The more one reads the documents of the Muir Russell, the more it is a litany of incompetence, already evidenced by the failure of Muir Russell and other panelists to even attend the Jones and Briffa interview. The botched “efforts” to examine the balance of the emails in the back-up server is another sorry episode.
The original terms of reference of the inquiry were as follows:
1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.
The Report noted that the dossier were only a fraction of the total emails (which they were obliged to consider.) The Muir Russell panel did not carry out the slightest examination of the other emails. They described the effort as “largely unsuccessful” – it was in fact totally unsuccessful. They blamed the failure on the scale of the task and the police investigation – but most of the blame lies with :total ineptitude and inertia of the Muir Russell Team. The Report:
10. The presumption is that e-mails were selected to support a particular viewpoint. Recognising that they were a tiny fraction of those archived, the Review Team sought to learn more about the full contents of the back-up server. This attempt, summarised in Appendix 6, was largely unsuccessful due to the sheer scale of the task and ongoing police investigation.
Appendix 6 of the Report contains a partial description of this sorry episode, which I’ll place in context later against minutes and documents at the website. Muir Russell stated:
1. Recognising that the e-mails improperly released into the public domain represent only a tiny fraction (less than 0.3%) of the e-mails archived by the key individuals in the CRU, the Review team sought to set these in context. The backup server (CRUBACK3) had been taken as evidence by the police as part of their own investigation and was held by police contracted forensic investigators. A full context could only be established by some form of access to the information held on this server.
In seeking to gain this access a number of legal issues arose, notably that:
• the server and its contents were evidence in the continuing police investigation; and
• in the opinion of UEA‘s legal advisers, unconstrained access to the contents of e-mails on the server by the Review would raise potential privacy and data protection issues.
A couple of troubling issues arise here. The Muir Russell panel was supposed to be independent and to have access to the emails. Why are they taking advice from “UEA’s legal advisers”. And by the way, the emails are the property of the university – what “potential privacy and data protection issues” arise from the Muir Russell panel examining the emails, as they were charged in the remit – a remit presented to the Parliamentary Committee.
Appendix 6 continues:
2. The compromise eventually reached with both the police investigative team and the UEA Registrar was for:
• the University to contract an independent computer forensic analyst;
• the police forensic consultants to extract from CRUBACK3 all the e-mails from the various archived mailboxes of key UEA staff and to provide these under strict security conditions to the independent forensic analyst;
• the independent analyst, respecting the high evidential security requirements set out by the police team, to work within secure premises authorized by the police;
• the independent analyst to seek to determine the search or selection parameters that had extracted the improperly released e-mails from the multiple archives and to determine whether this process highlighted any additional material of relevance to the Review; and
• any material identified by the the analyst to be redacted by the University, in terms of protecting the identity of non-UEA recipients or authors, prior to being made available to the Review.
Muir Russell then reports that this all took an extended period to negotiate and by that time it would delay the report. They decided against analysing the other emails.
3. This whole process took an extended period to negotiate and implement. It became clear that a full analysis would require considerable further time and extensive manual intervention. It would introduce significant delay to the publication of the Review‘s report. A decision was reached not to pursue this further on grounds of both time and cost against likely results. The Review had always regarded the e-mails as pointers to areas for detailed investigation and this had been complemented by extensive public requests for submissions and any other information in the public domain. A summary report by the independent forensic analyst has been placed on the Review website.
Muir Russell was appointed on December 3. The first meeting of the Team took place in early January. (Minutes for an initial meeting in January have mysteriously materialized on the website in the last couple of weeks. previously the initial meeting was shown in February. The cover page now has minutes for two meetings described as the “initial” meeting of the Team.)
The Team meeting of March 20, nearly 4 months after Muir Russell’s appointment, resolved as follows;
It was agreed that the Review should contact the police investigation to seek access to the CRU full back-up server and emails. Action JN.
On March 26, Muir Russell (accompanied by BP’s Eyton) met with Acton – a meeting not mentioned in the Report. Acton – and one can picture him here – said that he fully agreed with searching the server, but one did have to worry about the “sheer practical burden” and that it could raise “Data Protection issues” – notwithstanding the fact that this activity was listed in the remit presented Parliament as something Muir Russell would undertake
5. We explained that we were considering whether it would be practicable to have some work done to search the CRU server (held by the police) with a view to obtaining a fuller understanding of the basis of the selection of the e-mails that were the subject of the unauthorized release. Professor Acton was strongly supportive. He was concerned that due attention be given to the fact that this could raise Data Protection issues because more personal data, possibly relating to more people, might be involved; and the sheer practical burden of handling the possible outputs of the work had to be considered. We agreed to reflect on those concerns and return to the matter, possibly with a more focused proposition, when Jim Norton and I made our next visit the following week.
Muir Russell and Norton are listed as meeting with UEA FOI officer Palmer and Colam-French and separately with Michael McGarvie on March 30 (the last shown visit of Muir Russell to UEA), but no meeting with Acton is listed in the Report. Minutes of the meeting with the FOI officers state that they were “particularly interested” in making “forward looking recommendations”; nothing in the minutes of either meeting refers to the examination of the backup server.
The April 1 minutes of the Team stated;
The Review noted the actions being taken as regards searching the entire CRU back-up server record. Action JN
At the next Team meeting on April 13, the following is reported:
In relation to its remit the Review agreed, based on negotiation with the Police for selective access to material held on the CRU server, and the employment by the UEA of a trusted, independent, forensic analyst, to prepare a proposal in terms of which the UEA would seek to determine whether there is more information from the compromised CRU server that might still come into the public domain and which would be of relevance to the Review. Action JN, MR
This is now 4 and 1/2 months after Muir Russell’s appointment – it took (at most) two weeks to coordinate with the police and four months for Muir Russell to get around to it. Note that the minute refers to the employment of the analyst by UEA directly and not by the Inquiry.
The April 22 meeting reports that UEA has now agreed to make contact with a forensic analyst:
It was noted that the UEA has agreed to the proposal that they should make contact with a trusted, independent, forensic analyst, to take this work forward. The Review Team agreed to facilitate the initial contacts. Action JN
The April 28 minutes report that an analyst has been engaged by UEA – this is now 5 months from the release of the dossier.
It was noted that a trusted, independent, forensic analyst [Peter Sommer] has been engaged by the UEA and once they are available, he will start work on examining the first set of downloaded emails from the compromised CRU server.
The May 11 minutes state:
JN updated the Review Team on the progress being made with respect to the forensic analyst who has been engaged by the UEA to examine the emails from the compromised CRU server.
The analyst’s report (Sommer http://www.pmsommer.com/) comes less than a week later. (see “Report on email extraction.pdf”, the analyst noting that his engagement is by the University (not the Inquiry).
On May 14, he had been supplied with thumb drives containing all the emails extracted from the back-up server. He reported that he was permitted to examine the emails only under conditions of extreme security, noting:
These procedures, while providing a very high standard of protection to the data, are also very time consuming, particularly in the light of the need for the Review to conclude its work in a timely manner.
He stated that the emails were in Thunderbird and “time constraints in
preparing this initial report preclude indexing and any form of sophisticated analysis.” He said that analysis might take “several weeks”
The processes of analysis to identify (and then review) additional email traffic which might be associated with the issues which are the subject of the allegations which have been levelled against CRU, is likely to take at least several weeks. It would be for the Review Team and the University to determine whether the cost, inevitable time delays and (at this time) uncertain outcomes could be justified.
Sommer reported on May 17. UEA elected not to authorize the analysis. Muir Russell’s ineptitude and inertia resulted in no attempt being made to even begin an examination of the other emails until late April, and by mid-May, they decided it was already too late to bother.