The Interior Department’s Inspector General confirms that the White House altered a report on drilling safety in a way that made it appear, erroneously, that White House’s drilling moratorium had been peer-reviewed:
The Interior Department’s inspector general says the White House edited a drilling safety report in a way that made it falsely appear that scientists and experts supported the idea of the administration’s six-month ban on new drilling.
The inspector general says the editing changes resulted “in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed.” But it hadn’t been. The scientists were only asked to review new safety measures for offshore drilling.
The report stopped short of finding that the administration violated the law. It found that:
The Department has not definitively violated the [Information Quality Act]. For example, the recommendation for a moratorium is not contained in the safety report itself. Furthermore, the Executive Summary does not indicate that the peer reviewers approved any of the Report’s recommendations.
(Emphasis mine.) This is strange. Perhaps the executive summary did not explicitly indicate peer review of the recommendations, but the report found (pages 7-8) that the White House reordered the executive summary so that the reference to peer-review appeared immediately after the moratorium recommendation, where originally the two were well-separated.
Thus, after the executive summary recommended a moratorium, the very next paragraph began:
The recommendations contained in this report have been peer-reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering. Those experts, who volunteered their time and expertise, are identified in Appendix 1. The Department also consulted with a wide range of experts from government, academia and industry.
Any reasonable person would conclude that the “recommendations” in question were the ones in the immediately preceding paragraph.
So how could the IG find that “the Executive Summary does not indicate that the peer reviewers approved any of the Report’s recommendations”? Apparently she puts a lot of weight in the difference between “peer-reviewing” the recommendations and “approving” them. That’s a pretty feeble distinction, if you ask me.
Perhaps Ms. Kendall had in mind what happened to the last inspector general to cross this White House.
POSTSCRIPT: Another interesting tidbit from the IG report: The administration has claimed privilege over all the documents relating to this incident. (Page 7.)
Nothing says “we did nothing wrong” like claiming executive privilege.