Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) today offered an amendment to protect Americans’ medical records from secret searches by the FBI under powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Act. Section 505 of the PATRIOT Act authorizes local FBI agents to demand private information using so-called “national security letters” (NSLs) – without getting a judge’s approval, and without presenting evidence that the person is suspected of a crime.
“In the American tradition of keeping the government out of our personal lives, my amendment is designed to protect Americans’ private medical records from unreasonable, unchecked, and unreviewable secret searches by the FBI,” Congressman Nadler said.
Congressman Nadler’s amendment would ban the issue of NSLs to health insurance providers.
Currently, the FBI is specifically authorized under Section 505 to issue NSLs to insurance providers, opening the door to covert seizure of highly personal medical information, including records of lab tests conducted, records of medications prescribed, and reports detailing operations and other medical procedures.
NSLs are not subject to judicial review – but this information is already available to law enforcement officials through other investigative measures that do include some measure of review.
“If somehow medical records are, in fact, crucial to a terrorist investigation,” Nadler said, “the government should be required to explain to a judge why they are needed, rather than simply allowing an FBI field agent to demand them in secret.”
In prohibiting any appropriation to fund NSLs directed at health insurance providers, Congressman Nadler’s amendment would make this information available only via more accountable investigative avenues.
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