politics

The Government Can Break Into Your House

There were 763 requests to use “sneak-and-peek” search warrants in fiscal year 2008, according to Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat. These warrants allow officers come onto citizens’ property without their permission or knowledge. Before the Patriot Act, they were issued rarely. (After much haggling, the FBI and DEA managed in 1984 to obtain 35 of these warrants.)

The USA Patriot Act was sold to Americans in 2001 as an anti-terrorism necessity, and sneak-and-peeks became commonplace. But, as Sen. Feingold points out in this grilling of Assistant Attorney General David Kris, out of the 763 sneak-and-peek warrants requested last year, only three were related to terrorism. The rest were primarily drug cases.

The USA Patriot Act is actually an acronym. It stands for: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. The word “terrorism” is a key part of the name. Some portions of the act will expire at the end of the year. But the Obama administration would like to see them extended.