At the hearings yesterday, after being stonewalled by Muir Russell about Muir Russell’s refusal to investigate Jones’ delete-all-email request, Stringer turned his attention to Acton, who claimed that he had carried out his own investigation, the results of which were on the UEA website. Here is a rough transcript:
Stringer – … 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 – My relationship is 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
Acton – – if you examine our website
The relevant location at the UEA website appears to be a July 26, 2010 statement by Jones as follows:
Phil Jones comments on questions concerning deletion of emails
Mon, 26 Jul 2010
“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”.
Watch the pea very carefully. Acton is on the thimble.
The emails in most controversy were the surreptitious 2006 emails between Eugene Wahl and Keith Briffa, described by Fred Pearce as a “subversion” of IPCC policies. In these emails, Eugene Wahl substituted his self-serving assessment of the impact of the MM2005 critique of MBH for the assessment that had been distributed to external reviewers in the Second Draft. Although Jones was often and perhaps even usually copied on Briffa emails, Jones wasn’t copied on these furtive emails between Wahl and Briffa.
Let’s look at the narrowest possible construction of Jones’ statement as it pertains to the delete-all-emails incident. At the time of Jones’ delete-all-emails request, it’s possible that the only copies of the furtive Wahl-Briffa exchange were held by Wahl and Briffa, both of whom were asked by Jones to delete the exchange.
Jones’ carefully crafted statement says only that he hadn’t personally deleted the Wahl-Briffa emails. It is silent on whether Briffa and/or Wahl acted on Jones’ request to delete the email record of their surreptitious IPCC correspondence.
Nor does the East Anglia statement explain Jones’ email to University officials that Briffa should (untruthfully) deny the existence of the Wahl-Briffa correspondence, an important part of this incident that Muir Russell didn’t investigate.
The University of East Anglia promised an “independent investigation” into the emails. Yesterday, Muir Russell confirmed what everyone knew – the he didn’t actually carry out an investigation. The only person who claimed to “investigate” was Acton – neither “independent” nor an “investigation”.