By James P. Tucker Jr.
The once-sacred Social Security number should be used as the "unique identifier" of patients as their records go into computers to be used in the telemedicine age, according to experts.
"Telemedicine" has much to support it. If you are struck by an automobile in any city, and left unconscious, physicians have your complete medical history at their fingertips via computer, promoters of the plan say. Obviously, this information helps in treating you.
But the recommendation from more than 80 organizations of health care providers and other professional groups meeting in Washington to use your Social Security number follows a grim trail which we have been pursuing for more than a decade.
Ultimately, when your medical history is recorded on computers at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), you will stand naked before Big Brother. Computers will know about your personal income, medical history and driving habits. And they will "talk" to each other.
When Elizabeth Dole was President Ronald Reagan's secretary of transportation, she announced a plan to computerize all state drivers licenses. Again, the cause was good: saving lives and limbs.
Many drivers - including big-rig truckers - would hold licenses in several states. If their driving killed people and a state lifted their license, they had plenty more.
Now, if a killer driver applies for a license in any state, it can be immediately determined that he had serious convictions elsewhere and the license denied.
So far, so good.
But, immediately after the announcement, we asked Mrs. Dole if the Transportation Department computer would be linked up with the Internal Revenue Service computer and she replied, "Oh, yes."
So the IRS, HHS and Transportation Department will be talking to each other about your medical history, finances and driving habits.
There will be much prattling about protecting "privacy" as there has been for decades.
Hundreds of IRS employees had been snooping - without reason - on taxpayers confidential returns. Some were curious about celebrities, others snooped on their neighbors. And all demonstrated the effectiveness of "safeguards."
The experts recommendation that Social Security numbers be used was forwarded to the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, which is charged with advising HHS on health information standards. Health care representatives also called for coordination of terminology and data-set developers toward a comprehensive framework.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 calls for adoption of information management standards to improve the operation of the health care system and reduce administrative costs. "Specific solutions and focused action plans, however, are critical to the implementation of information standards and widespread adoption of computer-based patient record systems," said Paul Tang, MD, chairman of the meeting.
Computer-based patient records provide electronically maintained information about an individual's lifetime health status and facilitate access to data stored in multiple, dispersed locations when authorized by a patient. This provides complete and accurate data for continuity of care, experts said. Computer-based records provide clinical reminders and alerts, linkages with knowledgeable sources for support in making health-care decisions, and data for outcomes research and improved management of the health care system, they said.
[Ed. Note: The potential for abuse is being totally ignored and experience proves that if the opportunity exists, it will happen.)
By Tom Valentine
On Christmas Eve, an Oklahoma state appellate court overruled a lower court and opened the way for an Oklahoma county grand jury investigation into the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
By a 3-0 vote the appeals court said the lower court was wrong to refuse the plea of state legislator Charles Key to circulate a petition calling for a special county grand jury to investigate both the bombing, which took 168 lives, and the investigation by the FBI. The federal investigation has been criticized as a cover-up by numerous local investigators, including a local television news crew.
Key now needs to obtain 5,000 signatures on a petition to force the grand jury call.
The mainstream media has ignored this important story, but in Oklahoma City the news is hot.
KTOK radio, the leading talk station in Oklahoma City conducted a listener survey and was stunned to learn that 90 percent favored the idea of convening a county grand jury. Station management assumed the local sentiment was opposed to any challenges of the way the feds have handled the entire case.
The words "foreknowledge" by the feds and "cover-up" as well as "obstruction of justice" are said to be flowing over the local airwaves since the news broke Christmas Day.
Whistleblower Pat Briley is a local resident who has been independently investigating the case. Briley, earlier in December, said that there can be no doubt about a cover-up by the FBI agents in charge of the investigation. He actually named a key agent and alleged that proof exists that this agent falsified the reports of witness interrogations.
Briley pointed out that the same kind of allegation - falsifying testimony of witnesses - has erupted in the Vincent Foster case and one witness is suing the FBI over the matter.
For example, Briley told us that a witness who works in a store in the Regency Towers building, which is near the Murrah building and sustained some damage by the blast has informed the FBI that Tim McVeigh and a John Doe came into the store about 8:30 the morning of the blast. The bomb, or bombs, exploded shortly after 9 am.
The FBI agents did not accept the testimony and tried to convince the witness that what was observed was "impossible." The witness stood by the story.
Local attorneys, speaking on radio and television talk news shows, said the Justice Department would most likely not allow the county to have an effective grand jury probe. Many suspect the federal government would invoke a gag order, already imposed on witnesses by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch hearing the case in Denver.
Briley says that such use of the "gag" has apparently already occurred. A police officer who observed federal helicopters in the vicinity of the Murrah building prior to the bomb blast and who has a videotape of FBI agents talking about a "failed operation" the day after the blast, has been suddenly subpoenaed as a key witness and hence placed under the gag rule.
Apparently things are getting a lot hotter, not cooling off, as officials of the federal, state and local governments had hoped.
This was a problem foreseen by the framers and discussed in the debates at the 1787 constitutional convention. Their concerns were well- founded as many court decisions since attest. The Constitution - not supreme Court decisions - is the law of the land.
The framers intended the judiciary to be the weakest branch of government and, therefore, the least dangerous to the political rights provided in the Constitution. The judiciary was not supposed to have influence over either the sword (executive branch) or the purse (Congress), and have neither force nor will, but merely judgment.
The idea that the supreme Court has the authority to be the final word on the Constitution defies the intent of those who devised the unique form of limited constitutional republic by which this nation is governed. It also defies common sense.
When functioning properly, the legislative, executive and judicial branches are supposed to act as a check and balance against each other to prevent the federal government from becoming tyrannical. The practice of allowing a supreme Court decision to have the last word implies the ridiculous notion that the framers intended a system of government run by judicial dictatorship.
The supreme Court is also supposed to be a check against Congress. It should be voiding any laws it deems are contrary to the Constitution. If it was doing so, a lot of laws would be wiped from the books, starting with the gun-grabbing Brady law, the so-called anti-Terrorist law and so forth.
If Congress reviewed decisions of the supreme Court to determine whether it held to original intent or not, then Congress could advise that rulings by the supreme Court are applicable only to litigants.
Congress, too, is bound by the Constitution. It should only pass laws applying the principle of original intent and the rules of construction. If the American people were educated to the fact that the decisions of the court are not the law of the land, the Court's (current) power to make law unfettered would ultimately be curtailed. The public outcry would be so great, and budding law school students, who are now told to believe that the high court has the authority to have the final word, would pick up the banner.
Often the supreme Court assumes jurisdiction over areas which should be left to the states.
The Supreme Court's Roe V. Wade decision, which led to abortion on demand, is a prime example. In that decision the court invented the heretofore unknown concept of the right to privacy. There was nothing in the intent of the framers of past court decisions to imply it was left to the Court to decide when life begins.
The framers also talked about misfeasance which was wrongful exercise of lawful authority, and malfeasance which was official misconduct.
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote that he could never understand why, for years, justices during Monday morning conferences could not come up with the fourth vote required for the supreme Court to decide to review the lower court decision that men could be compelled to serve in Vietnam.
Douglas reasoned that if the Supreme Court had once decided to hear a case to determine whether President Harry Truman could take over railroads during the Korean war - a case relating to the property rights of railroad owners -- the court should hear a case involving the refusal of men to be drafted and be put in harm's way since no greater private property exists than a man's life.
The Federalist Papers discussed how the judicial branch is supposed to function. No. 78 explains the power of the court to review statutes or acts of Congress to determine if they adhere to the Constitution. Judges are supposed to be expositors, explaining the intent of the framers. The introduction of sophistry, or personal biases and caprices into their opinions, constituted judicial activism.
Alexander Hamilton addressed the problem of wayward judges in Federalist Paper 81: He said there was not one syllable in the Constitution which directly empowers judges to construe laws in the spirit of the Constitution or give them any greater latitude. Judges must follow the rules of construction.
Hamilton's solution was for Congress to impeach unruly judges. He stressed the "important constitutional check which the power of instituting impeachments in one part of the legislative body, and of determining upon them in the other, would give to that body upon the members of the judicial department. This is alone a complete security."
It is also a myth that federal judges are entitled to life-time terms. The language of Article III of the Constitution reads: "The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior..."
The Federalist Papers explain this: "The standard of good behavior for the continuance in office of the judicial magistracy is certainly one of the most valuable of the modern improvements in the practice of government... in a republic it is a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body. And it is the best expedient which can be devised in any government to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws." It is time for Congress to start checking judicial imperialism and for the supreme Court to check imperialism by the legislative branch.
Washington - In a little-noticed trend, police around the country are increasingly able to intrude into that most American of sanctuaries: the automobile. In two recent Supreme Court decisions - and in a third that is expected to be decided shortly - police have argued for powers that affect virtually anyone stopped for a traffic ticket. The Court has ruled that police may pull you over for the most minor of traffic infractions - a dead bulb over your license plate, for instance - even when the stop is a pretext to conduct a search of your car.
And, in a separate case, the court ruled that during such a routine traffic stop the police may ask to search your car without first telling you the stop is over and you are free to go. In most cases, unless the police see something illegal in plain view (a gun or drugs, for instance), they do not have the right to search without your permission.
If, as expected, the court sides with police in a pending case, Maryland v. Wilson, police conducting a traffic stop will get the OK to order not only the driver, but all passengers to get out of the car. Taken individually, legal experts and advocates say, these cases may not appear to be a big change, but collectively, they say, these cases raise police intrusiveness to a new level. "When you put (these cases) together, these things make a line and the line shows increasing power of police over people in their cars," said David A. Harris, professor of law at the University of Toledo.
Police organizations say their intrusions place a minimum burden on most motorists and are warranted by the danger officers face. Allowing a police officer to ask all occupants to step out of the car would allow an added measure of safety and that's all they're asking for. They say that they're not saying an officer can question them, detain them, frisk them, any of that.
James J. Baxter, president of the National Motorists Association, contends that abuse of motorists by police is far more common than most people believe and that expanded powers will only increase the potential for abuse.
Betty D. Montgomery, Ohio's attorney general, said, "I think that most motorists understand that at the point the ticket is given they're free to go."
Barter disputed this point. He said most motorists are cowed by a police officer's authority "and feel very much like they're subordinate to whatever the officer requests."
"If the person is actually bold enough to say no they are then threatened with the likelihood of sitting there for hours," he said, while police obtain a warrant or drug dog.
That is what happened to Robert Wilkins, a black attorney from Washington, who was stopped for speeding four years ago by Maryland State Police on his way home from a funeral. After Wilkins told police they had no right to search the car without arresting him, he was made to wait half an hour while police obtained a drug-sniffing dog. Then he and his family were made to stand in the rain while the dog sniffed the car. No drugs were found and Wilkins was given a $105 speeding ticket.
The Grand Rapids Press. Sunday, January 5, 1997