Earlier this year, six current and former FDA employees filed a complaint against the agency to stop them from illegally spying on employees’ private communications to Congress and other oversight agencies.
The FDA targeted its employees with a covert spying campaign for two years after learning the employees wrote a letter to President Obama detailing government misconduct in approving unsafe medical devices.
The Agency installed spyware on their workplace computers and monitored their password-protected Gmail-to-Gmail communications.
Now, according to the New York Times, the FDA spying campaign was much broader and involved 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, and outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency.
The FDA used spy software designed to help employers monitor workers, and captured screen images from the government laptops of scientists as they were used to work from home.
“The software 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 documents show.”
The software used to track the FDA scientists is sold by SpectorSoft of Vero Beach, Fla., and costs as little as $99.95 for individual use, or $2,875 to place the program on 25 computers. It is marketed mainly to employers to monitor their workers and to parents to keep tabs on their children’s computer activities.
“Monitor everything they do,” says SpectorSoft’s Web site. “Catch them red-handed by receiving instant alerts when keywords or phrases are typed or are contained in an e-mail, chat, instant message or Web site.”
As the Times article notes, the FDA program did all of that and more, as its operators analyzed the results from their early e-mail interceptions and used them to search for new “actors,” develop new keywords to search and map out future areas of concern.
When the intercepted e-mails revealed that two of the scientists under surveillance were drafting a complaint in 2010 that they had planned to take to the Office of Special Counsel, they were fired before the complaint was filed; a third scientist was suspended.
The New York Times maintains the FDA surveillance was intended to protect trade secrets for companies like G.E., which is total nonsense.
The FDA’s motive was to protect the corporate business interests for companies like G.E. by terminating FDA whistleblowers who planned to expose serious faults in expensive medical devices.
It is unacceptable for the FDA to be spying on employees willing to contact members of Congress to expose abuses by government agencies.
Republican Senator Charles E. Grassley, said “the FDA is discouraging whistle-blowers.” He added that agency officials “have absolutely no business reading the private e-mails of their employees. They think they can be the Gestapo and do anything they want.”
The FDA has a history of food and product safety covered-ups, lies, willful deception, intimidation, and through deliberate neglect, the agency is responsible for the needless deaths and illnesses of tens of thousands of American citizens.