The American Civil Liberties Union is running an ad alleging that the USA Patriot Act allows authorities to search homes “without notifying us . . . treating us all like suspects.” That’s not exactly true.
Actually, notice still has to be given to the subject of such a search, eventually. And far from treating us “all” like suspects, the Department of Justice reports seeking only 47 such “sneak-and-peek” warrants in the law’s first 17 months.
“Sneak-and-peek” searches are now easier to get, legal in all jurisdictions, and the law contains no practical limit on how long authorities can delay notifying the subject of a search. But contrary to the impression left by the ad, they aren’t new: some federal courts allowed them prior to the USA Patriot Act.