The Patriot Act was passed for an emergency but it is being used for other things.
I posted recently about how the Department of Homeland Security was used in what might be described as a panty raid. Local trademark infringements are how we use the agency that was created in the wake of 911 because of terrorism.
But that is just one anecdote. Now Mother Jones magazine (yes, I know: quite Leftist) ran the headline, “PATRIOT Act Warrants Used More for Drugs than for Terrorism.”
The PATRIOT Act gave federal agents expanded powers to issue search warrants without informing the targets of the warrant beforehand. Why? Because terrorism investigations were special: they’d fall apart if terrorists received warning that they were being investigated. So with terrorism suddenly a far bigger priority after 9/11, national security required that authority for these “sneak-and-peek” warrants be broadened.
A few days ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation tallied up the known figures for sneak-and-peek warrants:
- 2001-03: 47
- 2010: 3,970
- 2011: 6,775
- 2012: 10,183
- 2013: 11,129
That’s quite an increase. So did terrorism investigations skyrocket over the past decade? Not so much. It turns out that hardly any of these warrants were used in terrorism cases. Instead, they were virtually all used in narcotics cases…