In an editorial entitled "Hunting Witches," The Washinton Post blasts House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) for intrusive demands for the personal information of three scientists who demonstrated the existence of global warming.
Many scientists and some of Mr. Barton's Republican colleagues say they were stunned by the manner in which the committee, whose chairman rejects the existence of climate change, demanded personal and private information last month from researchers whose work supports a contrary conclusion. The scientists, co-authors of an influential 1999 study showing a dramatic increase in global warming over the past millennium, were told to hand over not only raw data but personal financial information, information on grants received and distributed, and computer codes.
Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Science Committee, has called the investigation "misguided and illegitimate." Raymond S. Bradley of the University of Massachusetts, one of the targets, calls it "intrusive, far-reaching and intimidating." Alan I. Leshner, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that although scientists "are used to answering really hard questions," in his 22 years as a government scientist he never heard of a similar inquiry, which he suspects could "have a chilling effect on the willingness of people to work in areas that are politically relevant."
When asked whether it was out of the ordinary, a spokesman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee called the inquiry "highly usual." The Post continues
But to pretend that he is going to learn something useful by requesting extensive data on 15th-century tree rings is ludicrous; to pretend that it is "normal" to demand decades worth of unrelated financial information from scientists who are not suspected of fraud is outrageous. The only conceivable purpose of these letters is harassment. This bizarre episode deserves much wider condemnation from congressional leaders.
(Hat tip: Julie Saltman.)