The USA PATRIOT ACT (Act of 2001) in its preamble states: “This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism”. However, the reality of how this act is being used is far from that objective. While we are all aware of the impacts to countering terrorism the Patriot Act may or may not have had, what will surprise a few of us is how this act has been directed against non-terror related US citizens’ activities and in stark contrast to our basic rights we are granted by the constitution.
We have all seen how our local police forces have been transformed into paramilitary units. How SWAT teams now are deployed to issue warrants for overdue library books (I am not kidding). We all know how “Homeland Security” was used to solidify and greatly increase spending for domestic policing by blurring the lines for CIA to conduct domestic operations, increasing greatly the FBI budget, expanding the role of NSA on domestic ease dropping. All of this has been widely reported. However, these stories are all covered in a very generic manner.
What is NOT reported is exactly how the Patriot Act has been used against ordinary citizens in any number of domestic criminal or political situations where these citizens have been suspected of “activity” not to the liking of our government. Let’s drill down a bit to make this point.
Sec. 213 of the Patriot Act gives officials the authority for delaying notice of the execution of a warrant. In common terms, this means police can execute a warrant without showing the warrant FIRST or even telling you that the warrant was exercised. Specifically:
With respect to the issuance of any warrant or court order under this section, or any other rule of law, to search for and seize any property or material that constitutes evidence of a criminal offense in violation of the laws of the United States, any notice required, or that may be required, to be given, may be delayed if:
(1) the court finds reasonable cause to believe that providing immediate notification of the execution of the warrant may have an adverse result ;
(2) the warrant prohibits the seizure of any tangible property, any wire or electronic communication (as defined in section 2510), or, except as expressly provided in chapter 121, any stored wire or electronic information, except where the court finds reasonable necessity for the seizure; and
(3) the warrant provides for the giving of such notice within a reasonable period of its execution, which period may thereafter be extended by the court for good cause shown.
So how has this broadened “Sneak and Peek” power been used. Government statistics show that less than 1% of all “sneak and peek” actions involve suspected terrorists. Under section 213 of the Patriot Act, law enforcement agencies can carry out sneak-and-peek warrants, which allow agents to “secretly enter, either physically or virtually; conduct a search, observe, take measurements, conduct examinations, smell, take pictures, copy documents, download or transmit computer files, and the like; and depart without taking any tangible evidence or leaving notice of their presence.” Suspects can be informed of the search later.
Remember the provision was added to the Patriot Act because, the FBI claimed, it was important not to tip off terrorism suspects during cases. But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) found after reviewing reports released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts that only 51 sneak-and-peek requests during 2013 were for terrorism out of 11,129 total requests that year. The biggest reason for the warrants was to investigate drug crimes (9,401 requests), EFF reported.
“The numbers vindicate privacy advocates who urged Congress to shelve Section 213 during the Patriot Act debates,” Mark Jaycox at EFF wrote. “Proponents of Section 213 claimed sneak and peek warrants were needed to protect against terrorism. But just like we’ve seen elsewhere, these claims are false.”
What is more shocking to you? The fact that the police can come into your home, go through your “stuff” and leave without ever telling you they were there or that this was done nearly 12,000 last year alone. What is absolutely amazing to us is that these types of political actions that result in these exact realities are as old as fascism. How do we fall for this crap after knowing all the history of previous fascist governments? Why do we accept this total collapse of our rights? Think about what this means to you. If you are “suspect” of any crime, the police can come into your home, ransack it and leave without ever telling you why or that they were even there in the first place, and it is all totally legal!
Benjamin Franklin is often quoted concerning Liberty and Security. However what he actually said was this; “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
So the question becomes “is this current state of the union what we deserve?” More importantly, if it is not what we deserve, what is the recourse to correct it at this point? Things that make you go “Hmmmmmmm.”