§ 1.496Orders authorizing the use of undercover agents and informants to criminally investigate employees or agents of VA.
(a)Application. A court order authorizing the placement of an undercover agent or informant in a VA drug or alcohol abuse, HIV infection, or sickle cell anemia treatment program as an employee or patient may be applied for by any law enforcement or prosecutorial agency which has reason to believe that employees or agents of the VA treatment program are engaged in criminal misconduct.
(b)Notice. The VA facility director must be given adequate notice of the application and an opportunity to appear and be heard (for the limited purpose of providing evidence on the statutory and regulatory criteria for the issuance of the court order), unless the application asserts a belief that:
(1) The VA facility director is involved in the criminal activities to be investigated by the undercover agent or informant; or
(2) The VA facility director will intentionally or unintentionally disclose the proposed placement of an undercover agent or informant to the employees or agents who are suspected of criminal activities.
(c)Criteria. An order under this section may be entered only if the court determines that good cause exists. To make this determination the court must find:
(1) There is reason to believe that an employee or agent of a VA treatment program is engaged in criminal activity;
(2) Other ways of obtaining evidence of this criminal activity are not available or would not be effective; and
(3) The public interest and need for the placement of an undercover agent or informant in the VA treatment program outweigh the potential injury to patients of the program, physician-patient relationships and the treatment services.
(d)Content of order. An order authorizing the placement of an undercover agent or informant in a VA treatment program must:
(1) Specifically authorize the placement of an undercover agent or an informant;
(2) Limit the total period of the placement to six months;
(3) Prohibit the undercover agent or informant from disclosing any patient identifying information obtained from the placement except as necessary to criminally investigate or prosecute employees or agents of the VA treatment program; and
(4) Include any other measures which are appropriate to limit any potential disruption of the program by the placement and any potential for a real or apparent breach of patient confidentiality; for example, sealing from public scrutiny the record of any proceeding for which disclosure of a patient's record has been ordered.
(e)Limitation on use of information. No information obtained by an undercover agent or informant placed under this section may be used to criminally investigate or prosecute any patient or as the basis for an application for an order under § 1.494 of this part.