Friday, September 10, 2010

Forest Service Chief Mum on Why He Imposed Gag Order

The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service is wrongfully withholding documents explaining why he imposed a "gag order" forbidding all staff from responding to media inquiries without headquarters approval, according to a lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The policy prevents timely release of crime, fire and accident reports, as well as adding weeks to the response time for even routine reporter inquiries. On August 25, 2009, Thomas L. Tidwell, Chief of the Forest Service, issued an order to his leadership directorate concerning "National Media Contacts" in which he forbade any employee from responding to "a member of the national media on any subject; or...a local or regional reporter seeking information about a national issue, including policy and budget issues" without prior clearance from the National Press Office (emphasis in original). In this memo, Chief Tidwell also stated that "I have received disturbing information concerning contacts by some employees with national media, without coordination" and cited the need for "consistent and coordinated messaging."...more

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