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The Bush Administration: Bringing You Third-Party Scientific Reviews from Online Roleplaying Pals

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On Wednesday, the Inspector General's office at the Department of Interior released a report showing that a Bush appointee who lacked any background in natural science had "bullied, insulted, and harassed the professional staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to change documents and alter biological reporting regarding the Endangered Species Program." She had been "heavily involved with editing, commenting on, and reshaping ... scientific reports from the field."

This all sounds familiar, of course. Shades of Philip Cooney. Shades of Steven Griles. Hack Bush appointees corrupting the scientific process for ideological ends. This is a particularly ham-handed example, but ho hum, right?

But wait. The investigation also turned up evidence that the same appointee had "disclosed nonpublic information to private sector sources." A closer look at the report (PDF) reveals that this particular appointee -- Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald --was a truly ... special case.

I direct your attention to a remarkable passage on p. 21. Keep in mind that being discussed here are scientific documents, and that it is illegal to share these documents with people outside the agency (bolding of text is mine):

MacDonald confirmed that she also sent the Delta Smelt document [about a controversial endangered species in Northern Calif.] to an on-line game friend through his father's e-mail account. MacDonald said she is acquainted with the on-line friend through internet role-playing games. She said she engages in these games to relieve the stress created by her job; however, she said she has not played while at work. When asked why she would e-mail an internal DOI document to a private citizen, MacDonald replied, "I was irritated [with what was happening regarding the subject of the document] and tried to explain my irritation over the phone; however, I sent it to him to read for a better understanding."

Agent's Note: The on-line game friend is not professionally or personally affiliated with DOI or any of its entities. MacDonald continues to play games on the internet with the on-line friend; however, she has not sent any internal DOI information to him since her first interview last summer.

Yup, she sent an internal DOI scientific review document to a roleplaying buddy she met online -- through the buddy's dad -- for "better understanding." She said she "likes to have third party reviews of these documents," don't you know. I'm sure Fraggerz0952 will issue some perceptive scientific judgments from his parents' basement.

Trust me that this is the tip of the iceberg. You really should read the whole report. Here's another nice bit:

MacDonald admitted to sending "Watershed proposed draft rule by the EPA: proposal of a new framework for accomplishing the water quality planning and management provisions of the Clean Water Act" via government e-mail to a personal friend, whose e-mail address ended in chevrontexaco.com. She said she did not remember why she sent the document as an attachment to the friend but stated, "It probably wasn't releasable." When MacDonald was questioned about the second e-mail, containing a large EPA file, sent to another e-mail address ending in chevrontexaco.com, MacDonald could not recall whom this e-mail address belonged to.

A "personal friend" indeed. She also (illegally) shared confidential agency documents with "personal friends" that included an attorney at the right-wing Pacific Legal Foundation and lobbyists at the California Farm Bureau and Building Industry Association of Southern California. She loves her some third-party reviews!

Astonishing. As always, when we see an up-close example of the pervasive corruption in the Bush administration, our question should be: what are we not seeing?

Can you imagine?