I thought that it would be useful to collect my own memory of the events while it is still relatively fresh, which I’ll do today. In doing so, I reviewed contemporary blog comments, reconciling the various blog times to a common time zone, and reviewed the timeline with Mosh, Lucia, Anthony and Jeff Id, in order that it would be as accurate as possible.
Mosh has a forthcoming book on Climategate that I haven’t seen and which will amplify the story. In addition, Bishop Hill has an excellent book that I have seen that was finished before Climategate, written in his usual lucid style that should be published this month as well.
The Public Record So Far
Here’s what is publicly known so far about the release of the Climategate dossier.
On Nov 17, according to NASA blogger Gavin Schmidt, the dossier was uploaded to realclimate in the very early morning (Eastern). [This was originally said by Gavin to be 6.20 am Eastern, but subsequently changed to 7.20 am Eastern]. At 7.24 am Eastern (5.24 blog time), a comment by “RC” was placed at Climate Audit saying that “A miracle has happened” with a hyperlink under RC linking back to the zipfile temporarily ensconced at realclimate. The link was so subtle that no Climate Audit readers appear to have downloaded the zipfile. No one mentioned it at the time and the first person to publicly refer to this hyperlink was … Gavin Schmidt.
The zipfile wasn’t up for very long at realclimate as Schmidt appears to have quickly learned of its presence at realclimate and quickly quarantined it. Later that day, a RealClimate author (presumably, the pervasive Schmidt) notified CRU, a unit of the University of East Anglia, of the existence of the dossier.
The next evidence of the dossier is in the evening of November 17 just before 11 p.m. Eastern, when links to a Russian FTP site with a short covering commentary were posted as comments at Warren Meyer’s blog ( (8.47 pm blog time – 10.47 eastern?) and Jeff Id’s blog (10.57 Eastern; 9.57 pm blog time). The comments appear to have been unnoticed at the time. JEff Id was away deer hunting on Nov 17 and didn’t notice the link on his return, with the first two posts on his return (here, here) on totally unrelated topics.
Presumably reacting to Schmidt’s information, the University of East Anglia began to take security precautions, that affected both CRU and puzzled third parties at the university, including a Climate Audit reader who contacted me.
The record that is public to date picks up again on November 19 at Lucia’s blog with Mosh front and center. At 2.55 pm Eastern (1.55 Lucia blog time) , Mosh posted the first comment recognizing the contents of the emails, pointing in turn to the Jeff Id’s where the hyperlink was located. Mosher:
It contains over 1000 mails. IF TRUE … 1 mail from you and the correspondence that follows.
And, you get to see somebody with the name of phil jones say that he would rather destroy the CRU data than release it to McIntyre.
And lots lots more. including how to obstruct or evade FOIA requests. and guess who funded the collection of cores at Yamal.. and transferred money into a personal account in Russia
And you get to see what they really say behind the curtain.. you get to see how they “shape” the news, how they struggled between telling the truth and making policy makers happy.
you get to see what they say about Idso and pat micheals, you get to read how they want to take us out into a dark alley, it’s stunning all very stunning. You get to watch somebody named phil jones say that John daly’s death is good news.. or words to that effect.
I don’t know that its real..
A few minutes later (2.58 pm Eastern; 1.58 pm blog time), Lucia Comment#23723) says: “if true”.
Lucia downloaded the files and at 3:09 Eastern (14:09 blog time), Lucia made the first blog post on the topic entitledReal files or fake? Lucia:
Steve Mosher alerted us to an interesting development: Some one dropped a link to a zipped directory of files that contain what appear to be emails between various bloggers and climate science illuminati Of course this may be some sort of scam. If so, someone spent a lot of time putting together fake email/code etc.
I’m currently clicking and reading. It’s all rather amazing. I’m tempted to load it up and let google crawl it. Or paste into the blog software. That would make it all searchable.
But first, I’d like to know if this stuff is real or just utterly fake junk.
About 20 minutes later (3: 28 pm Eastern, 14:28 blog time), Mosher started posting up individual emails at Lucia’s, posting up one email after another until 3:45 pm.
Little in the climate blogosphere eludes the watch of NASA blogger Gavin Schmidt and the posts at Lucia’s blog definitely didn’t.
At 3.48 pm Eastern, only twenty minutes after Mosher posted the first CRU email, Schmidt sent Lucia a threatening email (“a word to the wise”), warning her that she might get “questioned as part of an investigation”. Perhaps the idea of involving U.K. Counter Terrorism Intelligence Officers had already been contemplated. Gavin used a columbia.edu email as part of the continuing pretence that Gavin was acting as a “private citizen”, but the routing of the email was from a NASA server. Gavin:
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2009 15:48:21 -0500
From: Gavin Schmidt
To: lucia liljegren
Subject: a word to the wise
Lucia, As I am certain you are aware, hacking into private emails is very illegal. If legitimate, your scoop was therefore almost certainly obtained illegally (since how would you get 1000 emails otherwise). I don’t see any link on Jeff-id’s site, and so I’m not sure where mosher got this from, but you and he might end up being questioned as part of any investigation that might end up happening. I don’t think that bloggers are shielded under any press shield laws and so, if I were you, I would not post any content, nor allow anyone else to do so. Just my twopenny’s worth
Lucia wasn’t intimidated by Schmidt (though she thought about Schmidt’s the legal issues. See her subsequent posts.)
Shortly after Schmidt’s email, Mosh’s attention shifted to Climate Audit. At 3.58 pm Eastern (1.58 pm blog), Mosher posted
Found this on the airVent. Posted on Lucia. This is huge….
Starting at 4:05 pm (blog 2:05 pm) and continuing off and on for the next couple of hours, Mosher posted up more emails at Climate Audit.
Update Jan 13: As a reader observes below, CA readers following Mosher over to Lucia’s and thence to Jeff Id’s reached a temporary dead end. Jeff Id, uncertain of the situation, had quarantined the comment. But by then, the page had been cached at Google. Jean S looked at Google, found the link, downloaded the file and topped off readers at Lucia’s that the link was still in the Google cache.
At 4:32 pm eastern (13:32 PST), Anthony, then at Dulles Airport en route home from Europe, broke the story at WUWT.
Like many other readers of the various sites, I followed the pointers to Jeff Id’s site and downloaded the files on the afternoon of Nov 19. While I’d had a sort of preview, I was still unprepared for what I encountered. Because I was intimately familiar with the context of so many of the emails, they were that much more shocking to me. I spent a few hours browsing the contents, hardly knowing where to begin. Needless to say, the CA server was immediately jammed and it became very hard to sign on. My first comment after seeing the emails was at Lucia’s (7.08 Eastern, 6,08 Lucia blog time). A few minutes later (7.14 pm Eastern; 5.14 CA blog time), I managed to sign on to CA where I simply said: “unbelievable”. Then I went out to Thursday squash league.
Meanwhile, Jeff Id temporarily took down the link, restoring it at 10.05 Eastern (9:05 pm blog time), with a covering post here.
The Dog That Didn’t Bark
What’s missing from this picture?
Uh, isn’t the climate blog that gets by far most traffic (WUWT) strangely absent from the events of November 17? Does it make any sense that the source failed to post anything at WUWT?
No, it doesn’t. And that’s a clue that clears up some of the apparent puzzles in the Mosher timeline, one that I’ll fill in from my perspective today.
On the evening of November 17, at around the same time that links were placed at Jeff Id’s and Warren Meyer’s, the same comment with the same link was also sent to WUWT, a moderated site, where it caught the attention of moderator CTM, who notified Anthony right away. Both Anthony and CTM downloaded the dossier. Anthony was in Europe attending a conference and didn’t want to do anything until he was back in the States and pledged CTM not to disseminate the FTP link until he was back in the States. As a precaution, CTM made CD copies of the zipfile, giving one of the copies to Mosher, who began poring over the emails, which at that point were not in a searchable format.
About an hour or so later, very late on November 17 Eastern, they called me. They started telling me about some of the contents- I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t keep notes, but Mosh says that asked me to confirm emails attributed to me – which I did, that we talked about some of the Wahl and Ammann emails – ones that haven’t been dissected yet – and some of the Santer emails. They didn’t give me the FTP link, leaving me in suspense.
The next day, I learned from a CA reader at the university that something very strange was afoot at the university involving CRU.
By November 19, Mosher had been poring over the emails for two days almost non-stop and was chafing to get the information out. By then, Anthony had left Europe. At about 2.40 pm, moderator CTM alertly noticed the link to the Russian FTP site in an unrelated thread at Jeff Id’s and notified Mosh. Ten minutes later, Mosh started stirring the pot at Lucia’s and thus Climategate.
There are a couple of points where people need to get their expectations back on track.
To the best of my knowledge, neither Mosh nor CTM had (or has) the faintest idea of who assembled and released the dossier – other than speculations from their experience with computers. Nor do I. I talked to both Mosh and CTM on the late evening of November 17, when they were in the first throes of reading the emails. There is no doubt in my mind that they knew nothing of the source other than CTM knowing the Russian FTP link.
Nor should the deepthroat speculations be taken too far. Mosh is of a generation that remembers Watergate. The Watergate deepthroat merely confirmed to Woodward and Bernstein that they were on the right track and didn’t actually give them original data. In this case, the University of East Anglia was, in effect, their own deep throat. On November 18, no one knew for sure whether the dossier was genuine. The efforts of the university on November 17-18 to secure their servers attracted attention and these actions reassured Mosher that the files were genuine, much as the original deepthroat reassured Woodward and Bernstein that they were on the right track.
At the start of Climategate, I said that I didn’t have any idea who prepared or released the dossier. Nor do I now. Nor, to my knowledge, do Mosh, CTM, Anthony, Lucia, Jeff Id or Gavin Schmidt.
Postscript: NASA blogger Gavin Schmidt – and frequent CRU correspondent – gave the first Team response at about 12.50 pm Eastern on November 20 here . Blogger Schmidt now conceals the posting time of his posts; however comments start arrive at about 12.55 pm Eastern and arrive quickly, leaving little doubt of the posting time. It’s well worth re-reading. As are the original statements from UEA over the next few days, especially here.
Update Jan 13: Mosh commented that the retrospective timeline doesn’t fully do justice to the uncertainty on late November 17 when no one knew that Gavin had already seen the emails or that links were on other blogs. Quite so. Lucia wryly points out more directly Gavin’s critical role in confirming the probable authenticity of the emails (a role latent in the above timeline). It was Gavin’s notice to CRU of the existence of the dossier that caused CRU to harden their security (and thus provide confirm the probably authenticity of the dossier). Thus, Gavin, in addition, to being his own Mystery Man, would be the deepthroat’s deepthroat. As Lucia says, “The irony!”