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veritas Harvard University Library Notes, For Harvard Library Staff, Number 1325 May 2005

Harvard University Library Notes / July 2005 / No. 1326

Sanders Amendment Passes US House, 238 to 187

On June 15, by a vote of 238 for and 187 against, the US House of Representatives passed the Sanders Amendment to the House Science-State-Justice Subcommittee (SSJC) appropriations bill, which funds the US Department of Justice. Named for Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), the amendment bars the Justice Department from using any of the appropriated funds to search library or bookstore records.

The USA PATRIOT Act, Section 215, dramatically expanded the scope of materials that the FBI could access with a warrant from the government's secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or "FISA" Court. Specifically, Section 215 gave the FBI the authority to search for "tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)" without naming the subject of the search—effectively permitting fishing expeditions in library patron records. To date, seven state legislatures, 44 state library associations, and 381 cities and towns representing nearly 62 million people have passed resolutions questioning Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

"While the House amendment is only a first step," stated Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library, "it is very gratifying that the US House of Representatives has passed the Sanders Amendment. In doing so, the House has adopted a position, long held by research librarians, that ensures the privacy of library patrons."


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