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Farmer by genetics, Lawyer by training, currently "vacationing" in Iraq and advising the Iraqi government on border security issues. Before moving to Baghdad, I served in the White House as Deputy Counsel for the Homeland Security Council. I can be reached at opusxryanathotmaildotcom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Patriot Act Rollback? Let's Hope Not

Instapundit.com links to this column, and quotes Walter Williams:

Government officials have always wanted open access to our financial records; the war against terrorism gives them the cover to do so. Here's what might be proof: How about an amendment to the Patriot Act whereby any information gathered under its provisions cannot be used in a court of law unless it can be tied to terrorist activity? I'm guessing that few politicians and law enforcement authorities would agree to such an amendment.

Sorry Glenn and Walt, but there are a few problems with this approach:

1. Plenty of the Patriot Act provisions already were generally applied to other crimes, they were just explicitly extended in the Patriot Act. One example is the mis-labeled "sneak and peak" provision. That provision explicitly allows for delayed-notice search warrants, a tool that has been used in other cases for a few decades. A second set of examples are the wiretap provisions, which were already available for mail fraud, tax evasion and other cases.

2. We "catch" a lot of terrorists not on their terrorist activities, but on their other ancillary crimes that are easy to prove. This is nothing new. Everyone remembers that Al Capone was sent away for tax evasion. That didn't make him any less of a mobster.

3. The Patriot Act's provisions have already yielded siginficant results in other areas, including child abduction and child pornography. A few examples from this report:

++ In 2003, the Indiana State Police was informed that child pornography portraying a 13-year-old girl from Southern Indiana had been posted to an Internet website. After an initial investigation, investigators suspected the father of the victim as being the offender partially visible in one of the photographs. As a result, taking advantage of the authority provided by section 210 of the USA PATRIOT Act, grand jury subpoenas were issued requesting relevant Internet subscriber
information. This information confirmed investigators’ suspicion that the victim’s father was the perpetrator. Consequently, ten days after the initial report to the Indiana State Police and using the information obtained by the subpoena to the Internet company, a search warrant was executed at the father’s home, and numerous items of child pornography were seized. The girl was interviewed and admitted that she was being sexually abused by her father on an ongoing basis and that he was filming and photographing these sexual acts. The father was subsequently arrested and pleaded guilty to five counts of producing child
pornography. He was sentenced earlier this year to a prison term of approximately 10 years. By using the authority contained in section 210, Indiana State Police investigators were able to speed up significantly their investigation, thus enabling the girl to be removed from her family’s house more quickly and preventing future molestations by her father.
p. 19

++ In Kentucky, a multi-agency task force of local, state, and federal law enforcement used section 210 of the USA PATRIOT Act in its investigation of an individual linked to several sexual assaults of children at public libraries and local parks. Just before the individual in question became the primary suspect in the case, he attempted to rape and abduct a six- year-old girl at a playground in Boone County, Kentucky. Once the man was identified as the primary suspect, an informant provided the investigating officers with some information about the suspect. Investigators then used section 210 to subpoena additional key information from an Internet service provider. Within 20 minutes of receipt of the subpoena, the investigative team obtained information that was ultimately a pivotal part of a search warrant affidavit that led to a search of the suspect’s
residence. Without the information that was obtained pursuant to section 210, it is unlikely that sufficient information would have been available to obtain the search warrant. Evidence located in the house was then used to arrest the suspect and his wife within 24 hours of obtaining the information from the subpoena. The couple was prosecuted pursuant to a 100-count federal indictment for the receipt and possession of child pornography.
p. 20

++ A man, armed with a sawed-off shotgun, abducted his estranged wife and sexually assaulted her. Then, after releasing his wife, he fled West Virginia in a stolen car to avoid capture. While in flight, he continued to contact cooperating individuals by e- mail using an Internet service provider located in California. Using the authority provided by section 220, investigators in West Virginia were able to obtain an order quickly from a federal court in West Virginia for the disclosure of
information regarding the armed fugitive’s e- mail account, rather than wasting additional time obtaining such an order from a California court.
p.21

++ Section 212 has further proven to be extremely useful in cases involving abducted or missing children. The provision, for instance, was instrumental in quickly rescuing a 13- year-old girl from Western Pennsylvania who had been lured from her home and was being held captive by a 38- year-old man she had met online . . . . With the information provided in response to that request, agents were able to locate the perpetrator. They immediately went to his residence in Herndon, Virginia, and rescued the child victim. The suspect subsequently was arrested, pleaded guilty to charges of travel with intent to engage in sexual activity with a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor, and was sentenced to a prison term of over 19 years. p. 27-28

Why am I so familiar with this report? I edited/wrote parts of it.

Are these really the types of crimes we don't want to pursue, just because a Patriot Act tool was used?