Gonzales Admits Sneak & Peeks Used in Mayfield Case

It was like pulling teeth, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales finally admitted Tuesday at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the FBI used sneak and peek search warrants authorized by the Patriot Act in investigating Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield.

Gonzales at first denied the FBI used the Patriot Act while investigating Mayfield. "Senator, I think we have said publicly -- if not, I guess I'm saying it publicly -- that the Patriot Act was not used in connection with the Brandon Mayfield case,'' he told Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

But later, after Feinstein asked him a different question, Gonzales corrected himself: "You asked me specifically about the Mayfield case and I'm advised that there were certain provisions of the Patriot Act that apparently were used,'' he said.

Gonzales said one code from the act that was used deals with extending the duration of electronic surveillance. Another makes it easier to obtain warrants to search the private residences of U.S. citizens -- a provision that has raised concerns about constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The FBI confirmed the use of sneak and peeks against Mayfield days ago. Of course, Mayfield's lawyer knew it the whole time, as we reported in May, 2004.

TChris reported on the false impression the Justice Department is giving Congress on sneak and peaks. They have increased 75% since 2000, and they are not just used in terror cases:

[T]he FBI also uses the warrants in ”plain vanilla” criminal investigations that have nothing to do with terrorism. ... The warrants have been used to break into homes, offices, hotel rooms and cars, install hidden cameras, search luggage, eavesdrop on telephone conversations, intercept emails, and gain access to safe deposit boxes.

Sen. Russ Feingold has introduced to a bill to end sneak and peeks.

The Administration has never denied its use of Patriot Act provisions in non-terror cases. Here's a little bit of how it spun such use back in 2003:

If you have ever wondered to what extent Bush and the Justice Department would go to obtain expanded powers in the name of the terror war, the answer is becoming very clear. The Administration is becoming a master at using the media to condition us to their next power grab.

....The Administration has let us all know they always intended to use the Patriot Act in non-terror cases and that they have and will continue to do so. Expecting a backlash, they now put out the word that Al Qaeda and other terror organizations are hiding cash in petty criminal activities. The only way to stop the terrorists now is to increase the use of terror powers for non-terror crimes. This, they will argue, is why Congress should pass laws like Rep. Tom Feeney's H.R. 3037, the "Antiterrorism Tools Enhancement Act of 2003" ( analysis here) and Sen. Orrin Hatch's The Victory Act which redesignates many drug crimes as "narco-terrorist offenses" and then grants extra power in the executive branch to combat them. Like more sneak and peek searches, wiretaps, subpoenas and asset seizures without the judicial oversight required by the Constitution in traditional criminal cases.

This is just so transparent. The Administration feeds one reporter about why it is within its rights to use the Patriot Act to investigate non-terror crimes. It feeds another on its speculation that it hasn't seized more terrorist money with money laundering laws because the money isn't being laundered, it's being hidden through routine crime. Ergo, the Administration will claim next, we need more terror laws to go after routine, non-terror crimes. Terror laws that allow the Justice Department to bypass the Fourth Amendment and its required judicial oversight.

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    Wow!! Who &/or what defines terror? Because I am definately beginning to feel terrified, if not terrorized by the federal government. It amazes me that we, the general public, are not raising our voices in outrage.

    The reality of this revelation is more complicated than this. First, the local AP office here in Oregon reported that the DOJ had admitted in a memo to Mayfield's attorneys that PATRIOT was used. Two days later, the AP issued a "correction" under pressure from the DOJ, who claimed they didn't use PATRIOT, but an Intelligence Authorization Act from 1995 (which was actually just a technicality, because the authority of that 1995 bill was itself then amended by 2001's PATRIOT Act). Then a few days later, Gonzalez made his contradictory statements to the Senate. So there was a whole misinformation attempt leading up to Gonzales' own announcement. Out here in Oregon, at any rate, the word in media circles is that the DOJ was trying very hard to not have bad PR for PATRIOT leading into these hearings, and so somehow got the AP to issue what amounted to a bogus "correction". Perhaps not so coincidentally, the DOJ's misinformation attempts out here on that AP story happened at the same time the Portland City Council was moving to impose conditions on its participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Force -- another moment at which the Feds didn't really want to see news and evidence of using secret law enforcement powers against an innocent man.

    Disgusting. Both the government actions and the lack of public outcry. Could America become a country where we will wake up to find our neighbors disappeared and think "well, they must have done something!". A's Lady, it's the bread and circuses. We seem to like them more than freedom. I wish the bottom we need to hit to wake up wasn't so low.

    Where is the OUTRAGE? Or have the GOP successfully scared the bejeebers out of everyone about "boogiemen" that they think that protection "at all costs?"

    I am a little confused. Am I right that "sneek and peek" means they can search your stuff outside of your view and knowledge - and tell you about it later? And second: why wouldn't the Patriot Act legitimately be used in the case of someone who's fingerprint (albeit wrongly read) was found on a bag of detonators used in a train bombing in Spain? That is terrorism in anyone's definition - correct? You would of course hold this guy immediately and until you proved he was building bombs for a living. Finally: According to senate testimony, sneek and peek has been established as legal by the courts prior to the Patriot Act. Is this correct?

    Re: Gonzales Admits Sneak & Peeks Used in Mayfield (none / 0) (#6)
    by Adept Havelock on Thu Apr 07, 2005 at 08:38:08 AM EST
    I guess Alberto didn't sneak and peek before he did sneak and peek. Flip-Flopper.

    JCHFleetguy, the issue (for me anyway) is this: Given the case of Brandon Mayfield, we now have a confirmed case of the Federal government secretly going into the home of an innocent American to search, seize, and surveill. Secretly into the home of an innocent American. That doesn't give you the willies?

    Re: Gonzales Admits Sneak & Peeks Used in Mayfield (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 07, 2005 at 09:10:51 AM EST
    Big time willies.

    Re: Gonzales Admits Sneak & Peeks Used in Mayfield (none / 0) (#9)
    by dead dancer on Thu Apr 07, 2005 at 09:36:53 AM EST
    I'm sure JCHFleetguy has nothing to hide, until it happens to him. I don't think they ever have to "tell you about it later".

    In my life, I've had the FBI all over my self. On the sneek and peek issue I am still mulling over that in my pea brain. On the Mayfield issue, 3 individual print experts (maybe that should be in quotes) said Mayfield's prints were on a bag of detonators. Of course, they could have gotten any kind of search warrant they wanted at that point. His eventual innocence doesn't effect the facts at the time of the search - which was that they had all the probable cause they needed to search his whole life.

    Oh the other question, was sneek and peek found legal in the courts prior to the patriot act?

    Of course, the FBI labs are rather famous for turning out whatever lab results (like fingerprint matches) that boost whatever case they are working on. What we really need are some real penalities, like jail time, for police officials who violate peoples constitutional rights based on some lie.

    fingerprints: If you can prove its a lie and not a mistake - you are right. Or will FBI lab techs have to sign a No Mistake Clause when they are hired. Bottom line is thats why we have courts, lawyers, etc. People commit crimes; law enforcement screws up; etc. You are the head FBI agent in Portland, and your lab tells you they have a match on a bombing of train in Spain (was that mainly on the plain) in your jurisdiction. What is your response?

    JHC Fleet guy. You seem generally reasonabe although we are on different sides of many issues. It seems like you're looking for a reason to justify the MO of the investigators. I could be biased, but it seems to me you're making the error I mentioned above, i.e., if they did this to him they must have had a reason. On a broader view, do you see this as a defensible policy in any circumstance (besides the strawman guy with his finger on the button of a bomb)? As I recall (no time to re-check) the fingerprint analysis was abysmal in that only a couple of the eighteen(?) or so points that can be compared were matched. That would indicate that from hundreds to thousands of completely innocent folks may have been a match too. Again, as I recall, the matching process was so faulty that even Spain considered the match unsubstantiated. Regarding your scenario:
    You are the head FBI agent in Portland, and your lab tells you they have a match on a bombing of train in Spain (was that mainly on the plain) in your jurisdiction. What is your response?
    Of course it's always easier to be an armchair detective than a real one. But, my (imagined) response would be to first check the quality of the match. Then I ask my guys/gals "who's this"? They tell me "an American lawyer" with no apparent connections to Spain or the bombings owns the fingerprints I'm gonna get a little more evidence before I humiliate myself and the department. If we are in immediate danger from a suspected bomber we would get them off the streets immediately (extradition, etc). So what would be the logical justification for KEEPING him on the streets and prowling around his house a few times a week? Do you really feel safer? What if it was your fingerprint, your house? Or, because you're a good guy it wouldn't happen? Don't be an apologist for those who don't care about your rights and freedom. There are more important things at stake than who gets to be smarmy on web blogs.

    LOL JHC - The rain in spain stays on the plain, not the train!

    Mfox: You actually win the cookie. While Ive been chatting here i did some searches and found a better scenario than the Portland paper had. I was really asking questions to understand the case. I want to understand the truth of issues i am interested in - not the knee jerk reactions of the left (which I was a part of) or the right. As Mao (hate to quote the guy but its true) said: "no investigation, no right to speak" I am directly curious about this case because I live in Mayfield's world - this is a local case for me. Overall, I am interested in the balance necessary to protect my family and country from terrorism - without giving up my rights and liberties. Finally, if sneek and peek is not new and has been allowed by American courts before Patriot, why not allow it in terrorism investigations? As to the very appropo question about if it was me - when I found out I was the 4th best print and Spain rejected the match - I probably would have sued also. If as the local SAC I knew how edgy the print match was Im not sure what I would tell washington - being employed is nice. One complication is that Mayfield had represented (in a separate matter) one of the 7 people here convicted of conspiring to go to Afganistan to fight for the Taliban - so not entirely separate from radical muslims. It was a joke - I knew it was rain

    Point made JHC. I had formulated an extensive response and then deleted it with my elbow as I got up from my chair. (Perhaps I included one too many newly imagined Train/Spain jingles for a "serious" site!) Given the pathetic state of our intelligence gathering/vetting/forensics, are you sure you should be drawing said line on the side of "I hope they don't do it to me?"

    Oh yeah,JCH (lol I keep typing JHC) your comment that:
    One complication is that Mayfield had represented (in a separate matter) one of the 7 people here convicted of conspiring to go to Afganistan to fight for the Taliban - so not entirely separate from radical muslims.
    So this happened to Mayfield because he represented people conspiring to go to Afganistan to fight with the Taliban? How dangerous were these folks vs. how dangerous is this precedent? I think that's a fair, non-partisan question.

    Mfox: How dangerous? You decide. Worth risk? Got me. Reading the Corvallis story, I think the FBI got real wrong fast. I have no doubt I could be on either side of this line - but the minute my personal comfort/ security is my basis for deciding what is best for the country as a whole - I may be someone I do not want to be.

    Gonzales will go far in the empire of totally corrupt non ideals. I wish I knew when he will open the death camps? sneak & peek is what the nazi did, and we all know what will happen next, don't we? but what can one do with Bush and faith based propaganda? mass political immigration from mexico that will end up placing you inside a Gonzales/bush camp system for god and country. the patroit act for mexico and the new idea/old ideals from Old Hitler/bush, its just the start of the new dark age of total Rats under the ideals of Bush/Laden.

    Oh Fred. If you are going to be a revolutionary, you must get better at your rhetoric. It surely expresses (I hope) a consistant political position - but I have no idea what it is.

    Re: Gonzales Admits Sneak & Peeks Used in Mayfield (none / 0) (#22)
    by Che's Lounge on Thu Apr 07, 2005 at 05:19:23 PM EST
    Fred, There must be those of us who, having eaten the grain to live, must remember that we are insane.

    His eventual innocence doesn't effect the facts at the time of the search - which was that they had all the probable cause they needed to search his whole life. Except that what the FBI was doing was very consciously ignoring the pleas of Spanish authorities that the FBI was targeting the wrong man.

    Thanks Homey See link at 12:31 - finally found a complete timeline

    Gonzalez is an idiot...a Bush toady.

    che's lounge good. to jch, no one will know. to all Others read, Grass by Carl Sandburg.
    I am the grass; I cover all.
    I love that line.

    Re: Gonzales Admits Sneak & Peeks Used in Mayfield (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 08, 2005 at 08:44:05 AM EST
    Give the gov't powers, and they will abuse them. It is inevitable. If sneaks and peaks are allowed, law enforcement will abuse that power. I say sneak and peeks should be illegal on constitutional grounds, and if that leads to a terror attack, so be it. For the 100th time, I can live with the threat of terror, I can't live with the threat of tyranny from my own govt.