More obstruction from the Met Office, in which they have changed their obstruction strategy. Previously they said that Mitchell had destroyed all of this email correspondence. This prompted David Holland to ask for information on the date of the destruction and on records management policy at the Met Office.
Rather than answer the unanswerable, the Met Office has changed tactics. Now they say that they had made a mistake in reporting that they had held any of Mitchell’s email. Instead they now argue that Mitchell was acting “personally” when he acted as an IPCC Review Editor – sort of like gardening, or being a Methodist on Sunday or playing squash after work, I guess. I wonder if Mitchell booked vacation time for his jaunts to IPCC meetings or whether the Met Office paid his expenses. Would they also buy plants for his garden?
Again, here was the original Met Office reply to Holland’s FOI inquiry:
You asked for all correspondence to or from Dr Mitchell in his capacity as IPCC Review Editor.
Information held by Dr Mitchell in respect of IPCC Review Editor has already been sent to you and he confirms that much of the business was done at the review meetings and as such there was no requirement for him to keep any material from the meetings. Any records and correspondence had already been deleted and the information is not held by the Met Office.
I hope this answers your enquiry. Your further enquiry is now receiving attention and I will respond to you as soon as possible.
To which, Holland replied:
Thank you for your letter of 2 June 2008. I am not satisfied with Dr Mitchell’s response to my FOIA Request, and I am formally advising you of it, and of my intention to follow the appeals process on this matter if we can not reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
Please advise me of the approximate date when Dr Mitchell claims to have deleted his emails and destroyed all his paper records. I would remind you that it was less than a year after the release of the IPCC WGI report when I first contacted Dr Mitchell and I find it surprising that as a busy senior professional, potentially with an ongoing professional relationship with the IPCC and its many participants, he would so soon seek to destroy his working papers. I am also puzzled as to why, as was disclosed in the email documents you sent me, Dr Mitchell felt it necessary to discuss by email how to deal with my request with several other long serving IPCC participants, if at the time he did not have any information to disclose in any case.
The last thing I want to do is to question the integrity of your Chief Scientist and would ask that you use whatever technical resources you have to establish that Dr Mitchell is not simply mistaken in his assertion that he has deleted all his relevant computer records and correspondence. I have in mind that an organisation of your standing and importance will have in place procedures and systems designed to guard against accidental and malicious deletion of computer files that are important to you. I would expect that as part of your due diligence procedures you would archive all deleted emails. Please check with your IT experts if, as I would expect, you have recoverable backups.
Rather than answer when Mitchell deleted the emails, the Met Office replied on June 23 as follows:
Thank you for your emailed letter dated 4 June 2008.
I am very sorry that you are unhappy with Dr Mitchell’s response to your recent enquiry.
I have looked into this matter for you and can confirm the following:
I incorrectly stated that the Met Office held the information you seek and I apologise for this.
Dr Mitchell acted as Reviewer of Chapter V1 of the Working Group 1 report in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the Met Office which means that none of the information actually falls within the scope of the Act. Most of the work in the process of the review was conducted at the final two lead author meetings and followed up by unrecorded telephone conversations and personal emails.
The information I sent to you was from Dr Mitchell’s personal records which I was unaware of at the time. There is no requirement under the legislation to search back up data and as stated above, this information is personal to Dr Mitchell.
I have heard from other members of the IPCC Working Group who confirmed they corresponded with Dr Mitchell in a strictly private and confidential capacity, and had the request been in scope, exemption S41 would have been considered.
I am sorry for any inconvenience to you. The information you received from Dr Palutikof in respect of Working Group II was held by the Met Office and is covered by the FOI Act.
I hope this answers your enquiry.
So the main IPCC strategy seems to be that their scientists were acting “personally”, implemented here by the Met Office. We’ll see where this tangled web leads.