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Abuse of the “Patriot Act”


— November 23, 2003

The Act was rushed through congress after 9/11 and “promoted as an urgently needed law to thwart future attacks.” But now its being used indiscriminantly against all kinds of citizens:

In effect, the Patriot Act allows the Feds to search every financial institution in the country for the records of anybody they have suspicions about�the very definition, critics say, of a fishing expedition. �It�s the functional equivalent of a national subpoena,� says Peter Djinis, a banking lawyer. Even the law�s architects acknowledge just how far-reaching the provision is. �It�s an extraordinary power,� says David Aufhauser, a former general counsel at Treasury, who insists it�s being used responsibly.

It�s the Patriot Act�s money-laundering language that has allowed the Feds to stretch the way the law can be used. Essentially, money laundering is an effort to disguise illicit profits. But it�s such a broad statute that prosecutors can use it in the pursuit of more than 200 different federal crimes. Treasury Department figures reviewed by NEWSWEEK show that this year the Feds have used the Patriot Act to conduct searches on 962 suspects, yielding �hits� on 6,397 financial records. Of those, two thirds (4,261) were in money-laundering cases with no apparent terror connection. Among the agencies making requests, NEWSWEEK has learned, were the IRS (which investigates tax fraud), the Postal Service (postal fraud) and the Secret Service (counterfeiting). One request came from the Agriculture Department�a case that apparently involved food-stamp fraud.

Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff reports the details here. (via TalkLeft)


The Act was rushed through congress after 9/11 and “promoted as an urgently needed law to thwart future attacks.” But now its being used indiscriminantly against all kinds of citizens:

In effect, the Patriot Act allows the Feds to search every financial institution in the country for the records of anybody they have suspicions about�the very definition, critics say, of a fishing expedition. �It�s the functional equivalent of a national subpoena,� says Peter Djinis, a banking lawyer. Even the law�s architects acknowledge just how far-reaching the provision is. �It�s an extraordinary power,� says David Aufhauser, a former general counsel at Treasury, who insists it�s being used responsibly.

It�s the Patriot Act�s money-laundering language that has allowed the Feds to stretch the way the law can be used. Essentially, money laundering is an effort to disguise illicit profits. But it�s such a broad statute that prosecutors can use it in the pursuit of more than 200 different federal crimes. Treasury Department figures reviewed by NEWSWEEK show that this year the Feds have used the Patriot Act to conduct searches on 962 suspects, yielding �hits� on 6,397 financial records. Of those, two thirds (4,261) were in money-laundering cases with no apparent terror connection. Among the agencies making requests, NEWSWEEK has learned, were the IRS (which investigates tax fraud), the Postal Service (postal fraud) and the Secret Service (counterfeiting). One request came from the Agriculture Department�a case that apparently involved food-stamp fraud.

Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff reports the details here. (via TalkLeft)

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