Nadler: Patriot Act Allows Government to Act as Thought Police

Jul 21, 2003

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today called on Congress to support legislation that would restore First Amendment rights that were revoked by the USA Patriot Act. An amendment supported by Nadler to the Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2004 would prohibit funds in the bill from being used to conduct investigations of libraries and bookstores that were forbidden prior to passage of the Patriot Act.

"As the husband of a librarian, President Bush should understand that innocent library and bookstore patrons have the right to be free from governmental intrusion," stated Nadler. "Noble pursuits, such as educating oneself, should not be grounds for a government investigation. If John Ashcroft has his way, bookstore customers could be investigated for something as arbitrary as buying Hillary Clinton's new book."

The amendment, sponsored by Representatives Bernard Sanders (I-VT), John Conyers (D-MI), and C.L. "Butch" Otter (R-ID), would protect the privacy and First Amendment rights of library and bookstore patrons that were in place before passage of the USA Patriot Act.

Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act gives the FBI power to search for any "tangible things," including books, records, papers, and documents, in any location, even without probable cause. To protect Americans from terrorists, the amendment supported by Nadler would allow the FBI to investigate bookstores and libraries, but with warrants to retrieve records for terrorist-related or criminal investigations.

"People are outraged by the loss of civil liberties and they are upset by the actions taken by J. Edgar Ashcroft and the Department of Justice. The government, which is now in a position to rummage through bookstore and library records of innocent Americans without probable cause, should not be in the thought police business. Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act must be repealed," stated Nadler.