UPDATE: there’s even more evidence that the document was faked. The Koch Foundation and The Atlantic weighs in in update 3 below.
As a follow up to the post Notes on the Heartland Leak, I’ve prepared some notes on the PDF document “2012 Climate Strategy” that Heartland says in their press release is a fake among the other documents distributed. They say specifically that:
One document, titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy,” is a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute. It was not written by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute. It does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact.
There’s been a lot of scrutiny in comments on various blogs, and I’ve given some scrutiny to the document as well, comparing it with other documents in the set. I’m in agreement that this is a fake, here is why:
1. It is the only document in the set that appears to have been scanned rather than produced by a PDF document publisher such as Adobe Distiller 8.0 or 8.1 which were both in document properties on other documents. For example compare the two document properties side by side. I’ve placed arrows marking distinct differences:
2. The metadata in document properties in the document said to be faked have been sanitized. Why cover tracks? This could possibly be due to the leaker not knowing how to remove other metadata in standard PDF, but knows if he/she scans it on an Epson flatbed scanner and saves it to the scanner’s memory stick/flash drive port, there will be no personally identifiable information.
3. One of the first questions I asked Joe Bast of Heartland when I saw this printed then scanned document was “do you not shred your trash”? His response was, “there’s no need, all the communications are done electronically by email”. That suggests a paper copy never existed in the Heartland office. The fact that none of the documents contains any personal signatures lends credence to this.
4. It doesn’t read like a strategy document, as it mixes strategy with operational details and commentary.
5. It gets the operational details ( budget) wrong – especially the points about my project, rounding up to $90,000 from a very specific budget number of $88,000. This suggests trying to inflate the number for a purpose. There’s no evidence of rounding budget numbers in any other document in the set.
6. Key sentences are rather clumsily written and some make no sense. This contrasts with purposeful language in the other documents. This one sentence in particular has gotten a lot of attention:
His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.
I can’t imagine pitching “…dissuading teachers from teaching science.” to a board of directors at a meeting. It is a sure recipe for a public relations nightmare.
7. There are punctuation errors throughout it, suggesting it is not a professional document. There’s an overuse of commas for example. The formatting is different than other documents in the set, with a left justified title. All other Heartland documents have a center justified title. Fonts for titles don’t match either. The “2012 Climate Strategy” document has a different font.
8. The “2012 Climate Strategy” is the purported “smoking gun” that provides commentary and context missing from the other factual documents. Without this framing document, the other documents and what they contain, are rather bland. Without it, there’s not much red meat to dangle in front of people that would tear into it.
9. The document misrepresents the positions of Andrew Revkin and Dr. Judith Curry. This seems to come from a point of speculation, not from a point of certainty.
10. Most of the documents were prepared by Joe Bast, listed as author “jbast” in the PDF document metadata and done around 8AM on Monday, January 16th. One document, “Board Directory 01-18-12_0.pdf” has an author “ZMcElrath” ( a Heartland employee according to the Budget document) and was created on Wednesday January 25th at 1:04PM, within working hours just like all the others.
The document in question the “2012 Climate Strategy” has a timestamp of Monday, Feb 13th, at 12:41PM, just one day before “DeSmog Blog” released the documents on their website. The timeline disparity doesn’t make a lot of sense for documents that were supposedly mailed to a person posing as a board member (according to an alleged email snippet on Keith Kloor’s website) to trick someone at Heartland to email them the package of documents. Here it is:
Dear Friends (15 of you):
In the interest of transparency, I think you should see these files from the Heartland Institute. Look especially at the 2012 fundraising and budget documents, the information about donors, and compare to the 2010 990 tax form. But other things might also interest or intrigue you. This is all I have. And this email account will be removed after I send.
It would have had to have been sent sometime between 12:41PM Chicago time on Monday Feb13th and Tuesday Feb 14th 16:39 (Pacific Time) when the first comment appeared on DeSmog Blogs first post on the issue. According to David Appell’s blog, Keith Kloor says it was sent yesterday (Feb 14th), which is after the creation date for the “2012 Climate Strategy” memo of “2/13/2012 12:41:52 PM. Which means DeSmog blog had the documents only a short time.
Appell also writes: Desmogblog Had Leaked Docs For Only an Hour
I guess I’m behind on this, because this afternoon Politico reported that Desmogblog received the documents yesterday (2/14) and “The blog posted them about an hour later without contacting the Heartland Institute for confirmation.”
So they received them after the suspicious memo was scanned (according to its metadata). Which doesn’t prove its not fake, but at least the timeline isn’t inconsistent.
Appell also thinks the document makeup is suspicious and does his own metadata analysis.
All the above evidence, plus Heartland’s statement saying it is a fake, taken in total suggest strongly that the “2012 Climate Strategy” document is a fake. From my perspective, it is almost if the person(s) looking at these said “we need more to get attention” and decided to create this document as the “red meat” needed to incite a response.
Indeed, the ploy worked, as there are now 216 instances (as of this writing) of this document title “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” on Google at various news outlets and websites.
The question to ask then is this: who benefits the most from the existence of such a document? A disgruntled employee? Hardly. Such things often backfire. And, who would know best how to craft such a document for maximum public impact? I think the answers are there, but the question needs to be asked. From what I hear, Heartland is going for criminal prosecution and/or civil liabilities on this one. They certainly have a case.
All of those news outlets and bloggers that regurgitated this document and the claims in it without checking for the veracity of it first are going to have some defending to do to. The Guardian seems particularly vulnerable for their “publish first, ask questions later” tactic.
UPDATE: At Lucia’s Blackboard, commenter Duke C. have been delving into the faked memo. What he has found is quite interesting: