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Common Dreams

NYT: FDA Engaged in Widespread Spying on Whistleblowers

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Common Dreams staff

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) engaged in widespread spying on its own scientists, a New York Times story exposes.

The surveillance began over a group of 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," the Times reports.

The Times explains that the FDA used "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."

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Stephen M. Kohn, the Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center and the lead attorney for the FDA whistleblowers, says that the surveillance program described in the Times "was illegal. The story demonstrated how government mangers used a covert spying program to interfere with the ability of federal employees to lawfully report significant threats to the public safety to Congress, law enforcement officials and the American people. We hope that these public disclosures will mark the beginning of the end of government spying on employees who report misconduct to the appropriate authorities."

"It is well established that American citizens do not forgo their First or Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights when they work for the government. The opposite is true. The U.S. Supreme Court and numerous lower courts have recognized the importance of protecting government workers who expose wrongdoing. These protections are vital to a democratic society. Government whistleblowers are often the most important source of information exposing government misconduct, corruption and the waste of taxpayer money."

"The conduct by FDA managers, designed to undermine a group of doctors and scientists who reported significant health and safety violations, is deplorable. Those involved must be held accountable," stated Kohn.

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