Silence at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The New York Times reports on new rules set up by chief administrator Nicole R. Nason at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prohibiting officials at the agency from going on the record with reporters. Without special permission, agency officials are only allowed to speak with reporters only to provide background information.

I am sure keeping everyone on the same page is the politically astute play. But is that Ms. Nason’s purpose? Or is it to protect the safety of our citizens on public highways? Obviously, the free flow of safety information is going to keep reporters investigating whether manufacturers are making safe vehicles.

The Times notes that this is a 35 year-old lawyer in charge of keeping our nation’s highways safe. While I am all for lawyers being qualified to do anything and everything, I have to question whether she was the best available candidate for this job. Ms. Nason served a few years as the Assistant Secretary of Transportation for governmental affairs. Why the leap to this position so quickly with such a minimal transportation background? I assume her quick rise was in part due to her connection to former CIA Director Porter J. Goss, for whom she worked as communications director when he was a congressman.

Is it fair for me to disparage the qualifications of a lawyer whose name I learned 20 minutes ago? Probably not. But this administration’s track record on highway safety sends up red flags everywhere. Where there is smoke, there is often fire. Ms. Nason is not helping the cause by trying to button the lips of safety experts and others at the NHTSA.

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