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February 21, 2012

Left's Attempt At Their Own ClimateGate Based on Forged Document?

Megan McArdle was, to my knowledge, the first to raise red flags over the authenticity of documents from the Heartland Institute, supposedly showing them acting all evil and stuff about the climate.

Most of the documents are real and are fairly bland. But one memo is in dispute. This memo, by McArdle's reading, seems written not from the point of view of a climate change skeptic -- who would naturally see himself as the good guy -- but from the point of view of a climate change zealot impersonating a climate change skeptic -- and is thus written, oddly, as if the person doing the writing believes himself to be a bad guy.

(My own take: I skipped this because I think the Likely Forged Document itself is pretty bland, too. If this is an attempt at a takedown, it seems pretty subtle to me. But subsequent events seem to show that Megan McArdle was likely right and my lack of interest was likely wrong.)

5. The worldview is different. In my experience, climate skeptics see themselves as a beleaguered minority fighting for truth and justice against the powerful, and nearly monolithic, forces of the establishment. They are David, to the climate scientists' Goliaths. This is basically what the authenticated documents sound like.

The memo, by contrast, uses more negative language about the efforts it's describing, while trying to sound like they think it's positive. It's like the opposition political manifestos found in novels written by stolid ideologues; they can never quite bear (or lack the imagination) to let the villains have a good argument. Switch the names, and the memo could have been a page ripped out of State of Fear or Atlas Shrugged.

Basically, it reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.

Jimmah notes a very odd statement for Heartland Institute to make -- according to the Likely Forged Document, Heartland seeks to "disuade schools from teaching 'science.'"

Does that sound like a climate skeptic? Climate skeptics make the exact opposite claim: Schools should start teaching science and stop teaching the Catechisms of George Soros.

McArdle's theory is that the real information (bland stuff about donors) was in fact obtained by some lefty, but it wasn't juicy enough. So someone faked up a Memo, basically a digest of the information in the other documents (or through Google), but wrote about that information in the most negative way possible, in order to juice up a pretty weak leak.


A subsequent post firmed up that theory.

Moreover, the fact is that this document does not merely confirm facts found in other sources. It substantially recasts those facts, in the case of the Koch donation. And in the selection of facts it presents, and the spin it puts on them, it alters the reporting.

There's a reason that the majority of the quotes in the early blogging and reporting on this story seem to have been taken from the memo, including the initial post on DeSmogBlog. For example, someone named Richard Littlemore wrote "It is clear from the documents that Heartland advocates against responsible climate mitigation and then uses that advocacy to raise money from oil companies and 'other corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.' Heartland particularly celebrates the funding that it receives from the fossil fuel fortune being the Charles G. Koch Foundation." That is all taken from the memo, not the supporting documents. The fundraising document actually contains no record that I can see of contributions from oil companies.

The climate blogs presumably relied so heavily on the memo because the quotes were punchier, and suggested far darker motivations than the blandly professional language of the authenticated documents--and because it edited the facts into a neat, almost narrative story.

In the first 24 hours, I saw a lot of comments along the line of "See! They're really just as amoral and dangerous as we thought they were!" based on a memo which I now believe to have been written by someone who, well, thinks that AGW skeptics are amoral and dangerous. (And judging from his update to the original document dump, Littlemore's fellow blogger, Brandon Demelle, is also unsure of the memo's "facts".)

Another guy analyzed the metadata and found that the time-stamp on the forged document was changed from its original Pacific time to the Heatrland Institute's Central time.

I used a pdfinfo script to analyse the memos. The info I got is that all the meta data dates changed on the day of the leak in the Pacific time zone (-8 GMT). This is likely where our thief resides. This is also where the “fake” was created on 2/13. The other docs, with the exception of the IRS form were in the central time zone (-6 GMT). The IRS form was -4 GMT. This has been corroborated by a commenter at Lucia’s. Based on this, and I’m not sure if I’ve covered every base, the strategy memo is a fake.

Based on that, and other clues gathered from the Likely Forged Document, McArdle profiles the hoaxer:

1) They are on the west coast

2) They own or have access to an Epson scanner--though God knows, this could be at a Kinkos.

3) They probably themselves have a somewhat run-on writing style

4) I'm guessing they use the word "high-profile" a fair amount.

5) They are bizarrely obsessed with global warming coverage at Forbes, which suggests to me that there is a good chance that they write or comment on the website, or that they have tangled with writers at Forbes (probably Taylor) either in public or private.

6) The last paragraph is the biggest departure from the source documents, and is therefore likely to be closest to the author's own style.

7) I have a strong suspicion that they refrained from commenting on the document dump. That's what I'd do, anyway. A commenter or email correspondent who suddenly disappeared when they normally would have been reveling in this sort of story is a good candidate.

8) They seem to have it in for Andy Revkin at the New York Times. There's nothing in the other documents to indicate that Heartland thinks Revkin is amenable to being . . . turned? I'm not sure what the right word is, but the implication in the strategy memo that Heartland believes it could somehow develop a relationship with Revkin seems aimed at discrediting Revkin's work.

Now a lefty climate change zealot confesses -- is that the right word? No, it's not, because according to McArdle's theory this wouldn't be a confession, but a back-up story, a fake story -- that he obtained the memo from a Heartland Institute staffer through deception.

At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute’s climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute’s apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name. The materials the Heartland Institute sent to me confirmed many of the facts in the original document, including especially their 2012 fundraising strategy and budget. I forwarded, anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

Time's eco blog scolds him for the lack of integrity in misrepresenting his identity in order to secure the documents. A "firing offense," Time calls it.

Of course, that may not be the biggest offense.

The major question now — beyond the legal ramifications for Gleick and the Heartland Institute — is whether the original document Gleick says he received, the strategy memo, is real or whether it’s a falsification as the Heartland Institute maintains. The problem for climate advocates, of course, is that suspicion will only grow that Gleick falsified the original document now that he has admitted using deception to get the additional memos.

Heartland calls his confession egregious enough, but insists that there's more to this story-- like the forgery of a document.

In his statement, Gleick claims he committed this crime because he believed The Heartland Institute was preventing a “rational debate” from taking place over global warming. This is unbelievable. Heartland has repeatedly asked for real debate on this important topic. Gleick himself was specifically invited to attend a Heartland event to debate global warming just days before he stole the documents. He turned down the invitation.

Gleick also claims he did not write the forged memo, but only stole the documents to confirm the content of the memo he received from an anonymous source. This too is unbelievable. Many independent commentators already have concluded the memo was most likely written by Gleick.

We hope Gleick will make a more complete confession in the next few days.

We are consulting with legal counsel to determine our next steps and plan to release a more complete statement about the situation tomorrow. In the meantime, we ask again that publishers, bloggers, and Web site hosts take the stolen and fraudulent documents off their sites, remove defamatory commentary based on them, and issue retractions.

In a bit of data that might just be the coup d'gras if/when the forgery is ultimately proven, Peter Gleick headed the "Task Force for Scientific Integrity" for the American Geophysical Union.

Per Wikipedia, it appears that the left has been showering him with accolades and paeans for the last decade.

1999 Elected Academician of the International Water Academy, Oslo, Norway.

2001 Named by the BBC as a "Visionary on the Environment" in its Essential Guide to the 21st Century.

2001 Appointed to Water Science and Technology Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.

2003 MacArthur Fellow "Genius Award".

2005 Elected Fellow of the International Water Resources Association.

2006 Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

2006 Elected Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences.

2008 Selected to Present the Abel Wolman Distinguished Lecture at the United States National Academy of Sciences, April 23, 2008, Washington, D.C.

2008 Named by Wired Magazine as "one of 15 people the next President should listen to." Wired Magazine: The 2008 Smart List

2009 Keynote Lecturer at the Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. [17]

2010 Named "Visionary: A Catalyst for an Enlightened Future" in the Los Angeles Times Magazine Section, January 3, 2010.

2011 Winner, along with his Pacific Institute of the first U.S. Water Prize.

2011 Winner of the IWRA Ven Te Chow Memorial Award.

Not that it has anything to do with anything else, but Peter Gleick heads the Pacific Institute, which is in fact on Pacific time, out in Oakland, CA.

Thanks to spongeworthy for tipping to me this week, and Andy for digesting all of the recent information in the sidebar. He kept up with it, while I just filed it under "Probably Not Important."

Oh: via @rdbrewer4, Charles Johnson is of course doubling down on the forgeries, baiting the Heartland Institute by publishing their demand he retract.

That's a friendly link to Diary of Daedelus, not Johnson's little-read blog.



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