Postal inspectors no longer allowed to pose as journalists
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Responding to complaints from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Postmaster General in late August officially barred U.S. Postal Inspectors from assuming the identity of journalists in their investigations.
A June article published in the Saginaw (Mich.) News revealed that two postal inspectors in that city had posed as journalists from a fictitious business magazine in order to obtain information on a postal employee who had filed a worker’s compensation claim.
The Saginaw incident prompted Reginald Stuart, president of the SPJ, to write a letter to the Postmaster General objecting to the inspectors’ misrepresentation.
“Such conduct is indefensible,” Stuart wrote on behalf of the SPJ, “We urge you to issue a strong policy statement making it clear that such activity is unacceptable and not to be repeated.”
Marvin Runyon, the Postmaster General, sent a letter to Stuart, stating, “While the assumption of false identities was legal, the ethical questions you have raised require serious evaluation. Accordingly, postal inspectors were advised on Aug. 11, 1995 to not assume the identity of journalists for investigative purposes.”
SPJ Communications Director Julie Grimes said that she was not aware of other incidents in which postal inspectors posed as journalists.