Saturday, February 18, 2012

On Thin Ice: Heartland's Hypocrisy

Desmogblog (2-15-12) reports that Joe Bast's Heartland Institute, a climate change denialist "think tank" in Chicago, is claiming that it is the victim of "identity theft and computer fraud" because some of their confidential documents [see attachments at bottom of post] were allegedly stolen under false pretenses and ended up posted on the Internet.

The Heartland maligned climate scientists after their emails were stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) by hackers, published on the Internet, and mischaracterized; but now that the shoe is on the other foot, Heartland is very indignant about their documents allegedly being stolen. These hypocrites didn't protest when the scientists were the victim of a crime. 

Heartland's Joe Bast is telling his donors that he has gone to the police and FBI. Bast is using this alleged "crime" as a fundraising gimmick; however, Chicago FBI Special Agent Royden "Ross" Rice states that, based on media accounts, the FBI has no legal basis to investigate.

Politico (2-16-12) reports:

On Thursday, Mother Jones also reported that Bast sent another email to donors stating that the group had reported the identity theft and computer fraud to the police and FBI.

In that email, Bast made another pitch for money to help with its legal defense fund. "Litigation is expensive, and it surely wasn't in our budget for 2012. But we don't think the criminals who did this ought to be allowed to skate away without penalty," he wrote.

"You would be helping us defend ourselves against a cowardly and criminal attack. You would also help us take down a notch some of the left-wing activists and their friends who so plainly crossed the line this time," Bast added.

Heartland Institute spokesman Jim Lakely confirmed both emails were real.

Ross Rice, an FBI special agent in the Chicago field office, said Thursday that "nothing has been reported to our office" from the Heartland Institute.

After reviewing some of the media reports, Rice added, "It would appear that the items were given to outsiders under false pretenses as opposed to a breach of their IT system or theft."

"As such, there would be no legal basis for us to investigate," Rice said.

An FBI spokesman in Washington said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation. The Chicago Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.  

Heartland (2-15-12) claims:

The stolen documents were obtained by an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to “re-send” board materials to a new email address. Identity theft and computer fraud are criminal offenses subject to imprisonment. We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes.

Heartland also claims that the Climate Strategy document has been totally fabricated. DeSmogBlog (2-16-12) responds:

The DeSmogBlog is committed to accuracy. Joe Bast says the document is a fake, a statement we take with a grain of salt given the Heartland Institute’s previous dissembling on the subject of climate change and its discredited position on the safety of second hand smoke.  In the circumstances, if the Heartland Institute can offer any specific criticism of the Climate Strategy or any evidence that it was faked and not, actually, written on Joe Bast’s laptop, printed out and scanned, we would be pleased to consider that evidence.

I wonder why Joe Bast doesn't just post a screen catch of the email that was sent to the unknown hoaxter by the duped staffer. This evidence would show what documents were attached and the email of the person they were sent to. If the duped staffer didn't send the allegedly fabricated "Climate Strategy" document, the screen catch of the email would show this. The screen catch would also have the email address of the hoaxter the documents were sent to. How strange that Joe Bast doesn't want to plaster the evidence of both his own innocence and this hoaxter's trick on the Internet.

The climate scientists whose emails were hacked and mischaracterized by Heartland have published this open letter about the online posting of Heartland's confidential documents:

An Open Letter to the Heartland Institute

As scientists who have had their emails stolen, posted online and grossly misrepresented, we can appreciate the difficulties the Heartland Institute is currently experiencing following the online posting of the organization’s internal documents earlier this week. However, we are greatly disappointed by their content, which indicates the organization is continuing its campaign to discredit mainstream climate science and to undermine the teaching of well-established climate science in the classroom.

We know what it feels like to have private information stolen and posted online via illegal hacking. It happened to climate researchers in 2009 and again in 2011. Personal emails were culled through and taken out of context before they were posted online. In 2009, the Heartland Institute was among the groups that spread false allegations about what these stolen emails saidDespite multiple independent investigations, which demonstrated that allegations against scientists were false, the Heartland Institute continued to attack scientists based on the stolen emails. When more stolen emails were posted online in 2011, the Heartland Institute again pointed to their release and spread false claims about scientists.

So although we can agree that stealing documents and posting them online is not an acceptable practice, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Heartland Institute has had no qualms about utilizing and distorting emails stolen from scientists.

We hope the Heartland Institute will heed its own advice to “think about what has happened” and recognize how its attacks on science and scientists have helped poison the debate over climate change policy. The Heartland Institute has chosen to undermine public understanding of basic scientific facts and personally attack climate researchers rather than engage in a civil debate about climate change policy options.

These are the facts: Climate change is occurring. Human activity is the primary cause of recent climate change. Climate change is already disrupting many human and natural systems. The more heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that go into the atmosphere, the more severe those disruptions will become. Major scientific assessments from the Royal Society, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, United States Global Change Research Program and other authoritative sources agree on these points.

What businesses, policymakers, advocacy groups and citizens choose to do in response to those facts should be informed by the science. But those decisions are also necessarily informed by economic, ethical, ideological, and other considerations.While the Heartland Institute is entitled to its views on policy, we object to its practice of spreading misinformation about climate research and personally attacking climate scientists to further its goals.

We hope the Heartland Institute will begin to play a more constructive role in the policy debate. Refraining from misleading attacks on climate science and climate researchers would be a welcome first step toward having an honest, fact-based debate about the policy responses to climate change.

Ray Bradley, PhD, Director of the Climate System Research Center, University of Massachusetts
David Karoly, PhD, ARC Federation Fellow and Professor, University of Melbourne, Australia
Michael Mann, PhD, Director, Earth System Science Center, Pennsylvania State University Jonathan Overpeck, PhD, Professor of Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona
Ben Santer, PhD, Research Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Gavin Schmidt, PhD, Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Kevin Trenberth, ScD, Distinguished Senior Scientist, Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research


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