Tes­ti­mony on cli­mate tar­geted by White House

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY LISA FRIED­MAN New York Times

The White House tried to stop a State Depart­ment se­nior in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst from dis­cussing cli­mate sci­ence in con­gres­sional tes­ti­mony this week, in­ter­nal emails and doc­u­ments show.

The State Depart­ment’s Bureau of In­tel­li­gence and Re­search de­clined to make changes to the pro­posed tes­ti­mony and the an­a­lyst, Rod Schoonover, an ad­junct pro­fes­sor at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity, was ul­ti­mately al­lowed to speak be­fore the House Per­ma­nent Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence on Wed­nes­day.

But in a highly un­usual move, the White House re­fused to ap­prove Schoonover’s writ­ten tes­ti­mony for en­try into the per­ma­nent Con­gres­sional Record. The rea­son­ing, ac­cord­ing to a June 4 email seen by The New York Times, was that the sci­ence did not match the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s views.

“The tes­ti­mony still has se­ri­ous con­cerns with in­ter­nal com­po­nents and fo­cuses heav­ily on the sci­ence,” Daniel Green­wood, deputy as­sis­tant to the pres­i­dent in the White House of­fice of leg­isla­tive af­fairs, wrote in an email. “Be­cause it doesn’t re­flect the co­or­di­nated IC po­si­tion, or the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­si­tion, there is no way this can be cleared ahead of the hear­ing,” he wrote, us­ing gov­ern­ment short­hand for the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity.

A White House spokesman said the ad­min­is­tra­tion did not com­ment on in­ter­nal pol­icy re­views. The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment, and a spokesman for the State Depart­ment re­ferred ques­tions to the White House.

Nor­man Orn­stein, a res­i­dent scholar at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, a con­ser­va­tive pol­icy group, said that it was com­mon for the White House to vet agency tes­ti­mony to Congress to en­sure it did not con­tra­dict ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy.

But, he said, “I have never heard of ba­sic facts be­ing deleted from or blocked from tes­ti­mony.” Orn­stein said with­hold­ing the an­a­lyst’s writ­ten tes­ti­mony was sig­nif­i­cant. A ver­bal pre­sen­ta­tion could be in­ter­preted as an in­di­vid­ual’s po­si­tion, he said, but “the writ­ten tes­ti­mony is a more for­mal ex­pres­sion of a depart­ment.”

The Wash­ing­ton Post first re­ported the ef­fort to sup­press Schoonover’s tes­ti­mony.

On al­most ev­ery page of Schoonover’s tes­ti­mony, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of­fered com­ments and crit­i­cisms, ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment that tracks changes. Two peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the doc­u­ment said the notes were from Wil­liam Hap­per, a physi­cist and White House ad­viser on the coun­cil who de­nies the es­tab­lished sci­en­tific con­sen­sus on cli­mate change.

“This is not ob­jec­tive tes­ti­mony at all,” one com­ment read. “It in­cludes lots of cli­mate alarm pro­pa­ganda that is not sci­ence at all. I am em­bar­rassed to have this go out on behalf of the ex­ec­u­tive branch of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment.”

An­other com­ment ob­jects to the phrase “tip­ping point” to de­scribe when the planet reaches a thresh­old of ir­re­versible cli­mate change. “'Tip­ping points’ is a pro­pa­ganda slo­gan for the sci­en­tif­i­cally il­lit­er­ate,” the com­ment reads. “They were a fa­vorite of Al Gore’s sci­ence ad­viser, James Hansen.”

Schoonover’s tes­ti­mony noted that his anal­y­sis drew from peer-re­viewed sci­en­tific jour­nals and work pro­duced by top U.S. gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists. That, too, came un­der at­tack from the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, which said that “a con­sen­sus of peer re­viewed lit­er­a­ture has noth­ing to do with the truth.”

But the heav­i­est pro­posed ed­its, and the ba­sis for ul­ti­mately block­ing the writ­ten tes­ti­mony, came from the White House Of­fice of Leg­isla­tive Af­fairs. That of­fice, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, rec­om­mended eliminatin­g five pages of sci­ence that ap­peared un­der the head­ings “Sci­en­tific Base­line” and “Stresses to Hu­man and So­ci­etal Sys­tems.”

Those pages laid the sci­en­tific foun­da­tion for the rest of Schoonover’s tes­ti­mony, which de­scribed the var­i­ous na­tional se­cu­rity threats linked to cli­mate change, such as in­sta­bil­ity from water short­ages in some parts of the world.

The sci­ence por­tion of­fered fac­tual as­ser­tions like, “The Earth’s cli­mate is un­equiv­o­cally un­der­go­ing a long-term warm­ing trend as es­tab­lished by decades of sci­en­tific mea­sure­ments from mul­ti­ple, in­de­pen­dent lines of ev­i­dence.” It also noted that the past five years had been the warm­est five on record.

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