The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says it needs the authority to comb through millions of Americans' private medical records — without a warrant — to successfully fight the war on drugs.
The agency has long claimed a right to access the Prescription Drug Monitor Program (PDMP) database by means of administrative subpoena, a document which does not require the government to demonstrate probable cause as is necessary to acquire a warrant for investigation. In the past, however, the DEA has received pushback at the state level; in 2014 Oregon won a Fourth Amendment suit against the agency to protect the privacy of the Oregon PDMP.
Now the DEA is appealing the case, and its surveillance crusade has taken on a new layer of controversy because the warrantless searches would expose the hormone prescriptions assigned to transgender patients. While one of the transgender plaintiffs from Oregon has testified to fearing harassment from law enforcement if prescription drug records are opened as the DEA requests, the Obama administration argues that patients whose data is in the PDMP already have no expectation of privacy.
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