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.
Stephen M. Kohn, NWC Executive Director and attorney for six FDA whistleblowers, said:
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 government.