More Stonewalling from UEA

I draw CA readers’ attention to UEA’s continued stonewalling of David Holland – their most recent refusal is online (together with the original request and accompanying correspondence here.)

20 Comments

  1. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 1:13 PM | Permalink

    Is there absolutely no accountability at UEA? David Holland is still dealing with David Palmer. Palmer was the – snip- who entered into an illegal agreement with Phil Jones that any FOI which came from someone who was a regular at CA could be tossed in the trash bin … and he still has his job?

    Come on, UEA, have you no shame? … oh, right, I forgot, we’re still dealing with the UEA, why should I expect improvement …

    w.

    Steve- Like the NOAA lawyers, Palmer denied that the allegation from the climate scientist – in this case, making such an agreement.

  2. JohnH
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 1:53 PM | Permalink

    Acton’s opinion on FOI,

    http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/CRUstatements/statements/FOIopinion

    and the commitment the UEA were forced to sign in Dec

    http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/pressreleases/2010/uea_foi_undertaking_20101222.ashx

    But still no change !!!!

  3. DEEBEE
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 2:07 PM | Permalink

    A body set into motion…..

  4. Robert
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

    Cause Holland is acting in good faith right?

    • TerryS
      Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 3:59 PM | Permalink

      Robert, if you think Holland is acting in bad faith then please specify why.

      You could also indicate which of the requests in this FOIA are being made in “bad faith”.

  5. Pat Frank
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 3:04 PM | Permalink

    There’s a lot of careful wording in David Palmer’s reply. For example, Mr. Palmer refused to reveal the legal advice the UEA received on the Russell Review, because doing so may “adversely affect the course of justice.”

    But, Mr. Palmer’s “the course of justice” really means ‘our legal standing.’

    “Justice” means the relevant facts of the matter are brought to light and fairly adjudicated. If Mr. Palmer were truly interested in justice, he’d not be cautious about all facts, even facts adverse to the UEA, coming to light. That process would only facilitate “justice.”

    ‘Legal standing,’ in contrast, refers to the lawyers’ dance before the court. Mr. Palmer’s reticence implies that the UEA must consider themselves to be vulnerable to further litigation over the Russell Review, and so are keeping their legal cards hidden behind Mr. Palmer’s rather pious prose about “justice.” Studious hypocrisy, that.

    In item 3) David Holland is asking David Palmer about what he (Palmer) had with him during a critical meeting on 18 December 2009. Mr. Palmer’s response is a classic evasion: “The minutes do not record what information was present at the meeting nor is there any other record of what material I had with me at that meeting.” Mr. Palmer neglected to mention his memory of what he, himself, had at that meeting.

    This sort of evasion recurs several times in the Response. For example, David Holland:”4) Please supply a copy of the notes Lisa Williams took.
    David Palmer: [Information not held – Reg. 12(4)(a), Environmental Information Regulations]
    [Response]“The handwritten notes of the meeting were not retained.

    And did Lisa Williams possess or prepare typed or transcribed notes of the meeting? Mr. Palmer’s precise formalisms look, to me, like a strategy of dressing ‘secrete’ in the clothes of ‘reveal.’

    Likewise, Mr. Palmer’s Response to items 13) through 18) each and all begin with “There is no recorded information…” However, David Holland is asking for testimonial evidence: “did anyone notice and report…,” “did anyone tell…,” “did anyone question…” and so forth.

    Each of David Holland’s questions are worded so as to merely require a few phone calls to the principals to obtain a verbal answer. However, Mr. Palmer replied in terms of pre-existent hard copy or electronic reports.

    This is an evasion. David Palmer should also have responded to the obvious meaning of David Holland’s questions, replying at least that he did not question the individuals, perhaps because active interrogation does not fall under FOIA. But instead he couched his reply to encourage an inference that the questions themselves led to informational dead ends, as though there is no productive lead to be gained from David Holland’s questions.

    Mr. Palmer has come across as a charming and patient fellow through all these exchanges, including with you, Steve, but it seems to me (my opinion only) that he is being as devious as he can be, behind a studiedly disingenuous screen of friendly accommodation. That is, he is apparently and cryptically a UEA advocate rather than an FOIA professional.

    • Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 10:48 PM | Permalink

      Re: Pat Frank (Feb 27 15:04),
      The wording is merely correct. People seem to want to coerce the FOI into an instrument for general interrogation. It isn’t. It is a right to ask for recorded information held by public bodies. The first sentence of the Act sets it out:
      “provides for the general right of access to recorded information held by public authorities and specifies the conditions which need to be fulfilled before an authority is obliged to comply with a request;”

      If it isn’t recorded, it doesn’t come under FOI.

      • Pat Frank
        Posted Feb 28, 2011 at 1:59 AM | Permalink

        Nick, “If it isn’t recorded, it doesn’t come under FOI.

        But that’s not the point, is it.

        Item 3 is clearly an evasion. In item 4, Mr. Palmer has crafted himself an exception to FOI by consigning to memory a record of information that he clearly should have kept in written form, namely critical information brought to an important meeting. Items 13 through 18 contain wording that speciously invites a negative inference.

        Your defense amounts to a tactical recapitulation of Mr. Palmer’s.

      • MrPete
        Posted Feb 28, 2011 at 6:17 AM | Permalink

        Re: Nick Stokes (Feb 27 22:48),
        I agree almost completely with Nick, but not quite.

        A quick browse of the FOI act shows that Nick’s interpretation is slightly (and only slightly!) too black and white. The description for Section 51 reads [leaving out OT aspects]: “This section enables the Commissioner to obtain… information (including unrecorded information) he requires…to reach a determination on whether an authority has complied or is complying with Part I of the Act…”

        I read this as saying unrecorded information is a valid aspect of the official “internal” discharge of FOI functions, but I see no evidence that unrecorded information be disclosed to the inquirer.

        With respect to “item 4″ discussed by Pat: this refers to a request for handwritten meeting notes. Unless there was a requirement that such notes be retained, this is a tough situation. Clearly the act does cover such “loose papers” if they exist. But if they were not retained, and if nobody expected them to be retained, that’s the end of the story. It is quite common for handwritten notes to be trashed, once the formal meeting report is written.

        For completeness: on several of the boards I’ve served, there are two records. The formal meeting minutes are intended to be published as needed. But there’s also a second document of meeting “notes” recorded and shared among the board members to jog their own memory. I don’t know how common that is, nor do I believe such recorded notes are maintained for all normal business meetings. We certainly don’t do that in the software industry.

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Feb 28, 2011 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

          Pete, David Holland was asking for meeting notes, not handwritten notes.

          Meeting notes might exist, even if the original handwritten notes are discarded. David Palmer specifically replied there were no handwritten notes, while David Holland asked for meeting notes.

          Mr. Palmer’s specification is a nonsequitur and looks evasive, to me.

  6. Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 3:20 PM | Permalink

    This looks like an important story that needs spelling out a bit more, so that it is more accessible to more people. Especially being crucially and intimately connected to “Hide the Decline” that has received so much attention again – if I understand correctly.

    Anyone able to volunteer? Willis of course would do it superbly.

  7. RBerteig
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 6:04 PM | Permalink

    It is interesting that every single one of Palmer’s emails includes the phrase “Please accept my apologies for the delay…”.

    It certainly makes it appear that part of their strategy is to run out the clock everywhere possible. They’ve been rewarded for that once already, after all.

    Responding to even one request well ahead of their deadlines might go a long way to repairing the damage to their reputation. Responding with substance instead of evasion, mind you. I’m not holding my breath…..

  8. David Holland
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 7:50 PM | Permalink

    Its past my bedtime but I can’t let Willis’ post go unanswered. I have always believed and always said that David Palmer is a professional doing his best, and I had a friendly chat with him a couple of days ago that confirmed my opinion. Even if any information officer is behaving badly saying it in a blog is not going to help. The problem we have is in the mindset of the the hockey team who mostly outrank their information officers. I was struck by the similarity of Solomon’s excuse that she had checked with NOAA’s lawyers and Jones saying UEA had checked with Information Commissioner that IPCC stuff was off limits. I wonder which bit of open and transparent they don’t understand.

    The more interesting and important request is this one, for which I must start the appeal to the ICO. UEA disclose that they had an agreement with Russell, paid him or his subcontractors the best part of £300K from public funds but then claim they have no contractual relationship and all the documents the ICCER sent or received are his own. This one is going to be a big fight both at UEA and Edinburgh

    I keep wondering just how long it is going to take to get all the evidence out there. I have just watched the Madoff documentary and it took the SEC 10 years. I hope we do better.

    I will look in tomorrow.

  9. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 7:56 PM | Permalink

    On a quick reading, re lawyers and professional privilege, there is a difference between an FOI seeking the dates and subjects of letters to/from lawyers, whic should not be covered by privilege, and the content of the advice, which usually can be covered by privilege. The first is a visible act by a public authority. The second involves another Party, the lawyer doing his work, and is different. The two seem to be confused in the UEA response.

    Pat Frank, well said. As Steve often says, more peas and thimbles.

    I have asked of Inquirers past why talk stopped short at the point where a caution re criminality might be needed to be given. Nobody wants to talk about it. Looks like we have a group who, in the derisive words of LBJ (and possibly others before him) “can’t chew gum and fart at the same time”.

    Finally, though Steve points to problems with invoking copyright, UEA invoke it here. I think it a bit rich, because there is prima facie evidence of UEA breaking copyright extensively through use of data from one or more countries. I have such potential evidence in writing from both CRU and one country holding quite restrictive copyright – and both admit that there was no exclusion agreement. Of course, there might be other factors unknown to me, in which case I would withdraw and apologise if they were valid and relevant.

  10. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 9:00 PM | Permalink

    David Holland
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    Its past my bedtime but I can’t let Willis’ post go unanswered. I have always believed and always said that David Palmer is a professional doing his best, and I had a friendly chat with him a couple of days ago that confirmed my opinion. Even if any information officer is behaving badly saying it in a blog is not going to help. The problem we have is in the mindset of the the hockey team who mostly outrank their information officers. I was struck by the similarity of Solomon’s excuse that she had checked with NOAA’s lawyers and Jones saying UEA had checked with Information Commissioner that IPCC stuff was off limits. I wonder which bit of open and transparent they don’t understand.

    Thanks for your late-night thoughts. I guess so, David. My problem is that (ostensibly at least) the FOI Officers are not there to accede to the un-indicted co-conspirators desire to have the FOI Officer help them avoid both the letter and the spirit of the FOI requests. Quis custodiet the freakin’ custodians indeed, as the Romans used to say.

    In any event, it certainly seems that David Palmer is at a minimum an accomplice in the action. He was the Officer in charge of the information’s freedom, not the guy who is supposed to be keeping the information in jail. He was tasked with freedom, and instead stood mute for evasion and suppression.

    So I’m sorry, David Palmer may be a good guy over a friendly chat, but he failed to protect the very Freedom that he was paid to oversee.

    Next, you say that if he did wrong, that “saying it in a blog is not going to help” … why not? I’m tired of good old boys and secretive information and doing things unseen. David Palmer played an irresponsible part in the suppression of scientific inquiry. I’m afraid I don’t see that as a “professional doing his best”. What would you suggest I do? Why should we not highlight malfeasance? I ask these questions seriously, not rhetorically.

    Finally, for UEA to leave him in that position may not be improper, but it certainly gives the appearance of impropriety. It is part and parcel of the whitewash. As FOI Officer he presided without demur over a horrendous and perhaps illegal fiasco. In what universe (other than universe-ity or government) would he not be shifted to another position so it at least appears that UEA cares and has learned from its stupendous failure?

    I don’t trust Palmer one bit, David. He FAILED us last time. I have seen no public apology, no explanation of his failure, nothing. So why should I trust him a second time? Fool me once, etc., etc.

    If you have lunch with him again, invite him to explain just how it was that Jones writes in the emails:

    1. Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.

    For an FOI Officer to agree to that is simply not acceptable on my planet, so I’d be very interested in his explanation … however as always, YMMV.

    w.

    • geronimo
      Posted Feb 28, 2011 at 4:34 AM | Permalink

      Willis, I’ve never been in a position as a junior where the law required me to be disobey my superiors and provide information they have expressley told me doesn’t fall under the FOIA, so I don’t know how I would behave in those circumstances. Don’t forget David Palmer has no skin in our game and has a family to feed. If he was the head of a FOI department in a more enlightened university he may have felt free to state his case, but he isn’t, he’s the head of the FOI office in a university headed by the man Acton, as unctious a character in public as Uriah Heep, but I’m pretty certain his private face is much less congenial, and releasing information to the detriment of his university would inevitably lead to reprisal, of that I’m sure. He’s working for a man that allowed two investigations into the antics of the scientists in his university to report without investigating the antics and then express his pleasure that the exoneration they’d received. Cut Palmer some slack.

    • Iain McQueen
      Posted Feb 28, 2011 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

      Re: geronimo (Feb 28 04:34),
      Re: Willis Eschenbach (Feb 27 21:00),

      The decent thing to do is move him to another post in University Administration. He is clearly a capable and concise handler of detail. What he needs is a post where he is less directly under the Scientists’ eye or thumb. On balance I am more in sympathy with the Eschenbach view, however.

      The Information Commissioners should be considering a recommendation to UEA’s governing body (not just Acton, but all members)

  11. JCM
    Posted Feb 27, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Permalink

    I notice several references from Mr Palmer as to ‘the police took the server’.
    He never mentions if the server has been returned, which begs the questions ‘Is the Norfolk Police investigation into what Palmer describes as a ‘hack’ still in progress ? Also, is the NDET assistance with the investigation ongoing or has it ceased ? “

  12. steven mosher
    Posted Feb 28, 2011 at 2:25 AM | Permalink

    Let me say that my discussion with NOAA FOI officer went something like this.

    Officer: I will talk to Dr. Peterson about getting you the documents.
    Me: err, you might not want to mention my name.
    Officer: It doesnt matter who you are, if you have a right to the documents, you’ll get them
    Peterson has no say in this.

    So I got the documents.

    Palmer as David notes is a cordial fellow. Pit bull protecting the public’s right to know?? err not so much.

    – response to snipped comment snipped –

    WRT Nick’s points. Palmer has asked questions of the staff for me. FWIW

  13. David Holland
    Posted Feb 28, 2011 at 6:07 AM | Permalink

    The first two letters I received from David Palmer gave us a good clue as to what was going on, particularly after the months of obfuscation from the Met Office. On 6 May 2008 he wrote:

    Your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) has been considered but as the information requested is ‘environmental information’ within the meaning of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, we [underlined] must consider your request under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), rather than under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

    Then on 19 May 2008 he wrote:

    Further to my letter of 6 May, your email of 9 May and subsequent conversations with relevant persons within the University, I am now persuaded that my initial classification of the material requested as ‘environmental information’ as defined by the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), was, in fact, incorrect.

    The Information Commissioner, in Decision Notice FER0238017, says David Palmer was right first time. Documents released to me under the Data Protection Act show that his boss, Jonatham Colham, as he called himself at the time, was consulted at every stage and then, contrary to the DCA Code of Practice, adjudicated the supposedly independent review of the decision to refuse disclosure.

    One reason that I pointed you to this is that this internal review is signed off by one of the two pro-vice chancellors. This is a significant change and it may only take one or two Decision Notices to make him realise UEA have no choice but to obey the law.

    Though it has been a stony road we collectively – and I acknowledge Willis’ and Steve’s leading role – we have changed the game. I also believe the new Commissioner, following the success of his predecessor over MP’s expenses, is putting up with much less obfuscation from public authorities. Though this may be a matter for another thread I will mention here that, after more than two years, Ofcom have now released, entirely without redaction, the last and possibly the most important of Dave Rado’s works of fiction which secured Ofcom’s ruling against the Great Global Warming Swindle. It was released very quickly after I appealed to the ICO (for the second time).

    Returning to UEA and their refusal to disclose all the Russell Review internal correspondence (which of course I will appeal) the “taxi” deal they have released shows the amateurish way the whitewash was set up. I think its going to hurt them some more.

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