Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wanna Guess?

Eric May continues perfecting his  inspector Clouseau act with the release of Dr. Jeffrey Gleason's last interrogation.  In an effort to pound sand even harder, May is now looking into the Bowhead Whale Artic Survey Project database for more dead polar bears, obviously to show that Gleason and Monnett's paper was criminal.
Per an email from Special Agent Eric May, which PEER obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the IG is looking into the 30-year database of BWASP observations with special focus on the 2007 transition of the survey from Interior to the Marine Mammal Lab.  In addition, the IG wants “to determine if dead polar bears were documented in the BWASP database between 1987- 2003” in an apparent attempt to show that sightings of four drowned polar bears following a storm in 2004 was not remarkable. 
May found two dead bears noted in the margins, in wait for it, September 2004, before the big storm, after which Gleason and Monnett noted the extra dead bears, so now he is bugging the NOAA National Marine Mammal Lab to which the database was transferred last decade.  PEER has obtained some Emails in which the folks at NMML ask to be invited out, they want no part of this nonsense
The Marine Mammal Lab originally demurred on the IG request for further interviews, pointing out that all of the data had been retrieved, copied and sent back to Interior in 2011.  The IG apparently is still seeking assistance on how to unravel decades of BWASP data.  PEER has filed a formal complaint that any such review should be done by knowledgeable scientists rather than untrained criminal investigators.
Since both Monnett and Gleason have testified many times that they made a good faith effort to locate any such reports in the database, and produced records of their search, it is difficult to see how May and his superiors justify  this continuing harassment.  It is, to put it bluntly, not their job or expertise to publish data on polar bear mortality, and it is already painfully obvious that whoever sent Eric May after them had a political vendetta in mind, perhaps the DOI IG might look into that.

There is something of general interest towards the end tho.  May describes an Email forwarded by Monnett to Gleason which originated from the World Wildlife Fund UK
MAY:  And it's from Julia Woolford (phonetic) from that organization, and she forwarded this -- or she wrote this to Dr. Ian Stirling, and then forwarded it to Dr. Monnett who ultimately forwarded it to you.  And the start of the email says, "Dear Ian and (inaudible).  Once again, sorry to bother you for more information at short notice.  The interest from WWFUK in fund-raising for Arctic conservation has  increased and we have been inundated with copy which needs clearance  for possible fund-raising activities.

"One treatment that they seem keen on is the idea of more polar bears drowning as a result of climate change and melting ice.  They sent me the attached note.  I'd seen this press coverage, but didn't pay it too much attention as I assumed that it was probably not scientifically verifiable. 
"However, it looks like we need a view on this so we could avoid any potentially ill-advised fund-raising attempts by colleagues.  The  other treatment they are considering revolves more simply around polar  bears disappearing before the end of the century as a result of disappearing sea ice.
"What they want to know is what is likely to happen to the bears.
Will they simply become extinct, will they interbreed with brown bears?  What might happen?  Will be a regional extinction," -- et cetera.
This reflects well on the WWF, while they consider the situation serious, they are also considering it seriously, not wanting to make claims that go beyond the scientific evidence
So, Dr. Ian wrote to Dr. Monnett, "Hi, Chuck.  Nice to see you in (inaudible) the other day briefly.  The enclosed is self-explanatory.   It looks pretty sensational.  List it to me, but since you are the   only one with real information on this, would you mind giving a brief assessment to Woolford."

And then Dr. Monnett forwarded to you and Dr. Monnett says, "Give me a break."  Do you recall receiving this email, by chance? 
Dr. Gleason, in his answer provides the context for that reply and the reason why May's aggression is so damaging
GLEASON:. .in the first interview I had mentioned that about the time the first poster came out, it became -- it got to the point where we could not, as scientists, contact scientists or biologists in the sister agencies.

So, it got sort of weird.  We were told, "You will not talk about polar bears, sea ice, climate change or any of those issues to anybody."  And that included other scientists and other agencies.  At the same time, obviously we had requests for information, those sorts of requests, you know.

But it was sort of a weird time to be a biologist/scientist in the agency at the time, and it was one of the reasons, probably the primary reason that I left the agency up there because of this sort of, "You will not" -- which was a little disconcerting, given what was going on.

But, yes -- so, I -- I probably received multiple forwards that Chuck would get regarding the requests, and I -- obviously I wouldn't have responded to the request outside of Chuck.  I mean, Dr. Monnett.

So, -- and "Give me a break," pretty much, I think, solidifies his opinion of that request as well.
 There is no doubt that this three year clown show has had a hugely negative effect of scientists in the Department of the Interior and the US Government in general.  There is both comedy and tragedy in the testimony, frankly, if Eli were Gleason's adviser the Bunny would advise him to give monosyllabic answers.

So who is to blame for this?  In a news report from NPR on Polar Bear IG Abuse, Eli is reminded
The scientific integrity allegations regarding the journal article stem from a complaint made by a Department of the Interior employee in March of 2010, according to an August 2011 letter from the Office of Inspector General to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who had requested information on the probe.
Rabett Run is taking bets that this was RP Sr.'s pal, Indur Golklany.  Perhaps his Email needs be trolled through?


dhogaza said...

"So, it got sort of weird. We were told, "You will not talk about polar bears, sea ice, climate change or any of those issues to anybody." And that included other scientists and other agencies. "

It wasn't just north and wasn't just polar bears. I went out for beer with some agency biologists and one woman, a PhD zoologist, working for the BLM was bitterly complaining how the three year project she'd finished up on the impact of grazing on something that she wasn't at liberty to discuss somewhere that she wasn't at liberty to discuss had been squelched, with her being threatened with dismissal if she discussed her research results with anyone.

This was during the W administration. From what we're seeing up north, it's clear that within certain elements of the executive branch, at least, it's not gotten better. And the witch hunters like Inhofe have always had their counterparts regarding other natural resource issues like timber harvest and grazing on public lands.

Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny wonders if the Conservation of Energy theorem is violated here? A lot of heated air seems to be coming from nothing.

When does this stop? What would cause the investigation to be closed? Maybe when the last polar bear has died. As I get it from scattered news reports, Monnett's scientific career is toast, his job apparently has assigned him to counting all the numbers between 1 and 100.

It seems to take some time for May to come up with another speck of nothing to investigate in great detail. But he hangs on better than a junkyard dog, to use the Reagan era name for an IG.

At least Cuccinelli's ludicrous legal case for investigating Dr. Mann came to an abrupt stop with the Virginia Supreme Court told him to go away and never come back. "dismissed with prejudice". But there appears to be no barrier to infinite investigation. Inspector Generals are not meant to be shut off by the Secretary of a Department or even the U.S. President. If May's supervisor lacks the common sense to shut down a ridiculous witch hunt, there's no other mechanism.

Anonymous said...

Obama already fired one IG (Walpin), giving as reason:

"It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general....That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.[Walpin]"

Firing obviously comes with a political price (which may be why Obama is reluctant to act in this case).


Anonymous said...

Snow Bunny: Thanks for the interesting info on Walpin.

The situation appears to be different. Eric May has not brought charges or gone to the newspaper without notifying the local U.S. attorney. He is simply endlessly investigating.

The law may also be different. Oddly, Congress does not have consistent laws for IG offices in all agencies.

I wish I knew who has responsibility above May, who to write to. I'd also like to know who is pushing May or is this idiocy all his initiative?

This is an outrageous trashing of a good scientist whose brief note on an observation was used in a movie made by Al Gore.

EliRabett said...

May is not an AG, he is well down on the food chain and lately they have been sending out a minder to help him. Probably May has an in with Issa or someone so they feel they can't call him off.

To make the situation more complicated there is no permanent DOI IG because Obama has not appointed one after the last one left. The person in charge, Mary Kendall, is acting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Eli. Who's the minder? and what's his/her function?

Heard in the 80s of a guy who bought an angel in Congress for a kilobuck or two. Likely the price has gone up.

dhogaza said...

"no permanent DOI IG"

Is this a post requiring senate confirmation? If so, it would explain why he's not done so, given the Senate Republicans ...

barry said...

"Who's the minder? and what's his/her function?"

Special Agent John Meskel. Maybe a senior agent.

AFAIK, this is the fourth interview of the authors of the polar bear monograph.

January 20, 2011: Jeffrey Gleason interviewed by IG special agents Eric May and John Meskel.

February 23, 2011: Charles Monnett interviewed by IG special agents Eric May and Lynn Gibson, represented by Jeff Ruch, Tom Assagon and Megan Corrado from PEER, via conference call.

August 9, 2011: Monnett interviewed by IG special agents Eric May and Richard Larrabee (who is chief interrogator), as well as special agent-in-charge, David Brown. On conference call for Monnett are Jeff Ruch, Paula Dinerstein and Katherine Douglass from PEER.

And the latest,

October 26, 2011: Gleason interviewed by IG special agents Meskel and May (same as first interview), but this time Gleason has representation via conference call from PEER - Jeff Ruch, Paula Dinerstein and Katherine Douglass.