U.S. Uses Terror Law To Pursue Crimes 

  U.S. Uses Terror Law To Pursue Crimes 

Posted by CN Staff on September 27, 2003 at 14:56:23 PT
By Eric Lichtblau 
Source: New York Times  

Washington — The Bush administration, which calls the USA Patriot Act perhaps its most essential tool in fighting terrorists, has begun using the law with increasing frequency in many criminal investigations that have little or no connection to terrorism. The government is using its expanded authority under the far-reaching law to investigate suspected drug traffickers, white-collar criminals, blackmailers, child pornographers, money launderers, spies and even corrupt foreign leaders, federal officials said.
Justice Department officials say they are simply using all the tools now available to them to pursue criminals — terrorists or otherwise. But critics of the administration's antiterrorism tactics assert that such use of the law is evidence the administration has sold the American public a false bill of goods, using terrorism as a guise to pursue a broader law enforcement agenda. Justice Department officials point out that they have employed their newfound powers in many instances against suspected terrorists. With the new law breaking down the wall between intelligence and criminal investigations, the Justice Department in February was able to bring terrorism-related charges against a Florida professor, for example, and it has used its expanded surveillance powers to move against several suspected terrorist cells. But a new Justice Department report, given to members of Congress this month, also cites more than a dozen cases that are not directly related to terrorism in which federal authorities have used their expanded power to investigate individuals, initiate wiretaps and other surveillance, or seize millions in tainted assets.For instance, the ability to secure nationwide warrants to obtain e-mail and electronic evidence "has proved invaluable in several sensitive nonterrorism investigations," including the tracking of an unidentified fugitive and an investigation into a computer hacker who stole a company's trade secrets, the report said. Justice Department officials said the cases cited in the report represent only a small sampling of the many hundreds of nonterrorism cases pursued under the law.The authorities have also used toughened penalties under the law to press charges against a lovesick 20-year-old woman from Orange County, Calif., who planted threatening notes aboard a Hawaii-bound cruise ship she was traveling on with her family in May. The woman, who said she made the threats to try to return home to her boyfriend, was sentenced this week to two years in federal prison because of a provision in the Patriot Act on the threat of terrorism against mass transportation systems.And officials said they had used their expanded authority to track private Internet communications in order to investigate a major drug distributor, a four-time killer, an identity thief and a fugitive who fled on the eve of trial by using a fake passport.In one case, an e-mail provider disclosed information that allowed federal authorities to apprehend two suspects who had threatened to kill executives at a foreign corporation unless they were paid a hefty ransom, officials said. Previously, they said, gray areas in the law made it difficult to get such global Internet and computer data. The law passed by Congress just five weeks after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has proved a particularly powerful tool in pursuing financial crimes. Officials with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement have seen a sharp spike in investigations as a result of their expanded powers, officials said in interviews. A senior official said investigators in the last two years had seized about $35 million at American borders in undeclared cash, checks and currency being smuggled out of the country. That was a significant increase over the past few years, the official said. While the authorities say they suspect that large amounts of the smuggled cash may have been intended to finance Middle Eastern terrorists, much of it involved drug smuggling, corporate fraud and other crimes not directly related to terrorism.The terrorism law allows the authorities to investigate cash smuggling cases more aggressively and to seek stiffer penalties by elevating them from what had been mere reporting failures. Customs officials say they have used their expanded authority to open at least nine investigations into Latin American officials suspected of laundering money in the United States, and to seize millions of dollars from overseas bank accounts in many cases unrelated to terrorism.In one instance, agents citing the new law seized $1.7 million from United States bank accounts that were linked to a former Illinois investor who fled to Belize after he was accused of bilking clients out of millions, federal officials said.Publicly, Attorney General John Ashcroft and senior Justice Department officials have portrayed their expanded power almost exclusively as a means of fighting terrorists, with little or no mention of other criminal uses."We have used these tools to prevent terrorists from unleashing more death and destruction on our soil," Mr. Ashcroft said last month in a speech in Washington, one of more than two dozen he has given in defense of the law, which has come under growing attack. "We have used these tools to save innocent American lives."Internally, however, Justice Department officials have emphasized a much broader mandate.A guide to a Justice Department employee seminar last year on financial crimes, for instance, said: "We all know that the USA Patriot Act provided weapons for the war on terrorism. But do you know how it affects the war on crime as well?"Elliot Mincberg, legal director for People for the American Way, a liberal group that has been critical of Mr. Ashcroft, said the Justice Department's public assertions had struck him as misleading and perhaps dishonest."What the Justice Department has really done," he said, "is to get things put into the law that have been on prosecutors' wish lists for years. They've used terrorism as a guise to expand law enforcement powers in areas that are totally unrelated to terrorism."A study in January by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded that while the number of terrorism investigations at the Justice Department soared after the Sept. 11 attacks, 75 percent of the convictions that the department classified as "international terrorism" were wrongly labeled. Many dealt with more common crimes like document forgery. The terrorism law has already drawn sharp opposition from those who believe it gives the government too much power to intrude on people's privacy in pursuit of terrorists. Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "Once the American public understands that many of the powers granted to the federal government apply to much more than just terrorism, I think the opposition will gain momentum."Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said members of Congress expected some of the new powers granted to law enforcement to be used for nonterrorism investigations.But he said the Justice Department's secrecy and lack of cooperation in implementing the legislation have made him question whether "the government is taking shortcuts around the criminal laws" by invoking intelligence powers — with differing standards of evidence — to conduct surveillance operations and demand access to records."We did not intend for the government to shed the traditional tools of criminal investigation, such as grand jury subpoenas governed by well-established precedent and wiretaps strictly monitored" by federal judges, he said. Justice Department officials say such criticism has not deterred them. "There are many provisions in the Patriot Act that can be used in the general criminal law," Mark Corallo, a department spokesman, said. "And I think any reasonable person would agree that we have an obligation to do everything we can to protect the lives and liberties of Americans from attack, whether it's from terrorists or garden-variety criminals."Complete Title: U.S. Uses Terror Law To Pursue Crimes From Drugs To SwindlingSource: New York Times (NY)Author: Eric LichtblauPublished: September 28, 2003Copyright: 2003 The New York Times Co.Contact: letters Website: Articles:House Lawmakers Seek To Curtail Terrorism Laws Limits Prosecutor Discretion 'Narco-Terror' - ABCNews.com 

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Comment #12 posted by jose melendez on October 25, 2003 at 10:57:16 PT
poison is legal, just not pot
"[The DynCorp pilots] fly in bermuda shorts, smoke wherever        they want, and        drink whiskey almost everyday." also:
Got Herbicides?
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Comment #11 posted by kaptinemo on September 29, 2003 at 08:37:09 PT:

Jose, this was bound to happen
as the 'rules of engagement' have relaxed considerably when US involvement widened down there. Our troops are now doing exactly what Congress said they shouldn't be doing: guarding the Occidental Petroleum pipleline and leading patrols. We have inserted ourselves militarily on the side of the Uribe government in the Colombian Civil War just as we have inserted ourselves militarily in Iraq.And it will meet the same bloody failure, mark my words.Up to this time, the fiction that the civilians being recruited to fly for the spray operations weren't CIA/DynCorp hybrids, unconnected to the US military's efforts in 'advising' the locals on guerilla warfare, could be least on paper. But in the minds of those Rebels, there's as much difference between a DynCorp shill and Agency/military spooks is as the distance between a chigger's eyeballs. A civilian paint job on a machine meant for ARMED MILITARY RECONNAISCENCE doesn't fool them; they know the types who've been recruited to fly them, where those recruits came from, WHAT'S behind those flights, who is contracting for them, etc. Any 'civilian' aircraft 'working' for the Uribe government (yeah, right, it's all being run from 1600 Pennsy Ave, not Bogota) that wanders into Rebel controlled airspace can expect a similarly warm greeting. Any civilian pilots captured by Rebel forces can be expected to be shot as spies...which is exactly what they ARE.The only people who don't know what's going on down there are, as usual, the American public.
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Comment #10 posted by Jose Melendez on September 28, 2003 at 08:34:11 PT

Operation Holocaust, brought to you by DynCorp.
If this gets enough publicity, DynCorp will be the next Enron. Operation Holocaust

here's the link: Operation Holocaust: Drug war is murder, stupid.
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Comment #9 posted by Jose Melendez on September 28, 2003 at 08:32:48 PT

Operation Holocaust, brought to you by DynCorp.
If this gets enough publicity, DynCorp will be the next Enron. Operation Holocaust 
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Comment #8 posted by mayan on September 28, 2003 at 03:58:48 PT

170 cities & counties...
...say, "to hell with the Patriot Act!"Criticism of Patriot measure endorsed - City's resolution also opposes passage of USA Patriot Act II(Austin,Tx)
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Comment #7 posted by goneposthole on September 27, 2003 at 21:26:42 PT

chump change
how about the 87 billion dollars that is being bilked from the taxpayer to build prisons, a zip code system, schools and the list goes on and on for the New Iraq? Does that 'crime' apply to the Terror Law? Or, isn't it polite to ask? How much money has New York City received in the past two years to help them recover? There are 24 million people in Iraq, and 10 million in NYC. Who is getting the lion's share?Time to start asking a few more questions about what is really going on here.Can't afford not to. The time has come to get some answers.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on September 27, 2003 at 19:07:46 PT

What Is This Really About?
I don't see the need for the Patriot Act. We were attacked 2 years ago and nothing has happened since then thank goodness. Why are they pushing for more controls if we have ridden out the immediate crisis after 9-11? Why are they so worried? What makes them feel the need to protect us even more because they know it is creating fear in the people? 
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Comment #5 posted by MikeEEEEE on September 27, 2003 at 18:57:45 PT

First, they weaseled their way into the election and stole it. 
Second, they weaseled their way into the constitution, but for what purpose? Makes me wonder if they're looking for the ultimate power grab. 

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Comment #4 posted by Virgil on September 27, 2003 at 18:27:53 PT

It is an illegitemate president
Washington — The Bush administration, which calls the USA Patriot Act perhaps its most essential tool in fighting terroristsFirst, I am sick of hearing reporting of what this illegitimate misadministration says when there are other voices that need to be heard. The voices of the educated that have not forgotten the situation that lead to the corporate takeover of America with a stolen election and are not about to get over it as the abuse has only continued and escalated.But it is nice to keep up with the marketing techniques of those that are raping the constitution, country, and the environment of the world and the resources and people of the world. Actually the part of the sentence that gets me is that we are the terrorist or more precisely the cabal that has yet to be investigated with an appointed prosecutor, impeached, and removed from office and then tried and convicted for several life sentences.You go to the store and buy a candy bar and they give you a receipt but for some strange reason there seems to be a desire to eliminate paper in giving a receipt for a vote and why is it not made the evening news. There is a big story brewing on getting Congress to protect the oil industry from MTBE lawsuits. The government said the oil industry needed cleaner fuel and now the oil industry wants protection for chosing MTBE to give us the cleaner air the government demanded. The only thing they do not want to talk about is that MTBE was a hazardous waste by product of the petroleum cracking process and they dismissed the only logical choice for an oxygenator which would be grain alcohol. They chose to pollute the water and air with a dangerous substance when a high school student could clearly see that grain alcohol was the answer. Now we will see the fascists as clear as can be when the votes come.I could not help but respond to the opening line even though it does not hammer CP. Things are so upside down that people think we are attacking everything when we are only defending. We are defending the Constitution that the illegitimate puppet would print on toilet paper. We are defending reason that calls for solving problems in the best way and certainly not in the worst manner possible. It is us that is being attacked and even a dullard knows to defend himself when attacked. Then again the greatest terror in the world does not regard itself as terrorist when it leads the world in polluting its own people and scattering DU in fertilizer and bullets in its wars of aggression. We are the ones that spread terror and kill people without trial with CIA flying toys and take anyone out with the person we want executed.It was not new for me to say things are upside down. But we should realize we really are the terrorist of the world and we have a Constitution and reason calling for a more perfect union to defend.
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Comment #3 posted by The GCW on September 27, 2003 at 17:54:04 PT

Read this one!
US FL: PUB LTE: Join L.E.A.P.Pubdate: Sat, 27 Sep 2003
Source: Pensacola News Journal (FL)Author: Stephen Heath
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition L.E.A.P. I was sorry to hear of the Santa Rosa County sheriff's plane crashing and am glad to hear the occupants are recovering. But this leads me to ask, why is the Sheriff's Office still wasting valuable grant dollars by using aircraft, flying around in the sky all day, looking for marijuana plants? Any law enforcement officer with integrity will acknowledge that no matter how many illegal plants they discover and uproot, there's no one in Santa Rosa - or anywhere else - who wants marijuana, that can't get it. Meanwhile, valuable resources are wasted on paying officers to take helicopter rides. Fortunately, there's a growing group of hundreds of law enforcement officers and judges who know the right answer is to end the silliness of criminalizing responsible adult marijuana use. They have organized as a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( LEAP ). Isn't it about time more officers join the 21st century and stop ripping off the public by supposedly attempting to make Florida "marijuana-free," when everyone who isn't a paid drug warrior realizes what a scam they're pulling? Stephen Heath Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Florida Office, Clearwater 
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Comment #2 posted by The GCW on September 27, 2003 at 15:42:50 PT

Dennis Peron update
Dennis Peron gets off in Utah by Pete Brady (24 Sept, 2003) Judge rules that med-pot search was illegal
California's godfather of medical marijuana – a 57-year-old Italian-American Vietnam veteran named Dennis Peron – has won dismissal of Utah charges that could have sent him to prison for 10 years.Peron, along with companions John Entwistle and Kasey Conder, were arrested and charged with possessing cannabis with intent to distribute in November 2001, after a maid narked on them. Police came to their Cedar City, Utah hotel room and forced their way in without a search warrant; they found several ounces of medical marijuana and $4500 in cash.In May 2003, District Court Judge Philip Eves ruled that the search violated the Fourth Amendment of the US constitution, and dismissed the case. "Even in Utah, the US constitution's protection against unreasonable search and seizure still applies," a relieved Peron told Cannabis Culture.County prosecutor Garrett is still trying to keep the $4500 seized from Peron.Peron was the primary author, media spokesperson and public face of California's landmark medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 215, which was approved by voters in 1996. He has been a marijuana activist and dealer since 1972, and has been shot, arrested, and otherwise harassed by police and government officials."We'll sue them for several million dollars, and continue to use this arrest as a reason to do street activism in Utah, where we've started a medical marijuana legalization movement," says Peron, who wrote his own legal filings in the case after concluding that a court-appointed attorney was not working hard enough."I think what we've learned from this is: never plead guilty, fight them hard, and be prepared to go to prison for what you believe in. Justice doesn't always prevail in the USA, but in our case, it did."• Dennis Peron:
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Comment #1 posted by The GCW on September 27, 2003 at 15:36:05 PT

Emery's Cannada
Emery smokes out the Canadian parliament Reverend Damuzi (26 Sept, 2003) No arrests as crowd of 400-500 people share massive joint 
 crowd of four to five hundred people gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to share a one-ounce joint with Marc Emery as he delivered a message of pot freedom to Canada's politicians on Thursday.As Emery explained before the protest, his message can be boiled down to "Marijuana is legal, let's keep it that way." He asked protestors to bring signs to that effect and wasn't dissappointed when he showed up on parliament's front steps to find many carrying caringly-crafted home-made protest signs emblazoned with his message. The support of the crowd was tremendous.Emery's point is that because of recent court decisions in Ontario, PEI, Nova Scotia and BC - which found possession laws defunct, invalid and non-existent - the new so-called decriminalization law will be a step backwards. Especially since hidden within the new law are provisions to double jail time for growers and no clear agenda to stop giving criminal records for small possession offences.As Emery explained the hard facts to onlookers, and the hour closed on 4:20 PM, the crowd swelled. The massive bomber that he had waved around during an exhilarating round of speechmaking had caught the attention of his audience, which pressed so closely that it is doubtful a cop could have penetrated the throng.Luckily, no cop tried. Not a single arrest marred what one bystander called a "perfect afternoon for a historic event."Ottawa was the last scheduled stop on Emery's "Summer of Legalization Tour," during which he smoked out 19 cities, mostly holding protests on the front steps of police stations nationwide.Click here for the Summer of Legalization Tour archives.
Click here to discuss Marc Emery's tour on the CC Forums.
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