You are browsing the archive for Dr. Charles Monnett.

Obama Administration Quietly Reopens Case That Could Criminalize Peer Review Process

8:52 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Dr. Charles Monnett, in the process of getting peer feedback on his observations that some Polar bears appeared to be dying in the Arctic Ocean, due to stress from long swims between dwindling ice packs, sent emails to scientific colleagues.  He was going through the peer review process, in order to publicize findings in a paper. That was in 2004, through 2006.  The paper was published in 2006.  Information from Monnett’s research found its way into Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.

On July 18, 2011, Dr. Monnett was placed on administrative leave from his post at the BOEMRE.  On August 25, 2012, he was returned to work, but with considerably reduced responsibility.  Closely watched.

Today, his legal representatives, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, revealed that the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior quietly reopened their case against Monnett sometime between his reinstatement and December of 2012:

In late December, the IG first revealed that its nearly three-year fruitless pursuit of Dr. Charles Monnett, a senior scientist with the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM), had been reopened although its final report was issued last September. The IG has not stated the reasons for the unusual action of reopening a closed case, except to say that it is awaiting BOEM’s response to unspecified new recommendations.

The new open status is slowing the ability of PEER to obtain documents relating to the controversial IG probe under the Freedom of Information Act. Under an appeal, however, PEER managed to obtain the basis for the IG seeking criminal referrals against Dr. Monnett after the IG initially refused to disclose the information. The four separate charges resemble the legal version of “everything but the kitchen sink” –

One rejected charge was false official statements in connection with the peer review process for the publication of a 2006 observational note by the journal Polar Ecology;

Another un-pursued charge was criminal conflict of interest in connection with the award of a joint research contract with the University of Alberta on polar bear transnational migrations; and

Twice, once at the beginning of the investigation and a second time at the end, the IG sought to have Dr. Monnett prosecuted for supposedly unauthorized emails he sent to other researchers in 2007-8. The second time, the IG maintained the emails amounted to theft of government property.

The 2007-2008 email distribution led to protests from Alaska Native and environmental organizations that Shell Oil was not being transparent in their statements and documents pertaining to proposed drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.  One of the scientists Monnett had sent some of the emails to was University of Alaska professor Rick Steiner, who was already in Shell’s crosshairs for attending a conference organized by Bristol Bay area organizations, critical of Shell’s plans to drill in the world’s richest salmon return habitat.  Shell has since withdrawn the Bristol Bay plan.  Steiner was later hounded from his U of A job.

PEER executive director, Jeff Ruch, is concerned that the “theft of government property” charge may pertain, in the reopened investigation, to not only the 2007-2008 emails, that helped shut down Shell operations for almost four years, but to the 2005-2006 emails, which sought peer feedback for a scholarly paper:

This new information underlines how irresponsible and misguided the Inspector General has been in its attempt to ‘get’ a target while trampling over obvious truths.  Especially dangerous is this clumsy attempt to criminalize the academic peer review process. [emphasis added]

Firedoglake‘s coverage of the witch hunt against Shell opponent Dr. Charles Monnett.

Firedoglake‘s coverage of the hounding of Shell opponent Prof. Rick Steiner

Obama Witch Hunt Against Polar Bear Scientists Takes New Twist – 2nd Scientist Asked to Take Lie Detector Test

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

On Wednesday, Dr. Jeffrey Gleason, currently an avian ecologist for the the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement, was questioned by agents from the the Obama Interior Department Office of Inspector General about aspects of his involvement with Dr. Charles Monnett’s 2006 peer-reviewed scientific paper that linked Polar bear mortality while swimming in the Arctic to climate change.  Dr. Monnett has been under investigation since late 2010.  Scrutiny of Dr. Gleason’s actions related to the Polar bear findings dates back to his first interview, held on January 26th.  His questioning on Wednesday resulted in a request by the investigators for him to undergo a lie detector test regarding a misplaced routing slip:

[The Federal agents] Spent nearly a quarter of the two-hour Gleason interview discussing a misplaced routing slip on an internal agency poster regarding sea ice retreat that was ultimately approved by the agency.  IG Agent Eric May, who claimed to have found the one-third page routing slip “in the trash” asked Dr. Gleason to take a polygraph test on whether he was trying to hide it.


The IG also confirmed that it had named Dr. Gleason in a criminal referral but repeatedly refused to say what the basis for a criminal accusation might be.  In its questioning, the IG again used comments by peer reviewers to suggest that something untoward had been done.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is representing both scientists in this strange investigation that strikes most, at best, to be misguided and misplaced.  Read the rest of this entry →

Fukushima Radiation Spreads Worldwide and Into Japanese Ground Water – Canada to Begin Intensive Testing of Salmon & Caribou – When Will Alaska and the U.S. Do the Same?

12:33 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

 

"Welding Fishheads in AK - Redo" 2003

"Welding Fishheads in AK - Redo" 2003 by linleystorm on flickr

[cross-posted from Progressive Alaska - hence the Alaska-centric viewpoint of some parts]

 

I. CBC reports:

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency plans to start testing fish off the coast of British Columbia for the presence of radiation stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan earlier this year.

The agency has not yet released any specific details on the testing program, but did say it expects the test results to be well below Health Canada’s actionable levels for radiation.

Fisheries activist Alexandra Morton with the Raincoast Research Society says she supports the testing, but calls the announcement a political move. Morton says millions of sockeye have started returning to the Fraser River and the fishing season is already well underway.

Salmon are a particular concern to Morton and others because their wide-ranging migration patterns can take them right across the Pacific Ocean to the coast of Japan.

British Columbia fisheries activists are concerned that the timing of the announcment is a political ploy to draw attention away from the beginning of hearings into the cause of the Fraser River Sockeye salmon run crash:

“If they were actually concerned about the health of people and the fish, they would have started this actually at the beginning of the commercial openings. But to release this two days before the disease hearings at the Cohen inquiry, to me it’s a political statement, it’s a political effort to appear responsible,” [Morton] said.

The Cohen Commission hearings into the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River sockeye salmon run resumed in Vancouver earlier this week.

Morton also wants the CFIA to test farmed salmon, because she says trace amounts of radiation were detected in seaweed on the B.C. coast.

The Cohen Inquiry may be of interest to Alaskans. It is investigating more than one hypothesis about why the Fraser River Sockeye run collapsed rapidly, beginning in 1993, through 2009.  Alexandra Morton writes: Read the rest of this entry →

With Obama’s Giordano Bruno-ization of Dr. Charles Monnett in Alaska, We See the Merging of the War on Science and the War on Whistleblowers

11:54 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Giordano Bruno by Jastrow

Two more organizations, neither from Alaska, have joined Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility in search of more transparency in the Obama administration’s pursuit of Anchorage-based Polar bear expert, Dr. Charles Monnett.  Greenpeace US and the Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and White House Office of Science & Technology Policy Director, Dr. John Holdren, raising their grave concerns that Dr. Monnett is being pursued as part of a political agenda.  They have also filed Freedom of Information Act requests in the matter, according to a Friday article by Jill Burke, in the Alaska Dispatch:

The groups are using the Freedom of Information Act to look into whether any correspondence exists between BOEMRE and Shell regarding Monnett or his research.

Some have speculated that Dr. Monnett is being sidelined and hounded as a warning to others to keep their heads down, as the Obama administration prepares the way to open the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas to oil development.  As if on cue, late Thursday this was announced:

Shell cleared a major hurdle Thursday in its effort to begin a two-year drilling program in the Arctic Ocean next summer, receiving a conditional exploration permit from the federal agency that oversees offshore oil development.

The company said it was buoyed by the morning announcement from the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, just as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was preparing for an Alaska visit next week at the invitation of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

That congressional tour, which will also include Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, will focus on energy issues.

The exploration permit covers an overall program that would drill four wells over two years in Camden Bay of the Beaufort Sea, due north of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The letter from Greenpeace US and the Center for Biological Diversity raises the spectre of Obama’s deepening and all but relentless pursuit of whistleblowers, which has been quite well documented, particularly by Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald, and The New Yorker‘s Jane Meyer.  Here’s Greewald, writing about Mayer’s most recent revelations:

Thomas Drake is a hero who deserves a Medal of Freedom Honor.  Instead, the Obama administration seeks to imprison him for decades while steadfastly protecting from prosecution — or judicial review of any kind — the high-level government officials who systematically broke the law.  Put another way — from the last paragraph of Mayer’s article:

Mark Klein, the former A.T. & T. employee who exposed the telecom-company wiretaps, is also dismayed by the Drake case. “I think it’s outrageous,” he says. “The Bush people have been let off. The telecom companies got immunity. The only people Obama has prosecuted are the whistle-blowers.”

And that’s to say nothing of the full-scale immunity also given thus far to Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Merrill, and the mortgage fraudsters who have essentially stolen people’s homes.  About what motivates Obama’s conduct — his virtually complete reversal from the campaign pledges — Drake offers this speculation:

“I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said.  He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

On Twitter this morning, The American Prospect‘s Adam Serwer said of the New Yorker article:  ”Jane Mayer does to warrantless wiretapping what she did to torture.”  That’s true, but one could just as accurately say that Mayer does to the Obama administration what she did to the Bush administration:  expose its most rotted attributes.

Here is the Greenpeace-Center for Biological Diversity letter in its entirety (original is PDF – posted with permission):

August 4, 2011

Mr. Ken Salazar Secretary of the Interior
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dr. John P. Holdren, Director Office of Science & Technology Policy
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Secretary Salazar and Dr. Holdren,

The protection of scientific independence and integrity is crucial to the creation of sound national policy, especially with respect to environmental and natural resource issues. We therefore fully support the spirit and letter of the President’s Executive Order regarding scientific integrity, and it is with this memorandum in mind that we write you about the recent suspension of a senior scientist at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, Dr. Charles Monnett.

Dr. Monnett is responsible for undertaking and coordinating a broad slate of research into the distribution of marine mammals, including polar bears. This crucial long-term research has been approved by MMS/BOEMRE in part to produce baseline data against which to judge the potential impacts of proposed oil drilling in the waters off Alaska.

Prior to being placed on administrative leave, Dr. Monnett was subjected to an interrogation by criminal investigators from the Department of Interior Inspector General (IG) relating to his observations of drowned polar bears and the publication of those observations in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Based on the transcript of that interview, it appears that Dr. Monnett is himself being subjected to precisely the type of political interference in his work that the Executive Order and scientific integrity policy are designed to prevent. This apparent interference is originating not only from the IG, which has sent agents with no scientific training to ask decidedly unscientific questions about bizarre allegations relating to the polar bear paper, but also, as it emerged during the interview, from BOEMRE managers themselves.

Following clear evidence of misconduct within the BOEMRE’s predecessor agency, the Minerals Management Service, it was hoped that this reorganized agency, under Michael Bromwich’s leadership, would reform its working practices and usher in a new era of respect for independent scientific research. However, this incident indicates that the agency remains rife with problems and seems determined to restrict scientists from engaging in or disseminating research that provides critical information on the potential impacts of oil drilling in a rapidly changing Arctic.

This makes us question whether Mr. Bromwich, the agency and more broadly the Department of Interior are able to uphold the tenets of the Presidential Executive Order on scientific integrity or indeed the DOI’s own Science Integrity Policy, issued in September 2010.

We are gravely concerned by the allegations of political interference with Dr. Monnett’s work and other scientific research at BOEMRE, as well as by the conduct of the investigation against Dr. Monnett. This incident will chill other agency scientists’ ability to carry out and communicate their research.

We thus request your assurance that these critically important issues will receive an immediate, full, and open review by both the Department of Interior and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

We look forward to your response and thoughts on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Kert Davies Research Director
Greenpeace US
702 H St NW
Washington D.C. 20001

Kassie Siegel Senior Counsel
Climate Law Institute Director
Center for Biological Diversity
P.O. Box 549
Joshua Tree, CA 92252

Although their concerns center on lack of implementation of newly announced reforms in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, which is the successor of the totally discredited similar office in the now-defunct Minerals Management Service, and of possible “political interference” in scientific work, those of us familiar with the patterns exhibited previously by Obama can probably read much between the very carefully written lines of the joint request.

Who would have thought that Obama could make the fundamentalist Bush’s war on science seem so pale in comparison?

[Editor's note: The original photograph, Giordano Bruno (and friend) by Fernando W, was replaced due to copyright restrictions.]

Obama in Witch Hunt Against a Leading Alaska-Based Scientist and Polar Bear Expert

10:41 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Polar bears stranded on thin ice in the great debate: energy, environment economy

Here we go again.

The Bush administration hounded University of Alaska ocean science  Prof. Rick Steiner into retirement.  (I know – it ended during the Obama administration, but the creaky wheels of squelching an honest voice for science began under his predecessor).  Now the Obama administration is taking this a step further, by assigning a criminal investigative team with no scientific background to go after Dr. Charles Monnett, a highly respected, Anchorage-based scientist, who works for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. He was suspended ten days ago.

I suspect that the more agressive this investigation gets, the more political contributions will come Obama’s way from Shell Oil.  I think BP may have already maxed out what they can give him.

As in the case of Prof. Steiner, the first to come to Dr. Monnett’s defense is Public Empoyees for Environmental Responsibility.

Here is their press release (reprinted in full with PEER permission):

ARCTIC SCIENTIST PROTESTS WITCH HUNT ON POLAR BEAR PAPER Key Studies Disrupted as Supervising Federal Scientist Suspended from Duties

Washington, DC — One of the country’s top Arctic scientists is being hounded in a political attempt to impugn his observations on polar bears’ vulnerability to retreating sea ice, according to a scientific misconduct complaint filed today on his behalf by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) against Interior Department officials.  The scientist is now on administrative leave and forbidden from communicating with co-workers, thus disrupting a large portfolio of ongoing scientific research. Read the rest of this entry →