The Bush administration faces "the congressional equivalent of World War III" if it retaliates against a top NASA scientist who said the Office of Management and Budget doctored his testimony on global warming, a Senate panel chairman says.

Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, meanwhile, called the practice of alterations routine and said changes were made by a budget official "four or five levels down from the top."James Hansen on Monday told senators that OMB forced him to contradict within his own prepared statement his finding that a buildup of "greenhouse effect" gases would increase the likelihood of drought.

Sen. Albert Gore Jr. praised Hansen for speaking out at the Senate hearing and warned that if administration officials "attempt any kind of retribution in return for candor, they will have on their hands the congressional equivalent of World War III."

Gore said this morning on NBC's "Today" program that he questioned President Bush's commitment to the environment, saying pro-environmentalists in his administration were outnumbered by others who were pushing a "do-nothing policy" on global warming.

"We should be leading instead of just dragging our feet, and that's the fault of the president of the United States," Gore said.

He said the change in Hansen's testimony "was an exercise in science fraud in the sense that they tried to mislead the Congress into believing that the scientific evidence was not yet good enough to justify conclusions about the need for action on the greenhouse effect."