The Botched Examination of the Back-Up Server

The more one reads the documents of the Muir Russell, the more it is a litany of incompetence, already evidenced by the failure of Muir Russell and other panelists to even attend the Jones and Briffa interview. The botched “efforts” to examine the balance of the emails in the back-up server is another sorry episode.

The original terms of reference of the inquiry were as follows:

1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.

The Report noted that the dossier were only a fraction of the total emails (which they were obliged to consider.) The Muir Russell panel did not carry out the slightest examination of the other emails. They described the effort as “largely unsuccessful” – it was in fact totally unsuccessful. They blamed the failure on the scale of the task and the police investigation – but most of the blame lies with :total ineptitude and inertia of the Muir Russell Team. The Report:

10. The presumption is that e-mails were selected to support a particular viewpoint. Recognising that they were a tiny fraction of those archived, the Review Team sought to learn more about the full contents of the back-up server. This attempt, summarised in Appendix 6, was largely unsuccessful due to the sheer scale of the task and ongoing police investigation.

Appendix 6 of the Report contains a partial description of this sorry episode, which I’ll place in context later against minutes and documents at the website. Muir Russell stated:

1. Recognising that the e-mails improperly released into the public domain represent only a tiny fraction (less than 0.3%) of the e-mails archived by the key individuals in the CRU, the Review team sought to set these in context. The backup server (CRUBACK3) had been taken as evidence by the police as part of their own investigation and was held by police contracted forensic investigators. A full context could only be established by some form of access to the information held on this server.

In seeking to gain this access a number of legal issues arose, notably that:
• the server and its contents were evidence in the continuing police investigation; and
• in the opinion of UEA‘s legal advisers, unconstrained access to the contents of e-mails on the server by the Review would raise potential privacy and data protection issues.

A couple of troubling issues arise here. The Muir Russell panel was supposed to be independent and to have access to the emails. Why are they taking advice from “UEA’s legal advisers”. And by the way, the emails are the property of the university – what “potential privacy and data protection issues” arise from the Muir Russell panel examining the emails, as they were charged in the remit – a remit presented to the Parliamentary Committee.

Appendix 6 continues:

2. The compromise eventually reached with both the police investigative team and the UEA Registrar was for:
• the University to contract an independent computer forensic analyst;
• the police forensic consultants to extract from CRUBACK3 all the e-mails from the various archived mailboxes of key UEA staff and to provide these under strict security conditions to the independent forensic analyst;
• the independent analyst, respecting the high evidential security requirements set out by the police team, to work within secure premises authorized by the police;
• the independent analyst to seek to determine the search or selection parameters that had extracted the improperly released e-mails from the multiple archives and to determine whether this process highlighted any additional material of relevance to the Review; and
• any material identified by the the analyst to be redacted by the University, in terms of protecting the identity of non-UEA recipients or authors, prior to being made available to the Review.

Muir Russell then reports that this all took an extended period to negotiate and by that time it would delay the report. They decided against analysing the other emails.

3. This whole process took an extended period to negotiate and implement. It became clear that a full analysis would require considerable further time and extensive manual intervention. It would introduce significant delay to the publication of the Review‘s report. A decision was reached not to pursue this further on grounds of both time and cost against likely results. The Review had always regarded the e-mails as pointers to areas for detailed investigation and this had been complemented by extensive public requests for submissions and any other information in the public domain. A summary report by the independent forensic analyst has been placed on the Review website.

Muir Russell was appointed on December 3. The first meeting of the Team took place in early January. (Minutes for an initial meeting in January have mysteriously materialized on the website in the last couple of weeks. previously the initial meeting was shown in February. The cover page now has minutes for two meetings described as the “initial” meeting of the Team.)

The Team meeting of March 20, nearly 4 months after Muir Russell’s appointment, resolved as follows;

It was agreed that the Review should contact the police investigation to seek access to the CRU full back-up server and emails. Action JN.

On March 26, Muir Russell (accompanied by BP’s Eyton) met with Acton – a meeting not mentioned in the Report. Acton – and one can picture him here – said that he fully agreed with searching the server, but one did have to worry about the “sheer practical burden” and that it could raise “Data Protection issues” – notwithstanding the fact that this activity was listed in the remit presented Parliament as something Muir Russell would undertake

5. We explained that we were considering whether it would be practicable to have some work done to search the CRU server (held by the police) with a view to obtaining a fuller understanding of the basis of the selection of the e-mails that were the subject of the unauthorized release. Professor Acton was strongly supportive. He was concerned that due attention be given to the fact that this could raise Data Protection issues because more personal data, possibly relating to more people, might be involved; and the sheer practical burden of handling the possible outputs of the work had to be considered. We agreed to reflect on those concerns and return to the matter, possibly with a more focused proposition, when Jim Norton and I made our next visit the following week.

Muir Russell and Norton are listed as meeting with UEA FOI officer Palmer and Colam-French and separately with Michael McGarvie on March 30 (the last shown visit of Muir Russell to UEA), but no meeting with Acton is listed in the Report. Minutes of the meeting with the FOI officers state that they were “particularly interested” in making “forward looking recommendations”; nothing in the minutes of either meeting refers to the examination of the backup server.

The April 1 minutes of the Team stated;

The Review noted the actions being taken as regards searching the entire CRU back-up server record. Action JN

At the next Team meeting on April 13, the following is reported:

In relation to its remit the Review agreed, based on negotiation with the Police for selective access to material held on the CRU server, and the employment by the UEA of a trusted, independent, forensic analyst, to prepare a proposal in terms of which the UEA would seek to determine whether there is more information from the compromised CRU server that might still come into the public domain and which would be of relevance to the Review. Action JN, MR

This is now 4 and 1/2 months after Muir Russell’s appointment – it took (at most) two weeks to coordinate with the police and four months for Muir Russell to get around to it. Note that the minute refers to the employment of the analyst by UEA directly and not by the Inquiry.

The April 22 meeting reports that UEA has now agreed to make contact with a forensic analyst:

It was noted that the UEA has agreed to the proposal that they should make contact with a trusted, independent, forensic analyst, to take this work forward. The Review Team agreed to facilitate the initial contacts. Action JN

The April 28 minutes report that an analyst has been engaged by UEA – this is now 5 months from the release of the dossier.

It was noted that a trusted, independent, forensic analyst [Peter Sommer] has been engaged by the UEA and once they are available, he will start work on examining the first set of downloaded emails from the compromised CRU server.

The May 11 minutes state:

JN updated the Review Team on the progress being made with respect to the forensic analyst who has been engaged by the UEA to examine the emails from the compromised CRU server.

The analyst’s report (Sommer http://www.pmsommer.com/) comes less than a week later. (see “Report on email extraction.pdf”, the analyst noting that his engagement is by the University (not the Inquiry).

On May 14, he had been supplied with thumb drives containing all the emails extracted from the back-up server. He reported that he was permitted to examine the emails only under conditions of extreme security, noting:

These procedures, while providing a very high standard of protection to the data, are also very time consuming, particularly in the light of the need for the Review to conclude its work in a timely manner.

He stated that the emails were in Thunderbird and “time constraints in
preparing this initial report preclude indexing and any form of sophisticated analysis.” He said that analysis might take “several weeks”

The processes of analysis to identify (and then review) additional email traffic which might be associated with the issues which are the subject of the allegations which have been levelled against CRU, is likely to take at least several weeks. It would be for the Review Team and the University to determine whether the cost, inevitable time delays and (at this time) uncertain outcomes could be justified.

Sommer reported on May 17. UEA elected not to authorize the analysis. Muir Russell’s ineptitude and inertia resulted in no attempt being made to even begin an examination of the other emails until late April, and by mid-May, they decided it was already too late to bother.


50 Comments

  1. Phillip Bratby
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 3:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This was obviously a critical path item, so Russell waits 5 months before instigating it. I bet Russell has never heard of a critical path, even after running the Scottish Parliament building fiasco. But he is an establishment bureacrat after all.

  2. eddieo
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 3:46 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This reads like a script from Yes Minister. Unfortunately civil servants like Muir Russel are above reproach once they get to his level of complicity in the apparatus of the state.

  3. stan
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 3:54 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The investigation reflects a level of competence equal to that of the people being investigated. This is climate science. We don’t need no stinkin’ competence.

  4. Henry chance
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The report was pre written. They just checked up on a few items and now we have the details. These people are very busy.

  5. Dave L.
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:19 PM | Permalink | Reply

    So I interpret the above to mean that the files on the server have been copied. Does this mean that now someone can submit an FOIA requesting a copy of the copy? I am thinking in terms of the unreleased e-mails; someone needs to review them. Might make material for more inquires and books, yes?

    • ZT
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:38 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Various email archives definitely exist in the form of ‘Thunderbird’ (an email client) folders in back-ups of three researchers’ laptops.

      The UEA is an interesting state – the email archives have been sequestered – probably the police are involved – and now the University cannot delete the messages (they would have to explain how yet more data came to be deleted) yet the UEA certainly does not want their contents made available to anyone.

      A problem of their own making, indeed.

    • mpaul
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 6:40 PM | Permalink | Reply

      And the fact that the emails now exist on thumb drives eliminates the excuse that ‘it would be prohibitively expensive to collect and duplicate the emails’. I suspect that a FOIA at this point would be denied due to ‘an on-going police investigation’, but once the investigation concludes, these emails should be sought.

  6. ZT
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:25 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The forensic computer analyst appears to have been well aware who was paying his fee – or quite unimpressive technically.

    “The analysis package will have to export selected emails so that they can be printed out.”
    “Any further analysis would have to be conducted by those familiar with the material and they would have to learn how to use the analysis programme.” – right!

    http://www.cce-review.org/evidence/Report%20on%20email%20extraction.pdf

    Could this analyst be unaware of text editors, grep, etc?

    Googling ‘thunderbird dump email archive to eml’ would have been a good first step.

    His activities (apart from spreading disinformation) appear to have amounted to counting and reporting the size of email folders. Nice work if you can get it.

    • Atomic Hairdryer
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 6:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I think the analyst is aware of billable hours. There are a few inconsistencies with this part of the story.

      “The material has been given a very high level of security
      classification which requires that I work at secure facilities and follow particular protocols which, for example, preclude computers being left to run unattended or overnight and at weekends.”

      Why so, if the data are clones of the original and the facility is secure? Extended processing is standard in any number of high security applications, so this requirement makes no sense to me. If the machines are airgapped and in a physically secure environment, there should be no problem doing this.

      “Almost certainly there would need to be conversion of the “Thunderbird” archives into a format that the specialist analysis software requires; together with the “published” emails.”

      I’m curious what specialist software exists that cannot work with standard mailbox formats. Unless it’s designed to work with MS. Use of Thunderbird as a client makes sense given the pre-Thunderbird client looked to be Eudora. Someone though managed the import/export from older clients to Thunderbird and maintain the archive for the time frame we’ve seen from the leaked files, which is inconsistent with the archival policies for UEA email explained here-

      http://www.cce-review.org/evidence/university%20archive%20emails%20enquiry%20120410_Final.pdf

      or by Jones when he said he cleared his monthly, and certainly doesn’t explain Walt-mails like this-

      http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=387&filename=.txt

      “Mike,
      This is for YOURS EYES ONLY. Delete after reading – please ! I’m trying to redress the
      balance”

      Single sender, single recipient, sent in 2004 and the sender didn’t follow their own advice, or it was intercepted by a very long lived mole.

      • ZT
        Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 10:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

        According to http://www.cce-review.org/evidence/university%20archive%20emails%20enquiry%20120410_Final.pdf email wasn’t archived for very long on the email servers – but the email folders on the thumbdrives come from backup server copies of the personal email for the three researchers in question (according to http://www.cce-review.org/evidenc/Report%20on%20email%20extraction.pdf) (ie. the messages stored on their own computers). If there are several versions of these back ups – which might well be the case if the IT department sent some backup tapes off-site (for example) – it might well be possible to _determine_ if researchers deleted selected emails from their archives, and approximately when these deletions occurred. It would be impossible to prove anyone did not delete messages in anticipation of FOIs (etc) in this manner (the folders in question could have been stored in a non-backed up part of the file system) but it would be possible to prove that deletions had occurred. Consequently no time was allotted to this activity in Sir Muir’s lengthy and costly inquiry.

        However, the UEA are stuck with some thumbdrives (and backup tapes, presumably) that they do not want to examine – and cannot destroy (because the ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse is still echoing in their ears). Future generations of students to the UEA liberal arts college may marvel at these ancient artifacts in a glass cabinet prior to making their way happily to the bar.

  7. Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:28 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The PSU investigation never felt the need to ask for the whole email record as well.

  8. Chris S
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:30 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Carefully choreographed, not incompetence, for desired results.

    • stan
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Competent whitewashers choreograph their results much better. The unifying theme for each of the various “official” investigations of late is that they don’t even bother to try to fake it with any real effort.

  9. MrPete
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I empathize with the silly restriction of a single day of analysis. However, Sommer’s response shows that he may be a professor but is hardly an expert at email analysis.

    My current email stash consists of almost 600 folders, 3.5GB of messages. I have some familiarity with large email stashes.

    Thunderbird messages are ALREADY in standard mbox format and need no export.

    I could import 7GB of email to my current high end email system (Pegasus Mail) in a matter of minutes.
    A few more keypresses and all content would be sorted by subject/thread.
    A few keystrokes to search for any set of words or names, with statistics on quality of match.

    They simply didn’t get the job done.

  10. Andy L
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,

    Good stuff, but can you please not refer to the review group as “the Team” (especially with a capital T) as at one point I lost track of which Team you were referring to – how about “the review team” or “the review”?

    • don
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 6:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Instead of using Team, may I suggest Kangaroo Review?

      “A kangaroo court or kangaroo trial, sometimes likened to a drumhead court-martial, refers to a sham legal proceeding or court. The colloquial phrase “kangaroo court” is used to describe judicial proceedings that deny due process rights in the name of expediency. Such rights include the right to summon witnesses, the right of cross-examination, the right not to incriminate oneself, the right not to be tried on secret evidence, the right to control one’s own defense, the right to exclude evidence that is improperly obtained, irrelevant or inherently inadmissible, e.g., hearsay, the right to exclude judges or jurors on the grounds of partiality or conflict of interest, and the right of appeal. The outcome of a trial by “kangaroo court” is essentially determined in advance, usually for the purpose of providing a conviction, either by going through the motions of manipulated procedure or by allowing no defense at all.”

      I presume a whitewash would qualify as a Kangaroo Review by allowing no prosecution at all to achieve a desired outcome.

      • Geoff Sherrington
        Posted Jul 11, 2010 at 6:19 AM | Permalink | Reply

        No, please, not a Kangaroo Review. There is too much Australian connotation and we from Oz are not so implicated in this sorry matter. The word “kangaroo” is seldom used here with “court”. More often, it is used in humour for the word itself has a certain appeal off the tongue.

        There is even poetry dated to year 1964 and referenced – in the
        figurative sense ‘to squat over a lavatory bowl with one’s feet on the seat’:
        ‘Please don’t kangaroo the seat, / our breed of crabs can leap six feet’
        http://www.oup.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/167252/Speaking_our_Language_-_Chapter_1.pdf at page 5.

        This is a corrupted form of a similar couplet seen by me in a female toilet block at the University of Sydney in 1961.

        “You’re not even safe if you stand on the seat.
        A spirochete can leap six feet.”

        Logically, therefore, it is better to leave out the reference to kangaroo court and to concentrate on the morals of those whose interaction with the spirochete has led to illness of the mind noted among sailors by the British aristocracy; which neatly brings us back to where this started.

        • Richard T. Fowler
          Posted Jul 14, 2010 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

          All right then, how about a “Sham-Wow”?

          Did those get advertized in the Commonwealth?

          RTF

  11. Barclay E MacDonald
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 4:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Surely we can simply rely on the mainstream press to provide this sort of critcal inquiry in to the Muir Russell report.

  12. Per
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 5:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “would seek to determine whether there is more information from the compromised CRU server that might still come into the public domain and which would be of relevance to the Review. ”

    It almost looks as if the terms of this investigation are morphing into looking for other stuff which could come out and be embarrassing to uea

  13. Punksta
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 5:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

    What is needed is simply for the balance of the emails to be made public.

  14. Dr Slop
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 5:38 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Acton seems to have forgotten that he has at least a few dozen people in his employ whose work involves handling exactly the type of data in question and whose conditions of employment (one would assume) are designed to ensure the security of personal data. Replicating those conditions with an external consultant doesn’t seem like a mammoth task.

    Also, I guess one can conclude from “with a view to obtaining a fuller understanding of the basis of the selection of the e-mails that were the subject of the unauthorized release” that the Inquiry didn’t ask whether the emails were actually assembled as a potential response to FOI requests.

    Steve: The emails have almost nothing to do with CRUTEm, which was the subject of the FOI requests.

    • intrepid_wanders
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 6:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

      @Steve

      How so? Every company I have worked for *always* had emails of “versions” going to and fro… FOI and the “finished results” concept has not executed, as far as I have seen. For a relief of time intensive processes (And the open concept of EIR), it naturally is just a grep process.

      I wonder what would happen (after this “inquiry scat”) if a EIR is *summited*? I suspect that they would find the information that Lord Muir “couldn’t find the time to find”.

      –I know, “self-snip” for speculation.

  15. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 6:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The Jan 27 interview between Muir Russell and Norton and Mike Gorrill and David Clancy of the ICO, both said to be former policement UEA-CRU_IV2_ICO_270110FIN2 says:

    The ICO team advised that the way in which some personal information had been withheld from the e-mails was suggestive of seeking to avoid liability regarding unauthorised release of personal information under the DPA. This could be indicative of a “whistle-­blower” looking to limit their own liability if traced…”

    • Atomic Hairdryer
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 6:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Not just the basic email addresses, why would a hacker take the time to redact the full header information from the emails, which would have added authenticity and not risk exposing a hacker?

    • Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 7:37 PM | Permalink | Reply

      McIntyre Whistle Blowing is only possible with legally obtained material. The emails were obtained, or at least distributed, illegally
      [http://www.] opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1998/ukpga_19980023_en_1
      seem to give immunity in section 43b:
      43B
      Disclosures qualifying for protection
      (1) In this Part a “qualifying disclosure” means any disclosure of information which, in the reasonable belief of the worker making the disclosure, tends to show one or more of the following—
      (a) that a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed,
      (b) that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he is subject,

      Unfortunately this is then wiped out by 43b (3)

      (3) A disclosure of information is not a qualifying disclosure if the person making the disclosure commits an offence by making it.

      Steve: feel free to pass your opinion on to the ICO.

      • Richard T. Fowler
        Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 8:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

        snip – please do not respond to the diversion of the thread.

    • ZT
      Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 7:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

      It seems to me that the email addresses were left in the messages (which do add to authenticity): e.g. http://www.junkscience.com/FOIA/mail/1213201481.txt … but the other email header information was removed – this would tend remove ‘footprints’ like which email servers had dealt with this message, tending to point to someone with at least some IT knowledge.

      On a related topic – is it just me – or was The Ford Prefect the worst car ever made? (aside from the The Ford Anglia, of course) ‘The windscreen wipers were powered by the vacuum ported from the engine intake manifold – as the car laboured uphill the wipers would slow to a standstill due to the intake manifold vacuum dropping to near nil, only to start working again as the top was reached and the intake vacuum increased.’ (To quote Wikipedia).

      I stand prepared to be snipped…

  16. RoyFOMR
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 6:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

    It is doubtful in the current political climate whether any immediate notice will be taken of this level of analysis.
    However it is now on record on that most
    troublesome of media, the Internet!
    If at some future date people die because of energy policies brought about by political decisions then all Hell will break loose!
    The science that created the bed-rock of certainty and consensus that led to the creation of these decisions will then be scrutinised.
    Not in the comfortable, academic and relaxed armosphere that has blessed recent enquiries but in adversarial courtrooms where knuckle-rapping is the least of ones worries!
    Make no mistake, this outcome has no if, it only has a when.
    The butchers bill may, indeed, be very, very bloody!

  17. RoyFOMR
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 8:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    TFP, you remind

    snip – please do not follow this diversion.

  18. RoyFOMR
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 8:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Sorry Steve, I deserved snipping, thanks!

  19. Joffre
    Posted Jul 9, 2010 at 9:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

    In my personal fantasy the hacker/mole is waiting for the right moment to release his next cache of embarrassing emails, ones that will make all the inquiries look pretty silly.

    I can dream, can’t I.

    • Roger
      Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 8:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

      “They” will be expecting that too, and watching like hawks. Or vultures, more likely.

      It would be extremely dangerous for this person to at again.

      Even so, they will be spending far more effort on hunting for him than they did in investigating the horrific malfeasance exposed by the emails.

      This person has done an immense service to humanity, at personal risk. I wonder if we should start collecting a legal defense fund?

  20. Ulf
    Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 2:12 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Nice detective work!

    One thing I learned from participating in various studies in large organizations, is that noone in power reads past the executive summary. Thus, there may well be some dirt in the report, but as long as it’s relegated to the back chapters, it has no effect other than contributing to the illusion of objectivity.

    A blog search shows that most are running with the abstract. Thank you for taking the time to dig into the dirt.

  21. steven Mosher
    Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 10:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Any competent investigator would have been able to ask a foresenic analyst at least ONE specific question to shed light on the question of whether Briffa deleted mails or not.

    The Climategate mails, contain Wahl’s Response to Briffa’s “confidential” mail. But Briffa’s original Sent mail, the mail that STARTS the thread is missing. All we have is Whal’s response. Luckily Wahl’s response includes Briffa’s original mail.

    Briffa writes to Whal. Wahl responds and INCLUDES, Briffa’s sent mail in the thread.

    But the original mail is not in the files. It’s as if Briffa deleted his “SENT” folder and not his inbox. If the original mail is missing from the backup sever, then what can one conclude? if its there, then Briffa obviously didnt delete it.

    Any thunderbird experts care to puzzle on this..

    • MrPete
      Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 4:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: steven Mosher (Jul 10 10:34),
      Can’t conclude much from missing data in a partial collection. All we know is: it is not in the collection.
      If it is missing from the backup server then it got deleted at some point. Still don’t know much unless I learn more:
      – are there earlier Briffa-source emails in the backup?
      – was the original perhaps a large email (that someone deleted to save space)?
      – is the backup comprehensive enough to cover accidental deletions? (Not likely for email)
      – etc etc etc…

      Probably barking up a tree that doesn’t bear much fruit :)

      • steven Mosher
        Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 4:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

        My point would be that a competent sleuth would at LEAST look.

        • Atomic Hairdryer
          Posted Jul 11, 2010 at 6:50 AM | Permalink

          But that would require an independent one. The current, official sleuths have no real desire to look. We still have the police investigation ongoing though. That may reveal something, but I’m not optimistic.

          They’re looking for crimes. We already know from the ICO there was prima facie evidence of crimes under UK FOI and EIA laws, but those are statute barred and not prosecuted by the police or CPS. There’s the alleged hack, but there may not be sufficient evidence to prosecute, or the CPS may decide it’s not in the public interest to prosecute. It may be a whistleblower, who unless they step up and state it, wouldn’t be protected under 43(g) or 43(h) of our Public Interest Disclosure Act. The UEA may not want a whistleblower either, so may not support prosecution.

          But, thanks to the ICO rulings, we know there is an awful lot of material still discoverable. The Russell report says we saw only 0.3% of the emails held on the backup server. Some of those may be of interest for new, targeted FOI or EIA requests. Those would currently fail given the police control the server, and existing copy(s) made for the independent forensic check, but once the police investigation ends, are back in play. Not sure if FOI or EIA could be used to prevent any further deletion once the data are back under UEA’s control, but they should be on notice from the ICO already.

  22. Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Another example of Sir Muir Russell’s ‘ineptitude and inertia’ here:

    Russell Inquiry: the question that no one dares ask?

  23. Henry
    Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 3:55 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Sure glad we left this investigation to the academics free of vice, pure of thought and hearts of gold.

    Can you just imagine if a yahoo politically motivated attorney general was in charge of the investigation; snip

    Henry

  24. Kenneth Fritsch
    Posted Jul 10, 2010 at 8:14 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I take it that the Russell inquiry wanted to read/analyze the entire email record in fairness to CRU in that the revealed Climategate emails could have been taken “out of context” by the person(s) who revealed them. What a revelation it would have been had the tone of the “other” emails been totally different and more science inclined. Could the Russell inquiry have missed an important and critical opportunity here to further, if not totally exonerate, the CRU emailers? Or did these emails show that the Climategate emails were not taken out of context or worse? We may never know but it does raise an interesting question why the inquiry failed to follow up in this part of the investigation as promised.

    I have always been advised to go with incompetence versus wrongly intended motive when there is a choice and I’ll go that why here – at least for now.

  25. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jul 11, 2010 at 6:55 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Tony N,

    I have posted this at Harmless Sky:

    Sir Edward Acton states above “EA: What I asked him (Jones)was whether he had done anything to contravene the FOI Act.”

    Acton does not provide an answer to this question. So you are invited to read below and deduce what you wish:

    1228330629.txt

    From: Phil Jones
    To: santer1@llnl.gov, Tom Wigley
    Subject: Re: Schles suggestion
    Date: Wed Dec 3 13:57:09 2008
    Cc: mann , Gavin Schmidt , Karl Taylor , peter gleckler

    Ben,
    When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide
    by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions – one at a screen, to convince
    them otherwise showing them what CA was all about. Once they became aware of the types of people we were dealing with, everyone at UEA (in the registry and in the Environmental Sciences school – the head of school and a few others) became very supportive. I’ve got to know the FOI person quite well and the Chief Librarian – who deals with appeals. The VC is also aware of what is going on – at least for one of the requests, but probably doesn’t know the number we’re dealing with. We are in double figures.
    …………………..

    There is prima facie evidence here that Jones did contravene the FOI Act.

    One wonders why Sir Russell did not mention this in his findings. The latter part of this very email is quoted in the Russell report at page 34, but strangely the first part quoted here is not.

  26. j ferguson
    Posted Jul 11, 2010 at 7:55 AM | Permalink | Reply

    In the UK, does the lapse of time which prevents prosecution for a crime also prevent a published finding that the crime was committed? Can the alleged miscreants be specified?

    • Atomic Hairdryer
      Posted Jul 11, 2010 at 8:34 AM | Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think so. There’s a good example of this with the decision notice for David Holland’s complaint here:

      http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/decisionnotices/2010/fer_0238017.pdf

      “The complainant made a number of requests for information related to the involvement of some of the public authority’s staff in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Commissioner has found that the public authority breached regulation 14(2) of the EIR by failing to provide a response to a request within 20 working days and breached regulation 5(2) by failing to provide a response to other requests.”

      The ICO doesn’t name individuals, but can still find fault as it did in this example.

  27. William Newman
    Posted Jul 11, 2010 at 2:45 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I dimly remembered that RealClimate was once quite concerned about how misleading CRU emails might be taken out of context. A bit of search confirms:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack-context/

    That makes it particularly amusing that now, in a RealClimate writeup of the Muir Russell investigation, it’s not worth mentioning that the investigation looked at only the emails that the public already knew about:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/the-muir-russell-report/

    • ZT
      Posted Jul 11, 2010 at 10:17 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Interesting how the foundations need to be shifted early and often to prove the warming case. (Stephen Colbert calls this ‘Truthiness’.)

      There is a similarly interesting piece of Real Climate dedicated to positioning Amazongate: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/06/leakegate-a-retraction/

      A knowledgeable person called oneuniverse takes on the education of Real Climate regulars (dhogaza et al) in the comments – with limited success.

      I wonder if the RC article will be updated…?

  28. mojo
    Posted Jul 15, 2010 at 3:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I find it interesting that they refer to CRUBACK3 as “the compromised server” – is there ANY evidence of compromise?

  29. David
    Posted Jul 19, 2010 at 5:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This investigation was doomed to failure even if unbiased.

    The investigators lacked the skill, legal authority, time and resources to conduct a proper investigation. It was a fiasco.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Top Posts — WordPress.com on Jul 10, 2010 at 7:12 PM

    [...] The Botched Examination of the Back-Up Server The more one reads the documents of the Muir “Holyrood” Russell, the more it is a litany of incompetence, [...] [...]

  2. [...] The investigative panel did not review the vast majority of the emails. (“The Botched Examination of the Back-Up Server“) [...]

  3. [...] the following statement by the Muir Russell “inquiry” – a topic previously discussed here with further information provided [...]

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