Wasn't The PATRIOT Act Supposed To Be About Stopping Terrorism?

from the oh-look dept

The PATRIOT Act was all about stopping terrorism, right? We were told that special provisions that ate away at our civil liberties were needed specifically to catch dangerous terrorists -- and that the reason for such an abdication of our rights had nothing to do with simply giving the government more useful surveillance powers. Aaron DeOliveira points us to a fascinating chart that shows how often law enforcement has been using "sneak-and-peek" warrants. These warrants let officials search private property without letting the target of the investigation know. Again, we were told that these expanded powers were needed to stop terrorism. So what have they been used for? Take a look:
Yup. They're all pretty much being used in drug cases. Now some might make the argument that it's important to go after drug dealers -- but that's not how the PATRIOT Act was supposed to be used.

Filed Under: drugs, law enforcement, patriot act, sneak and peek, terrorism

Reader Comments

The First Word

What you see is what you get Provision

I believe there should be a WYSIWYG provision in every law like the PATRIOT act that basically goes like this:

1. Law is created that gives the police insane powers for catching leprechauns

2. Time passes (2 years as a suggestion)

3. Mandatory dialog between Police and fellow citizens:

Publicly appointed person:

Excuse me Mr. Police Officer, how's that law working out and how many leprechauns did you catch?

Police type person:
OMG it's sooooo great! I was able to catch 1,300 smurfs!!!

Publicly appointed person:
Oh, I see; that law is now null and void. If you want to catch smurfs *AND* leprechauns, you're going to have to write the law that way. This one is done, go back and try again.

Another idea would be to have the law with a mandatory sunset. For example after 5 years, if you've not caught all the terrorists with these new powers, then they aren't working the way you thought they would. Give us back our rights.

Of course Law Enforcement would want to extend these powers, and I believe the law should let them. However it should function like this:

1. 5 years is up and the Law Enforcement folks come to renew the law

2. We happily allow this but we automatically cut the time in half before the sunset occurs again.

In addition to this, the Law Enforcement folks who benefit from this law (which is all of them) lose 10% of their budget which is then to be used for social welfare. That or a really big block party. Either one.

/shrug. It could work

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  1. icon
    Bill Surowiecki (profile), 9 Sep 2011 @ 6:49am

    Well you see the best thing about the word "terrorist" is that it can be manipulated to fit almost anyone we don't like, or more specifically a group that the government does not like.

    This has become a magical word that acts as a skeleton key for the cage containing the dogs of war. Michele Bachmann just the other night at the Republican Debate changed the topic of Border Patrol dealing with illegal immigrants to Narcoterrorism. She may have a point, there are some major problems with cartels and violence in the area. However, the idea that she slipped it into a debate about illegal immigration shows how the vagueness of the Patriot Act is twisted to suit ones needs. Now we can think about treating the entire situation, immigration and drugs as one problem that will fall under the scope of the Patriot Act. All this thanks to the inclusion of one little word.

    The single biggest argument against The Patriot Act, has always been that its scope is far too broad and its definition on who it can be used against are far too vague. Set aside the obvious breach it causes for our privacy and look at what it actually does to our right to dissent. We now have a set of laws that, on a politician whim, can be used to label us domestic terrorists.

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