The big news today is the explosion of the Barton story into the major newspapers. The weekend brought several interesting developments

Most salaciously, and the reason the big papers perked up their ears: Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chair of the House Science Committee, sent a letter to Barton. It was not friendly. It begins this way …

I am writing to express my strenuous objections to what I see as the misguided and illegitimate investigation you have launched concerning Dr. Michael Mann, his co-authors and sponsors.

… and continues in the same vein, ripping Barton a new one for trampling around outside his jurisdiction and attempting "to intimidate scientists rather than to learn from them, and to substitute Congressional political review for scientific peer review."

"This," he adds in case the point was not clear, "would be pernicious."

It isn’t pretty, but it is highly recommended reading. The squabbling among Republicans (over global warming! wtf?) was the main focus of coverage in the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today.

But there are other letters. Boehlert’s joins a similar letter (PDF) sent to Barton by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who said this:

Although you have failed to hold a single hearing on the subject of global warming in the eleven years that you have been chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce and its Energy and Oversight Subcommittees — and have vociferously opposed all legislative efforts in the Committee to address global warming — your June 23 letters justify your extraordinary demands of these scientists on the grounds that "the Committee must have full and accurate information when considering matters relating to climate change policy."

These letters to not appear to be a serious attempt to understand the science of global warming. Some might interpret them as a transparent effort to bully and harass climate change experts who have reached conclusions with which you disagree.

And then there’s the letter (PDF) to Barton from a group of 20 climate scientists:

In your letters of June 23, 2005, to these scientists, you state, "We open this review because this dispute surrounding your studies bears directly on important questions about the federally funded work upon which climate studies rely." In fact, the specific findings of Mann et al. constitute only one item among literally thousands of pieces of evidence that have contributed to the present consensus on the serious nature of climate change.

And don’t forget the letter (PDF) from Ralph Cicerone, the new head of the National Academy of Sciences:

A Congressional investigation, based on the authority of the House Commerce Committee, is probably not the best way to resolve a scientific issue, and a focus on individual scientists can be intimidating.

You think?

So yeah, Barton’s been called out about this far, far more than I’ll bet he expected. I’m not sure why this particular thuggish tactic — as opposed to all the others — caused such a fuss. Perhaps a tipping point has been reached.

To read all the aforementioned letters and others, along with the letters Barton originally sent and the responses from the scientists in question, visit RealClimate. And of course there’s continuing coverage from the guy who kicked it all off, Chris Mooney, here and here.