The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the government's point-man and watchdog when it comes to automotive safety issues. Due to its teams of scientists and researchers, it is also the government's detective and repository of knowledge regarding such matters. And now, thanks to its recently elected leader, none of those scientists are able to comment on-the-record about any knowledge they might have.
Nicole R. Nason was appointed last year by the current administration. Her policy is that reporters can get information from NHTSA workers, but they can only get it on background, which means they can't name the source. Reporters often shy away from that kind of restriction. If reporters want an attributable source, they can interview Ms. Nason. Case closed. This is a policy also held by the Federal Railroad Administration, but issues with locomotives don't affect the masses anywhere near as much as issues with seat belts and crumple zones. For the NHTSA to adopt such a policy is, at best, odd.
According to Nason's chief of staff, the agency went to the central mouthpiece model because they were "finding a lot of stuff did not need to be on the record." We can only wonder about the incendiary quotes they found so titillating that they needed to muzzle the workers. If this policy were put to a crash test, it would get one star.
[Source: The New York Times]