FBI's Use Of 'Sneak And Peek' Warrants Still Steadily Increasing, Still Has Nearly Nothing To Do With Fighting Terrorism

from the more-drug-warring dept

Another tool supposedly “crucial” to the War on Terror is just another lowly footsoldier in the War on Drugs. Some long-delayed reports on Section 213 “sneak and peek” warrants have finally been released by the US government, providing more detail on the constantly-expanding use of delayed-notification warrants by the FBI.

While Section 213 didn’t originate with the regrettable PATRIOT Act, it did coattail ride the government-expanding legislation into legitimacy. Robert Mueller, director of the FBI at the time, made this statement in 2005 defending the ongoing use of these warrants.

While not scheduled to sunset, the USA Patriot Act’s delayed notice provision, Section 213, has been the subject of criticism and various legislative proposals. The FBI believes that Section 213 is an invaluable tool in the war on terror and our efforts to combat serious criminal conduct. It is important to note that delayed notice warrants were not created by the USA Patriot Act. Rather, the Act simply codified a common law practice recognized by courts across the country and created a uniform nationwide standard for the issuance of those warrants…

Delayed notice search warrants provide a crucial option to law enforcement and can only be issued if a federal judge finds that one of five tailored circumstances exists. The FBI has requested this authority in several cases. In most instances, the FBI seeks delayed notice when contemporaneous notice would reasonably be expected to cause serious jeopardy to an ongoing investigation.

Legislators expressed concern about these warrants during a 2005 Senate hearing, pointing out the significant increase in the number issued.

Apparently, the department sought and received the authority to delay notice 108 times between April 2003 and January 2005, a period of approximately 22 months. By contrast, it sought and received this authority 47 times between November 2001, when the PATRIOT Act was enacted, and April 2003, a period of about 17 months. The 5-month difference in timeframe aside, these numbers clearly reveal a substantial increase in use.

If they could have peered a little further into the future, they probably wouldn’t have bothered noting this slight increase. 2010’s report noted nearly 4,000 requests for delayed notification. A year later, the number had lept to 6,775. Two years later and the number has nearly doubled — 11,129.

From 47 times in 17 months to over 30 times a day over the last ten years. This is another limited-use, for-emergency-use-only tool that has been converted into a workhouse by law enforcement. To keep it from being killed off, FBI Director Robert Mueller cited terrorism and investigations being placed in “serious jeopardy,” but in reality, it’s still all about drugs, drugs and more drugs.

This was the ratio in 2010.

It hasn’t gotten any better.

Out of the 3,970 total requests from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010, 3,034 were for narcotics cases and only 37 for terrorism cases (about .9%). Since then, the numbers get worse. The 2011 report reveals a total of 6,775 requests. 5,093 were used for drugs, while only 31 (or .5%) were used for terrorism cases. The 2012 report follows a similar pattern: Only .6%, or 58 requests, dealt with terrorism cases. The 2013 report confirms the incredibly low numbers. Out of 11,129 reports only 51, or .5%, of requests were used for terrorism.

Additionally, only 11 requests were rejected and the average delay was over 60 days. The longest recorded in 2013 was well over a year — 546 days.

This was supposed to be an option of last resort — something deployed when it was too dangerous to do otherwise. But it never was anything more than a way to skirt the Fourth Amendment for maximum FBI efficiency. Even in its early days — not far removed from the horror of the 9/11 attacks — the FBI was using delayed notice warrants to conduct routine investigations.

It would astound most Americans that government agents could enter their homes while they are asleep or their places of business while they are away and carry out a secret search or seizure and not tell them until weeks or months later. It would especially astound them that this authority is available for all Federal offenses, ranging from weapons of mass destruction investigations to student loan cases. That is what Section 213 of the PATRIOT Act authorizes. Indeed, the Justice Department has admitted that it has used Section 213 sneak and peek authority in nonviolent cases having nothing to do with terrorism. These include, according to the Justice Department’s October 24, 2003 letter to Senator Stevens, an investigation of judicial corruption, where agents carried out a sneak and peek search of a judge’s chambers, a fraudulent checks case, and a health care fraud investigation, which involved a sneak and peek of a home nursing care business.

So, the DOJ requests an inch, takes several miles, and searches citizens’ homes and places of business several thousand times a year — all without feeling compelled to inform its targets. The justifications the FBI offers (and has offered for years) are false. Are we actually supposed to believe the danger posed to investigating officers has increased at the same rate as the deployment of “sneak and peek” warrants? The defenders of this program can’t expect anyone to believe anything that ridiculous. And yet, it continues — not just unabated, but with steady increases.

Section 213 is just another way for the DOJ to keep the pesky public from impeding its forward progress. Anything hinting of rights or civil liberties is generally viewed as a loophole for criminals to exploit. This is more of the same. It’s easier to execute search warrants when you don’t have to bother serving them first.

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Comments on “FBI's Use Of 'Sneak And Peek' Warrants Still Steadily Increasing, Still Has Nearly Nothing To Do With Fighting Terrorism”

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AJ says:

Re: Re:

It’s bound to happen… Old disabled man lives in a house, rarely if ever leaves. Son is under investigation and comes and goes taking care of him. Police sneak and peek to see if he’s storing his drugs there… scares old man who opens fire. I can think of hundreds of situations like this that could turn sour fast.

Bottom line is; If you break into someones house and scare the shit out of them.. probably under cover of darkness, you can’t honestly expect them not to defend their home or property..

AJ says:

Re: Re: Re: (AJ's scenario)

“This is incompetence, notwithstanding the issues with unwarranted searches. A proper “sneak & peek” will only be done when nobody is there.”

Have you not seen all the stories where the cops have crashed the wrong house?

Or got shot sneaking in a window?

Or how about the cops just flat out killing someone in their own house?

You say it will only be done when nobody is there…. i say incompetence will eventually take over and Mr. Darwin will be there to supervise.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Repeat after me: 'The police are never wrong'

Here’s your answer, from one of the links posted below:

‘On Friday May 9, 2014, just after 5:30am, members of the Killeen Police Department Tactical Response Unit and the Bell Organized Crime Unit were attempting to serve a narcotics search warrant. The TRU was beginning to breach the window when the 49 year old male inside, opened fire striking four officers.’

Marvin Louis Guy, age 50, was arrested and held in the Killeen City Jail on a $3 million bond. His charges include 1 count of capital murder, and 3 counts of attempted capital murder.

Police attempt a no-knock raid, in the middle of the night, and one of them gets shot (fatally) in the face, with three others shot (non-fatally) for their trouble. Rather than admit that the homeowner had a perfectly understandable reason to fear that the people attempting to break into his house(through the window) meant him harm, and acted accordingly, they instead charged him with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder(because clearly actual robbers would have used the front door, and never the windows /s).

So no, the FBI will not likely admit that they caused the fatality/injury when an agent of theirs gets shot, they’ll instead blame the homeowner, and charge them with assault/attempted murder/murder.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

To keep it from being killed off, FBI Director Robert Mueller cited terrorism and investigations being placed in “serious jeopardy,” but in reality, it’s still all about drugs, drugs and more drugs.

Considering how many US citizens have been killed by terrorism over the last decade (very few) and how many have been killed by drugs and drug-related violence in the same time period (a heck of a lot more), why are you talking about this as if it’s a bad thing?

Drugs are a very serious problem in the US, much more so than terrorism. Why not treat it as a more serious problem?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The drug problem in the US is 99% not caused by the citizens, but by the government and its policies. Name a country that has no restrictions on drug use or sale and compare it to arrests and money spent per-capita. The “Drug problem is nothing but an excuse to criminalize things that were previously legal. Restricting freedoms and creating problems that would not exist otherwise. Drugs are a serious problem in the US, but its the prescription ones that are the real cesspool of humanity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Of course you don’t need to mention the CIA funding it’s clandestine operations with drug sales it flew into the country. This goes back to the days of Oliver North exposing what was done then and continues to this day with a recent discovery of a downed plane containing a load of drugs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Drugs are a very serious problem in the US, much more so than terrorism. Why not treat it as a more serious problem?

Unannounced drug raids and lack of accountability are the problem. All the really nasty drugs are so illegal that nobody dares report defective product because you can’t know it’s defective until you’ve illegally purchased and used it. Thus, dealers can sell product of widely varying quality, some of it spliced with stuff so nasty that even an addict would not knowingly consume it. As long as it doesn’t trace back to them when the cops investigate the resulting injury/death of the junkie, the dealer walks away clean. Combine that with the general attitude toward junkies and the dealer is pretty unlikely to be traced.

Similarly, nobody wants to seek medical help unless they’re scared of imminent death, because seeking medical help also requires admitting possession and use of illegal substances.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Drugs are a very serious problem in the US, much more so than terrorism. Why not treat it as a more serious problem?”

Don’t forget about student loans. If everyone stopped paying for their educations the education system would collapse with very serious implications for the entire economy and thus national security. That’s a serious problem!

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You have a point. So what we should do is amend the Fourth and Sixth Amendments to delete the Rights of druggies, suspected druggies, anyone who knows a druggie, anyone who might have shaken hands with someone who knows a druggie, and anyone living in the same state as a druggie. That will eliminate all these infernal problems with the Constitution interfering in the investigation of druggies.

Once that is done, the only thing we have to worry about is police or FBI agents showing up for unannounced searches of our homes.

…oh, wait: We have that now.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Drugs are a very serious problem in the US, much more so than terrorism. Why not treat it as a more serious problem?

I agree. Shift the majority of the money wasted on this “War on Drugs” into actually getting and keeping people off of drugs. Throwing drug abusers into jail isn’t working. Punishment as a deterrent against drug use has failed miserably.

Britain is now realizing this:


John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“why are you talking about this as if it’s a bad thing?”

Because nearly all (if not all) drug violence happens because of the “drug war”. If all drugs were legalized and reasonably regulated, the only deaths that would occur would be self-inflicted. And most studies indicate that even that death rate would not meaningfully rise.

The vast majority of the harm caused by illegal drugs are a result of us treating them like criminal activity.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

  1. there is a reason we don’t (generally and wisely) base laws on the opinion of one wronged person…
    i don’t have much confidence you are capable of figuring that out on your own, nor understand the importance of it even when explained to you…
    2. from the tone and tenor of your posts, it appears you are an authoritarian… i HATE authoritarians: they are enablers of the psychopaths we have running our institutions…
    3. regardless, in this regard, urine idjit…
Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, power exists.

Taking it away from those currently in authority (those you refer to as “the psychopaths we have running our institutions”) does not make all that power suddenly disappear into a magical rainbow of happy sparkles and more freedom for everyone; it creates a power vacuum, and that creates even worse conditions for people living through one than even the worst of tyranny. (If you don’t believe me, go live in Somalia or Libya for a while.)

So if you’re going to call my proposed solution problematic, the burden is on you to propose a better one.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You’re advocating legalizing intoxicating drugs, with the line of reasoning that the only people who will end up dead are people who kill themselves by taking drugs. I am showing you the hole in your argument by giving an example (one of many!) of innocent people who end up dead due to widespread availability of currently legal intoxicating drugs.

No man is an island. Illegal drugs aren’t illegal because people might hurt themselves; they’re illegal because they might (and almost invariably do) cause widespread harm beyond themselves. Even if someone “safely” ODs all alone in the privacy of their own home, what if they had a family who now has nobody to provide for them?

Your argument is based on only thinking in one degree of cause and effect. The problem is, effects are causes too!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“You’re advocating legalizing intoxicating drugs, with the line of reasoning that the only people who will end up dead are people who kill themselves by taking drugs.”

You skipped the “reasonable regulation” part. In any case, you’re right, I oversimplified my statement. I should have said there would be a reduction in deaths associated with drugs if legalization were to occur. Intoxicated driving would certainly not increase, and would probably fall.

Anonymous Coward says:

Perversely, I see one upside to an unconstitional sneak&peek over traditional warrants

If the intrusion is supposed to be secret, then the agents have to at least pretend not to trash the place, lest the trashing itself alert the target that they have been searched. Contrast this with standard warrants where law enforcement now seems to view trashing the place as standard procedure, whether or not the sought items rationally could have been hidden.

Anonymous Coward says:

99.5% of Sneak and Peek searches have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. This is an example of mission creep in the extreme.

I suspected when the US Gov mentions terrorism as justification for increasing their unconstitutional warrantless mass spying program, it was all a bunch of fear-mongering. Now we have the numbers to prove it.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Tricksy gods. The state is terror. Re:Wrong

Just a note for those who have not yet noticed them.

Note the small squarish icons next to the names at the top of every posting:

For example, see above:

“Freedom Fighter!”
“raven of reflection”
“ali babaaaaa”

Think of them like the little stamp placed on wrists at concerts, to show that you paid to get in, should you wander off and want back in later.

GEMont (profile) says:

Terrorism seems awfully unimportant these days...

Methinks that perhaps if folks were to look at the actual efforts being put forward by the various Tri-Letter Agencies, in respect to Terrorism, that they too might finally begin to understand that Terrorism is a state manufactured PR ploy that has everything to do with generating fear in the populace, generating rationale for massive budgets derived from taxes, and absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with protecting the USA from Terrorist Attacks, or “Defeating Terrorism”.

With the loss of the Red Menace, when Russia stopped being the primary threat to America, the US AIP needed a new bogie man to send the American citizenry cowering back under their beds. Terrorism was the answer developed by the think tanks that pass for brains in the USG.

With Terrorism, one no longer needs worry about national collapse since Terrorists are multinational, and non-national at the same time, and can thus always be counted on to remain active even when the only action happens to be US and British Special Forces dressed in Iraqi-Drag blowing shit up behind the scenes… in the name of Allah of course.

Fighting Terrorism is always going to be low on your priority list when You are the Terrorists.

Thankfully for the USG, with the recent creation of the Instantaneous Terrorist Army – like magic from the sands – called ISIL, the USG now has something they can point their fingers at and say: “See! Terrorists! We told you!”

Even with the recent admissions that most members of ISIL are actually ex-military citizens (pretending to be angry civilians) of the 5 Eyes Nations – dressed in Black Iraqi-Drag and masked, there will be very few photo-ops of dead ISIL members allowed into US news because of the prominence of White Guys that make up that Magically Manufactured Army. All photo-ops will, of necessity, be staged by the US military and CIA, and delivered to the US Truth Free Press for dissemination, and show only dead natives.

I would bet that a study of all the still operative ex-servicemen in American and Britain would show that the number still looking for work has dropped off the map in recent months as they are being shipped off to the Middle East to earn special bonus pay – directly out of the US and British tax payer’s pocket.

You are being managed.

Anonymous Coward says:

sneak and peak

The results of classified information, ie NSA snooping. The DEA has long used the breaking and entering of a protected computer as a preliminary tool for investigation. Any information gathered by stingray or through hacking means is covered up and the trail is falsified and since reasonable suspicion means cause I can the DEA is even more prone to abuse its powers than the FBI and they’ve been doing it longer in fact I image that Nixon’s terror force has been cheering the other leas to greater heights of depravity.

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