Stephen M. Kohn, NWC Executive Director and attorney for six FDA whistleblowers, said:
Senator Grassley Asks If FDA Monitored All Employees the Same as Whistleblowers
Washington, D.C. February 2, 2012. Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) launched an investigation in response to a lawsuit filed by six FDA whistleblowers and documents released by the National Whistleblowers Center that show the FDA targeted whistleblowers for special monitoring and intercepted personal communications to Congress, including emails to Senator Grassley's staff.
Senator Grassley, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a highly respected advocate of government oversight, launched an investigation into the FDA's targeted monitoring of whistleblowers. The Senator specifically asked FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg whether or not whistleblowers were singled out for special monitoring based on a letter they wrote to President-Elect Obama's Transition Team.
The FDA went far beyond 'routine
monitoring.' They unconstitutionally targeted one group of employees
simply because they had the guts to speak up about misconduct. The FDA
cannot use unconstitutional tactics to enforce an otherwise neutral
employee surveillance policy.
Targeted monitoring has a devastating chilling effect on all public
employees, strangling the ability of the American public and Congress to
learn about misconduct and corruption in the federal government.
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.
The NWC issued an Action Alert
strongly encouraging the public to send email to the President, FDA
officials, and members of Congress demanding that the six whistleblowers
be protected and targeted surveillance be halted throughout the
Senator Grassley's Letter to FDA Commissioner
FDA Whistleblower Complaint