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F.D.A. Is Spying On It's Own Employees:
Trying To Criminalize and Silence Critics and Whistleblowers
Last week it was reported by the N.Y. Times that the Food and Drug
Administration is carrying out a massive surveillance program against its
own scientists and outside critics of the agency's medical review process.
As the Times article reported: "A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration
against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it
secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists
sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials,
journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show.
What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of
confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in
mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the
agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than
80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.
Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the
F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency
employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and
journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and
“defamatory” information about the agency." (see
Spyware has been installed on scientists' laptop computers which:
•captured screen images of their work and communications
•intercepted their personal emails
•copied files from their thumb drives
•followed their messages as they were being typed keystroke by keystroke
This spy operation yielded at least 80,000 pages of surveillance reports
on these scientists.
The operation only came to light because the surveillance company used by
the F.D.A. mistakenly posted the files on the web where they were
The background of this is that some scientists in the F.D.A. have been
criticizing faulty review procedures at the agency which in their view had
led to the approval of medical imaging devices for mammograms and
colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation.
Clearly the leaders of the agency did not like this and wanted to stifle
The F.D.A. - and the Obama administration in general - have not stopped
this program - they are continuing to defend it. They are trying to
justify it by saying they believe these scientists were leaking
confidential information about the safety and design of medical devices.
But according to the Times article: “...a confidential government review in May by the Office of Special
Counsel, which deals with the grievances of government workers, found that
the scientists’ medical claims were valid enough to warrant a full
investigation into what it termed “a substantial and specific danger to
There is NO justification for the police-state tactics of the FDA against
scientists and journalists. How can real science be done in such an
atmosphere? How can the public learn essential scientific and health
Obama administration officials have sent out a duplicitous memo about
'the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a governmentwide
memo last month emphasizing that while the internal monitoring of employee
communications was allowed, it could not be used under the law to
intimidate whistle-blowers. Any monitoring must be done in ways that “do
not interfere with or chill employees’ use of appropriate channels to
disclose wrongdoing,”.' (New York Times – same article)
So...Police state tactics are just fine as long as they don't intimidate anyone!
And if you follow the logic of this one step further, it leads to this: if
you are intimidated or even complain, that must mean you are guilty as
This is all an intolerable outrage and must be stopped immediately. It is
not “ok” for things like this to be happening to “some” people. It is not
“ok” for pervasive government spying on and attempts to silence scientists
to become the “new normal”.
The way that the government in this case acted as if massive and
intrusive electronic surveillance of scientists and journalists is just
fine points to a larger concern: the increasing intrusive government
surveillance of society, and the prevailing atmosphere that we should all just
get used to it - "Privacy is dead". Consider, on July 8, the New York
Times reported on the 1.3 million demands last year from law enforcement
agencies on cell phone carriers for subscriber information – meaning
peoples' names, locations, who they called, etc. (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/09/us/cell-carriers-see-uptick-in-requests-to-aid-surveillance.html?_r=1 )