Happy anniversary FakeGate!

So it is about one year ago that Peter Gleick exposed the too-ashamed-to-admit-it donors of the science denialist industry flack Heartland Organization.  Michael Tobis has a very comprehensive run-down and analysis of the event over on P3, I recommend it, especially if you need to get up to speed on what I am talking about.

My only comment on the whole morality play aspect of it is that the question “do the ends justify the means” does not have a one size fits all answer.  I have always been a bit puzzled by the seemingly unquestioned moral hammer that question gets used as.  Clearly we all make choices in our lives and as a society where the answer to that question is sometimes, even often, yes.  It is naive or disingenuous to pretend otherwise.  Sometimes the answer is a resounding, uncontroversial no as well.  It really depends entirely on the exact nature of the specific means and the specific ends.

Do the ends of getting a patient to the hospital in time justify the means of exceeding the speed limit?  Clearly as a society we have decided yes, and made allowances in the law.  What about speeding a loved one with a heart attack in your own vehicle?  There are many real life examples where it would be hard to argue against the “yes” position and many hard to argue for it.  And plenty where we could argue endlessly, passionately and sincerely for and against the same proposition.  It is a personal choice and often one that comes with societal judgement once made.

So, yes, what Peter did was dishonest.  But personally I have no problem with it given the nature of the act, the people and organization he was dealing with, the global stakes of the game the Heartland Institute plays and the good that seems to have come out of it.  Was it illegal?  I don’t really know, that is something Peter may have to face and he may have accepted that possibility from the outset.

I am sure other opinions will differ, as I said it is a personal choice.  But I do not and never have accepted the blanket assertion that the ends never justify the means nor the implied accusation that if one thinks they do in this case then one must accept any manner of atrocity as long as it is well intended.

67 thoughts on “Happy anniversary FakeGate!

  1. Mandas,

    You are correct, he hasn’t been tried for his actions, nor convicted, and likely never will. However, by your logic, every assertion here that there was a theft of emails (crime) suffers a similar problem, with one very important difference.

    Now, I linked to Wiki for the definition of wire fraud simply because it is easy, and it is, in this case, accurate as it quotes the law, but the weak cheap shot is noted. So, to go back and rehash a bit–and this is the important part–Gleick has admitted publicly, confessed one could say, to using a false identity to obtain private documents via the internet, and he did this across state lines. By definition, and by his own admission, he committed a crime. How serious this crime is is what is up for debate, because he already admitted committing it. Had he been smart enough to consult a lawyer, no doubt he would have never admitted it and your point would be valid. This is pretty simple stuff. It’s his admission which is the problem with your argument. Why you, or anyone, is not only trying to deny this, but elevate the action to one of honor is puzzling and more than a bit disturbing.

    The problem with Wow’s argument, is that he has none. His proof is “I say so, therefore it’s true and it’s true because I say so”. Or to use another of his own favorites, he’s making shit up. It’s what he does when backed into a corner. Ad naseum.

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  2. Oh, yeah, ‘cos there’s a conspiracy.

    Right.

    Don’t let the tin foil fool you: it’s aluminium, not tin, and the rays are getting in to your head…!!!!

    Problem is, you’ve only got a conspiracy theory.

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  3. Now, I linked to Wiki for the definition of wire fraud simply because it is easy

    And wrong.

    Therefore your effort, miniscule though it was, was wasted.

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  4. Bill,

    Firstly, it was not a ‘weak cheap shot’ on my behalf to criticise the use of wikipedia as a reference. I have been on the record on numerous occasions for my criticism of wikipedia and other non valid reference sources, so I am being consistent. And I would like to suggest that, for the future, if you want to provide a valid reference source for any of your positions in the future, you go to the original source, not a secondary source or one which can be manipulated by anyone at any time.

    And you should also realise – and accept as a fact – that a ‘confession’ is not nor has it ever been proof of anything. People ‘confess’ to things all the time. That neither means they actually did what they are confessing to, not does it mean that – even if they really did it – that what they did constitutes a crime. That is solely a matter for the courts to determine. So until and unless there is a court hearing and judgement is passed, there is no crime in this case – nor in any case. The law is a complicated thing, and until all the facts are revealed and arguments are put for both sides, it would be wrong for you or anyone to judge someone as guilty of an offence. Your knowledge of this case comes solely from what you have read on blogs – and if you honestly think that means you are capable of rendering judgement then I have to suggest that you have serious ethical issues that you need to deal with.

    I am not trying to deny the facts of this case. And the reason for that is obvious – I don’t know them all. Neither do you. And until the facts come out and a person in a proper position to judge those facts determines what they mean, I will reserve judgement. But then, I am a scientist. That is what I do, unlike your average denier who makes judgements based on what he reads on a blog.

    As I have said – and you can go back to my post #32 to see my position – Gleick MAY have committed a crime, in which case he should suffer the consequences of his actions as determined by the courts. But in the long run, whether or not his actions are seen to be justified as valid civil disobedience is a matter for history to determine.

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  5. Mandas,

    My apologies and fair enough. Here is a source from Cornell Law, which, despite Wow’s assertion to the contrary, says the exact same thing. I can provide others if you like…

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1343

    Now, my understanding of what Gleick admitted to doing does not come from blogs. It was reported in the MSM, the NYT being a prime example. But there are others as well. So when I read that a prominent scientist admits to faking his identity, and uses the internet to obtain other people’s private information across state lines, I am left with the opinion that he committed a crime. Why? Because what he said he did is illegal. What I don’t know is how serious the crime was, and that would be for a court to decide. I suspect any court, were they ever to hear the case, would decide there wasn’t much in the way of damages–primarily because, if anything, HI got more publicity and probably doners as a result–which is also what I think the US Attorney believes and why a case will never see the light of day. I could be wrong. It might. What I really don’t like, because it give those with an axe to grind against science and scientists, is calling Gleick a hero for doing it. Because that is ridiculous and opens the line of questioning of, “if he did that, what else has he done or would he do” and that is bad for science. As a scientist, I would be surprised if you endorsed this. But perhaps not. I am also surprised you think that anything he did could be considered civil disobedience–a la Hansen–as there is zero evidence for this based on his own telling of the story. Civil disobedience can, and frankly should, be respected, dishonesty cannot and should not.

    Which brings me to Wow. If anyone here, or elsewhere actually takes your dishonesty, ramblings, assertions, and two-faced stupidity seriously, I am sorry for them.

    Let’s start with your inane conspiracy comment. Who mentioned conspiracy? Not I. Didn’t even hint at it. Certainly not with regards to Gleick’s prosecution or lack thereof. The entire thing, aside from Gleick’s dishonest actions, is a joke. He likely won’t be prosecuted because it isn’t worth it, and it costs time and money, not because of some larger conspiracy to protect him. But I guess in Wow world there are boogymen around every corner which must be ferreted out. Simple logic and things like that don’t matter. Apparently neither do facts because when you say…

    “Now, I linked to Wiki for the definition of wire fraud simply because it is easy” (my words)

    “And wrong.

    Therefore your effort, miniscule though it was, was wasted.” (your words)

    …we have yet another “it’s true because I say it is and because I say it is it’s true” moment. You are famous for them. Even though you condemn them. It isn’t wrong, Wow. It is perfectly correct and taken straight from the federal code. But your miniscule and pathetic efforts aren’t wasted Wow. They go to show just how bogus your comments are pretty much all the time. My suggestion–which you won’t take–is get a better hobby/life because this one isn’t treating you very well it seems. Hours spent hovering over your keyboard demanding facts from others, but never put up when they are demanded of you. You pontificate arrogantly on topics for which you have no knowledge–US law being one of my personal favorites. And you generally waste time carpet bombing threads with your blather–see the nonsensical USSR comment above for example. You strike me as a pathetic and angry person, and a coward who can’t ever admit being wrong. And you are often wrong.

    If anyone on Scienceblogs genuinely respects you or your opinions I would be shocked.

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  6. And no matter what the result, you’re going to say it was a whitewash, because you “know” that he’s guilty.

    Right.

    There’s no case to answer. His actions uncovered the fraudulent antics of wealthy people and that’s the only reason why it’s being pursued.

    It’s a load of toss. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Rather like you deniers, Bill.

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  7. Bill,

    I understand that you may have obtained your information from the MSM rather than blogs, but my point remains the same. “Trial by media” is something that I abhore, because the media always spins the facts to suit their own agenda, and they never report all the facts anyway. I am sure you would have a similar position on the issue.

    And I will continue to reiterate my point about there being no crime until a properly constituted court says that there was. Thank you for providing the link to the Cornell University Law School site, but I should advise that is still a secondary source – although links to the actual legislation are provided at the bottom of the page.

    Further, the problem with your assertion that Gleick’s admission is proof that he commited a crime is twofold, Firstly, as I have pointed out, people confess to things all the time and just because he ‘confessed’ does not mean he actually did what is being claimed – but I accept that it probably does in this instance.

    Secondly, and far more importantly, every law has ‘defences under the law’ which allow for a finding of not guilty if certain conditions are met. I don’t know what such defences are permitted under this Act, and I do not know if Gleick or his lawyers would use such a defence if a hearing was ever constituted. No-one does. And that is why you, me, nor anyone other than a properly constituted court can determine whether or not an offence has been committed. And as I said, I will properly reserve judgement until then – because I simply don’t know all the facts and it would be improper of me or anyone to pass judgement without knowing them. I would hope you are ethical enough to agree with that.

    And I have never said that Gleick is a hero. In fact, if you read my last post, you will have noted that if he committed a crime and is found guilty of doing so, then he should properly suffer the consequences of doing so. But that is for the courts to decide. As far as being a hero is concerned, that is a matter for history to determine. History is littered with examples of people who ‘broke the law’ and suffered legal penalties for doing so, but were later feted as heroes for the actions which were seen as crucial in changing an inequitable situation. Just think Rosa Parks, Ghandi or Nelson Mandela. I am not putting Gleick in their category – but who knows, someday in the future people may. We can only wait and see.

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  8. Bill,

    And let me give you an example so you understand what I mean. People confess to killing people all the time, but that does not mean they are guilty of a crime. It is a legitimate defence to a charge of murder if you acted in self defence, if you were not responsible for your actionsm or if you did not intend to kill the person. In the first two cases the person would be found not to have committed a crime at all, while in the third they might be found to have committed the lesser offence of manslaughter.

    We will have to wait and see if anything like this is relevant to this case, and should not make a judgement based on media report which are almost always biased and always are short of all the facts . I am sure you agree.

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  9. I disagree, Mandas, what Gleick did was in the public interest, therefore no condemnation nor punishment is appropriate.

    Many jurisdictions have whistleblower legislation, and most have some kind of recognition of the doctrine of necessity.

    When the biosphere that supports our lives is threatened by liars who are planning to subvert the education system to their ends, then it becomes necessary to oppose them.

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  10. Bill, do you see the words “private information” anywhere in the law? It’s either money, property of services. The spirit of the law is made clear through jurisprudence. If you have any jurisprudence that shows obtaining electronic documents that have no monetary value to the recipient has been considered mail fraud or wire fraud, you might have a case. If not, you’re skating on very thin ice.

    But even then you’re not done yet: as a private foundation with charitable status, Gleick’s lawyers could well argue that Heartland should itself have released those documents, as they are crucial to its activity as a charitable organization. Add a little bit of doubt on whether the documents show Heartland violates the rules, and they could further add the whistleblower defence.

    Heartland always has had the possibility for a civil case, but with the two issues I indicated above, I think it is very likely they never will.

    Oh, and I discussed this with someone with a range of legal degrees; I prefer that over journalists’ opinions.

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  11. Indeed, any private information is either trade secret and therefore only the one revealing it is at fault (and journalism/whistleblowing is covered for that), or it’s personal information (which this isn’t: it’s commercial), which can cause someone to fall foul of data protection acts.

    Except the USA neutered any DPA under the behest of corporate lobbying from marketing companies, and are doing so in the EU too.

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  12. Vince,

    While I do not disagree with your point that what Gleick did was probably in the public’s interest, it is not really for you and me to decide that. Because, like it or not, our opinion is just that – and opinion – and there are others who express the opinion that the theft of emails from the CRU were also in the public’s interest.

    Better to let the court’s decide based on all the evidence. I also tend to think it would be a good thing if it went to court, because then the full details of Heartland’s actions would come out. That’s probably why that haven’t pursued the case further. They don’t want their unethical behaviour to be made public.

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  13. Vince, more than half of the US population does not agree with your exaggerated unbased climate alarmism view and want compensation for their wasted taxes. Your climate church caused terrible economic damage.

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  14. Except that is incorrect. nearly 60% of the US public want more done to combat AGW.

    Meanwhile, as an aside, can you let us know how many Americans think that the world was created within the last 10,000 years.

    I mean, if you’re going to use the consensus of the American Public as evidence, lets see what evidence that consensus is worth, eh?

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  15. Oh, and how much damage did the Church of Libertarian Doctrine cost in the financial crash, hmmm?

    And don’t give me that bit about the mortgages. The value tied up in those mortgages were entered into with open eyes by the bankers and was a tiny fraction of the money gambled and lost in that crash. About all those mortgages did was give the banks some sugar coating when selling on toxic assets to the insurers. But when sugar coating, you don’t use mostly sugar. Only the bare minimum.

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