What Does It Mean Now That Rand Paul Has Forced Three Patriot Act Powers To Expire

Posted: June 1, 2015 in Politics

patriot_poster-smallThe government loses authorities under three Patriot Act provisions.

The biggest and most controversial is the government’s sweeping powers under Section 215 that allow the NSA to collect telephone metadata on millions of Americans and store that data for five years. That is, for the time being, gone.

Law enforcement officials also won’t be allowed to get a roving wiretap to track terror suspects who frequently change communications devices, like phones. Instead, they will need to get individual warrants for each new device.

And third, the government loses a legal provision allowing it to use national security tools against “lone wolf” terror suspects if officials can’t find a connection to a foreign terror group such as ISIS, for example. But that provision has never been used, the Justice Department confirmed.

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill, the USA Freedom Act, that would make big changes to the first, but leave the latter two provisions intact.

That bill would have the telephone companies hold Americans’ telephone metadata and require the government to get a specific warrant to seize any telephone metadata — and not on millions of people, but instead on specific individuals. The government would also reimburse the telephone companies for any and all expenses related to the management and storing of said data.

Don’t fret, the government still has plenty of tools to investigate national security cases.

However, Section 213 known as the “sneak and peek” provision, is not subject to the PATRIOT Act’s sunset provision. The latest government report detailing the numbers of “sneak and peek” warrants reveals that out of a total of over 11,000 sneak and peek requests, only 51 were used for terrorism. Yet again, terrorism concerns appear to be trampling our civil liberties.

Previously, there was no statutory authorization for clandestine searches of private premises in criminal investigations, although FISA permitted such searches for national security purposes. Courts have allowed delayed-notice searches, however, in a number of criminal cases beginning in the 1980s. Most of these cases involved only the clandestine seizure of intangible evidence (e.g. information or photographs), not tangible property. Section 213 amends 18 U.S.C. section 3103a, which relates to warrants for the search and seizure of evidence of federal crimes, to permit these “sneak and peek” searches. This new authority is not limited to terrorism; it permits delayed-notice searches for any federal crime.

To obtain a “sneak and peek” warrant, the government must give the court “reasonable cause” to believe that providing notice of the search would have an “adverse result.” An “adverse result” is defined as (1) endangering a person’s life or physical safety, (2) flight from prosecution, (3) destruction of or tampering with evidence, (4) intimidation of potential witnesses, or (5) otherwise seriously jeopardizing an investigation or unduly delaying a trial. Section 213 permits the warrant to authorize clandestine seizure of tangible property when the court specifically finds that such seizure is “reasonably necessary.” A “sneak and peek” warrant under section 213, must provide for notice to the subject “within a reasonable time of its execution, which period may thereafter be extended by the court for good cause shown.”

Sources: [Vox, WNGO, Patriot Debates]


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