Grassley accuses FDA of acting like communist secret police for spying on employees

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) accused the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of acting like the East German secret police for closely monitoring the computer activities of some of its employees.

The GOP senator said internal documents on the surveillance program make the FDA “sound more like the East German Stasi than a consumer protection agency in a free country.”

He said the documents refer to employees who leaked information as “collaborators,” congressional staff as “ancillary actors,” and newspaper reporters as “media outlet actors.”

The FDA began using surveillance software in 2010 to monitor the computer activities of five of its scientists that it suspected of leaking damaging confidential information. The software captured screen images, intercepted personal emails, copied documents and even tracked their keystrokes.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the agency gathered 80,000 pages of documents as part of the program and created a list of 21 employees, congressional officials, academics and journalists it suspected of putting out negative information about the FDA. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who has examined the agency’s procedures for reviewing medical devices, was listed as No. 14 on the list.

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Photo credit: Gage Skidmore