Muir Russell Tries to Cooper Up Website

In preparation for his appearance at the SciTech Committee, Muir Russell has, at the last possible minute, attempted to cooper up his webpage by amending the list of FOI requests to include the David Holland FOI request for off-balance-sheet IPCC review comments that prompted Phil Jones’ notorious delete-all-emails request. Amazingly, this request had been left off the original list of FOI requests provided by the U of East Anglia.

As CA readers know (see here) , Muir Russell made the amazingly stupid misrepresentation that there had been no outstanding FOI request at the time of Jones’ delete-all-emails request. Fred Pearce observed of this instance of Muir Russell incompetence that:

Sir Muir seems to have been about the only person studying the affair not to have known about it. This is all, we may hope, cock-up rather than conspiracy.

Soon after the release of the report, I noticed that the University had inexplicably left this critical FOI request off their inventory. On July 13, I notified FOI officer Palmer of this omission and asked him to notify the Muir Russell inquiry – reported at CA here after the University had added foolishly endorsed the untrue Muir Russell finding on this matter – even though their own FOI officers knew otherwise.

Between July 13 and Oct 25, 2010, Muir Russell took no steps to correct the error. Now on the eve of his SciTech appearance – presumably so he can say that the error has been disclosed, Muir Russell has posted up an amended list, this time adding the Holland request 08-31 to the list. The revised list of FOI requests is linked as below (the change dated Oct 24, 2010, though the pdf to which we are directed is dated Oct 25, 2010, two days before Muir Russell’s appearance of Oct 27, 2010.)

Date: 24/10/10
Type: Written evidence
Number: 0155
Author: University of East Anglia. A list of a all FOI requests received relating to the Climatic Research Unit since 2005
Link: click to open

In their covering note, Muir Russell stated:

Readers should note the addition of the 08-31 FOI request which was previously omitted due to an administrative error. The revision does not affect the conclusions or recommendations of the final report.

Well, here’s something that is directly affected. Muir Russell stated:

There seems clear incitement to delete emails, although we have seen no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a request already made. Two e-mails from Jones to Mann on 2nd February 2005 (1107454306.txt) and 29th May 2008 (in 1212063122.txt) relate to deletion:

29th May 2008: ―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”.

The May 29, 2008 email was directly responding to FOI request 08-31, dated May 27, 2008. This was the precise case where the ICO said that “more cogent” “prima facie” evidence was impossible to contemplate.

Muir Russell’s amendments says that the “conclusions and recommendations” of the report are unaffected by the actual facts. Who would have guessed?

31 Comments

  1. Mike Jowsey
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 12:26 PM | Permalink

    “The revision does not affect the conclusions or recommendations of the final report.”

    Typical political-speak which actually means “No matter what evidence may be brought to our reluctant attention, our preordained conclusions will be unaffected.”

  2. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

    **Muir Russell’s amendments says that the “conclusions and recommendations” of the report are unaffected by the actual facts. Who would have guessed? **
    Right! Do not let facts get in the way of your theory.

  3. Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

    Read it with great care…the evidence’s type is “written”. The report states “we have not seen”.

    In fact, the evidence’s type is not “read”. Just “written”. Obviously the Commission didn’t have the time to read all “written” evidence, did they…

  4. Pat G
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

    Should make for an interesting hearing.

  5. Ian
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

    It really is painfully obvious that the deletion request pertains directly to the information requested, and now that Russell is definitely aware of the request and has denied its clear significance, the only conclusion I can draw is that the man is telling fibs, that he was aware of it all along and that he deliberately tried to keep it out of sight because he recognised its significance. I wonder if there’s any way of proving this, and what the consequences might be if it were to be proven.

  6. Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 1:00 PM | Permalink

    I’d already decided I would take time out to go to this one. 9:20am, Thatcher Room. The input from Toronto essential reading before one starts. Wonderful world.

    • Tony Hansen
      Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 1:50 AM | Permalink

      My thanks to you Richard.
      I would too but I am a tad too far removed.

  7. pesadia
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 1:04 PM | Permalink

    Voltaire said that:

    “The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it.”

    He failed, however, to explain just how difficult it is to enact when faced with coopering.

  8. Craig Loehle
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM | Permalink

    Telling lies and being daft are not a good combination when about to go before a gov’t committee…

    • Phillip Bratby
      Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 2:21 PM | Permalink

      This is not a government committee, it is a parliamentary (House of Commons) committee.

      • Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

        Sometimes tomorrow, we will know if it’s a “Boys’ Own” Committee, or “Just Another Bunch of People Hoping For A Peerage” Committee

    • Tony Hansen
      Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 1:53 AM | Permalink

      Craig,
      Are gov’t committees renowned for knowing the difference?

  9. Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    Craig,

    These people are far from ‘daft’. IMO it is not possible to come to any other conclusion based on this evidence of ‘moving the pea under the thimble’ here than that the whole Muir Russell inquiry has been designed to cover up clear evidence of an attempt on the part of UEA (aided and abetted by the UK establishment) to flout FOI legislation within the UK. Under no circumstances can UEA and the UK establishment be allowed to get away with this.

    Keep shining the spotlight on this Steve – eventually all your efforts will pay off!

  10. anonym
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 1:56 PM | Permalink

    There’s also the minor additional issue that even if Jones’ request hadn’t been in response to a specific FOI request already received, it might still have been in violation of UEA’s FOI/EIA policies and procedures – and it was CRU’s compliance with those policies and procedures that the Russell inquiry was specifically charged to investigate.

    Steve: that’s interesting point. They don’t seem to have made the slightest attempt to assess whether there are additional obligations under the University code. It seems quite possible that misconduct could arise under the University code even if it was statute-barred from prosecution as a criminal offence.

  11. Political Junkie
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 2:02 PM | Permalink

    At least one MP on the committee, Stringer, is capable of understanding the technical issues. He is also familiar with the whole Climategate topic.

    An attempt to destroy evidence subject to a FOI request is easy enough for everyone to grasp.

    If these questions are not addressed tomorrow, it would mean that the parliamentarians are willing participants in the coverup.

  12. Anoneumouse
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 2:21 PM | Permalink

    Date: 24/10/10
    Type: Written evidence
    Number: 0155
    Author: University of East Anglia. A list of a all FOI requests received relating to the Climatic Research Unit since 2005

    It should be noted that from page 88 to page 189 of this pdf document. The FOI requests have been submitted after the Climategate e-mails release.

  13. Anoneumouse
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 2:23 PM | Permalink

    It should be noted that from page 88 to page 189 of this pdf document. The FOI requests have been submitted after the Climategate e-mails release.

  14. P. Solar
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 2:24 PM | Permalink

    I’ve just noticed the desclaimer on the “Reviews” website:

    >>
    The Review shall not be liable for any of the following losses or damage (whether such damage or losses were foreseen, foreseeable, known or otherwise): (a) loss of data; (b) loss of revenue or anticipated profits; (c) loss of business; (d) loss of opportunity; (e) loss of goodwill or injury to reputation; (f) losses suffered by third parties; or (g) any indirect, consequential, special or exemplary damages arising from the use of http://www.cce-review.org regardless of the form of action.
    >>

    (a) loss of data Haha ha!
    (e) loss of goodwill or injury to reputation

    So if Sir Muir blows his reputation he will not be responsible for losing it. Even if it was “foreseeable, known or otherwise”.

  15. David Holland
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

    I must confess that I am finding it hard to believe we are dealing with fools rather than knaves. Can it be a coincidence that in his memorandum to the Committee Edward Acton writes

    We have established that the potential email deletion which gave rise to the ICO’s concern did not take place, and the University has received undertakings from the CRU staff most notably involved in the emails that they will fully comply with the letter and spirit of Freedom of Information requests. Extracts from statements they have made on this subject are provided in appendix F.

    This is appendix F [my bold emphasis]

    Extracts from statements by Phil Jones and Keith Briffa concerning email deletion

    Phil Jones

    “As I have said on a number of occasions I do delete emails from time to time – this is usually as part of a regular clear out but sometimes as I go along”.

    “Most people seem to do the same to keep their email account manageable and because we are regularly reminded when storage space on our email system is nearly full”.

    “There is also an environmental and economic cost to storing emails so it seems to me that it is not good practice just to keep everything”

    “It would be very difficult to guess what might be asked for in future so I don’t go around deleting emails just because they might be asked for at some point.”

    “I have previously confirmed that I have never knowingly deleted an email that was the subject of an active Freedom of Information request and neither have I deleted data”.

    Keith Briffa

    “For my part I wish to assure you that I have not knowingly deleted emails or files that were at the time subject to a request under FOIA or EIR, and will not do so in the future”.

    “I also assure you that I will not suggest to anyone that they should delete emails or files subject to similar requests under FOIA or EIR”.

    “I will use whatever means at my disposal to encourage greater openness and proactive compliance with FOIA and EIR within the CRU and the wider University.”

    Where are these statements on the ICCER website? Clearly UEA with the connivance of the ICCER are spinning a yarn that the emails were deleted before the request. I just hope our MP’s are awake tomorrow morning. Perhaps they might ask Jones and Briffa to repeat their statements to them.

    If the information I had requested was lawfully deleted before I asked for it why were there so many leaked UEA emails discussing how to deal with my request? The refusal should simply have been “information not held”. End of story.

    In fact UEA invoked the Ministerial veto of section 36. This certified that it was against the public interest to disclose the information I asked for. Then (allegedly) they held an fully independent review of my request when I complained at their refusal – and yet they did not know that the emails had been deleted.

    However, what UEA can not get around is that despite the previous S&T Committee reprimanding the Deputy Information Commissioner for saying prima facie evidence existed of an offence the Commissioner himself signed Decision Notice FER0238017 after adding a rider to confirm that prima facie evidence evidence existed and the matter was not investigated only because it was time barred. UEA could have appealed and chose not to.

    However don’t forget Russell was told on 18 December by Colam-French,

    For example Keith Briffa took home emails that were subject to FOI to ensure
    their safekeeping.

    CA readers may recall that on 28 November 2009, seeing in the leaked emails that Jonathan Overpeck had sent a spreadsheet of extra comments resulting from the improper change of publication deadlines, I submitted FOI_09-174 asking for it at What Do They Know dot com. Now UEA did indeed refuse because it was deleted and not held – so they do know what to say when it suits them.

    However Jonathan Overpeck reacted to my last email so I thought it was worth another go and I asked him for a copy of the spreadsheet. To encourage him I copied the email to Solomon, Christ, Pachauri and my MP. Of course I got no reply but a few days later the ICO phoned to say that Briffa had found a copy on a memory stick and a day or so later UEA diclosed it to me. So stuff was deleted that had been asked for and Briffa knew it was likely to be.

    One last piece of evidence is what Jones told the BBC’s Roger Harrabin. Harrabin asked,

    “Why did you ask a colleague to delete all e-mails relating to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC?”

    Jones replied,

    “This was an e-mail sent out of frustration at one FOI request that was asking for the e-mail correspondence between the lead authors on chapter six of the Working Group One Report of the IPCC. This is one of the issues which the Independent Review will look at.”

    A final point is to note that everything I asked for on 27 May 2008 was also asked for in my original letter to Briffa on 31 March 2008, so to be off the hook they need to show it was all deleted before then. Taking information off site to avoid disclosure or using gmail is not likely to help avoid being convicted of blocking if it gets discovered within the 6 month window.

  16. KnR
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 3:25 PM | Permalink

    Let’s remember that Phil Jones has actual made a play at claiming to be unaware of the FOI , for this there are two things to note , one he mentioned the risk of FOI requests and planned to avoid them , before he got any. Two there should be a record of when he undertook FOI training and its therefore possible to find out the date on which he was both aware and trained in the implications of the FOI process and match that his claim of ‘unknowing ‘
    As already be said this is a rather cyclical attempt to cover up over the fact that this FOI was left out of the review and that it provided prove that Russell was wrong on FOI issue.
    Hopefully he will face questioning on this, but that idea may be more in hope and then in reason.

    And yes it does stink

  17. David Holland
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    Two of the members of the Russell Review team are Fellows of the Institution of Engineering and Technology which in its earlier days was the Institution of Electrical Engineers. I first joined it as a student almost 50 years ago and am still a Member. The Institution takes ethics and professional behaviour seriously as indeed it should. Its Rule of Conduct number 13 states,

    “Members shall exemplify professional behaviour generally and specifically in their relationships with the Institution, its employees and their fellow members.”

    After the ICCER Report was published I emailed Jim Norton reminding him of the the original ICCER press conference at which he answered a question from BBC reporter David Shuckman,

    “In your issues for examination you quote a few of the emails. You don’t quote the notorious one where Phil Jones is asking 3 or 4 or 5 colleagues to delete emails about the IPCC. I was wondering why you did not single that one out or whether these are just a selection and some examples?”

    Jim Norton replied,

    “Clearly that one is of great interest to us.”

    Yet in the Final Report Jim Norton and Peter Clarke added their names and the prestige of the IET to the finding,

    There seems clear incitement to delete emails, although we have seen no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a request already made.

    Accordingly I asked if they had read my submission which of course has not been published by the Review. Jim Norton replied,

    I can confirm that all submissions were read by all the Review Team’s members.

    I have recently emailed Norton again to say that the Review finding is so perverse and contrary to the documented evidence that they could not have reached it honestly and diligently. They have breached the rules of the Institution, to which I will refer the matter if he and Peter Clarke do not disassociate themselves from it. Looks like I have some work to do.

    • geronimo
      Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 12:14 AM | Permalink

      I knew Jim Norton early in his career when he was an engineer in BT. He was an establishment man through and through, but very well thought of and was destined to go on to greater things within the company. He won’t rock the boat, although I left the IEE some years ago I note that Sir Alan Rudge, also and ex BT man led the assault on the propoganda in the RS take on climate change. Also note that the one member of the Oxburgh committee who took the whole thing seriously was Michael Kelly, also an electrical engineer. My guess is that Prof Norton won’t rock the boat, but if put before a committee of his peers to explain the inexplicable would probably fall back to the truth because underneath it all he seems to be a decent sort of cove.

    • JohnH
      Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 4:53 AM | Permalink

      There seems clear incitement to delete emails, although we have seen no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a request already made.

      The Muir answer to this when asked by Stringer was ‘We found no evidence because we did not ask the direct question, we did not want to be quasi-juditial’ Playing with words.

  18. Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    Will this exercise be televised and/or webcast through the same site as the previous ones from parliament?

  19. John M
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 5:28 PM | Permalink

    Although not under the purvue of Muir-Russell, it’s always worth pointing out Michael Mann’s request to Jones:

    It’s worth pointing out the Michael Mann response to Phil Jones’ request.

    From: Michael Mann
    To: Phil Jones
    Subject: Re: IPCC & FOI
    Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 08:12:02 -0400
    Reply-to: mann@xxxxx

    I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is: generwahl@xxxxxxx
    talk to you later,
    mike

    It appears that the Penn State investigation did not find the response noteworthy (assuming they bothered to even look for it).

    One is left to wonder, did Mann:

    a) Lie to Jones?
    b) Send the e-mail on to “Gene” “ASAP”?

    • Vince
      Posted Oct 27, 2010 at 7:38 PM | Permalink

      In an interview with the PTR Mann seems to say that he did forward the email.

      “It put us in an awkward position,” Mann said. Instead, Mann forwarded that e-mail to a colleague to alert him to what Jones wanted the scientists to do.

      http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/regional/s_655948.html

      Mann also has made a statement about this issue in the CDT.

      Meteorology professor Michael Mann told an Allentown newspaper that he answered the May 2008 e-mail from Phil Jones by saying he would contact another scientist about deleting e-mails. He says he did not promise he would actually delete any e-mails or show any approval of the idea, but he now wishes he had gone further.

      “I wish in retrospect I had told him, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t even be thinking about this,’ ” Mann told The Morning Call for a story Sunday. “I didn’t think it was an appropriate request.”

      http://www.centredaily.com/2010/03/29/1880926/mann-explains-e-mail-actions.html

      snip

  20. Britannic no-see-um
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 5:32 PM | Permalink

    It takes an experienced cooper to specialise in pork barrels.

  21. Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 5:44 PM | Permalink

    “Muir Russell’s amendments says that the “conclusions and recommendations” of the report are unaffected by the actual facts. Who would have guessed?[emphasis added -hro]

    OK, so I’m a newbie (well, relatively speaking – I only discovered the existence of the “climate wars” about 10 days BC [Before Climategate]) and while I’ve learned a lot in the past year, I realize that there is much history that I’ve missed.

    That being said, my impression – so far – is that whenever any error/fault has been found by anyone who is not amongst the “approved critics” (for want of a better phrase), the response has been to stonewall as long as possible and if/when all else fails, acknowledge error/fault in question and immediately dismiss by noting that the “original conclusions are unaffected” (or words to that effect).

    In the absence of any instances of evidence to the contrary, I’d be inclined to conclude that a “response template” was devised quite some time ago – and that no one who (for whatever reason) is convinced of the need for “action now” has ever contemplated responding in a manner that diverges from this “response template”.

    But then, what do I know, eh?!

  22. jaffa
    Posted Oct 26, 2010 at 10:13 PM | Permalink

    It says FOI in the subject line of Jones ‘delete’ email.

  23. Punksta
    Posted Oct 31, 2010 at 12:02 AM | Permalink

    Could someone explain the origin of the phrase “Cooper Up” please?

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  1. [...] 25, 2010, on the eve of Muir Russell’s appearance before the Parliamentary Committee, we noticed that Muir Russell had coopered up his website, finally reporting the error but adding the following [...]

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