11.30.2016 5

House Judiciary Committee considering bill on human tracking devices


By Robert Romano

The House Judiciary Committee is considering new legislation, H.R. 4919, that upon its initial draft, would alarmingly allow the Attorney General to determine “which types of tracking devices can be used” on humans in the future.

Meaning, tracking chips, potentially.

A hearing on the bill that was scheduled for today at 10 a.m. has now been postponed, according to the committee’s website, amid outcry over the broad provisions.

The bill itself seems to have good intentions — tracking those incapacitated with Alzheimer’s and other fatal dementias who wander away from their homes or safe environments — but nonetheless represents vast overreach by the federal government.

Just because assisting mentally ill patients not get lost might be helpful to those patients does not mean we need a bill from Congress — which has no constitutional authority to mandate such devices be used under any circumstances, primarily since they would violate the Fourth Amendment on their face, constituting an unreasonable search. It would also violate the Fifth Amendment’s deprivation of liberty without due process.

These people should be writing science fiction, not legislation.

In a statement, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning blasted the proposal, saying, “It is almost too absurd to believe that it is true, but the House Judiciary Committee is considering H.R. 4919 that would allow for the Attorney General to authorize tracking chips to be inserted involuntarily into people who are incapacitated with Alzheimer’s and other fatal dementias. That is not the least restrictive means of tracking patients, of course, when a simple GPS tracking bracelet for example might do the trick, if a doctor thought one would be helpful for a specific patient.”

Manning continued, “In this case, Congress would be granting the Attorney General the power to regulate when human chips are used. But if this is about patient needs, why is this under the Department of Justice and not under the Department Health and Human Services? That alone makes the program suspicious. But the real question is why the government would have any role whatsoever in regulating the circumstances under which tracking devices are to be used on a mandatory basis, when such a system could be established by the private sector, and only ever used after private consultations between doctors, patients and patients’ families, when it is appropriate.”

Indeed. Why is the government regulating human tracking devices at all? And why via the Justice Department? Even if one thought this was a safety issue, it could be handled at the local level, that is, in jurisdictions where the private health care sector has provided such services to patients to notify local law enforcement when a patient becomes lost.

Since Manning issued his statement, Americans for Limited Government has been advised by the Judiciary Committee that the language is being expanded to exclude the possibility of inserted tracking chips, markings or anything else deemed “invasive” from being pursued as an option by the Attorney General.

Not good enough.

That might ameliorate concerns about chips being inserted into dementia or autism patients involuntarily by the Attorney General or anyone else, but would still represent vast overreach by the federal government.

Again, if tracking devices are medically necessary, they not only need not be surgical implants, but they should only be used at a doctor’s recommendation for patients, under individual, limited circumstances when it is medically necessary. All that should remain in the private sector, and up to individuals, doctors and families.

Americans for Limited Government emphatically opposes this legislation in any form. The human tracking device bill should be scrapped immediately, as the government has zero role in requiring or even facilitating that such devices be placed on any individual. The bill cannot be fixed, because there should not be any bill.

“If Congress has learned nothing else from Obama’s pen and phone rule over the past administration, they should have learned not to pass legislation giving the executive branch open-ended authority in such an area. This Congress needs to pass a short term continuing resolution and fade gracefully into the night, doing nothing else. It’s time to let the Obama administration end, not grant a few more Orwellian powers on the way out the door,” Manning concluded.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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