Less than 1% of Patriot Act’s “Sneak and Peek” Delayed Notice Warrants are Used against Terrorism

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
(photo: Getty Images)

Federal law enforcement has increasingly used a key provision of the Patriot Act (pdf) to pry into people’s lives without having to tell them. This practice has been justified under the guise of counterterrorism, but government statistics show that less than 1% of all “sneak and peek” actions involve suspected terrorists.


Under section 213 of the Patriot Act, law enforcement agencies can carry out sneak-and-peek warrants, which allow agents to “secretly enter, either physically or virtually; conduct a search, observe, take measurements, conduct examinations, smell, take pictures, copy documents, download or transmit computer files, and the like; and depart without taking any tangible evidence or leaving notice of their presence.” Suspects can be informed of the search later.


The provision was added to the Patriot Act because, the FBI claimed, it was important not to tip off terrorism suspects during cases.


But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) found after reviewing reports released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts that only 51 sneak-and-peek requests during 2013 were for terrorism out of 11,129 total requests that year. The biggest reason for the warrants was to investigate drug crimes (9,401 requests), EFF reported.


 “The numbers vindicate privacy advocates who urged Congress to shelve Section 213 during the Patriot Act debates,” Mark Jaycox at EFF wrote. “Proponents of Section 213 claimed sneak and peek warrants were needed to protect against terrorism. But just like we’ve seen elsewhere, these claims are false.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Peekaboo, I See You: Government Authority Intended for Terrorism is Used for Other Purposes (by Mark Jaycox, Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Myth v. Reality (U.S. Department of Justice)

From “Sneak and Peek” To “Sneak and Steal”: Section 213 of the USA Patriot Act (by Brett Shumate) (pdf)


Dwight Powers 9 years ago
I have long felt that the so-called 'Patriot' Act, was the Bush administration's version of the Nixon CIOINTELPRO nightmare and it needs to be revoked.
Dan 9 years ago
As usual, Gubbermint takes an existing law and warps it in unintended ways.
Alan8 9 years ago
The erosion of our civil liberties has BIPARTISAN support. Votes for either of these two corrupt, corporate-funded parties send them the message, "Yes, take even MORE of our Constitutional rights -- we don't need them!" Don't look to the Democrats to save us; the Democrats are part of the problem. The Democratic Party has brought us: "Free-trade" laws that send American jobs to low-wage countries, ending net neutrality, no single-payer health care, trying to help the Republicans cut Social Security, refusing to prosecute the biggest financial criminals in the history of the world, claiming the right to execute US citizens on foreign soil without charging, trying, or even attempting to apprehend them, unlabeled GMO frankenfoods in our supermarkets, the NSA wiretapping all our phone and email communications, allowing the military to arrest U.S. citizens without charges and detain them indefinitely, agreeing with the Republicans to do nothing about homelessness while squandering hundreds of billions on the military, persecuting marijuana users, overturning Glass-Steagall which allowed banksters to gamble with OUR money, more nuclear power plants, brutally assaulting peaceful Occupy protesters with militarized police, jailing government whistleblowers as spies, no prosecutions of the Bush-Administration torturers, allowing the pharmaceutical corporations to gouge us, and ending welfare for starving people. This party isn't on our side. My votes and donations go to the Green Party.

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