Stop the FDA from Silencing Whistleblowers

Katie Tegtmeyer flickr

Target: U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg

Goal: Reinstate scientists who were wrongfully fired for acting as watchdogs for public safety, and stop illegal monitoring activities

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has secretly monitored thousands of emails from its own scientists in an effort to quell threats to the agency’s reputation. The intercepted correspondence revealed an effort to report the FDA for using faulty review processes to approve dangerous health care devices. FDA officials must stop these illegal monitoring activities and restore jobs to scientists fired for protecting public safety.

While it is appropriate to observe work correspondence of employees, it is illegal to monitor private communications related to legal filings, employee grievances, and whistleblowing activities. The FDA claims to have spied in order to investigate a possible leak of confidential information. However, a review of memos from agency officials reveals that the monitoring effort sought to identify “opponents” who were spreading negative information about the FDA. The scientists’ complaints, which focused on medical imaging devices that may expose patients to dangerous levels of radiation, were found to be of valid concern for public safety by a recent government review. It is clear that the FDA wishes to protect its reputation by covering up legitimate complaints that expose the agency’s failings.

Of the six scientists involved in the complaints, four have been fired by the agency in response to information that was obtained illegally. The actions of the FDA punish and discourage dissenters who serve as watchdogs for public safety. By signing the petition below, you can ask FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to stop illegal monitoring activities and reemploy the scientists who were wrongfully fired for their complaints.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Commissioner Hamburg,

The recently exposed email monitoring of FDA employees represents an encroachment on employee rights and a threat to public safety efforts. While your agency claims that the original purpose of the monitoring was to investigate leaks of confidential information, the continued and extensive uncovering of employee complaints was an obvious effort to quell negative publicity. It is both immoral and illegal to monitor private employee grievances and legal filings. Furthermore, the fact that four of the six monitored scientists have since been fired represents punishment of whistleblowers and discourages future employee complaints.

In your 2009 confirmation hearing, you stated that as an FDA leader you would ‘very much want to create a culture that enables all voices to be heard’. You can follow through on this promise by recognizing your agency’s recent mistakes. Please stop monitoring private employee correspondence, and return the four terminated scientists to their previous employment positions.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Katie Tegtmeyer via Flickr.

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