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Serious Lapse' of My Judgment and Ethics: Impostor Who Took Think Tank's Global Warming Docs Revealed


"A mere apology is not enough to undo the damage."

  • The president and founder of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security admitted to posing as someone else to obtain documents from the free-market think tank, The Heartland Institute.
  • These documents leaked last week to journalists and bloggers revealed internal strategies and fundraising from the Institute.
  • Some believed these documents showed Heartland was supporting "climate denialism" -- denying man-made global climate change. 
  • Heartland has said at least one document was completely forged; PI president denies falsifying information in any of the documents he obtained. 
  • Heartland is seeking legal council and says "a mere apology is not enough to undo the damage."

Last week, a wealth of documents from the free-market think tank The Heartland Institute were leaked, revealing some of the organization's strategy, funding and other private information. Heartland, in a statement soon thereafter, revealed that the information wasn't hacked from its system but that someone had posed as a board member to obtain the documents from a Heartland employee. Some of the documents Heartland said were falsified.

Now, the person who lied to gain access the Institute's internal documents has revealed himself, made a statement as to why he did it and apologized.

Peter Gleick, president and founder of the well-known Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security, has admitted to posing as someone else to receive documents. He also admitted to forwarding the information to journalists and others covering climate change.

The leak was used to show what some believed were Heartland's leanings toward "climate denialism." Proponents of man-made climate change have held that the institute was hindering "rational debate" on global warming and was receiving funding from stakeholders with similar beliefs.

Here's what Gleick wrote in a statement on the Huffington Post:

At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute's climate program strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute's apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. I do not know the source of that original document but assumed it was sent to me because of my past exchanges with Heartland and because I was named in it.

Given the potential impact however, I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else's name.

Gleick goes on to say that the additional documents confirmed what he had seen in the first but he maintains that he did not falsify information on anything from the organization. Last week in its statement on the leak, Heartland said that at least one document appeared to be completely forged and parts of other documents could have been tampered with as well. Gleick wrote:

I can explicitly confirm, as can the Heartland Institute, that the documents they emailed to me are identical to the documents that have been made public. I made no changes or alterations of any kind to any of the Heartland Institute documents or to the original anonymous communication.

Heartland has issued a second statement from its President Joseph Bast, saying that it doesn't buy Gleick's story:

"An additional document Gleick represented as coming from The Heartland Institute, a forged memo purporting to set out our strategies on global warming, has been extensively cited by newspapers and in news releases and articles posted on Web sites and blogs around the world. It has caused major and permanent damage to the reputations of The Heartland Institute and many of the scientists, policy experts, and organizations we work with.

"A mere apology is not enough to undo the damage.


"Gleick also claims he did not write the forged memo, but only stole the documents to confirm the content of the memo he received from an anonymous source. This too is unbelievable. Many independent commentators already have concluded the memo was most likely written by Gleick.

In its statement, Bast also tries to clear the claim that the Heartland doesn't support open dialogue on the topic of man-made global climate change. Bast writes that the Institute has "repeatedly asked for real debate on the topic" and had even invited Gleick to a global warming debate, which he declined to attend.

Bast calls for Gleick to "make a more complete confession" and says that the Institute is consulting with legal experts on next steps.

Gleick ends his statement admitting that his "judgement was blinded by his frustration" over the attack on climate science and a "lack of transparency" by organizations he considers offenders of this attack. "Nevertheless I deeply regret my own actions in this case," Gleick wrote. "I offer my personal apologies to all those affected."

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