Issue 105, Summer 2007

On July 10, Dr. Richard Carmona disclosed that the administration interfered with his work and muzzled him on numerous issues throughout his four-year tenure as Surgeon General. Carmona, who was appointed by President Bush in 2002, alleges that his speeches were censored, and his public statements carefully monitored by political appointees: “Anything that doesn’t fit into [their] ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried.” He cautioned, "The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science, or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds.”

Carmona’s statements support the allegations leveled against the administration in recent Congressional hearings on the suppression and manipulation of science. In their testimony, expert climatologists and environmentalists from federal agencies and from independent research and advocacy groups provided a clearer picture of the scope and severity of the censorship of science. Below are some key highlights from each of these hearings; a full summary is available online here.

  • January 30, 2007 — House Oversight Committee: Dr. Rick Piltz, former Senior Associate at the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, recounted the purposeful suppression of the National Assessment, a document evaluating regional climate change across the country. "It is my understanding," Piltz testified, "that the White House directed CCSP Director Mahoney to suppress the use of and references to the National Assessment."
  • February 7, 2007 — Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation: Thomas Knutson, a research meteorologist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, reported an increase in bureaucratic hurdles that prevent staff from communicating openly with media outlets.
  • March 19, 2007 — House Oversight Committee: Dr. James Hansen, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, detailed instances of public distortion of climate change information. The 30-year veteran researcher stated that “interference in communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any other time in my career.”
  • March 28, 2007 — House Committee on Science and Technology: Dr. James McCarthy, Harvard professor of Biological Oceanography, revealed a sweeping campaign by ExxonMobil to misinform the public and policymakers about global warming. He characterized the company’s efforts as “attempting to portray its opposition to action as a positive quest for ‘sound science’ rather than business self-interest,” likening its tactics to those of big tobacco corporations in the past.
  • May 9, 2007 — House Natural Resources Committee: Jamie Rappaport Clark, former Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Services under President Clinton and current Executive Vice President of Defenders of Wildlife, testified that “the Bush administration has undermined the scientific inquiry of its Endangered Species Act programs with political interference and slowly starved the program of needed resources.”

No investigations into these allegations had been ordered prior to the change in committee chairs that took place when the new Democratic majority swept into Congress. But the past several months alone have yielded significant results in exposing the depth of political interference in science under the Bush administration, and calls for more investigations, inquiries and further hearings have already been issued. Legislation protecting scientific whistleblowers passed the House in mid-March and is now in a Senate subcommittee, while another bill seeks to protect communication between the scientific community and the press.

Meanwhile, two reports commissioned by Congress confirmed the ineffectiveness of ‘abstinence-only’ sex education, and documented how these programs disseminate scientific misinformation that poses a serious threat to public health. Despite these findings (and ignoring recent polls suggesting that over 75% of Americans support more comprehensive sex education), the House Appropriations Committee recently voted for a 25% increase in federal funding for abstinence-only programs next year.

Through release of timely reports and editorials, NCAC continues its efforts to expose these affronts to the First Amendment, and to combat policies that hinder the public’s access to valid scientific information and obstruct an informed public policy.


» Read more from Censorship News #105.