The Food and Drug Administration was recently discovered monitoring 5 of their own scientists’ every communication and keystroke on government computers at work and at home. The FDA claims it was looking into supposedly leaked sensitive information, but the 80,000 snooped and saved e-mails reveal that the FDA “tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails, copied the documents on their personal thumb drives and even followed their messages line by line as they were being drafted”. The 5 scientists were being tracked as suspected whistle blowers who would expose FDA corruption to congress. (Full Article Here).
The scientists had claimed for years that the reviews done by the FDA of medical imaging devices ignored the fact that the devices exposed patients to dangerous amounts of radiation.
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 public safety.”
Last September after 4 of the scientists being tracked were let go and the information surfaced that at least a few dozen of their e-mails had been intercepted, they filed a lawsuit against the FDA.
While federal agencies have broad discretion to monitor their employees’ computer use, the F.D.A. program may have crossed legal lines by grabbing and analyzing confidential information that is specifically protected under the law, including attorney-client communications, whistle-blower complaints to Congress and workplace grievances filed with the government.
Seeing as the scientists were fired, it would appear that action was taken against them without regard to legitimate concerns, instead focusing on their whistle blowing efforts to inform the public about being exposed to dangerous FDA approved radiation. At least some senior FDA officials knew of the surveillance program, but it is unclear who authorized it or if it continues. The scientists’ lawyer said he is looking into it, especially since in addition to the 4 scientists that were fired, 2 scientists still employed by the FDA are suing.
Politicians of both major parties have expressed major concerns over the surveillance, especially since their own staff were some of those who’s e-mails were intercepted. They agree that this was an effort to suppress whistle blowing and that it is very important to maintain transparency in federal organizations as well as protect those who raise legitimate concerns about internal processes of agencies who have a responsibility to taxpayers and the American people in general. The FDA even sought out other government agencies in an effort to charge the scientists for leaking the information, but those agencies told the FDA that it is not illegal to leak possible public health risks to the media. That is when the FDA began their monitoring program, undeterred.
One thing that the computer spy program revealed to FDA officials was:
that a few of the scientists under surveillance were drafting a complaint in 2010 that they planned to take to the Office of Special Counsel. A short time later, before the complaint was filed, Dr. Smith and another complaining scientist were let go and a third was suspended.
In another case, the intercepted e-mails indicated that Paul T. Hardy, another of the dissident employees, had reapplied for an F.D.A. job “and is being considered for a position.” (He did not get it.)
F.D.A. officials were eager to track future media stories too. When they learned from Mr. Hardy’s e-mails that he was considering talking to PBS’s “Frontline” for a documentary, they ordered a search for anything else on the same topic.
The database of information collected on the scientists was found online by one of the fired scientists doing a google search to see if there would be negative publicity about him. He was concerned this would have a negative effect on later job applications, but instead found that the FDA had leaked far more sensitive information and much more of it than had ever been released by the scientists. Pure and simple the FDA was suppressing the fact that it approved a medical imaging device which exposed patients to dangerous amounts of radiation.
This is not the first time, nor the most serious suppression carried out by the FDA. Throughout the 90’s the FDA sued Dr. Burzynski several times, losing all but one case. Dr. Burzynski had found a drug that was extremely effective in combating cancer, but the FDA claimed he had violated interstate commerce laws. Dr. Burzynski’s patients protested against the FDA and testified before congress to get the FDA to stop harassing their doctor who had cured many patients of the most serious types of cancer. Luckily Dr. Burzynski was never punished, but to this day the FDA will not allow his trials to continue unmolested. This is on top of the fact that not one single patient of Dr. Burzynski had a bad reaction or suffered from his drug in any way; there were not even extreme side effects. The federal government tried to find a patient of Dr. Burzynski’s who would testify against him, they could not find a single patient to testify against him, despite the hundreds he had treated. Read the Full Story of Dr. Burzynski here!