Heartland's email screen captures raise more questions, provide no answers

On February 24, 10 days after multiple internal documents from a Heartland Institute Board meeting were published on the web, The Heartland Institute posted redacted screen captures of some of the emails that had been sent to Peter Gleick’s spoofed email address. These emails show that there are some discrepancies between the files Heartland transmitted and those that were later published. The emails also show how easy it was for Gleick to impersonate a member of Heartland’s Board.

The screen captures show the files that were sent to Gleick:

On February 3, the following two files were attached to an email: “2 Agenda for January 17 Meeting.pdf” and “Board Meeting Package January 17.pdf”

On February 6 at 8:57 AM, the following two files were attached to another email: “(1-15-2012) 2012 Heartland Budget.pdf” and “(1-15-2012) 2012 Fundraising Plan.pdf”

Two minutes later, the following four files were attached to a third email: “Binder1.pdf”, “Board Meeting Package January 17.pdf”, “CHARLES LANG-Resume2011.pdf”, and “Minutes of January 17 meeting.doc”

And finally, on February 10, one more file was attached to the last email Heartland released: “Board Directory 1-18-12.pdf”

Comparing these screen captures to the files published at DeSmogBlog, Greg Laden’s blog, and ThinkProgress, the file names appear to be identical except for the occasional appended “(2)” that is added when multiple copies of a single file are accidentally saved in a common folder. However, three files are unaccounted for.

First, we see that nowhere in these emails was the 2010 IRS form 990. This form is public information, available in nonprofit reports like those available from GuideStar.

Second, the allegedly fabricated strategy memo is not included in these emails. Gleick claims that he received that memo first, before assuming a board member’s identity to acquire the other files, and Heartland agrees that the memo was not sent to Gleick in these emails. So the fact it’s not included is entirely expected.

Third, the 8:59 AM email screen capture shows that Gleick received a copy of the 2011 resume of Board member Charles Lang (“CHARLES LANG-Resume2011.pdf”). Gleick did not send this file along with the others and it was not published by any of the sites mirroring the documents.

S&R asked Gleick’s lawyer if Gleick would explain where he got the IRS form 990 from 2010 that he distributed and why he chose not to distribute the resume, but we have not received a response.

Also notice that Heartland’s screen captures are not complete. Note the scroll bars on the right sides of the January 28, January 30, February 2, February 3, and February 6 emails indicate that there is quite a bit more to the email thread than what is shown. The Jan 28 and 30 emails are clearly related, as are the Feb 2 and Jan 28 emails, so the scroll bars may simply be showing the top of emails that are already shown. However, there is no way to demonstrate this connectivity on the Feb 3 or Feb 6 emails from what is shown. As such, the screen captures could easily be presenting a highly selective, perhaps even deceptive, picture of the exchanges between Heartland and Gleick. Without additional information there is no way to know for certain.

Beyond the discrepancies and incomplete picture painted by the screen captures, however, the emails do show that it was apparently easy for Gleick to get confidential information.

The Jan 27 email has the presumed board member simply asking a Heartland staff member to “please add (or have the appropriate staff member add) this personal email address to the Board mailing list for all future Board communications? Do not delete my [redacted] address — just add this one as a duplicate.”

The Jan 28 email indicates that the Heartland staff member has contacted someone else and that someone added two emails to the Board directory, one of which is the supposed personal address of the presumed Board member.

That’s all it took. Assuming we take Heartland’s emails at face value, there were no requests sent from the Heartland staff member to verify the presumed Board member’s identity. Why not? Did Heartland contact the presumed Board member using his previous official email to verify, and what was the result? The email screen captures don’t say. It shows a marked lack of IT security and/or significant naivety that staff at The Heartland Institute were so easily duped. According to the official press release regarding these emails, “[m]inor redactions have been made to the emails to protect the individual privacy of those involved,” but those minor redactions also hide the identities of the staff members who were so easily duped.

The email screen captures raise a number of questions – why didn’t Gleick distribute the resume he received along with all the other documents, what’s hidden by the scroll bars in some of the emails, how was The Heartland Institute so easily duped – but fails to answer any of them. Unfortunately for The Heartland Institute, these questions can only lead to others that they’d rather weren’t asked, like “what is Heartland hiding,” “who is Heartland protecting,” and “are we being told the whole story.”

We have an answer to that last question, and it’s a simple “no, we aren’t.”

18 replies »

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this also seems to show that Peter Gleick did not ask for any documents. He simply notes that he does not have them. If this is in fact the case, the situation changes entirely, placing his email within the range of what at least some well established journalists are telling me (privately) is considered acceptable behavior.

  2. @Greg Laden

    Gleick did ask for them specifically. Check his Feb. 2 email. He writes:

    “Also, can you send me the most recent Board minutes and agenda materials, if they are available?”


    @Brian Angliss

    Glieck needed the IRS form to know the name of the Board Members so he could impersonate one.

    You ask: “It shows a marked lack of IT security and/or significant naivety that staff at The Heartland Institute were so easily duped.”

    This is likely due to the incredibly small amount of funding Heartland gets. They simply can’t afford good IT security.

    • John, the names of the board members are public information and posted at Heartland’s website here. And even if that wasn’t the case, your explanation still doesn’t explain why Gleick sent the IRS form out with the rest of the documents or where exactly he got his copy. It’s interesting that it’s stamped “Client copy” in the .pdf, but for all I know the GuideStar version has that too

      As for IT security, perhaps I should have said “information security” as opposed to IT, as IT is usually considered hacking-prevention, and we all agree that Heartland wasn’t hacked. What happened was good old psychology, and a security-conscious administrative assistant would have been aware enough to realize something was off. That’s not expensive training, and it requires no infrastructure at all.

      It’s something that an admin at my employer would be fired over.

  3. It isn’t difficult at all to trace the locality of where an email came from, and it doesn’t take anyone with formal IT knowledge to do so, either. Google it.

  4. When Gleick put together his package of documents and sent them to bloggers, he would expect the bloggers would try to verify the documents were real.

    Since none of the bloggers had no way to verify the real Heartland documents, or the scanned memo, they would not be able to do so.

    So one possible motive for including the form 990 with the package, is the recipients would then verify it against a real 990 (which is a public document), and thus then assume the rest of the package is real. This might also explain why he specifically drew attention to the 990 in his email to the bloggers.

    So even aside from the question of whether he faked the memo, Gleick deceived the bloggers in three ways:

    1. Identifying himself as a Heartland Insider.

    2. Not mentioning the memo had been obtained separately

    3. Not mentioning the 990 had been obtained separately

    The third one is quite important, is it could motivated by willful deceit over and above concealing that he was the source.

    • Byronic, your hypothetical assumes that he would want to deceive people who would ostensibly be his allies, which doesn’t make sense to me. And from what I’ve been reading over the last few weeks, bloggers and journalists verified enough of the specific details within the documents to be convinced of their accuracy, if not their authenticity.

  5. Was the 2010 990 already available on Guidestar, when the copy was sent (emailed?) to Gleick? (I”m curious, but not curious enough to devote time to trying to find out.)

    If it was, then what was the point of sending a paper copy? If it wasn’t, then I’d like to see the copy he received.

    • Anna, my understanding is that all the documents were sent by Gleick to bloggers and journalists were in electronic form. He claimed that he received the allegedly fabricated memo via snail mail.

      If you’ve read something different, I’d like to know where so I can compare my information to your source and make sure that my understanding is correct.

  6. The 2010 990 was reviewed by sourcewatch on 1/18/2012, so it was definitely available. Go to the Heartland page there, and view the history if you want to verify this for yourself.

  7. @Byronic, your hypothetical assumes that he would want to deceive people who would ostensibly be his allies

    It is not hypothetical – there is no dispute, about items 1 & 2. Unless you believe the screenshots are faked, then item 3 is also true. He did, for whatever motive, deceive people who were his allies, in 2 ways for sure, and possibly 3. The question remains why.

    • Byronic, that’s not the hypothetical I’m talking about. I’m talking about your hypothetical motive for Gleick’s inclusion of the form 990.

  8. Here’s the email that Gleick used as a cover letter for the HL documents he sent out:

    From: Heartland Insider
    Date: Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 12:13 PM
    Subject: Files from Heartland Institute

    Dear Friends (15 of you):

    In the interest of transparency, I think you should see these files from the Heartland Institute. Look especially at the 2012 fundraising and budget documents, the information about donors, and compare to the 2010 990 tax form. But other things might also interest or intrigue you. This is all I have. And this email account will be removed after I send.

    From http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2012/02/header-from-leakers-email.html

    Note the apparent non-sequitur regarding the old Heartland tax form — which would seem to support the idea that this was intended to add credibility to Gleick’s package,

    I’m surprised you didn’t quote this one along with the emails Heartland released.

    • I hadn’t seen it. Thanks for providing it. I’m not sure I would have quoted from it even if I had read it, however, because I don’t immediately see how it has an impact on my points about the emails.

  9. Brian, I haven’t been following this closely so I’ve likely got details wrong. Byronic’s question about the 990 did pique my interest, since I’d gotten a copy directly from Heartland last year. As for my question about whether the 2010 990 was already available on Guidestar at the time Gleick says he received it, I did go check, and the answer is most likely yes, since the Heartland Form 990 was signed last July and Guidestar’s FAQ says they typically put up a 990 about 2 months after the IRS gets it.

  10. Dr Gleick wrote the first comment on this article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2012/01/12/please-global-warming-alarmists-stop-denying-climate-change-and-science/

    As there are are a lot of comments, him being first to comment suggests his comment was posted fairly soon after the article was first published. The article was published on 12/1/2012, and Dr Gleick’s comment suggests he had read Heartland’s 990 at that point:

    I wonder, however, if Taylor would publish the list of who really DOES fund the Heartland Institute. It seems to be a secret — no information is listed on their website about actual contributors of that $7 million budget that they use to deny the reality of climate change (and previously, the health effects of tobacco — their other focus). And their 990 tax form doesn’t say either. [By the way, while my Forbes posts reflect my personal opinion and not the opinion of the Pacific Institute, all of the Pacific Institute’s financial records are public.]

  11. By the way, another possible source of the 990, is Heartland’s website. It is posted there, and has been for some considerable time. I downloaded the 990 from desmogblog, and the 990 from Heartland’s website, and as far I can tell, they were identical.

  12. Greg Laden, March 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm :

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but this also seems to show that Peter Gleick did not ask for any documents. He simply notes that he does not have them. If this is in fact the case, the situation changes entirely, placing his email within the range of what at least some well established journalists are telling me (privately) is considered acceptable behavior.”
    I think you have seen some corrections lately Greg.