Sen. Grassley Comes to Defense of One Whistleblower in Letter to Hamburg

Jane Akre
February 8, 2012

February 9, 2012 ~ “Whistleblowers point out fraud, waste and abuse when no one else will, and while they do so while risking their professional careers, they are often treated like skunks at a picnic,” Grassley wrote. “Whistleblowers have played a critical role in exposing harmful government actions and retaliation against whistleblowers should never be tolerated.”

Those are the words of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD concerning the monitoring of certain employees who chose to publicly expose what they believed were unethical practices of approving medical devices.

Here is his letter.

Cardiovascular News reports (here) the senator was referring to one the ‘FDA Nine’, P.J. Hardy, who with the others wrote to the incoming Obama transition team in 2009 that laws were being disregarded and inadequate reviews were being conducted of medical devices within the agency.

The senator says the FDA accessed Hardy’s emails in retaliation, intentionally tried to damage his reputation to other government entities, and sought his dismissal. Among other things, the CDRH (Centers for Devices and Radiological Health) management said that Hardy had released confidential and classified information and that’s when management began monitoring his government email account.

“Based on the information we are providing your office, CDRH management cannot allow LTJG Hardy to continue to work in our organization. We simply cannot trust him,” said one a memo to the Office of the Surgeon General.

Hardy also had his personal email account monitored. Eventually Hardy was placed on a “Non-Duty with Pay” status.

Sen. Grassley asked Hamburg:
  • Who authorized the monitoring of all the whisteblowers' email accounts for communications with Congress?
  • Did the FDA monitor all employee email accounts, including personal accounts, or was the monitoring targeted only at the nine whistleblowers?
  • Did the FDA obtain the passwords to employees’ personal email accounts, which would allow emails to be intercepted even when not sent or received from a government computer?

About six of the “FDA 9” whistleblowers are suing the agency for illegally spying on their private email in retaliation after they warned lawmakers that unsafe medical devices were being approved for market. Here is the complaint filed by the law firm. #

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