Most transparent administration EVAR, my eye:
A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show.
What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.
Basic background: some scientists in the FDA have gotten concerned over whether certain approved devices for medical procedures (mammograms, colonoscopies) are actually dangerously radioactive. Said scientists have been making their concerns known; and apparently the FDA decided to monitor the scientists’ communications for confidential or proprietary business information (this will be important later). So far, OK: but then the FDA decided that it was an absolutely brilliant idea to track and keep copies of said communication, including private emails. Note, by the way, that there is currently no indication that the scientists in question themselves revealed confidential or propriety business information.
Anyway, this story is actually a pretty big freaking deal; the FDA was intercepting and keeping on file whistle-blower emails to Members of Congress. On both sides of the aisle; and two of them (Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Senator Chuck Grassley) took time from their sudden impulse buys of chainsaws to announce their displeasure. This is one of the reasons why this is a Clown War on Science – members of the executive branch are advised to not get caught spying on members of the legislative branch – while the other is this: the reason we know about this situation is that the outside contractors doing the snooping on the FDA whistle-blowers accidentally dumped their research on a public website. 80,000 pages worth of documents, including… a good deal of confidential and proprietary business information. In other words, the FDA managed to do the very thing that it was ostensibly snooping on its own people in order to prevent.
And how did it get revealed? Ego-googling: “The posting of the documents was discovered inadvertently by one of the researchers whose e-mails were monitored. The researcher did Google searches for scientists involved in the case to check for negative publicity that might hinder chances of finding work. Within a few minutes, the researcher stumbled upon the database.”
Moe Lane (crosspost)