Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Faked Scandal Against Warming Skeptics Backfires Badly.

In the middle of the month a set of documents made the rounds of the media claiming to expose “climate change deniers” at the Heartland Institute. Most of the set of documents were rather innocuous memos for the Heartland Board, and really of no significance. But attached was a “strategy” memo that supposedly outlines plans by Heartland to prevent the teaching of “science” in government schools.

Heartland immediately said that the board documents appeared genuine but that they had to verify them against the original but also said the “strategy” document was fraudulent. This immediately raised the specter of “climategate” when hundreds of emails by warming activist-scientists discussed matters such as preventing scholarly papers refuting their theories from being published. Those emails were later confirmed to be genuine, even though they blustered at the start that they might be fakes. But, what struck me during that scandal was how often defenders of warming alarmism said the issue isn’t so much the validity of the emails in question, but the issue that they were stolen.

The best theory at the time was the theft of those emails was more an individual stumbling upon an open access online that allowed them to access them. They didn’t engage in deception to obtain them, though you might question whether going through an unlocked door online is an ethical problem. I’m not sure myself and am open on that question.

Yet, I’ve not seen any discussion by the alarmists about the deception used to obtain these documents. When “theft” was the issue during climategate, and content wasn’t, they have now reversed course, ignore the theft and concentrate on content. Unfortunately for them, the content they concentrate on was the one fraudulent document. I will shortly go into how we know the piece is fraudulent, as it gives us clues to the perpetrator of the deception. And, now we have even more evidence as to who is the guilty party as well.

Earlier, Ross Kaminsky, a Senior Fellow at Heartland, posted a blog article at American Spectator, which suggested that the likely culprit was warming activist Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute—not the libertarian Pacific Research Institute—bit an environmentalist group instead. After Kaminsky named Gleick as the likely culprit Gleick issued a statement through Huffington Post confessing his role in this escapade.

Gleick has closed comments to his confession and said, “I will not comment on the substance or implications of the materials.” Convenient. I will get to Gleick’s confession in a moment. First, we need to see what indicated the strategy document was a fraud and then we can see how Gleick appears to be lying about what he claims happened and his role. Don’t misunderstand; I think he is the guilty culprit. I just think the evidence shows he has only confessed part of his deceptive practices and is hiding the rest. But, in order to show that, we must first understand the indications this strategy memo was a fraud.

Some of the documents were genuine board notes. How were those obtained? Someone called the Heartland Institute and claimed to be a particular board member. He claimed that he did not receive the email with the PDF document for the board and would this employee resend it to a new email address. That was done and then the email address was deleted.

All the original documents were the more innocuous material and were no “smoking gun.” All were created in PDF format and emailed to board members. The real documents were created originally as PDF documents. The so-called memo was a paper document that was then scanned and turned into a PDF document. The memo was the only one with no author listed, and it was produced well after the other documents and only shortly before it was sent to an environmentalist website which immediately announced it to the media, without checking if the document were legitimate.

But they are electronic tags in PDF documents. And the tags in the original, real documents show they were produced at the Heartland offices January 25th. The fraudulent memo was created on February 13th and produced via an Epson printer. And the tags show in which time zone the document is produced. The real ones are in Central Standard Time while the fraudulent one is in Pacific Standard Time; Gleick’s office is in California.

The memo not only concocts a fake strategy but also makes claims that can be verified to be false. For instance, it tries to demonize the Koch brothers by claiming they donated $200,000 in 2011 to Heartland. In fact, the Koch Foundation donated $25,000 for a health care project and nothing else. In addition, in 2010 they gave nothing to Heartland. Surely a Heartland memo wouldn’t fake donations figures for the Board to see, especially since they would see the full budget and know this figured was faked.

In his admission Gleick claims that, “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.” He says that to “confirm” this document “I solicited and received additional materials directly from Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.” In other words, Gleick was the one who fraudulently pretended to be a board member in order to get the board documents. He then forwarded “anonymously, the documents I had received to a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues.”

So, he combined genuine, innocuous Board notes with a memo he claims he anonymously received, or so he claims. Yet, he had zero evidence that the memo was genuine. And strangely, when Heartland thought they were sending material to a Board member they did NOT include this memo. That should have been a red flag that the memo was not part of the Board packet and was not genuine.

Here is my theory. I think Gleick contacted Heartland as he said. He got the Board packet and then concocted a “strategy memo” to go along with it. He scanned the document into PDF format. The real documents were already in PDF format and sent to the fake email account he set up and then deleted.

I suspect he did not realize that the PDF tags existed and would reveal the location of the forger. Once that evidence came out, he realized that the investigation into the fraud was narrowing down in his direction. Then, when Kaminsky publicly stated that the believed Gleick was the culprit, he had to confess. The problem he faced was that the “memo” was not a stolen document but a forged one. And, while committing fraud to obtain the documents were a problem, the forgery was even more of a problem. He had to find some way to explain how a fraudulent PDF file was produced via what we have to assume was his Epson printer.

That was when he concocted the story that the memo was mailed to him anonymously. Nothing on the memo indicated it was genuine and a cursory reading of it indicated it was not. Whether your like them or not, the warming skeptics, don’t describe their position as anti-science, quite the contrary. Anyone wish to bet that Gleick doesn’t have the original envelope anymore? I suspect that he made no effort to discover the source of this piece of paper because he knew the source. He wrote it. After fraudulently obtaining the Board documents he went through them and found no smoking gun, as he had hoped. But with the genuine documents he thought he could slip a bogus document into the mix and cause trouble for people he hated. That is when I suspect he forged the “memo” and the rest is history.

New York Times writer, Andrew Revkin, himself an alarmist on warming issues, called Gleick an “aggressive critic” of skeptics. He writes that Gleick’s “admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins and threatens to undercut the cause he spent so much time pursuing. Revkin also notes that Gleick’s “acts of deception… will sustain suspicion that he created the summary, which Heartland’s leadership insists is fake.” He says this means Gleick “has destroyed his credibility and harmed others.” True enough.

I’m wondering how many of the sites that published the original memo as genuine are at least cautioning readers that the indications it was faked are overwhelming, and letting them know a prominent warming alarmist used deception to concoct a scandal that ended up backfiring on himself instead? I suspect the answer is: Not many.

The Climategate leaks made the alarmists look bad. And then a scandal comes along to make the skeptics look bad, but when the truth comes it, it too bit the alarmists in the ass.

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