It's been an interesting few days in the climate denial world. On Tuesday, DeSmogBlog and Think Progress posted what they described as internal documents from the Heartland Institute, a fossil-fuel-funded right-wing think tank that spends much of its time denying climate change. The posted documents include plans for disseminating climate change disinformation to kids and to provide funding for science deniers.
Heartland responded on Wednesday, claiming that some of the documents are real, but others are a "total fake," and still others are being reviewed. The group wrote in a press release:
The stolen documents were obtained by an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to "re-send" board materials to a new email address. Identity theft and computer fraud are criminal offenses subject to imprisonment. We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes.
It's worth noting that Heartland didn't seem to mind when emails between climate scientists that were stolen from a server, made public, and lied about on the internet—either the first or second time it happened. It's only now that that type of behavior is "just despicable," a "violation of journalistic ethics," and a criminal offense.
Now Heartland is using the incident to fundraise, according to an email to donors obtained by Mother Jones on Wednesday night. The email complains that "scores of bloggers and left-wing activists and their pets in the lamestream media" are posting and quoting the documents, and says that what New York Times' Andy Revkin did—i.e. publishing some of the documents—"was not only unethical, it was also probably illegal." It also asks for donations to the organization's legal defense fund to fight "false and defamatory" stories. And it apologizes to funders whose names were made public by the incident: "We promise anonymity to many of our donors because nobody wants the risk of nutty environmentalists or Occupy Wall Street goons harassing them. We know that privacy is important to you."
The full email is below the fold:
Dear Heartland donor,
I need your help!
Yesterday afternoon, two advocacy groups posted online several documents they claimed were The Heartland Institute's internal budget, fundraising, and strategy plans.
Now, scores of bloggers and left-wing activists and their pets in the lamestream media are posting and quoting these "leaked" documents.
We have released a formal statement about the situation (here), but I wanted to give you this personal explanation of what happened.
Your stalwart support is needed now more than ever. This attack would not have happened if we weren't unveiling the truth.
Someone stole the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to "re-send" board materials to a new email address. That same unknown person forged a "strategy" memo that seriously misrepresents our goals and tactics and added it to the stolen documents, then sent them to many of the bloggers and hate groups that occupy the blogosphere.
I was in Washington, DC when Andrew Revkin of the New York Times broke the story without giving us a chance to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents.
Since the documents were obviously stolen and marked "confidential," what Revkin did was not only unethical, it was also probably illegal.
I didn't get home until late last night. This morning we discovered how the crime was committed and confirmed that the "strategy" memo was a fraud. Just now we released a formal statement to the press and our allies explaining what happened.
Right now we are trying to get the individuals and organizations that have tried to make hay with these stolen and fraudulent documents to retract their statements, by threatening legal action if necessary.
About the Documents
Most of the leaked documents appear to have been written by me for a board meeting that took place on January 17. I have not yet had a chance to compare the ones that are posted online with the originals I wrote, so I don't know if they are authentic or have been altered.
At least one of the documents alleged to have come from Heartland, titled "Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy," is a forgery apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute. It was not written by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute. It does not express Heartland's goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact.
Left-wing bloggers are filling the blogosphere with quotes from the fake memo, claiming it reveals our "hidden agenda" and "secret plans." That is complete nonsense, a fraud, and a huge violation of journalistic ethics. But there it is.
Dave Padden, Heartland's founder and long-time chairman, used to say that a lie can run around the world while the truth is still tying its shoestrings. Of course he was right. We're witnessing that right now.
We have reported the identity theft and computer fraud to the police and to the FBI. We are asking the bloggers and reporters to immediately remove these documents and all statements about them from the blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.
But we aren't holding our breath.
The individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we can pursue charges and collect payment for damages, including damages to our reputation.
Litigation is expensive, and it surely wasn't in our budget for 2012. But we don¹t think the criminals who did this ought to be allowed to skate away without penalty.
We are creating a legal defense fund to support litigation, starting immediately, to demand that false and defamatory material be removed from blogs and Web sites and publications, and that the true criminals in this case be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Can you make a charitable contribution to our legal defense fund?
You would be helping us defend ourselves against a cowardly and criminal attack. You would also help us take down a notch some of the left-wing activists and their friends who so plainly crossed the line this time.
I am very sorry that the identities of some of our donors were revealed by this theft. I apologize to them, from the bottom of my heart.
We are calling everyone who was named in these documents to give them the bad news and offer whatever assistance we can to repair the damage.
We promise anonymity to many of our donors because nobody wants the risk of nutty environmentalists or Occupy Wall Street goons harassing them. We know that privacy is important to you.
When the left runs out of arguments and facts which is usually pretty quickly they turn to attacking our donors. They do this to discourage people from supporting us, as well as other conservative and libertarian groups. We understand their game.
I also apologize to Heartland staff, directors, and our allies in the fight to bring sound science to the global warming debate, who have had their privacy violated and their integrity impugned. The criminals who did this had no right to do it. Their behavior is just despicable.
We have taken measures to ensure that we aren't victims of identity theft and computer fraud again, but in this age of identity theft and hacking, I can't promise it won't ever happen again.
Can You Help?
Now more than ever, I need you to stand by us in our time of need and show your pride as a Heartland donor.
This attack would not have happened if we weren't unveiling the truth. The left fears us properly because on climate change, we are the loudest and most effective voice against alarmism in the country, even the entire world.
The left has lost the debate on climate change on the science, the politics, and the economics. Opinion polls show we've won the public debate, and surveys of scientists show the majority of them are with us now.
Much of the change in public opinion, as well as the death of "cap and trade" as a political issue, can be traced to the millions of books, videos, booklets, and other publications we produced during the past four years. Nobody has done more than we have to sound the alarm against the left's ideologically driven fear campaign on global warming.
If you understand the importance of our efforts and you stand with us, please consider giving at this critical time to ensure we can continue this important fight of exposing climate truth.
I am being inundated with phone calls and emails about this extraordinary event, so if you respond to this message and don¹t hear back from me promptly, please be patient. I will reply!
Please feel free to contact our Development team, Amanda Evans, director of development, Rachel Dunbar, corporate relations manager, or Gwen Carver, membership manager, at 312/377-4000 or by email at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com respectively.
Joseph L. Bast