In some June 16 editions, a headline on an article about a House vote on the USA Patriot Act incorrectly said that the measure would halt the FBI's power to seize library records. The House voted only to curtail such power.
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House Votes To Curb Patriot Act
Democrats contend that the reversal is the first sign of growing wariness about some of the more intrusive elements of the Patriot Act, which was passed just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union called the vote a rare victory for civil liberties.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a leader in the drive to curtail the act's reach, said in an interview that the original measure had passed "in an atmosphere of panic" and that a wide spectrum of lawmakers is beginning to conclude it went too far.
"If some terrorist checks out a book about how to make an atomic bomb, that might be legitimate for the government to know, and they can get a search warrant or a subpoena the way we've done it throughout American history," Nadler said. "Otherwise, what you're reading is none of the government's business."
House Republican leaders are not accustomed to losing, and they did not hide their anger about the result. One aide to a House leader referred to the victorious coalition as "the crazies on the left and the crazies on the right, meeting in the middle."
Justice Department spokesman Kevin Madden issued a statement reiterating the administration's insistence that the provision is vital. The statement said the section "provides national security investigators with an important tool for investigating and intercepting terrorism while at the same time establishing robust safeguards to protect law-abiding Americans."
The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Bernard Sanders (Vt.), a socialist who is the chamber's lone independent. He said the measure, which he originally introduced as the Freedom to Read Protection Act, "simply restores the checks and balances that protect innocent Americans under the Constitution."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the amendment a "message to the world." Only one voting Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), opposed it.
The measure was supported by 38 Republicans and opposed by 186. Among the Republicans who voted for it were Reps. Jack Kingston (Ga.), Ron Paul (Tex.), C.L. "Butch" Otter (Idaho) and Ray LaHood (Ill.).