Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Associated Press, NPR, Washington Post et al. v. National Academy of Sciences et al.

An upcoming Virginia Supreme Court ruling in litigation involving access to Michael Mann/University of Virginia e-mails raises thorny media access and freedom of information concerns involving potential scope of decision.

Pitting the interests of academic freedom against transparency, media access, and freedom of information, a high-profile case before the Virginia Supreme Court involving climate scientist Michael Mann is expected to be decided over the next few weeks.


The key issue in the pending case over the quest for Mann’s e-mails involves the extent of Virginia’s state freedom of information laws, which ATI is using to request Mann’s documents. That issue has galvanized a coalition of 18 heavyweight press groups — including the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Associated Press, Reuters, NPR, Dow Jones, Politico, The Washington Post and others — who somewhat quietly penned a friend-of-the-court or “amicus” brief favoring disclosure of this type of e-mail.

Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences and a number of large higher education associations and other academic interests are supporting Mann’s position with their own legal brief. Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has written about relevant background for the scientific community. “The court clearly understood the potential consequences of the actions it is being asked to take,” Halpern wrote after attending the Virginia Supreme Court’s January 2014 hearing, “with multiple justices talking about how the interpretive standard they set will apply not just to this case but to tens of thousands of cases.”
Wow, just wow.  While the article has the expected careless bias showing (talking about the "hacked" CRU emails which were leaked, not hacked; blather about how the scientists were exonerated - Stein's lawsuit is precisely about how this is not correct), this is turning into an epic showdown between the too-comfortable scientific establishment* and a Press that is actually standing up for needed transparency.
The Washington Post’s printed editorial position, just to take one example, illustrates the unusual turns the case has produced. In 2010, the Post’s editorial board weighed in heavily in support of Mann as he fended off what were widely seen as Cuccinelli’s ideologically motivated attempts to gain access to documents. The paper on its editorial page has continued to do so, pointing to what it calls a “witch hunt.” In May 2011, the paper’s editors called for a stop to “harassing climate-change researchers,” specifically citing ATI’s lawsuit and saying the university was “right” to claim a proprietary exemption.

“Academics must feel comfortable sharing research,” the Post’s board wrote then, “disagreeing with colleagues and proposing conclusions — not all of which will be correct — without fear that those who dislike their findings will conduct invasive fishing expeditions in search of a pretext to discredit them.”

And yet the Post’s management and legal department are nevertheless a party to the amicus brief against Mann and the University of Virginia.
My interpretation of this is that the MSM establishment has written off Global Warming and that while they individually are almost certainly sympathetic to the goals of the Big Green Machine, they don't see it going anywhere - and certainly not anywhere worth a weakened Freedom Of Information Act.

* You don't get more "establishment" science than the NAS.

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