July 17, 2012
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began a surveillance initiative into 5 scientists suspected of releasing confidential documents to the mainstream media and Congress; however the FDA quickly turned their investigations into the creation of an “enemies list” after thousands of emails sent by FDA employees to Congressional officials, the White House and other scientists were intercepted.
Members of Congress were targeted as being in opposition to the FDA. The illegal monitoring consisted of gathering confidential messages, correspondence with attorneys, whistleblowing complaints to Congress and workplace grievances.
Senator Charles Grassley, who was targeted in the spying operation, commented: “The FDA has a lot of explaining to do in the weeks ahead.” Grassley also said that the FDA “is discouraging whistleblowers” and “[the agency] have absolutely no business reading the private e-mails of their employees. They think they can be the Gestapo and do anything they want.”
An estimated 80,000 pages of emails were confiscated by the FDA with spying software and then posted “by accident” on a public website. When scientists who were being investigated “goggled” themselves, they found the relating documents on the internet.
The FDA used spying software from SpectorSoft and placed it on 25 computers. SpectorSoft explains that their product can “monitor everything” with regard to employee computer activity and “catch them red-handed by receiving instant alerts when keywords or phrases are typed or are contained in an e-mail, chat, instant message or Web site.”
The surveillance software used by the FDA captured screen images, tracked keystrokes, intercepted emails and copied documents from personal thumb drives. It was even able to follow the documents line by line as they were originally drafted.