A Dangerous Setback

Critics of the Patriot Act are now proposing the “Safe Act,” which would, among other things, restrict the “sneek and peek” warrants found in the Patriot Act. What they fail to say, when criticizing those warrants, is that they existed long before the Patriot Act. All the Patriot Act did was apply them to terrorist investigations.

Ramesh Ponnuru looks at the Safe Act and the warrants:

[T]he power to issue sneak-and-peek warrants pre-dates Patriot. Delayed notice can be authorized in one of five conditions: 1) when notification would endanger someone’s life; 2) when it would cause the target to flee; 3) when it would result in the destruction of (or tampering with) evidence; 4) when it would cause the intimidation of potential witnesses; and 5) when it would “otherwise seriously jeopardize[e]” an investigation or “unduly delay[] a trial.” The Safe Act would make it impossible to issue such warrants in the last two cases. In other words, targets in terrorism investigations would have to be notified even if notification would allow them to intimidate witnesses or otherwise jeopardize the investigation. Not for nothing do law-and-order types call this Safe Act provision a “terrorist tip-off” policy. This is not just a retrenchment of Patriot; it’s tougher on law enforcement than pre-Patriot law.

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Erick Erickson

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