The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, under the leadership of my own representative Lamar Smith, has been harassing Thomas Karl, recent past president of the American Meteorological Society and longtime head of the National Climate Data Center, a federal agency under NOAA, because he expressed himself unimpressed by the "hiatus" in global temperature increase, and because he published data that supported his conclusion.
Smith has been demanding defenses of the rather mundane and straightforward measurements and calculations going into NCDC's global temperature estimate.
As I understand it Karl and NCDC have been bending over backwards to be cooperative, and have presented their raw data and algorithms in great detail to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. They stand ready to answer any substantive questions and defend any particular calculation in detail.
The scandal is this: the committee has showed no signs of interest in their honest answer to what might be an honest question, but has pursued the matter to the point of harassment and vile innuendo.
This cannot stand, and by "cannot stand", I mean they probably will get away unscathed, but they really ought not to.
Alas, as the Benghazi metascandal and the Planned Parenthood metascandal prove, the congressional majority have no scruples and the American press has no spine. Fortunately the executive branch has developed a bit of one. NOAA should not be quick to comply and I am pleased that they did not. I think that is the next best thing.
It's not because Smith's committee doesn't have the authority to investigate NCDC, it's that he ought to refrain from abusing it.
A court case would be a very good thing if the press played against type and showed up awake for a change. I don't have a strong answer to a lukewarmer blogger nymmed Fabius Maximus' point that the committee will win on the legal niceties. Perhaps there isn't one. But confusing legal power with responsible government woefully misses the point of democracy.
Still, every time another sliver of the public sees the ethical shabbiness of the majority's actions that would be a good thing. The scientific community is not positively impressed by Smith's ridiculous antics. They should be made plain to see. The press will cower indecently rather than tell the truth here, but Smith is being flatly and transparently abusive, and it would be good if the rest of society did not turn away. But my hopes aren't set high at this point.