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Context of 'October 19, 2006: Anonymous NOAA Public Affairs Officers Says Political Appointees Involved in Censoring Press Releases'

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Jana Goldman, the public affairs officer at NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) division, writes in an email to a scientist from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), “If you get any press requests for IPCC please bump them to public affairs before you agree to an interview.” [Emphasis in original] Her mention of “IPCC” is a reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recently released third assessment report, which found “new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” (see January 22, 2001) Responding to Goldman’s request, the scientist writes, “It seems cumbersome at best. If this policy is implemented, it will greatly cut-down on NOAA scientist interviews.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

An anonymous NOAA public affairs officer interviewed by the Government Accountability Project will later recall being told by his boss to silence a scientist. “You make him be quiet,” the scientist says he was told, “Get that guy to stop speaking to the public… It’s your job… I cannot believe you cannot control that person.” He also says that his superiors told him that any communications on sensitive issues should not be in writing. Rather, “I was usually summoned to XXX’s office, usually with XXX [both top officials] there and the door closed.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 89 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Anonymous Public Affairs Officer, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), officially implements a new NOAA-wide media policy. The new policy, written by NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John, government lawyers, and Commerce Department policymakers, gives the NOAA’s public affairs offices ultimate authority over all agency communications. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 pdf file] The media policy will become more restrictive after Hurricane Katrina (see September 29, 2005).

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, Conrad C. Lautenbacher

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Erica Rule, a public affairs officer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), sends an email to a number of the agency’s scientists reminding them that all media requests for interviews must be authorized by the public affairs office. An article by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel linking global warming to hurricane intensity will soon be published in Nature (see August 1, 2005), and the NOAA anticipates that journalists will be seeking NOAA scientists for comments. Rule writes in her email, “A study on hurricanes and global warming by Emanuel Kerry [sic] will be released in Nature this Sunday. As this topic might generate media inquiries—consider this e-mail a reminder that ALL media requests are to be directed to NOAA Public Affairs.” [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Erica Rule

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) receives several requests for expert comments on a recent paper by climate scientist Kerry Emanuel (see August 1, 2005) suggesting that rising sea temperatures are resulting in stronger hurricanes. According to documents later obtained by the Government Accountability Project, the NOAA’s public affairs office redirects all requests for questions about Emanuel’s study, as well as all requests for interviews with federal climate scientist Knutson, to Chris Landsea, a scientist who does not believe there is a link between hurricane intensity and global warming (see July 27, 2005). [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 30 pdf file] By August 1, Landsea will have participated in four such “routine, but sensitive” interviews. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Thomas Knutson

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

An anonymous public affairs officer tells the Government Accountability Project that political appointees in the NOAA have been instructing career employees in the agency’s public affairs office to closely monitor what scientists communicate to the media on the topic of global warming. Their jobs depend on it, he says. He says he must inform his superiors of any interview requests from major news outlets, provide them with minute details about the interview, and specify whether the interviewee is considered to be a “loose cannon” or someone who will “go along with the company line.” If it’s suspected that the scientist will say something that undermines the credibility of the administration, his bosses ask him to redirect the reporter to a different scientist more willing to toe the line. He might tell the reporter, “Oh, such and such is not going to be available, but I’ve got such and so.” In at least one instance, according to the anonymous public affairs officer, an appointee actually instructs him to silence a certain scientist (see (2004)). The public affairs officer also says that his bosses have been closely involved in the vetting of press releases. They require that he personally provide them with hardcopies of draft releases on “sensitive” issues, such as those mentioning “global warming,” “warming,” “melting,” and “glaciers.” He says he was instructed not to email any drafts to them. When the superiors disapprove of a certain press release, they tell him to inform the researchers that the release has been rejected because it is not news worthy, that there were already too many press releases on the issue, or “some other excuse.” In some cases, where rejecting a press release would be too conspicuous, political appointees have sought to undermine the press release by having another press officer repeatedly mark up the document with requests for changes and corrections in an effort to delay the release until it is too outdated to publish. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 89-90 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Anonymous Public Affairs Officer

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

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