Box for BIG Oil
Have you ever had a jingle running through your head that won't stop, something bugging you that you can't quite put your finger on, or an itch that you can't scratch?
Well, I've had one of those itches ever since I received a certain email a couple of days ago. You can read about the source of my itch in a couple of AP articles:
About a week ago, I came into possession of an email from Partnership for the West that transmitted an April 26, 2004 "MEMO" to California State Grange "RE: Progress To Report On Our Greater Sage Grouse Campaign", and containing links to several web pages. I checked the links for content and they were all unrestricted and readily open to the public.
The memo and most of the links contained information and data of interest to us in our environmental activism activities, so I posted the memo and mirrored the linked files on the RangeNet.org web site in the Project Sage Grouse folder.
Then on Wednesday, I received an email from Jim Sims demanding that I take the "internal memorandum" at "http://rangenet.org/projects/grouse/antilisting/sage_grouse_plan.pdf" off the RangeNet web site, but making no mention whatsoever of the several other files that I had mirrored.
When you are an activist, your total annual budget is less than one thousand dollars like RangeNet's is, and it is all coming out of your extremely modest personal retirement income and savings - then you never let a possible opportunity for some media exposure pass you by! Therefore, the first thing that I did was to fire off copies of the demand email to a couple of reporters who had dealt with me before and I knew should recognize my name (one AP & one Knight-Ridder) in case they might be interested.
Then I started working on the offline version of RangeNet's web site (I build on my PC and then upload to the web host) to comply with the removal demand.
This is when the itch began. I had 8 files in the project: an html file of the 4/26/04 campaign update "MEMO", what I called an "Executive Summary" pdf file, 3 briefing presentation PowerPoint files, and 3 files converting the PowerPoint presentations to pdf for faster and easier viewing. The only file in the bunch that had not been openly available on the web so would qualify as both confidential and a "memorandum" was the 4/26/04 campaign update MEMO, but it wasn't at "http://rangenet.org/projects/grouse/antilisting/sage_grouse_plan.pdf" - the "Executive Summary" was there. I guess you could stretch a point a little and call that document a "memorandum", but it was not in memorandum form and had also been readily available to the public as an unrestricted/unprotected page on their web site (definitely not the signs of confidentiality).
I work pretty slowly due to vision problems (macular degeneration, 20/200 x 20/80 with blind spots from laser treatment) and received a call from my AP contact about then. While we were talking, he downloaded some of the files that I told him were still up on the web and had not been deleted yet. Then I pulled together an email list of other contacts that he might want to interview, took care of some other things, and got back to working on the web site.
I still didn't know which specific file was the problem, and there was some good stuff in the ones that apparently were not problems that it would be nice to keep. I guess I could have called for clarification, but talking with people who have just threatened me with legal action is not on my list of favorite things to do. In the end, I just said to hell with it and took down all of the files, posted the demand email as a retraction at the old campaign update MEMO location, and restored what links still functioned to the Partnership for the West Site.
But I still itch, and all of that happened nearly three days ago. So I'm going to try to scratch that itch now by connecting a few dots (too bad somebody with a similar itch didn't do that before 9/11/01).
It all started with that demand to take down that "memorandum" at a location that was not a memorandum. One might think that Mr. Sims just mistyped the location in the demand, were it not that he was subsequently interviewed by AP (see article links above). The discussion from the interview makes it clear that the offending document was not the 4/26/04 campaign update MEMO, but was indeed the Executive Summary. He also said "It is not appropriate for that to be distributed outside the coalition" during the interview. I tend to interpret that as meaning something closer to a fly speck than to a hornet sting. Why then, did his demand email to me look more like a sledgehammer than a flyswatter?
Since then, I've learned a little more about Jim Sims (see bio1 & bio2 online). Folks, that man knows how to communicate with utmost precision! He was, for crying out loud, "George W. Bush's Director of Communications for the National Energy Policy Development Group, which helped to craft the recommendations behind the President's National Energy Policy." (Are you beginning to see any dots?)
Another dot could be the actual title of the offending 6-page document:
"Sage Grouse Conservation Task Force
I read that to mean that it is a strategy document to achieve the stated objective of preventing the listing of sage grouse under the ESA. (Note: If anybody is wondering what kind of threat ESA listing of a chicken-sized bird under the ESA would be, then stop thinking about cows grazing on public lands in the Great Basin, and start thinking about oil and gas drilling and development on both public and private lands in the Overthrust Belt! THAT is the main threat that this strategy appears to be directed at.)
A third dot is Partnership for the West's membership which reads like a Who's Who of big oil, big energy, and big mining intermixed with a cover crop of other "usual suspects".
Now for some pure speculation to connect those dots, and to connect them with why there was so much concern over the particular document that I posted - if its contents were as innocent and innocuous as indicated in the AP interview.
But first, one last dot. On April 27, 2004 the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in "Sierra Club v. Cheney, et al." where the petitioners are seeking to force the Vice President to divulge the names of the participants of the Bush administration's Energy Task Force. Elements in Congress have also been seeking the same information. So far, the administration has been resisting providing any of this information under "Executive Privilege".
Now the speculation. Does the paper that I had contain, or provide a direct or indirect route to, some of that information that they are litigating to obtain - in a form and/or at a location where it is not protected by "Executive Privilege"? Would it otherwise be useful in "discovery".
This is just speculation, but I now find myself in a situation similar to that of Taco Bell's Chihuahua when he discovered that the "leezard" he was trying to catch was actually Godzilla and said: "I teenk I need a beegger box"!
Permission to reprint is hereby granted
Disclaimer: This Op-Ed is posted on the RangeBiome.org web domain which is the personal property and responsibility of Larry Walker and is not a possession of the RangeNet.org network. While the two domains share a common interface of links across the top of most pages, this is strictly for navigation convenience due to a commonality of issues and a common webmaster.