GSA restricts reporters in buildings to ‘ensure safety’ of workers
NEW YORK–A June 30 regional General Services Administration directive instructed employees in federal buildings to deny members of the media, especially camera crews and photographers, access to the buildings unless accompanied by staff members.
A GSA spokeswoman later said the policy, which applied only to the media and not other citizens, had been drafted too broadly. The policy was changed in mid-July to allow reporters full access to the building while leaving the restriction in place for photographers and camera crews.
“We’re not going to allow photos to be taken of security devices,” said Ren’ee Miscione, public affairs officer for the GSA region covering New York, part of New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. “This is not totally unheard of in federal buildings. In some they escort all citizens.”
Miscione said that people walking through the buildings could see such security details, but said it was “unsettling” to see diagrams of security plans in newspapers.
The restrictive policy drew fire after reporters had difficulty gaining access to a federal building in Rochester, according to reports from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Journalists from other areas of the state, however, said they did not experience similar problems.
The policy was outlined by Don Delcamp, a General Services Administration buildings manager, in a memo to federal agency managers in the New York region.
The memo stated that members of the media should not be allowed in federal buildings unless representatives of the agencies they wish to visit accompany them inside.
The memo said the policy was intended to “ensure the continued safety of employees and visitors at our facilities” in the wake of the April bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Further criticism of the directive came from U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael A. Telesca, whose office is in the federal courthouse in Rochester. The judge wrote a July 5 letter to Delcamp stating that the policy “singles out members of the media as deserving heightened security concerns whereas members of the public may enter the building and proceed to any of the offices in the building without restraint.”
“I insist that [the policy] be revoked immediately,” the judge added.
But Miscione said the directive was never intended to restrict access of journalists. The purpose, she said, was to limit access of camera crews and photographers after there was “reporting of security details which we feel irresponsibly … are showing or delineating where security devices are.”