Data shows Patriot Act used more often to justify drug warrants, not terrorism ones
New York Magazine has put out an incredibly detailed compendium of 9/11 information on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the attacks that left over 3,000 people dead. The September 11 attacks, as you're well aware, were the impetus (or used as justification, depending on how cynical you are) for pushing through the USA PATRIOT ACT, which was hurriedly signed into law on October 26, 2001.
One of the main focuses of the Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (hereafter known as the Patriot Act, because that name is long and dumb) is Title II, which is all about surveillance. That's right: even though those dastardly terrorists who hate our freedom came from overseas (as was the rhetoric beaten into the collective consciousness post 9/11), the U.S. government thought it was prudent to pass a bunch of surveillance laws so it could spy on its own citizens.
Let me quote the relevant section before we procede:
SEC. 213. AUTHORITY FOR DELAYING NOTICE OF THE EXECUTION OF A WARRANT.
…(b) DELAY- With respect to the issuance of any warrant or court order under this section, or any other rule of law, to search for and seize any property or material that constitutes evidence of a criminal offense in violation of the laws of the United States, any notice required, or that may be required, to be given may be delayed if--
(1) the court finds reasonable cause to believe that providing immediate notification of the execution of the warrant may have an adverse result (as defined in section 2705);
Delayed-notice search warrants: we won't tell you we're breaking into your house to look around if we think there will be adverse results, like you calling up your terrorist buddies to let them know we're on to you.
Something seems wrong with this graph (courtesy New York Magazine).
But between 2006 and 2009, do you know how many times the Patriot Act was used to issue delayed-notice warrants relating to terrorists and related activities? That would be a whole 15 times—even though the act mentions the word terrorism 161 times and terrorism 175 times.
Aside: did you know that not a single person has been brought to justice on American soil for those deaths?
In the same time period, New York Magazine reports that 1,618 delayed-notice search warrants were issued in relation to drugs and related activity. If you had any doubts about the true mandate of the Patriot Act, doubt no longer. Congratulations America on using a senseless tragedy to justify targeting marijuana users!
And why am I concluding that these people are primarily low-level marijuana offenders and not cocaine smugglers or meth manufacturers? The statistics on arrests and imprisonment make it clear: in 2006, 829,627 marijuana-related arrests were made in the United States, 89 percent of which were for mere possession. Not for growing or selling. Just for holding onto the stuff. In 2010, 50,383 arrests were made in New York City alone for possession.
The Patriot Act: great for the War on Drugs, bad for anyone who likes to smoke a joint, laughable in regards to stopping terrorism.
Follow Miranda Nelson on Twitter at @charenton_.