In case you didn't notice, a Stockton, CA man’s testimony of being arrested and detained by a team of armed government agents for a crime he didn't commit went viral on the internet this morning. He woke up to his door being broken down, and was dragged to a government car where he would spend the rest of the morning. After the invaders did not find what they were looking for (his estranged wife), they let him go. The video is below:
Now, Department of Education press secretary Justin Hamilton has put out this explanation (thanks Reason.com!):
“Yesterday, the Depart of Education's office of inspector general executed a search warrant at Stockton California residence with the presence of local law enforcement authorities.
“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.
“All further questions on this issue should be directed to the Department of Education's Inspector General's Office.”
Perhaps that makes a little more sense, but the fact that an innocent man can be held like that - even if there is "an ongoing criminal investigation" occurring - should scare every American. And what if he had been holding a weapon when the agents entered (what would you do if someone tried to break into your home)? In the light of the recent passage of the PATIOT Act and last month's Indiana Supreme Court ruling that prevents citizens from resisting police entry into their homes, such events certainly warrant (no pun intended) our attention. The 4th Amendment exists to protect the privacy of citizens against government intrusion, not to be thrown out by power-happy bureaucrats.
(But just to be sure...if you have any overdue library books, I would return those ASAP. You never know who might come knocking.)
Update: this post was modified on 6/13/11 to replace the word "SWAT" with "armed federal agents" (or similar), as the DoE does not own or operate a Special-Weapons-and-Tactics team.