Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"Holy Mudhead, Mackerel! More Science High, it's, it's disappeared!"

As a follow-up to Monday's entry, two more reports have been released, which are critical of the Bush administration policies of hiding, distorting, and obfuscating scientific reports.

First, the ACLU has put together a compelling summary....Let them speak for themselves:

Science Under Siege By Bush Administration, ACLU Charges

WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union released a report today examining government policies and practices that have hampered academic freedom and scientific inquiry since September 11, 2001. The report sheds new light on how these policies curtail basic rights and put all Americans at risk. "Attacks on scientific freedom have the same effect on our democracy as attacks on political freedom," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "Curtailing scientific freedom in the name of national security is bad for science, bad for freedom and simply not effective in increasing the safety of America."

The report, Science Under Siege, connects the dots between several different areas where misguided government policies are affecting science. Among the abuses the ACLU examines in the report are:

  • moves to overclassify information and designate whole areas of research as "sensitive but unclassified;"

  • outright censorship and prescreening of scientific articles before publication;
    exclusion of foreign students from access to research projects;

  • suppression of environmental and public health information; and

  • increased restrictions on materials and technology commonly used in basic scientific research.

Throughout the report, the ACLU challenges claims by the Bush administration that such policies are ultimately beneficial for national security, and points to documented cases in which the administration has distorted scientific and academic inquiry for particular political purposes.

"This report makes clear the extent to which the Bush administration has hampered the pursuit of knowledge and scientific inquiry," said Tania Simoncelli, the Technology and Science Fellow with the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project. "It has diminished America’s standing as a magnet for students and intellectuals around the world, had a chilling effect on many practicing scientists, and set terrible precedents for the government control of information."

According to the ACLU, restrictions on the free flow of information have jeopardized America’s current global leadership in the sciences. In addition to policies implemented post-9/11, the report notes an ongoing erosion of environmental and public health standards, including mercury emissions, global climate change, sexual education and mountaintop removal mining.

The ACLU recommends a series of reforms including a halt to overclassification, the elimination of the "sensitive but unclassified" designation, the removal of censorship and publication restrictions, dropping unnecessary restrictions on foreign students and scholars, maintaining the fundamental research exemption and protecting science from undue political interference.

"The future security of our nation will flow from our global scientific strength and leadership," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Project. "Attempts to achieve security through control and repression of information will never work, and will only undermine that leadership. The administration must reverse its misguided and damaging policies."

The full report is available at: PDF Document

In a related story, 163 scientists, sent US Game and Wildlife officials an open letter of concern about new rules prohibiting government biologists to consider genetic diversity of endangered species, when deciding whether they should be romoved from the list.

In their press release, Sally Stefferud, a former FWS biologist and signatory to the letter says, "This new policy is a clear violation of the agency's mission under the Endangered Species Act to use the best available science. It lessens the agency's ability to protect the nation's wildlife and mandates irrevocable risks to the genetic diversity that is the very basis of their survival."

Update: Check out Chris Bowers' take on Bush's fact fudging


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