Another Victory for Civil Liberties

This week’s silliest Congressional action was the House’s vote, 238-187, to amend the Patriot Act to prohibit its use to subpoena records from libraries or booksellers. I haven’t yet seen the specific language the House adopted today, but I assume it was similar or identical to the “Freedom to Read Act,” which Bernie Sanders introduced last year. That amendment said:

None of the funds available may be used to make an application under section 501 of FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] to require the production of library circulation records, library patron lists, library Internet records, bookseller sales records, or bookseller customer lists.

The amendment would thus operate as a limitation on section 215 of the Patriot Act, which itself amended section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. At risk of authoring the most boring blog post in history, I think it is important to set out the complete text of the relevant portion of section 215 of the Patriot Act, at which the “library amendment” is aimed:

SEC. 215. ACCESS TO RECORDS AND OTHER ITEMS UNDER THE FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT.
Title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861 et seq.) is amended by striking sections 501 through 503 and inserting the following:
“SEC. 501. ACCESS TO CERTAIN BUSINESS RECORDS FOR FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE AND INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM INVESTIGATIONS.

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