The main target of Phil Jones’ notorious email deletion campaign was Eugene Wahl’s surreptitious correspondence with Briffa in summer 2006, in which Wahl changed the IPCC assessment of the Mann controversy from that which had been sent out for external review. Wahl’s changes were contained in attachments to his emails to Briffa. The emails mostly came out in Climategate 1 (with some interesting additions in CG2), but the key attachments were not included in Climategate documents.
As Jones had requested, Mann forwarded Jones’ deletion request to Eugene Wahl, who, according to the report of the NOAA Inspector General in early 2011, then deleted the documents. According to a contemporary (2008) email from Jones to Jean Palutikoff, Briffa removed the emails to thumb drives which he took home.
In 2011, I submitted an FOI request to the UEA for the attachments to the Wahl emails. UEA refused this request, claiming that there were no copies of these attachments on university computers and that they were unable to/not obliged to search the backup server then in the possession of the Norfolk police. I had appealed their refusal on the basis that the UEA was able to request a search of the backup server. The Information Tribunal had accepted the appeal and pleadings had been exchanged up to final replies. In the very latest stages of this proceeding, the server was returned to UEA.
Without withdrawing their previous arguments, the UEA undertook to search the backup server for the Wahl attachments. They reported on this search on August 8, the report being co-authored by FOI officer David Palmer and Chris Collins.
They stated that they were unable to locate any of the documents.
The documents in question were listed as attachments in two CG1 emails (716. 1153470204.txt and 733. 1155402164.txt). These emails were lengthy threads; the actual emails containing the documents are CG2 -3241 and CG2- 2540.
They limited their search to Briffa’s directories (stating that earlier inquiries had “confirmed” that Briffa had not forwarded the Wahl email to anyone else) and to the earliest Briffa backup, said to have been August 2, 2009.
Within Eudora, attachments are stored in a separate subdirectory from the emails to which they were attached. Accordingly, a decision was taken to search for attachments in the area of the subdirectory which was relevant to Professor Briffa’s email account.
In the course of the initial request, internal review, and subsequent ongoing investigation by
the Information Commissioners Office, it was confirmed that Prof. Briffa would not have forwarded this email onto any other member of CRU staff so the focus of the search was felt
to be justifiably restricted to attachments to Professor Briffa’s emails. We searched the earliest known backup which dated from 2 August 2009 on the assumption that as all the emails predated that date, if the documents were held on the server, the earliest iteration of the backup would possess them,
They stated that the search of the forensic copy of the backup server was carried out by Chris Collins, Head of Research Computing, and was based on instructions and input from Mike Salmon, Faculty System Specialist, who had been the administrator in charge of the CRU server at the time of Climategate. David Palmer, Information Policy and Compliance Officer, and Iain Reeman, ICT Systems Director, were also present. The search was recorded by a KVM over IP system.
The search was described as follows:
The folder in question contained a series of backups in numerical chronological sequence, the earliest of which dated from Aug 2, 2009. The folder was searched three times using different commands each of which were specifically designed so as to be sufficiently general to capture the documents in issue. We felt that a direct search for the full filenames would not be appropriate as this would not catch minor variations in filename. By employing search terms that were contractions of the actual file names the search would reveal any and all documents with the search terms in the name of the document, regardless of what the ‘suffix’ to the search term contained.
The first of these searches returned no matches. The second and third returned matches to
other files which we confirmed by eye not to be the files in question.
the searches of the server indicated that documents 5-8 were not in fact physically contained on the server. Given that the server was in the possession of the
Constabulary at the time of the request and given further that it must be inferred that the
Constabulary did not itself remove or delete and documents, it must be inferred that documents 5-8 were equally not held on the server at the time of Mr Mclntyre’s request or at
any time thereafter.
I must say that I’m surprised by a couple of things in this report and would appreciate advice from readers familiar with the technicalities.
Obvious questions that occur to me: what precisely were the search terms. However, on the basis that the search terms were sensible, does it make sense that the emails (attested in the Climategate dossier) still exist while the attachments don’t?
The report does not specifically confirm whether they had been able to locate the emails to which they attachments were attached. Given that we know that Briffa had deleted his Wahl correspondence in 2008, it seems counter-intuitive that they would be in an August 2, 2009 backup.
And the date of the earliest Briffa backup – August 2, 2009 – is a real surprise. Most of us had assumed that at least some of the backups had been from a much earlier period. August 2, 2009 is only a couple of days after the “Mole Incident” (as a result of which CRU re-arranged their FTP access.) It makes one wonder whether they inadvertently did something to their system that exposed something.