As readers know, both myself and various Climate Audit readers have requested CRU station data from both the Met Office and CRU. While my initial request to CRU was refused, I asked for a reconsideration and the matter is still outstanding, as are all the other CRU requests. Under U.K. Freedom of Information Act, once FOI requests have been made for information, public authorities are not permitted to “alter, deface, block, erase, destroy or conceal any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled.” As fordprefect observed the other day, the Computer Misuse Act also prescribes various offences, one of which is the unauthorized modification of the contents of a computer with the intent “to prevent or hinder access to any program or data held in any computer”.
I was therefore more than a little surprised that on July 27, at about 2:42 p.m. (UK), CRU deleted three files from their data directory ftp://ftp.cru.uea.ac.uk/data/ entitled newcrustnsall.dat.Z, newcruextusall.dat.Z and newcrustnsall.hdr. I have before and after screenshots of the contents of this directory showing the deletion, screenshots that I will show below. I also have a screenshot showing the most recent change of the directory and that no other files were changed. [As readers observed, it is possible and perhaps even likely that the files were moved to a concealed location, rather than totally erased, which would present similar sorts of issues for FOI compliance.]
As noted by CA reader Jean S, on July 28 at about 2:01 p.m. (UK), one or more files was deleted from the directory ftp://ftp.cru.uea.ac.uk/people/philjones/. In this case, we do not have a before screenshot, only evidence of the deletion of one or more files from the directory. [Again, it is possible that the file was moved to a concealed location, rather than totally erased.]
First, here is a screenshot of ftp://ftp.cru.uea.ac.uk/data/ taken on Saturday, July 25. You;ll notice the three files named above, two of which are dated 2/24/2003.
Fourth, here is another printscreen of the contents of ftp://ftp.cru.uea.ac.uk/data in time order, showing that nothing was added on July 27 2:42 pm. The July 27, 2009 change was the deletion of the three files named above from the public directory.
Here is a screenshot of the Phil Jones’ directory showing that nothing was added to it on July 28, leaving only one conclusion: that something was deleted from the public directory. In this case, I do not have a before- screenshot.
One obvious course of action right now will be to make a FOI request to CRU, seeking information about the contents of the various files that were deleted from public directories and whether they were in any way relevant to any of the outstanding inquiries, and, if they were, whether the deletion of these files from the public directories required authorization by the university’s FOI officer and whether such authorization was obtained.