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
…I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is: email@example.com. 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 https://www1.uea.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.2750!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?
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:
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!