Again with the fake documents

The latest fuss in the global warming controversy is the leak of documents from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian think tank I hadn’t heard of before that, among other things, is skeptical of climate change alarmism. Most of the documents deal with Heartland’s fundraising, but one very different document purports to describe Heartland’s strategy for the global warming debate.

The provider of the document originally claimed to be an insider at Heartland, but that turned out to be a lie. In fact, an outsider (later identified as Peter Gleick, head of the Pacific Institute) obtained the documents by phishing; he wrote to Heartland claiming to be a board member and asking that they resend him the documents for the annual board meeting. Some gullible secretary complied.

Heartland acknowledges that most of the documents are genuine, but says that the strategy document is a fake. There is considerable evidence to support their claim: While the undisputed documents were pdfs generated from their original digital source, the strategy document is a scan. The strategy document was scanned weeks after the undisputed documents were generated, but just one day before Gleick went public. And, the strategy document was scanned in the wrong time zone: the pdf metadata dates the scan using Pacific time, but Heartland is in Chicago. (Peter Gleick, on other hand, is in Oakland, California.)

There are also a variety of the problems with the content: For example, it contains mistakes that a genuine document would be unlikely to contain. (Specifically, it said that the Koch Foundation gave $200k in 2011, when in fact it gave $25k, and even that $25k was earmarked for health care, not climate change.) For another, it curiously focuses on Peter Gleick and his writings for Forbes magazine, even though neither is particularly important.

But most strikingly, the content of the strategy document is all wrong. John Hinderaker goes through it line by line, but I’ll just quote one line that in conclusive in its own right:

We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. . . His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain — two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.

This isn’t even good forgery; this is just stupid. “Dissuading teachers from teaching science”? Oh, please. This is something that a dishonest leftist would write to attack climate alarmism skeptics, not something that skeptics write about themselves. All it missed as a supervillain’s monologue was the cackle.

Gleick, who was quickly suspected as the author of the forged document, has admitted phishing for the undisputed documents, but has not yet admitted to forging the strategy document. Ironically, Gleick chaired the American Geophysical Union’s task force on scientific ethics. He has been dropped. He has also stepped down as the head of the Pacific Institute.

POSTSCRIPT: There’s also a media failure angle on this story. The New York Times reported this:

Heartland did declare one two-page document to be a forgery, although its tone and content closely matched that of other documents that the group did not dispute.

This is simply untrue. As observed above (and as the link document further), the tone and content do not match the other documents at all.

UPDATE: The NYT’s inaccurate description is now being used in legal communications.

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