Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the Food and Drug Administration's extensive email monitoring and retaliation of a group of whistleblowers.
"The agency's conduct might have broken the law," Grassley said. "Independent investigations are necessary to determine whether that's the case. Besides the legal questions, we need independent investigations to determine what the agency did and why. Accountability requires getting these kinds of answers."
Grassley provided the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services with copies of the 80,000 pages of the FDA employees' emails and other documents that were temporarily available on a public website before authorities learned of the public access and shut it down.
Grassley's letters said the documents show the FDA was spying on the whistleblowers' personal email accounts, specifically targeting their communications with Congress, including his office. The documents also include confidential communications between the whistleblowers and their attorneys. Grassley said the FDA's conduct and handling of the documents might have violated the Privacy Act and the Stored Communications Act.
The FDA monitored the emails of a group of scientists and researchers who questioned the agency's approval of certain medical devices to detect cancer and other diseases. The FDA employees questioned the safety and efficacy of the devices. Grassley has asked the FDA to account for its employee surveillance.
His letters to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services are available here and here.