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Patriot Act Used Almost Always Against Non-Terrorists Last Year

It’s late. I’m tired. You probably are too. If you feel the need for a just a bit more energy for the day, for something to wake you up enough to get just one or two more things done, I suggest you watch the following short video clip from today’s Executive Business Meeting in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which considered renewing, once again, the Patriot Act that we were all told years ago would be just a temporary law needed for a short time.

The context of this video is important. Senator Russ Feingold is referring to “sneak and peek” powers the government is granted by the Patriot Act to search through people’s homes and businesses without ever telling the people whose property has been searched that the search took place. Imagine how you’d feel if you found out that happened to you – that someone broke into your home while you were out, searched through all your things, and then put everything back into place so you’d never know the search happened.

Think that couldn’t happen to you, because you’re not suspected of a connection to terrorists? Think again.

There’s a massive pile of anticonstitutional treachery going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but here’s the piece of information I’d like you to pay attention to tonight. Feingold cites a report from the government itself, admitting that “in fiscal year 2008 only 3 out of the 763 sneak and peek search warrant applications were in terrorism cases. 65 percent were for drug cases.”

It’s bad enough that the federal government is using Patriot Act powers of unreasonable search and seizure, which were supposed to be used only for the purposes of anti-terrorism investigations, in order to pursue investigations of suspected drug crimes. What’s worse is that’s not all that’s been going on.

Pay attention to the statistics that Senator Feingold is citing, and then do the math. There were 763 uses of the sneak and peek Patriot Act provision in fiscal year 2008. Only 3 of those uses were in any way related to investigations of suspected terrorist activity. That’s 0.39 percent. Then we’ve got the drug cases: 65 percent.

That’s a total of just 65.39 percent of the uses of sneak and peek spying powers accounted for, in that one year. Just what kind of investigations were the remaining 34.61 percent of cases related to? Shoplifting? Parking violations? Jaywalking? Political protests outside of authorized “free speech zones”?

There is a hell of a lot of explaining that the Senate Finance Committee needs to do before it even thinks about reauthorizing the Patriot Act. Given the rampant abuse of Patriot Act powers that has taken place since the law was passed, the Senate ought to start with the presumption that it should not be renewed, and work from there.

16 thoughts on “Patriot Act Used Almost Always Against Non-Terrorists Last Year”

  1. J. Clifford says:

    And where are all the Obama For America people now, given that it’s Democrats on the Judiciary Committee joining the Republicans that are allowing this kind of outrageous abuse of our constitutional rights to continue?

    Are they just sitting in the bathtub, humming the tune to the old “Yes We Can” video until it’s all over?

    1. ReMarker says:

      Give me a break! Feingold is a Democratic “Yes we can”er.

      Except for Obama’s election and many Democratic “Yes we can”ers, we may not even be hearing about the abuses. As Feingold pointed out, in 2005 the Dept. of Justice website touted exaggerations of the Patriot Act’s effects on catching terrorists. I haven’t seen any J. Clifford articles here in I.T. giving the stats that Feingold recited or expressing support for the people that Feingold refered to when he said “what WE suspected all along”. Do you even know who the “WE” from 2005 are? That is a rhetorical question. I’m not interested in an answer. I have already learned many I.T. articles use ridicule to make their points, typical of the right wing ridiculers, instead of a site that uses constructive criticism in supporting elected officials that are trying to get things right. Except for such a ridiculing comment, I wouldn’t even be making a comment. I’ve been through this movie before.

      1. J. Clifford says:

        Really. You’ve been through this movie before. Have you been through the movie where the Democrats are leading the way to push for a renewal of the Patriot Act? Have you been through the movie where the Senate Judiciary Committee declines to take up Feingold’s own bill and goes with a weaker bill instead, which does not include most of his proposed reforms?

        Have you seen the sequel where Russ Feingold says yesterday that he’s “disappointed” in the legislation being pushed now to renew the Patriot Act? My favorite is the scene where he said of the Democratic bill to renew the Patriot Act that it “lacks adequate protections for innocent Americans”.

        Have you seen the movie called The Durbin Amendment? Most people haven’t. Most people weren’t paying attention when it came out in theaters yesterday. Never fear. I’m going to write a review here in just a few minutes.

        You can’t just pin this on George W. Bush anymore. The Democrats are in on his attacks against the Constitution. They’re leading the charge now.

        Did you call the Judiciary Committee, ReMarker? Did you call any Senators on those committees, or were you in the bathtub humming?

        1. qs says:


          I don’t know why they do such thing. If you ask the average republican, they don’t want them doing that either.

      2. Jim says:

        ReMarker, it was not the Democrats who achieved the release of information about warrantless spying and other government abuses. It was non-partisan actors who accomplished that: journalists (mainly at the Washington Post and New York Times) and organizations such as the EFF and ACLU.

  2. Tom says:

    Hey J., do you really think it matters whether ReMarker (or you, or me, or the MoveOn people) calls, writes, blogs, freeway posts or walks around outside the Capitol with anti-Patriot Act banners? You (and me and ReMarker and the MoveOn crowd) and (y)our quaint ideas that our vote means something – that our voice is actually heard, or that we even count anymore – is about 9 years behind the times. We’re still in Iraq, and now Afghanistan and Pakistan as well, health care is going to be mandated for the insurance companies, Wall Street, our insolvent banks and huge insurance companies are being bailed out while we little people are being laid off, foreclosed on and going bankrupt behind crushing medical bills and debt, and our “money” is being printed around the clock with nothing behind it. People have been and are screaming about all of this to Congress and our new “progressive” president, but THERE’S NO CHANGE.

    So don’t be so quick to assume it’s all because someone (or a whole bunch of us) who bitches about it WHILE writing Congress, calling our reps and voicing our opinions isn’t doing his part. The goddamn system is fucking broken and doesn’t respond to anything but corporate money and big influence. Your petty little asides don’t mean a thing and neither does your vote, your protest or anything else except what the powers that be (and it ain’t us) wants.

    Yeah, we’ll keep tryin’ but right now NOTHING is working the way it was designed and explained to us in civics class. So, unless you have a better idea for effecting REAL CHANGE, stop trying to turn it around and act as if its we who visit your site and complain about the ACTUAL state of affairs, okay?

    1. Jim says:

      Was it corporate money and big influence that got the National Applications Office to close, Tom?
      Was it corporate money and big influence that stalled the Office of Information Awareness, Tom?
      Was it corporate money and big influence that prompted changes in interrogation policy, Tom?
      Was it corporate money and big influence that restored some habeas corpus rights for indefinite detainees, Tom?

      Changes have happened, and differences have been made, and they have been made by groups of people working together outside government, outside corporate America to poke and prod and bring lawsuits and march and write angry letters to the editor and call their members of Congress and inform one other.

      Resistance is not futile, Tom. You’re right, Tom, that your vote alone won’t singlehandedly change the world, but that’s the nature of voting, and as you know politics is so much more. Agitation is not futile. Protest is not futile. Change is possible. It has happened. More will happen if people give enough of a crap. Change won’t happen if people give up.

    2. J.Clifford says:

      You know, Tom, the best way to guarantee that your voice won’t be heard is to give up and not say anything. The best way to guarantee that voting doesn’t help to make things better is to go around telling people that their vote doesn’t count. The best way to get people to tune out is to tell them there’s nothing we can do because we’re already doomed.

      It’s also not very helpful for people like ReMarker to keep on insisting that the Democrats are going to solve all our problems, even when it’s the Democrats who are making the problems.

      1. ReMarker says:

        Tom thanks for the reasonable words.

        J. Clifford the only thing I am insisting on is I.T., often times, uses RIDICULE (one of the right wingnut’s favorite techniques) instead of constructive criticism to make its points about things with which they disagree. Consequently that’s a wide brush approach and paints “unresponsibles” into its (I.T.) ridicule, as Tom pointed out.

        The “movie” to which I refer is the “ridicule vs. disagreement” banter between Jim and I.

        When I found I.T., I had high hopes I had found a progressive blog grounded in “non-right wingnut techniques” that makes their points on the merits in a “constructive critism” way, as many of the progressive big boys do. Examples: Fire Dog Lake, Alternet, McClatchy, Media Matters, Daily Beast, Daily Kos, Think Progress, etc.

        I am dissapointed.

        1. Jim says:

          It strikes me that

          A) J. Clifford’s article here is making factual statements
          B) you’re the one making things personal rather than policy-related on this thread
          C) In the “movie” you link to, what you characterize as “ridicule” is criticism of Barack Obama. What you ask for is that we not criticize Barack Obama, or that we not make our criticisms public.
          D) Nobody’s forcing you to visit and read this web page.

          You’re certainly entitled to your opinion. But we are who we are. We are blunt. We are impolitic. We do not have courtly manners. We are not interested, as the “big boys” you mention are, in cultivating reciprocal personal relations with politicians. That’s not going to change. If you want it to change, you’re going to find yourself continually disappointed.

          1. ReMarker says:

            “What you ask for is that we not criticize Barack Obama, or that we not make our criticisms public.”

            Thanks for telling me what I am asking. Again, you are mistaken. I am asking that I.T. consider constructive criticism as a better way of making the points on the merits than RIDICULE. Tom articulates RIDICULE’S shortcomings, well.

            Can you tell I think I.T. can’t take constructive criticism? (Rhetorical).

            For sure, be as you will, np for me.

            I’m just saying….

          2. J. Clifford says:

            What does that phrase really mean, “constructive criticism”? The way it’s often used in political circles means to ask a politician to please change something negative that they’re doing, but not to make a big fuss, or demand accountability, or to name consequences, because that’s all too harsh.

            We’ve written plenty here about what should be done: Pass Feingold’s stronger bill, the Justice Act. That’s our constructive advice.

            Our criticism is that the majority of Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee are standing with George W. Bush and the Republican Party, against the Constitution.

            Am I going to ridicule Democrats who talked on and on last year about defending the Constitution, and ending the politics of fear, and now are defending the worst aspects of the Patriot Act? You bet I am. They deserve ridicule.

          3. Jim says:

            Look, in that thread you linked to you yourself advocated “being patient and supporting him,” as he is “doing a job that requires millions of people’s support.” You yourself said that criticizing Barack Obama’s policy actions is “Beating up on Obama, means falling into a conserva-trap, then,,, no more Obama. I choose to support Obama, and beat up on those that don’t.”

            I can listen to your criticism, which really isn’t constructive, considering that its main point has been to ask us to shut up and support the President. I listen to your criticism. I hear it. I don’t AGREE with it.

  3. randy ray haugen says:

    sorry to say, remarker, but, j.clifford and jim have some very valid points. i support obama and his efforts, everyone says he’s taking on too much, but, he really is backing away and giving in far to often.
    and this “patriot act” is really just a new arm in the long lost and totally wrong-minded drug war.
    fiengold is a “we can” guy, but, the lack of support among his own party is disgusting. same for those who should be with obama. blue dog democrats are worse than the republicans, at least you know where they’re coming from.
    how long does it take for a public official to be bought or scared off? about ten months or less, i guess.
    obama is first and foremost a politician. if he wants to see any accomplishments in his administation the first thing he has to do is stay in power. that means thinking about the next election cycle.that, apparently, means compromise, compromise, compromise. i agree with I.T.and thinks thats wrong. i would rather see him go down in defeat, staying with the people who elected him, and showing the world how petty and fraudulent the right wing has become.

  4. ReMarker says:

    Whatever, guys.

    It has been interesting talking to you.

    1. J. Clifford says:

      Okay, so I think we see what happens when a Democratic cheerleader runs up against reality. It isn’t pretty, and it sure isn’t constructive.

      Could you respond to some of the facts here, rather than being defensive?

      Oh, and did you make a call?

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