Sunday, January 29, 2006

'L'Etat, c'est moi. I'm just not very good at it—UPDATED. AND AGAIN

Listen, we don’t want to do anything that makes the President look bad. Now stop laughing, you idiot, you’re job depends on it!The New York Times’s redoubtable Andy Revkin, has a killer story today, more evidence that this administration is as evil as it is incompetent. The longtime director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James E. Hansen, one of the country’s most respected climate scientists, says that NASA is trying to muzzle his comments on global warming. He has told them to shove it. NASA political appointees also told the public affairs office (once the paradigm of how government public relations should work) to lean on Hansen and at least one p.i.o. told them to stick it in the same place.

His battles with the administration have not gone unnoticed in the media, but Revkin's story is the most detailed and sourced.

UPDATE—The young bureaucrat responsible for all of this, George Deutsch, resigned on Tuesday, the 7th. The resignation came after Texas Tech announced that contrary to Deutsch's resume, he did not graduate from there. He fell on his sword sometime thereafter. For Deutsch's lamebrained defense, see Revkin here. I guess I'm not the only awed by the fact that a 24-year-old is taken off a college newspaper and put in charge of the public relations operation of NASA.

The trouble began when Hansen, in a speech at the University of Iowa during the last presidential election, said that scientists warning of global warming were being muzzled by the administration and he was going to vote for John Kerry. Things got really hairy in September, he said, because he was discussing the clear-cut dangers of not cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. He also warned that unless something is done, we will leave the earth "a different planet."

Studying long-range climate models is his speciality. He knows as much about it as any human and consequently, the administration wants him to shut up. NASA, of course, denied all of this, but Revkin backed up Hansen’s statement with other sources, including several who were willing to be named, including Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer, who apparently won’t play the game either. She was told by a political appointee that his job was to make the President look good. She said that wasn’t in her job description. Most of the threats have come by telephone, leaving no paper trail. Meanwhile, interviews have been cancelled and now public affairs officers must sit in on interviews, which in my day was sufficient reason for a reporter to walk.

The story fits in with many others of this administration’s attempt to keep more things in secret—except, of course, your telephone calls and library loans and lots of other things. And, the story comes a week after data were released showing 2005 the warmest year in half a century. [We’re not having winter this year in Maryland, by the way.]

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun reports this morning that the NSA has spent six years and hundreds of millions of dollars on a computerized system to monitor electronic data that still isn't working. The Sun's Siobhan Gorman reports that the goal was supposed to be a state-of-the-art system to comb through the ocean of data flowing electronically around the world and filter out messages that would help protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks. Called Trailblazer, it was launched in 1999 and was supposed to monitor e-mail, cell phones and IM. Had the system been working before 9/11, it might have spotted messages tipping off the government to the plot. But it wasn't and it didn't. It still isn't running. The NSA is expected to trash the whole thing and start anew from the detritus.

One expert called Trailblazer the "biggest boondoggle going on now in the intelligence community.

As they said in "L'il Abner," the country's in the very best of hands."

[Photo: James Hansen, Washington Post]

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