Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Patriot Act used to bust tunnel

Here's an interesting aspect of the recent tunnel bust that I missed at the time. The Canadian Cannabis Coalition has this article in their excellent archives on how the Patriot Act was used to make the bust.
SEATTLE -- The U.S. Patriot Act made it possible for federal investigators to search and bug a 110-metre tunnel under the U.S.-Canadian border, and then watch and listen as hundreds of kilograms of marijuana were carried through it.

Government agents surreptitiously installed video and audio devices after obtaining a "sneak and peek" warrant, which allows searches that leave no trace and are conducted without immediate notification of the subject.

Regular search warrants require that the subject be notified immediately after a search. Usually notice is left at the scene, with details about any removal of items.
This is why it's important to keep an eye on government policy outside of drug reform. The Pat Act was sold to Americans as a means of keeping them safe from terrorists. I don't think they have arrested more than a handful of alleged terrorists using its powers. They have however used it copiously in drug cases.

Understatement of the month comes from hearings held recently by the US Senate Judiciary Committee on extending the provisions of the Act.
"I think that the power that the government has under the Patriot Act . is clearly contrary to the notion underlying the Fourth Amendment," said former U.S. Representative Bob Barr, a Republican from Georgia who leads an organization called Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances.

The secret warrants are "being used in cases that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism," Barr said.
Today it's drugs, tomorrow it will be ordinary political disssenters of all kinds. As Lisa Graves of the ACLU notes, "The Justice Department decided to create a statutory right across the board, to try and create a national right of law enforcement to create secret searches of businesses and homes, secret seizures of evidence."

I remember a couple of years ago there was an Onion parody on Bush having cut the bill of rights down to four or so. It was hilarious at the time. When it's starts coming true, it's not so funny any more.


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