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Publication date: Sep. 20, 2006


Despite statements to The Wall Street Journal last February that the White House does not rule on news media requests for interviews with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, internal e-mails obtained through a FOIA request show that those statements were untrue, and that NOAA press contacts were being manipulated by the White House. In addition, a Republican media operative in the Department of Commerce was clearing scientists to talk about hurricanes and global warming after Hurricane Katrina.

White House and NOAA officials had told Wall Street Journal reporters in a Feb. 16, 2006, article that the White House did not clear NOAA interview requests. Dozens of e-mailed messages obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, however, showed that in fact officials at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) had been consulted by NOAA press officials for clearance of which scientists were interviewed, what reporters would be allowed to interview them, and what the scientists were expected to say.

The story was broken by Paul D. Thacker in an article for the online magazine Salon Sept. 19, 2006. Some of the documents involved were released by Cong. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who has asked Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez for further information on the matter by an Oct. 9 deadline. Many of the names in the FOIA'd documents were redacted (blacked out), without any justification given.

Most of the instances documented have to do with efforts by the White House and NOAA public affairs officials in 2005 and early 2006 to stifle scientists who believed there was a connection between the unusual intensity of recent hurricanes and global warming. Scientists who believed there was no connection were given much freer access to the press.

The dispute over the hurricane-climate link is just one of many examples where scientists at NOAA and other federal agencies such as NASA and EPA have complained that the White House and political appointees are suppressing scientific information that does not support Bush administration policies.

Last revised January 22, 2013

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