Guest post by David Ross
According to his own account, Peter Gleick “received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy.”
Why was the “Climate Strategy” leaked only to Gleick? His explanation is less than convincing: “I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.” None of the other people named in the document (some of whom have also had “past exchanges” with Heartland) received a copy.
Why didn’t Gleick show the “Climate Strategy” document to anyone else? He has many journalist contacts. Any one of them could have given him their opinion on the veracity of the document and told him exactly what to do with it.
Instead, he then “solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name” in an attempt to “confirm the accuracy of the information in this document.”
He then “forwarded, anonymously, the documents” he “had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues”.
From: Heartland Insider
Date: Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Subject: Files from Heartland Institute
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.
Peter Gleick is a scientist, but he is not asking people to look at scientific data or arguments. He wants you to “look especially at…fundraising and budget documents” and “the information about donors”. If “in the interest of transparency” it is so important to know who is the source of information, why did Gleick post his “information” anonymously. He cannot claim to be a disinterested party or without a vested interest in climate science and policy.
That he deceived Heartland when he impersonated a member of their board (a criminal offence otherwise known as “phishing”) does not seem to bother many of his supporters. But, regardless of whether they accept that the key document is a fake (and it seems nothing will shake the faith of some), they should realize that Gleick also sought to use and deceive them.
Claiming to be an insider
Gleick lied when he titled his “leak” email “Heartland Insider” and sent it from the address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Based solely on this, these “journalists and experts” called the matter a “leak” and referred to the, then unknown, source as a “whistleblower” or “insider” (in contrast to their treatment of the Climategate emails which the same journalists, again with no evidence, invariably refer to as “stolen” or “hacked”).
This “insider” claim was repeated uncritically in media such as the U.K.’s Guardian.
“Leak exposes how Heartland Institute works to undermine climate science…DeSmogBlog, which broke the story, said it had received the confidential documents from an “insider” at the Heartland Institute”
The journalists at the Guardian could have asked those at DeSmogBlog, how they knew the source was an insider. Perhaps they did, but thought “because the anonymous guy who sent us them said so” was not an answer that would impress their readers.
Muddying the source of the documents
In his confession Gleick accuses Heartland of “efforts to muddy public understanding”. Yet this is exactly what he did when he included the “Climate Strategy” document among the documents he had obtained directly from Heartland, and then referred to them collectively as “these files from the Heartland Institute”. It was a crass attempt to lend credence to a fake document, by mixing it in with ones he knew to be genuine. The deception worked with some journalists, others just played along.
“It was not possible to immediately verify the authenticity of the documents, although Heartland issued a statement on Wednesday claiming at least one document was fake, and that it was the victim of theft and forgery. However, Anthony Watts, a weathercaster who runs one of the most prominent anti-science blogs, Watts Up With That?, acknowledged Heartland was helping him with $90,000 for a new project.”
Note how this Guardian journalist, while protecting her paper from legal sanction, uses one verifiable fact from a genuine document to imply (see “However”) that all the documents are genuine.
About half of the “Climate Strategy” consists of mundane text also found in the phished documents. The text that the media pay most attention to, that portrays Heartland in the worst light, such as “dissuading teachers from teaching science” or “it is important to keep opposing voices out” does not appear in any of the phished documents but just happens to be exclusive to the one document even Gleick admits he did not obtain from Heartland.
Megan McArdle of the Atlantic put it best: “their Top Secret Here’s All the Bad Stuff We’re Gonna Do This Year memo…reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.”
Nemesis of the deniers
Gleick is a scientist who had a hypothesis: i.e. “Heartland’s views are contrary to his because they are anti-science/evil”. To prove this hypothesis he gathers reliable evidence – the phished documents. When the reliable evidence does not support his hypothesis he uses unreliable (or fabricates fake) evidence, and throws the two together.
This is not the first time in the climate “debate” that “evidence” from two different sources has been spliced together and passed off as one, after results diverge from expectations. The “Climate Strategy” document is the blade of Gleick’s hockey stick.
Gleick only confessed after he had been fingered as the source of the “leak” or, as the Guardian put it, not “until there was already feverish online speculation about his involvement”.
The speculation arose partly because he was portrayed (or he portrayed himself) in the “Climate Strategy” document as a “high-profile climate scientist” and as the nemesis of Heartland and the “deniers”. A quick bit of Googling quickly dispels the notion that Heartland or anyone else describes themselves as “anti-climate”. And Gleick, whose area of expertise is water supply, may be a loud voice in the climate “debate” but he is not a central figure in the actual science.
Call for debate
In his confession Gleick asserted that “a rational public debate is desperately needed” and that there were “ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate.” Gleick’s belief in his conspiracy theory may be sincere, but his call for debate, and accusation that others are trying to “prevent” it, is a sham.
On Jan 13, Jim Lakely of Heartland invited Gleick to debate at the Institute’s 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner and even offered to “donate $5,000 to the charity of” Gleick’s “choice in lieu of an honoraria”. The two subsequently exchanged emails on the matter.
However, on Jan 27, less than one hour after he sent his last email request posing as a Heartland board member Gleick, then chair of the American Geophysical Union Task Force on Scientific Ethics, felt the desperate need to email Lakely (as himself this time) and decline this invitation to debate.
Perhaps it was this invitation that led Gleick to believe that the people at Heartland regarded him as their No.1 adversary “high-profile climate scientist”. But given his tendency to hyperbole and his often emotional rants in various media, they may just have thought he would be an easy mark. All the information, about this invitation to debate and Gleick’s decline, comes from Heartland. Gleick, an active blogger, told his readers nothing, and now tries to hide his decline.
Towards the end of his confession, Gleick states that he “will not comment on the substance or implications of the materials” yet in much of the rest of his confession he does just that: “…an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy…The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget.”
Curiously, that last line closely echoes one in the “Climate Strategy” document:
“More details can be found in our 2012 Proposed Budget document and 2012 Fundraising Strategy memo.”
If, as Gleick claimed, he had the “Climate Strategy” document in his possession before the others, why didn’t he use the information contained in it to his advantage, when phishing Heartland?
As one of the commenters at DeSmogBlog put it “Asking for something that didn’t exist could cause suspition [sic]“.
According to Gleick’s account, he knew of the existence and the specific titles of Heartland’s “2012 Proposed Budget document and 2012 Fundraising Strategy memo”, before he started his phishing expedition. If these were where corroboration and “more details” could be found, why didn’t he specifically ask for these by name?
Instead, after his initial impersonation of a board member had succeeded, this was what he asked for: “can you send me the most recent Board minutes and agenda materials, if they are available?”
He then receives some confidential documents that just happen to be the ones referred to in the “Climate Strategy” supposedly already in his possession.
Gleick’s conspiracy within a conspiracy
Given that the Gleick phished seven documents from Heartland, why was the “Climate Strategy” document not sent out with the “most recent Board minutes and agenda materials”? There is a ready made answer within the document itself: “I propose that at this point it be kept confidential and only be distributed to a subset of Institute Board and senior staff.” Neither the “subset”, “senior staff” nor the author of this “confidential” memo, written in the first person, is named. How are the members of this conspiracy within a conspiracy to know each other? How are some board members and staff expected to keep secrets from each others when a determined outsider like Gleick can get them? If this “Confidential Memo” was only distributed to “a subset of Institute Board and senior staff” then Gleick would have us believe that his “anonymous” source was one of them.
The language used here – “distributed to a subset of Institute Board and senior staff” – betrays someone from a scientific background and echoes that used by Gleick in his confession – “I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts”.
Implying that some part of a group are working behind others backs or betraying their mission, may be a clumsy attempt at divide and conquer. The author also appears to do this with two individuals, generally regarded as on Gleick’s side in the climate “debate”: “Revkin…who has a well-known antipathy for some of the more extreme AGW communicators” and “Curry…who has become popular with our supporters”.
Names, such as, Taylor, Gleick, Revkin, Romm, Trenberth, Hansen and Curry, appear without title or reference only in the last paragraph of the “Climate Strategy” document. In all the phished documents, individuals are always introduced with their full name or title. Using surnames alone, assumes that the reader is familiar enough with the subject for this to suffice. This style is more common in scientific literature. In other media, most writers avoid it, but not Gleick, as you can see in his, Jan 5, rant at the Huffington Post: “Gingrich, Romney, and Huntsman…Feldman, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, and Leiserowitz”.
Both Andrew Revkin and Judith Curry have earned Gleick’s displeasure in the past and both are now convinced that he is the culprit in this affair.
Foreshadowing today’s events, on Friday, Ross Kaminsky, a senior fellow and former board member at Heartland, posted a piece on the American Spectator site naming Gleick as an “obvious suspect.” Now they have their man.
He has made it known to me via email that he has been displeased with my “behavior.” I seem to have gotten his goat to have been mentioned in the fake Heartland strategy doc (hard to believe that he didn’t write this).
If Gleick’s purpose was to “confirm the accuracy of the information” contained in the supposed “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy”, why didn’t he specifically ask for a copy of this document. His impersonation had worked. He had already succeeded in phishing other confidential documents. His anonymity was still secure. He had nothing to lose.
If it had been genuine, and Gleick had managed to obtain a copy directly from Heartland, he would have had strong email evidence to back him up, and could have then revealed it and himself openly, and been automatically elevated to enviro-sainthood.
The obvious conclusion (which other evidence supports)
is that Gleick did not have a copy of a “2012 Heartland Climate Strategy” when he was phishing Heartland. He did not have a copy because he (or whoever the forger was) had not written it yet.
Instead, this was his next and final request: “When you get a chance, can you please email me the most up-to-date contact list for the board, with emails/phone numbers?”
Gleick again lied when he claimed to have phished Heartland in an attempt to “confirm the accuracy of the information in this document.” His last request would not help him “confirm the accuracy” of anything. He already had detailed information about donors, budget, motivation, strategy and operations.
As with his previous request, Gleick received more than he explicitly asked for: a “Board Directory” with information about 14 members, including what appears to be home addresses and home telephone numbers of some and cell phone numbers of most.
We know where you live
Regardless of how you view the other documents or Gleick’s other actions, there can be no legitimate or ethical reason for Gleick disseminating this private information or for sites like ThinkProgress to host it, which is what happened.
As Andrew Revkin pointed out: “Some of the released documents contain information about Heartland employees that has no bearing on the climate fight.”
ThinkProgress.org has removed the fake “Climate Strategy” document from their website but still hosts the “Board Directory”. They have also added a section “Other Documents” with links to copies of 12 letters sent to the employers and others holding power over some of the individuals named in the phished documents. Eight of them are from Greenpeace.
In April 2010, Greenpeace posted an article on their website (where, incidentally, DeSmogBlog is one of 17 others listed on their blogroll to the left of the page):
Will the real ClimateGate please stand up?
? (part 1)
which concluded with the following:
“Pressuring politicians on climate change is not working. … We need to shift targets and go after the real termites that hollowed out and imploded Copenhagen. … And we need to inspire, engage and empower … the volunteer activists that have been making life hell for fossil fuel lobbyists in the US. … We must break the law to make the laws we need: laws that are supposed to protect society, and protect our future. Until our laws do that, screw being climate lobbyists. Screw being climate activists. It’s not working. We need an army of climate outlaws.
The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and skepticism. … If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:
We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.
And we be many, but you be few.”
The author of the article is “Gene from Greenpeace India” and “Ananth, International Programme Director” assures us that “Anyone who knows Gene knows he’s an entirely peaceful guy.” Of course, the only people who really know Gene are other Greenpeace activists because of Greenpeace’s frequent use of anonymous first names in their communications.
Greenpeace eventually removed the article from their website (read some of the comments that persuaded them to do that here)
but not from the web. Despite admitting “We got this one wrong, no doubt about it” on the (now redacted) page, the page contains the statement “In the interest of transparency we have moved it off site to this location” and a link to a copy of the original article. Reader comments have been removed and the following update was added by the Greenpeace web producer:
“A lot of folks commenting are sizing [sic] on the words, “we know where you live”. … There are only two cases I can think of where Greenpeace protesters actually showed up at someone’s home … Personally, I think both of these protests were pretty cool.”
This article was widely reported in the climate blogosphere and it is by no means the only example of its kind. No matter what interpretation Greenpeace tries to put on the words “We know where you live”, they cannot be so naive to think that others, including the violent or deranged, will not interpret them differently.
By way of contrast, Watts Up With That?,
and a host of other skeptical sites, link to the ClimateGate FOIA Grepper
where you can read the Climategate emails for yourself and where “All full emails [addresses], telephone numbers and passwords have been redacted.”
Gleick did not request a copy of the specific document he claimed to already have in his possession (the one whose authenticity he claimed to be attempting to confirm) nor did he specifically request by name the documents he did eventually receive, even though, by his account, he should have known their names.
He did not even ask for information specifically about “climate” or “strategy”. But he did specifically phish for information on board members. Neither Gleick nor those who have posted these documents on the web have made any attempt to remove personal information about the Heartland board members or staff, exposing each of them to a campaign of hate and intimidation. Perhaps that was what Gleick wanted all along.