You may have read about US Congressman Lamar Smith's ongoing vindictive harassment and smear campaign against scientists at NOAA. You might have also read about his latest allegations of "whistleblowers". If you are wondering if there is anything behind this, other than a deranged attack on science, scientists and the NOAA, then wonder no more.
To prove this point, just read the letter to Lamar Smith from Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a member of the committee of which Lamar Smith is chair - the Committee on Space, Science and Technology.
I'll quote some segments damning the unconscionable actions of this vindictive, out-of-control, grandstanding US congressman, Lamar Smith. The bolding and some paragraph breaks are mine.
What exactly is Lamar Smith alleging? That the scientists are doing science!
Lamar Smith started his witchhunt without explaining what he was hunting for - not once, in six letters of demand!
In my prior letter, I noted that in four separate written demands to NOAA to comply with your "investigation" you never actually identified what it is you were claiming to investigate. Instead of responding to either me or NOAA with some legitimate rationale for your actions, you instead wrote a fifth demand letter to NOAA1 which continued your insistence that NOAA must comply with your demands because of your "investigation" - still without ever making any accusation of any waste, fraud, or abuse to be investigated. Just last week, you also sent a similar cajoling letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker2. In six separate, and increasingly aggressive, letters, the only thing you accused NOAA of doing is engaging in climate science - i.e., doing their jobs.
And about the so-called "whistleblowers" who seem to have blown no whistle, Congresswoman Johnson wrote:
Moreover, your "whistleblowers" don't even appear to be challenging the findings of the study, but rather, that the study was "rushed." This mild accusation would hardly seem to warrant the hyper-aggressive oversight and rhetoric you have leveled at NOAA.
Neither I nor my staff can evaluate the veracity of your whistleblower claims, because you have not shared them with the Minority. However, one sentence in your letter gave me pause immediately. You state:
"More troubling, it appears that NOAA employees raised concerns about the timing and readiness of the study's release through e-mails, including several communications just before its publication in April, May, and June of 2015 ."
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Karl study was actually submitted to the journal Science in December of 2014 - four months before your alleged whistleblower communications. Science accepted the study for publication in May of 2015. Moreover, the Karl study relied, in part, upon the work of two previously published studies by Boyin Huang5 and Wei Liu . It was these studies which explained NOAA's updated sea surface temperature records, not the Karl study. These studies were submitted to the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate in December of 2013 - nearly one and a half years before your alleged whistleblowers raised their concerns.
Given these discrepancies, I hope you will take this opportunity to provide the Minority with the whistleblower information you possess, so we might better be able to evaluate the veracity of these claims. Until you provide the Minority with this information, I hope you will understand my skepticism regarding the new claims you have made in your seventh demand letter.
Grandstanding, wasting taxpayer's money, and harassing scientists
Congresswoman Johnson asks Congressman Smith why he didn't ask his questions when he had the opportunity to do so. Why does he insist on more meetings after he's already had ample opportunity to ask whatever he wants?
I would note that Dr. Karl travelled to Washington, DC on October 19 to provide your staff with a private briefing on his research. You and your staff had the opportunity to ask him any questions you desired. You could have confronted Dr. Karl with your "whistleblower" information. You didn't. Instead of doing so, you and your staff are wasting taxpayer resources and Dr. Karl's valuable time by demanding that he again travel to Washington at some indeterminate point in the future to ask him questions you already had the opportunity to ask. This isn't oversight. It's grandstanding and harassment of a respected scientist.
Lamar Smith threatens an American hero and icon
Lamar Smith has even threatened Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, and American hero if ever there was one, with criminal prosecution, to further his war on science:
You also make irresponsible threats to Administrator Sullivan in your November 4 letter, stating:
"[y]our failure to comply with a duly issued subpoena may expose you to civil and/or criminal enforcement mechanisms."
I think it might be informative to take note of whom you are threatening. Dr. Kathryn Sullivan is PhD geologist, former naval reserve officer, f0rmer three-time NASA astronaut, former chief scientist of NOAA, and former member of the National Science Board. As an astronaut, Dr. Sullivan became the first American woman to ever "walk" in space. Dr. Sullivan is the very definition of service to country, and she is a role model for us all. I highly doubt Dr. Sullivan is intimidated by your threats, but it is an indication of how low the Majority is willing to stoop to perpetuate their anti-science agenda when a legitimate American icon is dragged through the mud in furtherance of an ideological crusade.
The most outrageous statements - Lamar Smith's baseless witchhunt to smear reputations for partisan gain
Congressman Johnson quoted unfounded allegations made by Lamar Smith, in the media and in Committee, none of which was supported by a single scrap of evidence. Then she wrote:
These might be the most outrageous statements ever made by a Chair of the Committee on Science.
In one fell swoop, you have accused a host of different individuals of wrongdoing. You have accused NOAA's top research scientists of scientific misconduct. By extension, you have also accused the peer-reviewers at one of our nation's most prestigious academic journals, Science, of participating in this misconduct (or at least being too incompetent to notice what was going on). If that weren't enough, you are intimating a grand conspiracy between NOAA and the White House to doctor climate science to advance administration policy. Presumably this accusation extends to Administrator Sullivan herself. And all of these indictments are conjured out of thin air, without you presenting any factual basis for these sweeping accusations - exposing this so-called "investigation" for what it truly is: a witch hunt designed to smear the reputations of eminent scientists for partisan gain.
Lamar Smith can't hide behind the US Constitution
The Constitution doesn't give Lamar Smith the right to threaten and defame scientists, as Congresswoman Johnson explains:
You have made much of the notion that the Constitution undergirds your investigatory powers. And it is true that Congress's legitimate investigatory powers are derived directly from Article 1 of the Constitution. However, you are wrong that anything you are currently engaged in derives of the powers vested in Congress by the Constitution.
The Constitution doesn't provide you with a blank check to harass research scientists with whose results you disagree. The Constitution doesn't imbue you with the power to sanction a separate and equal branch of government simply because they won't entertain your baseless conspiracy theories. Your "investigation" appears to have less to do with uncovering waste, fraud, or abuse at a federal agency, and more to do with political posturing intended to influence public opinion ahead of a major international climate conference. I would implore you to cease this illegitimate "investigation," but I suspect such a plea would fall on deaf ears. However, you should know that your inappropriate tactics will find no support with me. I, along with my fellow Democratic Members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, will endeavor at every opportunity to counter your efforts to attack the field of climate science and the hardworking scientists who work in the field.
You can read the entire letter here. Pass around the link to counter the smear campaign by out-of-control Lamar Smith.
One expects nut-jobs like Anthony Watts and Eric Worrall to promote this sort of conspiracy nuttery on their blogs. One doesn't expect the Chair of the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to be a conspiracy theorising anti-science crank. But he is.
Where are the rational members of the Republican Party? Are they all anti-science, conspiracy-theorising nuts or are there some who will speak out and stand up to Lamar Smith?
If you know of any US politicians from the Republican Party who have spoken out against Lamar Smith's actions - can you let me know in the comments, please.
References and further reading
Letter from Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson to the Chair of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology - 19 November 2015
NOAA: No pause in the global surface temperature - HotWhopper article describing the NOAA paper that Lamar Smith is basing his attack upon - June 2015
A list of related HotWhopper articles, describing the fake allegations and attacks dreamt up by Anthony Watts and other deniers