So gushes Mother Jones, adding the enticing word “exclusive” to the story. But – weirdly enough, for a confection of spying and science reporting, both of which are normally so reliable – this appears to be a bit garbled. Firstly, the “climate research programme” looks to be more like the CIA had allowed civilian scientists to access classified data—such as ocean temperature and tidal readings gathered by Navy submarines and topography data collected by spy satellites. So, not CIA research at all: just data sharing. And presumably not CIA data mostly; if this is stuff routinely gathered by Navy subs, its presumably Navy data; which the CIA had been given the job of giving out? Hard to be sure. National Journal seems to support my interpretation.
Aside: Peter “Sea Ice Collapse” Wadhams was once heavily into sea ice data gathered from Royal Navy subs. I believe that the Navy didn’t want to just release the data; (a) because they’re just not like that, and (b) because they didn’t want people to know exactly where they had been. But ice thickness without location is useless; so trusted people to look at the data were needed.
Perhaps less gushy – well, a little less – is the NYT with C.I.A. Is Sharing Data With Climate Scientists from 2010, announcing the re-start of the programme now shut down. And it full of scientists – well, actually, mostly just one, Norbert Untersteiner, a perfectly respectable person – saying how valuable all this data is. And I bet if you can get some decent papers out of it, that’s really great. But in terms of overall monitoring, the freely available SSMI/SSMR/AMSR stuff is far more important. So I’m dubious this is any great loss.
FWIW, the only piece of CIA research on climate change that I looked at – A study of climatological research as it pertains to intelligence problems – was rubbish. It was an object lesson in why letting a secretive organisation that didn’t get out much, do research, is a really bad idea. Doubtless asking scientists to go spying would go equally badly.
* Newly Declassified Submarine Data Will Help Study of Arctic Ice – NSF 1998 press release; thanks to RtS.