Posted by Matthew Rothschild on May 22, 2010

On April 23, the rector of the University of Virginia received an astonishing letter. The state attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, slapped him with a “civil investigative demand”—essentially, a subpoena—to produce reams of documents about a climate scientist who left the university five years ago.

The scientist is Dr. Michael Mann, who now works at Penn State.

But since Mann wrote one of those controversial e-mails on global warming statistics that leaked out of the University of East Anglia last year, Cuccinelli saw him as a ripe target.

Cuccinelli demanded that the university turn over “any and all documents and things in your possession” over the last 11 and a half years that relate to the five grants Mann received at UVA, which totaled $484,875.

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In addition, Cuccinelli demanded all correspondence that 39 professors or researchers mentioned in the East Anglia controversy had with Dr. Mann. Plus “any and all e-mails or pieces of correspondence from or to Dr. Michael Mann since he left the University of Virginia that are in your possession.”

“I think he's simply trying to smear me,” Mann told the Washington Post.

On May 18, more than 800 Virginia scientists and professors, including almost 300 from UVA, wrote a letter to Cuccinelli urging him to withdraw his demand.

“The request is unfounded and could undermine the effectiveness of not only climate scientists but also thousands of other Virginia researchers,” the letter said. “Science thrives on rigorous debate and a frank exchange of differing ideas and perspectives. . . . Scientists who face unwarranted legal intimidation will be less able to make new discoveries that can protect our health, safety, and environment. . . . In the interests of the people of Virginia, we urge you to halt this burdensome and entirely unwarranted investigation.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists is coordinating this protest.

The University of Virginia is supposed to turn over the documents by May 27.

Addendum: More than 250 scientists have decried the neo-McCarthyite tactics by the anti-global warming crowd. See the following letter:

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine.

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