Do you have a student loan? Are you up-to-date with your payments? I sure hope so. Because if not, the US Department of Education may be literally breaking down your door. Did you know the DOE has the power to issue search warrants? Neither did I…
The militarization of what used to be routine police work has been accelerating for years. And with it has come wrong house raids, dead pets and, at times, dead people. At the wrong address. Innocent people who reacted to someone blasting through their door and attempted to defend themselves.
But this adds a whole new wrinkle, doesn’t it? A federal agency with its own SWAT team executing its warrants. And it’s not the DEA we’re talking about here. No, this is the Department of Education. And the warrant was issues for a past due student loan.
We knew the DOE had shotguns. TTAG blogged their re-supply contract back in March of 2010. The Agency emailed us with bullet pointed justification. Missing from the list: debt-related SWAT-style raids.
I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories and warnings of black helicopters. I don’t wear tin foil hats to keep the guvmint from reading my thoughts. And I haven’t checked my fillings for transmitters in…months now. But something like this is almost enough to make me dust off my Wookie suit.
It’s hard to imagine the amount owed even justifies the cost of mobilizing a SWAT unit. I guess the old fashioned method of having a sheriff or even a DOE agent simply knock on the door and ask for the woman who was delinquent didn’t occur to them.
UPDATED: According to this piece at reason.com, the DOE has said that, despite initial media reports, the SWAT raid was not carried out in order to collect on a delinquent loan, but as part of a criminal investigation.
According to the DOE flack:
While it was reported in local media that the search was related to a defaulted student loan, that is incorrect. This is related to a criminal investigation. The Inspector General’s Office does not execute search warrants for late loan payments.
Because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, we can’t comment on the specifics of the case. We can say that the OIG’s office conducts about 30-35 search warrants a year on issues such as bribery, fraud, and embezzlement of federal student aid funds.
Gee, that’s nice, but it doesn’t answer the central question – why does the department of education needs its own paramilitary force? Doesn’t the .gov have other folks who have some experience dealing with criminal investigations?
Are the tacticool boys at the FBI too busy trying to figure out who put the Canadian quarters in the coffee machine to execute these warrants? The US Marshall service is still looking for The Fugitive?
No, the fact is the DOE has been empire building. Why use another agency’s resources when you can grab some more federal budget resources (also known as our tax dollars) to re-create the wheel? It’s just another (frightening) example of agency mission creep that’s crying out for Congressional oversight.
“It’s hard to imagine the amount owed even justifies the cost of mobilizing a SWAT unit.”
An interesting economic question, even if we set aside the moral outrage of using a SWAT team for that purpose. How much does it cost to operate a team like that for 6+ hours, even if nothing goes wrong? I wouldn’t be surprised to find out we’re spending $1.50 to collect $1.
Remember this is the government, why use a $2.00 bullet when a 6 million dollar missile will do :>).
I think that this team was most likely formed after 9/11 so the DOE could get a slice of the money that flowed and still flows after that day. I will lay you odds the current use was because someone wanted to do a “real world” mission and not just train. As for the warrant are you sure? As far as I know only a court or a judge can issue a warrant with some very specific exception. I could be wrong. Let hear from you all.
My language may have been sloppy. Probably should have been execute a search warrant.
$2 for a bullet? Are they shooting werewolves or something?
This is amazing. Why would DOE have a need to execute their own search warrants?
Here is a link to the department in question.
That guy was hilarious…
But as a side note this is pretty scary…
Can parking tickets be far behind?
“Did you know the DOE has the power to issue search warrants?”
This was a militarized, armed SWAT team, not a team of briefcase carrying accountants. They apparently have far more than the power to issue search warrants; they have the power to take a life over a delinquent ^%^&^%$$#$#% student loan.
On what planet does it make sense to give anyone the power to take a life over a damned loan? And even if, as the agency claims, it was a criminal investigation one has to wonder what kind of criminal activity there can be involving education that warrants the power to take someone’s life?
This country has gone off the rails and sadly there is apparently no one in Washington with the cajones to stop the madness. Potential death for a defaulted loan? Welcome to NAZI America.
I’m glad that I’m a teacher… they will just tase me instead of shooting. Seriously, let’s just get rid of DOE.
Reminds me of one of my favorite PJ O’Rourke quotes: “Here’s my proposal: Close all the public schools. Send the kids home. Fire the teachers. Sell the buildings. Raze the U.S. Department of Education, leaving not one brick standing upon another and plow the land where it stood with salt.”
Wow. He does makes some good points. It makes one wonder how a kid from India can come here, go to a public school (while the other kids go to private school) and still make those private school kids look like they have been drinking paint all semester.
Good thing he didn’t have an overdue library book!
Congress will not, cannot, fix it. There is no way for Congress politically to uproot a federal agency — once established it generates its own constituency — like weeds that kill all the grass and suck up all the nutrients to prevent competitors on their turf. Reagan could not kill the Dept of Education by Congressional action, when it was barely formed. It is a case study of the problem — soup to nuts.
Congress has the formal power, but the formal power is checked by political leverage, because Congress depends on the agencies as the means of doling out indirect patronage — on which every politician depends for support.
There is a solution, but it does not run primarily through Congress. The ordinary enforcement mechanisms of Federal law must again return back to the States. It runs through a little used aspect of coordinated Federal/State power, which actually defines the Constitutional instrument “to execute the laws of the Union.” Find that phrase in the Constitution, read Federalist 29, then ask yourself what, exactly a “law-enforcement” agency is in the terms of the Constitution.
The answer may surprise you — and I won’t spoil the discovery for you. The Constitution requires that the officers of that institution be appointed by the States and the States handle their ordinary administration. An end run can be made by an Executive Order, essentially decentralizing federal law enforcement and loosing the political leverage in Washington that keeps Congress from doing effective oversight and pruning of the unnecessary duplications and intrusive attitudes.
It will change the locus of political deals back to fifty state capitols, like it was before the 17th Amendment neutered the State’s direct role in the Senate.
Little else holds much hope of success, as history has shown.
I thought the constitution prohibits people from being incarcerated for debt…
I find it difficult to justify DOE having a SWAT team in the first place. In fact, I find it difficult to locate Constitutional authority for the department of Education at all. By extension that would make their SWAT team an illegal group, or at the very least, a group without Constitutional authority. Too bad a few didn’t catch a round or two on their way through the door. Perhaps next time.
Careful there. The SWAT team members are not the problem. Expecting that when a government agency places a job listing for SWAT team member and no one signs up because such a capability in the DOE is unconstitutional is to set an unreachable standard. These are probably good men and women by any reasonable standard. The death or injury of these agents would only lead to their replacement; there are plenty more candidates where they came from.
Don’t get me wrong. It is an outrage that seemingly any old administrative department gets its own paramilitary force. We’ve got some deep, systemic pathology here. But picking off the SWAT team won’t control it let alone cure it.
Funny, though, how when those in charge play fast and loose — it is always the guys on the point of the spear that end up getting the shaft.
The people at the front end should know better.
As mom used to say “If a bunch of your friends decided to jump off of a cliff, would you do it too?”
I can also invoke the Nuremburg trials and point out a lot of Nazi’s were hung for “just doing their job.”
The people at the front are responsible for their actions and should know there’s a point beyond which they shouldn’t go. The people at the front should also understand they’ll be the first hung out to dry when the inevitable blow back occurs.
Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to give the DoE a SWAT team?
The fact is, most federal agencies have OIGs that employ criminal investigators. And whatever the merits of the agencies they work for, the investigators do serve the important function of protecting taxpayer money from criminal abuse. So let’s wait for the whole story to come out before jumping to conclusions about the nature of the warrant. All we have right now is the word of the homeowner who, while rightfully pissed, may have embellished the facts or not told the whole story about the woman the feds are after.
And another thing. We all should know better than to accept fresh media reports at face value–even when they validate our worldview. You probably wouldn’t accept some shoddy report about guns at face value, so why a shoddy report about the police?
I don’t think anyone has an objection to criminal investigators. If you dispense federal funds, you need to follow up on the inevitable abuses.
The problem here, is that the DOE is building their own little paramilitary force. Are the FBI’s boys not qualified to carry out a DOE search warrant? Is a DOE warrant so unique that it takes specialized training to nab a student loan scammer?
You’re implying that any of this makes sense, is based on sense, and is intended to conform to sense. It’s the damned federal government, for crying out loud — the day it starts making sense is the day hell freezes over.
What’s the difference? Sure, roll their functions into the FBI, that’s fine. But at the end of the day you’ll just have a larger FBI with more agents executing more warrants. Six in one, half a dozen in the other.
Whether the agents should be employed by DOE OIG or by the FBI is a question of efficiency and practicality. But at the end of the day, some guy’s house is still getting searched pursuant to a criminal investigation. Whether or not the tactics used in executing that warrant were excessive is another issue–one that, absent the facts, none of us are in a very good position to address–but hardly an issue unique to the DOE or to the feds in general.
Sorry, but in my estimation this was a sensationalist story.
Well, if you don’t want a marxist, communist, liberal left wing government running roughshod over you, you better do something about it in 2012. This is THE worst the government has ever gotten, the tentacles of agencies must be pulled back in, and the great executor of Executive Orders to bypass the Congress needs to be removed.
AMERICA!!! FUCK YEAH!!!
Your initial statements are typical of a certain group of ignorant people. First, the DOE does not issue search warrants. Search warrants for Federal agencies are issued by Federal magistrates or Federal District Court Judges. The standards for issuing warrants are the same for all petitions for warrants regardless of the agency, FBI, ATFE and really big fires, Secret Service, or the myriad of Offices of Inspectors General. Of which the DOE Office of Inspector General is one. Yes, the DOE OIG investigates crimes, crimes directed against the agency and consequently the American taxpayer. Do you incredibly ignorant people think that just because Education is in the DOE name that it is just a student loan? No, the DOE spends alot of money on things other than student loans, but filing a fraudulent student loan claim is a crime, a crime against the taxpayers. If you violate that trust, then you might have Federal law enforcement breaking down your door. Even if this was just a student loan, are you willing to given him a free pass for stealing taxpayer dollars? Think just a frakking moment.
Your good buddy is a crook, just like bank robbers, drug dealers, bunko artists, etc. are criminals. He is a white collar crook, but still a crook. And crooks get their doors busted down from time to time.
Thank you for posting a comment with some sense. People, DOE is not going to break your front door if you don’t pay your student loans. The media, who has reported this story and have stated that it was for a student loan are irresponsible. I have worked for over 20 years in the student loan collection industry and I have worked closely with DOE. So I speak with with experiance. People need to get their facts right before making really absurd remarks.
So why did they raid his house, then?
Must have been smuggling guns and drugs to students during free study period.
Thanks for the article.
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