FDA Spied On Emails To Try To Silence Critics

from the and-it-may-have-just-made-new-critics dept

We've discussed how the government often seems much more focused on silencing leaks of information, rather than recognizing that those leaks are often highlighting serious misconduct. The latest example involves the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who apparently started trying to find the source of a leak, but in the end started collecting thousands of emails to try to stifle all sorts of criticism of the FDA, as revealed by the NY Times over the weekend.
What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.

Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency.
The details show that the FDA installed key logger software on the computers of their own scientists, tracked the personal emails they wrote to others, and tracked documents they copied to key drives. Now, you can make a reasonable argument that since these were work laptops, the FDA has every right to track the usage, but it seems pretty clear that the FDA went really far here, and it wasn't just about stopping leaks, but about trying to stifle criticism and whistleblowing.

In fact, much of the evidence suggests that this absolutely was an attempt to blow the whistle on faulty review procedures by the FDA, that resulted in the approval of medical imaging devices that weren't actually safe. And, apparently, the complaints by the whistleblowers were convincing enough that there's now a Congressional investigation into "a substantial and specific danger to public safety" from this activity.

If the FDA were functioning as it was supposed to, it would have seen these complaints as a reason to investigate its own activities. Instead, in the supposed attempt to "stop leaks," the FDA used this info to try to squelch the attempt to have its own practices investigated.

Filed Under: fda, key logger, leak, whistleblower

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  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 16 Jul 2012 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re:

    Monitor is ok, you can monitor what's done without logging passwords. Every1 has a banking life and most companies I know allow you to check your account from within the company network. So the question is, are they allowed to monitor your banking history and passwords? I don't think so, even if they don't plan to log into your account later.

    Besides, if there's enough sensitive information you have to block all access to the internet because you wouldn't be able to see exactly what's going through an encrypted connection that easily (please correct me if I'm wrong). I don't see how they could see who were the ppl the employees sent their e-mails on external webmails without effectively logging into their accounts.

    All the rest is fair game, including monitoring what files go into what usb sticks and that's something we know it's done regularly within the US Govt from Bradley Manning's case (again correct me if I'm mixing up something but they got to him by checking the files that were transferred to a usb stick with his login).

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