FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: NOAA Scientists' Emails Protected as Deliberative

FOIA News (2017)Ryan MulveyComment

NOAA gets judge to agree that its scientists' e-mails are protected

Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, Sept. 12, 2017

Once upon a time (in mid-2015), some climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published a study in the journal Science. This sort of thing happens all the time. Yet, in this case, all hell broke loose.

The problem was that this study put yet another nail in the crowded lid of a coffin housing the claim that global warming had somehow suddenly ceased in 1998. Because the study involved an update to NOAA’s global temperature dataset, some who disliked its conclusion—like US House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas)—alleged without evidence that the scientists had improperly manipulated data.

This began a long fight between NOAA and Rep. Smith, who issued subpoenas for the scientists’ e-mails and early drafts. NOAA scientists met with Smith to carefully explain the study’s methods and point out that all the relevant data and research was already publicly available. But the agency refused to hand over the scientists’ communications and drafts.

In stepped Judicial Watch, a conservative group that regularly files Freedom of Information Act requests for government documents. NOAA didn’t provide the group with the e-mails, drafts, and peer reviews either, so Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in December of 2015.

Read more here.