From: SpaceRef Interactive, Inc.
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2006
October 10, 2006
Dr. Michael Griffin
300 E Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20546
Dear Dr. Griffin:
As journalists who cover NASA, we are deeply concerned about the new policy effective October 1 barring all news media from entering headquarters in Washington without an escort from the Office of Public Affairs. This policy, made without consultation with the media, runs directly counter to the space agency's longstanding tradition and reputation for openness and cooperation with reporters and editors.
In order to receive a NASA badge, journalists must provide detailed information as well as their fingerprints to agency security officials. The badge entitles media to meet with officials within headquarters without a constant escort. Under the new policy, the only advantage that the badge will confer is the ability to pass through security without being searched. We are unclear as to why this change was made, and the nature of the threat posed by credentialed journalists. Such tight restrictions are not imposed by most federal agencies which do not conduct classified work, or by Congress.
We note that you acted swiftly and decisively earlier this year when public affairs officers blocked access between reporters and agency scientist James Hansen. In a statement to employees February 4, you said that "NASA has always been, is, and will continue to be committed to open scientific and technical inquiry and dialogue with the public." You go on to quote the 1958 Space Act which requires the agency "to provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results thereof." We agree with your further comment that "it is not the job of public affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA's technical staff."
It is hard to reconcile these statements with the new policy, which was announced unilaterally without request for public comment. The requirement that reporters be escorted by public affairs officers at all times within the headquarters building would unduly inhibit the flow of information between NASA employees and the media.
During your recent visit to China, you said that human space cooperation between that country and the United States "requires a great degree of trust and openness." It is both sad and ironic that even as you spoke these words, your agency was taking a step toward restricting access for those who seek to disseminate information on the nation's civil space program to the American public and the world.
We request that you rescind this ill-advised policy.
Deputy Managing Editor
Aviation Week & Space Technology
National Public Radio
Robert Lee Hotz
National Association of Science Writers
Los Angeles Times
John Johnson Jr.
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Gannett News Service
Eric Sterner, Associate Deputy Administrator, Policy and Planning, and Acting Chief of Strategic Communications
David Mould, Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs
Dean Acosta, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs
Robert "Doc" Mirelson, Newsroom Chief
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