Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation barring the FBI from using the Patriot Act to search bookstore and library records unless they relate to a suspected terrorist or someone known to the suspect. Now the bill, USA Patriot Act Sunset Extension Act of 2011 (S. 193), moves to the Senate floor where it will be brought to a vote sometime before the end of May, when several provisions of the Patriot Act will expire. The Campaign for Reader Privacy--representing librarians, booksellers, authors and publishers--is urging its supporters to ask their senators to support S. 193.
The House also considered Patriot re-authorization last week at the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee hearing on Crime. On February 18, the House defeated a floor amendment offered by Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) that banned the use of the Patriot Act to search bookstore and library records. The vote, 196-231, was closer than many expected. Thirty-two Republicans voted for the measure. When Bernie Sanders introduced the same amendment in 2005, it attracted only 27 Republican votes.