LOS ANGELES - The ACLU and the California Library Association (CLA) are calling upon voters to urge their California representatives to support legislation that would roll back some of the USA PATRIOT Act's most dangerous provisions, including the government's ability to search individuals' library records, Internet activity and bookstore purchases.
"Several of the provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act go too far and increase the chances that innocent Americans will be swept into terrorism investigations by removing traditional checks and balances on law enforcement and oversight powers from the judiciary," said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California. "Today, we continue our campaign to raise public awareness about the PATRIOT Act and encourage Californians to take back their liberties."
As part of the campaign, full-page ads in twelve alternative newspapers throughout California, with a combined circulation of more than one million, will start running on January 21-28. The headline reads: "Don't you hate it when someone reads over your shoulder? Especially when that someone is the Justice Department" and calls upon individuals to contact their representatives and urge them to support the SAFE Act.
"This the latest public education campaign launched by the ACLU-SC and the California Library Association," said Christopher Calhoun, Deputy Director of Public Policy for the ACLU-SC. "Last year, together with the CLA, we undertook a successful campaign to inform library patrons that their records were subject to FBI scrutiny under the PATRIOT Act. As a part of that campaign we distributed posters and bookmarks to over 3,000 libraries throughout the state."
Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the SAFE Act late last year and Representative Butch Otter (R-ID) introduced a companion bill in the house. The bill, if passed, would do the following:
- Limit the government's ability to conduct widespread searches of an individual's records, without probable cause or individualized suspicion;
- Limit the government's use of "sneak and peek searches" and require notification within seven days (currently notification can be delayed indefinitely);
- Make sure that intelligence agents cannot search library records unless there is suspicion that an individual is involved with a foreign power.
"Your public library records should be a SAFE haven where you can be assured that, whatever magazine you read, web site you visit or book you check out, that information will be kept private," said Susan Hildreth, CLA President. "We support the SAFE Act so that libraries can continue to remain institutions of free expression and exploration of ideas. We are proud that the California Library Association and the ACLU affiliates of California have forged this partnership to restore our precious constitutional rights."
The PATRIOT Act was rushed through Congress in just 45 days after the attacks on September 11, 2001. On Wednesday, Los Angeles became the largest locality to join over 230 governing bodies - including the state legislatures of Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont - to pass resolutions opposing provisions of the PATRIOT Act.
"In his State of the Union address, President Bush called for an extension of the PATRIOT Act's powers," said Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU-SC. "The actions undertaken by the Los Angeles City Council and the members of Congress sponsoring the SAFE Act demonstrate widespread public disapproval of the PATRIOT Act as it stands now. People throughout the country are talking about curtailing the Act's powers, not extending them; the President would be wise to listen to the voice of the American people."
Through its website www.aclusocal.org the ACLU-SC is urging individuals to send letters to their Congressional representatives asking them to support the SAFE Act.
To view the ad and take action on the SAFE Act, visit www.aclusocal.org