Robert Mueller Reveals Counterterrorism Intelligence Techniques Being Used to Combat Healthcare Fraud

We’ve long known that many of the techniques used to combat terrorism derived from the drug war. We’ve known that law enforcement agencies around the country are adopting counterterrorism techniques–and even PATRIOT Act tools–in regular law enforcement.

Robert Mueller just explained that the FBI is taking lessons learned in its counterterrorism intelligence techniques to combat healthcare fraud.

The comment was in response to a question from Amy Klobuchar. She noted that MN has pretty good success at cracking down on healthcare fraud, but inquired about “hot spots” in healthcare fraud.

Mueller responded by lauding the lessons FBI has learned in counterterrorism, then said [these are my notes–I’ll check his exact quote later], “building an intelligence infrastructure across the country allows us to see where … they’re going to go to next,” implying that they were using intelligence techniques to figure out where new healthcare fraud networks were going to pop up next.

Now, as Josh Gerstein noted on Twitter, FBI used the kind of administrative subpoenas now used to combat terrorism before they were used for terrorism. But Mueller’s comment seemed to suggest far more: I assume, given his reference to intelligence networks, FBI is using informants and the like to infiltrate suspected healthcare fraud networks.

I’m all in favor of making sure Medicare and Medicaid money goes to healthcare. But isn’t the use of intelligence networks in the healthcare industry rather invasive?

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

11 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    And the corollary question: If can use CT techniques to combat healthcare fraud, why not financial fraud on Wall Street?

  2. Tom Allen says:

    “But isn’t the use of intelligence networks in the healthcare industry rather invasive?”

    Ya think? Speaking as someone who’s now working in the heart of the beast, it’s incredibly invasive, and everybody knows it. It’s “for your protection” but it’s so obviously prone to abuse. Sound familiar? I’m just a little relieved to see that you’re mildly aware of the problem, Marcy. :-)

  3. allan says:

    But, but, … HIPAA!!!

    I’d almost be willing to sign over all my health records to the FBI if
    it meant I never had to sign another one of those HIPAA waivers.

  4. emptywheel says:

    @allan: I’m a very big fan of HIPAA. As a cancer survivor there are far too many times I feel like someone has ignored HIPAA to try to sell me something, which suggests there is probably far too much info on my medical history out there, generally.

  5. scribe says:

    FWIW, this kind of conduct by the FBI is nothing new. It was basically a precondition to having and keeping a medical license that doctors inform on their patients. In the old East Germany. To the Stasi.

  6. Doc says:

    For educational purposes, the use of standardized patient “in-vivo” and “in-vitro” has become more widespread.
    However, in both cases (in-vitro: when a scenario is well rehearsed and played out in a “Simulation Center” with initial knowledge of the participants regarding the artificial setting, in-vivo: when the role-playing is done in REAL hospital or clinic setting by using a standardized patient without initially informing the examinee that this concerns a simulation) permission of the ALL the individuals involved is necessary in advance.

    The Simulation model success depends on the depth of the suspension of disbelieve that the participants reach. However, there have been disastrous consequences on several occasions when the suspension of disbelief reaches extremes and the participants truly believe that they have committed a REAL medical error. Recently, psychologists have been employed in Mayo Simulation Center in order to assist with the debriefing after such incident.

    This educational model is obviously prone to abuse when adherence to ideology is assessed as opposed to medical practice when patients present with social conflict scenarios.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Calling it invasive is an understatement. This use of anti-terrorism techniques – “terrorism” being very much in the eye of the beholder – also demonstrates how perverse are Washington’s priorities. Combating health care fraud should be a subset of combating large-scale corporate crime, such as the banksters’ foreclosure and securities frauds. My concern is that the FBI’s focus is likely to be against individuals than corporations. The latter’s crimes cost the public and the government far more.

    As for “invasive”, this use of “counter-terrorism” techniques might serve to justify, to normalize, the FBI’s wholesale access to newly computerized personal healthcare records. Which begs another question, which is whether and to what extent private corporations are assisting this effort by the FBI. What use restrictions apply to the data once accessed?

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As for investigating waste, fraud and abuse, one would think there were ample targets of opportunity within the US government and its outsourcing “community”, and among American CEO’s. Despite mixed results, American CEO’s awarded themselves pay hikes of up to 40%. The CEO of “health care” company McKesson (thanks to his somnolent board) paid himself $145 million. Looters and rioters come in Savile Row suits, as well as ripped jeans and sneakers.

Comments are closed.