Edinburgh, June 4 : An internal investigation within NASA has revealed that its officials censored and suppressed scientific data on global warming in order to protect the Bush administration from controversy close to the 2004 presidential election.
According to a report in The Scotsman, a 93-page report by the space agency's Office of the Inspector General reveals that personnel in NASA's public affairs office were guilty of "inappropriate political interference" in their attempts to play down climate change findings.
The staff, who were appointed by the White House, "marginalised or mischaracterized" studies on global warming between 2004 and 2006, denying media access to top global warming scientist James Hansen and cancelling a press conference about a space mission that was set to monitor ozone pollution.
On more than a dozen occasions, they also unilaterally edited or downgraded press releases on climate change.
NASA's top management was not part of the censorship, nor were career officials within the department, the report noted. The problem centred on two names who have subsequently left NASA.
"Climate change scientists and the majority of career Public Affairs Officers strongly believe that the alleged actions taken by senior NASA headquarters public affairs officials intended to systematically portray NASA in a light most favourable to administration policies at the expense of reporting unfiltered research results," the report concluded.
"Mendacious officials managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalised, or mischaracterised climate change science made available to the general public," it noted.
The report, which was drawn up at the request of 14 senators concerned at NASA's censorship, concluded that "inappropriate political posturing or advantage" was behind some of the actions. "Our government's response to global warming must be based on science, and the Bush administration's manipulation of that information violates the public trust," said the Democratic senator Frank Lautenberg.
The report came as the Senate opened debate on climate change legislation, which could see new measures to cap the production of greenhouse gases - a move that the Bush administration is opposed to.