The New York Times reports that the House has blocked a provision of the Patriot Act making it easier for government officials to search what books people buy or read at the library. This has come after about a year of protest by many groups, the paper reports.
"Critics of the new federal power approved in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks said it was an excessive grant of authority to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department that threatened privacy and fundamental constitutional rights," writes Times reporter Carl Huse.
Even though its an important moment for those who believe that what people read is their own business, many believe the recent actions could be overturned in the Senate. According to the Times article, many believe that the power to peer into private page-turning is crucial in fighting terror. "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," writes Huse. ""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."
Here is a copy of a speech by Salman Rushdie on the dangers of the Patriot Act. He has been among the leaders in calling for Congress to roll back provisions allowing library and bookstore information to be examined. (I included a post about this speech a while back; you can find it in ‘current affairs.’)