The House knocks out one of the provisions of the “PATRIOT” Act.
The House voted Wednesday to block a provision of the USA Patriot Act that makes it easier for federal investigators to review the records of libraries and bookstores on national security grounds.
Those who challenged the provision, a coalition of liberals and conservatives, said the 238-to-187 House vote should send a message to the administration that lawmakers are leery of maintaining all elements of the law even as President Bush seeks to renew the act.
“Congress has begun to hear that civil liberties and privacy issues are important to Americans,” said Representative Bernard Sanders, the independent from Vermont who led the effort to block the provision through a $57.5 billion spending measure. It covers the Justice, State and Commerce departments as well as federal science programs.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia, the Justice Department defended the library provision as a valuable terror-fighting tool. “Bookstores and libraries should not be carved out as safe havens for terrorists and spies, who have, in fact, used public libraries to do research and communicate with their co-conspirators,” wrote William E. Moschella, assistant attorney general.
Yeah, I was in Barnes & Noble in Coral Gables last week and there were some real scruffy critters hanging out in the coffee bar reading The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.