Jul 8, 2004
Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan & Queens) urged her House colleagues to pass the “Freedom to Read” amendment, during debate on H.R. 4754, the Fiscal Year 2005 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill. The “Freedom to Read” amendment failed to pass the House of Representatives by a vote of 210-210-1 after the Republican Leadership held the vote open for more than twice its allotted fifteen-minute time limit. The “Freedom to Read” amendment would have passed the House if not for the Republican leadership taking an extra fifteen minutes to twist the arms of its members.

“The free library is a great American institution,” said Representative Maloney. “Because of this thwarting of the will of the actual majority of the House by the Republican leadership, America’s library records continue to be vulnerable to PATRIOT Act incursions.”

The “Freedom to Read” amendment would have prohibited any funding in the FY05 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations legislation from being used to do a Section 215 search of library circulation records, library patron lists, library Internet records, book sales records, or lists of book customers. The amendment would have restored the privacy enjoyed by library and bookstore patrons before the passage of the USA Patriot Act which required the FBI to obtain a search warrant or a grand jury subpoena. The amendment was based upon legislation introduced by Representative Bernard Sanders of Vermont and co-sponsored by Congresswoman Maloney.

“We should not have to think twice about how our intellectual curiosity might be analyzed by a Federal investigation,” said Congresswoman Maloney in her remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives. “This is a chilling thought in the land of the free.”

Congresswoman Maloney noted that, although U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft asserted last fall that the Department of Justice had never exercised the authority to examine library or bookstore records, it was recently discovered through documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union that the Justice Department had in fact made a Section 215 request late last year. To date, the Bush administration refuses to reveal how often the FBI or other Federal agencies have conducted such inquiries.

“Although we must protect our country against terrorism, we should not be doing it at the expense of our constitutional right to privacy,” said Congresswoman Maloney, who chairs the House Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security.

The USA Patriot Act was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President six weeks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It contains “sunset” provision that mandates that the law expires next year.