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NEWS: 'Sneak' Searches Double Under Patriot Act Powers

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posted on Apr, 5 2005 @ 02:04 PM
Controversial search-and-seizure powers which allow investigators to enter and search a home or place of business without notifying the owner were used 128 times in a 22-month period between October 2001 and April 2003, according to U.S. Justice Department figures. The figures were released in conjunction with congressional testimony by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to defend the Patriot Act, sections of which are set to expire at the end of this year. FBI Director Robert Mueller also urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to expand the FBI's powers to obtain records without the need for judicial approval.
But critics of the law, the USA Patriot Act, strongly urged Congress to give it careful scrutiny before extending the government's powers to track terrorism suspects.

The law allows the Justice Department to delay notifying a suspect that a property has been searched if a judge agrees that there is reasonable cause to believe that disclosure would endanger someone's safety, prompt a suspect to flee, lead to the destruction of evidence or jeopardize an investigation.

But the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics of the provision - which they refer to as the "sneak and peek" law - say it risks an abuse of power and should be curtailed. They point to the Justice Department's use of the warrant last year in secretly searching the home of Brandon Mayfield, a Muslim lawyer in Oregon who was mistakenly arrested in connection with the Madrid train bombings because of a faulty fingerprint match.

More than 375 governmental bodies, including five states, have expressed formal concerns and objections to the government's expanded authority under the law.

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Gonzales also faced questioning in congress on the issue of reports of terror suspects being "shipped" to countries where torture is allowed.
Mr Gonzales faced sharp questions over US interrogation policy for suspected terrorists. In recent months, US media has reported that the Central Intelligence Agency has “rendered” detainees captured in the war on terror to countries such as Egypt that are believed to torture prisoners to be interrogated.[/url]

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The American Civil Liberties Union has claimed that these powers are "being used primarily outside of the terrorism arena" and has urged Congress to insist that detailed information be presented as to why each search was necessary, in order to demonstrate justification for the use of the powers.

The Justice Department admitted that the expanded search-and-seizure powers were used as part of the investigation which saw a Muslim attorney wrongly imprisoned for two weeks on suspicion of involvement in the Madrid train bombings.
Brandon Mayfield, who is a Muslim, was jailed last May after his fingerprint was incorrectly matched to one found on a bag of detonators near the scene of the March 11, 2004, Madrid attack, which killed 191 people. He was released after the FBI admitted its mistake.

"There were certain provisions of the Patriot Act that were used" in the Mayfield case, Gonzales said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on sections of the law that are set to expire at the end of the year.

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FBI Director Robert Mueller has also apparently taken his Congressional testimony as an opportunity to tack on a petition for extra FBI subpoena powers .

Related News Links:

Related Discussion Threads:
The Patriot Act 2, Immigration and NORTHCOM
The Patriot Act and Civil Liberties


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