Probe finds NASA suppressed climate data
A report released Monday by NASA's Inspector General found that political appointees in the space agency's public affairs office deliberately played down research on climate change.
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David Mould, a political appointee at NASA's press office, is quoted in the report as saying that he was "tired of Jim Hansen trying to run an independent press operation ... from now on I want to know everything he does."Skip to next paragraph
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In another instance, George Deutsch III, a Republican appointee to the press office, rejected a request from NPR to interview Mr. Hansen, a move contrary to the agency's established procedures. Mr. Deutsch labeled the public broadcaster a "liberal" media outlet and allegedly said that his job was "to make the president look good." (Deutsch subsequently resigned from NASA after it came to light that he had falsely claimed to be a college graduate.)
In 2004, a NASA press conference announcing the findings of a study on air pollution was squelched. An e-mail from the public affairs office advised that the "Administration does not want any negative environmental news before the election ... as such news could alter the election."
The report claims that the damage to NASA's credibility is far-reaching:
The actions of the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs also had an impact on many levels of Agency operations. News releases in the areas of climate change suffered from inaccuracy, factual insufficiency, and scientific dilution. Some scientists claimed to have self-censored; others simply gave up. Worse, trust was lost, at least temporarily, between an Agency and some of its key employees and perhaps the public it serves.
Dean Acosta, a former NASA public affairs officer who was sharply criticized in the report, doubts the Inspector General's credibility. "My entire career has been dedicated to open and honest communications," he wrote in an e-mail to the New York Times. "The inspector general’s assertions are patently false. The report itself does nothing but raise questions about a three-year investigation that has yielded nothing but flimsy allegations aimed at hard-working public servants."
Since the allegations of political interference surfaced, NASA says that it has taken steps to codify procedures for releasing information to the public. The report notes that the new policies were well-received by NASA employees as well as by staff in the House of Representatives. NASA says that it has not been made aware of any further complaints of suppression.