(NaturalNews) It might have been launched with the best of intentions during the Reagan administration, but the so-called “war on drugs” has been used more times as justification for violating Americans’ constitutional rights than it is possible to count.
And the government still persists in utilizing anti-drug policy to invade our privacy. This latest assault on the Fourth Amendment is being launched by the Obama administration’s Drug Enforcement Agency.
As reported by The Daily Beast, the DEA has gone to court to fight for unrestricted access, without a properly issued warrant based on probable cause – as required by the Fourth Amendment – to millions of private medical files, including those of two transgender men who are taking properly prescribed testosterone.
Full force of the Obama administration in play
Specifically, the agency is battling to get access to databases in Oregon that contain health files of around 1 million state residents. As the Daily Beast reports:
The DEA has claimed for years that under federal law it has the authority to access the state’s Prescription Drug Monitor Program database using only an “administrative subpoena.” These are unilaterally issued orders that do not require a showing of probable cause before a court, like what’s required to obtain a warrant.
In 2012 Oregon sued the DEA to prevent it from enforcing the subpoenas to snoop around its drug registry. Two years ago a U.S. District Court found in favor of the state, ruling that prescription data is covered by the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unlawful search and seizure.
But the DEA didn’t stop there. It appealed the ruling to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and has been fighting tooth and nail ever since to access Oregon’s files on its own terms.
The case involves the full force of the Obama administration against the state of Oregon and just five individuals – two of whom are are taking prescription hormone drugs that have to be monitored by state officials, per statute.
That said, in 2014, U.S. District Judge Ancer L. Haggerty ruled against the DEA, claiming that the kind of warrantless searches of health record databases being sought were textbook privacy invasions.
“It is difficult to conceive of information that is… more deserving of Fourth Amendment protection,” Haggerty wrote in his decision. “By obtaining the prescription records for individuals like John Does 2 and 4, a person would know that they have used testosterone in particular quantities and by extension, that they have gender identity disorder and are treating it through hormone therapy.
“Although there is not an absolute right to privacy in prescription information… it is more than reasonable for patients to believe that law enforcement agencies will not have unfettered access to their records,” he noted further.
Fourth Amendment is clear
So, the Obama administration – not one to allow the Constitution to get in the way of policy implementation – disagreed, arguing instead that because health records have already been handed over to a third party – Oregon’s Prescription Drug Monitor Program – then of course patients can no longer expect them to remain private.
As noted by Big Government News:
Except that the state of Oregon had always intended to keep the information private – so yes, patients certainly did have an expectation that their information would be kept out of the reach of improper probing by authorities.
But even so, why would a “third-party” status alleviate a government agency’s requirement to get a search warrant? It’s not like patients are voluntarily posting their information to Facebook or Google+; they have entrusted it to a state government agency that is under the same constitutional requirement to protect it from improper search and seizure as any federal agency.
Critics of the administration’s attempt to gain unfettered health record access claim that the Fourth Amendment is clear about its requirements that government needs a good reason, and a court-issued warrant, before it can pry into Americans’ personal “papers and effects.”