Obama Has Yet To End PIO "Minders," Permissions

May 7, 2009

Despite hopeful urging by journalism groups, most environmental, health, and science agencies have not changed Bush-era policies requiring staff and scientists to get permission from the press office before talking to reporters. Nor have they dropped the requirement that interviews with scientists be supervised by Saddam-style "minders."

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists documents the Obama administration's declarations that it intends to be more open. But the same report also documents the many actions not taken at the agency level.

The Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) urged President Obama in a Feb. 26, 2009, letter to take specific steps to reverse the previous administration's policies.

The WatchDog has so far been unable to find any federal agencies that have formally changed their press policies since Obama took office.

The agencies AHCJ has had most trouble with include the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and most agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services.

SEJ members have had problems with access to these and other agencies, and the WatchDog has chronicled these problems for years. Similar policies, written or unwritten, have been in place at the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.