TN 1 (12-18)

GN 03312.001 Disclosure Without Consent for Law Enforcement Purposes

The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. § 552a(b)(7)) permits, but does not require, a Federal agency to disclose personal information from its systems of records to another agency or to an instrumentality of any governmental jurisdiction within or under the control of the United States for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity if the activity is authorized by law, and if the head of the agency or instrumentality has made a written request to the agency which maintains the record specifying the particular portion desired and the law enforcement activity for which the record is sought.

Our regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 401.155 further define when we may disclose program records for law enforcement purposes. Those regulations are more restrictive than the Privacy Act’s law enforcement exception. Our regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 401.110(g) further define when we may disclose non-program records for law enforcement purposes. Those regulations are consistent with the Privacy Act’s law enforcement exception in this section.

We also permit disclosure of certain records to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for civil and criminal investigation purposes related to tax administration. GN 03313.060.C provides more guidance on IRS criminal investigation requests.

A. Situations under which the Social Security Administration (SSA) may disclose information for law enforcement purposes

The Privacy Act and our regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 401.155 explain the situations under which we may disclose program information for a law enforcement activity if we receive a valid law enforcement request:

  • criminal activity involving serious crimes (e.g., murder, rape, or kidnapping) where the individual about whom information is being sought has been indicted or convicted of that crime.

When disclosing information under bullet one, we will only disclose information about the individual that has been indicted or convicted of the crime, consistent with 20 C.F.R. § 401.155(b).

  • investigation or prosecution of criminal activity involving fraud or abuse in our programs or other government income-maintenance or health-maintenance programs (e.g., other governmental pension programs, unemployment compensation, general assistance, Medicare or Medicaid). The information must concern eligibility, benefit amounts or other matters of benefit status in a Social Security program and be relevant to determining the same matters in the other income- or health-maintenance program.

When disclosing information under bullet two in this section (20 C.F.R. § 401.155(c)), where possible, we will only disclose information pertaining to individuals who are the subject of the investigation, indictment, prosecution, or conviction. However, if the law enforcement agency provides sufficient justification for why victims or other parties’ information is relevant and necessary to its investigation, we may disclose such information. For privacy reasons, disclosure of victim or other party information should be a rare occurrence. Please consult with the Office of Privacy and Disclosure when there are questions concerning disclosure of a victims or other parties’ information or what constitutes a valid indictment.

The Privacy Act and our regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 401.110(g) explain the situations under which we may disclose non-program information for a law enforcement purposes if we receive a valid law enforcement request:

  • to another agency or to an instrumentality of any governmental jurisdiction within or under the control of the United States for a civil or criminal law enforcement activity if the activity is authorized by law.

In addition to the above situations where we may disclose information under the law enforcement exception to the Privacy Act, we may disclose program or non-program information for law enforcement purposes in the following situations:

  • if the subject of record consents to the disclosure (follow the procedures in GN 03305);

  • if a Federal law requires us to disclose records (20 C.F.R. § 401.120 );

  • if there is a compelling situation involving health and safety of an individual (follow the procedures in GN 03312.095);

  • if the system of records notice from which we are disclosing the information has a routine use allowing SSA to disclose the information. For instance, many agency systems of records notices include a routine use permitting disclosures for investigations or prosecutions of persons engaging in activities that jeopardize or could jeopardize the security and safety of members of the public served by us, our employees or workplace, or that otherwise disrupt the operations of our facilities (including State Disability Determination Service facilities). In this instance, we can generally disclose information to Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies, as well as private security contractors; or

  • in exceptional cases involving law enforcement activities in which a disclosure is not allowed under other disclosure regulations, the Commissioner or a designee may approve, on a case-by-case basis, the disclosure of non-tax return information under the ad hoc disclosure provisions of the regulation (20 C.F.R. § 401.195).

B. Field office (FO) procedures for law enforcement disclosures

When handling requests, FOs should determine how the requests affect their resources and normal operations and, as necessary, seek guidance from the regional office, through the regional Privacy Act Coordinator (PAC).

FOs or other SSA components will adhere to the following procedures when handling of law enforcement requests.

IF THE REQUEST IS FROM A AND THEN
Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency The request meets our criteria for disclosure The receiving FO or other SSA component may disclose the requested information. If there are questions concerning the appropriateness of a disclosure, the FO or other SSA component should consult with the component PAC. As necessary, the component PAC should consult with the Office of Privacy and Disclosure, Office of the General Counsel.
The request does not meet our criteria for disclosure The receiving FO or other SSA component should send a denial letter to the requester, explaining why we cannot disclose the requested information. Do not include appeal language as appeal rights do not apply.
A portion of the request meets our criteria for disclosure; thus, we may disclose a portion of the information The receiving FO or other SSA component should provide the information that may be disclosed and briefly explain why the withheld information cannot be disclosed. If the reason we cannot disclose is based on a legal opinion, do not disclose the opinion as part of the agency’s explanation. Do not include appeal language as appeal rights do not apply.

To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0203312001
GN 03312.001 - Disclosure Without Consent for Law Enforcement Purposes - 12/21/2018
Batch run: 12/21/2018
Rev:12/21/2018