We Don’t Need No Stinking Warrant: The Disturbing, Unchecked Rise of the Administrative Subpoena

When Golden Valley Electric Association of rural Alaska got an administrative subpoena from the Drug Enforcement Administration in December 2010 seeking electricity bill information on three customers, the company did what it usually does with subpoenas — it ignored them.

That’s the association’s customer privacy policy, because administrative subpoenas aren’t approved by a judge.

But by law, utilities must hand over customer records — which include any billing and payment information, phone numbers and power consumption data — to the DEA without court warrants if drug agents believe the data is “relevant” to an investigation. So the utility eventually complied, after losing a legal fight earlier this month.

Meet the administrative subpoena: With a federal official’s signature, banks, hospitals, bookstores, telecommunications companies and even utilities and internet service providers — virtually all businesses — are required to hand over sensitive data on individuals or corporations, as long as a government agent declares the information is relevant to an investigation. Via a wide range of laws, Congress has authorized the government to bypass the Fourth Amendment — the constitutional guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that requires a probable-cause warrant signed by a judge.


In fact, there are roughly 335 federal statutes on the books passed by Congress giving dozens upon dozens of federal agencies the power of the administrative subpoena, according to interviews and government reports.

Read more from this story HERE.

  • Carl Olson

    More stuff to repeal when we become the majority. A lot of stuff, but it will be well worth it.

  • Carol-Christian Soldier

    looks like the Rs were complicit–thus- a regime change will make no difference —

    335 federal statues –passed by Congress-
    Congress is made up of Ds and Rs–
    aisle reeeeeaching –Rs anyone!
    Carol-CS