Last week, I got an email from the ALA urging me to contact my U.S. Senators about protecting privacy (I'm sure many of you received the same message!). The email laid out two pieces of legislation the Senate might consider in September before recessing again for the November elections. I wanted to delve into these bills a little further to see how they impact public libraries and patrons.
USA Freedom Act
The ALA's call for action is to ask your Senators to co-sponsor S. 2685, which is Senator Leahy's new version of the USA Freedom Act. This bill will end the government's dragnet collection of Americans' phone records. The bill also requires greater oversight, transparency, and accountability for domestic surveillance authorities.
In May, the House passed a "seriously flawed and dangerously weakened" version of the bill, according to ALA's District Dispatch. On July 29, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy revised the bill into legislation that, according to the District Dispatch, "not only truly accomplished the bill's stated intent, but went even further to protect privacy, improve government transparency, and give civil liberties advocates a real voice in secret FISA court proceedings."
As of this writing, the bill has 150 co-sponsors in House and 21 in Senate.
Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA)
Sponsored by California's Senator Feinstein, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) S.2588 would develop procedures for classified and declassified "cyber threat indicators." The act would allow the sharing of Internet traffic between the U.S. government and technology and manufacturing companies.
The ALA is encouraging librarians and library enthusiasts to tell the Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Tom Carper (a Delaware Democrat) and the Committee's "Ranking" Republican, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, that their Homeland Security Committee should not take action in 2014 on any version of CISA.
The ALA has teamed up with the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to fight this bill.
How These Bills Affect Libraries
Since the passing of the Patriot Act, libraries have been working to protect the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. They've also been an active force in advocating for free speech, privacy, and protecting patrons' rights to freely access information.
If you want to take action, the ALA's Legislative Action Center has a nifty feature that lets you punch in your zip code and find the elected officials serving you.