Contact: Aaron Huertas, 202-331-5458
SCIENTIST COMBATS EFFORTS TO DISCLOSE PRIVATE EMAILS
STATEMENT BY MICHAEL HALPERN, SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY PROGRAM MANAGER, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS
WASHINGTON (September 6, 2011) – Former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann filed a legal intervention last Friday to block the American Tradition Institute (ATI) from gaining access to scientists’ email correspondence and other documents protected under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
“Dr. Mann is protecting scientists’ ability to communicate with one another without fear of harassment,” said Michael Halpern, program manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Scientific Integrity Program. “ATI should not be given special privileges. It’s inappropriate for any outside group to have access to emails about student grades, research development, and other privileged information.”
The court agreement Mann is challenging -- called a protective order -- would require the university to give ATI lawyers access under a gag order to all correspondence the university asserts are exempt from disclosure under FOIA. UCS has argued that UVA can comply fairly with the FOIA request without giving ATI access to all of the correspondence.
University President Teresa Sullivan has not yet responded to an Aug. 10 letter from the American Association of University Professors, American Geophysical Union, Climate Science Watch and UCS urging the university to ask for a revision of the protective order.
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli requested the same information ATI is seeking in April 2010, but under a different law. The university fought that request in court and won, though Cuccinelli has appealed the decision.
UCS has compiled a timeline of Cuccinelli’s investigation and ATI’s open records request.