Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Sovietization of the American bureaucracy

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The managers and leaders of several Federal agencies seem completely out of control. There’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation, knowing that faulty laboratory work and procedures had sent innocent men to prison (and seemingly one to his execution), but not notifying any of the defendants or their lawyers. I blogged that, and a Google search will turn up more. (The FBI and DoJ continue to maintain that what they did was perfectly fine.)

And the National Reconnaissance Office using its lie detector tests to go far beyond legal limits in looking for personal information. Marisa Taylor reported that story for McClatchy, and the NRO immediately responded by attacking the whistleblower. Just as with the FBI and DoJ, the bureaucrats circle the wagons and don’t give an inch: they will do what they want to do, ethics and laws be damned. From the story at the first link:

. . . The National Reconnaissance Office is so intent on extracting confessions of personal or illicit behavior that officials have admonished polygraphers who refused to go after them and rewarded those who did, sometimes with cash bonuses, a McClatchy investigation found.

The disclosures include a wide range of behavior and private thoughts such as drug use, child abuse, suicide attempts, depression and sexual deviancy. The agency, which oversees the nation’s spy satellites, records the sessions that were required for security clearances and stores them in a database.

Even though it’s aggressively collecting the private disclosures, when people confess to serious crimes such as child molestation they’re not always arrested or prosecuted.

“You’ve got to wonder what the point of all of this is if we’re not even going after child molesters,” said Mark Phillips, a veteran polygrapher who resigned from the agency in late May after, he says, he was retaliated against for resisting abusive techniques. “This is bureaucracy run amok. These practices violate the rights of Americans, and it’s not even for a good reason.”

The agency refused to answer McClatchy’s questions about its practices. However, it’s acknowledged in internal documents that it’s not supposed to directly ask more personal questions but says it legally collects the information when people spontaneously confess, often at the beginning of the polygraph test.

After a legal review of Phillips’ assertions, the agency’s assistant general counsel Mark Land concluded in April that it did nothing wrong. “My opinion, based on all of the facts, is that management’s action is legally supportable and corrective action is not required,” he wrote.

But McClatchy’s review of hundreds of documents – including internal policy documents, memos and agency emails – indicates that the National Reconnaissance Office is pushing ethical and possibly legal limits by: . . .

Wired‘s Robert Beckhusen has a post commenting on the child molestation issue, basing his post on the McClatchy stories above. But nothing seems to be done about these things.

And now we learn that FDA management spied on its own scientists who were exposing misbehavior at that agency. The government bureaucracies—at least some of them—have become authoritarian islands unconcerned about the public welfare and vindictive toward those who expose incompetence and bad decision-making—and Obama leads the pack with his unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers and his increasingly secretive administration. And this is the liberal party. I shudder to think where the country’s going if even more authoritarian elements take control.

Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane have the story on the FDA in today’sNY Times:

A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show.

What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.

Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency.

The agency, using so-called spy software designed to help employers monitor workers, captured screen images from the government laptops of the five scientists as they were being used at work or at home. The software tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails, copied the documents on their personal thumb drives and even followed their messages line by line as they were being drafted, the documents show.

The extraordinary surveillance effort grew out of a bitter dispute lasting years between the scientists and their bosses at the F.D.A. over the scientists’ claims that faulty review procedures at the agency had led to the approval of medical imaging devices for mammograms and colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation.

A confidential government review in May by the Office of Special Counsel, which deals with the grievances of government workers, found that the scientists’ medical claims were valid enough to warrant a full investigation into what it termed “a substantial and specific danger to public safety.”

The documents captured in the surveillance effort — including confidential letters to at least a half-dozen Congressional offices and oversight committees, drafts of legal filings and grievances, and personal e-mails — were posted on a public Web site, apparently by mistake, by a private document-handling contractor that works for the F.D.A. The New York Times reviewed the records and their day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour accounting of the scientists’ communications.

With the documents from the surveillance cataloged in 66 huge directories, many Congressional staff members regarded as sympathetic to the scientists each got their own files containing all their e-mails to or from the whistle blowers. Drafts and final copies of letters the scientists sent to Mr. Obama about their safety concerns were also included.

Last year, the scientists found that a few dozen of their e-mails had been intercepted by the agency. They filed a lawsuit over the issue in September, after four of the scientists had been let go, and The Washington Post first disclosed the monitoring in January. But the wide scope of the F.D.A. surveillance operation, its broad range of targets across Washington and the huge volume of computer information it generated were not previously known, even to some of the targets. . .

Continue reading.

Just as with the financial sector: illegal and highly damaging actions are exposed and nothing is done. No one responsible is punished. A few corporations pay fines in trivial amounts (compared to their assets and revenues), but no individual suffers in the least.

Things are looking grim indeed, at least to me.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2012 at 4:08 pm

One Response

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  1. Meanwhile, not a peep from Obama. His legacy will not be healthcare, but the decade when even the mundane was declared illegal. On the campaign trail, all we get is bullet points (from both non-choice candidates), which makes me wonder: except for the Supreme Court choices, why bother anymore? If you haven’t given up yet, it doesn’t matter, no matter what you do, what you say, or where you go, the corporatocracy is in control of every single one of these people. Like a corporation, they have no conscience, no guilt, no responsibility, and thus no consequences for their actions. I get the sense that soon Obama will issue takedown notices for Google to remove all of FDR’s speeches from YouTube!



    14 July 2012 at 10:54 pm

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