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.