‘Chilling Effect’ Far-Reaching if Congress Fails to Act
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is publicly denouncing the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) implementation of an invasive and potentially illegal surveillance system instituted against employees trying to blow the whistle on critical safety issues surrounding medical devices.
The New York Times revealed the in-depth surveillance program in an explosive piece this past weekend. That article detailed how the agency monitored and “secretly captured thousands” of email communications between the whistleblowers and members of the media, Congress, attorneys, other regulatory officials, and the White House. Many of these communications are protected by various whistleblower laws. Subsequent reports show that agency lawyers approved these measures.
Amanda Hitt, GAP Public Health Director, and Director of GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign (which aims to protect whistleblowers at the FDA), stated:
“While the outcry by Congress and regulators thus far against the FDA is encouraging, the damage may have already been done. It’s hard to imagine how this fiasco won’t have a chilling effect on future FDA whistleblowers, and employees from all sorts of government agencies.
“This foray into espionage is nothing more than a service the agency provides to its 'clients.' Simply put, the FDA is spying on its own to protect the financial interests of the very corporations it is bound to regulate.”
GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, who monitors the federal government’s use of surveillance, stated:
"Like a virus, the systematic mass surveillance of federal employees has spread beyond national security agencies to domestic ones – to programs that in no way involve classified information. This FDA program was not the random monitoring of government computers – it is a premeditated, targeted strike against whistleblower-scientists who attempted to safeguard the public. This surveillance is unacceptable.”
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, who leads efforts to overhaul whistleblower protections for government employees, commented:
“The Orwellian irony is that the victims of this surveillance do not have the rights of other government workers to defend themselves from retaliatory investigations, or any other harassment for challenging bureaucratic betrayals of the public trust. Public Health Service employees are not covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act, which Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, the federal government’s watchdog, calls ‘ridiculous.’
“Congress currently is completing a thirteen year effort to overhaul the law protecting government whistleblowers, and should close this loophole. There is no excuse to leave the Public Health Service, and indirectly the public, at the mercy of Big Brother.”
GAP has represented numerous FDA whistleblowers, including Public Health Service employees, over the past several years. To speak with any GAP personnel about this issue, please contact GAP Communications Director Dylan Blaylock at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 202.457.0034.
Contact: Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 137
Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.