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February 21, 2008

Censored Science

Posted: 02:49 PM ET

One of the stories in tonight's "Broken Government: Scorched Earth" special tells the tale of Gretchen Cook-Anderson, a NASA public affairs officer who says her job publicizing the agency's research into global warming put her on a collision course with political appointees at the top of NASA's communications office.

Initially excited about working the global warming beat, Gretchen said she soon found herself in the hot seat as her bosses pushed her harder and harder to soft-pedal or even squelch any news suggesting climate change has a human cause.

She says she was even ordered to telephone NASA's leading climate researcher, Dr. James Hansen, and tell him to stop talking to the media altogether except on agency vetted, approved and supervised occasions. And when she resisted, she found her career prospects swirling down the drain.

Gretchen's story is compelling. It seems to illustrates a disturbing trend where by government bureaucrats are seemingly manipulating scientific findings to serve a political agenda, rather than the truth.

Reporter Miles O'Brien and I want to give full credit to Mark Bowen, who first told Gretchen's story in his book "Censoring Science," and to Andrew Revkin, the New York Times correspondent who first reported the political machinations going on at the NASA Headquarters Public Affairs Office.

Revkin told us that after his story ran, it was like a cork popping out of fizzy bottle.

"I started getting all these e-mails from Yahoo accounts and NASA people across the country, from Goddard Space Flight Center down in near Washington and from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory - with actually worse stories, in some ways. There was a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory who'd had a press release rewritten with a quotation inserted to divert it from being about climate to being about space exploration - that he had never approved, but it was in his words. That was pretty bad. And things like that were happening, and and as I dug in deeper this story kind of got some legs. "

Bowen has a PhD in physics from MIT, and comes at his his subject matter as a scientist and interested citizen - and he didn't hold back in expressing his outrage to us at what he sees as a political agenda at work:

"It is very clear a destructive policy toward global warming has been pursued by this administration since the beginning...and they bent facts, or reality, or whatever you want to call it, to fit what was really and ideological goal. And it seems as though it was a financial goal. So I don't think an administration has a right to do that, I think it was betraying democracy."

-Kate Tobin, Senior Producer, CNN Science & Technology

Watch “Broken Government: Scorched Earth” on Thursday, February 21, at 11 p.m. ET, immediately following the CNN Debate live in Austin, Texas.

Filed under: Scientists

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