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Scientists Accuse White House of Distorting Facts
by JAMES GLANZ
New York Times
January 18, 2004

The Bush administration has deliberately and systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry at home and abroad, a group of about 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, said in a statement issued today.

The sweeping charges were later discussed in a conference call with some of the scientists that was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent organization that focuses on technical issues and has often taken stands at odds with administration policy. The organization also issued a 37-page report today that it said detailed the accusations.

Together, the two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice, and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases.

"Other administrations have, on occasion, engaged in such practices, but not so systematically nor on so wide a front," the statement from the scientists said, adding that they believed the administration had "misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies."

A White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said today he had not seen the text of the scientists' accusations. "But I can assure you that this is an administration that makes decisions based on the best available science," he said.

Dr. Kurt Gottfried, an emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University who signed the statement and spoke in the conference call, said the administration had "engaged in practices that are in conflict with the spirit of science and the scientific method." Dr. Gottfried asserted that what he called "the cavalier attitude toward science" could place at risk the basis for the nation's long-term prosperity, health and military prowess.

The scientists denied that they had political motives in releasing the documents as the 2004 presidential race began to take clear shape, a day after Senator John Kerry won the Wisconsin Democratic primary and solidified his position as President Bush's likely opponent in the fall. The organization's report, Dr. Gottfried said, had taken a year to prepare - much longer than originally planned - and had been released as soon as it was ready.

"I don't see it as a partisan issue at all," said Russell Train, who served as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and who spoke in the conference call in support of the statement. "If it becomes that way I think it's because the White House chooses to make it a partisan issue," Mr. Train said.

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