Right-wing media baselessly claim CIA has "diverted" resources to climate research

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Echoing a press release from the conservative and ExxonMobil-funded National Center for Public Policy Research, several right-wing media figures, including Sean Hannity and the Fox Nation, have baselessly asserted that the CIA has "diverted" intelligence resources to climate change. In fact, federal officials have reportedly said that the program, which allows the scientific community to gather data from CIA equipment, "has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering."

Fox News, bloggers claim CIA resources have been "diverted to climate change"

Hannity: "CIA director redirects manpower ... at the cost of our security, your security, your family's security?" Hannity stated during the January 5 edition of his Fox News program that "the CIA director redirects manpower to monitor climate change, but is it all the cost -- at the cost of our security, your security, your family's security?" Hannity later added: "[I]n the wake of the attempted Christmas Day terror attack, you would think the spies at the CIA, that they would have their hands full securing America. But, believe it or not, assets at Langley are being used for other projects" From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Now, in the wake of the attempted Christmas Day terror attack, you would think the spies at the CIA, that they would have their hands full securing America. But, believe it or not, assets at Langley are being used for other projects. A stunning report from The New York Times reveals that CIA manpower and satellites are actually monitoring -- get this -- climate change. Now, the secret program was scrapped by the Bush administration, but president Obama's CIA director -- you know, the guy with no intelligence experience at all, Leon Panetta -- well, he's decided to bring it back. Now, I think Wyoming's Senator John Barrasso -- I think he said it best when he said the CIA should be keeping Americans safe, not spying on sea lions.

Fox Nation: "CIA Resources Diverted to Climate Change." On January 5, Fox Nation linked to a press release from the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) which claimed, "As terrorists continue to infiltrate America, the Obama Administration is tasking some of our nation's most elite intelligence-gathering agencies to divert their resources to environmental scientists researching global warming." The headline posted on Fox Nation on January 6 also featured a photo of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who attempted to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day:

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Gateway Pundit: "[T]he CIA will be syping on icebergs instead of terrorists." Citing the NCPPR press release, GatewayPundit blogger Jim Hoft wrote on January 5 that in response to the attempted Christmas Day airplane bombing, "Obama outlined changes to the security protocol. The latest changes implemented by the Obama Administration also mean that the CIA will be spying on icebergs instead of terrorists."

SayAnythingBlog: "They're going from spying on terrorist to spying on polar bears." On January 5, SayAnythingBlog claimed, "Obama Orders CIA to Re-Direct Intelligence Gathering Resources To...Climate Change." Citing the NCPPR press release, the blog post further stated, "They're going from spying on terrorists to spying on polar bears," and added, "Obama is promising that his administration is going to 'do more' to keep us safe, and then we learn that the CIA is now going to be used to combat...global warming? What a joke."

But federal officials said climate program "has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering"

NY Times: Officials said climate program has little impact on intelligence gathering. Hannity and the NCPPR press release cited a January 5 New York Times report stating that "[t]he nation's top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government's intelligence assets -- including spy satellites and other classified sensors -- to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change." The Times further reported that federal officials said the program "has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering":

The monitoring program has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering, federal officials said, but instead releases secret information already collected or takes advantage of opportunities to record environmental data when classified sensors are otherwise idle or passing over wilderness.

CIA: Climate efforts assist scientists "without a large commitment of resources." In a September 25 press release announcing the establishment of the Center on Climate Change and National Security, the CIA stated, "The Center will assume responsibility for coordinating 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. This effort draws on imagery and other information that is collected in any event, assisting the US scientific community without a large commitment of resources."

NCPPR funded annually by ExxonMobil

The National Center for Public Policy Research, which "advocates private, free market solutions to today's environmental challenges," has received significant contributions from ExxonMobil Corporation, including $55,000 per year in 2008, 2007, and 2006, as well as $30,000 in 2002. NCPPR also received $55,000 per year from the ExxonMobil Foundation in 2005 and 2004, $23,000 in 2003, $15,000 in 2002, and $30,000 in 2001.

Climate change seen by defense, intelligence experts as relevant to national security

Bush NIC chair testified on "wide ranging implications for US national security." In June 25, 2008, testimony, Dr. Thomas Fingar, then-chairman of the National Intelligence Council, stated that "global climate change will have wide ranging implications for US national security interests over the next 20 years," citing the possible worsening of "existing problems -- such as poverty, social tensions, environment degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions" abroad, as well as the likelihood that "economic migrants will perceive additional reasons to migrate." The NIC's 2025 Global Trends Report, published November 2008, further stated that "Climate change is likely to exacerbate resource scarcities, particularly water scarcities."

NY Times: Military, intelligence experts considering security impacts of climate change. An August 8, 2009, New York Times report stated that "military and intelligence analysts" have said that climate change "will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades":

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.

Bipartisan report identified global warming as potential "threat to our security." On October 28, 2009, the Associated Press reported that the American Security Project, "an advisory group of high-powered Republicans and Democrats," affirmed that global warming is relevant to national security:

A recent report by the American Security Project, an advisory group of high-powered Republicans and Democrats, called global warming "not simply about saving polar bears or preserving beautiful mountain glaciers ... (but) a threat to our security." The group has on its board Republicans such as former Sen. Warren Rudman as well as Democrats including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the chief author of the Senate climate bill.

Across the globe there exist conflicts and security challenges including ethnic conflicts and emerging radicalism and often "these are also the parts of the world where we will see the most severe consequences from climate change," Bernard Finel, a co-author of the American Security Project report, said in an interview. " The intelligence community, CIA, (military) commanders, they're all looking at these issues."

Former Republican Sen. John Warner, a longtime chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a close ally of the military, has been touring the country to talk about climate change and national security.

"We are talking about energy insecurity, water and food shortages, and climate-driven social instability," says Warner. "We ignore these threats at the peril of our national security and at great risk to those in uniform."

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