Rushdie slams US for snooping on readers

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Skeptix

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Sep 30, 2004, 12:06:56 PM9/30/04
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Rushdie slams US for snooping on readers
Thursday, 30 September , 2004, 11:48

Washington: Noted author Salman Rushdie has called on the Congress to
strike
down a section of the anti-terror Patriot Act laws allowing federal
officials
to monitor the book-buying and library-borrowing habits of US citizens.

Rushdie, president of the PEN American Center, a US writers' advocacy
group,
at a press conference at the House of Representatives on Wednesday,
expressed
concern "about the way in which government institutions are noseying into
what should be personal creative space." Discuss: US biggest violator of
privacy & human rights

He called for the passage of legislation "protecting our freedom of
expression" saying "there is absolutely no security reason" to justify
federal authorities peering into Americans' reading habits.

The Indian-born Rushdie noted that he has seen an even more oppressive
side of
censorship, having been condemned to death by the former Iranian spiritual
leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in February 1989, after publishing his
novel Satanic Verses -- an edict that was never acted upon.

Rushdie was one of several speakers -- including former congresswoman Pat
Schroeder, who now heads the Association of American Publishers -- to
deliver
to Congress a petition bearing some 180,000 signatures urging repeal of
portions of the Patriot Act.

Vermont Representative Bernie Sanders, who was also at the press
conference,
has sponsored the "Freedom to Read Protection Act," which would overturn
section 215 of the law, which authorises federal access to Americans'
library
and book records.

The Patriot Act, passed by Congress shortly after the September 11, 2001
terror attacks, gave US authorities broader anti-terrorism powers, but
civil
libertarians complain that the measures have encroached upon personal
freedoms.

The anti-terror laws under the Patriot Act permit secret break-ins by
federal
agents, allow authorities to troll for personal information on citizens,
and
grant expansive powers to monitor individuals' Internet and phone use,
among
other powers.

The signatures collected in libraries and bookstores across the United
States,
were delivered to Congress during "Banned Books Week," Rushdie and other
speakers noted, celebrating the freedom to read.

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