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INHOFE HIGHLIGHTS COMMERCE INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT
February 24, 2011

Contacts:

Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov  (202) 224-9797

David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-5642

INHOFE HIGHLIGHTS COMMERCE INSPECTOR GENERAL REPORT

IG Finds NOAA Climategate Emails ‘Warrant Further Investigation,' Top Scientist Thwarts Transparency Law

Washington, D.C.--Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, released the following findings from the investigation by the Commerce Department's Inspector General on emails from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) related to the "climategate" scandal.

"I want to thank the Inspector General for conducting a thorough, objective, and balanced investigation," Inhofe said.  "NOAA is one of the nation's leading scientific organizations.  Unfortunately, in reading past the executive summary, this report shows that some NOAA employees potentially violated federal contract law and engaged in data manipulation.  It also appears that one senior NOAA employee possibly thwarted the release of important federal scientific information for the public to assess and analyze.  Her justification for blocking the release was contradicted by two career attorneys in the Office of General Counsel.  This is no doubt a serious matter that deserves further investigation. 

"Also, the IG recommended that certain NOAA-related emails ‘warrant further investigation,' so I will be following up to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent according to federal law, and that the public will get access to the science NOAA produces."

Highlights from the IG Report

Emails 'Warrant Further Investigation'

"We found eight emails which, in our judgment, warranted further examination to clarify any possible issues involving the scientific integrity of particular NOAA scientists or NOAA's data. As a result, we conducted interviews with the relevant NOAA scientists regarding these eight emails, and have summarized their responses and explanations in the enclosure."

Potential Breach of NOAA Contracting

"In addition to the foregoing, we also found two other emails that raised questions, one regarding a 2002 contract NOAA awarded to the CRU..."

"This email, dated June 24, 2003, captioned ‘NOAA Funding,' was sent by a visiting fellow at CRU, a NOAA contractor, to another researcher (affiliated with a research institution in Vietnam) stating the following:

‘NOAA want[s] to give us more money for the El Nino work with IGCN [Indochina Global Change Network). How much do we have left from the last budget? I reckon most   has been spent but we need to show some left to cover the costs of the trip [name omitted] didn't make and also the fees/equipment/computer money we haven't spent  otherwise NOAA will be suspicious.'

"Auditing NOAA's contracting with CRU was not within the scope of our inquiry, but in light of these circumstances it is important for NOAA to be assured that CRU fully complied with the applicable U.S. contracting rules and requirements.  Moreover, NOAA could not tell us the universe of climate-related contracts it has issued over the past ten years to parties and institutions such as CRU." [Emphasis added]

NOAA Administrator's Congressional Testimony

Dr. Lubchenco's testimony before the House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming: "The [CRU] emails really do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus and the independent scientific analyses of thousands of scientists around the world that tell us that the earth is warming and that the warming is largely a result of human activities."

"Dr. Lubchenco told us she could not be sure whether she had read any of the CRU emails or received a briefing from her staff on the results of NOAA's CRU email review prior to testifying before the House Select Committee."  [Emphasis added]

Thwarting FOIA

"The Co-Chair of the IPCC AR4 WG1, who was the only NOAA scientist informed of any of the aforementioned FOIA requests, told us that she did not conduct a ‘comprehensive search' for and forward potentially responsive documents for agency processing. This was based, in part, on her understanding that her IPCC-related work product was the property of the IPCC, due to the confidentiality provisions contained in many of the documents.  In addition, she reportedly received verbal guidance from her supervisor and a NOAA OGC attorney that the IPCC-related documents she had created and/or obtained while on "detail" assignment to the IPCC did not constitute NOAA records." [Emphasis added]

"We interviewed the two NOAA OGC attorneys whom the Co-Chair and her supervisor referenced during their interviews with us to determine what, if any, advice the attorneys provided to these individuals. Both attorneys specifically told us that they had not advised the Co-Chair or her supervisor on this matter at the time NOAA received the FOIA requests referenced herein. One attorney said that he never spoke to the Co-Chair about that issue, while the second attorney told us that he was consulted only after NOAA had already responded to the FOIA requesters that it had no responsive documents." [Emphasis added]

"Based on our interviews of the two NOAA OGC attorneys, we followed-up with the Co-Chair and her supervisor, both of whom again told us that their handling of the aforementioned FOIA requests was based on advice they had received from these two specific attorneys. We requested from the Co-Chair and her supervisor documentation of any discussions with the NOAA OGC attorneys on this matter, which they were unable to provide. As such, we were unable to reconcile the divergent accounts."  [Emphasis added]

Questions about ‘Objectivity'

"Both the Chief Scientist and the creator of the image told us it was meant to bring some levity to the constant criticism that they and their fellow climate scientists were facing at the time from ‘climate skeptics.' Notwithstanding their rationale, such an image could foster an adverse appearance about the scientists' objectivity, and at least one internet blog questioned the propriety of the image. While none of the senior NOAA officials we interviewed said they were aware of the referenced email and the attached picture before we interviewed them, Dr. Lubchenco told us that ‘it was in bad taste.' According to NOAA, both scientists, who acknowledged that the image was inappropriate, have since been counseled by their respective supervisors." [Emphasis added]

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