This piece by the Denver Posts's David Harsanyi makes several excellent points. He attempted to use a Freedom of information request for additional emails of Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at The National Center for Atmospheric Research. Trenberth has argued that comments of his included in the hacked climate-gate emails were taken out of context. Harsanyi was arguing that seeing additional Trenberth emails would rectify this.
Harsanyi was rebuffed because the NCAR, while receiving oodles of federal funds, isn't a federal agency. After Trenberth's childish retort below, Harsanyi makes a brilliant point; even if NCAR isn't a federal agency, it gets federal dollars and could ultimately play a vital role in changing the world as we know it. So his argument goes, they should be subject to the FOIA:
"Why don't you put all your e-mails online for everyone to see?" Trenberth helpfully suggested to me. "My e-mail is none of your business."
Now, generally, I would agree. It's every American citizen's hallowed duty to mind his or her own freaking business -- except in those rare instances when one of those citizens happens to be a taxpayer-funded eco-crusader utilizing his appointed station in life to promote policy that sticks its nose into the lives of every American.
I'm afraid snarky columnizing, on the other hand, is not federally funded -- at least not yet.
In fact, Trenberth's work is one reason the nation is moving toward rationed energy use via cap-and-trade legislation. His work is one reason the Environmental Protection Agency, through its endangerment findings on carbon emissions, can regulate industry by decree. It is Trenberth's government-financed science that drives public policy across this country. Yet Trenberth has less accountability to the public than the local parks department.
He raises a great question that goes well beyond the global warming debate. Should non-governmental entities who launder taxpayer money through federal agencies be allowed to skirt the FOIA? Especially when, as Harsanyi puts it, the target is a "taxpayer-funded eco-crusader utilizing his appointed station in life to promote policy that sticks its nose into the lives of every American?