Those of you who live outside the Beltway probably aren't terribly familiar with Federal Times. It's a weekly newspaper that covers the happenings at federal agencies directed mostly at an audience of federal employees and federal managers.
Well, it seems that a reporter at Federal Times, Andrew Medici, was having some trouble reaching various spokespersons at the Department of Homeland Security. Eventually, he got so frustrated with trying to reach people he had to file a Freedom of Information Act request. Here's what happened:
So I decided file a Freedom of Information Act request for the following information:
1. The names of all public affairs people and spokespersons at DHS.
2. Their work numbers and work email.
Eventually I got my response.
It was 58 pages of redacted work phone numbers, work email addresses and cell phone numbers.
Yes, that's right. The Department of Homeland Security won't give out the work emails and phone numbers of the federal employees who's specific job is answering questions from the press and the public. There's more at Federal Times's website, including Department of Homeland Security's absurd and deliberate misinterpretation of the relevant laws they used to deny the request.
This is yet another disturbing erosion of government transparency in the Obama administration. Federal Times received this absurd missive just two days after the Department of Health and Human Services instituted an Orwellian new policy of not allowing employees to speak directly to reporters without reporting their interactions to public information officers and supervisors. The editor of FDA Review quite rightly called the new policy "a Soviet-Style Power-Grab."
So far, the national press has been largely silent about the recent difficulties of reporters covering federal agencies, but if the administration gets away with policies that run counter to the spirit of the First Amendment -- it's sure to have bigger ramifications for the media.