IPCC and the East Anglia Refusal

In the University of East Anglia’s recent refusal of David Holland’s FOI request for documents received by IPCC Lead Author Tim Osborn pertaining to the October 2010 IPCC meeting, the University refused many items, stating that they had received “representations from the IPCC itself in which it objected to the release of some of the requested information” and “representations to our institution regarding the release of some the requested information, claiming that the release of the information would adversely affect their [IPCC] interests. They have provided reasons for their position, and where cited, we have accepted those reasons and explanations as justifiable.”

More recently, the Unversity issued a correction letter rescinding, for about half of the refusals, their reliance on IPCC representations about the dire adverse impact, observing that the documents were already public.

The University did not provide copies of the “representations” of the IPCC in which they supposedly objected to the disclosure of documents published on the IPCC website and one cannot help but wonder about what the University actually received from IPCC.

Here’s a quick review.

David Holland FOI 10-122/EIR 10-17

In the UEA’s Novemer 23, 2010 refusal of FOI_10-112/EIR_10-14 (Appendix E page 4 para 4), they wrote:

Additionally, recent guidance given to IPCC lead authors has clearly indicated that communication between lead authors is to remain confidential, and that emails and preliminary versions of work are not made public, cited, quoted nor distributed.

Holland requested “a copy of this guidance”. In addition, he added the following request:

I note that your Timothy Osborn is a lead author on the ongoing IPCC Fifth Assessment Report AR5 process and I presume recently attended the first Lead Author Meeting in China from 8 to 11 of this month. Please send me copies of all the documents he received in preparation for and resulting from that meeting, pertaining to the IPCC and the Assessment process. I am not interested in domestic correspondence concerning travel and accommodation, although I do consider any reimbursements arrangements relevant.

UEA Refusal

Most of the documents received by Osborn were on a memory stick. UEA provided some of the documents, noted that some were at the IPCC website and refused others using Reg 12(5)(a) and 12(5)(b), which they summarized as follows:

Reg. 12(5)(a), Adverse effect on international relations – Release of some information would adversely affect relations with the IPCC

Reg. 12(5)(f), Adverse effects on person providing information – Release of the requested information, would have an adverse effect on the persons providing the information

In their discussion of the refusal, the University stated that they had received specific representations from IPCC objecting to the release of some of the information:

Turning to Regulation 12(5)(a), we base this on representations received from the IPCC itself in which it objected to the release of some of the requested information. Clearly the IPCC is an international body as defined by the EIR and a number of UK-based academics are involved in the IPCC process. Release of some information in the face of the objections and representations provided to us by the IPCC would, we believe, damage the ability of UK-based academics to fully participate in this significant global initiative. Indeed, the IPCC has published guidelines, available on the web, that explicitly provide for, and demand, confidentiality of some information. To release information intended to be confidential would have a significant negative impact on relations with the IPCC generally, not just for UEA-based academics, but for all UK-based academics as well.

Regulation 12(5)(f) is cited on the basis that the IPCC WG1 Secretariat has made representations to our institution regarding the release of some the requested information, claiming that the release of the information would adversely affect their interests. They have provided reasons for their position, and where cited, we have accepted those reasons and explanations as justifiable. To release such information would significantly damage the reputation of the IPCC and its ability to work with academics from all nations.

Here is a list of the documents to which the IPCC apparently took specific exception to making public were Pachauri’s “Vision Paper” from the Venice meeting in July 2010, the proposed chapter outline for WG1 from Bali 2009 and the WG1 Style Guide:

3. IPCCE WG1 AR5 First Lead Author Meeting – Meeting Materials and Resources scanned booklet…
4) Chapter Outline Development

4. Memory stick provided to all participants
1) Background information
i) 01_Scoping Meeting (Venice_Jul10)

(a) Chairman’s Vision Paper:
(b) Policy Relevant Scientific Technical Topics to be Addressed in IPCC AR5: Compilation of submissions from Governments and Organizations -
(c) Scoping Meeting for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC- Output from the Scoping meeting: Venice, Italy, 13-17 July 2009

ii) 02_B40 (Geneva_May10)

(a) Scoping Meeting Report: Government Comments

iii) 03_WGI-11 (Bali_Oct09)

(a) Proposed Chapter Outlines of the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)
(b) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Implementation Plan
(c) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Background Information

iv) 04_P-31 (Bali_Oct09)

(a) Scoping of the IPCC 5TH Assessment Report: Background, Cross cutting issues and AR5 Synthesis Report
(b) Chapter Outline of the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Revised version of WG-I: 11th /Doc.2 adopted by the Eleventh Session
(c) Scoping of the IPCC 5TH Assessment Report: Summary of comments on the draft scoping document

5) Poster
6) Resources

ii) WG1 AR5 Chapter template
iii) WGI AR5 Electronic Resources
iv) WGI AR5 Guide to Referencing with EndNote Web
v) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: Style Guide for Preparation of Chapter Drafts

The January 2010 Partial Retraction

In late January 2011, the University retracted about half of its refusals, observing that many of the refused documents had actually been published on the IPCC website.

It has come to my attention that I made an error in excepting certain information that is actually publicly available. To be specific, the three (3) documents within section 4(1)(iii) of the attachment to my letter under the heading ‘03_WGI-11 (Bali_Oct09)’ and the three (3) documents within section 4(1)(iv) of the attachment to my letter under the heading ‘04_P-31 (Bali_Oct09)’ are all publicly available at this website: http://www.ipcc.ch/scripts/_session_template.php?page=_31ipcc.htm

Therefore, we will be withdrawing the exceptions cited for those documents within our letter of 21 January, and replace them with the note that the information is excepted pursuant to Reg. 6(1)(b), Environmental Information Regulations; namely that the information is already publicly available and easily accessible to yourself.

I should also note that this also applies to the first four (4) pages of the document entitled ‘Chapter Outline Development’ within section 3(4) of the attachment to my letter under the heading “IPCC WG1 ART5 First Lead Author Meeting – Meeting Materials and Resources”. These four pages are entitled ‘WGQ AR5 Chapter Outline’ and are available on the IPCC Secretariat website:: https://www.ipcc.unibe.ch/AR5/chapteroutline.html

The public documents that had been refused, alleging IPCC representations, were the following (from the above list) – mostly from the Bali meeting:

3. IPCCE WG1 ART First Lead Author Meeting – Meeting Materials and Resources (scanned booklet) 4) Chapter Outline Development

4. Memory stick provided to all participants
1) Background information
iii) 03_WGI-11 (Bali_Oct09)

(a) Proposed Chapter Outlines of the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)
(b) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Implementation Plan
(c) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Background Information

iv) 04_P-31 (Bali_Oct09)

(a) Scoping of the IPCC 5TH Assessment Report: Background, Cross cutting issues and AR5 Synthesis Report
(b) Chapter Outline of the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Revised version of WG-I: 11th /Doc.2 adopted by the Eleventh Session
(c) Scoping of the IPCC 5TH Assessment Report: Summary of comments on the draft scoping document

Given that the documents were already public, one wonders whether the IPCC had actually objected to their release in the first place, and, if so, who at the IPCC had authorized the objection and with what authority.

Still refused is information from the Venice meeting in July 2010, the Geneva meeting in May 2010 and IPCC style guides. (One wonders why the IPCC continues to object to the release of these documents).

4. Memory stick provided to all participants
1) Background information
i) 01_Scoping Meeting (Venice_Jul10)

(a) Chairman’s Vision Paper
(b) Policy Relevant Scientific Technical Topics to be Addressed in IPCC AR5: Compilation of submissions from Governments and Organizations -
(c) Scoping Meeting for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC- Output from the Scoping meeting: Venice, Italy, 13-17 July 2009

ii) 02_B40 (Geneva_May10)

(a) Scoping Meeting Report: Government Comments

5) Poster

6) Resources

ii) WG1 AR5 Chapter template
iii) WGI AR5 Electronic Resources
iv) WGI AR5 Guide to Referencing with EndNote Web
v) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: Style Guide for Preparation of Chapter Drafts

Perhaps the University of East Anglia’s story – that it received “representations received from the IPCC itself in which it objected to the release of some of the requested information” – is fabricated. If it isn’t, then it is unseemly that IPCC, with its supposed commitment to openness and transparency, should, for example, object to the release of Chairman [Pachauri]’s “Vision Paper” or to the WG1 Style Guide and one wonders why the IPCC believes that the release of this “information would adversely affect their interests”.

Neither alternative is very appealing.

Update: A reader points out that Pachauri’s Vision Paper is online here http://www.ipcc.ch/scoping_meeting_ar5/documents/doc02.pdf. It seems unlikely that IPCC would have made representations to UEA about releasing this document, further increasing one’s doubts about the veracity of UEA’s story about “representations”.


67 Comments

  1. Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Again I ask, what does the IPCC do that requires confidentiality (apart from personal information of the participants)?

    Steve- you’re coat-racking a different issue. OT for the purposes of this thread.

    Let’s stick to the issue of what, if anything, IPCC told UEA and by what authority.

    • Iain McQueen
      Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 12:34 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Jeff Alberts (Mar 2 10:51),
      David Holland FOI 10-122/EIR 10-17
      When Captain Palmer, Officer Commanding – FOI – (Admin, Defence & Procrastination Division) replied (late) to Holland’s FOI request, was he acting on his own?

      This seems unlikely with issues like these at stake. It seems highly probable he consulted with persons involved, perhaps even Jones and/or Briffa, and, I wouldn’t be surprised, Acton himself.

      The response was however sent out under his signature and he may be held to account by the Information Commissioner in the long run.
      The problem is that the response, by claiming to be based on and composed after specific requests for confidentiality and restriction of passage of information were sent from IPCC, is manifestly likely to be untrue. One nust assume Pachauri has ultimate responsibility for the actions of his staff, but one might suppose that the staff were aware of the information on the IPCC website and elsewhere in the public domain. The staff surely are unlikely to issue the requests which we are told by Capt. Palmer the UEA had received. Perhaps Pachauri himself, in ignorance of his own Committee’s website and known public declarations, issued the request. He is a very busy man by all accounts!

      The ugly alternative is that the FOI response subcommittee at CRU/UEA, imagined the IPCC request, and Capt Palmer just followed orders as usual, without asking to see the IPCC request. This would be very sloppy as the good Captain must have noted the IPCC’s statements about openness and transparency especially after all this stooshie! We must remember also that Captain Palmer has already shown himself to be pleasantly malleable to Scientists’ ideas about FOI. My guess is he just bent to their will as usual. He sure is in a very tricky situation keeping that job, but is digging ever deeper holes.

      Overall I don’t think we can deduce whether Capt P is lying, or someone in IPCC. But someone seems to be.

      • Iain McQueen
        Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 1:18 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: Iain McQueen (Mar 2 12:34),
        When I think about it, the whole tragic sequence seems to show that neither the scientists, Acton,or Palmer have remotely thought to check the IPPC websites & public domain. They are pathetically internet non-savvy, which has been their downfall.
        The IPPC and Osborne perhaps, as speculated by TerryS, below are sinking in the same disconnected boat.

  2. pdtillman
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The remarkably shabby story of the UEA/CRU commitment to “openness and transparency” continues….

    Feh.

    As always, Steve, thanks for keeping the pressure on these folks.

    Cheers — Pete Tillman

    “Eternity is very long, especially near the end.” — Woody Allen

  3. LC
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Is it possible that the “representations” came from Osborn himself, wearing his IPCC hat?

  4. Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Is Terry Gilliam making “Brazil 2″ staring the UEA? Because the bureaucratic shuffling displayed here seems to be right out of the first movie.

  5. Rod Montgomery
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Are the communications in which the IPCC made the “representations … in which it objected to the release of some of the requested information” themselves subject to FOIA requests?

  6. glacierman
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Is it even within the jurisdiction of the UEA to consider the IPCC within their legal duty under the FOI law?

    Also, now a person subject to FOI can just say it will adversely affect them, so they don’t want them released? Wow. Lotta teeth that law has.

  7. Fred Bloggs
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Can you FOI them for the communication from the IPCC requesting that these documents not be disclosed ?

    • TerryS
      Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 1:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Probably, but I reckon Tim Osborn, as a lead author, is a representative of the IPCC and as such has verbally told them he objects to the documents being handed over. Therefore they wont have any written communication from the IPCC.

  8. Pat Frank
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 1:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Mr. Palmer cites “adverse effects” as his reasons for refusal to release documents, without specifying those effects. He then cites the IPCC as having made “representations” that release of documents “would adversely affect their interests,” without specifying either the representations or the interests.

    It all seems very carte blanche in favor of the IPCC and the UEA. They hold themselves free to make far-reaching FOIA decisions without having to provide any evidence other than their unsupported word.

    It’s almost like a star chamber proceeding where one is never allowed to see the evidence or confront the witnesses.

  9. Martin A
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 1:21 PM | Permalink | Reply

    “IPCC” = “Prof. Phil Jones” – right?

  10. Charlie A
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 1:40 PM | Permalink | Reply

    What is the status of Holland’s request for a copy of the “representations” from the IPCC regarding confidentiality?

    • David Holland
      Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Charlie A (Mar 2 13:40),

      I think you mean this one. They have released quite a bit and I am not certain that is worthwhile to press an appeal. What I have done is to ask them how they figure out that a Professor at the University of Bern decides IPCC practices and principles. I have also asked the same sort of questions of our Minister for Climate Change, and also asked about the proposals which we all ought to pay attention to that will be discussed at the next IPCC plenary meeting. How many of you were told by your governments that this was going on?

  11. Charlie A
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 1:49 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Two D. Holland FOIA requests regarding IPCC confidentiality agreements, and the replies from UEA are at
    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ipcc_private_thinking_space_just#incoming-155584

    and

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/guidance_to_ipcc_lead_authors_2#incoming-149710

  12. mpaul
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 2:38 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This really is nutty. They are basically saying that unnamed people who are associated in undisclosed ways with the IPCC can decide, post hoc, on a case by case basic, what materials can be released under UK’s FOIA. Taken to the extreme, a UK citizen who is a member of the IPCC can simply claim authority to speak for the IPCC and can usurp UK soveriegnty by determining, post hoc, which laws they should be subjected to.

  13. steven mosher
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 3:56 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Well, did they enter into a confidentiality agreement with a third party?

    if so, then they have certain procedural requirements.

    1. are the documents necessary to their mission
    2. did they inform the third party that FIOA may trump the agreement.

    They still cant get their act together. It’s really simple.

    1. AVO ( avoid verbal orders) if somebody “represented” that a document is confidental, this
    needs to be committed to writing. as in marking and controlling the document. in case the
    person they told leaves or forgets.
    2. A finding of necessity. Somebody needs to assert in writing that the information is necessary
    to the mission.
    3. A written disclosure of FIOA requirements to the third party.
    4. The agreement.
    5. The documents.

    The paperwork goes in a file controlled by a document custodian.

    WTF.

    • mpaul
      Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 5:20 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Remember when we requested copies of the NDAs between the UEA and the countries, they were unable to come up with any and essentially argued that a wink and a nod was all that was required for the UEA to deem third party materials to be confidential — particularly those that they don’t want to be subject to FOIA.

      However, in December UEA entered into an undertaking with the ICO where they agreed, among other things:

      “The University shall, as from the date of this Undertaking and for so long as similar standards are required by the Act, the Regulations or other successor legislation, ensure that requests for information are handled in accordance with Section 1 of the Act and regulations 5 and 11 of the Regulations. Internal reviews are to be handled in accordance with part VI of the section 45 Code of Practice, or regulation 11 of the Regulations as appropriate. In particular the authority shall take steps to ensure that:

      (3) The importance of good records management is embedded into the Universities information management processes, procedures and culture;”

      So I imagine that now that they have improved their records management policies and practices per the undertaking, that it would be a simple matter for them to produce the NDA with the IPCC.

      • steven mosher
        Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 5:50 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: mpaul (Mar 2 17:20), I raise this point because I have FIOAd them on their compliance with the requirements laid out to enter into confidentiality agreements. Even back when we were trying to get the agreements they had an obligation to determine that the confidential information was necessary to their mission. AND to inform third parties that agreements could be breached.

        It appears that they continue to enter into confidental agreements without adequate record keeping.

        It’ll be interesting to see how IPCC work is necessary to their mission.

    • Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 8:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Steve Mosher: “The paperwork goes in a file controlled by a document custodian.”

      On display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of The Leopard”

    • Harold
      Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Mosher-

      Any business would have a document control system (now, it’s on-line, where possible). The legal releases (or licensing) would be hard copy. It’s pretty trivial, anyone doing ISO 9001 has implemented a full system.

      For a different perspective of what can (and has) happened in dealing with universities, we had a “fast and loose” program manager from one company who designed a bunch of structures to be used experimentally in characterizing IC fabrication processes and equipment. All the required IP paperwork from him seemed fine, so there didn’t seem to be any complications with incorporating IP into a much larger suite of structures and using them at will. The structures were put on reticles (these are about $50K each), along with hundreds or thousands of other structures.

      Here’s the kicker – almost a year later, we received a legal notice from a university that we were using their IP, and had to either pay them for it or stop using it. It turns out that the program manager had worked a side deal out with one of the more highly regarded professors that he would take the professors’ untested structures and put them in with his own untested structures, get it all fabricated and analyzed, and give the professor the information and some actual wafers to analyze. Because it was under the table, there was no legal agreement. I had to personally go through and destroy ~$250K worth of reticles, have my design group redesign them, and have new ones made. Additionally, all the test programs had to be rewritten and re-validated.

      Some people won’t say anything about something being confidential until after they get what they want out of the situation. In this case, they went so far as to circumvent a very tight (but not tight enough) business process designed to avoid this issue. Perhaps the UEA is using some kind of Post Facto claim of confidentiality back to the IPCC, but the process clearly isn’t set up for “transparency”.

      One of the rules that was used in meetings with various companies was no confidential information was to be disclosed by anyone. Anything disclosed in the meeting could and would be freely circulated. If they disagreed, they had to leave. I think the IPCC could use a similar rule. People in all settings misuse “confidentiality” when it’s to their perceived benefit.

  14. David Holland
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 4:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is an International body with a clear set of rules known as the Principles Governing IPCC Work and their Appendix A Procedures. If you want to understand what is going on you need to read and understand these.

    Since the very first version of the Principles in 1993 the the first substantive one has been:

    The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.

    Membership of the IPCC is ONLY OPEN TO GOVERNMENTS.
    Only the Principle Delegate of each government can vote at plenary meeting of the Panel.
    Only the Panel in Plenary meetings can make major decisions.
    Only the Panel in Plenary meetings can decide what is an official IPCC view.

    The IPCC Chairman, the IPCC Bureau and the IPCC Working Groups are not the IPCC. They are not employed or paid by the IPCC and have no authority to say what is or is not an IPCC policy if it not published on the IPCC website. By using IPCC or WMO logos they are “passing themselves off”.

    The failure of our governments to enforce the rules they laid down is the root cause of Climategate.

  15. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 4:59 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I am willing to bet that Dave Holland will never get a copy of a letter citing confidentiality, so we will not know if anyone was being “untrue”.
    I once requested certain documents. I was told that they were unavailable due to computer problems. I requested a report of the computer problems. Miraculously they found the documents and photocopied them.

  16. Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 5:00 PM | Permalink | Reply

    For what very little it is worth, Pacharui’s ‘Vision’ paper appears the first hit to this query: “Chairman’s Vision Paper AR5 venice filetype:pdf”, here. There is some indication that Pachauri is flexing his sense of humor ‘A. (sic) Chairman’s Vision’, ‘The IPCC has had unparalleled success as an intergovernmental body mobilizing the best available expertise from all over the world and assessing available scientific knowledge to address an issue of global importance to human society and all living beings on this planet’ (the first two oneliners). This may not be compatible with the UEAs sadly humorless approach to their dull task, and hence their reluctance to share.)

  17. RDCII
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 8:05 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Holland should just ask for copies of the signed confidentiality documents. No confidentiality documents, no binding agreements, and the UEA shouldn’t have the power to withhold them from a proper FOI request.

    Will that hurt their ability to work with an International body? Well, firstly, IPCC needs UEA, so that’s just silly; but secondly, if so, the IPCC and the UEA have now learned that they need legally valid confidentiality documents, and once they have those for the next round, they’ll be fine.

    This idea of a binding contract created after-the-fact appears to me to be an entirely new legal concept, and this idea that the UEA FOI officers get to invent legal concepts is especially interesting.

    Are the same FOI people employed at UEA, even after the external FOI guy stated that in his opinion, what they had done was prima facae illegal? Can this new stuff be brought to the attention of the external FOI guy? (Sorry for being vague, but I don’t remember the details).

  18. w.w. wygart
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 8:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Sonic Frogs humorous comparison of the present FOI situation to Terry Gilliam’s movie ‘Brazil’ seems particularly apt – unfortunately for us all.

    We seem to have arrived at an age where bureaucrats have devised a system where they can successfully hide their incompetencies and malfeasances by creating a system of exceptions in the FOI laws so strong that it becomes essentially impossible for the pubic to obtain the documents necessary to discover, put right, and if need be PUNISH those same bureaucrats for their wrong doings. This is of course the exact opposite of what the FOI laws were designed to do.

    We must remember that these so called “Sunshine Laws” were originally devised for exactly this purpose, to tear from the grips of public officials and bureaucrats documents whose very nature might be “embarassing” or cause ‘adverse effects’ to those same public officials, their institutions or relations – BECAUSE THEY ARE CRIMINAL OR INCOMPETENT, and or are seriously misserving the public’s best interest.

    We MUST REMEMBER that these Sunshine Laws were devised to be the very sharp teeth of openness and transparency in our governments. They were DESIGNED to embarrass, they were DESIGNED to cause ‘adverse effects’, they were DESIGNED to END CAREERS, they were DESIGNED to lead to trials and prosecutions, they were DESIGNED to lead to the beaking-up of or dissolution of departments and institutions. Most importantly they were DESIGNED to prevent public officials, elected and unelected from concealing actions harmful to the public interest behind walls of Privilages, and Confidentialities where the very people suspected of misconduct can claim that disclosing requested information, “would have an adverse effect on the persons providing the information.” Unbelievable.

    This is all really quite crazy. The crooks, at least in the UK, seem to have engineered a pretty seamless system for evading investigation by the inquiring public, or evading consequence once the misdeeds are discovered.

    A much larger issue presented to us in this whole affair is whether public officials can hide their wrongdoings and incompetencies behind an endless list of exemptions to FOI regulations, or by simply dragging their heals can literally run out the clock on the statue of limitations for prosecution.

    SPEAKING OF WHICH – after we all discovered LAST YEAR that in the UK the shyster politicians who devised their FOI laws wrote in an ESCAPE HATCH for themselves with a six moth statue of limitations, was anything done to correct the matter??? Believe me, such legal incongruities do not appear in legislation by accident, they are engineered to be that way for the convenience and protection of the class that writes the laws.

    I hope for the sake of the UK public – and for the sake of the citizenry of the rest of the world who seem now to be beholden to the machinations a small cabal in British academia and government – that something has or will be done to resharpen the teeth of the saw. I don’t know what it is going to take, will the citizens of the UK to draw inspiration from the meme of Colonial American Agitators, or if they will have to get all Egyptian on their government??? – or will they do nothing?

    The world wonders.

    ~W^3

    • Iain McQueen
      Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 8:37 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: RDCII (Mar 2 20:05),
      Re: w.w. wygart (Mar 2 20:22),

      It is surely the Information Commisioner’s job to look into the operation of the FOI laws he is entrusted to enforce.

      Has he been suborned, or are his hands tied by some codicil written into the legislation?
      The last Commissioner seemed independent of government and willing to take sensible and logical positions even when it didn’t suit the government line. I think he suggested to the parliamentary science and technology committee which enquired into CRU/UEA that the six month law made a bit of a nonsense and should be reviewed. The Commissioner should be made aware of the views arising on this and recent threads. Is there a formal way of doing this? I suppose one could ask ones MP to try to do something.

    • Alexej Buergin
      Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 1:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

      “w.w. wygart
      it becomes essentially impossible for the pubic to obtain the documents necessary”

      Is that really what you wanted to write?

      • w.w. wygart
        Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 7:59 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Ian,

        “…by creating a system of exceptions in the FOI laws so strong that it becomes essentially impossible for the pubic to obtain the documents necessary to discover, put right, and if need be PUNISH those same bureaucrats for their wrong doings.”

        I think that sums it pretty well.

        w^3

        • w.w. wygart
          Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 12:48 PM | Permalink

          Oops, my apologies Ian, I should have put Alexej.

          I have a raging case of Ophthalmic Shingles going in my left eye, so I am operating on one slightly blurry eye and an even more addled than normal brain this week.

        • Iain McQueen
          Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 2:27 PM | Permalink

          Re: w.w. wygart (Mar 3 12:48), As a one time Neurologist you have 120% of my sympathy

    • Faustino
      Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 4:21 AM | Permalink | Reply

      In the early 1990s, the Queensland government made a big thing of bringing in FOI legislation. Within a few years, they were (literally) wheeling trolleys of documents into the Cabinet Room during Cabinet meetings, so that they were covered by “Cabinet-in-confidence” rules and exempt from FOI. It was very much a “Freedom From Information” process. On one occasion, someone got into the public domain an economic analysis of mine (done within government) which totally destroyed the case for a controversial project. The Government’s response was “So what, we’re doing it anyway.” And they got re-elected.

      The proportion of the public who (a) care about such matters and (b) can articulate and pursue their concerns is very small. Not enough David Holland’s, unfortunately.

    • David Holland
      Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 5:03 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: w.w. wygart (Mar 2 20:22),

      The “statute of limitations” as you call it is what stops some upstart bureaucrat from sending me a parking ticket years after the event when I would have no possibility of finding evidence to defend myself. There are exceptions, in the Building Regs for example, to cover the case where an offence only comes to light later than 6 months after it happened. The FoIA and EIR may get updated in the same way, but don’t hold your breath.

      The FOIA law is routinely broken but only “blocking” is a punishable offence. I think the answer,until the laws get changed is not to let it get to 6 months before you complain to the Commissioner, who is the only one that can initiate a prosecution (apart from the Director of Public Prosecutions).

      Between you me and gatepost, one British public authority is under investigation on that basis. If enough people press for s.77 or r.19 investigations public authorities, particularly with the spending cuts will work out that they can not afford to mess about.

      • w.w. wygart
        Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 8:57 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Mr. Holland,

        Points well taken, but it is my understanding that statues of limitation are usually based upon a number of factors, severity of the crime and length of time of time to discovery being two. These Sunshine Laws were not devised to wench forth from the archives previously unpublished cookie recipes, they were designed to prevent public officials from concealing evidence of their own and institutional wrongdoings, to wrench from their grasp documents that they REALLY don’t want you to have.

        What makes issues of FOI interesting in relation to other crimes is that it pertains to obtaining information and documents necessary to discover other more serious crimes so any effort to suppress a FOI request could in effect amount to criminal conspiracy or obstruction of justice – serious crimes.

        Unlike a parking ticket where the ‘victim’ is the general public and the evidence has disappeared before the alleged, also a member of the public, receives notice, is that what the public is after in a FOI request is the evidence itself, evidence of governmental wrong doing, so any violation of a FOI law could amount to suppression of evidence by the government, of misdeeds against the public.

        I’m not a lawyer so I can’t comment on the legalities of this type of situation either here in the US or in the UK, but I gather that for federal crimes here in the US statues of limitations are a bit longer than six months.

        “Section 3282 of Title 18, United States Code, is the statute of general application. It states that, “(e)xcept as otherwise expressly provided by law,” a prosecution for a non-capital offense shall be instituted within five years after the offense was committed.”

        Governments and institutions, have a strong survival instinct [much like any other organism], officials as individual members of the institutional organism hate being embarrassed, censured or arrested for violating the public trust, the institution as an organism hates the embarrassment of its corruption being exposed to the public. So, it is no wonder that in legislation designed to expose the corruption of public officials that “escape hatches” [my term] are built into the process – one never knows when one is going to need it.

        I’m not a British citizen, so it isn’t really my place to start petitioning Members of Parliament, I just gape in wide wonder and hope the same situation is not happening here in the Old Colonies, though I’m afraid the situation here can’t be much different.

        /rant

        w^3

    • steven mosher
      Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 2:01 PM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: w.w. wygart (Mar 2 20:22), ditto

    • Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 7:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

      “a six moth statue of limitations”

      Trying to resist obvious puns…

      • w.w. wygart
        Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 8:40 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Hey, cut me some slack on the typos please, if you read my apology to Ian above you will understand that I’m operating with a pretty severe visual impairment this week.

        Thanks.

        w^3

        • Posted Mar 5, 2011 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

          Understood, but some are just too funny to resist ;)

      • Posted Mar 4, 2011 at 4:19 AM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: Jeff Alberts (Mar 3 19:16),
        On the subject of typos, I rather like Steve’s description of UEA as ‘the Unversity’ :)

  19. Al Gored
    Posted Mar 2, 2011 at 10:29 PM | Permalink | Reply

    So… this seems to boil down to a case where ‘the IPCC made me do it,’ supposedly.

    Since there are still unknowns in this story, I should refrain from jumping to any conclusions. Except that their track record suggests what probably happened here.

    I imagine that they are coordinating their cover stories as we speak. Sure hope they can’t delete or ‘lose’ anything before this gets sorted out.

  20. Ron Cram
    Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 1:24 AM | Permalink | Reply

    My guess is when Palmer got Holland’s request, he phoned someone at the IPCC and asked them to type a letter requesting him to deny release of the information. If you FOIA the letter, the IPCC will deny release so the bureaucrat responsible is not publicly embarrassed. Reprehensible? Yes, but there is no governing legal authority to stop the IPCC from blocking the release of information that will embarrass them.

    • David Holland
      Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 4:41 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Re: Ron Cram (Mar 3 01:24),

      Ron,
      You are missing something. When UEA, Oxford, Reading, and the Met Office say they have consulted the IPCC they really mean they have consulted Susan Solomon or now perhaps Thomas Stocker. Anyone asking the IPCC anything usually gets referred to the IPCC web site because, as I keep saying, only things agreed by the Panel of governments representatives in plenary meetings are the official position or view of the IPCC. All such decisions are published on the IPCC web site. If a rule ain’t their it ain’t an IPCC rule.

      http://www.ipcc-wg1.unibe.ch ain’t an IPCC website. It belongs to the University of Bern and is paid for one way or another by the Swiss government.

      The The Panel have since 1993 repeatedly affirmed that the basis of IPCC work is to be open and transparent.

      Even if the hockey team were to persuaded all 180 (or however many) governments to vote to change the IPCC Principles they would still have to get the European Union to withdraw its Directive 2003/04/EC and then get the Aarhus Convention rescinded in every EU member country.

      • steven mosher
        Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 2:03 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: David Holland (Mar 3 04:41), recall from the mails that Jones met with Thomas and patchy to discuss FIOA

      • Ron Cram
        Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 6:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

        David,
        Your interpretation is very reasonable. I just think there are probably bureaucrats who answer phones or emails at the IPCC… perhaps a secretary for Pachauri, perhaps someone else. I am not saying rules were not broken. I just don’t think there is a governing legal authority who can force the IPCC to abide by their own rules. If you find one, let me know. It would be interesting to watch.

  21. Punksta
    Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 3:50 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It’s simple : if it is not possible to make the IPCC completely transparent, it should be shut down forthwith. We simply cannot afford to be misled any more on such a large and vital issue.

    • Harold
      Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 8:10 AM | Permalink | Reply

      There are competing issues surrounding transparency. The most well characterized and reliable technique I know of for developing a consensus among experts is the Delphi technique, which relies on the experts being anonymous (unknown to the other experts) when the consensus is being developed. After the fact, the identities, etc can be revealed, but then you have to get a new group for the next revision. A criticism of using a consensus is the quality of it’s output is expected to be less reliable than a single analyst (more focus on gaining agreement than being right). Another method is to use a single analyst to evaluate the scientific basis for AGW. The output is reviewed, and a dissenting view given, if needed. I think being this analysts this could be a wildly unpopular position, so anonymity outside of the effort would probably be needed to prevent harassment.

      I think anonymity could be very useful, but I don’t see the need for much confidentiality.

  22. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 5:18 AM | Permalink | Reply

    There is case law that sometimes implicit intent in International Treaties can dominate domestic law, maybe such as Britain’s FOI.

    I was mixed up in an Australian case of administrative law – see http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/MULR/2006/9.html#Heading302 from whence the next 2 paragraphs.

    “It fell to the author[107] to convey the terms of the Federal Court’s order, by telephone, to the leader of the Australian delegation to the World Heritage Committee in Paris. The colourful language of his response cannot be repeated here. Suffice it to say that the order caused much consternation in the World Heritage Committee and undoubtedly diminished Australia’s standing in that Committee. Beaumont J subsequently declared the government’s decision to nominate Stage Two invalid as a decision made in denial of natural justice.[108] His Honour’s decision was set aside on appeal, in large part on the basis that the government’s decision was non-justiciable because of its subject matter, involving complex policy questions.[109]

    “The case raised some fundamental questions concerning judicial review. Groves sees the decision as ‘a clear acknowledgment by the courts of the role of Cabinet’.[110] In the author’s view, the status of the decision-maker, in this case the Cabinet, should not be the relevant criterion. Political accountability is an important element of our system of government. It does not displace the requirement that decisions must be made lawfully. The opportunity to seek judicial scrutiny of executive action, including government decisions at the highest levels, is surely a fundamental aspect of the rule of law.[111] In this case, it was the subject matter and the legal effect of the decision, rather than the status of the decision-maker, that rendered judicial review inappropriate. Judicial restraint is, in the author’s view, appropriate in relation to executive decisions relating to, for example, the conduct of foreign affairs,[112] where the American ‘political questions’ doctrine[113] or the ‘act of state’ doctrine[114] have their place. Restraint may also be appropriate in relation to high-level policy decisions such as the nomination of Stage Two, as distinct from decisions relating directly to the rights of particular individuals. The real reason for such restraint is surely that natural justice or procedural fairness principles have little or no relevance to decisions taken on wide public interest grounds that do not directly affect the legal rights or interests of individuals.”

  23. Harold
    Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 7:54 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I think “open and transparent” need to be viewed as a political statement, meaning it’s the opposite of what is operationally intended to happen. It’s like telling everyone to keep all balls of yarn tightly wound, and then giving them to kittens.

    A statement that everything is going to be transparent without an implementation and communication plan which is executed is just rhetoric. More importantly, without official detailed legal directives on what should not be disclosed from the actual panel, there is all kinds of room for the kittens to play.

    I think this particular issue is something which some political pressure could be brought to bear on the IPCC to give a definitive list of what is confidential and that all other documents, etc are not confidential.

  24. Dave
    Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 8:31 AM | Permalink | Reply

    “Perhaps the University of East Anglia’s story – that it received “representations received from the IPCC itself in which it objected to the release of some of the requested information” – is fabricated. If it isn’t, then it is unseemly that IPCC, with its supposed commitment to openness and transparency, should, for example, object to the release of Chairman [Pachauri]’s “Vision Paper” or to the WG1 Style Guide and one wonders why the IPCC believes that the release of this “information would adversely affect their interests”.”

    Have I forgotten a step in this whole long chain? It’s complicated enough that I might have done.

    If not, isn’t it possible that UEA are relying on a blanket ‘we can’t release any IPCC docs because they’re all confidential’ position? That would presumably be supported by something from the IPCC that was written at some stage but might have been intended (for suitable values of the word) to apply only to the stuff they actually wanted kept confidential. So it’s not necessarily intended by the IPCC to be applied to much of what it is being used to exempt.

    I almost get the impression that the UEA FOI officer is as frustrated by the stonewalling he’s being asked to do as David Holland is, and is almost hoping that you’ll ask him certain questions so he can give you some answers.

  25. Steve
    Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Reply

    One imagines that the admission that these documents would ‘seriously damage the reputation of the IPCC’ would seriously damage the reputation of the IPCC.

    Mind you, it is not an envious reputation and it might be in their interest to seriously damage it.

  26. Faustino
    Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 7:40 PM | Permalink | Reply

    OT, but “Colloidgate” shows that dodgy data are not confined to the AGW field. The difference is that, in this case, 92 scientific papers are being withdrawn. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/8360667/Millions-of-surgery-patients-at-risk-in-drug-research-fraud-scandal.html

  27. w.w. wygart
    Posted Mar 3, 2011 at 9:07 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Uh-oh,

    I seem to becoming an object of concern to the moderation system [understandably perhaps] I’m always tending to spin off topic – at least in the direction of the more abstract and theoretical. I think I must be an anti-Mckintyre of some sort, my intelligence is not one that is always delving relentlessly into the details, but is always trying to leap levels and tie broader categories together. We’ll have to see what pile my lack of self-restraint lands me in THIS time.

    I had a further thoughts regarding above comments and replies between myself and Mr. Holland.

    First regarding abbreviated statues of limitations as a legal “Escape Hatch”.

    We know now because of the Climategate Affair, so thoroughly documented on this blog and others, that one group of culprits got away from what may well have been, [in my opinion], prosecutable violations of the UK FOI statutes simply because of the very short statutes of limitations for the offenses. How many more will get away in the future for the same reason? We may never get that opportunity again to bring the Team to accounts, especially as they now know how to game the system, and furthermore they can use that failure to prosecute [wrongly in my belief] as evidence of their innocence. – Maddening.

    Second, and this is a more general point that I touched upon briefly in comments above, is the general air of the expectation of Privilege and Confidentiality in all the doings of the people in the UAE, IPPC, and the various other governmental and academic institutional involved in what we might call the great Climate Debate. The persons and institutions involved seem to have gotten into their heads that the way THINGS SHOULD BE is that they should have to reveal only what they want to reveal when they want to reveal it to the public that employs them. This coming from persons working in public institutions, for [supposedly] the public good, and at the public’s expense. There seems to be a pervasive sense in the public sector of the “climate world” that they really shouldn’t HAVE to be responsible to the public they are supposed to be serving at all times, but only what is convenient for themselves and their policy agendas.

    This is the 21st century, we are now almost 375 years into the Enlightenment [if you count from the Discourse on the Method], this kind of attitude really doesn’t cut it anymore, it is completely retro.

    Another pervasive problem in this whole mess is the conflict between the legalities and expectations of Privilege and Confidentiality between governments and institutions at different levels, particularly between national governments [the UK in this case] and their laws and precedents and international bodies such as the UN and the IPPC. In the UK there is undoubtedly some legal mechanism that dictates such matters at the national level, but we seem to have run into a situation where citizens of the UK, working primarily for UK institutions are attempting to hide behind expectations of Confidentiality generated by extra-governmental bodies [the IPPC in this case]. How, and by who, are such conflicts to be resolved or will the culprits continue to simply ‘flee the jurisdiction’?

    There are good reasons, of course, why some of governments’ and institutions’ workings should be kept Confidential [even secret], or may require some level of Privilege in order to ensure the proper workings of the institution. But, this antique attitude of Privilege that seems to stem from recursion to pre-democratic notions of Class and Position should be uprooted and burned at the stake.

    Democracy is not supposed to function on a strictly need-to-know basis – and WE NEED TO KNOW. We demand to know what you are REALLY doing, and we demand to know if you are STEALING from us.

    This behavior on the part of the UAW and the rest of the Team is incredibly juvenile, it actually reminds me very much of my misbehaving ten year old nephew who answers every query from Mommy of “What are you doing?” with, “Why?” until she either gives up, is pulled away by something else or is forced to go down and find out exactly what the kid is up to in the basement. The whole attitude reeks of such juvenile narcissism it takes my breath away. It’s one thing in a ten year old boy, quite another in a PhD and head of a department or university.

    /rave

    w^3

  28. matthu
    Posted Mar 6, 2011 at 1:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

    How does this response from UEA square with the following from Richard Tol:

    http://ipccar5wg2ch10.blogspot.com/2011/01/first-lead-authors-meeting-tsukuba.html

    “Tuesday, January 11, 2011
    First lead authors meeting, Tsukuba, January 2011

    The first lead authors meeting is this week in Tsukuba (near Tokyo). The aim is to agree on an outline and allocate tasks …

    Two things were discussed that will come to haunt us.

    First, everything we write in an IPCC context is potentially subject to a Freedom of Information request — either under national or EU law. A substantial share of authors is not used to working under those circumstances.”

    Maybe somebody could ask Richard to comment on the UEA defence?

  29. matthu
    Posted Mar 6, 2011 at 3:22 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I have now written to Richard Tol drawing his attention to my comment. Let’s hope he finds time to reply.

    • Posted Mar 6, 2011 at 3:41 PM | Permalink | Reply

      I am not familiar with the UK Freedom of Information (FoI) laws and regulations.

      I am familiar with the Aarhus rules on Access to Environmental Information (AEI), which apply to all members of the UN Economic Commission for Europe. Although my organization is not subject to FoI, all the work that we do for government bodies or in support of government policy (if it pertains to environmental matters) is subject to AEI rules: Full disclosure to any interested party.

      Work for the IPCC is clearly in support of environmental policy, so any IPCC-related document or email sent to any resident in a European country is in the public domain.

      That’s my reading of the law. The IPCC is still working on this.

      • Steve McIntyre
        Posted Mar 7, 2011 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Reply

        Re: Richard Tol (Mar 6 15:41),

        Richard, the strategy of WG1 appears to be that they can evade FOI legislation by setting up a password-protected website for the exchange of information, bypassing email regulations.

      • Timothy Sorenson
        Posted Mar 8, 2011 at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Reply

        This is really important!
        We need to read this and read it well and find out
        how to apply and enforce this. This goes, in many respects,
        beyond FOI.

        Steve’s comment that evading emails becomes moot as all documents
        fall under this treaty, wrt PUBLIC POLICY decisions.

  30. matthu
    Posted Mar 6, 2011 at 4:16 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Maybe David Holland stands a better chance resubmitting the request under AEI rules?

  31. Posted Mar 7, 2011 at 5:56 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Just thought I’d let you know that Pachauri’s vision appears to have dimmed; the web link to it doesn’t work. Surprise surprise.

    Interesting times, these.

  32. Al Gored
    Posted Mar 7, 2011 at 5:13 PM | Permalink | Reply

    More evidence of Lysenkoism rot, from the USA:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/07/climate-ugliness-gets-personal/

    With an education system this corrupt, no wonder they graduate the ‘experts’ they do.

  33. ManBearPig
    Posted Mar 8, 2011 at 4:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    The next step would be to get the information commissioner to determine if the refusals are within the scope of the law.

  34. Joffre
    Posted Mar 9, 2011 at 7:01 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Here is an interesting story about an FOIA request being ignored in a different field. http://www.facebook.com/notes/lyme-disease-film-under-our-skin/cdc-foia-delays-get-under-the-skin-of-film-producers/10150102292483549

    Bureaucracies have a way of ignoring inconvenient laws.

  35. Punksta
    Posted Mar 26, 2011 at 3:04 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Reg. 12(5)(a), Adverse effect on international relations – Release of some information would adversely affect relations with the IPCC

    IOW, the UEA is concerned that if the public finds out too much how the IPCC actually operates, public opinion of the IPCC would be lowered, hampering the the IPCC’s ability to function in ways that displease the public.

    This very purpose of this regulation, is to ensure that international relations / political correctness is always given prominence over the truth. It should be scrapped forthwith.

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Top Posts — WordPress.com on Mar 3, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    [...] IPCC and the East Anglia Refusal In the University of East Anglia’s recent refusal of David Holland’s FOI request for documents received by IPCC Lead [...] [...]

  2. [...] In July 2009, Venice was the venue at which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held a “scoping meeting” for the 5th Assessment Report (AR5), due to be published sometime in 2014. IPCC Chair, Rajendra “Hell no, I won’t go” Pachauri, is reknowned for writing purple prose – and for his penchant for putting foot in mouth – but there’s a remarkable document that he “submitted” at this “scoping meeting”. [h/t ZT via ClimateAudit] [...]

  3. [...] Source: http://climateaudit.org/2011/03/02/ipcc-and-the-east-anglia-refusal/ [...]

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