Thursday, July 08, 2004

Patriot Act amendment vote

Today the House of Representatives voted down an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have undone item 215 in the Patriot Act. This is the infamous provision that every news report and article will tell you is about libraries and bookstores.

So I looked it up. It authorizes the FBI Director or designee to request authorization for "the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)".

That could include library records, sure; it could also include a copy of your sales slip from Victoria's Secret, I imagine. It could also include a vast array of resources that could be of value in an investigation.

I'd like to see that provision made more specific, to exclude personal information that is none of the government's business, though I can see how that would be extremely difficult to do and still provide flexibility for investigators.

But I also resent the misrepresentation. I have never heard that provision referenced in the media in any way other than as an explicit authorization to snoop into the books we buy and check out of the library. How disingenuous...

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