Democrat Senators Stretched Patriot Act to Reach Beyond Terrorism
Wes Vernon, NewsMax.com
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2003
WASHINGTON – NewsMax.com has learned that the FBI's use of the Patriot Act to justify its involvement in a non-terrorism case in Las Vegas can be traced to the handiwork of Senate Democrats.
Without specifically mentioining the Vegas case, Monica Goodling, DOJ's deputy director for public affairs, cited for NewsMax Section 314 of the controversial law, which says the act can be applied to activities “that may involve terrorist acts or money-laundering activities.”
As DOJ maintains, and as NewsMax noted in our previous report on the Patriot Act, the relevant word in that Section 314 of the law is “or.”
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, had already introduced a separate measure to extend the reach of the federal authorities in money-laundering cases. When the Patriot Act was up for debate in the weeks after 9/11, Sarbanes, with the backing of then Senate plurality leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., had his previous proposal incorporated into the new terrorist legislation.
American Civil Liberties Union and other critics of the Patriot Act have cited the Vegas investigation, a case of political corruption that allegedly involved money-laundering, as evidence of over-reach by the Patriot Act. As written, the group argues, the law could be used against citizens for almost anything.
“I think when the Senate added this on, what they were thinking in their mind is a lot of times ... there is not necessarily a clear line between money-laundering investigations and terrorism,” Goodling said.
She cited a North Carolina money-laundering case. Not until well into the investigation did authorities learn the proceeds were in fact being funneled to the terrorist group Hezbollah.
Daschle and Sarbanes Won't Talk
Sens. Daschle and Sarbanes did not return NewsMax's calls requesting comment.
A serious effort is under way on Capitol Hill to reign in the Patriot Act with the proposed SAFE Act, S-1709.
In an interview with NewsMax, Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, a co-sponsor of the “midcourse correction” in the anti-terrorist statute, took dead aim on the Patriot Act’s so-called “sneak and peak” provision.
As currently written, the senator maintained, federal authorities would have undue access to the records of private citizens, such as the ability to enter a private home or office without due notification to the person who owns the property.
DOJ's Goodling argued that this law-enforcement tool “had been around for a long time” in drug and organized-crime cases, and “upheld by the courts as constitutional for many years.”
As for sneaking into a person’s home or office, DOJ argues that if a terrorist suspect knows he’s being watched by the authorities, he will try to flee, destroy evidence or try to intimidate or even kill witnesses or otherwise try to evade arrest.
Sen. Craig told NewsMax that his amending bill took all that into consideration.
Craig's bill would delay notice of “sneak and peak” warrants and revert to pre-Patriot Act standards allowing the secrecy if advance notice would result in flight to avoid arrest, endanger anyone’s life or physical safety, or lead to destruction of evidence.
However, the SAFE Act requires that the subject of the probe be notified with seven days of the “sneak and peak.”
“What is wrong with that?” the senator asked.
Goodling said the Patriot Act did not include a seven-day deadline for such notice, but provided “a reasonable time for delay” to enable law enforcement to “identify the associates or the immediate threat to the community or coordinate the arrests of multiple individuals.” Sometimes that can take more than seven days, DOJ maintains.