The FDA may have broken federal law when it spied on whistleblowers within its own agency, according to a report from Republican lawmakers.

The report says that for two years, the agency monitored personal emails of some of its own scientists after they went public with safety concerns about medical devices that the agency was approving.


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The report suggests that the monitoring was part of a retaliation effort. FDA officials say they were trying to stop people from leaking corporate information. A spokesperson for the FDA said that this report only paints part of the picture.

Federal law protects whistleblowers.


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Judge Andrew Napolitano said the FDA put software into the personal and work computers of the scientists. The software took a photograph of their screens every seven seconds for a couple of years.

While the FDA is the employer of these scientists, the agency is also part of the government, which means it’s regulated by the Fourth Amendment, Napolitano explained. He said FDA officials could look at the workplace computer for a specific problem, but that photographing computer screens every seven seconds is “absolutely prohibited.”

“If they want to see their employees’ computer screens every seven seconds, they have to go to the judge and get a search warrant,” he said.

Napolitano called it an “exquisite violation of Fourth Amendment rights.”

Hear more of what he had to say in the video above.