Rep. Lamar Smith’s ongoing NOAA witch-hunt has just received the strongest criticism to date with a second letter from ranking minority member of the Committee on Space, Science and Technology, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. At the outset of Smith's inquisition, Rep. Johnson sent a critical letter
to Smith, which he ignored, and now, in response to Smith's direct threats to NOAA leaderships, she’s written another one
that clocks in at over five pages. It is arguably one of the most strongly-worded and entertaining things ever written on Congressional letterhead. This will be a long entry, so feel free to just read the letter. You won’t be disappointed.
While both letters are strongly-worded, the second is being described as a “blistering
” and “brutal
” “thing of beauty,
” which, if anything, is an understatement. Johnson's timing is important. Her letter comes alongside Smith's latest claim
, which he's based on information from supposed "whistleblowers," that a June study provided to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology was rushed to fit the Administration's climate agenda despite some scientists' concerns. This new accusation has been thoroughly rebutted by Science
as well, who says that the review for this took 50% longer than average, and was quite comprehensive.
Rep. Johnson takes Smith to task on a number of fronts. She points out that Smith has failed to provide details on the “waste, fraud or abuse” he’s supposedly investigating. In her second paragraph, she says flat out that, “the only thing [Smith] accused NOAA of doing is engaging in climate science—i.e., doing their jobs.”
The letter continues by pointing out “just how curious it is” that Smith is only now referencing whistleblowers. Why didn't we hear about them during the previous six months when Smith was demanding materials? This, according to Johnson “appears to be an after-the-fact attempt to justify a fishing expedition,” an opinion she holds in part because Smith hasn’t shared the whistleblowers' evidence with other members of the Committee.
Johnson then lays out a brief history of the study in question. While Smith’s mystery whistleblowers supposedly complained about the study's rush to publication in the spring of 2015, the study (published in the summer of 2015) was submitted in December 2014. What’s more, the study in question is based on two prior studies, submitted in December 2013. This means the science was in the works for a year and a half before the mystery whistleblowers raised concerns about it being rushed. She continues railing on the fact that Smith is only now bringing up whistleblowers, noting that he didn’t question Dr. Karl about the rush when he came to DC for interviews. Johnson says, “This isn’t oversight. It’s grandstanding and harassment of a respected scientist.”
Moving on, Rep. Johnson addresses Smith's threats to NOAA administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, who, Johnson notes, is a "PhD geologist, former naval reserve officer, former three-time NASA astronaut, former chief scientist of NOAA” and the first American woman to “walk” in space. As “the very definition of service to country,” Johnson doubts that Dr. Sullivan “is intimidated by [his] threats,” but notes that this affront, “is an indication of how low the Majority is willing to stoop to perpetuate their anti-science agenda when a legitimate American icon is dragged through the mud in furtherance of an ideological crusade.”
Not content to let Smith off easy, Johnson continues by saying that Smith’s accusations of data tampering by NOAA scientists “might be the most outrageous statements ever made by a Chair of the Committee on Science.” She unpacks that a little, explaining that in effect, Smith is accusing NOAA’s top scientists and the peer-reviewers at Science (where the study was published) of misconduct, as well as implying a conspiracy between NOAA and the White House. All of these accusations, Johnson says, are “conjured out of thin air” and devoid of “any factual basis,” making it obvious that “this so-called ‘investigation’ is actually just a witch hunt designed to smear the reputations of eminent scientists for partisan gain.”
She then points out what many of us have said from the start, that this is just like “another hype-driven, fact-lacking controversy: the so-called ‘Climategate.’” Which is true, even down to the timing as both attacks came right before major UN climate conferences.
Finally, Johnson sweeps the legs out from under Smith’s claim of Congressional Oversight Authority. “The Constitution doesn’t provide [Smith] with a blank check to harass research scientists with whose results you disagree. The Constitution doesn’t imbue [Smith] with the power to sanction a separate and equal branch of government simply because they won’t entertain [Smith’s] baseless conspiracy theories. [Smith’s] ‘investigation’ appears to have less to do with uncovering waste, fraud or abuse at a federal agency, and more to do with political posturing intended to influence public opinion ahead of a major international climate conference.”