Some excerpts from McIntyre’s full broadside:
In today’s post, I’m going to discuss an important obiter in the ICO decision, an obiter in which the university unsuccessfully attempted to reconcile unequivocal declarations by both Acton and Muir Russell to the Parliamentary Committee that “all” the emails were available with the contradictory statements in their FOI refusals that the university no longer possessed key emails. Unfortunately, the university’s attempt was based on more untrue and unsupported assertions, this time to the ICO.
In my appeal, I had pointed out the inconsistency between assertions in East Anglia’s FOI refusal and Vice Chancellor Acton’s assurances to the Parliamentary Committee. The ICO asked East Anglia to comment on this point, reporting on the exchange as follows:
21. In relation to this information the complainant has suggested that:
“These were attachments to emails from [third named individual- Wahl] to [named individual - Briffa] that were the subject of Jones’ delete-all-emails request. At the hearings of the Science and Technology Committee, MP Stringer asked Vice Chancellor Acton “Are all the emails now available and can be read? Acton said “Yes”. If so, then the University must hold the documents that they had refused on the basis that they did not hold the documents and appeal their refusal on this basis.”
The Commissioner therefore asked the University to respond to this.
22. The University explained that:
“In his testimony in front of the Select Committee, the Vice-Chancellor was merely stating that no emails had been deleted as a result of, or subsequent to, an email form Prof. P. Jones of 28 May 2008 that suggested such an action. The documents at the heart of this present request, and the emails to which they were attached, all date from 2006. It is highly likely, even good records management practice, that such emails and attachments would have been deleted in the normal course of business between 2006 and 2008, well in advance of any request for either the emails or the attached documents.
The Vice-Chancellor was not aware of this request, or these documents, when he made his comments before the Select Committee, nor were his comments directed at these documents. The question and the answer pertained to an entirely different set of documents within a different time frame.”
“An entirely different set of documents within a different time frame”. The mind boggles at the audacity of the misrepresentations by VC Acton and the University of East Anglia.
Amazingly, the Muir Russell panel failed to interview either Jones or Briffa on the deletion of emails (see discussion of the fall hearing below). Despite this neglect, the Muir Russell report stated (incorrectly) that there was “no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a request already made” as follows:
28. Deliberate actions to avoid release. There seems clear incitement to delete emails, although we have seen no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a request already made.
In September 2010, Fred Pearce wrote sarcastically in September 2010 that Muir Russell must have been the “only person studying the affair not to have known about it”:
At this point, the web is so tangled that it’s very hard for Acton and the University of East Anglia to keep their various stories straight.
As noted above, in August 2010, the university had said that they were not in possession of the attachments to the Wahl-Briffa emails. However, two months later, they unequivocally told the Parliamentary Committee that they could produce “all” the emails and that Jones and Briffa had deleted nothing. But in their submissions to the ICO in 2011, they said that they were not able to produce the Wahl-Briffa documents, arguing that:
It is highly likely, even good records management practice, that such emails and attachments would have been deleted in the normal course of business between 2006 and 2008, well in advance of any request for either the emails or the attached documents.
Bishop Hill points out this phrase as being relevant:
A few months back, Steve McIntyre said something that stuck in my memory:
Never under-estimate the capacity for institutional mendacity.