WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Don Young wants to start making amends for a vote he cast in a moment of anger 18 months ago. He is looking to dismantle parts of the USA Patriot Act, which he and most other members of Congress approved in the weeks following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Alaska Republican said he probably would co-sponsor a bill that would make it harder once again for federal law enforcement agencies to see library and bookstore patron records.
"I think the Patriot Act was not really thought out," Young said. "I'm very concerned that, in our desire for security and our enthusiasm for pursuing supposedly terrorists, that sometimes we might be on the verge of giving up the freedoms which we're trying to protect."
The bill Young said he may co-sponsor was introduced by Rep. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent with whom Young rarely agrees.
"I think he's right in this issue. I don't think it's anybody's business what I'm reading in the library," Young said.
Sanders' bill would block judges on the government's foreign surveillance court from giving federal law enforcement officers warrants to search library and bookstore records for "personally identifiable information concerning a patron."
The Patriot Act, signed by President Bush in October 2001, required the court to grant any request for such records so long as a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent specified the investigation was designed "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities."
The Alaska House on Monday approved a resolution asking the federal government to fix parts of the Patriot Act that may infringe on civil liberties. The resolution also tells state agencies they should not help the federal government with investigations that could violate people's rights unless they have reason to suspect criminal activity.
"We're just not comfortable with them collecting information, etcetera, on people that are law-abiding citizens," said House Majority Leader John Coghill, a North Pole Republican who co-sponsored the measure with Rep. David Guttenberg, a Fairbanks Democrat.
The measure passed the House 32-1, with Rep. Bob Lynn, an Anchorage Republican, voting no. It now goes to the Senate.