House Dems accuse White House of censoring federal scientists

Top officials said to exert unusual control over public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Democrats issued a draft report Monday accusing the White House of censoring federal scientists, editing reports and otherwise politicizing global warming talks. The committee Wednesday will vote on the report, which is being released during the final week of U.N. climate change talks in Bali, Indonesia.

It summarizes 16 months of committee investigation, including two hearings, 27,000 pages of documents from the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Commerce Department, depositions and interviews, according to the draft report circulated by Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

"The evidence before the Committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming," the draft report states.

The White House dismissed the panel's conclusions. "It's rehashed rhetoric that has come out of the Democrats beforehand and it is rejected as being untrue," White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said. Asked if the White House had ever asked agency employees to suppress climate change information, Perino said, "Not that I'm aware -- I don't believe that is true." Perino sought to showcase Bush's efforts on global warming, including a Sept. 30 meeting on the issue with leaders of economic powers and U.S. participation in discussions in Bali.

The report said the White House exerted unusual control over the public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues. It heavily edited congressional testimony from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding and other federal scientists on human activity's impact on climate change, the report states.

There were at least 294 edits to the administration's Strategic Plan of the Climate Change Science Program "to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties or to deemphasize or diminish the importance of the human role in global warming," the report states. White House edits of EPA's draft Report on the Environment also were "extreme" and included "a reference to a discredited, industry-funded paper."

In a preview of Wednesday's partisan fight, committee Republicans said the draft is flawed and blamed Democrats for politicizing the issue. "An investigation that began as a bipartisan inquiry into the role of the Council on Environmental Quality in climate change policy has veered into a partisan diatribe against the Bush Administration," according to a response from Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Tom Davis, R-Va.

"The Majority has relied on selective passages from two hearings, one deposition, and one transcribed interview to make grossly exaggerated claims of political interference with climate change science." Republican say there is no evidence of political interference with science.

The report is instead "directed at the role of policymakers in -- guess what -- making and expressing Administration policy," the Republican response said.