Monday, August 01, 2005

Are you a terrorist?

To the Patriot Act, you can be one very easily.

From, I found this article. Short version: The Patriot Act helped shut down a drug-smuggling operation. It did so by allowing a "sneak-and-peek" warrant to be filed to monitor the tunnel being used as a pipeline, on the grounds that it could, at some point in some way somehow, be used to smuggle in weapons.

As you may recall, one of the provisions of the nobly-named ignobly-implemented Patriot Act was a loosening of the requirements for search warrants. The usual warrants requires notice to be served to the person searched, notice to be served as to what is being searched for, and notice to be served about what items were removed. Under a sneak-and-peek, the police basically cat burgle your home, leaving no trace they were there and not notifying you until some time later - "within 30 days" is quoted in the article - as to what they took.

It's hard to rail against a drug smuggling operation being taken down, which is one of the problems enemies of this Act have to go against. You know, "What, are you for the terrorists?" and all that crap. And if this act ever is used to shut down an actual terrorist branch, I don't think many people would complain.

However, look at how the authorities justify using a sneak-and-peek warrant here: "...federal officials said their concern was not only drug smuggling but the possibility it could be used to transport terrorists or smuggle weapons."

The "possibility" was the reason a sneak-and-peek warrant was requested. Not to be too paranoid, but think of some other things that "could be used" for terrorism. There's a wide range, from criminal acts themselves (drug smuggling, people smuggling) to innocent things (PGP, certain web pages, having guns) that "could be used" for terrorism. But each one could be used for terroristic acts - the drug and people smuggling are obvious; PGP could be hidden instructions for a cell, web pages can of course be suspicious, and the guns, well.

Again, bravo in shutting down a drug operation - but was this the only way to do so? Getting a warrant under the possibility something could happen?

I would call this a pretty low standard. Anyone else?

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