PATRIOT Act “Sneak and Peek” Searches Targeted Drug Offenders, Not Terrorists

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 never 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.”

– Article from Stop the Drug War (DRCNet).



  1. Ross Wolf on

    In 2008 Telecoms were granted government immunity after they helped U.S. Government spy on millions of Americans’ electronic communications. Since, Government has not disclosed what happened to NSA’s millions of collected emails, faxes and phone call information that belong to U.S. Citizens. Could those wiretaps perhaps illegal, become a problem for some Americans? Neither Congress nor the courts—determined what NSA electronic surveillance could be used by police or introduced into court by the government to prosecute Citizens.

    Perhaps the only thing that stopped U.S. Government using “illegal telecom assisted wiretap evidence” against ordinary Americans and Businesses before the presidency of George Bush II, was Telecoms didn’t have immunity from being sued by charged criminal and civil asset forfeiture defendants.

    In 2004, former Attorney General John Ashcroft asked government prosecutors to review thousands of old intelligence files including wiretaps to retrieve information prosecutors could use in “ordinary” criminal prosecutions. That was shortly after a court case lowered a barrier that blocked prosecutors from using illegal-wire tap evidence in Justice Dept. “Intelligence Files” to prosecute ordinary crimes. It would appear this information, may also be used by government to prosecute civil asset forfeitures.

    Considering this court case, it might be possible for NSA to share its “recent” electronic-domestic-spying with countless U.S. police agencies; including government contracted–companies and private individuals that have security clearances to facilitate seizing Americans’ property—-to keep part of the bounty. Police too easily can take an innocent person’s hastily written email, fax or phone call out of context to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause an arrest or asset forfeiture.

    There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations mentioned in the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 and the Patriot Act that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture.” Under federal civil forfeiture laws, a person or business need not be charged with a crime for government to forfeit their property.

    In the U.S., increasing numbers of Private Contractors work on asset forfeitures to make commissions that are split with law enforcement agencies. Private Contractors work so closely with law enforcement to forfeit Citizens’ property-providing and sharing intelligence, they appear to merge with police: that close working relationship lends itself to corruption. A dishonest Asset Forfeiture Bounty Hunter may too easily kick back part of his or her forfeiture commission to corrupt police and informants to ensure their testimony damages or frames a defendant to cause asset forfeiture.

    Rep. Henry Hyde’s bill HR 1658 passed, the “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” and effectively eliminated the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. The statute now runs five years from when police allege they “learned” that an asset became subject to forfeiture. With such a weak statute of limitations and the low standard of civil proof needed for government to forfeit property “A preponderance of Evidence”, it is problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will want access to telecom-NSA and other government wiretaps perhaps illegal, to secure evidence to arrest Americans and or civilly forfeit their homes, inheritances and businesses under Title 18USC and other laws. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to help pay their salaries and operating costs?

    Under the USA Patriot Act, witnesses can be kept hidden while being paid part of the assets they cause to be forfeited. The Patriot Act specifically mentions using Title 18USC asset forfeiture laws: those laws include a provision in Rep. Henry Hyde’s 2000 bill HR 1658—for “retroactive civil asset forfeiture” of “assets already subject to government forfeiture”, meaning “property already tainted by crime” provided “the property” was already part of or “later connected” to a criminal investigation in progress” when HR.1658 passed. That can apply to more than two hundred federal laws and violations.

    To help protect Americans from police forfeiture abuse, Congress should pass legislation that raises the standard of evidence Government uses for Civil Asset Forfeiture from a mere “Preponderance of Evidence” to “Clear and Convincing Evidence.

  2. Anonymous on

    Please take your medication before making posts. Thank you.

  3. greenguy28 on

    If you don’t think that this isn’t happening in Canada too, you are mistaken. These are used in my province all the time. I know people who have caught people during sneak and peak operations looking for grow-ops. Beware.

  4. Caber1 on

    Ok, so lets take into consideration that yes, this law was instituted by a group of gutter scum lead by Bush.

    Well, Bush isn’t in power anymore and yet the abuses continue. What does that say about the holier than thou government that is power now?

    Seems to me that as much as some things SEEM to change, they hardly do.

  5. Anonymous on

    Fuck You Europe, you all gone soft, what happened in WW II you WERE tough, not anymore you all Jewish prostitues. Your Womans who are dead fucks and are kids not women. Death to the Europeans, leave Afganistan…

  6. one12alpha on

    Yes the patriot act destroys the fourth amendment, and more. It really casts aside any concept of a civil world. You can be searched, and seized, taken prisoner, tried before a military judge, and sentenced even to death without ever knowing what it was you had done wrong. It establishes a list of so called “terrorists” that grows as the days pass, essentially a yellow star unknowingly worn by the citizens. Black water is simply a commercialized militant group allowed and demanded to operate by our government, with special abilities in operation due to legal loopholes in the fact that they are “private” security, allowing them to act outside of the Geneva Conventions. As if our country followed the Geneva conventions any way, look closer at Afghanistan if you disagree.

    You are very right. It is quite like the process leading up to the Nazi regime. Your concern should not only be directed at what goes on here, but in your very own government as well, for there are many in cahoots across the globe. Strangely, the same in cahoots now, as there were then.

  7. Anonymous on

    this all sounds so much like nazi germany and Hitler. First you slowly take the rights of the citizens away, ie: this patriot act. Now for almost any reason they can hold and detain anyone, search any house and all the goodies that go with the freedom of the govt being allowed to do what ever they want. Basically this has taken away a freedom. I think its the 4th amendment, ( someone correct me if I am wrong) (I am just a cunuck and not 100% sure of the American constitution.) To be able to toss this into effect so fast, they needed an external threat that could also be internal. this being 911. Now bingo, no Americans really have a freedom they once had. Then Bush made that, I think was balck water, a group who could execute these raids and search for things deemed to be terorist acts or threats. I think the Black water group is very much like the Nazis where under the reign of the lunitic Hitler. Bush, to me, seems like a mondern day Hitler. I fear here in Canada for what is happening over in the states. History seems to be repeating itself.

  8. Anonymous on

    cops also get money from the feds for the drug war, plus prisons get federal money for prisoner housing etc,and in tough economic times…

  9. Anonymous on

    Anyone remember when the DEA claimed that buying drugs was supporting terrorism? well NOW you have a little context for that statement. I’m all for fighting to protect ourselves from ACTUAL terrorists, but as wityh any knee-jerk reactionary law(such as the Patriot Act)it WILL be misused.

  10. Riptorn Overkill on

    What a bunch of sneaky bastards. Anyway to invade your privacy….

  11. Anontron on


  12. Anonymous on

    Well since they shot there form of government to hell!?! Why not?, rebuild from the first one? and get it right this time around?? Peace andPOT! the gift;

  13. one12alpha on

    Worse thing is that congress actually passed the patriot act the way they did, without reading it. Shit, Bush could have stapled a few repealed amendments in there and we’d have slavery again, back to no woman’s rights, and so on. They rubber stamped that POS into law in the interest of protecting us, while to people who wrote it and demanded it be in effect so quickly intended it to entrap us. It gives them free reign. The very fact that the Obama Administration allowed to continue makes the just as criminal as the bush administration.

    However were he to use it as you mentioned, it would at least be in good keeping with the public interest. It would perhaps make it all worth while, especially if he were to use it to its full power on them. Capture, conviction and punishment without knowledge of your charge, without a jury of your peers, and execution if they deem necessary. Of course there are most likely some provisions that makes them exempted from being subject to the patriot act. Just like congress does with laws, and taxes…. hmmm, wouldn’t that make them “above the law”

  14. one12alpha on

    He was saying “fisa” or something like that. But it did sound like he said pfizer once and corrected himself though… i wouldn’t put it past our govt to protect corporate interest though. Look at how we make laws REQUIRING insurance. The “health care reform” is no different. Its no benefit to anyone, just another law forcing us to spend what little money we do have on something we cannot afford.

  15. Anonymous on

    why do you think the police just want to consintrate on drug war? My opinion, most of them like the opportunity to maybe grab something, like oh , maybe some cash, or even a some of the drugs for thier own use, or sale, or whatever they do with it. The lure of easy money is attactive to anyone who appreciates cash. Many police have the idea this is ok, that it is a “perk” of the job.

  16. Anonymous on

    What’s even worse then that the Obama administration allows it to continue. The Patriot Act was not needed to prosecute acts of terrorism! It was created to protect the Bush Administration from its enemies within. Unless Obama uses the Patriot Act to bring criminal charges against Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzales, Rove, etc, etc, etc, nothing has changed at all?

  17. GitcheGumee on

    What was Assistant Attorney General David Kris talking about from about 4:00 to 4:20 minutes into the clip? It sounded like he said “pfizer is a different authority where it is covert” … WTF??

  18. From the 70s on

    All the cops do is their drug war. Who didn’t know that that’s what the cops would do. Same in Canada, they slip in the words organized crime and bang, its drugs, not terrorists they tap your phone for. Its probably why 911 happen, too busy doing their drugs. We should make them all drug cops and hire some real Police, something that hasn’t been around for a long time (even in Canada, its been 10 years or so since we had real police, the Winnipeg Police Chief has to force his cops to do regular police work like patrolling streets since they all want to do their drug war. Its a sickness that will eventually have to be cleaned up. It just corrupts the cops.

  19. Anonymous on

    very good movie , new world order

  20. Anonymous on

    i could not of said it better and everyone who thinks this is fucked check out the documentary freedom to facism by aaron russo

  21. one12alpha on

    The patriot act is a direct violation of the constitution.

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”–Fourth amendment.

    The constitution was indeed written in a time before telecommunications and internet. But it’s not unreasonable to think that “papers” was to include protection from search of ones communications. Nor is it unreasonable to think that ones internet activity/communication, or telecommunications, are protected in good keeping with the intent of the article written by our founding fathers.

    I know the patriot act goes way beyond in violating our constitution( right to a fair and speedy trial for example), but I wanted to stay on subject with the article. I would urge you to look more into the patriot act if you think these “sneak and peek” searches are the worst of it, because its only the surface.

  22. Anonymous on

    most all of us new that was going to happen now all criminal cases need to be reviewed and if need be dropped expunge and release the innocent and look into possible criminal action against some DOJ and Bush administration officals