[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
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 
public safety.”

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 
confidential information.


Andy Lehren contributed reporting.

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