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FDA Accused of Snooping

Ed Silverman at Pharmalot reports that the US Food and Drug Administration is being "accused by a group of current and former employees that their personal e-mails [were accessed] after they warned Congress the agency was forcing employees to approve medical devices they maintained posed unacceptable risks." According to a lawsuit filed last week, Silverman says that the FDA employees — all scientists and physicians — claim that "three devices could have missed signs of detecting breast cancer," and add that the agency's snooping on their personal e-mails "began in January 2009, when they sent [a] letter to the Obama administration to complain that they were under investigation by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigation over a November 2008 letter sent to by the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to FDA officials about allegations that the process for approving devices was coercive and intimidating."

Silverman adds that FDA computers warn users that they should have "no reasonable expectation of privacy" concerning any information passing through its system, but notes that "the former FDA employees charge their constitutional privacy rights were violated when the FDA looked at personal e-mail accounts in order to monitor activity they argue was lawful." He adds that this suit is but one of the "troubling episodes to place the FDA in an unflattering light."

The Washington Post, which broke the news of the lawsuit, says that information gleaned from private e-mail accounts "eventually contributed to the harassment or dismissal of all six of the FDA employees [whose e-mails were accessed], the suit alleges." The Post has published some of the e-mails in question, here.