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Law Enforcement: PATRIOT Act "Sneak and Peek" Searches Targeted Drug Offenders, Not Terrorists

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #602)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

The Bush administration sold the PATRIOT Act's expansion of law enforcement powers, including "sneak and peek" searches in which the target of the search is not notified that his home has been searched, as necessary to defend the citizens of the US from terrorist attacks, but that's not how federal law enforcement has used its sweeping new powers.

According to a July report from the Administrative Office of the US Courts (thanks to Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post), of 763 sneak and peek search warrants issued last year, only three were issued in relation to alleged terrorist offenses, or less than one-half of 1% of all such black-bag clandestine searches. Nearly two-thirds (62%) were issued to investigate drug trafficking offenses.

The report also includes figures on existing warrants that were extended last year. When new and extended warrant figures are combined, the total number of warrants was 1,291, with 843, or 65%, for drug investigations. Only five of all new or extended sneak and peek warrants were for terrorism investigations. Of 21 criminal offense categories for which warrants were issued or extended, terrorism ranked 19th, exceeding only conspiracy and bribery.

As Grim noted, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), a leading critic of the PATRIOT Act, challenged Assistant Attorney General David Kris about why powers supposedly needed to fight terrorism were instead being used for common criminal cases.

"This authority here on the sneak-and-peek side, on the criminal side, is not meant for intelligence," said Kris. "It's for criminal cases. So I guess it's not surprising to me that it applies in drug cases."

"As I recall it was in something called the USA PATRIOT Act," Feingold retorted, "which was passed in a rush after an attack on 9/11 that had to do with terrorism. It didn't have to do with regular, run-of-the-mill criminal cases. Let me tell you why I'm concerned about these numbers: That's not how this was sold to the American people. It was sold as stated on DoJ's website in 2005 as being necessary -- quote -- to conduct investigations without tipping off terrorists," he said.

"I think it's quite extraordinary to grant government agents the statutory authority to secretly breaks into Americans' homes in criminal cases, and I think some Americans might be concerned it's been used hundreds of times in just a single year in non-terrorism cases," the Wisconsin progressive continued. "That's why I'm proposing additional safeguards to make sure that this authority is available where necessary, but not in virtually every criminal case."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

It never fails that laws are passed for one reason and are converted by law enforcement into tools to fight the drug war.When you look at the incentives for arrests and seizures in this area it's small wonder they do this.We all know that the money incentives for police and other agencies in the area of drug interdiction trump all other areas of law enforcement.This isn't the first prohibition that law enforcement has used to further careers and it isn't the first time that corruption has sprung from the incredible amounts of drugs and money that are available,often without notice.The numbers prove that this law has very little to do with terrorism.

Sat, 10/03/2009 - 5:58am Permalink
joshleeschool (not verified)

The Patriot Act goes against the privacy we are entitled as Americans and is wrong!
The War on Drugs is wrong pointless and a waste of taxpayers money, they should decriminalize marijuana and treat it as they treat alcohol, the goverment would make alot more money off it

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 5:42pm Permalink
maxwood (not verified)

The Patriot Act and the attack act that led to it are subcomponents of the no. 1 genocide conspiracy in history of the planet, i.e. the conspiracy to get tens of thousands of youngsters hooked on nicotine every day worldwide to replace deceased $igarette addicts.

1. The World Trade Towers were the two largest buildings on the planet that looked like $igarettes.

2. They were spaced about the way two $igarettes are positioned sticking out of a just-opened "pack" in billions of advertisement pictures over the past century.

3. The similarity to $igarettes was kept semi-unconscious three main ways:

a. The buildings were square instead of cylindrical;

b. The smoke was pouring out of the middle instead of the end;

c. Two were burning at once instead of just one as customary with obedient addicts.

4. The choice of New York as site has something to do with the most famous of all $igarette advertising billboards being the one in Times Square where rings of smoke were seen exiting from the mouth of a well-dressed "gentleman".

5. Seen from all over town and much of New Jersey, this tobacculary image was the most photographed disaster in the history of the planet and thus the "industry" got a maximum of free advertising distribution.

6. 9 + 11 = 20, or number of "Class A Cigarettes" in a pack.

7. Twenty (20) men were signed up to perpetrate the deed.

8. Nineteen (semi-rhythmicates with "Nicotine") showed up.

9. As noted above, this event led to increasing inspections which made it more prohibitive to try to take any good herb, or a one-hitter utensil, with one on a plane or anywhere.

As to how Islamistical crazies were induced to do the dirty bizness of Phillippus Mortis et al., perhaps some overseas media propa & ganda was applied, as in the famous 1963 case of "THE MAN SHOOTERIN' KENNEDYDEAD" starring Frank Sinatra and LAWRENCE HARVEY (sp.?).

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 6:16pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by maxwood (not verified)


I've left this online because it's clearly satirical and because Maxwood evidently put some time into it, although it's also a bit off topic. For the record, we request no conspiracy theories be posted here, and that comments stay more or less on topic.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 6:31pm Permalink
maxwood (not verified)

David, I apologize and thank you for your leniency. I promise not to foist any more off-topic conspiracy theories, also readers will be spared any more hints about how Sinatra et al. sacrificed some guy whose name sounded like "Joint Of Cannabis", creating a 50-year phobia, how "Anti-Drug Coalition" LaRouche snuffed the "Lennonist" from the drug-pushing Brutish Empire, how right-wing Springer Verlag papers in Berlin prepared an abusive welcome for soon-to-die Jimi Hendrix, etc.

Thu, 10/08/2009 - 5:08pm Permalink

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