Guest post by Christopher Horner
Tonight, PBS’s axe-grinding vehicle “Frontline” is running what promises to be a tantrum against people who seek debate over the global warming agenda, and scrutiny of claims underpinning it. It appears that you have me to thank for it or, to paraphrase a politician, I did build that. How this occurred is itself a story.
Tonight’s program is promoted as centering on Prof. Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University. It is part of an effort to fight back against a series of requests for email on Dessler’s taxpayer-funded account, one of several I made under the federal and state freedom of information laws, seeking how publicly funded academics use their positions and resources.
Part of a coordinated effort to stop exposure of the larger coordinated effort, it is a component of what I call in my new book, The Liberal War on Transparency.
Our objective in these FOIA requests was to compile the context to the “Climategate” scandal, which, activist academics central to its revelations assured us, was really an out-of-context misrepresentation. In so doing, I merely replicated an invention of the global warming industry. Which makes it even more strange that the same people think obtaining the supposed “exoneration” is a very bad idea.
Among them are the media and environmentalist establishments, including the Union of Concerned Scientists which became particularly exercised, mobilizing left-wing groups to urge universities not to satisfy our requests for public documents. I learned one reason: UCS is coordinating publicly funded activist academics and bureaucrats, activist media, and media consultants (indeed, it also seems they were likely behind tonight’s show).
This revelation came in records I obtained from Texas A&M. These exposed a sophisticated UCS operation to assist activist academics and other government employees as authorities for promoting UCS’s agenda. This includes “moot-courting” congressional hearings with a team of UCS staff, and directing the taxpayers’ servants to outside PR consultants — apparently pro bono or else on UCS’s dime. Keep this last point in mind.
As I recently exposed, they also show the New York Times reporter who covers the environment, science and specifically the global warming issue, Justin Gillis, as an activist in the shared cause.
Gillis’s front-page item laboring to undermine MIT’s Dr. Richard Lindzen prompted my request to A&M for information reflecting how Dessler and activist whom Gillis quoted was using his taxpayer-funded position.
Our requests caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among academia and its affiliated societies, the Washington Post, and the American Constitution Society. They joined UCS to attest that these sacrosanct exchanges of ideas would be fatally chilled if not granted an unlegislated exemption from freedom of information laws.
Now, recall that the Texas A&M email production shows the academics actually forwarding their email discussions outside their circle, for example to New York Times reporters, whom they also copied on the very exchanges they otherwise insist represent an intellectual circle that must remain free from violation by prying, nonacademic eyes.
Agitated Guardian scribe Suzanne Goldenberg emailed me within hours of Texas A&M receiving a request for Dessler email to or from her, suggesting that my use of FOIA to obtain public records was illegitimate and abusive because I am not unbiased. Seriously.
Also following my Texas A&M request, a “Frontline” producer contacted me claiming to want to discuss our FOIA litigation. She declined to send me whatever questions she might have; the obsession was to get tape of me to edit for tonight’s outburst. Being currently involved in only the seeking University of Virginia’s Climategate records, I referred her to lead counsel.
It turned out she actually wanted to complain about the Texas A&M requests, and one of Texas Tech University seeking a professor and climate activist’s correspondence about a chapter she was writing for Newt Gingrich’s boook (emails the professor who opposed providing me the emails had already provided to a Los Angeles Times reporter; but please, these are top-secret scientific discussions release of which would chill academic discourse!)
How two otherwise fairly obscure Texas activists would become the subject of interest to “Frontline” brings us back to UCS.
One of the emails produced by Texas A&M shows the activist Dessler contacting a D.C. media consultant for advice, Richard Ades of Prism Public Affairs, “a strategic communications firm that operates at the intersection of public policy and the media” according to its website. Dessler informs Ades he was referred by Aaron Huertas of UCS.
UCSs role is clear but the role of public resources in their program now must be elaborated upon. These records we seek are public records. They are precisely the sort that “Frontline”, the Guardian, UCS, Dessler, and the whole host of this week’s wailers had no problem with being sought by Greenpeace. They will reveal how taxpayer-funded academic activists use public resources to advance their agendas. And that is what frightens them.
Christopher Horner is author of The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information “Criminal” (Threshold, October 2012).