Issue Date: June 9, 2008
NASA Engaged In Spin
Political appointees in NASA's public affairs office "reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized" the agency's climate-change data, according to a report from the agency's inspector general.
The report, issued last week, says Bush Administration officials altered or withheld press releases about the agency's scientific findings on climate change. They also tried to stop James E. Hansen, director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and its top climate scientist, from speaking to the news media (C&EN, Feb. 6, 2006, page 19).
Political appointees in NASA's public affairs office improperly managed information about climate change from the autumn of 2004 through early 2006, the report says. But it also indicates that the inspector general found "no evidence indicating that NASA blocked or interfered with the actual research activities of its climate scientists."
Decisions controlling how the agency presented climate-change science to the public were made solely by political appointees in the agency's public affairs office in Washington, D.C., the report says. Bush Administration officials elsewhere in NASA and the rest of the government, including the White House, were not involved, the inspector general concludes.
NASA senior officials weren't aware of how the public affairs managers were handling global warming data until reports appeared in the news media and members of Congress complained, the report says. And top officials moved quickly to correct the situation once they found out about it. These actions included Administrator Michael D. Griffin reaffirming the agency's commitment to openness under the 1958 Space Act, which requires NASA to disseminate data on its activities and results.
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