Bush Administration Distorts Science, Group Says
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An environmental group on Wednesday accused the Bush administration of suppressing and distorting scientific findings on the environment, public health and safety that run counter to its own policies.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said in a report that the administration had suppressed research on global warming, air quality, sexual health, cancer and other issues.
It said there had been a wide-ranging effort to manipulate the government's supposedly independent scientific advisory system "to prevent the appearance of advice that might run counter to the administration's political agenda."
The group, which includes Nobel-winning researchers as well as environmental and political activists, said in its report that Congress "should ensure that this administration and future administrations reverse this dangerous trend."
The White House denied the accusations.
"I can assure you that this is an administration that makes decisions based on the best available science," President Bush's spokesman Scott McClellan said.
He also said that the Bush administration had "worked on an independent peer review process to look at how science is used in regulatory decisions."
The UCS reviewed a number of already published allegations, including complaints that the federal government had deliberately disregarded a worldwide consensus that human industrial activity is to blame for much of the steady warming of the planet's climate over the past century.
Groups such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Geophysical Union and the National Academy of Sciences -- itself an independent group appointed to advise the government -- all agreed that human-caused emissions must be curbed.
Officials changed an Environmental Protection Agency annual air pollution report to remove a section on climate change, and the group said investigations pointed to the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget as the source of the changes.
Similarly, it said, the White House manipulated EPA documents on mercury emissions and their effect on people, so frustrating Environmental Protection Agency employees that they leaked the originals to the media.
Public health groups have long complained that the White House changed advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support the administration's abstinence-only sex education policy.
They have said it removed from the CDC's Web site a CDC fact sheet on condom use as well as a report showing that abstinence-only education programs may not actually prevent pregnancies.
"At the behest of higher-ups in the Bush administration, according to a source inside the CDC, the agency was forced to discontinue a project called 'Programs that Work', which identified sex education programs found to be effective in scientific studies," the report reads
The group said it took a New York Times report and a public outcry to reverse a decision to post on the National Cancer Institute's Web site a report that falsely linked abortion to breast cancer.
It also said the administration appointed scientific advisers who were not fully qualified for their posts but who supported Bush policies, something the White House has also denied.
The New York Times, Feb. 18 2004
The Bush administration has deliberately and systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad, a group of about 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, said in a statement issued today.
The sweeping charges were later discussed in a conference call with some of the scientists that was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent organization that focuses on technical issues and has often taken stands at odds with administration policy. The organization also issued a 37-page report today that it said detailed the accusations.
Together, the two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice, and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases.
"Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front," the statement from the scientists said, adding that they believed the administration had "misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies."
The White House had no immediate comment on the statements.
Dr. Kurt Gottfried, an emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University who signed the statement and spoke in the conference call, said the administration had "engaged in practices that are in conflict with the spirit of science and the scientific method." Dr. Gottfried asserted that what he called "the cavalier attitude toward science" could place at risk the basis for the nation's long-term prosperity, health and military prowess.
The scientists denied that they had political motives in releasing the documents as the 2004 presidential race began to take clear shape, a day after Senator John Kerry won the Wisconsin Democratic primary and solidified his position as President Bush's likely opponent in the fall. The organization's report, Dr. Gottfried said, had taken a year to prepare -- much longer than originally planned -- and had been released as soon as it was ready.
"I don't see it as a partisan issue at all," said Russell Train, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and who spoke in the conference call in support of the statement. "If it becomes that way I think it's because the White House chooses to make it a partisan issue," Mr. Train said.