New Light on Jones’ Document Deletion Enterprise

David Holland, in a guest post at Bishop Hill, shows that Climategate 2.0 has provided more context on Phil Jones’ efforts to organize the deletion of documents.

Jones’ May 29, 2008 request to Michael Mann that he ask Eugene Wahl to delete his IPCC emails (and that Mann delete his own emails) was one of the more notorious emails. It read as follows (as readers know):

subject: Re: IPCC & FOI

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.

Can you also email Gene [Wahl] and get him to do the same? I don’t have his new email address.

We will be getting Caspar [Ammann] to do likewise.

As is also well known, Mann immediately confirmed that he would contact Wahl about this as soon as possible. As is also well known, Wahl (earlier this year) confirmed to a NOAA Inspector General that he deleted the emails promptly after being contacted by Mann:

subject: Re: IPCC & FOI
Hi Phil,
…I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is: talk to you later,

Although the UK Parliamentary Committee directly asked Muir Russell to examine this incident, Muir Russell refused to do so, and, worse, made a false finding that Jones had not sought to delete emails subject to a prior FOI request. Muir Russell did not satisfactorily explain his false finding when recalled by the UK Parliamentary finding, but admitted that he had not asked Jones about the incident because that would have been asking Jones if he had committed a crime. In the fall hearing, Acton claimed that Acton himself had done the investigation that Muir Russell had failed to carry out and told the Parliamentary Committee that Jones had been able to provide all the emails – thus nothing had been deleted. (See Holland’s article for references.)

Acton’s testimony was inconsistent with assertions made by the UEA in refusing my request for the attachments to Wahl’s surreptitious correspondence with Briffa. The university refused my FOI request on the basis that they did not have the attachments i.e. the version of the email complete with attachments had been deleted/destroyed. Following Acton’s testimony, I appealed this refusal to the ICO (pointing out the inconsistency between Acton’s evidence to the Parliamentary Committee and the grounds of the UEA refusal) and am awaiting a decision. The ICO official in charge says that the decision was drafteda while ago and is awaiting final approval.

Back to the new evidence.

A day prior to the notorious deletion email, in a Climategate 1.0 email that received too little attention, Jones told Palmer and Mcgarvie (BTW Mcgarvie is considerably more prominent as a recipient of Climategate 2.0 context emails than in the original tranche – a point that I shall return to) that Briffa should give an (untruthful) answer about his surreptitious correspondence with Wahl:

Keith should say that he didn’t get anything extra that wasn’t in the IPCC comments.

As David Holland observed, Climategate 2.0 email chain 2526 from June 4 to June 6 sheds further light on the enterprise. Another email (4885), not noted by David, shows Jones gossiping with Wigley and Santer about the events.

On June 3, Holland was notified (2526) of the refusal of his FOI 08-23 (a request curiously omitted from the Muir Russell list of FOI requests.) See contemporary CA post here. The primary excuse was that releasing the information would supposedly be an “actionable breach of confidence” (though such reasoning did not prevent East Anglia employees from distributing Holland’s emails to numerous people unaffiliated with the University of East Anglia without asking Holland’s consent):

s.41, Information provided in confidence: The release of this information would constitute an actionable breach of confidence…

we hold that the s.41 exemption applies to all requested correspondence received by the University. We have consistently treated this information as confidential and have been assured by the persons and organisations giving this information to us that they believe it to be confidential and would expect to be treated as such.

Holland immediately appealed (June 4) – also see contemporary CA post here. CG2 email 2526 includes an acknowledgement of Holland’s appeal and forwarding by Palmer to Jones, Osborn, Briffa, Mcgarvie and Colam-French (the latter would later consider the appeal):

Subject: FW: Freedom of Information Act request (FOI_08-23) – Appeal
The expected response from Mr. Holland. We now need to invoke our complaints/appeal procedure contained within the UEA Code of Practice for Responding to Requests!uea_manual_draft_04b.pdf). We have a multi-stage process; first, I try to resolve it informally, then it goes to the Director of ISD, and finally, it can go to an internal ‘Adjudication Board’ – we have never reached this latter stage on any appeal to date – we usually resolve the matter or it ends up with the ICO prior to this stage. Please note, that the ICO will not hear an appeal unless all avenues of internal complaint process have been explored/undertaken.

It should also be noted that neither the Act, nor any Code of Practice mandates what sort of complaints process we should have; merely that one should be in existence, be fair, be known to the requester, and used in situations such as this. Please also note that we have to provide a time limit for response – in our Code, we give ourselves 4 weeks. (28 calendar days) I will acknowledge the complaint/appeal and will assess whether there is any room for an informal resolution of this request. I doubt that there is much room here but I’m bound to look for it…

Should it go to the Director of ISD, I will prepare a briefing paper setting out the issues for him from a FOIA perspective; and then he will ‘rule’. I have not had the opportunity to review Mr. Holland’s response closely as yet but will do so and get back to you… there are some aspects that you may be in a better position to comment on than I (e.g.. issues of confidentiality of correspondence; amount/location of correspondence) and I would appreciate your input. Michael, once we have had an opportunity to review, worth another meeting?
Cheers, Dave

The policy manual referred to in the email is still online here. A Bishop Hill reader observes that it links in turn to a document entitled “Management of Records under the Freedom of Information Act 2000” that is password protected.

Later on June 4, Jones wrote the following to Jean Palutikoff, formerly of CRU, who was then at the UK Met Office as part of the TSU for IPCC WG2. In this email, as David Holland observed, Jones told Palutikoff of IPCC that Briffa and Osborn had moved all their correspondence off their PCs onto memory sticks. (Jones also referred to an earlier incident where John Mitchell of the UK Met Office “conveniently lost” his emails pertaining to his conduct as Review Editor of the IPCC paleo chapter in which Briffa had been Lead Author:

subject: FW: Freedom of Information Act request (FOI_08-23) – Appeal
to: “Palutikof, Jean”
Sorry to bring you back down to earth! Can you read the attached – a glass of wine would help, perhaps several.

Keith got an initial request which developed in CRU01.pdf. We then got the second one CRU02 which was replied to with the refusal letter (the incorrect date was changed before this went). We have just got CRU03. What Keith and Tim did was to email all the CLAs and LAs on Ch 6, to ask if they would be happy for Keith/Tim to send emails relating to Ch 6 discussions. They all refused, hence the refusal letter.

What we’re now considering doing is to refer him to WG1 and/or IPCC in Geneva. know that there is likely only Melinda Tignor left in Boulder. Susan changed her email address a few months ago. John Mitchell did respond to a request from Holland. John had conveniently lost many emails, but he did reply with a few. Keith and Tim have moved all their emails from all the named people off their PCs and they are all on a memory stick.

So any thoughts on how to respond? TSU for WG2 was mentioned on the first request! As you and Tom know Keith and I are nowhere near the world’s best for structured archiving – working as we do on sedimentary sequencing!

The next day (June 5 – 4885), Jones forwarded Holland’s email (not extending Holland the same confidentiality as they claimed for their pals) to Wigley and Santer – neither of whom had any duties in respect to the FOI request:

Tom, Ben,
An annoying email from yesterday is attached!

We will likely be replying in a similar vein to our earlier, saying emails between CLAs and LAs for Ch 6 were in confidence. We have emails from all in Ch 6 to say the group doesn’t want emails made available. We will refer Holland to WG1 in Boulder – knowing that there is likely only one person there keeping things ticking over till the TSU closes – which it may have.

IPCC will have to alter those work guidelines to stop this sort of thing next time. I’ll be raising it with whoever is the next Susan. Decision in early Sept – news is it will be one of Tom Karl, Ram, Brian Hoskins or Thomas Stocker.

What will amuse is the paragraph about structured archiving. As you both know Keith and me work on the sedimentary sequence approach to filing!


  1. David Holland
    Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 12:47 PM | Permalink

    I wonder if the UEA will add the Palutikof email to their Cherry-picked phrases explained?

  2. ChE
    Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 1:27 PM | Permalink

    I’m normally not a grammar Nazi, but this is downright cringeworthy:

    As you both know Keith and me work on the sedimentary sequence approach to filing!

    Maybe he’s an Excel wiz or something…

    • Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

      Jones’ grammar and spelling throughout the CG stuff are pretty atrocious. These are some of his better ones. I know one doesn’t normally expect perfect grammar and such in casual emails, but some of his are more than cringeworthy.

    • Scott Brim
      Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

      Re: ChE (Dec 18 13:27),

      I’m normally not a grammar Nazi, but this is downright cringeworthy:

      As you both know Keith and me work on the sedimentary sequence approach to filing!

      What this means to me is that these people have a habit of stacking their working papers on their desks or on their bookshelves in layer upon layer of documentary “stuff” until it becomes an almost impenetrable mass of material.

      This is material which might potentially be covered as “record material” under the stipulations of either the Freedom of Information Act, or more likely, under the written stipulations of their organization’s own Records Management (RM) procedures.

      Basically, what is said here is an offhand admission that they are very sloppy in pursuing what ought to be a very disciplined and well-organized records management approach in filing and storing the backup materials they employ in generating their various analytical products.

      It is difficult and embarrassing to respond to a formalized request for information when you don’t know either what it is that you actually have in your possession, or where it is that you actually have it.

      • ChE
        Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

        If he just put it all in Excel…

      • Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 10:08 PM | Permalink

        I think the cringeworthy part is the “Keith and me” instead of “Keith and I”. Or did I fail to detect an understood /sarc?

    • juanslayton
      Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 6:00 PM | Permalink

      …me work on the sedimentary sequence approach to filing!

      Me think you lie. Me think you use metamorphic approach to filing data.

      • Mark F
        Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 6:10 PM | Permalink

        Years ago, perhaps 20, the Economist described personal filing systems, with one extreme being the “volcano” system (mine). A tiny work area surrounded by a “caldera” of “stuff” at critical height, with bits falling here and there. For the VISUALLY oriented. (The writ is at roughtly 10 o’clock, 2/3 of the way up the pile, just above the 2-for-1 pizza offer [on orange paper] that expired 8 months ago.) Just don’t touch it or you DIE!

      • Scott Brim
        Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 6:27 PM | Permalink

        Re: juanslayton (Dec 18 18:00),

        …me work on the sedimentary sequence approach to filing!

        Me think you lie. Me think you use metamorphic approach to filing data.

        Yes, but in the metamorphic approach, the layers of sedimentary document material must first be buried deep enough, and be exposed to enough heat and pressure, so as to form metamorphosed sedimentary document material.

        For example, documentary sand must first be welded under extreme heat and pressure into documentary sandstone before it can be usefully employed for purposes of stonewalling a Freedom of Information Act request.

        • juanslayton
          Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 6:45 PM | Permalink

          You half right. When documentary sandstone fully ‘adjusted’ it transform into transparent quartzsite. Then need stonewall FOIA to hide metamorphosis.

        • ChE
          Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 11:08 PM | Permalink

          Such an igneous filing system.

        • Don B
          Posted Dec 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM | Permalink

          Nice. Very nice.

        • Posted Dec 19, 2011 at 4:50 AM | Permalink

          haha. So we finally get transparent data, but at cost: already “adjusted”.

        • Ron in Austin
          Posted Dec 19, 2011 at 4:47 AM | Permalink

          That has been my system for my entire life. Unfortunately, as I’ve aged my memory has started to slip and I now have difficulty finding stuff, often “filed” just a few days before.

        • Gary
          Posted Dec 19, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

          Ah, but the sedimentary sequence approach leave fossils in the strata and paleoanalysis permits reconstruction of past environments.

      • ChE
        Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 7:10 PM | Permalink

        Me think computer have little garbage can. Me put emails in garbage can. You put emails in garbage can, too. Email all gone!

  3. Robert of Ottawa
    Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

    These people new they were being naughty. Rather than delete, they move e-mails to memory sticks.

    • Theo Goodwin
      Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 6:14 PM | Permalink

      Actually, moving to a memory stick is deleting.

      • Harold
        Posted Dec 19, 2011 at 12:39 PM | Permalink

        OK, so they knew they were being naughty, but didn’t know they were also being stupid. Unconscious incompetence, apparently. Even average crooks know not to tale incriminating material from the crime scene.

  4. Don McIlvin
    Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 1:56 PM | Permalink

    The extent to which Phil Jones, in particular, goes to position people in positions that make decisions and orchestrate systemically an outcome favorable to the team’s narrative – never ceases to amaze me. It would be interesting to build an informal organization chart on how his influence has extended beyond the core team collaborating on their science. Certainly positioning efforts within the IPCC and steering journal reviews reveals a King Maker role. With this pattern of behavior, one has to wonder what the full picture is of ‘team’ influence concerning the various investigations and the outcomes. We have seen bits and pieces come out, but I have to doubt the full extent is known.

  5. Pluck
    Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 3:32 PM | Permalink

    Just to read these e-mails gets my hackles up. And I’m not even Scottish military or of the avian persuasion. It’s just that, deep down inside me, these e-mails strike me as so wrong.

  6. crosspatch
    Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 6:07 PM | Permalink

    I also notice this buried in the quotes in email 0281.txt which I believe is a portion from Phil Jones

    2. You can delete this attachment if you want. Keep this quiet also, but this is the person who is putting in FOI requests for all emails Keith and Tim have written and received re Ch 6 of AR4. We think we’ve found a way around this.

    What I find extremely interesting is 5020.txt

    I just got a call from Gabi, who spent the day in Washington at that NAS panel on the hockey stick. She doesn’t have access to e-mail today, and so asked me to convey a message.

    McIntyre and McKittrick were there, and seem to have left Gabi with the strong impression that they will be insisting on having access to supporting data, etc., used to build reconstructions. Gabi says that this is making her nervous, wants to make sure that you are aware of the status of her reconstruction, and wants to be sure that you are comfortable with continuing to use it in Ch 6. She says that if you feel it necessary to exclude her reconstruction from your SOD of Ch 6, you should do so. The reconstruction is used in her Nature paper on sensitivity, which has been accepted, but the Nature paper does not describe the reconstruction or the supporting data in any detail. There is a paper under review at J. Climate that does do that (which is cited in the Nature paper), but unfortunately, an editorial decision is still pending.

    Cheers, Francis

    Why would Gabi be nervous?

    • Posted Dec 19, 2011 at 7:28 AM | Permalink

      Was this the same as the Boulton Hockey Stick which Steve discussed on 14th February 2010? Plenty of possible reasons for being nervous are given there. Funnily enough I came across this again on Friday, after writing about Boulton’s role in leading the openness working group for the Royal Society on Bishop Hill two days before, where I said:

      One other thing Geoffrey Boulton has clearly not done for O’Neill and Walport is come clean about areas like the Hockey Stick as egregious examples of lack of openness, at every level, which have to be put right in future.

      Given Boulton’s endorsement of Hegerl’s version of the hockey stick (or one of them), for the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s statement on climate change in December 2009, no wonder.

      • Posted Dec 19, 2011 at 7:37 AM | Permalink

        That’s on page two of comments on the recent open science debate in London, where two distinguished members of Boulton’s working group were put right by the excellent FRS David Colquhoun. We also discuss there whether Steve is best described as an amateur climatologist, a very professional statistician or someone (as George Monbiot said in the debate) not the least interested in climate.

        Off topic (well, Jones-inspired deletions in the face of FOI are in fact related) but I found the Boulton Hockey Stick post fascinating in retrospect.

  7. DGH
    Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 7:47 PM | Permalink

    Juxtaposed against your TallBloke post one wonders, is it a greater offense to

    A) receive a file of misappropriated emails from an anonymous poster calling himself FOIA;
    B) misappropriate and distribute emails that are subject to FOI; or
    C) evade FOI by intentionally deleting emails and participating in an international conspiracy to encourage others to do the same?

    • Aleithia
      Posted Dec 21, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

      Can’t stop thinking of Wiki-leaks. Is Aussange a hero or not? I find it hypocritical for people in the latter camp to be the same one’s complaining of emails from open servers.

  8. Craig Loehle
    Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 10:05 PM | Permalink

    “document entitled “Management of Records under the Freedom of Information Act 2000″ that is password protected”… just can’t make this stuff up.
    If there really is a conspiracy, are you still paranoid?

    • Posted Dec 26, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

      And of course the counter to that would be something like this:

      “Just because we have password-protected the document about FOIA procedures, that doesn’t prove that we are trying to hide anything from you or anyone else!

      “So, yes, you are still paranoid! And delusional. And we are still right about everything.[1]


      1 Except where we have admitted we were wrong in a different publication”

      Also note that the footnote would appear in a different comment on a different website, and be posted on a different day in a different month, on a page that is about a different topic.


  9. Posted Dec 18, 2011 at 11:00 PM | Permalink

    I think you may find this email history I produced on the raw station data sheds a lot of light on why your efforts to reproduce the gridded data sets were never going to be realized:

    Contrary to public statements, it seems Jones himself cannot reproduce his own results. Which under normal parameters of the scientific method means …

  10. Manfred
    Posted Dec 26, 2011 at 9:45 PM | Permalink

    “IPCC will have to alter those work guidelines to stop this sort of thing next time. I’ll be raising it with whoever is the next Susan. Decision in early Sept – news is it will be one of Tom Karl, Ram, Brian Hoskins or Thomas Stocker.”

    Swiss Stocker became co-chair of AR5 WG1.

    and Jones wrote this email to Stocker:

    (including gems like this: “I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process. Hard to do, as not everybody will remember to do it.”)

    Later Osborn writes another email to Stocker:

    and then compare the opinions of these 3 persons with IPCC principles:

    “The IPCC is an organisation which is governed by internationally agreed ‘Principles’ the reference to which I have given you. The Principles specifically state”

    “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.”

  11. Aleithia
    Posted Dec 27, 2011 at 1:38 PM | Permalink

    Thank you Steve,

    It perhaps isn’t expressed enough, but your work is extremely well appreciated. I wonder how many would agree you speak for us, and we stand behind you.

4 Trackbacks

  1. By Nothing New Under the Sun « the Air Vent on Dec 18, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    […] Climate audit has added some detail. We have emails from all in Ch 6 to say the group doesn’t want emails made available. […]

  2. By Climategate and Climate | Cranky Old Crow on Dec 18, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    […] New Light on Jones’ Document Deletion Enterprise […]

  3. […] Update: More revelations at Climate Audit on Jones and FOIA […]

  4. […] on the heels of Holland’s post on Bishop Hill, Steve McIntyre expands on The Team’s … uh … contributions to “transparency” in the IPCC […]

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