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Publication date: Sep. 21, 2005

NASA DISAVOWS GAG ORDER; ENCOURAGES STAFF TO TALK TO PRESS, PUBLIC

Reports of a gag order prohibiting NASA employees from talking to the public or press are erroneous, a NASA spokesman has stated.

But agency staff and the journalists who talk to them are still painting a different picture - saying upper-level staff and scientists are warned strongly against talking to the press in particular without press office clearance and a "minder" present.

NASA spokesman Brian Dunbar told Federal Computer Week that the "gag order" memo had been misunderstood, and that it was merely intended to cover grossly misdirected e-mail. FCW published its article Sept. 19, 2005. Dunbar said NASA employees are encouraged to answer public or press inquiries within their own area of expertise. Such a policy could be interpreted as leaving out of the loop most public information officers, who do not specialize in technical or policy areas.

"Unfortunately, we should have explicitly said that, by all means, people should continue to answer e-mails within their areas of expertise, but we did not," Dunbar told FCW. "It was never anyone's intention to muzzle anybody or restrict information from going out to the public." He said NASA employees should only contact a PIO when they got an inquiry they felt uncomfortable handling.

But internal NASA documents obtained by the WatchDog suggest the real situation is quite the opposite, especially for scientists discussing topics related to political controversies like global warming.


Last revised January 22, 2013

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