Imagine being at work, and the first thing that flashes up on your computer when you switch it on is a warning that you should have “no reasonable expectation of privacy”?
This is the case for employees at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who, according to the Washington Post, have been told that any data that passes through the Agency’s systems may be intercepted by the government. (1)
Although, instead of the FDA’s “no reasonable expectation of privacy” warning referring to potential government interceptions, it would be more accurate if it warned employees not expect any privacy from their own employer – the FDA.
A hugely damning report published by the New York Times blew the lid on a secret FDA surveillance conspiracy.
What started in 2010 as a small-scale investigation of five FDA scientists suspected of leaking confidential agency information, rapidly escalated into a much more comprehensive surveillance campaign.
The surveillance effort included the FDA secretly monitoring thousands of emails, which, as the New York Times states, included ones that the ‘disgruntled’ scientists had sent privately to lawyers, journalists, members of Congress, labour officials and even President Obama. (2)
Why the FDA is so Concerned
Why would the FDA be so intent on spying on its own scientists and, in doing so, risking its own reputation and credibility? In other words, what does the Food and Drug Administration have to hide?
The New York Time’s report goes on to say that the surveillance project had identified 21 FDA employees who had been collaborating with outside medical experts, journalists and Congressional officials in order to expose “defamatory” and negative information about the FDA.
The FDA was so resolutely worried that this inside/outside collaboration could stain its ‘squeaky clean’ image that the agency created a covert spying operation that Israel’s Mossad would be proud of. That fact alone does indeed suggest that the FDA, the gatekeeper and regulator of America’s food and drug industries, has something to hide.
Doubts over the integrity and reliability of the FDA first surfaced when several employees voiced concern over radiological devices that had been approved. Concern was generated by the fact that an ultrasound device could potentially harm a fetus, another device that failed to detect signs of breast cancer, and equipment to screen for colon cancer that may actually cause colon cancer due to large doses of radiation. (3)
In February of this year, the North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology wrote about FDA employees alerting the House and Energy Committee that the Agency had “ordered, intimidated, and coerced FDA experts to modify their scientific reviews, conclusions and recommendations in violation of the law.” (3)
President Obama Alerted by FDA Insiders
So intent were the FDA experts in blowing the whistle on the FDA’s fraudulent internal operations that a letter was addressed to President Obama, which according to the North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, “raised questions of public concern”.
These concerns included, but were not limited to, corruption within the FDA device review process, managerial misconduct, dangers to public health, welfare and safety, and retaliation against whistleblowers.” (3)
The New York Times provided additional details about the FDA’s “extraordinary surveillance effort”. The secret spy effort included the FDA using spy software that tracked the scientist’s keystrokes, copied documents on personal thumb drives and even intercepted private emails.
As well as exploiting spy software to monitor the scientist’s every move, the FDA also captured screen images from the government laptops of the five scientists when they were used at both home and at work. (2)
In its defense, FDA officials defended the surveillance operation, claiming that the monitoring of computers was limited to five scientists who were suspected of exposing confidential information about the design and safety of certain medical devices. (2)
The FDA Backpeddles
The FDA’s cries of defense that it was only monitoring the personal information in fear that the five scientists were going to blow the lid on unsafe medical equipment surely confirms that the Agency was desperately trying to keep its huge blunder and misconduct hidden.
The scientists who were targeted in the surveillance operation have filed a lawsuit against the agency and are now attempting to sue the FDA for violating their privacy and right to free speech.
Talking about his predictions for the investigation, Stephen M. Kohn, the scientist’s lawyer told the Washington Post:
“Given the public health and safety nature of the concerns raised by these doctors and scientists, any authorization by the chief counsel would be startling, disturbing and should result in a swift investigation.” (1)
Reiterating the “absurdity” of the FDA’s surveillance project on its employees, Dr Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat who has analyzed the FDA’s medical review procedures told the New York Times:
“The FDA is discouraging whistleblowers. They have absolutely no business reading the private e-mails of their employees. They think they can be the Gestapo and do anything they want.” (2)