The Patriot Act was passed for an emergency but it is being used for other things.
I posted recently about how the Department of Homeland Security was used in what might be described as a panty raid. Local trademark infringements are how we use the agency that was created in the wake of 911 because of terrorism.
But that is just one anecdote. Now Mother Jones magazine (yes, I know: quite Leftist) ran the headline, “PATRIOT Act Warrants Used More for Drugs than for Terrorism.”
The PATRIOT Act gave federal agents expanded powers to issue search warrants without informing the targets of the warrant beforehand. Why? Because terrorism investigations were special: they’d fall apart if terrorists received warning that they were being investigated. So with terrorism suddenly a far bigger priority after 9/11, national security required that authority for these “sneak-and-peek” warrants be broadened.
A few days ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation tallied up the known figures for sneak-and-peek warrants:
- 2001-03: 47
- 2010: 3,970
- 2011: 6,775
- 2012: 10,183
- 2013: 11,129
That’s quite an increase. So did terrorism investigations skyrocket over the past decade? Not so much. It turns out that hardly any of these warrants were used in terrorism cases. Instead, they were virtually all used in narcotics cases…
So, just like creation of DHS, the Patriot Act was sold to Congress as a response to terrorism. Anytime their budget is threatened, the powers at DHS respond by threatening us with nightmares of a terrorist attack. But that is not what they are doing. It is not even most of what they are doing.
In both cases it is clear that the Federal government has treated the American people to a treasonous bait and switch. Rahm Emanuel said it, but it is the playbook of all politicians—never let a crisis go to waste. September 11, 2001, was Government Empowerment Day. It was Christmas in September for the Federal Government. The burning towers were bright Christmas Trees and the blood and rubble of their collapse amounted to a pile of Christmas presents: the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, etc.
We gave the government new powers to meet what we were told were real and pressing needs. But they aren’t being used for that purpose. Just like the war material generated for our foreign occupations is now being shipped to small towns all over the U.S. to occupy us, so the Patriot Act is being used to enhance non-terrorist police work that was never presented as the reason for the new law.
Historians will see the so-called “War on Terror” for what it really is, a government revolution. Why do you think they named the law “the Patriot Act”?
Mother Jones quotes Radley Balko:
When critics point out the ways a new law might be abused, supporters of the law often accuse those critics of being cynical — they say we should have more faith in the judgment and propriety of public officials. Always assume that when a law grants new powers to the government, that law will be interpreted in the vaguest, most expansive, most pro-government manner imaginable. If that doesn’t happen, good. But why take the risk? Why leave open the possibility? Better to write laws narrowly, restrictively and with explicit safeguards against abuse.
Balko is being far too kind. Anyone saying that “we should have more faith in the judgment and propriety of public officials,” is an ambitious liar, a commissioned snake oil salesman for the Federal Government.
This is true.