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Epa To Staff: Shut Your Trap

The EPA has instructed its staff "not to talk with congressional investigators, reporters and even the agency's own inspector general," the Associated Press reported yesterday. The AP story cites a month-old internal e-mail that was circulated throughout the agency--apparently sent out after the Inspector General's Office discovered that the EPA had failed to remedy problems with "water enforcement and other matters." The IG, needless to say, is not happy with the agency's attempt to muzzle its staff:

In a statement issued Monday, the Office of Inspector General said it did not approve of the language in the e-mail and was engaged in discussions with enforcement officials to ensure the electronic dispatch would not hinder its access to information. "All EPA officials and employees are required to cooperate with OIG," the statement said. "This cooperation includes providing the OIG full and unrestricted access to EPA documents, records, and personnel."

Given recent, headline-making criticism of the EPA--including charges of White House interference by a former staffer--I can't say I'm surprised by this brazen attempt to curb the flow of inopportune information. I just wonder how many other agencies and departments are currently doing the same, as everyone seems to be coming under increased scrunity in the waning days of the Bush Administration. We're already hearing the claims of illegal hiring practices over at the Justice Department. What else is lurking beneath the surface?

--Suzy Khimm