Congress Questions Federal E-mail Surveillance Policies

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Congress Questions Federal E-mail Surveillance Policies
Washington DC. March 6, 2012. Yesterday, Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Darrell Issa released a letter asking the Obama Administration for assistance in assessing the e-mail monitoring policies of all federal agencies. This letter was sent in light of Congressional and Office of Special Counsel investigations into the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) illegal targeting of whistleblowers for highly-intrusive monitoring.
The Congressional investigations raised the “broader question about the policies and practices for electronic surveillance at other federal agencies” and asked the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget to conduct a survey of every federal agency’s policy.

These investigations were sparked by a lawsuit filed by six FDA whistleblowers and documents released by the National Whistleblowers Center that show the FDA intercepted personal communications to Congress, including emails to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Lindsey M. Williams, NWC Director of Advocacy and Development, said:

Federal employees should have free reign to report waste, fraud and abuse to responsible government authorities using government or personal property. Americans should be concerned that Congress even has to ask the question, “Can an employee use taxpayer-funded equipment to blow the whistle on government misconduct?”

However, a broader inquiry is necessary because the events at FDA suggest that other agencies may be engaging in similar illegal activity. The Congressional investigation into how each and every federal agency is monitoring its employees’ personal e-mail accounts is the logical next step in this investigation. Congress and the OSC are truly doing their job by making sure that no other agency is illegally spying on whistleblowers.

The NWC issued an Action Alert strongly encouraging the public to send emails to the President, FDA officials, and members of Congress demanding that the six whistleblowers be protected and targeted surveillance be halted throughout the federal government.

Links:

Representative Issa’s Letter to FDA Commissioner

Senator Grassley’s Letter to FDA Commissioner

FDA Whistleblower Complaint

Letter from the HHS OIG

Whistleblowers’ Letter to Obama Transition Team

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