Environmentalist Lied to Obtain Heartland Documents
Activist Says He Lied to Obtain Climate Papers
T he New York Times, Feb. 21, 2012
A prominent environmental researcher, activist and blogger from California admitted Monday night that he had deceitfully obtained and distributed confidential internal materials from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group based in Chicago devoted in part to questioning the reality of global warming.
Peter H. Gleick, founder and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, wrote in a statement published on The Huffington Post that he had posed as someone else to get the materials, which include fund-raising and strategy documents intended only for the board and top executives of the group.
Dr. Gleick distributed the documents to several well-known bloggers and activists who support the work of mainstream climate scientists and who have denounced the Heartland Institute as a center of climate change denial. The document release, which lit up the Internet last week, was cast by some bloggers as the work of a whistle-blowing Heartland employee or ex-employee who had access to internal papers, when it was in fact orchestrated by Dr. Gleick, a Yale- and Berkeley-trained scientist and environmental activist who says that he was frustrated with Heartland’s anti-climate-change programs.
Dr. Gleick denied authorship of the most explosive of the documents, a supposed strategy paper that laid out the institute’s efforts to raise money to question climate change and get schools to adjust their science curricula to include alternative theories of global warming. The Institute asserted that document, which is in a different format and type style from the rest of the Heartland materials, was a fake, but implicitly acknowledged that others were legitimate and vowed to legally pursue those who stole and published them.
In his statement, Dr. Gleick said he had received the dubious strategy paper anonymously in the mail this year. He said he did not know the source of the document but said he tried to confirm the validity of the document because the disclosures in them would serve to undercut the institute’s mission.
“In an effort to do so,” he wrote, “and in a serious lapse of my own professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.”
He said he then forwarded, anonymously, the documents to “a set of journalists and experts working on climate issues. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.”
He said that he would not comment further on Monday, but wrote: “My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts — often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated — to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved. Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case. I offer my personal apologies to all those affected.”
As a founder and president of the Pacific Institute, based in Oakland, Dr. Gleick, 55, has been a prominent figure in researching and making publicly available information on the regional consequences of global warming in California, the nation and the world. He received a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2003.
Jim Lakely, a spokesman for the Heartland Institute, said Monday, before Dr. Gleick’s admission, that his organization was waiting for the results of an investigation by a “professional digital forensics team” to try to establish who obtained the materials and how. Until then, he said, “we don’t want to speculate” on the identity of the leaker.
But on Friday, Ross Kaminsky, a senior fellow and former board member of the Heartland Institute, speculated in the conservative magazine The American Spectator that Dr. Gleick was the source of the Heartland documents, calling him “a true enemy of the Heartland Institute” and “a committed alarmist rent-seeker.”
Brendan DeMelle, the managing editor of the Web site DeSmogBlog, which has received a letter from Heartland threatening legal action if the documents were not removed from DeSmogBlog, said in an e-mailed response: “Heartland has not identified any legal basis for a civil action to force removal of the documents. We see none at this time.” But that was before Dr. Gleick’s published admission.