Today’s Must Read

June 3, 2008 10:02 a.m.

Remember that young Bush campaign worker who landed a job in the NASA public affairs office, where he was accused of blocking the country’s top scientists from talking publicly about global warming?

His name was George C. Deutsch and he was one of several officials accused a couple years ago of manipulating the public disclosure of scientific research about climate change.

Well, NASA’s own inspector general looked into the matter and — whaddya know — the Bush administration’s critics were right.

A 48-page report from the agency’s own watchdog, released yesterday, concluded that political appointees in the NASA press office were downplaying scientific conclusions about global warming by withholding certain press releases and limiting reporters’ access to top scientists who might veer off message.

“Our investigation,” the report said, “found that during the fall of 2004 through early 2006, the NASA Headquarters Office of Public Affairs managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public.”

The report said most evidence supported contentions that politics was “inextricably interwoven” into operations at the public affairs office in that period and that the pattern was inconsistent with the statutory responsibility to communicate findings widely, “especially on a topic that has worldwide scientific interest.”

The NASA press office came under scrutiny a couple years ago after the agency’s leading climate scientist, James E. Hansen, and other agency employees, publicly complained about restrictions imposed on their public comments and distortions of their scientific conclusions.

What today’s story leaves out are some great details about the characters involved in shielding the public from the taxpayer-funded science.

Deutsch, who got his job at age 23 and once told a Web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned after revelations the he had lied on his resume and did not, in fact, graduate from Texas A&M University.

How’d he get such a prominent position? According to the Times:

Mr. Deutsch, 24, was offered a job as a writer and editor in NASA’s public affairs office in Washington last year after working on President Bush’s re-election campaign and inaugural committee, according to his résumé.

Another political appointee, Dean Acosta, who was NASA’s deputy assistant administrator for public affairs and now works in the private sector of the aerospace industry, criticized the IG’s report about his former office.

“My entire career has been dedicated to open and honest communications,” Mr. Acosta, who now is director of communications for the Boeing space-exploration business, wrote in an e-mail message. “The inspector general’s assertions are patently false. The report itself does nothing but raise questions about a three-year investigation that has yielded nothing but flimsy allegations aimed at hard-working public servants.”

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