New light today on Phil Jones’ notorious request that Mann, Briffa, Wahl and Ammann “delete any emails”.
The original email here is one of the most notorious Climategate emails. The UK Information Commissioner said that “more cogent” prima facie evidence of an offence under the FOI Act was impossible to contemplate, but noted a statute of limitations limited their jurisdiction. The UK Parliamentary Committee asked Muir Russell to investigate. Muir Russell refused. Muir Russell pointed out to the Committee in his evidence last fall that asking Jones about delete emails might result in the identification of an offence.
It was the second question considered by the inquiry stage of the two-stage Penn State process, articulated as follows:
2. Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?
The “inquiry” reported as follows:
He [Mann] explained that he never deleted emails at the behest of any other scientist, specifically including Dr. Phil Jones, and that he never withheld data with the intention of obstructing science; …
On January 15, 2010, and on behalf of the inquiry committee, Dr. Foley conveyed via email an additional request of Dr. Mann, who was asked to produce all emails related to the fourth IPCC report (“AR4”), the same emails that Dr. Phil Jones had suggested that he delete.
On January 18, 2010, Dr. Mann provided a zip-archive of these emails and an explanation of their content. In addition, Dr. Mann provided a ten page supplemental written response to the matters discussed during his interview.
They summarized their results as follows:
Allegation 2: Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?
Finding 2. After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data related to AR4, as suggested by Dr. Phil Jones. Dr. Mann has stated that he did not delete emails in response to Dr. Jones’ request. Further, Dr. Mann produced upon request a full archive of his emails in and around the time of the preparation of AR4. The archive contained e-mails related to AR4.
New Information from Eugene Wahl
The Inspector General of the Department of Commerce (to which NOAA belongs) has recently reported on an investigation of issues arising out of the Climategate emails. (They did not interview me or, to my knowledge, any critics.)
However, in their investigation, they interviewed Eugene Wahl, now a NOAA scientist. Astonishingly, Wahl was not interviewed by either the Penn State or UK inquiries. (Wahl is not named as such in the report, but is readily identified from the context.)
The original email request from Jones to Mann had asked:
Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise… Can you also email Gene [Wahl] and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar [Ammann] to do likewise.
Mann replied the same day as follows:
… I’ll contact Gene [Wahl] about this ASAP. His new email is: generwahl@xxx
talk to you later,
The timing is interesting here. Mann’s deletion request to Wahl came on May 29, 2008, only a few months before Wahl became an employee of NOAA (Aug 2008.) Because Wahl’s deletion of the emails took place prior to him becoming an employee of NOAA, NOAA policies on record retention were not applicable.
The question asked by Penn State was:
Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?
Previously we knew (from the Climategate emails) that Mann had told Phil Jones that he would ask Wahl to delete any emails on AR4. Now we know that Wahl “believes that he deleted the referenced emails at the time”.
Now this does not prove that Wahl deleted his emails on or about May 29, 2008 as a result of receiving an email from Mann asking him to do so – it might have been a coincidence. But – contrary to Penn State findings – it is certainly prima facie evidence warranting an investigation.
In earlier CA posts on the Penn State inquiry, I observed that Penn State thumbed their noses at Office of Research Integrity procedures for academic misconduct. These procedures state that first stage inquiries are only charged with determining prima facie evidence and should not attempt to make the findings that are the province of an investigation. Instead of adhering to ORI procedures, Penn State purported to make final findings on key issues (including deletion of emails) without a full investigation. The issue of email deletion should have been passed from the inquiry to an investigation and the investigation committee should have interviewed Wahl, before purporting to dispose of the matter.