In March 2001, a month after Randol’s letter, Whitman traveled to Italy to discuss climate with European allies. There she reaffirmed a campaign promise Bush had made to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Displeased, the heads of Exxon, Shell, and BP met secretly with two of the aides on Cheney’s furtive energy task force - Andrew Lundquist and Karen Knudson - to discuss the matter. Thereafter, Bush disavowed Whitman’s statement in Italy as well as his own pledge to cap emissions based on a memo drafted by the task force. Dickinson touts this document in his article, but he leaves readers with the false impression that it was uncovered by Rolling Stone. In fact, The New York Times first exposed the memo, as well as the sequence of events that culminated with Bush’s 2001 reversal on capping emissions, in October 2004.


The White House solidified its ties to the fossil fuels industries in June 2001 when undersecretary of state for global affairs Paula Dobriansky told the American Petroleum Institute that Bush had rejected the Kyoto Protocol “in part, based on information from you.” Dickinson has a FOIA request that “reveals” Dobriansky based her speech on a conservative climate action plan drafted by industrial polluters, although the The Guardian published the story first on June 8, 2005. That article appeared the same day that Andrew Revkin, at The New York Times disclosed that Philip Cooney, Connaughton’s top deputy at the council, had been editing government climate reports since May 2002.


Dickinson writes, however, that, “Although some of Cooney’s edits were revealed in a New York Times story in June 2005 that led to his departure, the full extent of his interference has never been reported.” This sentence, though technically correct, does not give enough credit to preceding investigations upon which the Rolling Stone article is founded. For the most part, Dickinson elaborates on Cooney’s meddling, placing him within a longer narrative of events; his one significant (and novel) contribution, however, is a letter linking Karl Rove, Bush top adviser, to tampering at the CEQ.


In May 2002, when his name was still unknown to the media, Cooney attempted to play up scientific uncertainties in an EPA report to the United Nations that warned about the threat of climate change. Nonetheless, an article in the Times called the document a “stark shift for the Bush administration.” Cooney, according to Dickinson’s story, was “frantic” and wrote a letter to the newspaper denying that the president had changed course on climate. “But this time,” Dickinson writes, “Cooney’s editor was not just Connaughton, but Bush’s chief political adviser, Karl Rove.” Dickinson obtained a copy of the letter, with Rove’s signature of approval. “From then on,” he writes, “Cooney wielded a heavier pen when editing official reports on global warming.”


Cooney’s “commissarial coup,” according to Dickinson’s story, came in April 2003, when he made significant revisions to the EPA’s Draft Report on the Environment. While Dickinson enumerates many of the changes, he completely ignores a June 2003 story in The New York Times that first made the same revelations. The only thing that the Times did not have was Cooney’s name.


Dickinson’s article also takes premature credit for exposing the council’s influence outside of the EPA. “Internal documents uncovered by Rolling Stone reveal that Cooney did far more than edit scientific reports to the administration’s point of view,” Dickinson writes. “Cooney steered industry-sponsored junk science on global warming to Cheney.” He reports that “the most egregious example of cooked intelligence was a study underwritten in part by the [American Petroleum Institute].” The paper claimed that the twentieth century was not, contrary to mainstream scientific consensus, unusually warm.

Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.