More NOAA Disinformation and an Appeal to the UK ICO

On March 9, 2011, NOAA scientist Eugene Wahl claimed that the “emails [he] deleted” were “all” “in the public domain” since the Climategate dossier was released. This is more disinformation from NOAA. “All” of the emails are not in the public domain. Attachments to the deleted emails – including Wahl’s changes to AR4 that are in controversy – remain outside the public domain.

Worse, not only are the attachments not in the public domain, but the University of East Anglia has stated (in recent FOI refusals) that their copies of the attachments to the Wahl-Briffa correspondence have also been destroyed. (This contradicts Vice Chancellor Acton’s testimony to the Parliamentary Committee; the Committee observing with visible exasperation that they found it “unsatisfactory that we are left with a verbal reassurance from the Vice-Chancellor that the e-mails still exist”.)

In addition, if the University of East Anglia is to be believed, Wahl has continued to actively opposed the release of attachments to earlier emails that remain in the possession of the University of East Anglia during his employment at NOAA, most recently in connection with my FOI request of April 2010 (EIR 10-03) for eight documents attached to Climategate emails.

Requests for all but two documents were refused by the UEA. In February 2011, the UK Information Commissioner agreed to consider my appeal of the UEA refusal, the outcome of which is pending.

NOAA Scientist Wahl’s 2011 Statement

NOAA scientist Eugene Wahl told Eli Kintisch of Science here that the deleted emails were “all” “in the public domain”:

The emails I deleted while a university employee are the correspondence I had with Dr. Briffa of CRU regarding the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, all of which have been in the public domain since the CRU hack in November 2009. This correspondence has been extensively examined and no misconduct found. As a NOAA employee, I follow agency record retention policies and associated guidance from information technology staff.

In the rest of this post, I’ll refute this by reviewing the progress of my FOI request to East Anglia for the attachments to Climategate emails involving Wahl.

My April 2010 FOI Request
Attachments to Climategate emails are indicated by document trailers at the end of the emails. The attachments are not themselves available. Without the attachment to an email (which, in some cases, are the critical element), it is untrue to say that “all” of the email is available.

On April 5, 2010, a few days after the Parliamentary Committee had urged the University of East Anglia to improve its conduct in respect to FOI requests, I requested eight documents from the U of East Anglia (actually an Environmental Information Regulation request, but the differences are not relevant to this post):

Dear Mr Palmer,
Pursuant to the Environmental Impact Regulations, I request copies of the following eight documents (reference is attached to Keith Briffa letter):

Wahl_MBH_Recreation_JClimLett_Nov22.pdf (attachment mentioned in Jan 4, 2005 458. 1104855751.txt)
Wahl-Ammann_3321_Figures.pdf; Wahl_Ammann_3321_Final_21Feb.doc – attachments mentioned in Feb 21, 2006 647. 1140568004.txt
Wahl_Ammann_3321_Final_21Feb-Revision1.doc – attachment mentioned in 650. 1140838402.txt Feb 24
AW_Editorial_July15.doc; AR4SOR_BatchAB_Ch06_ERW_comments.doc; Ch06_SOD_Text_TSU_FINAL_2000_12jul06_ERW_suggestions.doc – attachments to 716. 1153470204.txt July 18, 2006
Ch06_SOD_Text_TSU_FINAL_2000_25jul06KRB-FJ-RV_ERW_suggestions.doc – attachments to 733. 1155402164.txt from July 27, 2006

Thank you for your consideration,
Regards, Steve McIntyre

The first document in the list was the Wahl and Ammann version that was used for the AR4 First Draft and which should have been in the library of unpublished articles available to reviewers. It was attached to a Climategate email from Mann to Jones in late 2004. I had previously asked IPCC to provide me with the, but IPCC told me that they had destroyed the archive.

The last four documents in the list were attachments to the surreptitious correspondence between Wahl and Briffa in July and August 2006, that became the target of Jones’ delete request. These documents would specifically show how Wahl changed the IPCC assessment to language more favorable to their article than the language sent to external reviewers and are thus at the heart of the ongoing controversy.

The other three documents pertain to versions just before the March 1, 2006 version that was archived at Ammann’s website in March 2006. They were of less interest, but included for completeness.

On Apr 8, 2010, I received a standard acknowledgement letter. On May 5, 2010, UEA notified me that they were extending the response time. On June 2, 2010, UEA responded (see here) , providing two of the eight documents (Wahl-Ammann_3321_Figures.pdf; Wahl_Ammann_3321_Final_21Feb-Revision1.doc), while refusing the other six documents. The two documents were two of the three February 2006 documents and were both of secondary interest.

They stated that they did not hold the four attachments to the surreptitious Wahl-Briffa correspondence: “Information not held”.

Why did the university continue to hold attachments to the February 2006 emails, but not to the July 2006 emails? A good question that remains unanswered.

They refused the other two documents on the following grounds:

Information is a draft and therefore is an unfinished document for the purposes of the Regulations. Much of the information in the draft is contained in a later, published version, and release would adversely effect the interests of the parties that provided the information

In this refusal, they relied on Regulation 12(5)(f) [adverse effect on the interests of third parties], referring to objections by Wahl of NOAA and Ammann of NCAR as follows:

We also cite Regulation 12(5)(f) as Professors Wahl and Amman have indicated, and we are minded to agree, that several documents were provided to this University on the understanding that they were not public documents and that release would have an adverse effect on future sharing of scientific information between researchers and would limit their ability to openly explore ideas and approaches in draft formats. They made it clear that they felt that the proper fora to access this information was by way of the completed version.

One of the documents refused on this ground was the version of Wahl and Ammann that was used in the AR4 First Draft. Unpublished documents were supposed to be available to IPCC reviewers (including me.)

Reconsideration Request

On July 13, 2010, I requested reconsideration of the refusal as follows:

I hereby request a review of this ruling. In its submission to the Muir Russell inquiry, the University of East Anglia stated: “The cycles of review and revision of IPCC Reports from the First Order Draft onwards are fully transparent and overseen by review editors. All comments and responses are publicly available.”

Obviously the information refused is not “publicly available” as represented by the University.

The review comments sent to Briffa were their final comments and were not drafts of their review comments. UEA policies discourage employees from entering into confidentiality agreements if there are reasonable alternatives. Given that IPCC policies require the archiving of review comments, it was improper for Briffa to purport to enter into a confidentiality agreement with Wahl and Ammann that violated IPCC procedures.

Your interpretation of the public interest test surely needs reconsidering. This correspondence has been the topic of extreme public controversy and was supposed to have been consulted by the Muir Russell inquiry. It was the subject of the notorious “delete all emails” request of May 2008.

On August 10, 2010, the UEA rejected my reconsideration request. In respect to the attachments to the Wahl-Briffa correspondence, Colam-French re-iterated that the UEA no longer held the attachments to the Wahl-Briffa correspondence:

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

Recall that Briffa has admitted that he had taken 4137 emails home for “safekeeping”. It seems, shall we say, odd that the attachments to the Wahl-Briffa correspondence were not kept “safe”.

In respect to the first document ( the Wahl and Ammann version used in the AR4 First Draft), they re-iterated that Wahl and Ammann continued to oppose its release:

Doctors Wahl and Amman have identified that release of these documents [e.g. the version used in the AR4 First Draft] would have an adverse effects on the future sharing of scientific information between researchers and by extension on them personally. On this basis I believe that our use of Reg. 12(5)(f) in relation to both documents was appropriate.

Muir Russell at the Parliamentary Committee

On Oct 26, 2010, Muir Russell appeared before the Science and Technology Committee, admitting (see page 57) to Graham Stringer, that (amazingly) he hadn’t asked Jones about the deletion of emails.

Acton then piped up that he had carried out an investigation of the deletions – the first that anyone had heard about the “Acton Investigation”. MP Stringer asked Acton “Are all the emails now available and can be read?” Acton said “Yes.”

In their subsequent report (published on Jan 17, 2011), the Committee expressed their frustration that Muir Russell hadn’t investigated the deletion of emails and stated that it was “unsatisfactory that we are left with a verbal reassurance from the Vice-Chancellor that the e-mails still exist”.

Appeal to the Information Commissioner

Acton’s assertion that “all” the emails were “available and can be read” obviously contradicted the University’s statement in their FOI refusal that they no longer held the attachments to the Wahl-Briffa emails.

On Nov 28, 2010, based on this fresh information, I appealed the UEA rejection to the ICO (see here)

In respect to their refusal of the attachments to the Wahl-Briffa correspondence, I observed:

At the hearings of the Science and Technology Committee, MP Stringer asked Vice Chancellor Acton “Are all the emails now available and can be read?” Acton said “Yes.” If so, then the university must hold the documents that they had refused on the basis that they did not hold the documents and appeal their refusal on this basis.

In respect to their refusal of the other two documents under Reg. 6(1)(b), 12(4)(d) and 12(5)(f), I argued that these exemptions either did not apply or were overridden by the public interest test to which they were subject as follows:

Regulation 6(1)(b) simply does not apply. It applies if:

6(1) (b) the information is already publicly available and easily accessible to the applicant in another form or format.

This is factually not the case. Neither of the documents in question is publicly available. If they were, the university could have provided me with a URL to the location of the other form or format.

Likewise, Regulation 12(4)(d) likewise does not apply. It applies if

12(4)(d) the request relates to material which is still in the course of completion, to unfinished documents or to incomplete data;

The university claims that both articles were “drafts”. This is untrue. Both articles were submitted to IPCC for use in their Fourth Assessment Report on the basis that they had been submitted to journals.

Similarly, regulation 12(5)(f) does not apply. It applies if:

(f) the interests of the person who provided the information where that person—
(i) was not under, and could not have been put under, any legal obligation to supply it to that or any other public authority;
(ii) did not supply it in circumstances such that that or any other public authority is entitled apart from these Regulations to disclose it; and
(iii) has not consented to its disclosure; or

The university stated that the documents were provided to the university “on the understanding that they were not public documents”. This is absurd. IPCC regulations required all unpublished articles to be posted up at a website to be available to all reviewers. If the documents were not “public documents”, then they should not have been cited in the IPCC First Order and Second Order Draft reports. In addition, IPCC has policies requiring it to be “open and transparent”.

The university’s application of the public interest test is also flawed. They state that it is important that “researchers are able to exchange and explore ideas in a private space”. However, in this case, we are not talking about private exchanges among researchers but articles submitted to an IPCC Lead Author that were used in IPCC documents.

The university observes:

They have also stated that IPCC policies require the archiving of official [my bold] review comments but not every communication received by the authors over the three years during which these reports were prepared.

The qualification that IPCC policies are limited to “official” review comments does not exist in IPCC Procedures, which clearly state;

The review process should be objective, open and transparent. … All written expert, and government review comments will be made available to reviewers on request during the review process and will be retained in an open archive in a location determined by the IPCC Secretariat on completion of the Report for a period of at least five years.

IPCC policies do not limit the archiving obligation to “official review comments”; they include “all” review comments, even if those review comments were submitted through back channels described by Fred Pearce (The Climate Files, 146) as “a direct subversion of the spirit of openness intended when the IPCC decided to put its internal reviews online”

On January 12, 2011, the ICO turned down my appeal on the basis that there had been “undue delay” on my part in bringing the appeal, observing that their policy (which, to my knowledge, is not their website), absent special circumstances, required an appeal within 60 days of the rejection of the reconsideration. (My appeal was brought about 100 days after the reconsideration refusal.)

On January 17, 2011, I requested that they reconsider their decision to close the file, citing special circumstances as follows:

I request that you reconsider your decision not to hear my complaint about the UEA’s refusal of my EIR/FOI request for the following reasons.

You observe that you can hear a complaint filed after 60 days if there is a “special reason”. This most definitely applies here. Almost immediately following the UEA’s FOI refusal (on August 8, 2010), there were hearings of the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee at which the chairs of two inquiries into this affair appeared: Lord Oxburgh on Sept 8, 2010, followed by Muir Russell and Lord Acton, Vice Chancellor of UEA on October 27, 2010. UEA responses to FOI requests were an important issue of the Muir Russell inquiry and I expected that Muir Russell and Lord Acton would be asked about these issues and that their answers would be relevant to my ICO complaint. This proved to be the case and I filed my complaint on November 28, 2010, almost exactly one month after the Muir Russell-Acton testimony. There was no undue delay on my part after the Muir Russell-Lord Acton testimony to the Science and Technology Committee.

Further, Acton’s evidence to the Science and Technology Committee was directly relevant to my argument against UEA’s refusal to provide documents on the basis that they were no longer in their possession. As I noted in my complaint to you:
At the hearings of the Science and Technology Committee, MP Stringer asked Vice Chancellor Acton “Are all the emails now available and can be read?” Acton said “Yes.”

The university had refused my EIR/FOI request on the basis that they did not hold the documents; however, Acton’s evidence indicates the opposite. This is an important aspect to my appeal and surely qualifies as a “special reason”.

In addition, the document that I requested (and UEA refused) was the topic of Phil Jones’ notorious request to “delete all emails” – about which your office commented as being compelling prima facie evidence of an intent to breach FOI legislation, though time barred for prosecution by your office. There is considerable public interest in this document and the matter is exceedingly unlikely to disappear on the technical grounds that my complaint was not made within 60 days of UEA’s refusal. Undoubtedly someone else will make a similar request to UEA and start the process all over again, with the appeal to ICO this time being made within 60 days. (I have taken the liberty of copying Graham Stringer’s office in case they wish to initiate such proceedings if you continue to refuse to hear the matter.)

In the alternative, while the public authority (UEA) informed me that there was a right to bring the complaint to the Information Commissioner, they did not notify me that the Information Commissioner expected complaints within 60 days of the refusal. Nor, to my knowledge, are potential complainants warned of the 60-day time period in the ICO webpages that an ordinary user is likely to consult. In the present case, the additional delay was not lengthy as the complaint was brought within 120 days. Nor is UEA inconvenienced by the slight delay as they undoubtedly did not anticipate that the matter had ended.

The issue is not merely of personal interest to me. The request is for a central Climategate document. There is a great deal of public interest in Climategate and there have been three inquiries in the UK to date. It is hard to contemplate more compelling “special reasons” for waiving your usual 60-day period and it is doubtful that relying on a technicality will enable you to avoid considering it.

I accordingly request that you re-open this file.

The ICO asked for further particulars, which I provided. In addition, on January 31, 2011, I sent them the following supplementary arguments, based on the report of the Parliamentary Committee which had become available in the mean time:

Further to my previous correspondence to you, the Science and Technology Committee has issued another report http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmsctech/444/444.pdf on the University of East Anglia, in which they rely on Acton’s statement that nothing had been deleted:

86. Professor Acton had no such qualms questioning the scientists at CRU about whether or not they had deleted e-mails subject to FoI requests. He told us “Can those e-mails be produced? Yes, they can. Did those who might have deleted them say they deleted them? No. They say they did not”.116

In their findings on this matter, the Committee stated their concern that the Muir Russell panel had not fully investigated the deletion of emails and that they were left merely with a verbal reassurance from Acton that the emails did still exist:

89. We are concerned that the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review did not fully investigate the serious allegation relating to the deletion of e-mails. We find it unsatisfactory that we are left with a verbal reassurance from the Vice-Chancellor that the e-mails still exist. On the basis of the ICO’s announcement made on 7 July 2010, it is reasonable to conclude that there was a breach of EIR by a failure to provide a response within 20 working days. On the allegation that e-mails were deleted to frustrate requests for information, a firm conclusion has proved elusive.

All of this is obviously inconsistent with the University of East Anglia concurrently refusing my EIR/FOI request on the basis that the University was no longer in possession of the requested documents attached to the emails.

On February 4, 2011, the Information Commissioner Office, which, almost uniquely among government institutions, has been straightforward throughout the entire Climategate affair, agreed to accept the appeal, observing that it would take time to study the file.

NOAA Disinformation

There are a couple of morals from this particular backstory.

Climate institutions (NOAA, the UK Met Office, CRU) have already made too many misleading and/or outright mendacious statements in refusing requests for documents. Thousands of readers are familiar with these events and are able to judge for themselves. Some commentators advise the climate community that they can restore confidence by telling new “stories”. However, before this tactic can be effective, climate institutions should ensure that any refusal of a request for information be scrupulously accurate, as the past practice of mendacious and/or misleading excuses has been pointlessly corrosive to the credibility of the institutions and the broader community.

NOAA’s recent statement that “all” the emails are in the “public domain” is one more incident. They aren’t. Without the attachments, only part of the emails are in the public domain.

If pressed, I’m sure that their defence would be – well, we didn’t say that the “attachments” to the emails were in the “public domain”. However, the public has seen far too many examples of such unconvincing parsing. Climate institutions should stop such practices immediately.

In my opinion, if NOAA wants to say that the “all” of the emails are in the “public domain”, then they should ensure that “all” of the emails are in fact in the public domain, rather than adding to the inventory of untrue and/or misleading statements. In the case at hand, “all” of the email includes the attachments. Now that a NOAA scientist has spoken out on the matter, NOAA should require that the attachments be placed in the “public domain”.

Secondly, if the climate community wants to get the Climategate affair behind them, the best course of action for them is to voluntarily get any and all documents pertaining to the events on the public record, rather than contesting the production of each and every document. If a NOAA scientist is in possession of documents that have been destroyed by CRU scientists, NOAA should find out precisely what their employees have and voluntarily put it in the public domain.

In the case of withholding the Wahl and Ammann version that was supposed to be in the (destroyed) IPCC archive for the AR4 First Draft, it is beyond incomprehensible to me that NOAA and NCAR would permit their employees to oppose the delivery of this document under UK FOI. (I don’t know whether Wahl and Ammann got the consent of senior NOAA and NCAR officers before registering their opposition to the release of this document or whether they were free-lancing. Regardless, in my opinion, senior NOAA/NCAR officials should require Wahl and Ammann to withdraw such opposition. Needless to say, this presumes the truthfulness of the University of East Anglia’s statement that Wahl and Ammann had registered objections – and the truthfulness of their statement is not a given.)

In the present frayed circumstances, any rational manager would take the opposite approach – they would instruct employees Wahl and Ammann to rescind any objections at the University of East Anglia to the disclosure of documents under UK FOI, copying the UK Information Commissioner. Actually, any rational managers would do more than that – they would place the version that should have been in the (now destroyed) IPCC archive online themselves.

It amazes me how often climate institutions make self-defeating choices on this sort of matter. Perhaps they think that they can win such cases in front of Information Commissioners in the UK or US. But any such victories tend to be pyrrhic victories. Whatever decision is rendered by the UK Information Commissioner will simply generate more commentary down the road. In my opinion, such obstructions, especially when accompanied by untrue or misleading excuses, are far more corrosive to public trust in the institutions themselves than any conceivable benefit to the institutions achieved through the obstruction.


56 Comments

  1. stan
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 7:28 AM | Permalink

    Once again, the team is sloppy and bogged down in self-defeating tactics which merely degrade their credibility further. They can focus all they want on spinning new communications strategies, but some honesty, integrity and competence would likely be more helpful.

  2. gober
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 7:53 AM | Permalink

    This is the “value” of Climategate. A non-expert reader may conclude – probably correctly – that he will never have the ability (or the time needed) to distinguish who is right on the “science”.

    But most non-expert readers will be able to see through this sort of obstruction, because everyday people come across lame excuses all the time.

    Climategate showed people that the dodging that Steve McIntyre and others had been complaining about for years had actually been happening.

  3. cthulhu
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 8:35 AM | Permalink

    whatever, this is just becoming boring now. I tried to read all the above but my eyes just glazed over.

    you talk about public trust but really 99.9% of the public aren’t going to be at all interested in this level of analysis that really just boils down to a fascinating tale about outlook attachments.

    • PJB
      Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:27 AM | Permalink

      Not hardly. This is a much more fascinating read and story than any televised commercial program presently available.

      One can only hope that it will be made into a movie.

      The deeper we go into this, the more interesting it gets.

      It looks like the science isn’t the only thing that is now “unsettled”.

    • David Jay
      Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 10:26 AM | Permalink

      Your physical reaction (eyes just glazed over) is less a comment on the material and more a comment on the reader.

      Assuming your numbers are “robust”, let’s see, 6 billion people, 0.1% interested, 6 million interested persons – wow, Steve can expect a HUGE increase in blog traffic!

      • Cthulhu
        Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 6:12 PM | Permalink

        Sure maybe, although I suspect my reaction has an element of truth in it.

        • Ian W
          Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 11:22 AM | Permalink

          More truth perhaps than Lord Acton’s testimony?

        • Pat Frank
          Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 5:01 PM | Permalink

          Mainly that some segment of the population with which you’re familiar has a short attention span.

    • Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

      Maybe just pass on by without a comment then. Commenting with glazed eyes can be dangerous.

    • Peter Whale
      Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 3:12 AM | Permalink

      I think your eyes were glazed over from the beginning, it is the same with all the team and their followers.

    • Vorlath
      Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 12:15 PM | Permalink

      Actually, attachments on the server are part of the message. To remove the attachment from the message, you’d have to manually separate them or write a program that filters them out on the server itself which would be proof of questionable behaviour.

      I found that I could not stop reading Steve’s post. It is not the readers who glaze over the details, but rather those involved in Climategate. The amount of obstruction is fascinating and something that is difficult to explain from both a scientific and PR POV.

  4. pax
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 8:40 AM | Permalink

    “Secondly, if the climate community wants to get the Climategate affair behind them, the best course of action for them is to voluntarily get any and all documents pertaining to the events on the public record, rather than contesting the production of each and every document.”

    I guess it depends on the contents of those documents as to whether this is the best course of action for them. This “mendacious” behavior is after all unknown to the wast majority of the public – some noise on “denier” blogs might be preferable to revealing the actual contents.

  5. Soronel Haetir
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 8:54 AM | Permalink

    They are simply going to claim that the attachments aren’t actually part of the emails. That the email bodies are all that Acton was referring to. Or that while the attachments are part of the emails Acton didn’t understand the difference, that he knew the email bodies existed and he thought that was all that mattered. Especially while occupying the hot seat and trying his very best to put the most positive spin possible on the entire situation.

  6. Dr Iain McQueen
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 8:57 AM | Permalink

    It would be very interesting to see a ‘job description’ of the post of Information Commissioner (IC) for the UK FOI Office. I would be interested to know if he is required to hold a broad oversight of the operation of the FOI legislation in the UK. I suspect he is, and I suspect he has authority to advise Government and other public bodies concerning their responses and indeed general perceived responsiveness. This view however is only my surmise.

    The appointment (IC) is clearly of a political nature, and it is within the government’s power to appoint a man likely ot be hawkish on behalf of the people [a Tribune of the Plebs] or more defensive of the government and establishment. In theory I know he is supposed to be impartial.

    The previous incumbent when recalled after demitting office to discuss the ‘Climategate emails’ appeared quite hawkish for the people with remarks about prima facie evidence of breeches by Jones, unfortunately too late revealed to him to take action. He did suggest to the Parliamentary Select Committee this six month limitation might usefully be reviewed.

    What I wonder is whether Steve’s meticulous Post,( masterly summary of a very intricate number of sequences and exchanges) sent to the Information Commissioner would alert him to take action simply by virtue of his general oversight duties, with which I am assuming he is charged. The problem with formal appeal channels is the risk of use of legal wiggle room which a government/establishment hawk might rely upon for inaction and unhelpfulness. Sadly I thing the present Commissioner is more a pro government/establishment type.

    • Dr Iain McQueen
      Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

      Re: Dr Iain McQueen (Mar 12 08:57),

      http://www.ico.gov.uk/about_us.aspx

      “About the ICO
      About us
      Our roles and responsibilities

      The Information Commissioner’s Office’s mission is to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. We rule on eligible complaints, give guidance to individuals and organisations, and take appropriate action when the law is broken. You can find out more about us in this section.”

      I’m not sure how to implant simple proper link – sorry!

      Iain

  7. JohnH
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:48 AM | Permalink

    Wonder if by this refusal UEA was outwith the undertaking to improve complience in Dec 2010

    http://www.ico.gov.uk/what_we_cover/promoting_openness/~/media/documents/library/Freedom_of_Information/Notices/uea_foi_undertaking.ashx

    In particular

    I, Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia (the “UEA”), for and on behalf of the University, hereby acknowledge the details set out below and undertake to comply with the terms of the following Undertaking:

    1.
    The University is a public authority as defined in section 3(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the “Act”), and regulation 2 (2) of the Environmental Regulations 2004 (the “Regulations”).
    2.
    The Information Commissioner, having regard to complaints made to him under section 50 of the Act; the findings of Sir Muir Russell’s Inquiry; and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s report into the “disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia” (Eighth Report of Session 2009–10), considers that the University need take further steps to ensure that both current and future
    1
    Ref: ENF0280278
    requests for information are dealt with appropriately. In particular he considers that a public statement of intent, facilitated by this Undertaking, will provide assurance that the University has embraced the culture of openness and transparency the legislation seeks to promote.
    3.
    The relevant provision of the Act is section 1 “the general right of access to information held by public authorities”.
    4.
    The relevant provision of the Regulations is regulation 5 “the duty to make available environmental information on request”.

    • Iain McQueen
      Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:57 AM | Permalink

      Re: JohnH (Mar 12 09:48),
      To JohnH

      This is a brilliant and important find. It should be sent, together with this post from Steve to the ICO for his comments and advices.

      Iain

    • Ron Cram
      Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 10:29 AM | Permalink

      JohnH,
      As Iain says, this is a nice find! Maybe now Acton can ask Briffa to search the emails he has at home for the lost attachments. (a little sarcasm there). It will be interesting to see if this causes any real change at UEA.

  8. KnR
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:52 AM | Permalink

    What we are seeing is merely a reflects of the message sent out by the very poor CRU reviews, which was carry on has before. Frankly, the problem is you think they would be concerned how these actions affects the public trust.
    The trouble they care nothing for the public’s trust and the reality is right now those that matter in politics and in organisation like the IPCC are still fully behind the CRU no matter what it does.

    The change will come once the politics changes, this is not about the ‘science’ it’s about waiting for the massive momentum behind the AGW cause to disperse.

  9. PhilH
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 10:35 AM | Permalink

    You know, Steve, it occurs to me that it’s about time to consider hiring you the meanest-ass lawyer you can find to start forwarding these various FOI requests to these people. It is sometimes amazing what a letterhead can do to wake up a fool. I would be glad to contribute to the tip jar as others, I am sure, would be also.

    Just be sure to get a mean one.

    • Dr Iain McQueen
      Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 11:21 AM | Permalink

      Re: PhilH (Mar 12 10:35),
      I would chip in too ++, but I suspect this is not in Steve’s operating system! These FOI slitherings really get me.
      Iain

      • Peter
        Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 3:03 PM | Permalink

        You may be correct, but some financial contribution could be used to help Steve do some of the research he must have to do to undertake these FOI requests. I imagine this is a very big commitment on his part.

  10. Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 10:52 AM | Permalink

    What we have witnessed here over the last years is a fall from being scientists in high regard to a status as very shabby “scientists”. And it is not just skeptics that hold this opinion, it is also a large and increasing number of scientists that actually accept the theory of substantial AGW.

    Thank you Steve, hats off for you.

  11. James Shutiak
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 12:58 PM | Permalink

    As a retired CA, EMBA, CMC and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) who has uncovered over 75 frauds, I would say the actions of NOAA, UEA, CRU, etc. are confirming indications of “fraudulent activity”. One such action, while suspicious, is passable, two such actions give greater indication of malfeasance. such a long series gives positive confirmation of a pattern of deception and wrongdoing, in my opinion.

    The whole pattern of behavior of the IPCC “researchers” indicates an elaborate scheme to perpetrate a fraudulent scientific report for political and personal funding purposes. It is well past time that these people were brought to justice and, if found guilty of wrongdoing, fully and severely punished with heavy fines, made to repay the public funds they received, jail time, and prohibition from ever holding public office or receiving public funds ever again. (Just like officers of public companies who break the full, true and plain disclosure rules).

    • Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 8:35 PM | Permalink

      James,

      Great to see a professional fraud-spotter weigh in.

      My experience in vetting backgrounds, and determining veracity and authenticity of people, leads me to share your judgement.

      In your fraud investigations, did you rely on whistleblowers?

      I believe that the indicators clearly point to fraudulent activity in this group. However, unless an insider, with specific knowledge about fraudulent activities, comes forward, then it will be very difficult to get to the truth.

      Do you know of anyone who deals with the False Claims Act? It allows whistleblowers to share in funds reclaimed from fraudulent federal grant activities.

      Focusing on trying to find a whistleblower would be much more fruitful than never-ending examinations and re-examinations of who told whom what and when.

      Kent

  12. mpaul
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 1:05 PM | Permalink

    By now, I imagine that the UEA and NOAA are aware that there is a public controversy regarding their handling of FOIA requests (/understatement). Yet they persist is in telling shifting and contradictory stories in order to frustrate FOIA requests. They seem to be willing to risk the reputation of their respective institutions to avoid releasing this information. This behavior feeds the public suspicion that they must have something to hide — something whose disclosure would result in a higher loss of reputation or more significant penalties than what they have already suffered. However, there is another possible explanation. Their behavior might have more to do with the obsession among some academics to win arguments. If that’s the case, and they have nothing to hide, then someone at UEA or NOAA needs to step in and tell the good professors that enough is enough – release the attachments. If they don’t, then it now seems certain that congress or a state AG will step in and compel NOAA or Alfred University or to do so.

  13. James Shutiak
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    Mr. McIntyre you are to be heartily congratulated for your continuing great “forensic” work on these matters. Hopefully, you are able to ensure that some supportive media and political types in the UK, Europe, and the USA and Canada are aware of your good work. In that manner some well deserved public awareness and political pressure would be put on these entities to come clean and admit their biased “research” on IPCC reports.

  14. geronimo
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM | Permalink

    I don’t want to jump the gun here, but if Steve Mc, or anyone else, wanted to see documents or emails that proved without doubt that I had not been involved in skulduggery I would hand them over in a heartbeat.

    So don’t be bored by this, they’re hiding something that they believe will cause them real damage.

  15. jim edwards
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

    Eugene Wahl
    NOAA

    Dear Gene:
    We just received a FOI request from that creep McIntyre for those embarassing comments you made to Keith. We don’t have any legal basis to stop the release to that cretin. …of course if you objected to the release we could keep the comments from going public.

    I was wondering if you object to the release of your comments.

    Cheers,

    Phil

    Dir. P Jones
    UEA

    Dear Phil:
    Now that I think about it, as a matter of fact I do object.

    Your pal,

    Gene

    [The preceding is parody – not actual documents]

  16. Ron Cram
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 2:21 PM | Permalink

    Steve,
    Has the Penn State University newspaper requested an interview with you yet? The Daily Collegian, published by the students of Penn State actually did a better job covering the original investigation of Michael Mann than the New York Times did.

    I think we should watch this site for upcoming news on Wahl deleting emails because Mann forwarded an email. http://www.collegian.psu.edu/

  17. Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 2:45 PM | Permalink

    Typo re the first document requested – date should be 2005?

  18. Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    On second thoughts, I think 2004 may be correct.

  19. Larry Brown
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 4:52 PM | Permalink

    My compliments and encouragement to Steve. Thank you for what you have done. Please continue to keep the pressure on.

    Larry Brown

  20. Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

    Mr. McIntyre,

    As Dr. McQueen stated, there is always the possibility that the ICO’s actions will be informed by political considerations. Have you considered al alternate route, the Aarhus Convention? I believe Brittain ratified the Convention, but even if not, they are a member of the EU and are bound by its laws. Pillar One of the Aarhus Convention, Access to Information article 3 par 9, would apply in your case.

    I have taken the liberty of copying part of an email sent to us by an aptly named White Knight defending democracy and freedom of information, that explains it far better than I could:

    “The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters is a key element in strengthening local democracy. It derived from the 1992 United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which stated in Principle 10 that:
     
    §       “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided”.
     
    Pillar I of the Aarhus Convention requires States to provide both access to information on the environment on request and to actively and systematically disseminate it.  This ensures that the public can understand what is happening in the environment around them and is able to participate in an informed manner.
     
    Pillar II requires the activity of members of the public in participation with public authorities to reach an optimal result in decision-making and policy-making. As a minimum it requires effective notice, adequate information, proper procedures, and appropriate taking account of the outcome of public participation.
     
    Pillar III requires that the public have legal mechanisms that they can use to gain review of potential violations of Pillar I and II provisions as well as of domestic environmental law. These legal mechanisms must be “fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive”.

    Build up a sufficient case and you can possibly get it addressed by the UNECE lawyers in Geneva:  http://www.unece.org/env/pp/pubcom.htm .”
     
    I have been following this thread on your blog for some time, and it seems to me that should your appeal to the ICO not bear fruit, this might be another avenue you might pursue if you so chose.

    It seems to me that you have already built up an adequate case documenting systematic mendacity and obstructionism by the UEA and it might well be sufficiently strong already to permit the UNECE to compel compliance by the UEA.

    Best Wishes
    Alleyne

  21. Carl Chapman
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 5:22 PM | Permalink

    I posted this already, but WordPress deleted bits in angle brackets that were supposed to represent control strings.

    Attachments to emails are stored within the email before the email is sent to the addressee, or obviously the addressee wouldn’t be able to open the attachment. This might be more “careful speaking” on the part of the UEA. Maybe they are carefully saying that the file that the sender attached to the email has been deleted, without mentioning that the attachment is still stored within the email itself in their server that stores sent emails.

    Say I send an email with an attachment. I type “Fred, I’ve attached a copy of the report you asked for.” I attach the report. The email client then creates a file like this simplified form.

    “From” Details of me.
    “To” Details of addressee.
    Fred, I’ve attached a copy of the report you asked for.
    “Start attachment”
    contents of the attachment
    “End attachment”

    If I then later delete the attachment, the stored copy of the sent email still has the attachment’s content stored within itself.

    If they still have the email on their server, they still have the contents of the attachment stored inside the email.

  22. Al Gored
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 7:23 PM | Permalink

    Great ongoing detective work Mr. McIntyre. This just keeps looking more and more like the unfolding of Watergate, an event I watched closely.

    I hope Carl Chapman’s post above leads to the ‘rediscovery’ of supposedly deleted emails.

  23. Hugh K
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 8:16 PM | Permalink

    Is it possible NOAA would so blatantly ignore an executive order by the President?

    One of the first steps Obama took as President was to issue the Transparency and Open Government memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies demanding a commitment “to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” Obama further ordered; “We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.”

    Perhaps NOAA simply overlooked the above Presidential directive along with the email attachments you are searching for. If not, it is worth repeating the question; Is it possible NOAA would so blatantly ignore an executive order by the President?

    Transparency and Open Government memorandum link – http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/TransparencyandOpenGovernment/

  24. mark t
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 8:37 PM | Permalink

    All this makes me wonder… what is the point of FOIA if every beauraucracy subject to its terms can simply lie or refuse to comply to avoid the consequences? In what reality can anybody defend this ongoing nonsense?

    Mark

  25. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 8:50 PM | Permalink

    Please permit a short analogy for those who think this line of investigation is unimportant.

    Asteroids: “2007 VK184 is an asteroid, which is listed on the Near Earth Object Risk List with a Torino Scale of Level 1. 101 observations suggest VK184 has a probability of 1 in 3,030 to hit the Earth during June 2048. These figures translate into a 0.033% chance to hit. (Text taken in part from Wiki).

    A fictional story: Some astronomers and mathematicians get together with some insurers. They calculate a plausible set of figures that the probability of impact is now greater than thought. The calculations and code are made difficult to obtain. The insurer club imposes higher premiums globally and revels in its higher income, especially enjoyable for those with little chance of surviving until 2048 given the effects of alcohol on the liver.

    A global group like the United Nations inserts itself, because one cannot predict any particular country as ground zero. It makes Treaties, sets up a fund to prepare for remedial costs if the event happens, costs which could be high even with a near miss of the Earth. There are frequent conferences at exotic locations, with public relations groups advising on how to minimise exposure of conduct that might upset the public. FOI requests for the calculations and code are made difficult.

    There is enough analogy here, so I won’t extend it.

    This is NOT the course that most scientists wish future science to follow. Hence, the present carry-on has to be cut off at the knees.

    The bottom line is, the citizens of the world are entitled to full and open disclosure of information as it comes to hand; they are entitled to audit the accuracy; they are entitled to publish their own calculations without fear of rejection by cowed publishers. The end result is justified only by the pursuit of truth.

  26. John Carpenter
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Permalink

    As this web continues to untangle, the story gets more and more interesting. I don’t mean to trivialize what you are working on with this analogy, but I can’t help but see parallels here with the baseball steroid saga now surrounding Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. In both cases you have players at the top of there professions sitting in the hot seat b/c they would simply will not admit to their transgressions, despite the mounds of evidence against them. Early on, they arrogantly and angrily proclaimed their innocence in public (witness Rogers’ 60 minutes interview). But now, by allegedly lying under oath, they have brought much more serious charges against themselves than the original. Had the team simply taken the road of honesty, like Andy Pettitte did, so much complete distrust of their work may have been avoided. The appearance of this cover-up, as with others you have been subject to, is doing much more harm to the climate science community than the admission to the original transgressions. Please continue this important work as the truth, like cream, will rise to the top.

    • Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:31 PM | Permalink

      John,

      Good analogy to the Bonds steroid investigation. However, you’re missing the most crucial point.

      The only way that Bonds’ steroid use was confirmed, and the only way that the truth arose, was with a whistleblower.

      Greg Anderson, Bonds’ “trainer” who seems to have provided and injected Bonds, testified that he did so.

      Without Anderson’s testimony, the investigation would have been stone-walled, found deleted emails, and met with denials and cover-ups, forever.

      Our community here, and on related blogs and other communities of realists, could have a real impact if we focused our efforts on identifying and encouraging whistleblowers, who know the truth of what happened inside the Team’s labs, to come forward.

      Kent

      • John Carpenter
        Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Permalink

        good point, for Roger it was Brian McNamee who blew the whistle on him in the Mitchell report.

        • Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 11:43 PM | Permalink

          For Bernie Madoff, even though Markopolous was just like Steve conducting a thorough and insightful investigation outside, and sending his results to the Feds, he was an outsider, and was not taken seriously. Not until Madoff’s sons became whistleblowers did the Madoff case get cracked.

          It takes an insider whistleblower to successfully bust fraud cases, nearly always.

          And for Michael Mann the whistleblower will be….?
          And for Phil Jones the whistleblower will be….?
          And for the rest of the team…..?

          Steve, and others, have done yeoman’s work in exposing the Team.

          It’s time that we all work to identify and encourage whistleblowers from within the IPCC, Penn State, UEA, CRU, NOAA, NASA, and others to come forward and reveal the missing pieces of the puzzle.

  27. AusieDan
    Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:12 PM | Permalink

    Steve
    You have my undying admiration.

  28. Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:21 PM | Permalink

    Dan,

    Good analogy.

    You’re missing the most important point, however.

    The reason that investigators were able to blow the cover off the Watergate conspiracy was: whistleblowers.

    John Dean, a presidential advisor, finally turned on his co-conspirators. That was the end.

    An FBI Associate Director, Mark Felt, later provided, anonymously, details of the FBI’s investigation to Washington Post reporters.

    Without those two whistleblowers, we’d probably still be waiting for details of shredded papers from the White House.

    We need to focus our efforts on indentifying and encouraging whistleblowers to come forward and do the right thing–from UEA, CRU, NOAA, NASA, Penn State, U.Virginia, and wherever else Team members have been active.

    Kent

  29. Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 9:39 PM | Permalink

    It strikes me that Acton, who set up and financed the Russell inquiry/fiasco to the tune of $450k of the UEA’s money, needs to resign. Of course, the UEA has several chronological email backups of ‘CRU researchers a, b, and c’ from the CRU. (http://climateaudit.org/2010/07/09/the-botched-examination-of-the-back-up-server). By comparing these backups with the climategate emails it might be possible to determine properly who deleted what and when – of course that would involve an interest in the truth.

  30. Posted Mar 12, 2011 at 10:41 PM | Permalink

    “Information is a draft and therefore is an unfinished document for the purposes of the Regulations. Much of the information in the draft is contained in a later, published version, and release would adversely effect the interests of the parties that provided the information”

    Frankly I don’t care one whit about the interests of the parties that provided the information. They should have acted above-board and then perhaps we might care.

  31. John Whitman
    Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 2:23 AM | Permalink

    Steve McIntyre,

    You concluded, “In my opinion, such obstructions, especially when accompanied by untrue or misleading excuses, are far more corrosive to public trust in the institutions themselves than any conceivable benefit to the institutions achieved through the obstruction.”

    Consider the idea that climate scientists and the climate institutions do not have overall incentive to change because they would get no overall greater net benefit from changing their behavior compared to their existing benefit from continuing their current behavior. Where their current behavior is what you describe so well (chronologically) in your excellent post.

    Curt Doolittle argued alone those lines in his comment (on March 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm) in Judith Curry’s post ‘Climate story telling angst’ (Posted on March 6, 2011).

    A very small part of what Curt said, “Why do I know that what I say here will not make a difference? Because researchers in the physical sciences have perverse and adverse incentives because of the economic structure of labor in academic research. Therefore, scientists will not change their behavior because it would cause them to pay the cost of that change, and that cost is too high in relation to ALL THEIR OTHER COSTS AND BENEFITS.”

    John

    • Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 9:10 AM | Permalink

      Sadly John I think you’re right. Most people have never heard of Climategate, and most of those who have are reassured by no less than 3 independent reviews exonerating those involved. There’s only a few of us “cranks” now who continually bang on about it.

      So if the climate “scientists” continue as they are then there’s little for them to lose and a lot to gain. Only when governments turn against them will they lose funding; why bring that time forward by releasing material that shows they’re wrong?

    • stan
      Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 1:14 PM | Permalink

      Individual scientists involved in the mess should not be confused with the institutions. There are scientists who are not involved in the corruption who are seeing harm to the reputation of science generally and climate science particularly. Those scientists have an incentive to see that the mess gets cleaned up. When their numbers are sufficient to impel change in the institutions, change will begin.

    • Dishman
      Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 5:03 PM | Permalink

      The politicians and institutions had an opportunity to wash their hands of it after Climategate, but chose instead to double down.

      It did break some people loose, like Judith Curry.

      Unfortunately, I’m not seeing any way to unwind this that isn’t ugly. It appears to me that it will take much more or larger shoes dropping to clean up the science.

  32. Crispin in Ulaanbaatar
    Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 2:25 AM | Permalink

    I agree the ICO approach is an interesting and possibly effective way to end run the high-level obstruction.

  33. Viv Evans
    Posted Mar 13, 2011 at 1:10 PM | Permalink

    Just a footnote:

    Wahl claims the e-mails are now ‘in the public domain’ because of climategate … a bit like the man begging for compassion because he’s an orphan, having just murdered his parents,no?

  34. John Trigge
    Posted Mar 14, 2011 at 1:57 AM | Permalink

    Expect to see more emails between the ‘team’ with very little content in the body but lots of attachments. Future FOI requests would then produce the emails sans attachments and they can claim they met the requirements of the FOI request.

  35. Ray Sieben
    Posted Mar 14, 2011 at 9:44 AM | Permalink

    With the scientists involved in this scandal creating a negative view of scientists, I don’t understand why the scientific community is not demanding full disclosure and honesty from the scandal ridden group.
    All of science is getting a black eye over this.
    I used to trust that scientists believed their opinions and conclusions enough to have their data openly reviewed. Now I believe many scientists only want their work materials reviewed by other scientists that will agree with their opinions.
    Growing up, I still remember being concerned over the coming Ice Age.
    Based on the last few winters here in Western Canada, I suspect an Ice Age is closer than Global Warming.
    Keep up the pressure Steve.

  36. Sal
    Posted Mar 31, 2011 at 5:14 AM | Permalink

    From: Michael Mann
    To: Phil Jones
    Subject: Re: IPCC & FOI
    Date: Thu, 29 May 2008 08:12:02 -0400
    Reply-to: mann@psu.edu

    Hi Phil,

    laughable that CA would claim to have discovered the problem. They would
    have run off to the Wall Street Journal for an exclusive were that to
    have been true.

    I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is: generwahl@yahoo.com

    talk to you later,

    mike

    It appears from the above that Gene Wahl and probably the others set up email accounts outside of their university affiliations in order to circumvent the FOIA process. This had to have occurred recently when these emails were sent because Phil Jones states that he does not have Gene’s new email address which is why he is asking Michael Mann to send it to him.

    If this is true, then those emails sent to that address should be opened up to public scrutiny as they are public records.

5 Trackbacks

  1. […] […]

  2. By Quote of the Week | Watts Up With That? on Mar 13, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    […] Indeed. Eventually all of this will come out. You may as well get it out now and get it over with. Full essay here at ClimateAudit […]

  3. By More NOAA Disinformation Discovered on Mar 13, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    […] […]

  4. By Top Posts — WordPress.com on Mar 13, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    […] More NOAA Disinformation and an Appeal to the UK ICO On March 9, 2011, NOAA scientist Eugene Wahl claimed that the “emails [he] deleted” were “all” “in the public domain” […] […]

  5. […] to Wahl’s emails. I provided a review of this and subsequent events earlier this year here – worth re-reading if you wish further context on today’s […]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,421 other followers

%d bloggers like this: