We read with interest the continuing controversy over FDA’s surveillance of several agency scientists.
The FDA controversy is representative of a government-wide issue regarding the management of scientific conflicts in the US government. Consequently the issue at hand is not an agency specific issue
Does not the USG have the right to monitor emails to safeguard against the release of national security secrets, criminal activities, racial slurs and confidential business information? Why then is there a blanket assumption that the USG government can not monitor the emails of its employees at any level of intensity, however great? Does not the government have the right to monitor to guard against the deaths related to Wiki Leaks?
With respect to HHS we understand that the agency has stated that: “employees have a right to air their concerns to Congress and journalists”. (Washington Post, Senator: FDA Legal Office Allowed Spying on Workers—07.17.2012)
Section 2303 of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) allows a federal employee to make:
“any disclosure of information by an employee or applicant which the employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences — (i) a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or (ii) gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety”
The statute appears to provide an open door for any disgruntled employee to take actions against a superior while the employee is being paid by the government and with the full support of the Congress and the press.
That seems like a pretty good gig!
We are not addressing the merits of the current controversy at FDA but there is little wonder that there is a decreasing interest on the part of career employees to assume managerial positions. The ability for any employee to chair an open debate on nearly any issue at any time in any forum is a reason for the considerable public sentiment that no one in the government makes a decision and one constantly receives conflicting information from the USG.