Privacy SOS

Feds overwhelmingly use sneak and peeks in drug cases, not to fight terrorism

EFF highlights new warrant reporting from the federal government that confirms what we already know: Federal agencies are using powers granted to them to fight "terrorists" against suspected drug dealers.

Section 213 was included in the Patriot Act over the protests of privacy advocates and granted law enforcement the power to conduct a search while delaying notice to the suspect of the search. Known as a “sneak and peek” warrant, law enforcement was adamant Section 213 was needed to protect against terrorism. But the latest government report detailing the numbers of “sneak and peek” warrants reveals that out of a total of over 11,000 sneak and peek requests, only 51 were used for terrorism. Yet again, terrorism concerns appear to be trampling our civil liberties.

Throughout the Patriot Act debate the Department of Justice urged Congress to pass Section 213 because it needed the sneak and peak power to help investigate and prosecute terrorism crimes “without tipping off terrorists.” In 2005, FBI Director Robert Mueller continued the same exact talking point, emphasizing sneak and peek warrants were “an invaluable tool in the war on terror and our efforts to combat serious criminal conduct.”

The figures speak for themselves. Here's data from 2011, 2012, and 2013. Take a look at the graph above—it tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the corrosive effect of the terror war on our domestic civil liberties.

Black and brown communities take note: When the feds say they need more power to go after terrorists, they're coming after you.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.