Scientists Sue FDA for Secret Surveillance

 

Well, this is interesting (via New Scientist):

Six scientists and doctors are now suing the FDA for intercepting their private emails and installing spyware on their computers, after they blew the whistle on problems with the approval of medical devices.

In 2008, four of the six plaintiffs told the US Congress that they had been pressured by FDA managers to alter their conclusions that computer-aided detection devices, used to interpret mammograms and other radiological scans, were not effective.

According to the National Whistleblowers Center,

The lawsuit filed last week by the six whislteblowers details how the FDA began targeting employees for special monitoring after learning that the employees blew the whistle on managers’ misconduct in approving unsafe medical devices. The Agency installed (or activated) spyware on their workplace computers and used other technology that to monitor their password-protected Gmail-to-Gmail communications and take contemporaneous screen shots of the employees’ computer screens.

The FDA’s prolonged, covert monitoring of the whistleblowers continued even after the HHS Office of Inspector General denied the FDA’s request to take any criminal and/or administrative action against the whistleblowers. In their letter of refusal, the OIG explicitly informed the FDA that the whistleblowers’ communications to Congress were protected under law.

This “went far beyond ‘routine monitoring,'” said NWC Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn, who is also serving as the plaintiffs’ attorney. “They unconstitutionally targeted one group of employees simply because they had the guts to speak up about misconduct.”

Senator Charles Grassley has launched an investigation into the matter.

You can see documents related to the case here and here. The NWC’s public call to action is here.

Image by Truthout.org, via Flickr

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