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The FDA Spied On Its Own Scientists 95

retroworks writes "The New York Times has an interesting article about efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to locate a source of 'leaks' within the agency. The search became a slippery slope involving trojans, keyloggers, screenshot captures, and an investigation that eventually became an allegory for management overkill. The article describes how the investigation of one employee expanded to five, and how the investigation of five led to other staff (including the interception of correspondence to President Obama). The Agency struggled with the gray area between protecting trade secrets of drug companies (which had applied for FDA approval) and censoring researchers with legitimate questions about the Agency's approval process."
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The FDA Spied On Its Own Scientists

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  • Re:On the one hand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @02:42AM (#40653775)

    There is a difference between employers monitoring workstations to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, and the employer monitoring workstations to search for whistleblowers. A big fucking difference.

    No employer has a right to hunt down employees who disclose illegal or unethical acts, especially if it is the federal government. The fact that messages to Congress were monitored is also a major issue. Federal law states:

    The right of employees, individually or collectively, to petition Congress or a Member of Congress, or to furnish information to either House of Congress, or to a committee or Member thereof, may not be interfered with or denied. - 5 USC 7211

    There are also numerous whistleblower protections. Pooh-pooh it if you want, but it is highly likely that numerous federal laws were broken by the FDA in this spying operation.

  • Re:FTC (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jma05 ( 897351 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:01AM (#40653843)

    Uh, answering my own post with a counter-argument, spying on your employees really isn't a very good way to accomplish this though. It creates distrust, bad morale, etc. I think there must be a better way to accomplish the same goal, of secrecy.

    The issue is not distrust, bad morale, etc. Again, you are only looking at this from a mundane office perspective. That's just an issue of productivity. This is a much bigger issue than that. This is an inquisition on whistle blowers. It is an issue over the very soul for FDA and unlike your average office spying, is very much a headline article.

  • by harvey the nerd ( 582806 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:05AM (#40653859)
    The FDA has to protect many important pharma secrets, like payoffs for the bosses and the new drugs that maim and kill. Really. Of course they want to keep an eye on the grunt scientists, one might get disgruntled and spill the beans, again.
  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @03:36AM (#40653973) Homepage Journal

    What's wrong with a little hyperbole?

    As for being turned into an orangutan - I just thought is sounded funny. (For some people, that would actually be beneficial, I think.)

    The bees? True - no one knows for certain yet what is causing honey bee colony collapse. But, an awful lot of credible evidence points to pesticides. Both pesticides that are applied to crops, as well as pesticides produced by genetically modified crops. Bayer's pesticide is the leading suspect, at this point in time. Bee colony collapse is global, but pesticide usage is also global.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday July 15, 2012 @04:16AM (#40654135) Journal

    Fortunately, federal law disagrees with you. Whistleblowing is the right of a worker, not an entitlement. And retaliating against a whistleblower is a crime.

    You probably will want to review this information personally and not trust the idiot who told you that ever again.

    Federal law in whistle blowing only covers certain subjects pertaining to certain parts of those subjects. There have been several cases in the last 10 years where people who thought as you do ended up on the losing side of the argument. Garcetti v. Ceballos come to mind off the top of my head, and we are still in the process of prosecuting Private Manning for what he calls whistle blowing and it doesn't look like he has any defense at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 15, 2012 @07:25AM (#40654709)
    Let me call a halt to this "failed organisation", "in pockets of big pharma" circle jerk.

    If you want a pharama company in this country (UK) to shit their pants, tell them they are about to be inspected by the FDA. No other organisation we have to deal with (we deal with the equivalent of the FDA from every country we market product to) instils such down right fear in the factory manager to the quality assurance through the scientists to the cleaner mopping the floors as they do. The FDA know they have been caught with their pants down on more than one occasion, and are out for blood. Also, now there is no longer a Republican in the white house, they feel able to do their job. Don't believe me? Take a look at the number of warning letters and recalls (the way by which the FDA assert their power on the companies) issued by the FDA to drug companies over the past few years:

    I hate to use websites obviously pushing an agenda, but there is a graph from 1996 to 2006: []

    And from 2004 to 2011 []

    Notice the (political) trend?

    They are also the single most paranoid organisation we have dealings with, which most likely explains this spying incident. The FDA have also had a lot of trouble lately with scientists leaking information on drug trials to the stock markets. This makes a lot of people very wealthy at the expense of others. Doesn't justify what they have done, but does explain why.

    But then again, these are just my experiences, I don't work for an american big pharma company and their is always an element of national-why aren't you making the drug in *our* country-protectionism within every one of these organisations.

    Posting anonymously for obvious reasons.

grep me no patterns and I'll tell you no lines.