Dr. James E. Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, found himself under close scrutiny by his superiors at NASA due to his attempts to inform the public about global warming. Last fall, Hansen, a physicist who has been cautioning the public since 1988 about the long-term environmental harm likely due to carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions, was ordered by NASA officials to remove data he had posted on the internet suggesting that 2005 was the warmest year on record. Later, after a speech he gave in December at the American Geophysical Union, Hansen was told that he would face “dire consequences” if he continued publicizing his conclusion that extreme climate change is imminent absent significant policy changes. Furthermore, public affairs staff started systematically reviewing his papers, lectures, internet postings, and interview requests from journalists.

While NASA officials insist that their communications with Hansen were meant to clarify existing rules intended to protect scientists and to keep information flowing in an orderly fashion, Hansen and other scientists have reported that some interviews have been canceled and others have been allowed only with an agency spokesman present. A NASA official who said that it was his job “to make the president look good” prevented an interview with NPR because it was deemed too liberal. Dr. Hansen, who feels that these actions are like none he’s ever seen in his decades of government service, said that NASA public affairs officials “feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public.”