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DON'T ALTER FACTS TO FIT POLITICS

Congress is justifiably outraged over the discovery that the White House Office of Management and Budget altered a critical report on the so-called greenhouse effect to make the evidence supporting global warming appear less solid than it is.

Members of the Senate subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space are angry over the discovery that a report by Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was toned down over Hansen's objections.After Hansen told the subcommittee that the White House altered his report, the subcommittee has learned of attempts by the White House under Ronald Reagan's administration to force other scientists to alter their reports.

Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn., the chairman of the subcommittee, has harshly condemned the alterations, calling the OMB a "science Politburo." The Soviet Union used to order its scientists to change their testimony to conform with policy, he said.

While Gore's harsh language may be politically motivated, the outrage of his committee is justified. Altering scientific reports to support a particular president's policy on an issue is unconscionable.

The practice of hiding truth, no matter how justified it may have seemed at the time, is ultimately more devastating than the truth itself would have been.

Hansen's report was edited to suggest that humans were not necessarily responsible for the warming and that the evidence supporting the warming may be wrong.

Gore has gone on national television to threaten the White House with "the congressional equivalent of World War III" if it attempts to retaliate against the scientist who told of the alteration.

While members of Congress routinely try to distort or alter unpleasant facts - the "creative accounting" in the federal budget deficit comes to mind - they clearly feel differently about facts in a science report. And well they should.