It turns out that Muir Russell didn’t bother asking, since that would have exposed Jones to potential liability.
Muir Russell under questioning from Stringer:
Q86 Graham Stringer: I find it a bit surprising, that you didn’t ask directly when a lot of the controversy had been about the request to delete e-mails. You didn’t personally ask Professor Jones—it was the 29th, not the 27th; I apologise for that—directly whether he had deleted those emails?
Sir Muir Russell: That would have been saying, “Did you commit a crime?”, and we would have had to go into a completely different area of the relationship and formal role for the inquiry.
But in a surprising new turn of events, it seems that VC Acton sort-of did what Muir Russell was supposed to do – ask Jones whether he had deleted emails. The Guardian reports Acton’s testimony as follows:
Prof Phil Jones told the University of East Anglia’s boss that he did not delete any of the emails that were released from the university last November, despite apparently saying he would in one of those emails.
In the narrowest sense, the very existence of the Climategate emails seems to show that, whatever Jones may or may not have attempted to do, he had not deleted the emails that survived on the back up server.
But, needless to say, you have to watch the pea under the thimble as there is more to the story than this, as I found out last spring.
Jones’ delete-all-emails request was directed particularly at the Wahl-Briffa exchange about IPCC in summer 2006. (In a related emails, Jones said that Briffa should deny the existence of such correspondence to the UEA administration – something that was never investigated as misconduct.)
Wahl’s insertions in the IPCC report – the unilateral changes in assessment that do not appear to have had any third party oversight other than Briffa’s – were made in attachments to his emails to Briffa.
Last spring, I sent an FOI request to the University of East Anglia for the attachments to the Wahl emails that would show precisely what Wahl had inserted. These, of course, are precisely the sort of thing that Muir Russell panel was obligated to examine but didn’t bother.
Contrary to claims by Jones and Acton that nothing had been deleted, the University refused the FOI request on the basis that the attachments had been deleted, that they no longer possessed the attachments to the emails – see previous review here.
In response to my request, they said:
We were unable to provide the following four documents as we had determined that these were no longer held by the University and cited Reg. 12(4)(a):
There is no single repository in which all information is held and in order to determine whether the University holds specific information searches are required in a number of locations. I have reviewed the criteria and searches that were undertaken to locate the requested documents and agree with the assessment that these documents are no longer held and agree that Reg. 12(4)(a) applies in this instance.
Acton tells the Sci Tech Committee that nothing has been deleted, but when asked for the documents that Jones specifically asked to be deleted, the university refuses the FOI request on the basis that they no longer have the documents.
Needless to say, Muir Russell didn’t bother trying to figure out what was going on.
UPDATE 4 pm Eastern:
Here is a rough transcript of part of the relevant exchange:
Stinger – Prof Acton, are you satisfied that these questions weren’t asked? That people in your university were sending out emails suggesting that emails be deleted and that it hasn’t been investigated.
Acton – It has been investigated. I’ve asked them and they’ve assured me that they’ve never knowingly deleted emails subject to [inaudible]
Stringer – Did you ask them under caution?
Acton – I have a rather different relationship rather different. It is part of my duty to address that kind of spirit and make sure that I drive it out and establish the fact. Can those emails be produced? Yes, they can. Did those might have deleted them say they deleted them? NO they say that they did not.
Stringer – and you’ve recorded those meeting with Prof Jones
MR – if you examine our website …
Acton – My concern is that they are producible and that they’re there and …
Stringer – Are all the emails now available and can be read.
Acton – yes.