BOSTON, Feb 14 (IPS) - Leading U.S. scientists called on Congress Thursday to make sure the next president does not do what they say the George W. Bush Administration has done: censor, suppress and falsify important environmental and health research.So, if the FBI's case against Bruce Ivins depends upon "new" science developed by government scientists, a reasonable person has to ask, how reliable is that science? It hasn't been published or peer reviewed. There is no expert outside the government willing (so far) to validate it. Perhaps, in that instance, we are being asked to trust the Bush Justice Department to vet the FBI product.
"The next president and Congress must cultivate an environment where reliable scientific advice flows freely," said Susan Wood, a former director of women's research at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Wood resigned her post in 2005 in protest over the FDA's delay in getting emergency, over-the-counter birth control onto the market.
"Serious consequences can result when drug safety decisions are not based on the best available scientific advice from staff scientists and experts," she said.
Wood joined a panel of prominent scientists in Boston -- convened by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an activist group -- to announce a joint statement asking Congress to protect scientific integrity. Among the more than 15,000 government scientists signing onto the statement are Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre and former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and Anthony Robbins, professor of medicine at Tufts University and former director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Unfortunately, even though the press that Kristof defends has not raised the issue, the Bush Justice Department that has sponsored and presented this "new" science to convict Bruce Ivins, has been under investigation for corruption. The Bush Justice Department is under investigation for gutting the Voter Rights Act office, for political discrimination in its hiring practices, for politically motivated prosecutions of Governor Don Siegelman and Paul Minor and others, not to mention, for lying to Congress and for trying to present torture as patriotism to the American public.
Although I respect Kristof as one of his longtime readers, I have to call bullshit on his "apology" to Steve Hatfill because that apology is founded on the premise that our press is diligent enough to be presented with the problem of what to distribute to the public. Would that it were so. What a wonderful dilemma that would be were it true.
Our press shouldn't be criticized for sharing what it knows with the American public. But it should be hung out to dry for sharing what it cannot verify – as Kristof did with respect to Hatfill and as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times and worst offender, the AP have in the last four weeks with respect to Dr. Ivins. They should be hung out to dry again for never raising the obvious problems with the last iteration of the FBI's case: the Bush Justice Department is asking the American public to believe it so respects both science and justice for once that the unpublished case against Bruce Ivins is in any way believable.
I don't fault you, Mr. Kristof, for sharing what you know or for making the best, difficult decision you can make as a journalist. I fault you for not being all over the Ivins chapter of this story. Because you, of all people, should recognize what is being done to Ivins in the press right now and unlike Steve Hatfill, Bruce Ivins is not here to contend with the Bush Justice Department. Covering this story with some kind of insight and integrity is the apology that the American public deserves from you or from anyone who claims to serve the public good in print.