Heartland Panics Over Leak: 71 Year Old Vet, Young Mom Fire Back at Threats
February 20, 2012
Clearly in a panic over the fallout from last week’s leak of internal documents, the Heartland Institute has gone to the dependable “Plan B” of authoritarians everywhere. Threats and bullying.
A number of bloggers have now received threatening but impotent messages from Heartland thugs, including 71 year old Air Force Vet and journalist, and a young activist Mom. See their responses below.
When I read the original articles on the release of confidential documents from the Heartland Institute board meeting, (see They’re Coming for Your Kids) I was infuriated.
I reacted by sending a strongly worded email to the president and all the board members of the Heartland Institute.
Surprisingly, one board member and institute president Joseph Bast responded to my email.
Bast’s response is one that I would consider threatening. He said he was turning the email over to their legal department, the forensic staff and the FBI. He also warned me not to delete any emails.
Apparently, I was supposed to be frightened by the specter of this multimillion dollar non-profit (?) spending resources on an old veteran. The whole idea seems ludicrous and they know it. Still, I am not afraid of the battle if it comes. This is a tactic that big money often used to suppress free speech. See Gleen Greenwald’s article in Salon “Billionaire Romney donor uses threats to silence critics.”
During my career I have been in position for many sensitive positions and have had top secret clearances, I have been investigated by the Civil Service Commission, the FBI and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. I feel secure that the government knows who I am.
I decided to publish these emails so that you can judge the exchange for yourself.
From: Gary Wamsley [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Friday, February 17, 2012 5:16 PM To: Joseph Bast Subject: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign
You should be ashamed of yourself. The United States already has a problem in keeping up with the rest of the world in science education and now you want to play a role in further destroying our nation as well as our planet.
You are a traitor to your own country. I did not spend 30 years in the military to protect the likes of you.
Colonel, USAF, Retired
From: Joseph Bast <JBast@heartland.org> Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2012 09:46:00 -0600 To: Gary Wamsley <firstname.lastname@example.org> Cc: Jim Lakely <JLakely@heartland.org> Subject: RE: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign
I assume your intemperate comments are based on a forged memo that misrepresents our efforts in the area of global warming research education, so let me explain before demanding an apology.
The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit research and education organization. We produce top-quality research and commentary on a wide range of topics, including school reform, health care, budget and tax issues, and environmental regulation. More than 100 academics and 200 elected officials serve on advisory boards, helping to write our publications and review our work. More than 1,800 individuals, foundations, and corporations contribute voluntarily to support our work.
Last week, someone stole some documents from us and forged a memo claiming to state our ‘strategy” on global warming. See our statement in response to this attack here: http://heartland.org/press-releases/2012/02/15/heartland-institute-responds-stolen-and-fake-documents .
The Heartland Institute has never tried to “dissuade teachers from teaching science, “undermine” any other sources of research, or “keep opposing voices out” of the debate over global warming. In fact, our goals and activities are just the opposite: We have helped thousands of teachers upgrade the ratio of science to rhetoric in their classes on climate change. We have complied two hefty reports – one 800 pages long and another 400 pages long – summarizing peer-reviewed literature on climate change. We have sought to promote debate and a free exchange of ideas, despite efforts by the most alarmist voices in the debate to try to shut down discussion and ruin the reputations of any who doesn’t toe the ideological line of a small but politically powerful faction of the global science community.
The forged memo has been quoted in scores of articles and hundreds of blog posts. We are working to get those statements removed and retracted. Meanwhile, and regrettably, many people like you are being misled about our work and intentions.
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.
The Heartland Institute
From: Gary Wamsley [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Saturday, February 18, 2012 10:46 AM To: Joseph Bast Subject: Re: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign
Dear Mr. Bast,
Your threatening letter only serves to reinforce my opinion that the documents are in fact all true. Your ludicrous claim that my letter is threatening is a bullying tactic to which I will not succumb. No apology is offered. I do keep my emails for six months before deleting them.
Colonel, USAF Retired
From: Joseph Bast <JBast@heartland.org>
Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2012 11:26:18 -0600|
To: Gary Wamsley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Jim Lakely <JLakely@heartland.org>, Maureen Martin <email@example.com>, “Michael P. Padden” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, William Cook <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign
Thank you. This is very useful.
The Heartland Institute
From: Gary Wamsley [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Saturday, February 18, 2012 01:01 PM To: Joseph Bast Subject: Re: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign
In my opinion you have handled this whole situation quite poorly. Your original letter of Feb. 15 was almost surreal in its content and did not inspire confidence in its truthfulness, especially when compared to your actions in publishing out of context emails in what became known as ClimateGate. Did you wait to try to get verification from the scientists in East Anglica?
Your response to me would been better served by referencing articles like Megan Mcardle’s well written piece in the Atlantic or Anthony Watts in WUWT, both of which conclude that the board memo is a probably a fake.
Perhaps you responded as you did because my email angered you. I will admit that had I not been so angry when I wrote, that I might have been a bit more restrained. Please do not take this as an apology.
Colonel, USAF Retired
Note: The following email was sent twice, but does not show up in my “sent” folder. I am unable to assertion that Mr. Bast and his associates received it.
From: Gary Wamsley [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Sunday, February 19 , 2012
To: Joseph Bast
Subject: Re: Heartland Institute disinformation campaign
Dear Mr. Bast, et. al.
It occurred to me that you will need my address in case you wished to pursue legal action against me.
My home address is:
Col Gary Wamsley
(address withheld here – Peter)
Just to make sure my emails are readily available to you, I am posting them on my web site. You will find them at this link
Heartland Institute threatens 71-year-old veteran
Heartland, which still hasn’t had time in their busy fundraising schedule to actually verify their claim that a single document out of dozens is a fake, still had time to threaten this young Mother — who wasn’t buying it either.
The Heartland Institute is attempting damage control after the DeSmogBlog revealed confidential documents about the institute’s funding and its strategies to insinuate its anti-science agenda into our children’s education and undermine the IPCC . Although the Heartland Institute applauded the illegal release of thousands of personal emails stolen from Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in 2009, its reaction to last week’s release of documents that one of its own staff circulated is markedly different. In fact rather than celebrating this incident which allows the general public, along with reporters and other opinion leaders to, as its president Joe Bast wrote after the 2009 emails were published, “take a serious look at the skeptics’ case in the global warming debate” the Heartland Institute is threatening to sue bloggers who have posted links to the documents, or even (see below) links to blogs or web pages discussing the documents. So much for the First Amendment.
The folks at the Heartland Institute are all for freedom of speech when it comes to bashing climate scientists and quoting out of context from illegally obtained emails, but no so much when the tables are turned and their information intended for private consumption becomes public. They even threaten mothers like me, who blog because climate change is a threat to our children’s future, and who don’t make one red cent off of it. Mr Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, communicated this to me today:
By e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
350 or Bust
Re: Stolen and Faked Heartland Documents
It has come to our attention that your blog or web site has taken one or more of the following actions:
- Posted links to a document titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy.”
- Posted links to certain other documents purporting to be those of The Heartland Institute.
- Posted blogs or web pages discussing any or all of these documents.
Please be advised that the Confidential Memo is fake. It was not written by anyone associated with Heartland. It does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact. Publication of this falsified document, or blogs or web pages about it, is improper and unlawful.
As to other documents purported to be authored by Heartland, we are investigating how they came to be published and whether they are authentic or have been altered or fabricated. Several of the documents say on their face that they are confidential documents and all of them were taken from Heartland by improper and fraudulent means. Publication or republication of any and all confidential or altered documents is improper and unlawful.
Furthermore, Heartland views the malicious and fraudulent manner in which the documents were obtained and/or thereafter disseminated, as well as the repeated blogs or web site posts about them, as providing the basis for civil actions against those who obtained and/or disseminated them and wrote about them. Heartland fully intends to pursue all possible actionable civil remedies to the fullest extent of the law.
Therefore, we respectfully demand: (1) that you remove links to these documents from your blog or web site; (2) that you remove all posts that refer or relate in any manner to these documents or quotes from them; (3) that you publish retractions of prior postings; and (4) that you remove all such documents from your server, if you have placed them there.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require any further information.
Very truly yours,
I’ve forwarded the email to those who are more familiar with the law than I am and I haven’t heard back from them yet. However, I have checked out what other people on the internet are saying about the Heartland Institute’s bullying tactics, and it seems the consensus is that they don’t have a leg to stand on.
Techdirt put it this way:
Now, I don’t care what you think of Heartland, climate change or anything along those lines. Whether you think it’s a wonderful organization or an evil organization… one thing I would hope we could agree on is that threatening people for “commenting” on documents with legal action, even if the documents later turn out to be fake, is not a good idea. I can certainly understand the temptation to try to get people not to comment, but the threat is pretty clearly bogus. The documents — and the leak of the documents — even if faked or altered, are still a public interest issue, and it’s hard to see how there’s any law broken in commenting about what’s in the documents. There may be legal issues for whoever leaked the documents, but those who are commenting on them? Sorry, that’s just silly.
In the meantime, I have something to communicate back to Mr. Lakely, who is co-director of Heartland’s Center on the Digital Economy as well as its communications director. I’m 350orbust’s Communications Director and I can be very economical with my digital communication, but I will let this young woman standing up for democracy and freedom speak for me: