Peas, thimbles, deletions, FOI, UEA, CRU, and all that

Note: I felt Steve’s essay deserved the wider audience that WUWT could provide. Be sure to go to this thread at CA to post comments. – Anthony

Did Jones Delete Emails?

By Steve McIntyre, Climate Audit

It turns out that Muir Russell didn’t bother asking, since that would have exposed Jones to potential liability.

But in a surprising new turn of events, it seems that VC Acton sort-of did what Muir Russell was supposed to do – ask Jones whether he had deleted emails. The Guardian reports Acton’s testimony as follows:

Prof Phil Jones told the University of East Anglia’s boss that he did not delete any of the emails that were released from the university last November, despite apparently saying he would in one of those emails.

In the narrowest sense, the very existence of the Climategate emails seems to show that, whatever Jones may or may not have attempted to do, he had not deleted the emails that survived on the back up server.

But, needless to say, you have to watch the pea under the thimble as there is more to the story than this, as I found out last spring.

Jones’ delete-all-emails request was directed particularly at the Wahl-Briffa exchange about IPCC in summer 2006. (In a related emails, Jones said that Briffa should deny the existence of such correspondence to the UEA administration – something that was never investigated as misconduct.)

Wahl’s insertions in the IPCC report – the unilateral changes in assessment that do not appear to have had any third party oversight other than Briffa’s – were made in attachments to his emails to Briffa.

Last spring, I sent an FOI request to the University of East Anglia for the attachments to the Wahl emails that would show precisely what Wahl had inserted. These, of course, are precisely the sort of thing that Muir Russell panel was obligated to examine but didn’t bother.

Contrary to claims by Jones and Acton that nothing had been deleted, the University refused the FOI request on the basis that the attachments had been deleted, that they no longer possessed the attachments to the emails – see previous review here.

In response to my request, they said:

We were unable to provide the following four documents as we had determined that these were no longer held by the University and cited Reg. 12(4)(a):

AW_Editorial_July15.doc
AR4SOR_BatchAB_Ch06_ERW_comments.doc
Ch06_SOD_Text_TSU_FINAL_2000_12jul06_ERW_suggestions.doc
Ch06_SOD_Text_TSU_FINAL_2000_25jul06KRB-FJRV_
ERW_suggestions.doc

There is no single repository in which all information is held and in order to determine whether the University holds specific information searches are required in a number of locations. 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 and agree that Reg. 12(4)(a) applies in this instance.

Acton tells the Sci Tech Committee that nothing has been deleted, but when asked for the documents that Jones specifically asked to be deleted, the university refuses the FOI request on the basis that they no longer have the documents.

Needless to say, Muir Russell didn’t bother trying to figure out what was going on.

=======================================================

Meanwhile in the UK, yet another select committee inquiry is in progress, as Josh points out:

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43 thoughts on “Peas, thimbles, deletions, FOI, UEA, CRU, and all that

  1. Not sure what the Emirates have to do with it (apart from supplying big buckets of oil). UEA, maybe?

    REPLY: Thanks, fixed -A

  2. Reading this again:
    ‘Prof Phil Jones told the University of East Anglia’s boss that he did not delete any of the emails that were released from the university last November’

    What does this mean?

    It means that the released emails DID NOT include the deleted emails!!!

  3. I am with Barry.
    The statement:
    ‘Prof Phil Jones told the University of East Anglia’s boss that he did not delete any of the emails that were released from the university last November’

    Simply means that the deleted emails were not disseminated through the climategate leak. This is a Sir Humphrey-like statemt. Meant to deceive while telling the truth. I am a lawyer and draft such responses every day ;-)

  4. Barry. It’s a weasel worded answer that doesn’t answer a meaningful question. It’s obvious that those which were released weren’t deleted, but it doesn’t say that he didn’t delete the emails that mattered . . . . It leaves that option open . . in other words he didn’t lie but he wasn’t being truthful about anything of significance . . . . Any interviewer with half a brain who was concerned about the truth would have realised what was going on, and would have put him on the spot. That the interviewers didn’t ask the obvious question gives the game away . . .

  5. Prof Phil Jones told the University of East Anglia’s boss that he did not delete any of the emails that were released from the university last November, despite apparently saying he would in one of those emails.

    Huh? You didn’t delete any of the emails that were released? Well, what about ones that weren’t released?

  6. Me (email’s recipient)and Mr. Jones, we got a thing going on
    We both know that it´s wrong
    But it´s much too strong to let it go now

    We meet ev´ry day at the same cafe
    Six-thirty I know he´ll be there
    Holding hands, making all kinds of plans
    While the jukebox plays our favorite song

    Me and Mr., Mr. Jones, Mr Jones, Mr. Jones
    We got a thing going on
    We both know that it´s wrong
    But it´s much too strong to let it go now

    We gotta be extra careful (of WUWT)
    That we don´t build our hopes too high
    Cause he´s got his own obligations and so do I
    Me, me and Mr., Mr Jones, Mr Jones, Mr Jones

    Well, it´s time for us to be leaving
    And it hurts so much, it hurts so much inside
    And now he´ll go his way, I´ll go mine
    But tomorrow we´ll meet at the same place, the same time
    Me and Mr. Jones, Mr. Jones, Mr Jones

  7. Its a statement to the character of the people charged with the responsibility to ask the pertinent questions. They don’t want to, that’s clear. But they have the obligation to do so, that too, is clear. Yet they don’t. Why? Because they don’t have the character to face their own beliefs. I just really don’t believe they are capable of such introspection. It isn’t a point of showing malfeasance. That would be easy for that lot. We’ve all seen them throw people under the bus for furtherance of an agenda. But destroying their entire belief system, they simply lack the fortitude for such an endeavor.

  8. Meanwhile in the UK, yet another select committee inquiry is in progress

    Anthony, I’m sure Steve is blogging all this right now precisely because of the UK Parliamentary committee reopening the debate today with Davies, Acton and Muir Russell. Steve is shining the spotlight, showing the evidence in the details that Jones, Muir Russell, Davies, are all guilty of thimblerigging – conspiracy to defraud.

    Davies – it’s his university
    Jones – it’s his life’s work
    Muir Russell is the one trying to make light of it all. Just acton under orders, guv.

    Well I would much rather their punishment was not to lose their job but be required to make amends – when they’ve acknowledged the error of their ways, with all the pain that entails – 12-step program style. Muir Russell will lose his reputation – but I think he was appointed because being already a bumbling idiot, he could be persuaded to do things Davies’ way. And all Davies saw was threatened loss of their crown jewel – not wanting to face the fact that the whole data record is FUBAR and the IPCC too. Selfishly blind to global consequences of his pet CRU BS.

  9. I suspect that he attempted to delete e-mails, possibly successfully deleting some, but had no idea how very difficult it is to rid a networked system of all copies.

  10. In the UEA/CRU ivory towers of climate science, the first order of reaction is just close ranks with pal investigators inside circled wagons to rig the outcome. Just the opposite of what is in their best interest. These are honorable scientists? Wow.

    These guys just do not think they are part of the same reality that they as scientists claim to be studying.

    They are finding out the hard way that their actions in the real world have consequences that they will not be able to prevent is spite of all this linguistic tap dancing going on.

    The UEA/CRU and ‘the Team’ are being widely mocked and openly laughed at in an ever broadening public venue.

    John

  11. Dr. Jones apparently wrote this email, textbook evidence of conspiracy to violate the FOIA, and then did not delete the incriminating email. I thought he was supposed to be a bright guy!

    Best,
    Frank

  12. George GR: I lawyered for 48 years before retiring. I submit that an incomplete or partial answer that is designed to deceive is not the truth. When full disclosure or a complete answer would produce a different conclusion the partial answer is a lie.

    No thanks for giving lawyer bashers more ammunition to disparage us.

  13. To “delete” something is not the same as to “destroy” something. When something is destroyed it can no longer be recovered. When something is deleted it is possible to un-delete for use later. The art of modern semantics is so like a beach, never the same, always changing, a lawyer’s dream or nightmare.

    PS: Depending on how much money one has it is possible to “reconstruct” something that was destroyed.

  14. It seems to me that something that has not been done is as follows: Every email is marked by mail servers with a unique message-id. This is in the raw source for the email. Presumably there is a well-known algorithm for assigning these id’s, and from this one can work backwards and determine the message id’s in any stream of emails with missing messages. Further, if a message is in reply to another message, the message-id of the prior email will also be preserved in the raw source.

    Assuming that the leaked folders contain raw source of emails (unlike the publicly posted versions of those messages), an enterprising data miner should be able to collect a long list of message-id’s for messages missing in the correspondence, their dates and who sent them to whom. A further FOIA could be constructed specifically naming these documents. Or if anyone is contemplating a court case based on these missing emails at any time, the information would be helpful for subpoena’ing documentary evidence. If hard drives can be obtained through legal channels, then it would be possible in many cases to obtain some or all of the text of some of these emails using this information, even long after they had been deleted, as long as the drives hadn’t been carefully wiped of old data.

    My feeling, from reading the emails has all along been that the FOIA directory existed not to COMPLY with the FOIA but to circumvent it. I believe the directory was built by Jones, Mann et al, as an initial step toward deletion of its contents. The idea was to build a consensus that the files contained material they didn’t want to get into the hands of the general public, and that it didn’t contain anything they felt was necessary for their own work. In order to collaborate on this project it was necessary to leave the directories on some public server (perhaps password-encrypted, but more likely they felt that for the short time it would be available it was not a security risk to leave it up, as nobody would be likely to make a wild guess of its existence and location). Somehow the “wrong” (= “right”) person got their hands on these files in their insecure location. The rest is history. It would be necessary, especially with the emails, to have this kind of general consensus, in order that ALL copies of offending emails be deleted. No point in deleting just some if another recipient is forced by FOIA to release his copy. The archive was necessary to coordinate the deletions.

    Given what I know now about these files my guess is that my original theory is correct, but that this is a SECOND iteration of the process: they had already successfully negotiated a large directory of files and emails to delete, carried it out, and then begun to accumulate a secondary archive of similar, but less damaging material — it was this second archive that got released.

    Another, thought: In the FOIA emails there are surely some individuals outside “the team” who are occasionally copied in these mails. I think it’s highly likely that such people have copies of mail that was “disappeared” by the team. I think it’s unlikely that those outside the inner circle would be permitted to access this archive. Perhaps it was someone’s judgement error about letting one such outsider examine the archive to help with deletions that led to the release of the files.

  15. he did not delete any of the emails that were released from the university last November

    Did he try to delete them? Did he delete them from his computer and email service, but he did not delete the copies which were released? Did he delete the email messages which the deletion message was referring to?

    Obviously, he did not delete the emails that were released, or they couldn’t have been released.

  16. So Phil didn’t delete any of the emails that were released- if he had, they wouldn’t have been released now, would they? Where have I heard that phrasing before? Ah yes, Frederick Pohl’s novel, Homegoing:

    “I’m sorry, Obie. I guess I just don’t like pithing cubs.”
    “What’s the matter, Sandy? You’ve done it before.”
    “I didn’t like it then, either,” Lysander confessed.
    “But we have to pith them,” Obie said reasonably. “For their own sake, you know? It keeps them from being too smart.”
    Lysander blinked at him. “What do you mean, too smart?”
    “Oh, too smart,” Obie said vaguely. “Can you imagine how horrible it would be for them if they grew up with, you know, some kind of rudimentary intelligence? So you’d know that you were alive only so you could be killed and eaten?”
    “They can’t be that smart!”
    “Not after we pith them, no,” Obie said smugly.
    “But— But— But it’s wrong to kill intelligent creatures, isn’t it?”
    “They aren’t intelligent. That’s why they’re pithed.”
    “But you’re telling me they would be, if we just didn’t pith them. There has to be a better way! Can’t the gene-splicers arrange them so that they aren’t intelligent?”
    “Oh, Lysander,” Obie sighed. “Do you imagine they didn’t think of that? They keep trying. But it always spoils the taste of the meat.”

  17. All of which goes to show, once again, that internal investigations are of little value in restoring lost public confidence.
    For UEA, it would have been better for them NOT to have undertaken such an endeavor, as the damage is now compounded.

  18. Paddy, I agree, mostly. I probably was a bit bombastic.

    However, looking at the statement, you have to agree that the statement is perfectly true, even logic. It is only when you read carefully you realise that it is not an answer to the question. Therein lies the “trick” ( as in a clever thing to do… The Team must be proud). Being an experienced lawyer, you are used to read carefully and extract the full meaning of every sentence, every word. Most people are not.

    In my job, careful wording and precision is importan. Sometimes, what is not said is the most telling. “Tricks” like the one mentioned is not part of my standard repertoaire though ;-)

  19. he did not delete any of the emails that were released from the university

    TRANSLATION

    he did not burn the copy of Climatgate you bought in the bookstore… but he did burn every other copy of Climatgate after you left the bookstore.

  20. Of course he deleted emails, he just didn’t call it deleting emails, he called it homogenizing the inbox to a future amount of positive content all in line with the hookeyschtick methodology.

  21. I guess it’s a bit like the thing brought up a few posts ago. It depends on how you look at it….

    If you increase the number of deleted emails in my hand from 4% to 5% is that an increase of 1% or 20%?

    Therefore the emails which were deleted could also be the emails which were hacked, but also could be the emails that were unreleased but were either hacked (or not)!!
    Of course it may be that the emails which were not deleted which were hacked were the ones which were or were not released? (I should have been a lawyer) – or a politician?

  22. Oh dear, Phil Jones and Muir Russell both caught with their trousers down!

    This is going to run and run as there are still a handful of influential politicians in Westminster who won’t let this matter rest. The next few weeks should be very interesting – must order some more beer and popcorn!

  23. If I understood the original post correctly the sensitive material was in the attachments not the emails themsleves. So the changes could have been to delete the attachments leaving the emails themselves untouched. If that is the case he can completely correctly claim he has not deleted any emails nor did he modify the email itself. Non the less the sensitive data would indeed have been expunged. If true an interesting escape on a technicality.

  24. Henry chance says:
    October 27, 2010 at 9:02 am
    We are approachin g the 1 year anniversary of the leak. Why haven’t they named the hackers?

    Well, Henry, that’s a very good question!

    Perchance could it be –would it be– that the ‘leak’ was intended to forestall a ~real~ investigation into matters, and was instead used to ‘entertain,’ i.e., distract, the hoi polloi whilst something else very much bigger was taking place?

    Yes, I know: That’s giving them way too much credit!

    But still: FDR once remarked “Nothing happens in politics, but that it was made to happen.”

    And we’re NOT dealing with science here. Rather, it’s all a matter of politics.

    For what it’s worth, take my word on this: We are all being played for fools if we buy into anything of what the cadre of insiders have lain out for us to consume.

    If I read my ‘tea leaves’ correctly enough, this whole charade will be used to dismiss any further discussion, if only that it will be shown to have been an exercise in deception used to discover who the true believers are, and not.

    Once the names and addresses have been collected, the net will become a ‘members only’ club, and the rest of us obviated like so much trash.

    That’s my take.

  25. Re R.Craigen

    Presumably there is a well-known algorithm for assigning these id’s, and from this one can work backwards and determine the message id’s in any stream of emails with missing messages. Further, if a message is in reply to another message,
    the message-id of the prior email will also be preserved in the raw source

    Yes and no. Postmasters feel free to correct me as I’m a bit rusty on this. Exim looks to be the UEA’s primary MTA. It uses a 3-part message-ID field. First part is when the MTA started receving the message in epoch time, next is PID, then another timestamp. Main aim is to create a unique message-ID for the file system to manage. I think that works for sent and recieved mail by the UEA’s MTA, so could be more useful to authenticate mails as being UEA’s rather than faked.

    Searching the leaked mails by message-ID wouldn’t necessarily reveal much that’s not already known given much of the mail header data has been redacted for some reason. I think that’s odd for a hacker, less odd for an insider.

    The file names do show an oddity, eg 1236958090.txt is dated in the message as Fri Mar 13 11:28:10 2009, but in epoch time that’s Fri, 13 Mar 2009 15:28:10 GMT. The offset’s lead to the ‘east coast connection’ theory, but isn’t always consistent. 0938018124.txt is Wed, 22 Sep 1999 12:35:24 -0400 in the message, but Wed, 22 Sep 1999 16:35:24 GMT in epoch so no offset. I’ve not checked all the mails, but assuming someone with better text munging skills than I may have.

    For FOI, I think people have already asked the right questions, but the leak allows follow-on questions based on the content. Recipients and subjects are probably more useful for those. What can’t easily be examined by outsiders and should have been is whether the archives show attempts to delete contentious emails. That would need access to the archives and is something that none of the previous inquiries has done. All they did is ask polite questions, and seemingly accept the answer.

  26. ClimateGate: the gift that keeps on giving.

    (h/t, don’t remember who originally said this some months ago, but i like it :-) )

  27. Why would they be so foolish as to label the “dump” file for emails (that appear to be targetted for discussion/preparation/deletion) something as “obvious” as FOIA>>>?

    Are they truly that much of the ivory-towered professors?

  28. There were three official investigations of this incident. None were meant to conclude anything other than all were innocent of the charges levelled against them. It’s what happens in official channels provided a politician somewhere is able to escape criticism, whether they be bureaucratic or scientific politicans. The UK is famous for it, a la Sir Humphrey Appleby, “never hold a public enquiry unless you know the outcome before hand!”, etc. Take the Iraq War enquiry for example, which was taken seriously, but the terms of reference were deliberaltey set so as not to embarrass the government as crucial questions could not be asked as they were outside those terms of reference. It’s very easy really. These climategate enquiries were just for show, no body actually seriously probed anything at all, all passed the buck, claiming it was someone elses fault/remit & not theirs, etc. It was pathetic & embarrassing quite frankly but sadly rather typical & expected, considering so much money was involved in funding, reputation, & policy! I ask you, one asks an accused if he did something wrong, he says no, & it is accepted without further question! Pathetic!

  29. The three ‘enquiries’ in the UK are a wonderful example of the mind-bending arrogance and contempt the ruling elites common to most nations holds what they view as the hoi polloi in. They are not even wonderfully intelligent, just contemtuous of those of us who do not happen to be members of their club. Our role is obviously to merely pay up and keep the tax monies flowing[,] to shut up, but the current members of the establishment have no idea of the power of the internet and its ruthlessly democratic mechanisms. The truth will emerge and justice will be done. Eventually.

  30. Sorry, mods, but I omitted a comma after ‘flowing’, which wrecks the sense of what I was attempting to express. Could you insert the comma for, please?
    Thanks in anticipation.

  31. michael hammer says:
    October 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    However, if you send an email with an attachment. The attachment is on the server and it is usually stored (at least in a temp dir) on the receiving parties hard drive if the receiver opens the attachment. So in fact, many things, in many places had to have been deleted for the attachments to have disappeared.

  32. I distinctly heard Acton saying the emails were still there, so how come the FOI was refused?

    Can’t Actons testimony to the S&TC be used to show they have them, and appeal the original FOIR based on Actons own words?

  33. There are three kinds of white-wash. There is the sophisticated white-wash, that you have to read three times before you get it. There is the thinly veiled white-wash that sounds nice until you think about it. Then there is the blatant white-wash that does not pretend to be anything but a white-wash ie. PSU-Michael Mann.

    Alexander K says:

    In fact I’ve long noticed that the attitude of these people toward us is the same as the attitude of Medieval lords toward their “serfs”.

    “PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !”

    -Professor Phil Jones, in charge of climate research at the CRU

    http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=498&filename=1109021312.txt

  34. Alexander K says:

    The three ‘enquiries’ in the UK are a wonderful example of the mind-bending arrogance and contempt the ruling elites common to most nations holds what they view as the hoi polloi in. They are not even wonderfully intelligent, just contemtuous of those of us who do not happen to be members of their club. Our role is obviously to merely pay up and keep the tax monies flowing…

    In fact I’ve long thought that their attitude toward us was similar to the attitude of medieval lords toward their “serfs’.

    There are three kinds of white-wash. There is the sophisticated white-wash, that you have to read three times before you get it. There is the thinly veiled white-wash that sounds nice until you think about it. Then there is the blatant white-wash that does not pretend to be anything but a white-wash ie. PSU-Michael Mann.

    “PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !”

    -Professor Phil Jones, in charge of climate research at the CRU

    http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=498&filename=1109021312.txt

    PS sorry I messed up the block quote before.

  35. Paddy says:
    ———-
    No thanks for giving lawyer bashers more ammunition to disparage us.
    ———-
    No danger of that, I already have enough ammunition.

    But while I am here I would like to run a scenario past a couple of lawyers.

    A client comes to you because he is being sued to collect a debt. He has a long list of about a dozen reasons why he does not have to pay. They range through claims that the suer provided services incompetently, breach of contract, refusal to accept reduced rates of payment and multiple instances of fraud. There is an implicit promise that if these reasons are not enough, more can be found. There are even daily progress report emails which your client spins as evidence of incompetence.

    What do you reckon is the probability that your client has commissioned services from the suer, but had no money to pay for them? In other words which party is likely to be the crook and who is the victim?

  36. Eric Dailey says:
    ———–
    THE central question remains: why don’t we know who leaked?
    ———–
    An interesting question!
    I was struck recently by a newspaper story which described how a fox uk news
    reporter was gaoled for hacking into mobile phones, most particularly of the Royal family. Fox denied that this was common habit but the story indicated that it was widespread.

    The police investigation had a very narrow focus and it was insinuated that this was because the police wanted to keep fox on side. Resourcing constraints due to terrorism investigations is the official position. This got me thinking about the hacker in climategate. Was the hacker a hostile journalist?

  37. Eric Dailey says:
    October 27, 2010 at 1:45 pm
    THE central question remains: why don’t we know who leaked?
    ________________________________
    Can’t resist –

    We all leak, it’s just a natural function found in all life forms. Western sensitivities being what they are, is there little wonder then that we still do not know who leaked? (I should add, Eastern sensitivities are also such that they rarely, intentionally reveal who leaks.) But, the question of ‘Who?’ in this case, is one that I’m sure the folks at CSI, CSI-NY, and CSI-Miami are all working on as we speak. Whoever it was doesn’t stand a chance.

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