Friday, January 8, 2010

Harassment pure and simple

In the wake of the University of East Anglia e-mail scandal, a group of liberal activists has now made a tit-for-tat demand for the e-mails and other files of an outspoken climate-change skeptic, Dr. Patrick Michaels.
Greenpeace has filed a Virginia Freedom of Information Request with both Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine's (D) office and the University of Virginia demanding an array of correspondence concerning Patrick Michaels, a senior fellow at both the conservative Cato Institute and at George Mason University. Michaels also held the title of Virginia's official climatologist starting in 1980 until Kaine announced in August 2006 he did not consider Michaels as holding that honorary post.

The FOIA to Kaine requests any "letters, email, faxes, reports, meeting and teleconference agendas, minutes, notes, transcripts, tape recordings and phone logs generated by or involving Dr. Patrick Michaels regarding global climate change (a.k.a. global warming)."
Dr. Michaels' previous employment at the University of Virginia and his current employment at George Mason University are each state-related, potentially making him subject to FOIA requests (Dr. Michaels long claimed an official state title, possibly compounding his woes).

The group has also made similar demands at the institutions of several other outspoken researchers.

While I disagree vehemently with Dr. Michaels' positions and with many of his activities, he deserves the opportunity, as an academic, to write and research without turning over his work materials.

The FOIA demands are naked harassment. Requests of lists of funding sources and conflict of interest statements seem reasonable; however, requests for e-mails and other written materials are not.

It's not too late for Greenpeace to put this particular genie back in the bottle; however, I'm not holding my breath (benefits to the biosphere notwithstanding).