18 July 2012

Congress clashes with food watchdog over surveillance

Top lawyers from the US Food and Drug Administration are preparing to face tough questions from Congress after allegedly authorising the surveillance of agency scientists who had expressed concerns over the safety of medical products.

Safety concerns

Safety concerns

According to the Blog of Legal Times, Senator Chuck Grassley has confirmed that his office received information that a FDA official asked the agency’s general counsel office to consider a programme that included monitoring employee e-mail correspondence.

Interfering with Congress

Senator Grassley then demanded that the FDA divulge the official’s name and the memo, reminding the agency that interfering with a congressional inquiry is against the law.
‘It is evident from the documents I have obtained that FDA did in fact target communications with Congress for monitoring and then took adverse personnel actions against FDA whistleblowers who were communicating with Congress,’ Legal Times quoted the senator as saying. ‘FDA's misconduct cannot be ignored,’ he warned.

Whistleblower protection

According to the blog, Senator Grassley added that the documents will be handed to the Department of Justice for investigation – with allegations of violations of whistleblower protection statutes and the Stored Communications Act being a possible outcome.
Six FDA scientists and doctors filed a lawsuit in January against the FDA in a Washington US District Court, accusing the agency of surveillance over two years as the plaintiffs accessed their personal G-mail accounts from government computers.
According to Legal Times, the agency has so far not commented.

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