Civil Liberties

Terror in Nebraska

PATRIOT Act abuses.

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The USA PATRIOT Act gave law enforcement agencies unprecedented and controversial authority to "sneak and peek" into people's homes and businesses without immediately notifying them. Actually, "sneak and peek" is an incomplete phrase: Since cops can legally commandeer property under the provision, a more accurate term would be "sneak and peek and seize."

By whatever name, this new power was supposed to help stop terrorism before it started. That's why it's funny that it's being used so often in Nebraska.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, The New York Sun obtained records of sneak-and-peeks dating from the PATRIOT Act's passage to April 2003. It discovered that investigators in the most terrorist-targeted areas of the country–Manhattan, Los Angeles, D.C.–hadn't used the authority even once. The regions that used it the most? Eastern Virginia (eight times), northeastern California (six), and Nebraska (five).

Don't worry, Omaha readers: You didn't narrowly escape a terrorist attack. The Sun found that the authority "was used in investigations of credit card fraud, methamphetamine distribution, and immigration related violations."??