Homeland chief: Fourth Amendment 'beyond my competence'

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, a man with sweeping power to invade the property rights and privacy of every American using judge-less warrants to search and seize records, has a Fourth Amendment problem: he doesn’t really know it.

As reported at Mediaite, Senator Rand Paul grilled Secretary Johnson at a hearing about government’s obtaining records from telephone companies without a warrant, which seems on its face to violate the Fourth Amendment:

Right off the bat, Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate, asked Johnson if he believes the Fourth Amendment ‘applies to third party records,’ specifically those of telephone companies. Johnson said that question is ‘beyond my competence as secretary of homeland security’ to answer intelligently.



Apparently, ignorance of the law is an excuse if you run a massive federal bureaucracy with sweeping police state powers.

The Fourth Amendment, of course, is the law governing government searches and seizures.  The Department of Homeland Security, like other federal bureaucracies, has broad and questionable powers to search and seize private records.  Tech businesses have begun encrypting these records to prevent unlawful searches.

Senator Paul said “he is completely fine with the government taking records if they first get a warrant. He said there needs to be a system where ‘judges are on call 24 hours a day,’ just as police departments around the country do.”

Last week I wrote, “It is of course accepted without question that police departments must obtain warrants from judges, yet federal law enforcement agencies unilaterally issue their own warrants called ‘administrative subpoenas.’ These unilaterally issued warrants institutionalize evasions of probable cause.”

A “21st Century Fourth Amendment” introduced in the Virginia legislature would require government bureaucrats to get warrants from judges and addresses records held by third parties.