FDA Chiefs Knew About Spying

Top FDA officials, including Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, were aware the agency was monitoring staff emails discussing the safety of some approved medical devices.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Aug 8, 2012

A clearer picture of the US Food and Drug Administration's digital surveillance of staffers who complained to legislators and journalists that the agency had approved potentially unsafe medical devices is emerging. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday (August 6) that Commissioner Margaret Hamburg and Jeffrey Shuren, head of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), knew of the effort to monitor the email accounts of 5 FDA scientists starting in the spring of 2010, though they claim not to have directly ordered the digital snooping.

To set the record straight, the FDA has detailed a chain of command that led to the decision to spy on its own staffers, after information about the approval of radiological devices was leaked to the media. According to the WSJ, Shuren asked associate director of the CDRH Ruth McKee to explore how the agency might prevent some leaks. Then McKee...

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