Shortly after the release of the Muir Russell report, I criticized their wrongheaded and untrue finding that there had not been an outstanding FOI request at the time of the notorious Jones’ request to delete all emails seeking information on IPCC correspondence that, in Fred Pearce’s words, was a ‘subversion” of IPCC policy on openness and transparency. See here for a review showing the falseness of their “finding”.
In a statement on Sept 2, 2010, UEA takes satisfaction in being cleared, despite the manifest falseness of the finding since David Holland’s FOI 08-31 prompted the delete email.
10.7 A number of emails appeared to incite deletion or evidence deletion of other emails, although there was no evidence of emails being deleted that were the subject of a request for disclosure. We accept this shows insufficient awareness of and focus on obligations under the FoIA/EIR, but we welcome the finding that there was no attempt to delete information with respect to a request already made. This confirms assurances already given to the Vice-Chancellor by colleagues in CRU that they had not deleted material which was the subject of a request. We have underlined that such action would have been one of the key elements necessary to constitute an offence under Section 77 of the FoIA and Section 19 of the EIR, the others being that information had actually been deleted, that it was deleted with the intention to avoid disclosure and that it was disclosable and not exempt information. Professor Jones has commented that, while emails are cleared out from time to time, this is to keep accounts manageable and within the allocated storage. (92, 28)
While Muir Russell had no excuse for their untrue finding (given the references to FOI in the subject line of the email), amazingly, the University left critical FOI request 08-31 out of its list of FOI requests tabled with the Muir Russell inquiry. See here for the UEA submission listing all FOI requests. David Holland’s FOI request 08-31 is missing from the list.
I noticed this omission at the time and notified UEA FOI Officer Palmer both of the error in the Muir Russell report and the University’s omission in their filing with Muir Russell, offering them the opportunity to notify Muir Russell of the error and asking Muir Russell to correct his report accordingly.
From: Steve McIntyre
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 10:39 AM
To: Palmer Dave Mr (LIB)
Subject: Muir Russell
Dear Mr Palmer,
As I’m sure you’re aware, the Muir Russell inquiry incorrectly stated that they had seen “no evidence of any attempt to delete information in
respect of a request already made”, notwithstanding the fact that email 1212063122.txt of May 29, 2008, which they cite, occurs two days after and in reaction to David Holland’s request 08-31 of May 27, 2008.
I notice that the Muir Russell inquiries collation of FOI requests at their website 02 July CRU FOI&EIR requests.pdf omitted request 08-31 in their list of FOI and EIR requests. Under the circumstances, it is, to say the least, an unfortunate omission. Do you know why 08-31 was omitted from the Muir Russell list of requests?
Regards, Stephen McIntyre
Palmer replied that the omission was inadvertent and that they had mentioned it in their submission to the ICO and their public log. They didn’t mention whether they had mentioned in it in their submission to Muir Russell.
From: Palmer Dave Mr (LIB)
Sent: July-13-10 2:05 PM
To: Steve McIntyre
Subject: RE: Muir Russell
Dear Mr McIntyre
Thank you for drawing this matter to my attention. Having checked our records we realised that this request is indeed missing from the list provided to the Russell review. It is not on the list because the ‘CRU indicator’ within the FOI/EIR request master log was incorrectly set to ‘No’. This was simply due to human error and for which we, and I, apologise.
I would assure you that we have made no secret of this request; indeed, it was mentioned on several occasions in our most recent submission to the ICO in connection with the request for which we recently received a Decision Notice and is listed on our public Disclosure Log (see: https://www.uea.ac.uk/is/foi/disclosure/research)
We have now corrected the error on the master log and sent a revised version of the list to Sir Muir Russell.
I revisited the Muir Russell website and the list remains uncorrected at the Muir Russell website.
I’m quite sure that the omission of the critical email request was inadvertent, but it still was extraordinarily careless on a critical point, to say the least.
But, under the circumstances, it is exceedingly inappropriate for the University to take any satisfaction whatever in the finding that “there was no attempt to delete information with respect to a request already made” since the finding was incorrect, the FOI officers of the University know that it was incorrect and the University contributed at least in part to the untrue finding by filing an incorrect list of FOI requests with Muir Russell.