Squashing news or interference in NASA reporting
OIG of NASA found a preponderance of evidence demonstrating
Accordingly, the NASA Office of Inspector General conducted an administrative investigation to examine reports of alleged “political interference,” predominantly by senior NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs officials, with the work of NASA scientists pertaining to climate change—to include whether NASA inappropriately prevented one of its scientists, Dr. James E. Hansen, from speaking to the media in December 2005.
Our investigation found that during the fall of 2004 through early 2006, the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public through those particular media over which the Office of Public Affairs had control (i.e., news releases and media access). We also concluded that the climate change editorial decisions were localized within the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs; we found no credible evidence suggesting that senior NASA or Administration officials directed the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs to minimize information relating to climate change. To the contrary, we found that once NASA leadership within the Office of the Administrator were made aware of the scope of the conflict between the Office of Public Affairs and scientists working on climate change, they aggressively implemented new policies with a view toward improved processes in editorial decision-making relating to scientific public affairs matters.
Further, it is our conclusion that the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs’ actions were inconsistent with the mandate and intent of NASA’s controlling legislation—the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 19581 (Space Act) and NASA’s implementing regulations—insomuch as they prevented “the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination” of information concerning NASA’s activities and results. While we could not substantiate that Administration officials employed outside NASA approved or disapproved or edited specific news releases, we do, however, find by a preponderance of the evidence2 that the claims of inappropriate political interference made by the climate change scientists and career Public Affairs Officers were more persuasive than the arguments of the senior Public Affairs officials that their actions were due to the volume and poor quality of the draft news releases.
1 The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, Pub. L. No. 85-568, 72 Stat. 426 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 2451 et. seq. ).
2 Preponderance of the evidence is a standard of proof that simply requires that the matter asserted seems more likely true than not.
Although the scientific information alleged to be “suppressed” appeared to be otherwise available through a variety of Agency forums, we cannot reconcile that the Space Act would permit any purposeful obfuscation of scientific research by the Agency in any news dissemination forum as “appropriate” under the Act.
No one has published the draft news releases for us, however.