January 19th, 2011

Today the American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request (PDF) with NASA, seeking records detailing whether and how ‘global warming’ activist Dr. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has complied with applicable federal ethics and financial disclosure laws and regulations, and NASA Rules of Behavior.

This request seeks records of longtime, taxpayer-funded activist Hansen, in the knowledge that FOIA-released records and other documents show his GISS colleague, Dr. Gavin Schmidt, has edited the activist blog RealClimate on regular business hours when he is nominally working for the taxpayer. In fact, FOIA-released records indicate this third-party activism was considered part of Schmidt’s job, seeking to rehabilitate the discredited ‘hockey stick’ and otherwise promoting GISS’s activist line.

The request for Hansen’s ethics-compliance records comes on the heels of his latest adventures in public advocacy, writing in the Chinese newspaper South China Morning Post to blame the United States for modern climate change and his ritually exaggerated claims of future catastrophe, as well as some by now typically nasty sneering at American democracy in a follow-up article published on his website (now taken down but surely produced, as FOIA records have already revealed that so much of his privately posted work has been produced, on taxpayer time).

This is the latest in a long line of often radical behavior by Hansen that, were it engaged in by a government employee on the other side of the ‘global warming’ issue, would have resulted in discipline and possibly termination years ago. Dr. Hansen may state that he is speaking as a private citizen — in fora ranging from his testimony supporting lawbreaking in the name of global warming, to extreme public advocacy only tolerated, if even celebrated, because of his position with NASA — but the obvious truth is that he is trading on his platform as a NASA scientist to gain the wide audience he has (Hansen is an astronomer).

“It seems that Hansen’s access to and use of the media has so cowed his NASA superiors that his office has been allowed to operate unencumbered by applicable ethics requirements which other NASA employees, not so darling to the media, must comply with,” said Christopher Horner, ATI’s senior director of litigation. “In fact, in public court pleadings filed in Competitive Enterprise Institute v. NASA, NASA recently revealed that Hansen’s office operated for years in violation of these obligations.”

ATI’s requests build on that record, seeking specific records since 2004 relating to:

  • Required Approvals and Waivers for Outside Employment
  • Required Financial Disclosure/Conflict of Interest Disclosure
  • Internal discussion of possible or actual disciplinary actions

ATI looks forward to NASA compliance with this request, in stark contrast to how it has recently treated other requests for GISS records, with expectation that NASA will provide the responsive records in the statutorily permitted period of time.