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Heartland Institute Threatens To Sue Anyone Who Comments On Leaked Documents 517

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-talking dept.
Layzej writes "Bloggers around the world have been commenting on recently leaked Heartland Institute documents that reveal their internal strategies to discredit climate science. These posters are now under threat of legal action. According to the Heartland Institute 'the individuals who have commented so far on these documents did not wait for Heartland to confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents. We believe their actions constitute civil and possibly criminal offenses for which we plan to pursue charges and collect payment for damages'"
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Heartland Institute Threatens To Sue Anyone Who Comments On Leaked Documents

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  • by PapayaSF (721268) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @12:50PM (#39093059) Journal

    Many of the documents seem to be genuine, but the "smoking gun" document that everyone is quoting looks like a fake. This possibility seems to have been raised first here on Slashdot by eldavojohn [slashdot.org], and Megan McArdle of The Atlantic has written extensively about it. [theatlantic.com]

    The Heartland people are making themselves look bad with these silly threats, though, which will lose them the sympathy they should get as victims of a forgery-based smear job.

  • Re:Pants on fire. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2012 @12:57PM (#39093129)

    Although I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly I don't think 'begs the question' [wikipedia.org] means what you think it means

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2012 @01:00PM (#39093151)

    Megan McArdle? Really?

    Just what does an economics writer who knows nothing about either economics or simple math have to do with document authentication?

  • Re:Streissand (Score:5, Informative)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @01:15PM (#39093251)

    Their target audience might just see the leaks as the work of the conspiracy of freedom haters and lap up the message.

    Of course they will. The very same people that were so pleased that the CRU email server was hacked into in the so called "Climategate" affair. That said how great it was that this information was now in the public domain.

    Cretins.

  • by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @01:23PM (#39093309)

    Come at me bro.

    As it turns out, we do know what burden of proof is. We know that you have it. And I am prepared and willing to watch yourself just try to violate the axiom of non-contradiction. Either they're your documents or they're not.

    See there is this thing called the first amendment...

  • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @01:23PM (#39093315)

    "methinks the lady doth protest too much"

    if the documents were fake, they wouldn't elicit such a strong reaction. therefore, the documents are real

    Not to be nit-picky, but when the queen said this in Hamlet, she meant "promise" too much, as the word was sometimes used then.

  • by will_die (586523) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @01:27PM (#39093367) Homepage
    There have been plenty of places that have shown the document is a false.
    Here is one from a liberal source so some of you will not automatically ignore the truth http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/02/leaked-docs-from-heartland-institute-cause-a-stir-but-is-one-a-fake/253165/ [theatlantic.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2012 @01:29PM (#39093383)

    The Climategate emails have never been proven to have been stolen. Many people believe they were in fact leaked.

    The Climategate emails were true. At least one of these documents was almost certainly faked.

    Climategate involved emails that were created by people working for the public, with public funds, and making recommendations to the public. These documents were a private organization, working with private funds.

    In short, it's different. As someone else said in this thread, the Heartland Institute is making itself look bad. And probably has no real legal case. On the other hand, bloggers who spread the faked document all over the internet when it was pretty obvious from the start that it was villian-monologuing over-the-top and noticeably different from the rest of the documents pretty much deserve what they get legally.

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @01:30PM (#39093389) Homepage Journal
    There is actually a pretty significant amount of evidence it's faked. Every document in the bundle except the strategy memo and an IRS document was printed to PDF in the central time zone. The IRS document was printed to PDF in GMT-4. The strategy memo was scanned in with an Epson scanner to a PDF by someone in the Pacific time zone. All documents except the strategy memo and a board directory were printed to PDF on January 16, the day before a board meeting. The board directory was printed January 25. The strategy memo was created at 3:41 PM on February 13. If you want more, read over here [theatlantic.com].

    In short, it really looks like someone got a bunch of real documents and then threw something in to sex it up a bit. The problem for them is that they did it so damned badly. The problem for Heartland is that they're acting like dicks toward a lot of people, when they should be upending heaven and hell to find the memo forger and crucifying him for libel.
  • by Surt (22457) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @02:10PM (#39093703) Homepage Journal

    "Truth is a complete defence against defamation." And you know the disputed document is authentic how, exactly?

    It doesn't matter whether the documents are authentic. The issue at stake is whether anyone who read the documents and commented upon them had reason to believe that their own comments were false.

    "For example, the Minnesota Supreme Court has held:
    We hold that a private individual may recover actual damages for a defamatory publication upon proof that the defendant knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known that the defamatory statement was false. The conduct of defamation defendants will be judged on whether the conduct was that of a reasonable person under the circumstances."

    Since there's clearly no way to know whether any statement related to these documents is false, the commenters are clearly safe.

  • by mathmathrevolution (813581) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @02:28PM (#39093831)
    The best evidence that the strategy memo is authentic is the amount of material in that memo that has subsequently been confirmed by other sources: From Desmogblog: [desmogblog.com]

    The DeSmogBlog has reviewed that Strategy document and compared its content to other material we have in hand. It addresses five elements:

    The Increased Climate Project Fundraising material is reproduced in and confirmed by Heartland's own budget.

    The "Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms" is also a Heartland budget item and has been confirmed independently by the author, Dr. David Wojick.

    The Funding for Parallel Organizations; Funding for Selected Individuals Outside Heartland are both reproduced and confirmed in the Heartland budget. And Anthony Watts has confirmed independently the payments in Expanded Climate Communications.

  • Re:Streissand (Score:3, Informative)

    by turkeyfish (950384) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @03:39PM (#39094301)

    The Heartland Institute is a non-profit organization not a private entity. According to them their mission is "to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems.", which no doubt is true if those free-market solutions are owned lock, stock and barrel by Koch Industries, their primary financial backers.

    They are a political lobbying organization, which given the corporate mindset of US laws means that they can be used to launder lobbying expenses on behalf of Koch Industries.

    As far as mindsets go, you have clearly demonstrated yours, but like Heartland you have to do it as an Anonymous Coward.

  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @03:46PM (#39094355)

    And herein lies the problem with your argument: "According to Heartland"

    You are assuming that Heartland has no stake in this game and of course would also tell the truth. At this point, you can't assume any of these are invalid, or valid given that the only folks talking are those with the documents, and those that lost them.

  • by ravenshrike (808508) on Sunday February 19, 2012 @04:19PM (#39094557)

    Well, let's see. Except for the one document, ever single one is a professionally designed print to pdf document with creation dates in early and mid January and which has a timecode of CST the region where Heartland has it's main offices. The "memo" is a poorly scanned document that reads like a 8th grader's "how to talk like a supervillain" letter with plenty of copypasta and an outright falsehood. Namely that the Koch brother's donation was concerned with climate change. Given that the donation code was HCN and that Bayer AG and multiple other pharma and medical companies also have the same donation code this is unlikely to say the least. Then there's the fact that the memo was scanned in Februray with a timecode of PST. All in all, a shittastic smear job.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2012 @05:32PM (#39094991)

    Quoting from TFA, second link in the Slashdot summary:

    "One document, titled “Confidential Memo: 2012 Heartland Climate Strategy,” is a total fake apparently intended to defame and discredit The Heartland Institute. It was not written by anyone associated with The Heartland Institute. It does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics. It contains several obvious and gross misstatements of fact."

    They say quite clearly that one of the documents is fake. The first sentence is even in bold!

    Quoting further:

    "Some of these documents were stolen from Heartland, at least one is a fake, and some may have been altered."

    Read the press release and then read the Slashdot summary again. The Slashdot's summary completely omits Heartland's disavowal the main document and the distinction between the fake document and the potentially altered originals. With "diligent" reporting like Slashdot's, is it any wonder that they're a little be pissed off?

    Note: The disavowed document is the one containing the "teaching science" quote.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 19, 2012 @08:38PM (#39096129)

    There were more peer-reviewed papers suggesting warming than there were cooling at that time. Any scaremongering was done by the media.

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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