Senator blasts FDA for spying on internal whistleblowers

A wide-ranging spying operation targeting a small group of whistleblowers at the FDA has aroused Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a long-time critic of the agency. In a blistering letter to the FDA, Grassley said that the electronic surveillance of the scientists inside the agency was approved by its attorneys in writing. And he's not in the least bit happy to see headlines about secret probes aimed at the agency's internal critics.

"The FDA's actions represent serious impediments to the right of agency employees to make protected disclosures about waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or public safety," wrote Grassley.

The Washington Post broke the surveillance story at the beginning of the year. But then The New York Times found a database stuffed with some 80,000 pages gathered in the probe and evidently inadvertently posted online by a government contractor. In the stack were plans to intercept communications with Congressional staffers as well as their draft complaints for the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that is charged with investigating allegations of governmental wrongdoing. 

Altogether, the Times reported, the FDA identified 21 agency employees, Congressional staffers, journalists, researchers and others who agency officials believed were collaborating in an effort to tarnish the FDA's reputation. That deep dive clearly upset Grassley and others in Congress who have been critical of the agency.

For its part the FDA has insisted that it only gathered materials from the scientists' government computers, starting in mid-2010. And while they sought to determine if any confidential information was being improperly exposed, there was no effort to impede the email messages in any way.

The scientists have since sued the agency.

- here's the story from The Washington Post

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