Congressman Bernie Sanders is still working on his bill to repeal Section 215, and someone sent me this Newsweek article which, contrary to conventional wisdom and current “on the record” statements, has Ashcroft’s aids claiming that Section 215 was responsible for a terrorism-related arrest. Meanwhile, many provisions sunset in just eight months.