Former CIA agent Kent Clizbe sent letters to 27 Penn State faculty members last week, hoping to find a whistleblower in the "Climategate" controversy involving Penn State meteorology professor Michael Mann.
"As an intelligence collector targeting foreign or enemy government, we recruit an insider," said Clizbe, who sent the e-mails last week. "I'm attempting to recruit an insider to tell us what's really going on."
Mann was thrust into the spotlight when hundreds of e-mails, including ones that he had written and received, were leaked from a private server in the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England on Nov. 21.
Global warming skeptics said some of the e-mails suggest that data supporting climate change had been overblown. Mann and other scientists whose e-mails were released have been under pressure to prove the legitimacy of their research, and Penn State officials are conducting an inquiry into Mann's studies. Mann said he had no comment on Clizbe's actions, saying "I don't want to dignify it with a response."
Penn State Professor Richard Alley, who assisted the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and shared the 2007 Nobel Prize with Al Gore, doesn't feel Clizbe's e-mails will have an effect on Penn State's scientific community -- such ethical standards are already in place, he said. Alley did not comment on whether he received an e-mail from Clizbe.
"I strongly endorse high ethical standards and am very favorably impressed by the high ethical standards I see in action across our scientific community, specifically including colleagues at Penn State," he said.
In his letters, Clizbe predicts the whistleblowers will be provided with monetary compensation.
If Mann was found to have acted unethically, he would have to pay a penalty to the government comparable to the amount of money he was given to research climate change, Clizbe said. By following the procedures laid out in the federal False Claims Act, the whistleblowers could potentially be entitled to part of the money recovered from the case. "Estimates of the total sums invested in government climate research already exceed $50 billion," said John O'Sullivan, a guest writer for climategate.com who communicates regularly with Clizbe. "The offer put on the table to Mann's colleagues could be the most lucrative whistleblower deal ever made."
Clizbe feels that there is definitely something to be uncovered about Mann and pointed to his background in intelligence gathering to ease any concerns of potential whistleblowers, who he said may jeopardize their careers by reporting their colleague's wrongdoings. In his letters, Clizbe assured the recipients of the confidentiality of their correspondence.
In addition, he has recruited the help of a lawyer who has extensive experience in False Claims Act cases to assist whistleblowers.
"Our experience is that employees become much more interested in keeping their anonymity," O'Sullivan said. "Everyone who comes forward has our absolute assurance that we will we never reveal their identities."
As the countries across the world prepare to pass monumental legislation involving climate change, skeptics say the real story behind Mann and his colleagues' e-mails has yet to be determined.