The Washington Post expanded on this weekend's blockbuster New York Times article revealing the FDA's invasive surveillance on employees, reporters, and congressional staffers in an attempt to target seven scientist-whistleblowers who raised concerns about excessive radiation emitted from mammogram and colonoscopy machines.
This scandal includes an "enemies list," outsourced surveillance, spyware on dogs, and numerous other outrages.
The Washington Post reported that
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said that his staff had learned that the spying was “explicitly authorized, in writing” by the agency’s top legal office.
Learning from the now-infamous Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel and my law school classmate John Yoo, who twisted the law to justify torture, the FDA's chief counsel apparently reviewed and authorized the surveillance in a secret memo. The FDA's defense is so lame it is hard to take it with a straight face:
She said that the surveillance was limited in scope . . . The FDA acknowledged Friday that targeted surveillance of five employees began in mid-2010, but it said that was not ongoing today, . . .
The fact that FDA targeted only the whistleblowers, whose communications included legally-protected disclosures to the media, congress, and the Office of Special Counsel, makes the monitoring more problematic, not less.
An FDA spokeswoman assured WaPo that:
“We did not impede or interfere with any employee communication to Congress, their staff, media or federal investigators,” she said.
But, the very act of monitoring IS interfering with the communications. If you know the FDA is monitoring your e-mails you might think twice about revealing to government investigators or Congress or the media that the FDA is disregarding the public health and safety of Americans.
I discussed the FDA's spying on Russian T.V. last night:
It is amazing how outraged Congress can become when it is Members of Congress who are targeted by the growing surveillance state. Senator Grassley compared the FDA's spying to the Gestapo in the New York Times:
He added that agency officials “have absolutely no business reading the private e-mails of their employees. They think they can be the Gestapo and do anything they want.”
Yesterday, I wrote that FDAgate should serve as a wake up call to anyone not alarmed by the growing surveillance state. That point bears reiterating in light of WaPo's report that the spying on whistleblowers was authorized at the highest levels of FDA:
If a non-intelligence agency is capable of engaging in such invasive, legally-problematic and chilling spying on employees, imagine what the FBI, CIA, NSA, Department of Defense and State Department can do to employees. Such widespread surveillance should not be permitted to continue unchecked because -- whether it is an intelligence agency or the FDA -- the surveillance will inevitably be used to spy on and silence critics, and will further metastacize in the surveillance state we've already created.
When will people wake up?
UPDATE: Stephen Kohn, who represents several of the scientist whistleblowers revealed on Democracy Now! this morning that the spyware FDA used went into the whistleblowers' flash drives and personal property. Kohn: "Insidious nature of electronic surveillance" allowed the FDA to start with one whistleblower and then target all of the whistleblowers' supporters.
Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.