Monday, February 20, 2012

Heartland Institute Starts Threatening Bloggers (Including Canadians)

The Heartland Institute has began sending out what kind of look like legal threats to bloggers who have published/ written about their leaked documents, including Canada's own DeSmogBlog.  I haven't received one yet, but you can see a copy here.  Now, the funny thing about this letter, and one of the reasons people aren't treating it too seriously, is that, while it is signed by Maureen Martin,  The Heartland Institute's senior fellow for legal affairs, the email headers show that it was actually sent by HI PR Guy Mike Lakely.

In addition to threatening bloggers, the HI has also issued a slightly different warning to Gary Wamsley, a retired veteran and editor at the Berthoud Recorder (of Berthoud Colorado), in response to an email Mr. Wamsley sent to HI CEO Joe Bast.  Here is an excerpt from Mr. Bast's reply to that email:

Now that you know the truth, I ask that you apologize for your intemperate and very offensive letter. Since your letter is threatening, I’ve forwarded it to our legal counsel, forensics team, and the FBI. It is important that you not delete the email from your sent file, or any other emails you may have exchanged with other people while preparing it, since this could be evidence in criminal and civil cases.

Please write back to let me know if you will comply with my requests.

You can read Mr. Wamsley's emails to HI through the link, but believe me, Joe Bast sounds deranged

As for the allegedly "faked" strategy memo: not to go into it too deeply (you can find the case for a fake here and here), the argument relies on the fact that 1) the document is a scan rather than (as is the case with the other accompanying material) in .pdf form and 2) that the creation date for the memo is different than that of the other accompanying material).  However, 2) falters because HI's original explanation, that the docs were obtained by an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member to “re-send” board materials to a new email address appears to be incomplete.  At least, this piece by HI Senior Fellow Ross Kaminsky states that

Earlier this month, on more than one occasion, someone pretending to be a member of the Heartland Institute’s Board of Directors deceived a Heartland staff member into sending him documents related to Heartland’s upcoming Board of Directors meeting.

But if the HI Insider, as the leaker has been dubbed, was in contact with HI staff on more than one occasion, then the fact that the documents have several creation dates becomes easier to explain (esp. if we assume that the strategy memo began life as a paper document that was later scanned to give an electronic version).

Most importantly, while the HI insists that laws were broken in obtaining the leaked material, they do not appear to have taken their case to the police.  At least, a Bishop Hill reader has contacted the Chicago FBI re the matter and received the following response:

Mr. ------ - as of Friday afternoon, nothing had been reported to our office by anyone associated with the Heartland Institute.

Additionally, based on the news accounts of the incident that I have seen, it would appear that the documents in question were given to third parties directly by Heartland employees. There was no computer intrusion which would be a violation of federal law under our jurisdiction.

Finally, it is our practice not to conduct our investigations in our [sic] through the media.


SA Ross Rice
Chicago FBI

So there you have it.


Lars said...

Ahhh, Schadenfreude.

Holly Stick said...

Peter Gleick has written that he received the scanned document anonymously and then he deceived HI into sending the additional documents.

Revkin thinks he's ruined himself, but I dunno. Also the question of who sent him the first memeo. If it's a fake, then was it a trap?