Whatever Happened to That Scientific Integrity Plan?

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The White House has responded to the Department of Interior’s Inspector General’s charge that the administration’s report on offshore drilling was edited in a way that mischaracterized its conclusions. According to the IG, several of the independent experts who evaluated the offshore drilling report’s conclusions said they had not actually weighed in on a six-month moratorium on offshore drilling, yet the report’s summary made it appear that they had. In a statement issued Wednesday night responding to the allegations, White House spokesman Bill Burton emphasized that the IG’s review “found no intentional misrepresentation of [scientists’] views” and that the “Interior acted quickly to correct” the misrepresentation.

The White House also stood behind the moratorium, which was lifted last month. “The decision to implement a 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico was correctly based on the need for adequate spill response, well containment and safety measures, and we stand behind that decision,” Burton said.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s spokeswoman, Kendra Barkoff, also issued a statement:

There was no intent to mislead the public. The decision to impose a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling was made by the Secretary, following consultation with colleagues including the White House. As the report makes clear, the misunderstanding with the reviewers was resolved with the June 3rd letter and a subsequent conference call with those experts.

Even if one accepts that this was a mistake (and the IG’s report notes that the engineers who complained about the issue said they agreed it was unintentional), it’s not really an excuse for sloppy editing. If this were the Bush administration, we’d all be falling over ourselves complaining about the lack of scientific integrity here—especially considering this isn’t the first time White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner or her office have misrepresented “peer review.” Browner made similar claims about the report on where all the oil in the Gulf had gone. But that had not actually been reviewed, either, and Browner and others in the administration have been criticized for this and other issues surrounding their handling of information related to the oil spill.

It’s worth mentioning that the scientific integrity plan that President Obama called for in one of his first executive orders—an effort to distance the new administration from the last—is now 16 months over due. It strikes me as something that would be useful right about now.

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Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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