THEY JUSTIFY LYING
on gathering of scientific evidence, “Would permit scientists employed or funded by industry to serve as reviewers.
. . [thus} giving regulated industries much greater influence over the formulation of new regulations." Quoted from last topic, on the Office of Management and Budget—proposed changes. This is the insight needed to understand how the Bush Bunch handles evidence. For just like in Stalin’s Russia and with the Catholic Church before this the 20th century,
ends came before the truth: for Stalin building a loyal populace, for the Church saving souls as they understood it,
and for our government, and especially the Republicans, it amounts to doing that which they perceive as good for industry
or which promotes electoral support. Thus they court conservative religious votes
by falsely claiming that the oral contraceptive causes breast cancer and that the teach of ONLY abstinence in public
schools is the best type of sex education in so far as lowering teenage pregnancy and venereal disease. For industry they oppose environmental laws that hinder business, such as enforcing the current standards
on mercury emission and other air pollutants. Their attempts to stiffle honest
research and surpress evidence are comparable to that which was done in Stalin's Soviet Union. Such an analogy
was at length made in the May 2004 Scientific American editorial page. "You would think that bad precedent [Stalin's]
would have President George W. Bush something. But perhaps he is no better at history
than at science" (10). All these topics are developed below.
--adapted by jk
Lies to cover lies—the White House’s
response to this position paper
Analysis of White House Claims
review of April 2, 2004 document from White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
On April 2, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued
a statement by John H. Marburger, III, the director of OSTP, that claims the descriptions of the incidents in the UCS report
are all “false,” “wrong,” or “a distortion.” Analysis of the particulars in the White
House document shows that these claims are unjustified. Aside from a couple of minutiae detailed in the UCS analysis,
the White House document fails to offer substantive evidence to support its claims. Instead, the White House document
often offers irrelevant information and fails to address the central point of many charges in the UCS report.
The preamble to the White House document deals at length
with the administration’s support of funding for scientific research. It should be noted that neither the statement
by the scientists nor the supporting UCS report discusses the issue of research funding. That said, it should be noted that
neither document was intended as a criticism of Dr. Marburger’s efforts on behalf of scientific research.
UCS stands by the findings and conclusions of its report.
The UCS analysis provides many examples, which cover the spectrum of charges made in the scientists’ statement
and in the UCS report, to demonstrate that contrary to the claims in the White House document, the administration has in fact
frequently attempted to undermine scientific integrity when, to quote the scientists’ original statement, “scientific
knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals.”
Cases: The Environment
Multiple Air Pollutants Information Censored
page is an excerpt from the 2004 UCS report Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
As an alternative
to the president’s Clear Skies Act, Senators Thomas Carper (D-DE), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) have proposed a measure that would control carbon dioxide in addition to sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides,
and mercury. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) evaluated this proposal but long withheld important results
on the costs and benefits of the alternative bill from the senators. Several months before the EPA finally provided them the
results, a copy of an internal EPA briefing based on the study was leaked to the Washington Post.40 According to
the briefing, the EPA concluded that the Senate proposal would cut the three pollutants earlier and in larger quantities than
the Clear Skies Act, result in 17,800 fewer expected deaths by 2020, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions at “negligible”
cost to industry.
of research on air pollution is of serious concern because of its enormous impact on public health. The Clean Air Act, which
passed during the Nixon administration and was strengthened in 1990 during the first Bush administration, has saved American
lives. For the period up to 1990, the EPA found that, without the act, “an additional 205,000 Americans would have died
prematurely and millions more would have suffered illnesses ranging from mild respiratory symptoms to heart disease, chronic
bronchitis, asthma attacks, and other severe respiratory problems. In addition, the lack of the Clean Air Act controls on
the use of leaded gasoline would have resulted in major increases in child IQ loss and adult hypertension, heart disease and
stroke.”41 In its 1999 study, the EPA projected that in 2010 alone, the 1990 strengthening amendments “will
prevent 23,000 premature deaths, and avert over 1.7 million incidents of asthma attacks . . . 67,000 incidents of chronic
and acute bronchitis . . . 4.1 million lost work days.”
According to the New York Times, EPA staff members
recounted that they discussed the EPA’s unreleased report indicating the advantages of the Carper-Gregg-Alexander-Chafee
proposal at a May meeting with Jeffrey Holmstead, assistant administrator for air programs. As these EPA staffers contend,
Holmstead wondered out loud, “How can we justify Clear Skies if this gets out?” although he has since stated that
he did not “recall making any specific remarks.”42
Information on Power Plant Mercury Emissions Censored
This page is an excerpt from the 2004 UCS report Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
The George W. Bush administration has long attempted
to avoid issuing new standards to regulate mercury emissions by coal-fired power plants based on Maximum Achievable Control
Technology (MACT), as required by the Clean Air Act.29 Mercury is a neurotoxin that can cause brain damage and
harm reproduction in women and wildlife; coal-fired power plants are the nation’s largest source of mercury air emissions,
emitting about 48 tons annually.30
As a prelude to the current debate, published accounts to date have documented
that senior Bush officials suppressed and sought to manipulate government information about mercury contained in an Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) report on children’s health and the environment. As the EPA readied the report for completion
in May 2002, the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) began
a lengthy review of the document. In February 2003, after nine months of delay by the White House, a frustrated
EPA official leaked the draft report to the Wall Street Journal, including its finding that eight percent of women between
the ages of 16 and 49 have mercury levels in the blood that could lead to reduced IQ and motor skills in their offspring.31
The finding provides strong evidence in direct contradiction
to the administration’s desired policy of reducing regulation on coal-fired power plants and was, many sources suspect,
the reason for the lengthy suppression by the White House. On February 24, 2003, just days after the leak, the EPA’s
report was finally released to the public.32 Perhaps most troubling about this incident is that the report may
never have surfaced at all had it not been leaked to the press.
In a more recent development, the new rules the EPA has finally proposed for
regulating power plants’ mercury emissions were discovered to have no fewer than 12 paragraphs lifted, sometimes verbatim,
from a legal document prepared by industry lawyers.33 Chagrined EPA officials contend that the language crept into
their proposed rules “through the interagency process.” But Robert Perciasepe, who headed the EPA air policy office
during the Clinton administration, stated the obvious when he called the wholesale use of industry language “inappropriate.” As Perciasepe told a Washington Post reporter, “The regulations
are supposed to be drafted by the staff—the people in the science program and regulatory branches.”34
Drawing upon interviews with no fewer than five current
career employees, reporters at the Los Angeles Times have exposed in detail the process that led to the proposed mercury regulations.
According to these and other sources, political appointees at the EPA completely bypassed agency professional and scientific
staff as well as a federal advisory panel in crafting the proposed new rules.35
Bruce C. Buckheit, who retired in December 2003 as
director of EPA’s Air Enforcement Division after serving in major federal environmental posts for two decades, says that his enforcement division was not even allowed to review the
mercury regulations prior to their release. As Buckheit puts it, “the new mercury
rules were hatched at the White House; the Environmental Protection Agency’s experts were simply not consulted at all.”36
In particular, EPA staff members say they pointed
out the fact that comparative scientific studies of the effects of the proposed rules were required by EPA procedure. But
these sources contend that they were explicitly told by Jeffrey R. Holmstead, head of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation,
that such studies would not be conducted partly because of “White House concern.”37 Buckheit and other
EPA veterans say they cannot recall another instance when the agency’s technical experts were so thoroughly shut out
of the process in developing a major regulatory proposal. According to Buckheit, the incident is representative of “a
degree of politicization of the work of the Environmental Protection Agency that goes beyond anything I have seen in my career
In the wake of these serious allegations, EPA Administrator
Michael Leavitt has reportedly ordered additional studies of the effects of the proposed mercury rule. Administrator Leavitt
has also said information related to media reports on the agency’s inclusion of industry-drafted language in its proposed
rule has been forwarded to the EPA’s inspector general for possible investigation.39
Science Overruled on Emergency Contraception
This page is an excerpt from the July 2004 update to the February 2004 UCS report Scientific Integrity in
An official at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) overruled the advice of the agency's
staff and two independent scientific advisory panels when he decided recently to deny women over-the-counter access to the
emergency contraceptive levonorgestrel (sold under the brand name "Plan B"). Numerous FDA officials and medical advisers to
FDA involved in and familiar with the approval process call the move an almost unprecedented repudiation of government scientific
expertise. By law, the FDA is required to approve drugs that are found to be safe and effective.
In the case, Steven Galson, acting director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research,
acknowledged to reporters recently that he overturned the recommendations of his own staff and two FDA advisory panels in
declaring the drug "not approvable" for nonprescription status.30 A joint meeting of two independent FDA scientific
advisory committees voted 23 to 4 in December 2003 to recommend the emergency contraceptive as an over-the-counter drug. The
panel also voted unanimously that the drug could be safely sold over the counter.31
Plan B, the drug in question, consists of two high-dose contraceptive pills that either interfere
with ovulation or fertilization, or prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Emergency contraception can be taken up to 72
hours after unprotected sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy, but is more effective the sooner it is taken. Manufactured
by New York-based Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Plan B was approved as a prescription drug in 1999; another emergency contraceptive,
Preven, was approved in 1998. Since then, millions of women in the United States have used such drugs to prevent pregnancy.
Public health officials and researchers around the world widely agree that Plan B is a safe and effective means to prevent
an unplanned pregnancy and to reduce the frequency of abortions. The drug is available without a prescription in 33 countries
around the world. Its switch to nonprescription status in the United States was also endorsed by some 70 scientific organizations,
including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy
In the "not approvable" letter to Barr Pharmaceuticals, Galson notes that only 29 of the
585 women in the data submitted by the company about Plan B were 14 to 16 years of age and none was under 14 years of age.
While Galson does not cite any particular safety concern for this age group, he writes "we have concluded that you have not
provided adequate data to support a conclusion that Plan B can be used safely by young adolescent women for emergency contraception
without the professional supervision of a practitioner licensed by law to administer the drug."33
James Trussell, director of the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and
a member of one of the FDA advisory committees that recommended the drug's approval for over-the-counter sale, says that after
hearing many hours of testimony and reviewing thousands of pages of medical literature, "[O]ur committee had absolutely no
concern about the use of this drug by young girls." Advisory committee member Dr. Julie Johnson, a professor of pharmacy in
Gainesville, Florida, touted Plan B to be the safest product the committee had reviewed in several years.34
Advisory committee members also underscored the importance of making recommendations based
on a risk-benefit analysis, particularly with regard to young people. Pediatrician Dr. Leslie Clapp from Buffalo, New York,
spoke about her own clinical practice and acknowledged that, while abstinence is the best option for teens, "[I]f you are
a sexually active teen…or eleven year old, it's certainly a bad situation…I think their families and they would
have far preferred this option than pregnancy, and it would have been safer."35 Dr. Abby Berenson, a gynecologist
from Galveston, Texas, who treats adolescents, echoed the sentiment, arguing further that, "Barriers to use," such as a prescription
requirement for Plan B, "will ultimately…result in unintended pregnancies,"36 which pose disproportionate
health risks to adolescent women, including premature labor, anemia, and high blood pressure.37
Medical professionals, including several other prominent members of the advisory committees,
take issue with Galson's claim of lack of data on young women. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Society of Adolescent
Medicine noted in a May 27, 2004, statement that approximately one-fifth of the participants in the Barr trials were between
the ages of 14 and 16, which represents ages below or consistent with the average age of first intercourse.38 In
a recent editorial letter to The New England Journal of Medicine, three physicians noted that the advisory panels considered
data that showed adolescents understood 60 percent to 97 percent of the key communication objectives of the Plan B label without
help from a health care professional. These results are comparable to those for the group as a whole and well within the standards
for the approval of other over-the-counter drugs.39 As Dr. Trussell puts it, "The objection the FDA is offering
in denying the switch to a nonprescription status is nothing more than a made-up reason intended to sound plausible. From
a scientific standpoint, it is complete and utter nonsense."40
Dr. Trussell says that he has no doubt that politics trumped science in the FDA’s bureaucratic
process in this case.41 In an internal FDA memo obtained by the Associated Press, Galson apparently tried to quell
similar questions from his own staff about the role political considerations may have played in the decision, noting that
"Some staff have expressed the concern that this decision is based on non-medical implications of teen sexual behavior, or
judgments about the propriety of this activity."42 Galson responded by claiming that politics did not influence
his decision. In a press conference following his decision, Galson denied meeting personally with White House officials in
the decision-making process and claimed to have "no knowledge" that any meetings between FDA and White House officials on
the Plan B decision took place.43
Nonetheless, Dr. Galson broke with agency protocol by overruling FDA staff scientists who
had concluded that this drug met FDA criteria for nonprescription status and overwhelmingly recommended the switch. In overruling
his staff and the advisory committee, Galson offered no substantial new evidence, and took the unusual step of writing the
official response to the drug company himself.44
FDA insiders also note that after the hearings on the matter late last year, conservative
groups had mounted a political campaign to try to block the drug's approval. Conservative lawmakers began efforts to undermine
the application in December 2003 when members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the FDA Commissioner decrying
purported risks of nonprescription Plan B to teens. The advisory committees addressed these claims and implicitly rejected
many—if not all—in their evaluation of the drug's risk-benefit profile. After the overwhelmingly positive recommendation
by the advisory committees, 49 members of Congress wrote to President Bush urging White House involvement, a move intended
to supersede the FDA's authority on this matter.45 Shortly thereafter, on February 13, FDA officials notified Barr
Pharmaceuticals that the agency would extend by 90 days its deadline for considering the switch to over-the-counter status.46
At this point in the process, three prominent doctors, including Alastair Wood, a professor
of medicine and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University who also serves as an FDA advisory panel member, published an article
in The New England Journal of Medicine, stating that, "FDA's decision-making process is being influenced by political considerations."
As the authors noted, such political considerations have normally been kept out of the decision-making process at the FDA.
Prior to this case, they write, approval has always been "based on scientific evidence from well-designed clinical trials
with adequate power to establish efficacy and rule out toxicity at some reasonable level of confidence," adding that the agency
has an obligation under U.S. law "to approve drugs for sale once their efficacy and safety have been demonstrated." In this
case, they write, "there is no medical dispute" on these issues.47
Echoing these findings, Dr. Paul Blumenthal, a respected obstetrician-gynecologist at The
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, says Plan B meets all the scientific criteria for an over-the-counter drug: it is not
toxic, there is no potential for addiction or abuse, and there is no need for medical screening. Commenting on Galson's "not
approvable" decision, Blumenthal says, "What the FDA has just done is deny access to an important pregnancy preventive agent
to millions of women." As he puts it: "This is nothing but politics trumping science."48
Former FDA officials told The New York Times that they could not remember a single
instance when someone in Dr. Galson's position had overruled both an advisory committee and staff recommendations. Dr. Robert
R. Fenichel, who left the agency in 2000 after 12 years, for instance, called the action "simply unheard of."49
As FDA advisory panel member Trussell charges, "Unfortunately, for the first time in history,
the FDA is not acting as an independent agency but rather as a tool of the White House." Trussell adds, it is "a very sad
day when politicians start making medical decisions."50
30. Galson, S. 2004. Comments presented at a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) press
conference. May 7.
31. FDA. 2003. “Transcript of the December 16, 2003 meeting of the FDA Nonprescription Drugs Advisory
Committee in Joint Session with the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs.” December 16. Available online
32. Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 2004. “Barr Receives Not Approvable Letter for Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraceptive.”
Press release. May 6. Available online at http://www.barrlabs.com/pages/nprpr.html.
33. Galson, S., acting director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation. 2004. Letter to Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc. NDA
21-045/S-011. May 6. Available online at http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/planB/planB_NALetter.pdf.
34. FDA. 2003. “Transcript of the December 16, 2003 meeting of the FDA Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee
in Joint Session with the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs.” December 16. Available online at http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/03/transcripts/4015T1.DOC.
37. March of Dimes. 2002. “Facts You Should Know About Teenage Pregnancy.” March.
Available online at www.marchofdimes.com/professionals/681_1159.asp.
38. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2004. “Plan B Should Be Over-the-Counter for Adolescents.” Press release.
May 27. Available at http://www.aap.org/advocacy/washing/Plan_B.htm.
39. Drazen, J.M. et al. 2004. “The FDA, Politics, and Plan B,” The New England Journal of Medicine 350(23):2413-2414.
Correspondence. June 3. Excerpt available online at http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/350/23/2413.
40. Author interview with James Trussell, May 2004.
42. As quoted in Neergaard, L. 2004. “FDA rejects
OTC morning-after pill sales,” Associated Press. May 6.
43. Galson, S. 2004. Comments presented at a U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) press conference. May 7.
44. See Kaufman, M. 2004. “FDA rejects over-the-counter ‘Plan
B’,” The Washington Post. May 7.
45. See Kaufman, M. “Debate Intensifies Over ‘Morning After’
Pill,” The Washington Post. February 13.
46. See Barr Laboratories, Inc. 2004. “Barr Says FDA Extends Plan
B Emergency Contraceptive PDUFA Date.” Press release. February 13. Available online at http://www.barrlabs.com/pages/nprpr.html.
47. Drazen, J.M. et al. 2004. “The FDA, Politics, and Plan B,” New England Journal of Medicine 350(15):1561-1562.
Editorial. April 8. Excerpt available online at http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/350/15/1561.
48. As quoted in Graham, J. 2004. “’Morning after’ pill restricted by FDA,” Chicago Tribune.
49. See Harris, G. “Morning-after-pill ruling defies norm,” The New York Times. May 8.
interview with James Trussell, May 2004. See also Kemper, V. 2004. “FDA: Doctor must still OK ‘morning-after’
pill,” Los Angeles Times. May 7.
Cases: Public Health
Scientific Knowledge on Abstinence-only Education Distorted
This page is an excerpt from the 2004 UCS report Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
tenure as governor of Texas, President George W. Bush has made no secret of his view that sex education should teach teenagers
“abstinence only” rather than including information on other ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
Unfortunately, despite spending more than $10 million on abstinence-only programs in Texas alone, this strategy has not been
shown to be effective at curbing teen pregnancies or halting the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
President Bush’s tenure as governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000, for instance, with abstinence-only programs in place,
the state ranked last in the nation in the decline of teen birth rates among 15- to 17-year-old females.43 Overall,
the teen pregnancy rate in Texas was exceeded by only four other states.44 The American Medical
Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the American College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists all support comprehensive sex education programs that encourage abstinence while also providing adolescents
with information on how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.45 In fact, a recent systematic
analysis of pregnancy prevention strategies for adolescents found that, far from reducing unwanted pregnancies, abstinence
programs actually “may increase pregnancies in partners of male participants.”46
The fact that the Bush administration ignores the scientific evidence, troubling though that
is, is not the primary concern of this report. Rather, it is the fact that the Bush administration distorted science-based
performance measures to test whether abstinence-only programs were proving effective, such as charting the birth rate of female
program participants.47 In place of such established measures, the Bush administration has required the Centers
for Disease Control (CDC) to track only participants’ program attendance and attitudes, measures designed to obscure
the lack of efficacy of abstinence-only programs.48
In addition to distorting performance measures, the Bush administration has suppressed other
information at odds with its preferred policies. At the behest of higher-ups in the Bush administration, according to a source
inside the CDC, the agency was forced to discontinue a project called “Programs that Work,” which identified sex
education programs found to be effective in scientific studies.49 All five of the programs identified in 2002 involved
comprehensive sex education for teenagers and none were abstinence-only programs. In ending the project, the CDC removed all
information about these programs from its website.
One scientist, recently departed from a high-ranking position at
the CDC, recounts that, on one occasion, even top staff scientists at the agency were required by the administration to attend
a day-long session purportedly devoted to the “science of abstinence.” As this source puts it, “out of the
entire session, conducted by a nonscientist, the only thing resembling science was one study reportedly in progress and another
not even begun.”50 Despite the absence of supporting data, this source and others contend, CDC scientists
were regularly reminded to push the administration’s abstinence-only stance. As he puts it, “The effect
43. See “Science or Politics? George W. Bush and the Future of Sexuality Education
in the United States,” fact sheet published by Advocates for Youth. Online at www.advocatesforyouth.org.
45. Welfare Reform: A Review of Abstinence Education and Transitional
Medical Assistance, April 23, 2002: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Health, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, 107th
Congress, 2002, testimony of David W. Kaplan, MD.
46. A. DiCenso, G. Guyatt, A. Willan, and L. Griffi th, “Interventions
to reduce unintended pregnancies among adolescents: systematic review of randomized controlled trials,” British Medical
Journal, Volume 324, June 15, 2002.
47. These former performance measures can be found at Federal Register 65:69562-65
(November 17, 2000).
48. The new Bush administration performance measures are detailed in U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services, SPRANS Community-Based Abstinence Education Program, Pre-Application Workshop (December, 2002). Online at
49. Author interview with current CDC staff member, name withheld on request, November
50. Author interview with former CDC staff member, name withheld on request, March 2004.
SKEPTIC SOCIETY CARRIES REPORT OF WHITEHOUSE LYING
Cases: Public Health
Knowledge on Breast Cancer Distorted
is an excerpt from the 2004 UCS report Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
In a case the New York Times labeled “an egregious distortion
of the evidence,”54 information suggesting a link between abortion and breast cancer was posted on the National
Cancer Institute website despite objections from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) staff, who noted that substantial scientific
study has long refuted the connection. After public
outcry on the matter, the information has since been revised and no longer implies a connection.55
the correct information is currently available on the website, it is troubling that public pressure was necessary to halt
this promotion of scientifically inaccurate information to the public.
54. “Abortion and Breast Cancer,” New York
Times, January 6, 2003. For a detailed account of this issue, see K. Malek, “The abortion-breast cancer link: how politics
trumped science and informed consent,” Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Summer 2003. Online at www.abortionno.org/pdf/breastcancer.pdf.
55. “Summary Report: Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop,”
National Cancer Institute, March 2003. Online at www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/ere-workshop-report.
Cases: Advisory Committees
Litmus Test for Appointees at the National Institute on Drug Abuse
example is an excerpt from the 2004 UCS report Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
Dr. William R. Miller
litmus tests have reportedly been applied by representatives of the George W. Bush administration to candidates for scientific
advisory positions at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). One well-publicized assertion involves Dr. William R. Miller
of the University of New Mexico.
Miller, a distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry, the pioneer of a leading
substance abuse treatment, and author of more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, says that his 2002 interview
for a slot on a National Institute on Drug Abuse advisory panel included questions about whether his views were congruent
with those held by President Bush and whether he had voted for Bush in 2000. Presumably based on his answers, Miller was denied
In the July 2004 update to the February 2004 report,
UCS reported on another instance of the use of political litmus tests within NIDA:
Dr. Claire Sterk
During her confirmation process for the
Council of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Sterk reports she was subjected to repeated questioning about her political
views in three separate calls from a White House staff member. Among the questions she was asked, and refused to answer, was
whether she had voted for President Bush.
"I have nothing to hide," Dr. Sterk commented. "But
I told the questioner that I did not see the connection between his line of questioning and my work on a scientific advisory
council. And I refused to answer unless the questioner could tell me that I would have some kind of particular political policy
role, which I knew I would not."112
Despite her refusal, however, Dr. Sterk states that the White House staffer continued trying to elicit an answer about
her vote in the presidential election "for roughly 15 minutes." Dr. Sterk was asked many other overtly political questions
that she refused to answer, such as whether she supported "faith-based" drug treatment programs. While Dr. Sterk was confirmed for a position on the NIH council, she says she believes that a high-ranking NIH official
may well have intervened on behalf of her nomination. Nonetheless, she says she finds it deeply disturbing that the Bush administration
would subject its nominees for a scientific advisory position to such intrusive, partisan political questions.
Like Dr. Sterk, other scientists interviewed by UCS expressed
dismay and discouragement about what they consider to be an overt politicization of the appointment process for scientific
advisory positions. Scientists who have served Democratic and Republican administrations alike agree that questions of political
affiliation have no place in the confirmation process for our highest echelon of science advisers and that the current administration's
practice is reprehensible.
As Donald Kennedy, editor of Science and
former president of Stanford University, has noted, "I don’t think any administration has penetrated so deeply into
the advisory committee structure as this one, and I think it matters. If you start picking people by their ideology instead
of their scientific credentials you are inevitably reducing the quality of the advisory group."113
Read about other scientific abuses at NIH from the July
35. Rather than focusing
on Miller’s scientific qualifications, a White House liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services grilled
Miller about his views on abortion, capital punishment, and many other topics. See E. Benson, “Political science: allegations
of politicization are threatening the credibility of the federal government’s scientific advisory committees,”
Monitor on Psychology: Journal of the American Psychological Association, March 2003. See also K. Silverstein, “Bush’s
new political science,” Mother Jones, November-December 2002.
112. This and the statements that follow come from an author interview with Claire
Sterk, March. 2004.
113. As quoted in Zitner, A. 2002. “Advisors Put Under a Microscope,” The Los
Angeles Times. Dec 23.
Cases: National Security
Evidence on Iraq’s Aluminum Tubes Misrepresented
This page is an excerpt from the 2004 UCS report Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
W. Bush administration’s use of faulty intelligence in making its case for war against Iraq drew much attention
from the media. One particular case shows that the administration knowingly disregarded scientific analysis of intelligence
data that contradicted its case.
In the weeks leading up to the war, senior administration
officials repeatedly stated that Iraq had attempted to acquire more than 100,000 high strength aluminum tubes for gas centrifuges
to be used for enriching uranium. Highly enriched uranium is one of the two materials that can be used to make nuclear weapons.
This claim was made by National Security Adviser Condoleezza
Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, and finally by President Bush on September 12, 2002, in his address to the United Nations
(UN) General Assembly. The president repeated this claim on several occasions, including his State of the Union address to
Congress in January 2003. The contention was also featured in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the UN Security
Council on February 5, 2003, regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.65
The question before the intelligence community was whether
these tubes, which in fact never reached Iraq because of a successful U.S. intervention, were meant to be used for centrifuges
or for another purpose: motor casings for short-range rockets. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) advocated the view that the tubes were intended
for centrifuges, and argued that the tight tolerances on the tubes’ dimensions and finish could have no other interpretation.
a set of technical experts from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge, Livermore, and Los Alamos National Laboratories
reviewed the CIA analysis and disagreed with this interpretation because the tube dimensions were far from ideal for this
purpose. In fact, the dimensions and the aluminum alloy were identical to those of tubes acquired for rockets by Iraq in the
1980s. Furthermore, the Iraqis had developed
and tested centrifuges before the first Gulf War that were much more capable than those that could have been built with the
The DOE experts also pointed out that if these tubes were actually intended for centrifuges, there
should be evidence of attempts by the Iraqis to acquire hundreds of thousands of other very specific components, but no such
evidence existed. This critique of the CIA interpretation was seconded by the State Department’s intelligence branch
and, independently, by an international group of centrifuge experts advising the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).66
The claim that the aluminum tubes were intended for
the manufacture of uranium for nuclear weapons was central to Secretary Powell’s case to the UN that Iraq had a nuclear
weapons program. He had been briefed by the IAEA about its disagreement with the CIA analysis, and was aware of a controversy
inside the U.S. government about the administration’s claim because the DOE and State Department had both commented
on the draft of his speech, which even mentioned that there was disagreement among experts.
speech dismissed this disagreement by lumping the U.S. experts with the Iraqis: “Other experts, and the Iraqis themselves,
argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher.”67
Many experts, especially at the DOE, felt “that was really a slap in the face . . . my friends in DOE felt shocked .
. . we were thrown in the same camp as the Iraqis.”68
As Dr. David Albright, a weapons expert and president
of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, DC, has noted, “It bespeaks something seriously
wrong that a proper technical adjudication of this matter was never conducted. There was certainly plenty of time to accomplish
65. D. Albright, “Iraq’s Aluminum
Tubes: Separating Fact from Fiction,” December 5, 2003. Online at www.isis-online.org; B. Gellman, “Search in Iraq Fails to Find a
Nuclear Threat,” Washington Post, October 26, 2003; J. Cirincione, J. Mathews, and G. Perkovich, “WMD in Iraq:
Evidence and Implications,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 2004. Online at wmd.ceip.matrixgroup.net/iraq3fulltext.pdf.
Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corp., October 27, 2003. Online at www.abc.net.au.
69. Author interview with David Albright, January 2004.
Cases: Additional Topics
OMB Proposed Changes to "Peer Review"
Scientific Integrity in Policymaking.
There is concern about government-wide rule changes
proposed by the White House or Congress that would alter the way the federal government gathers and reviews scientific and
technical information. Such a rule change has recently been proposed by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget
(OMB), and, if adopted, promises to have dramatic effects on the promulgation of new government regulations.
The proposed rule would give the OMB centralized control
of the review of scientific information relied upon in policy making at federal agencies, even though the OMB fails to identify
any inherent flaws in the review processes now being used at these agencies.
The proposed rule would prohibit most scientists who receive funding from
a government agency from serving as peer reviewers, but would permit scientists employed or funded by industry to serve as
reviewers (unless they had a direct financial interest in the issue under review). These
provisions would create a serious imbalance in the selection of peer reviewers, giving regulated industries much greater influence
over the formulation of new regulations.
scientists and scientific associations have expressed concerns that this would lead to increased costs and delays in promulgating
new health, safety, and environmental regulations. According to Dr. Anthony Robbins, professor of public health at Tufts University
School of Medicine, co-editor of the Journal of Public Health Policy, and former director of the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health, the OMB’s proposed rule change “would radically restrict access to scientific advice at the
government agencies on whom we rely to protect public health. The White House could restrict open discussion and tilt the
balance of residual discussions towards commercial interests. In the hands of the Bush administration,” Robbins warns,
“these could be the tools that could ultimately destroy integrity in science as we know it.”88
88. Author interview with Anthony Robbins,October
89. NAS comments online at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/2003ig/ig_list.html.
90. PhRMA comments online at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/2003ig/118.pdf.
On February 18, 2004, over 60 leading scientists–Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors, and university
chairs and presidents–signed the statement below, voicing their concern over the misuse of science by the Bush administration. UCS
is seeking the signatures of thousands of additional U.S. scientists in support of this effort
Science, like any field of endeavor,
relies on freedom of inquiry; and one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity. Now, more than ever, on issues ranging
from climate change to AIDS research to genetic engineering to food additives, government relies on the impartial perspective
of science for guidance.
President George H.W. Bush, April
To him who little is not enough, nothing will be enough--Epicurus
Original sin is the difference between your pleasure and mine—BF Skinner
I have met a few intelligent conservatives—John Stuart Mill