Democratic Underground

Sneak and Peak: Behind the New Anti-terror Laws
December 17, 2001
by Drudge Jr.

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On Oct 26, 2001, the "USA Patriot Act" was signed into law to aid law enforcement authorities to find new ways to combat suspected terrorists. The bill is shockingly prying, almost to a violent level. Also the process in which the bill was ratified was highly questionable, making the USA Patriot Act one of the most controversial bills in recent history, yet it's gone completely under the radar of public view.

The specific new techniques that are available to law enforcement are shocking enough. If there is a suspicion someone is conducting or planning terrorism, a warrant can be obtained to infiltrate a suspect's privacy in several ways that were once illegal. These court orders have been called "sneak and peek," and allow investigators to break into, search, inspect, and change items in any domain the suspect has come in contact with, including homes and offices. Due to the Patriot Act, an investigator that suspects someone of terrorism could break into their homes, place trackers in their computer, put taps on their phones, install cameras in their ceiling, and any other devices needed to investigate the suspect, or anyone who comes in contact with the suspect. Not to mention the investigators never have to present the warrant to anyone! Sounds like something from a spy movie? Sounds like something you'd see in an Oliver Stone Movie? Sound like some paranoid X-files fan worries about all day long? The FBI has admitted to using these tactics illegally before, but now it's all legal!

One may think the Patriot Act doesn't threaten them, as long as they aren't planning to blow something up. Wrong! Under this act the definition of a terrorist has expanded, and now applies to "cyber terrorists," who now face up to 20 years in prison if caught. The sneak and peak could also be used on the "cyber terrorist's" friends or acquaintances. Some theorize the definition of terrorist could stretch so far that it also includes Drug dealers, or users. If an audio recorder is placed in a suspected terrorist's cubicle, it will also record conversations around the terrorist, invading the privacy of innocent civilians. Also, make sure your careful what you type on the Internet, because the government can now spy on phrases entered into search engines, without a warrant.

Another shocking feature of this act is how it was signed into law. The act is very long, about 324 pages, and alters 15 statutes. Some sections graphically define terrorist activities, such as cyber terror, while others are exceedingly vague, especially about new rules in immigration and the treatment of families of victims of terrorism. This makes the bill look like a rush job. The bill may have been ratified so easily because most congressmen didn't even read it. Democrats had access to fewer then 10 copies, yet it was still easily passed.

Another feature I found disturbing about the Patriot Act was the lack of attention. No one seems to notice the power the government now has legal access to, and the disruption of presumed fundamental civil liberties. This act is now a part of every American's life, and everyone is at risk, one can't help but feel paranoid.