Barrasso wants hearings on CIA's climate change work

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) on Tuesday called for hearings on the use of intelligence satellites for gathering images of changing climate conditions, alleging that Central Intelligence Agency work with scientists on climate change is sapping the agency’s focus on preventing terrorism.

A New York Times story Tuesday details CIA collaboration with climate scientists.

Barrasso renewed his attacks on the agency’s recent establishment of a Center on Climate Change and National Security, calling the agency’s work on the issue inappropriate in light of the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing.

“In times of peace and prosperity, this center would completely defy common sense.  But today, only two weeks after a terrorist attempted to blow up a plane over our country, this center is absolutely ridiculous,” Barrasso said in a prepared statement. “The CIA’s resources should be focused on monitoring terrorists in caves – not polar bears on icebergs.”

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Barrasso opposes use of CIA satellites, personnel and other resources for climate change efforts.

In October, the Senate rejected Barrasso’s attempt to block the CIA’s climate work, voting 38-60 against his amendment to a defense spending bill that would have prevented funding for the agency’s program to assess the national security implications of climate change.

But opponents of Barrasso’s amendment – including Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) – said in October that the CIA’s initiative was appropriate and would not divert resources from anti-terrorism work.

The CIA, in announcing the Center on Climate Change and National Security in September, said the unit would provide a “focal point” for then agency’s climate change work. It is responsible for coordinating with the intelligence community to review and declassify imagery and other data useful to scientists.

“This effort draws on imagery and other information that is collected in any event, assisting the US scientific community without a large commitment of resources,” the agency announcement stated.

But Barrasso on Tuesday called for hearings in the Intelligence Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee, and for briefings from administration officials. “We must ensure that our intelligence officials are focused on their most important task – protecting our country from immediate terror threats,” he said.

Cross-posted to the E2 Wire

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