A Guide to the Patriot Act, Part 2

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Sept. 9 2003 6:30 PM

A Guide to the Patriot Act, Part 2

Should you be scared of the Patriot Act?

(Continued from Page 2)

Prognosis: In July 2003 the "Otter Amendment," which would de-fund federal power to conduct sneak-and-peeks, passed the House by a vote of 309-118 The issue has yet to be taken up by the Senate, but the administration threatens to veto it should it pass.

In July 2003, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ron Wyden introduced a bill, Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act, that would provide, among other things, that sneak-and-peek authority only be available in the limited number of cases enumerated above (risk of flight, destruction of evidence, etc.). The act would also build in a reporting requirement for the attorney general.

Enough to get you through a cocktail party: Sneak-and-peek warrants are neither radical nor per se unconstitutional. However, what was a very limited exception for their use has now grown rather substantially. It's hard to think of a situation in which a criminal investigation wouldn't be better served by announcing the search or wiretap after the fact. And if that's the new rule, "knock and announce" is dead.

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate's Culture Gabfest podcast.