I doubt that many inquiries are provided with documents in which the subject of the inquiry not only asks subordinates to delete documents subject to an FOI request, but also states in writing that he expects a subordinate to give an untrue statement to an official. And even rarer that an inquiry would not clarify the subject’s state of mind and knowledge when the expectation was issued.
Jones’ request to delete emails is notorious. His email saying that “Keith should” make an untrue statement to university FOI official Palmer has thus far not been analysed, but is obviously something that the Parliamentary Inquiry should have considered before purporting to blame UEA administration for CRU obstruction of FOI requests.
I’ll start this backstory in early 2008. David Holland was offended by Briffa’s seemingly highhanded dismissal of AR4 Review Comments. Holland observed that IPCC procedures required Review Editors to ensure that authors responded adequately to Review Comments. IPCC’s procedures also stated that their procedures were to be “open and transparent” and that all review comments should be maintained in a public archive for 5 years. However, the WG1 archive notably did not include any comments by Review Editors. Holland began an effort to obtain these review comments, an effort that, despite one refusal after another, continues to this day.
One of the IPCC Review Editors of particular interest was then UK Met Office Chief Scientist John Mitchell, who was the Chapter 6 Review Editor (and thus dealing with Briffa and the proxy reconstructions.) As reported in a CA post on Jan 30, 2008, the Review Editor reports that Holland obtained from IPCC were perfunctory. Holland sent an inquiry to Mitchell (Holland MOD07) on Feb 22, 2008 asking questions about his actions as Review Editor.
On March 14, instead of seeking advice from Met Office officials on his responsibilities, Mitchell sought direction from IPCC WG1 Chair Susan Solomon (copying Briffa and the other chapter 6 Review Editor, Jean Jouzel), stating in his email that Holland had “links with Stephen McIntyre and his Climate Audit website”.
Without cautioning Mitchell to determine his obligations under UK FOI legislation, Solomon advised Mitchell not to provide additional information. Solomon:
“The authors are responsible for the content of their chapters and responding to comments, not REs. [Review Editors]. Further explanations, elaboration or re-interpretation of the comments or the author responses would not be appropriate. All of the comments and all of the authors responses have been made available. All of the comments and all of the authors responses have been made available. These are the proper source for anyone seeking to understand what comments were made and how the authors dealt with them and it would be inappropriate to provide more information beyond the references to the web pages where this can be found.”
Mitchell’s reply to Holland about two weeks later (March 27, 2008) followed Solomon’s instructions almost verbatim:
You should note that the review editors do not determine the final content of the chapters. It is the authors that are responsible for the content of their chapters and responding to comments, not the review editors. All of the comments and all of the authors’ responses have been made available, and are the proper source for anyone wishing to understand what comments were made and how the authors dealt with them. It would be inappropriate to provide more information beyond the web pages already freely provided.
The Climategate Letters subsequently showed that Solomon’s assertion (adopted by Mitchell) that “all of the comments and all of the authors’ responses have been made available” was untrue.
Mitchell’s letter added the surprising comment that he had not kept any “working papers”, incorrectly saying that there were no such IPCC obligations:
I have not kept any working papers. There is no requirement to do so, given the extensive documentation already available from IPCC
Jones had already been briefed on Holland’s inquiry by March 27, when emailed Trenberth, Overpeck, Mann, Santer and Solomon warning them that Holland had been “hassling” Mitchell.
Mitchell’s March 27 letter to Holland (following Solomon’s language) had said that “review editors do not determine the final content of the chapters. It is the authors that are responsible for the content of their chapters and responding to comments, not the review editors.” Following this lead, Holland pursued his inquiries with Keith Briffa on April 1. (Although CRU later took the position that they treated correspondence as confidential, neither CRU nor the Met Office treated Holland’s inquiry as “confidential”; in this case, Briffa immediately forwarded Holland’s letter to Mitchell, Chapter 6 Coordinating Lead Authors Overpeck and Jansen, and, of course, Phil Jones, stating that he would send Holland a “brief response” when he “got round to it”.
Frustrated by Mitchell’s implausible claim that he had “not kept any working papers” on his activities as IPCC Review Editor, Holland submitted a formal FOI request on Apr 4 to the Met Office, asking for release of all documents concerning the IPCC assessment of [Historic Temperature Reconstructions] held by the Met Office, referring specifically to the Hockey Stick controversy.
The Met Office responded to Holland’s FOI request about threee weeks later (May 1, 2008) with a dossier of only 6 emails (two of which were to or from Holland himself). The other four emails in the dossier contained the interesting correspondence of March 2008 between Mitchell, Solomon and Briffa referred to above. The Met Office stated implausibly (and untruthfully) that this was “all the information held by Dr Mitchell, on behalf of the Met Office regarding all of your questions asked.” Their answer was so far from the truth that one of their later FOI excuses was that Mitchell’s IPCC correspondene was so voluminous that searching it would exceed statutory costs limitations.
I had posted in January 2008 ( here here) on Holland’s efforts to that date. As a result, Holland forwarded me the Met Office’s response to his FOI request and the next day (May 2, 2008), I published a post reviewing the situation.
To guard against the possibility that his request may have missed relevant documents by being too narrowly specified, Holland re-submitted a follow-up request on May 5, this time asking for all Mitchell’s correspondence as IPCC Review Editor.
On the same day (May 5, 2008), Holland sent his first FOI request to CRU, in which he took note that his earlier letter to Briffa had gone unacknowledged and that Briffa’s letter in the Met Office dossier said that his response to Holland would be “brief when he got round to it”. He also expressed disagreement with Solomon’s instructions not to disclose any information not already in the public domain. Holland’s FOI request specified “all letters, facsimile and email correspondence to or from Drs Briffa and Osborn in connection with their work as an IPCC Lead Authors”.
On May 8, UEA FOI Officer Palmer met with Briffa to discuss Holland’s request.
Following up the meeting the next day (May 9), Palmer notified Jonathan Colam of Holland’s inquiry and of the potential for an appeal; Briffa emailed Holland acknowledging receipt of his April 1 letter and promising a reply the following week; and Jones (1210341221.txt) notified Mann, Bradley and Ammann that CRU thought that “they’ve found a way around” Holland’s FOI requests, concluding his email by saying “This message will self-destruct in 10 seconds”.
Presumably prompted by his meeting with Palmer, Briffa responded on May 15 to Holland’s questions – questions which had focused on IPCC’s failure to accurately represent the actual state of controversy about temperature reconstructions. The issue remains pertinent today. Julia Slingo’s testimony to the UK Parliamentary Committee, in which she reported that the disputes had been “fully addressed” and “largely resolved”, is an inaccurate impression that derived from the Briffa AR4 section that concerned Holland.
Meanwhile, I happened to be re-visiting Wahl and Ammann 2007 – the Supplementary Information was still unavailable and had been recently refused by Ammann. On April 3, I had asked Stephen Schneider, editor of Climatic Change, how an article that was supposedly “accepted” on Feb 28, 2006 included citations to (and relied on results from) an article that was not submitted until August 22, 2006. Schneider replied on May 20. Needless to say, there wasn’t (and could not be) a valid explanation. O posted Schneider’s evasive reply on May 23 here .
The juxtaposed fresh looks at AR4 Review Comments and Ammann and Wahl 2007 caused me to notice striking parallels in language between in Briffa’s Author Responses and Ammann and Wahl 2007 ( not Wahl and Ammann 2007). For example, the Second Draft Author Responses contained the following comment:
Finally, it does not take into account that some of the verifications seen as “skillful” are associated with very poor/exceedingly poor calibrations, which would be rejected on first principles in real world reconstruction applications. ..
which was an odd way to say things, but paralleled almost exactly in Ammann and Wahl 2007:
Furthermore, the MM05c proxy-based threshold analysis only evaluates the verification-period RE scores, ignoring the associated calibration-period performance. However, any successful real-world verification should always be based on the presumption that the associated calibration has been meaningful as well …
Bishop Hill wrote this up engagingly in Caspar and the Jesus Paper. I hadn’t noticed the parallels when the Review Comments became available (in June 2007) for the simple reason that Ammann and Wahl 2007 wasn’t published until September 2007.
The interesting thing about the parallels is that the peculiar “findings” of Ammann and Wahl 2007 did not exist in any other literature and, as noted above, Ammann and Wahl 2007 wasn’t even submitted until August 22, 2006 – after the Second Draft Author Responses had been finalized. Neither Ammann nor Wahl had submitted any on-the-record Review Comments for chapter 6- Wahl hadn’t even been nominated as an IPCC Expert Reviewer.
So how did language from a still unsubmitted paper get applied in Review Comments purporting to dismiss Mc-Mc results? On May 24 here, I surmised that, contrary to Mitchell (and Solomon’s) representation that all the review comments were on the record, that Ammann must have been making surreptious off-the-record review comments to Briffa (since Wahl wasn’t an IPCC reviewer, the idea of Wahl making surreptious off-the-record review comments was overlooked). I wrote:
Terminology from a then unsubmitted paper turns up in the Chapter Author replies to Review Comments. Compare the terminology in the answer to Review Comment 6-735 (which would have been final around Aug 4, 2006) to the language in Ammann and Wahl, which, as we recently learned, was submitted on August 22, 2006. Some language points track exactly and do not occur elsewhere in the literature. So there is no doubt that Ammann made written comments to the Chapter Authors of Chapter 6, but these are not on the record despite IPCC policy.
Climategate Letters later showed that it was Eugene Wahl that had been in intimate contact with Briffa in the preparation of the Review Comments – not Ammann. Otherwise, my surmise was 100% correct. Climategate Letters in 2006 show voluminous correspondence between Wahl and Briffa about the Final Draft – entirely in violation of IPCC procedures. The emails show great concern on the part of both Wahl and Briffa that this contact be kept secret and that any language “stolen” [their words] from then unsubmitted Ammann and Wahl not be traceable. In one email, Briffa asked Wahl to assure him that his use of Ammann and Wahl language would “not later be obvious”:
please assure me that this OK (and will not later be obvious) hopefully.
I wouldn’t say that the connection would necessarily be “obvious” to most readers, but, as of May 24, 2008, it was clear to me that some sort of surreptitious connection had been made to Briffa (though, as noted above, I presumed that it was Ammann, rather than Wahl.)
Holland appears to have read my post, as a few days later (May 27), he amended his FOI request, particularizing three items, one of which (Item 3) was specifically mentioned Ammann,
“any emails or other documents from IPCC contributing author Caspar Ammann or the Journal Climatic Change that discuss any matters in relation to the IPCC assessment process.”
While emails from Wahl would fall outside this item, they would, of course, be included in the more general correspondence request of May 5, 2008. Holland’s FOI request (Item 2) also included a list of articles submitted in response to the July 3, 2006 request for “additional papers that are either in-press or published in 2006”. Holland received this information only a few days ago – this time in response to a request for an attachment to a Climategate Letter.
Holland’s May 27 request initiated a flurry of activity at CRU.
At 6:30 pm, FOI officer Palmer wrote to the CRU Three, stating in no uncertain terms that he wanted to do as much as possible ‘by the book’ in this instance” (888. 1212009215.txt):
I just wish to ensure that we do as much as possible ‘by the book’ in this instance as I am certain that this will end up in an appeal, with the statutory potential to end up with the ICO.
Osborn was the first to respond (late in the evening of May 27), saying in respect to the Ammann correspondence:
we’ll send the same enquiry to Ammann as we sent to our other colleagues, and let you know his response
The “same enquiries” to their “other colleagues” are not presently on the record. Around midnight, Osborn sent an email to Ammann (cc Jones, Briffa) asking him whether he considered any emails as “confidential”:
In particular, we would like to know whether you consider any emails that you sent to us as confidential.
About a half hour later, Ammann (who is in Colorado) replied (cc Jones, Briffa) that he would answer the question of confidentiality “in a couple days” as he didn’t “recall” any specifics off the “top of his head”.
Oh MAN! will this crap ever end??
Well, I will have to properly answer in a couple days when I get a chance digging through emails. I don’t recall from the top of my head any specifics about IPCC.
At 5:13 pm the next day (may 28), Jones sent a remarkable email (888. 1212009215.txt) to FOI officer [David] Palmer (copying Briffa, Osborn, McGarvie) stating that “Keith should say that he didn’t get anything extra that wasn’t in the IPCC comments”:
… Keith (or you Dave) could say that for (1) Keith didn’t get any additional comments in the drafts other than those supplied by IPCC. On (2) Keith should say that he didn’t get any papers through the IPCC process.either. I was doing a different chapter from Keith and I didn’t get any. What we did get were papers sent to us directly – so not through IPCC, asking us to refer to them in the IPCC chapters. If only Holland knew how the process really worked!! Every faculty member in ENV and all the post docs and most PhDs do, but seemingly not Holland.
So the answers to both (1) and (2) should be directed to IPCC, but Keith should say that he didn’t get anything extra that wasn’t in the IPCC comments.
What Jones expected Briffa to say was untrue (I’ll examine the 2006 exchanges between Briffa and Wahl in a separate post.)
The following day (May 29), Jones sent his now notorious email (891. 1212063122.txt) to Mann, asking him to “delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4”, assaying that they will be getting Caspar [Ammann] to do likewise and asking him to get Gene [Wahl] to do the same:
Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.
Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.
We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
Mann replied immediately that he would contact Wahl about this ASAP:
I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
talk to you later,
Recently, Mann has reported his disapproval of the conduct requested by Jones and denied that he took any steps to further Jones’ requests.
The Climategate letters, while voluminous, still only afford vignettes of CRU conduct. Thus we don’t know exactly how events played out after the “Keith should say” email. Was FOI officer Palmer left in the dark about the extensive off-the-record correspondence between Wahl and Briffa, that Jones said did not exist? Did Briffa “lie in the weeds” allowing Palmer to run with Jones’ false characterization or did Briffa immediately notify Palmer (as he obviously should have) that Jones’ characterization of events was untrue? If Briffa did not inform Palmer that the “Keith should say” version was incorrect, Palmer (who has been unfailingly polite to FOI requesters) and other UEA officials must surely be bristling at being allocated a seemingly disproportionate amount of blame in the Parliamentary Committee report.
And what exactly did Jones know about Briffa’s exchanges with Wahl? Given the extremely close contact between Jones and Briffa, it would be very odd, to say the least, if Briffa’s exchanges with Wahl had been so secret that not even Jones was aware of them. Either way, there’s a problem. If Briffa kept his surreptitious exchanges with Wahl secret even from Jones, this is very convincing evidence of Briffa’s awareness that his exchanges with Wahl were in violation of IPCC procedures.
Alternatively, if Jones knew of the surreptitious contact, then his “Keith should say” email to Palmer is arguably even more damning than his “delete all emails” to Mann – perhaps even keeping his reputation “intact” though not in the sense intended by the Parliamentary Committee.