WASHINGTON — As he often did, Dr. Robert C. Smith was hammering away at his bosses at the Food and Drug Administration in the most caustic of terms at a meeting to address his concerns about the approval of medical devices.
With seven fellow scientists seated behind him in support, Dr. Smith charged that managers “are not following the law, not following the science, not following F.D.A. core values,” according to notes of the 2008 session. He glared at a supervisor, who sat fuming in front of him.
Dr. Smith — radiologist, lawyer, litigant and the man now at the center of a spying scandal at the F.D.A. — is in some ways typical of that peculiar Washington phenomenon known as the whistle-blower: He pressed charges of government abuse, battled with his bosses, and ultimately was shown the door amid lawsuits and investigations.
But he took his role to an extreme, according to former colleagues, scorning negotiations, making enemies of critics and papering Washington with complaints, which helped sow chaos at the agency. One co-worker compared his efforts to “a mutiny.”