Browse By

Use of Patriot Act Sneak-And-Peek Powers for Drug War Further Eclipsed Terrorism Uses in 2009

In a statement on January 26 2011, House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith declared that the extension of Patriot Act surveillance powers is necessary to stop terrorists:

The intelligence and law enforcement communities that are responsible for preventing terrorist attacks need to know that the tools they rely on to keep the American people safe will not be weakened or allowed to expire. We need the PATRIOT Act to prevent attacks and apprehend terrorists. This short-term extension is a step toward the long-term reauthorization of important and necessary national security provisions. It gives Congress time for an open and meaningful debate, while ensuring that our law enforcement and intelligence communities can continue to prevent attacks and save lives.

Available-ish evidence suggests otherwise.

Two years ago, a document released by the U.S. Senate showed that in fiscal year 2008, 62% of sneak-and-peek searches carried out by authorities under provisions of the Patriot Act were in cases having to do with illegal drugs. By comparison, only 0.4% of the Patriot Act sneak-and-peek searches in fiscal year 2008 had to do with terrorism. In these searches, contrary to the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, targets of search aren’t informed that the government has been searching through their property or personal effects.

Was fiscal year 2008 a fluke? Congresional records show that an update of the same statistics for fiscal year 2009 was provided to the U.S. Senate on July 13 2010 and to the U.S. House of Representatives on September 14 2010. These statistical updates were sent by the Obama administration’s Administrative Office of the United States Courts, but unfortunately the AOUSC has declined to publish those same statistics on its website. The Congress, upon receiving these fiscal year 2009 statistics, forwarded them on to the House Judiciary and Senate Judiciary committees, neither one of which has published the statistics for public consumption. Indeed, the Senate Judiciary Committee actively chose not to release this letter in its publication of committee correspondence for the 111th Congress. These statistics are not for public consumption.

Fortunately, reporter Ken Marshall of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did get his hand on a copy of the Patriot Act sneak-and-peek statistics for fiscal year 2009. Those statistics show that 50.6% more Patriot Act sneak-and-peek searches were carried out by federal agents in 2009 than in 2008. Here are the reasons the government gave for carrying out those searches in 2009:

Drugs: 73.7%
Fraud: 4.8%
Unspecified: 3.3%
Extortion/Racketeering: 3.2%
Fugitive/Escape: 2.2%
Robbery/Theft: 1.9%
Immigration: 1.5%
Weapons: 1.3%
Currency: 1.2%
International Emergency Economic Powers Act: 0.7%
Terrorism: 0.5%

Searches under the auspices of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act can have to do with terrorist threats, or weapons proliferation, or drug trafficking, or cyberattacks, or other threats of an “economic” nature, so it’s hard to say whether they qualify as terrorist-related or not. But even if we were to assume that each IEEPA sneak-and-peek search during the year 2009 was terrorism-related, the use of these Patriot Act powers in terrorism cases would only top out at 1.2% of all uses.

Defenders of the Patriot Act proclaim to the rafters that it’s being deployed to nab the rascally terrorists. They don’t and they won’t mention that the Patriot Act is overwhelmingly being used to fight the Drug War and to conduct criminal investigations against its own citizens, all on the sly.

10 thoughts on “Use of Patriot Act Sneak-And-Peek Powers for Drug War Further Eclipsed Terrorism Uses in 2009”

  1. Hendrix says:

    Gotta wonder what’s up with the Unspecified break-ins that couldn’t be lumped into any of the broad categories. Over 6 times as many unspecified as terrorism-related break-ins.

    1. Peregrin Wood says:

      Break-ins like the Watergate break-in?

      I wonder how much the Patriot Act is being used against Wikileaks and its associates in the USA now.

      1. Hendrix says:

        Yes, as opposed to a warranted search or an invitation to enter.

  2. Tom says:

    PRISON NATION here we come! i just wonder what they’re going to do when there isn’t any money left to feed, house, and provide medical attention to all these “prisoners” (remember all but a few states are practically broke NOW and the financial mess hasn’t completely unwound yet – meaning even less tax dollars).

  3. The Ancient One says:

    If you are willing to give up a bit of freedom for safety, you will have neither! George Washington

    Not much more needs to be said, but unfortunately, we have a country filled with citizens who chose to go to sleep and ignore the government trusting they would do the right things. On March 21, 2010, we were awakened, completely. Now we know we cannot trust our own government to do the right things and so we are awake forever and will no longer trust the government. It is the responsibility of every single citizen to go to work, sorry but true, and find out exactly what is going on in our government every single day and to voice our opinions on each piece of legislation and on each election day showing there are consequences to actions. Just as the citizens were stepped on when the House passed Obamacare against the wishes of millions of Americans, the congress has done the same thing again with the passing AGAIN of the Patriot Act. Now is the time to speak out. IF you care for your country and your family, friends and neighbors, it is also your responsibility to spread the word of what is going on. When you know the facts, send them out in email messages to all, providing links to your data and facts, keeping all informed so in the next election, we can kick the Progressive Democrats out of the Senate and the rest of the House. The next time you know a piece of legislation is coming up for vote that is crucial or critical, let all know about it, what it is and why it is bad/good and how folks should voice their opinions to their reps in Congress. IF you do not do this, you are failing as a citizen.

    1. J. Clifford says:

      “Ancient One”, those values are the values of authoritarianism. Our Constitution does not ask citizens to relinquish freedom in order to serve the needs of a Security State.

    2. Jim Cook says:


      First, it’s Benjamin Franklin, not George Washington, and he said “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” in 1759.

      Second, the Congress just passed the reauthorization of the Patriot Act thanks to YES votes from the Tea Party and Republicans. But you say the Patriot Act is bad and therefore we should “keep informed so in the next election, we can kick the Progressive Democrats out”????

      I mean, and I’m sincere in this sentiment: WTF? Conservative Blue Dog Democrats, maybe: those were the Democrats most likely to vote YES for the Patriot Act last night. The progressive Democrats in Congress were the ones who were the most likely to vote AGAINST the Patriot Act.

      Yes, inform yourself, Ancient One. Do that and you’ll figure out that the last thing you’d want to do in order to get the Patriot Act repealed is to “kick the Progressive Democrats out.”

  4. Mark,Nathan says:

    Where is Wally? “Hes One Of Us” Wally enjoys Socialized Medicine, a guaranteed Paycheck, Paid vacation, millions of dollars worth of trips,paid staffers ect. Which one of US is he referring Too??
    Defer those benefits for a year and this poor County could balance the books.Now that this County is fighting against the removal of the Dam and making the Klammath a National Monument,Its not Wheres’ Waldo , but WHERES’ WALLY.
    I know a good conservative on the Board of Superviors and He Is Truly One Of Us.

  5. Arthur M Ross says:

    USAPATRIOT Act ~Victim 8.5.12 ~
    I have been wrongly accuse of something that I’m not sure of, an singled out by the Department of Justice in a criminal investigation
    Under the USAPATRIOT Act, I’ve been Terrorized daily, by the Department of Justice Sneak and Peek warrant and advance Surveillance teams, which allow the police to break into someone’s home or business and collect evidence without even notifying the person or organization that they’ve been the subject of a search.
    The practice has been going on now for 4 years at a cost of 5 million dollar per year, advance surveillance and Sneak and Peek, GPS on Car.
    Daily harassment, denying me the opportunity to work, there goal is to force me into a life of crime, in-order to support myself .Therefore, arresting me and removing me for sociality
    Currently, I’m unemployed and supporting law enforcement with opportunity to have a job harassing me. So far, I estimate over 20 million dollars has been spent, basic break-down of DOJ resources’
    15 Man surveillance cars to support surveillance box~ rented apartment to observe me from ~ home break-ins-daily
    24 hours surveillance by 7 days (40 field agents min)~ Wire-taps landline and wireless ~ email intercept ~ general harassment from field agents~ Paid informant to collect information about me~ Field agent canvassing my neighborhood, flashing my picture to obtain any information, general harassment~ where-ever I go, they go!~ home break-ins’ daily to obtain any information on my computer, key-stroke software on my computer have been installed, DOJ agents spent more time in my house than I do, rent free!
    They have and will disrupt the Catholic Church services, when-ever I attend Mass, taking pictures, asking question about me
    At the end of the Day, there’s no acts’ or evidence of any crimes committed by me, this has been going on for 4 years now, at an estimated cost of 20 million and counting.While, I’m unemployed and earn approximate $20,000 per year from unemployment insurance
    I offer you the DEA agent’s field notes to support my statement of terrorism!
    At the end of the Day, I simply refuse to let the Department of Justice with their many resources’, break my Spirit and my Resolve
    Please offer me some guidance on stopping this so-call investigation
    You’re USAPATRIOT Act at Work!

  6. Dove says:

    I assume this trend continues. It will have to be shouted from the rooftops if we’re ever to get the damned acts repealed to restore civil liberties.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Psst... what kind of person doesn't support pacifism?

Fight the Republican beast!