[Ip-health] Those high American standards.... Fukushima the public... with radiation
Riaz K Tayob
riaz.tayob at gmail.com
Sun Jul 15 07:25:30 PDT 2012
[With WHO having a fat lot to say about standards in poor countries,
will an objective stance be taken on US institutions? Or will WHO let
Americans be fried and whistleblowers be blown away?]
In Vast Effort, F.D.A. Spied on E-Mails of Its Own Scientists
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and SCOTT SHANE
Published: July 14, 2012
WASHINGTON — A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug
Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies
list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the
disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers,
labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously
undisclosed records show.
A list names three of the 21 people said to be collaborating in
criticism of the F.D.A., including employees and outside contacts.
A memo reports that monitoring software had been placed on the laptop of
an agency medical officer.
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.
F.D.A. officials defended the surveillance operation, saying that the
computer monitoring was limited to the five scientists suspected of
leaking confidential information about the safety and design of medical
While they acknowledged that the surveillance tracked the communications
that the scientists had with Congressional officials, journalists and
others, they said it was never intended to impede those communications,
but only to determine whether information was being improperly shared.
The agency, using so-called spy software designed to help employers
monitor workers, captured screen images from the government laptops of
the five scientists as they were being used at work or at home. The
software tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails,
copied the documents on their personal thumb drives and even followed
their messages line by line as they were being drafted, the documents show.
The extraordinary surveillance effort grew out of a bitter dispute
lasting years between the scientists and their bosses at the F.D.A. over
the scientists’ claims that faulty review procedures at the agency had
led to the approval of medical imaging devices for mammograms and
colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation.
A confidential government review in May by the Office of Special
Counsel, which deals with the grievances of government workers, found
that the scientists’ medical claims were valid enough to warrant a full
investigation into what it termed “a substantial and specific danger to
The documents captured in the surveillance effort — including
confidential letters to at least a half-dozen Congressional offices and
oversight committees, drafts of legal filings and grievances, and
personal e-mails — were posted on a public Web site, apparently by
mistake, by a private document-handling contractor that works for the
F.D.A. The New York Times reviewed the records and their day-by-day,
sometimes hour-by-hour accounting of the scientists’ communications.
With the documents from the surveillance cataloged in 66 huge
directories, many Congressional staff members regarded as sympathetic to
the scientists each got their own files containing all their e-mails to
or from the whistle-blowers. Drafts and final copies of letters the
scientists sent to Mr. Obama about their safety concerns were also included.
Last year, the scientists found that a few dozen of their e-mails had
been intercepted by the agency. They filed a lawsuit over the issue in
September, after four of the scientists had been let go, and The
Washington Post first disclosed the monitoring in January. But the wide
scope of the F.D.A. surveillance operation, its broad range of targets
across Washington, and the huge volume of computer information that it
generated were not previously known, even to some of the targets.
F.D.A. officials said that in monitoring the communication of the five
scientists, their e-mails “were collected without regard to the identity
of the individuals with whom the user may have been corresponding.”
While the F.D.A. memo described the Congressional officials and other
“actors” as collaborating in the scientists’ effort to attract negative
publicity, the F.D.A. said that those outside the agency were never
targets of the surveillance operation, but were suspected of receiving
Andy Lehren contributed reporting.
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