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Context of 'Fall 2004: NASA Informs Scientists of New Restrictive Media Policy via Oral Communication Only'

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NASA headquarters informs some climate scientists that any public releases of their research must first be cleared by headquarters and that all interviews with the media must be monitored by a NASA press officer. According to Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist and NASA climatologist, “these were conveyed orally, with no written documentation even when one was requested.” This policy applies only to climate scientists, not to other NASA scientists, such as those researching space or earth science, Shindell later tells Congress. [US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file Sources: Drew Shindell]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming

Officials at NASA headquarters order the agency’s public affairs office to pre-screen all public statements made by James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. This restriction applies to all of his forthcoming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard website, and requests for interviews from journalists. His supervisors are even authorized to stand in for him in interviews with the media. According to Hansen, the agency’s efforts to muzzle him began after a lecture he gave on December 6 in which he said that a US failure to significantly cut emissions could turn the earth into “a different planet.” He had noted in his lecture that businesses could cut emissions using existing technologies, if they wanted to, but that the administration’s and industry’s overriding concern is short term profits. A statement he released on December 15 saying that 2005 was probably the warmest year in 100 years also irked top officials (see December 15, 2005). Officials responded to Hansen’s statements with several warnings that there would be “dire consequences” if he continued. Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, denies that NASA was trying to silence Hansen. He claims the restrictions on Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. All scientists are permitted to discuss scientific findings, he argues, but are not supposed to issue statements on policy. [New York Times, 1/29/2006; National Public Radio, 1/29/2006; Washington Post, 1/29/2006] While top officials have always tried to deter scientists from speaking publicly on policy issues, Hansen, in a later interview with the New York Times, says the Bush administration is engaged in an unprecedented level of interference. “In my thirty-some years of experience in government, I’ve never seen control to the degree that is occurring now,” he says. [New York Times, 1/29/2006]

Entity Tags: James E. Hansen, Dean Acosta, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Dr. James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top climate scientist, reveals that the Bush administration ordered NASA’s public affairs staff to review his lectures, papers, Web site postings, and interview requests after he gave a lecture calling for the reduction of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. “They feel their job is to be the censor of information going out to the public,” Hansen says, and he promises to ignore the restrictions. NASA denies trying to silence Hansen, saying the restrictions apply to all NASA officials, and adds that it is inappropriate for government scientists to make policy statements (see Between June 2003 and October 2003, (January 2006), and (Late January 2006)). [Savage, 2007, pp. 106] This is not the first time Hansen has gone public about government attempts to censor and muzzle him and his fellows (see October 2004, October 26, 2004, and February 10, 2006).

Entity Tags: Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Bush administration (43), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, James E. Hansen

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Global Warming, Domestic Propaganda

NASA quietly changes its mission statement, from, “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers… as only NASA can,” to, “To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.” NASA spokesman David E. Steitz says the change reflects President Bush’s goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars (see January 11, 2004). Some NASA scientists are angered by the change, which was implemented without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or giving them advance notice. According to NASA scientists, the phrase “understand and protect” played an important role in determining the agency’s research priorities. “Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions,” the New York Times reports. Philip B. Russell, a 25-year NASA veteran who is an atmospheric chemist at the Ames Research Center, says, “We refer to the mission statement in all our research proposals that go out for peer review, whenever we have strategy meetings. As civil servants, we’re paid to carry out NASA’s mission. When there was that very easy-to-understand statement that our job is to protect the planet, that made it much easier to justify this kind of work.” [New York Times, 7/22/2006]

Entity Tags: David E. Steitz, Philip B. Russell, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: Global Warming

Bill Sammon, the Washington managing editor for Fox News, sends an internal email instructing his journalists and producers to slant their coverage of climate change stories in favor of questioning the validity of climate change claims. Sammon’s order is given during a series of global climate change talks, and less than 15 minutes after Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler told viewers that the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) had announced that 2000-2009 was “on track to be the warmest [decade] on record.” Sammon’s email says in part: “Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data… we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.” The email also comes amidst a steady promotion by the network of the so-called “Climategate” scandal, which hinges on misrepresentations of emails sent between climate scientists and supposedly casts critical doubts on the science behind the claims of climate change and global warming. Ultimately, all independent inquiries will clear the accused scientists of misconduct and manipulation, though these reports will receive less attention from Fox. And, though Sammon portrays his directive as an attempt to be fair and balanced, the “debate” is largely in the media, and fueled by conservative politics and by corporations and investors that would be impacted by regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. No national or international scientific body disputes that global warming is caused by human activities, and it is the consensus view of the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists that greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of the rise in the Earth’s average temperature since the 19th century. Goler had noted during his broadcast that in spite of “Climategate” claims, data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) prove that the climate is indeed heating up due to a man-made increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Despite the facts, minutes after Goler’s report, Sammon sends his email to the staffs of Fox News’s “straight” news shows and others, ordering them to report that claims of human-caused climate change are controversial. That evening, news anchor Bret Baier introduces another report by Goler by saying in part that as “Climategate-fueled skeptics continued to impugn global warming science, researchers today issued new and even more dire warnings about the possible effects of a warmer planet.” After Goler’s evening report, Baier tells viewers that “skeptics say the recordkeeping began about the time a cold period was ending in the mid 1800s and what looks like an increase may just be part of a longer cycle,” and runs a clip by American Enterprise Institute scholar Kenneth Green impugning the credibility of climate change science. And a few minutes later, correspondent James Rosen falsely claims that climate scientists “destroyed more than 150 years worth of raw climate data” in order to promote the theory of climate change. [Media Matters, 12/15/2010]
Sammon Previously Manipulated Fox News Reporting - Less than two months ago, Sammon ordered journalists and producers to use the term “government option” instead of “public option” to describe a specific health care proposal by Senate Democrats, as his preferred term had been shown to be less favorable to that proposal (see October 27, 2009 and After).

Entity Tags: Kenneth Green, Bill Sammon, Ben Dimiero, Bret Baier, James Rosen, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fox News, World Meteorological Organization, Wendell Goler, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: Global Warming, Domestic Propaganda

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