March 21, 2016

Court Rules Obama Administration has to Turn Over Polar Vortex Data

Timothy Birdnow

The Obama Administration's made a video claiming the Polar Vortex - huffing and puffing America to a bitterly cold winter - was caused by, drumroll please - Global Warming! But their data was fanciful, to say the least, and there were those who wanted the hard copy. Naturally, the Gang Green refused to surrender this data, so the Competetive Enterprise Institute filed a Freedom of Information Act request, which our government duly ignored. A judge has just ordered the Feds to surrender their data.

Hans Bader has the story:

"On January 8, 2014, the White House posted a controversial video claiming that global warming causes more severe winter cold. Called "The Polar Vortex Explained in 2 Minutes,” it featured the director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP), John Holdren, claiming that a "growing body of evidence” showed that the "extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States” at the time was "a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.”

This claim was questioned by many scientists and commentators. (See, e.g., Jason Samenow, Scientists: Don’t make "extreme cold” centerpiece of global warming argument, Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2014 (linking to objection by five well-known climate scientists in the Feb. 14, 2014 issue of Science magazine); Patrick J. Michaels, Hot Air About Cold Air, Jan. 16, 2014 (former state climatologist of Virginia rejected Holdren’s claim))

In April 2014, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) sent a request for correction of this statement under the federal Information Quality Act, citing peer-reviewed scientific articles debunking it. In June 2014, OSTP rejected this request, claiming that Holdren’s statement was his "personal opinion,” not the agency’s position, and that it thus did not constitute "information” subject to the Information Quality Act, which excludes "subjective opinions” from its reach.

In response, CEI filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking documents related to the video, its production at taxpayer expense, and OSTP’s rejection of its correction request. Despite having earlier claimed that the video was just Holdren’s personal opinion, not the agency’s, OSTP withheld portions of emails about it as privileged "agency records.” It also refused to produce drafts of its letter rejecting CEI’s request for correction. It withheld two drafts even though they had been shared with an outside professor (and initially even concealed their very existence), and sharing a document with someone outside an agency usually waives any privilege to keep it secret."


"In February 2016, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled that OSTP must produce these records, since the emails did not involve privileged agency policymaking, and the drafts of OSTP’s rejection letter had lost their privileged status by being shared with a non-agency employee. OSTP had claimed the professor it was shared with was a neutral consultant, and thus, functionally an agency employee. But the judge ruled that the professor, who is the principal exponent of the idea that global warming is causing more winter cold, was an interested party, not a neutral consultant. Thus, none of the records were privileged under FOIA’s Exemption 5 deliberative process privilege.

When OSTP produced the records on March 4, 2016 (they are at this link), they showed inconsistency in OSTP’s position over time. Although OSTP told CEI in June 2014 that Holdren’s claim was just his personal "opinion,” not "information” that is subject to the Information Quality Act (IQA), this was not the position it originally took in its draft response to CEI’s request back in Spring 2014.

Instead, OSTP described Holdren’s claim in these drafts as "information provided by the government [that] meet ‘basic standards of quality, including objectivity, utility, and integrity,” and constituted "communications from the White House about climate science.” (see pages 1 and 5 of each draft). Accordingly, OSTP argued it complied with the IQA’s standards for the quality of official information."


"One of the two newly disclosed drafts of the June 6 letter also contains disparaging allusions by its author to some of the respected climate scientists who criticized Holdren’s statement. That draft’s text claims the criticism included "attacks by a few of the usual suspects from the climate-change contrarian/confusionist community.” In response, a comment to the draft from Rutgers’ Jennifer Francis suggested characterizing them as the "disinformation” community. (See pg. 4 of the draft, found at pg. 17 of the 24 released pages.)

The court also ordered OSTP to produce emails without redacting any of their content (as opposed to recipients’ private email addresses and contact information). These emails are odd in light of OSTP’s subsequent position that Holdren’s claim was merely his "personal opinion,” since they show taxpayer resources being used to produce the video that broadcast his statements, since a government "contractor” was used to produce the video in question. They also were exchanged among 17 federal employees working in multiple agencies (including NASA, the OSTP, and other White House offices).

The once-redacted material ]now released suggests that Holdren’s position was shared by at least one other White House employee, whose email advocates that "we should make sure [which they link to at the end] has something on extreme weather events like polar vortex.” (See Jan. 8 email at 9:34 a.m.) It also shows efforts to try and round up scientists to weigh in on this topic. (See Jan. 8 email at 9:32 a.m.)

The released material is not highly sensitive. So one wonders why the government bothered to redact it in the first place—and fought its release in court for over a year. Upon assuming office, Holdren’s boss, President Obama, and his attorney general, Eric Holder, issued guidance telling agencies not to withhold information just because they can, or based on technicalities, and to err on the side of disclosure, rather than secrecy. As Holder once noted, "On his first full day in office, January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of all departments and agencies

End excerpts.

This Administration has been as transparent as a block of granite for two terms now. And they aren't going to give anything to their opponents. These people are liars, plain and simple, and the Truth is an enemy to be resisted at all cost.

Remember that, people!

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 09:22 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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