In the guise of a proposal for “medical quarantine“, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have proposed regulations that would give CDC employees sweeping martial-law powers of warrantless search, interrogation, tracking of movements, arrest, and extrajudicial mass detention (at the detainees’ own expense!) of individuals or entire groups of unlimited numbers of people for unlimited periods of time.
The proposal revives a dormant decade-old rulemaking initiated after the 2001 and 2005 anthrax scares in Washington, DC. But rather than finalizing the rules proposed (and widely criticized) in 2005, or responding to the comments submitted back then in response to the original proposal, the CDC has published a new and different but perhaps even more objectionable replacement proposal. It’s unclear why this is happening now, but it seems likely that the CDC feels a political necessity to be seen as “doing something” to prepare for the possibility of another outbreak of Ebola virus disease.
As we say in comments we filed today with the CDC:
The NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] describes the proposed rules as a medical quarantine program. But they go far beyond what is medically indicated, authorized by statute, or permitted by the Constitution.
The CDC’s proposal completely ignores existing medical and legal procedures for involuntary commitment of individuals determined to constitute a danger to themselves or others. Instead, the proposed rules include:
- indefinite extrajudicial mass detention without due process,
- compelled responses by travelers to extrajudicial interrogation concerning their exercise of First Amendment rights including rights of movement and assembly, regardless of whether there is any current outbreak of any communicable disease, much less whether there is any basis for belief that any specific traveler subjected to this interrogation is infected with such a disease; and
- charging innocent detainees for the costs of their detention.
These misguided, unauthorized, and unconstitutional proposals should be withdrawn.