September 27, 2011
Most Americans may not know that the government agency responsible for providing national security data to the nation’s senior policymakers, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), operates a special center dedicated to global warming.
That’s because the CIA doesn’t want anyone to know what goes on in its two-year-old Center on Climate Change and National Security. So the exclusive unit, led by “senior specialists,” operates under a cloak of secrecy that rejects all public-records requests, despite President Obama’s promise to run a transparent government.
When the center was launched in 2009, the CIA said it would not address the science of climate change but rather the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts and heightened competition for natural resources. The new division was touted as an important tool that would bring together in a single place expertise on an important national security topic; the effect environmental factors can have on political, economic and social stability overseas.
Reasonably, some U.S. taxpayers want to know what exactly the center has been doing with their money. After all, Obama has repeatedly assured the country that he will run the most transparent administration in history. So why not reveal some of the CIA’s findings on the impacts of global warming? After all, the administration has dedicated huge amounts of money to combat the ills of global warming so why not make public some of the “intelligence” that could justify the investment?
Because everything the CIA’s climate center does is a national security secret, according to a report published this month by a group of scientists dedicated to exposing government secrecy. The group cites a categorical denial by the CIA to a benign Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for a copy of any study or report concerning the impacts of global warming. The request was made by an intelligence historian affiliated with the National Security Archive.
If he was blown off, the average American would most certainly get the shaft from the CIA for its “classified” global warming records. The group that exposed this story points out that the CIA’s response indicates a fundamental lack of discernment that calls into question the integrity of the Center on Climate Change, if not the agency as a whole. It further asks; if the CIA really thinks that every document produced by the center constitutes a potential threat to national security, who can expect the center to say anything intelligent or useful about climate change?
Interestingly, when the CIA global warming center opened the agency said it would coordinate with intelligence community partners on the review and declassification of imagery and other data that could be of use to scientists in their own climate-related research.