Dear Ben Santer: Resign

by Paul Chesser, Heartland Institute Correspondent on December 3, 2009

in Science

Dr. Ben Santer, one of the climate modelers who works on the public dime at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has called all his comrades to join him in a weep-fest over the “crime” of Climategate. Of course this bully who wanted to “beat the crap out of” former Virginia state climatologist Pat Michaels thinks he’s the victim, as he explains in a letter to “colleagues and friends:”

I am sure that by now, all of you are aware of the hacking incident which recently took place at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU). This was a criminal act. Over 3,000 emails and documents were stolen. The identity of the hacker or hackers is still unknown.

The emails represented private correspondence between CRU scientists and scientists at climate research centers around the world. Dozens of the stolen emails are from over a decade of my own personal correspondence with Professor Phil Jones, the Director of CRU.

How the Climategate emails were extracted from the UEA CRUnit may or may not have been a “criminal act” — that has still not been determined. But Dr. Thug clearly doesn’t understand how this whole public/private nature of correspondence is categorized. Let me explain.

Private emails between two or more parties: These are sent and delivered between personal email accounts such as those set up for individuals and private businesses on services like Google and Yahoo! You know, like the personal accounts that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin utilized last year that were illegally hacked.

Public emails subject to open scrutiny and broad dissemination: These only need to be sent by, or delivered to, at least one email address that is a public, government institution funded by taxpayers. An example in Great Britain would be the University of East Anglia, where Phil Jones was once director of the CRU. Another example, in the U.S., would be the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where every employee has a “” email address. That “dot-gov” suffix is a dead giveaway.

I suppose there are exceptions in the law for LLNL and other government agencies to withhold documents and emails from the public for national security purposes. Much as Santer might like to think global warming is one of those exemptions, I doubt he could successfully make a legal case for that.

So Santer’s messages to Jones and others at UEA were not “private” or “personal” correspondence. If he wanted them to be, he should not have used his email account with his official LLNL affiliation in the signature line. He should know better, since LLNL makes clear those distinctions. But if he did want to communicate with Jones on that level, I doubt he could have conducted official government business — such as discussion of climate data — on a Google account. That would have been evading public scrutiny. A Santer-Jones Google exchange would have had to been about the merits of U.S. vs. European football or something like that.

One last thing about Santer: he might want to review LLNL’s “Mission, Vision and Values” statement “that guides the way we accomplish our work and the way we interact with each other, our colleagues, sponsors and stakeholders, and the public.” Included among the values:

  • Integrity and responsible stewardship of the public trust
  • Intense competition of ideas with respect for individuals
  • Treating each other with dignity
  • A high-quality, motivated workforce with diverse ideas, skills, and backgrounds

How the desire to “beat the crap out of” someone who is a fellow scientist, and who is also a taxpayer who helps pay his salary, is in accord with these above values is something I’d love to hear Santer explain.

But from the looks of his whiny letter, he’s of a completely different mindset. He thinks that while he’s on the public payroll that he has the right to intimidate dissenters, and to keep everything he writes in his LLNL role a secret. Clearly he hates accountability to his bosses.

Looks like there’s no other choice for him, then, but to quit.

Bob Greene December 4, 2009 at 4:59 am

Somehow folks seem to think that being a "scientist" is akin to taking holy orders. I don't recall anything like that working on my doctorate or doing post-doctoral work. I ran across folks who were open and fair and those who were closed, dishonest and certainly not above stealing or stopping work for their own benefit. The system of publishing work with sufficient data so that someone skilled in the art can reproduce your results is in place to prevent fraud, errors and provide a common ground for discussion and advancement of knowledge. The folks involved in the climategate scandal certainly appear to have doctored the data to obtain predetermined results, prevented outsiders from reviewing data and methodology and worked feverishly to prevent dissenting views. The obvious lack of integrity leading to fraud, waste and abuse should be the punishable facts.

I wouldn't trust him for much of anything.

Stas Peterson December 4, 2009 at 6:57 am

Ben Santer is supposed to be a scientist. The scientific method requires that experiment and publications be subject to replication and reproduction of results for verification.

He is suppressing that act.

As a government worker he sould resign.

As a Scientist he should BE FIRED and forfeit or have his degrees withdrawn!

simonthong December 6, 2009 at 10:08 am

He got caught. Well done, whoever did the hacking!

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