Intimidation Of Federal Scientists For Political Purposes
No, there’s no global warming, nuclear power is green, and how dare you,
federal govt scientist, report with integrity on the work you have done.
The Bush administration intimidates govt scientists, dumps hundreds of thousands of crucial documents into the trash bin…
It is a sad story, that we are not hearing enough about, when the scientists we need to help us discover what is true, what is bad for
us, and what is good for us, are intimidated by what is supposed to be
OUR government. In this case the Bush administration. The article below from the Pesticide Action Network and Stephenie Hendricks
reveals the terrible goings on that our scientists have to deal with every day, as they do their studies, and ponder what to report, worrying about their jobs, their income, their families, their fellow citizens, their livelihood, the environment, their chance to reveal what they have discovered, what really is going on.
Here is a great quote about government, to moderate any anger you might have [in advance], from Barbara Tuchman:
“A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why do holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?”*
Federal Scientists Protest White House Meddling
by Stephenie Hendricks
Agency scientists have been speaking out about collusion between the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and White House appointees. For example, EPA scientists opposed the Agencyís ìhuman testing ruleî because it violates Congressís unequivocal ban on testing pesticides on pregnant women and children. The rule was issued shortly after an August 9, 2005 meeting in which pesticide industry representatives urged top Administration officials to move quickly and ìnever say neverî regarding testing on children (see our Summer 2006 issue). Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), observed, ìAfter reading the ghoulish notes [of the meeting], one has the urge to take a shower.î
Sources inside the Agency claim that the Bush budget for FY2008 will close critical laboratories and eliminate the positions of seasoned scientists. Already, EPA administrators have closed down important Agency libraries and destroyed crucial research documents. According to PEER, irreplaceable files archived in the Office of Prevention, Pollution and Toxic Substances were ordered recycled or ìthrown into trash bins.î The collection included 228,772 documents on chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate banned for residential use, but approved for agricultural application.1
When EPA administrators failed to withdraw organophosphate pesticides last August, it was over the objections of their own staff scientists (see ìOrganophosphates,î page 6). EPAís political appointees now insist on monitoring all contacts between its staff scientists and the media. At the same time, veteran EPA staff who disagree with political appointees are being pressured to retire early. In another maneuver designed to undercut the Agencyís freedom from interference, ìoutsourcingî plans are being developed that will enable Bush-appointed administrators to turn over regulatory research to the chemical industry.
In September 2006, the White House stripped 170,000 federal scientists of whistleblower protection using an ìunpublished opinionî from the Attorney Generalís Office that granted George W. Bush ìsovereign immunity.î2
Agency scientists and their unions are standing up to these attacks, with support from PEER, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), PAN and progressive members of the 110th Congress who have begun to investigate the scientistsí plight.
On January 30, Representative Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, initiated Hearings on Political Influence on Government Climate Change Scientists. The committee heard from staff scientists who complained that politically appointed supervisors had tried to silence their work on global warming. UCS Senior Scientist Dr. Francesca Grifo cited a survey of federal scientists from the FDA, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and other agencies that corroborated the reports of intimidation from EPA staff. UCS surveyed more than 1,800 federal scientists and found that:
145 FDA scientists reported being asked, for non-scientific reasons, to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information or change their conclusions in an FDA scientific document;
Nearly half (44%) of all FWS scientists whose work is to evaluate endangered species reported that they had been directed, for non-scientific reasons, to refrain from making findings that would protect a species and,
150 federal climate scientists reported personally experiencing at least one incident of political interference in the past five yearsófor a total of at least 435 such incidents.
Grifo warned the committee: ìThe thousands of scientists in the employ of the federal government represent a tremendous resource and their knowledge and advice should be heeded, rather than manipulated or ignored. The message of these statistics is clear: without strong action to restore integrity to federal science, our nation will be ill-prepared to deal with the challenges we face.î3
On February 6, Senator Barbara Boxer convened the first Full Committee Hearing on Oversight of Recent EPA Decisions. Speakers included EPA Chief Stephen Johnson, Dr. Gina Solomon, Senior Scientist from the Natural Resource Defense Council, and Leslie Burger from the American Library Association. The speakers criticized EPAís closure of important research libraries and rollbacks of protections from exposures to toxic chemicalsóincluding lead and perchlorate. The committee also addressed EPAís weakening of the Toxic Release Inventory rule.
Dr. Solomon told the committee, ìWith these EPA rollbacks in place, we see communities breathing dirtier air, children exposed to more toxic lead, pregnant women unknowingly drinking thyroid-disrupting rocket fuel, scientists sidelined, and information vanishing. Itís not a pretty future. Yet I am optimistic that many of these bad outcomes can be averted. EPA has not finalized several of these proposals, and some of the actions can be reversed.î
In her opening statement, Senator Boxer declared: ìToxic air pollutants include some of the most dangerous cancer-causing and neurotoxic chemicals that pose a serious health threat to American families, especially pregnant women, infants, and children. Increased levels of toxic air pollutants will only increase these risks. The pattern of these year-end actions is strikingóthe public interest is sacrificed and environmental protection compromised. Who gains from these rollbacks? Just look at who asked for themólike Big Oil and the battery industry. EPAís actions and proposed actions make it clear who EPA is protecting. The purpose of these oversight hearings is to remind EPA who they are truly accountable toóthe American people.î4
During the hearing, Boxer admonished Johnson: ìI want to send a clear signal to EPA and to this administration: We are watching. No longer will EPA rollbacks quietly escape scrutiny.î
On March 15, as we went to press, the House passed a federal Whistleblowersí Protection Act to defend embattled government scientists.
What YOU Can Do
As hearings continue and 2008 elections gear up, make sure your federal, state, and local representatives know you support strong protection for health and the environment, independent science and the right of agency staff to blow the whistle on corrupt practices within government. You can sign the UCSí ìIntegrity of Scienceî Call to Action at www.ucsusa.org and another petition at www.peer.org.
In its first two months, leaders of the new Congress launched hearings to investigate charges of political interference with the scientific work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Directly, you can CALL your Senators via 202-225-3121. Even if you don’t know who they are, the operator will get them to you one by one, when you mention what state you are from. Similarly, for your one representative in the House of Representatives, you call this number and say your piece and give them your address and say that you vote…202-224-3121.
Also check the PAN website http://www.panna.org
You can participate in various actions and help share information.
Stephenie Hendricks is Public Information & Media Director at PAN North America.
ìStealth Closure of Principal EPA Library,î PEER, October 30, 2006.
ìBush Declares Eco-whistleblower Law Void for EPA Employees,î PEER, September 4, 2006.
House Hearing on Political Influence on Government Scientists, http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1162.
Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm.
*taken from the American Scholar, page 141, Spring 2007 edition with Hugo Chavez on the cover. Which in turn apparently was quoted from
“The March of Folly: From Troy To Vietnam” published in 1984
There is more information on this terrible intimidation in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ [UCS] magazine entitled Catalyst. Plus, check their website www.uscusa.org
In their Spring 2007 issue of Catalyst, they tell of Freedom of Information Act-found information revealing that “high-level political appointees at the U.S. Department of the Interior manipulated scientific reports to prevent the protection of several highly imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act. According to the documents, Assistant Deputy Secretary Julie MacDonald modified scientific findings, changed scientific conclusions, and removed relevant information from agency scientific reports, and then ordered the agency’s Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS] to adopt the edits.” That is from page 14.
On page 13 of the same issue, Dr. Bruce Lanphear [great name for what we are talking about here] is profiled. He is a “prominent epidemiologist” who has worked with researching lead and its toxic effects on children’s health at Cincinatti Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Catalyst states that Lamphear “is also a witness to the recent [and unprecedented] pattern of political interference in science.”
After being nominated by the Clinton administration to serve on the Centers for Disease Control Lead Advisory Committee, the Bush administration withdrew said nomination. Lamphear is quoted:
“It is hard for any single scientist to stand up for himself and not sound self-serving. Since UCS is independent and nonpartisan, they have the ability to call out political abuses of science.” However, Lamphear also is concerned about conflict of interest, and the compromise of credibility of all scientists because of what is going on today. If you want to really pitch in here, go to the ucsusa.org website and sign onto their “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making” statement. 10,000 fellow scientists have already signed onto this. More info on Dr. Lamphear’s experience, as well as the experiences of other scientists in other fields can be found in UCS’s “A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science,” more specifically, at www.ucsusa.or/scientific_integrity