Orin Kerr writes:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation published a report earlier this week alleging an astonishing increase in the use of sneak-and-peek search warrants. Sneak-and-peek searches are sometimes known as “covert searches” or “black bag jobs.” The government breaks into a home, conducts a covert search, and leaves no sign of entry until days or weeks later. According to the EFF report, such searches have become routine in the last few years:
First, the numbers: Law enforcement made 47 sneak-and-peek searches nationwide from September 2001 to April 2003. The 2010 report reveals 3,970 total requests were processed. Within three years that number jumped to 11,129. That’s an increase of over 7,000 requests. Exactly what privacy advocates argued in 2001 is happening: sneak and peak warrants are not just being used in exceptional circumstances—which was their original intent—but as an everyday investigative tool.
Sounds pretty bad, right? Well, not so fast. I fear EFF’s report may just misunderstand the significance of the annual “delayed notice warrant” report published by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO). I suspect the numbers don’t mean what EFF thinks they mean.
Read more on WaPo The Volokh Conspiracy.