WASHINGTON (AP) - Two federal agencies are investigating whether the Bush administration tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and censor their research, a senator said Wednesday.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, (D-N.J.), said he was informed that the inspector generals for the Commerce Department and NASA had begun "co- ordinated, sweeping investigations of the Bush administration's censorship and suppression" of federal research into global warming.
"These investigations are critical because the Republicans in Congress have ignored this serious problem," Lautenberg said.
He said the investigations "will uncover internal documents and agency correspondence that may expose widespread misconduct." He added, "Taxpayers do not fund scientific research so the Bush White House can alter it."
Messages left Wednesday at the inspector general's offices, which serve as the agencies' internal watchdogs, and the White House Council for Environmental Quality were not immediately returned.
In February, House Science Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, (R-N.Y.), and other congressional leaders asked NASA to guarantee scientific openness. They complained that a public affairs officer changed or filtered information on global warming and the Big Bang.
The officer, George Deutsch, a political appointee, had resigned after being accused of trying to limit reporters' access to James Hansen, a prominent NASA climate scientist, and insisting that a Web designer insert the word "theory" with any mention of the Big Bang.
A report last month in the scientific journal Nature claimed administrators at the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration blocked the release of a report that linked hurricane strength and frequency to global warming. Hansen had said in February that NOAA has tried to prevent researchers working on global climate change from speaking freely about their work.
NOAA has denied the allegations, saying its work is not politically motivated.