A group of FDA scientists and doctors says that their personal emails were monitored by the agency after they acted as whistleblowers, and that the information gleaned from the surveillance led to their harassment or dismissal. The employees had complained internally, beginning in 2007, about approved or soon-to-be-approved cancer-screening devices that they believed posed risks to patients. Ultimately, they told Congress, the White House, and the Health and Human Services inspector general about their concerns, the Washington Post reports.
The FDA began intercepting the employees' communications with Congress by way of their personal Gmail accounts in January 2009 and continued to do so for two years, according to a lawsuit the employees filed this week. FDA computers clearly state that users have "no reasonable expectation of privacy" while using them, but the employees say their privacy was violated since their whistleblowing activities were legal. "Who would have thought that they would have the nerve to be monitoring my communications to Congress?" says one. A former federal prosecutor says the warning on the FDA computers gives the agency a lot of leeway, but the case will test what level of monitoring is legal on government computers.