NOAA releases tranche of FOIA documents – 2 years later

Guest post by Christopher Horner, CEI.

Today, NOAA finally delivered thousands of pages (hard copy, oddly, despite our request for electronic copies) of additional records that had been withheld during the deliberations over what to produce for a thorough FOIA seeking records relating to the HS, Mann’s appointment, Menne/surface stations, M&M, Climategate and the like.

This is a request from two years ago that has produced thousands of pages of papers and emails (all of the good stuff among which, in an odd coincidence, having already been produced under Climategate) and was the last in a series of four requests in response to which NOAA claimed ‘no responsive records’, when actually referring to records which they possessed but which Susan Solomon had said were really IPCC records and therefore not agency records. The subsequent IG investigation uncovering this response given to others, which we challenged when given to us, affirmed that this claim was not appropriate.

After congressional interest was expressed, NOAA offered differing defenses to us and Congress, what with Congress being subject to certain arguments against release which are not applicable to FOIA (eg seeking to protect the integrity of the scientific review process…), and we being subject to certain FOIA arguments to which Congress is not vulnerable (pre-decisional and the like).

The cover letter and inventory of withheld records, which counsel has been working on for a year, is attached. I have yet to review it in detail; I also will go over the records this week. A very superficial pawing through of the records indicates they’re mostly “IPCC” docs (there are also some emails…remember, these are the docs over which NOAA’s counsel and review panel have been fighting for more than a year, over whether to redact or withhold), and makes one wonder what they were so insistent about. But, as they fought like the devil to keep these secret, there — as the old joke has it — must be a pony in there somewhere.

Here is the cover letter:

CEI_NOAA_Solomon_Memo_and_Withholdings-1 (PDF)

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63 thoughts on “NOAA releases tranche of FOIA documents – 2 years later

  1. by Christopher Horner, CEI
    Today, NOAA finally delivered thousands of pages (hard copy, oddly, despite our request for electronic copies)
    __________________________
    Possible reasons:
    a) They think that it will be harder to search and collate information in hard copy
    b) It costs more this way and if they don’t spend it, they lose it
    c) They can’t figure out how to make data available in electronic format
    d) They only did it this way to aggravate you
    e) All of the above

  2. Is there a plan to scan these and get them online somewhere. If you get lots of eyes looking through the documents then the pony won’t have a place to hide.

  3. Why would any government employee group refuse to release tax-funded data, if it was not of national strategic importance, unless they were trying to hide something?

  4. I wonder how complete these files really are. The hard copy certainly comes with an idea in mind. It takes far longer to search through printed paper than through a digital version of the same.

  5. According to the cover letter, 1978 docs are in electronic form and 365 hard copy. Hundreds of others have not been released due to various FOIA exemptions that are allowed. Some seem reasonable (published studies behind a paywall) but 126 docs have been withheld because they contained personal emails or phone #s. Seem like they could have redacted the personal stuff rather then withhold the entire docs.

  6. Would be useful to request a response as to why the documents were’t provided as requested,in their native electronic format. Of course,the answer is obvious,to make it difficult to search on key words. Typical Obama government transparency,not.

  7. I read at Electronic Frontier Foundation EFF.org. When security agencies tried to choke the review process with thousands of pages of FOIA response then the EFF recruited thousands of volunteers to read and comment from their particular special knowledge.

    https://www.eff.org/issues/foia

  8. Running OCR on the document using Acrobat Professional can convert the pdf linked in the post to a searchable document.

  9. Congratulations! I am looking forward to the discovery of at least one needle in this haystack. However I wonder how much of it has been faked up by the fake-up team at NOAA. These guys are on standby 24/7 to produce corrupt data.

  10. Also included, according to the postscript in the covering letter, are 8 DVDs, 7 of which contain movies, the eighth containing some 2000 documents.

  11. I have a problem with the fact that certain emails are going to be withheld due to personal information being in those emails. Surely FOIA could have released those emails with personal details ie: phone numbers blocked out ? The pony may be in one of those 126 emails that have been exempted from release.

  12. Does everyone really believe they are being forthcoming in providing everything that might be relevant? Personally, I doubt it. They fought hard knowing they could release BS. I don’t “believe” NOAA for a minute. I think it’s a corrupt agency that should be disbanded. Let trhe private sector provide weather information.

  13. Did they release anything that was not already public (IPCC, Climategate, web data, etc)? Seems it would take a couple of years to sort that out. How would you ever know if what they sent is the whole? And what about the “always upward since 1940″ adjustments totally about +0.6°C?

  14. Why in God’s name would NOAA need to ever have a FOIA request made for anything it does? Even if this was “IPCC” data, the fact that they were warehousing it and possibly referencing it in and of itself should have been sufficient for a data request to be honored. I’m completely baffled by this. I’m not naive, it just stinks to high heaven that a tax payer funded entity would have say whatsoever in a request for data that is publicly funded.

    All of this data should in fact be stored on publicly accessible servers so none of this would ever become an issue. This isn’t a public employees data or even a public agencies- it’s the taxpayers.

  15. We all owe Chris Horner a debt of gratitude for his dogged persistence in the face of official intransigence and resistance to openness. I hope something of interest shows up in the tranche of released information. If Chris still has the determination, a further request for copies of the relevant documents with names/phone numbers redacted seems reasonable.

  16. The very same Warmistas constantly shrieking about how little time we have left to save the Earth, about how urgent it is to get on with their program of universal poverty, are of course the very same who take endless years of excuses before they finally release any of their shoddy work, and only under duress at that, Congressional in this case.

  17. Uhm…. my understanding of compliance law as it applies to the private sector for certain, and which I presume applies also to the public sector is that this isn’t legal.

    Various evidentiary statutes require that any document provided for evidentiary purposes must retain itz original attributes. If the original document was electronically searchable, then what they provide to you must also be electronically searchable. If the original documetnt held meta data (for example, the meta deta in a Microsoft Word document will tell you if it has ever been sent by email) then what they provide you has to include that same meta data.

    Unless those documents were created on a type writer or on a computer and printed but never saved, I believe that they have a legal obligation to provide you with electronic versions.

  18. Two years, eh? Time enough for a thorough job of scamster editing. Absent a serial log-in/register, no-one would trust such grudging compliance for beans. The burden to prove this dogpile complete lies not on private-sector requesters, but wholly on NOAA’s arrogant, feckless, ill-tempered apparat. As “devoted public servants,” DIPS, these charlatans care for no-one’s interests but their own.

  19. If the weather information were to collected and managed by a private concern there would be little left of the argument that it belongs to the public. Perhaps they would let you have what you want at $10 a page. Or $100.

  20. Crispin in Waterloo said:
    August 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm
    If the weather information were to collected and managed by a private concern there would be little left of the argument that it belongs to the public. Perhaps they would let you have what you want at $10 a page. Or $100.
    —————————————————-
    A bargain compared to what we are paying now – not just in money, but in damage being done to science and society.

  21. One possible reason for paper may be to remove information. For years people have been pulling deleted information out of word documents for example. Also it removed electronic time stamps and some times audit trails on files etc. It is much safer to release paper versions.

  22. About a week ago I reported on the sale of old Tesla’s lab at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, NY

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/15/fun-puzzle-name-these-official-stations/#comment-1058858

    I am happy to report that according to latest information, the required sun of US $1.6million of which New York is contributing 850,000 in order to be restored as Tesla’s museum, has been achieved.
    More info at: http://mashable.com/2012/08/22/the-oatmeal-tesla-museum/

  23. Sundance says:

    August 21, 2012 at 3:40 pm
    2 rears? Was this NOAA’s version of the rapid response team?

    That’s where the steaming pile came from?

  24. When I contacted NOAA with the thought of obtaining one or more pages of the weather records I authored some decades ago, I was informed after long long chasing of transffered telephone calls, it would cost something on the order of $40.00 per page to have them retrieved, copied, and mailed. So, a cost of $100 per page is not so far away from current reality at NOAA.

  25. what was it? monkeys…….typewriters. my bad, that was shakespeare. maybe this was the first try!

  26. NOAA must think everyone is stupid! either that or they think of themselves as clever, but neither is true.

    Why would they not give out documents with email addresses/phone numbers? Do they think you are going to offer them a job ?

    As another poster said, that information could have easily have been redacted either at source or by Christopher’s team before publication.

  27. RomanM says:
    August 21, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Running OCR on the document using Acrobat Professional can convert the pdf linked in the post to a searchable document.

    I know companies that do this for a living – there was a huge amount of work transferring UK National Health Service files to indexed and searchable electronic copy.

  28. Latimer Alder says:
    August 21, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Awe, shucks, you beat me to it! ;-)

    For the Virginian Colonials: Dickie-dirt = shirt, daisey roots = boots, whistle & flute = suit, boat-race = face, apples & pairs = stairs, frog & toad = road, dog & bone = phone, borasic lint = skint (broke), rub-a-dub = pub, jam-jar = car, trouble & strife = wife (not much used these days), brown-bread = dead, telling pork(ies) pies = telling lies (rather appropriate in some sectors of Climate Science), butchers’ hook = look (hence, have a “butchers” at this, etc), plates ‘o meat = feet, mince-pies = eyes (clap your “minces” on this, etc). There are a lot, lot more that many of us use from time to time. There are many modern versions too & many double-ryming that goes on too :-)

    People who hide something, usually have something to hide!

  29. Stop blaming Obama (or Bush or Clinton or the current President Who Does Not Belong To My Party) for a permanent characteristic of bureaucracies. Agencies have been frustrating the open exchange of information since the days of Hammurabi. That’s half of their job.

    The other half is to exponentially increase their budget and workforce. And handling a request like this helps to increase their budget requirements. Horner didn’t pay for all this legal scholarship, we did.

  30. Get a hundred folks to scan in a 20 pages a day using and use something like MSoft’s word to convert it to text. Even wikihow has examples. A couple more minutes a day to add an index entry with file links. Annoying but should be very doable given the effort to do all those surface stations. And, the UNIX folks can likely create some simple grep and pipe things to convert/auomate/extract.

    Imho, it’s just the bureau nitters at work. Imagine a group of folks whose only objective is to NOT screw up and release anything that might be “priviate” or “restricted” or … Then put them in a room for a few years and even the Bysantines would be proud.

  31. ntesdorf on August 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm
    Congratulations! I am looking forward to the discovery of at least one needle in a haystack
    ———
    Go for it.

    I find it amusing that you guys are convinced that there is this huge conspiracy between climate scientists. The obvious consequence of such a conspiracy of course would be a huge amount of email traffic to coordinate the supposed fakery. But there is no sign of that traffic in the nicked emails exposed by your favorite thing, namely climate gate.

    Now you have a bunch FOAI emails and I am betting that again that you will find no evidence of the coordination required to maintain a conspiracy.

    It’s pretty obvious you all know that because many of you are trying to lay down an escape route by claiming preemptively that no such evidence will be found due to its hypothetical removal.

    I guess you all learned that trick when you where toddlers and had an invisible friend.

  32. SanityP says:
    August 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Probably the reason why it took them so long, the printing of all those documents.
    —————————————————————————————————————
    We’re still lucky – they could have copied them in handwriting…

  33. LazyTeenager seems to forget that most of us grew up when coordinating stories involved picking up the telephone, not sending email.

  34. LazyTeenager says:August 22, 2012 at 5:28 am
    […]
    I find it amusing that you guys are convinced that there is this huge conspiracy between climate scientists.

    I find it amusing that you are convinced we hold that ludicrous position. Still lazy after all these years…

  35. “I have a problem with the fact that certain emails are going to be withheld due to personal information being in those emails. Surely FOIA could have released those emails with personal details ie: phone numbers blocked out ? ”

    Those documents were “withheld in part”, I assume that means exactly what you suggest. Personal information was redacted, but the rest supplied.

  36. Stupid Brat is once again displaying the cognition dysfunction of those who’s teachers were more interested in creating lefties then teaching kids how to use their brains. Listen kids, Marxism kills!

  37. ****
    LazyTeenager says:
    August 22, 2012 at 5:28 am

    Go for it.

    I find it amusing that you guys are convinced that there is this huge conspiracy between climate scientists.
    ****

    Naive much, Lazy? It’s far worse than any conspiracy (which is done secretly, not in the open). It’s an entire culture. Duh…

  38. LazyTeenager says:

    “I find it amusing that you guys are convinced that there is this huge conspiracy between climate scientists. The obvious consequence of such a conspiracy of course would be a huge amount of email traffic to coordinate the supposed fakery. But there is no sign of that traffic in the nicked emails exposed by your favorite thing, namely climate gate.”
    —————————————–
    “I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI [Freedom of Information] Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process,”writes Phil Jones, a scientist working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a newly released email. ~ Climategate 2.0

    If that’s not a conspiracy, I’m not sure what is.

    • Or to not supply the emails when asked. Hadley Center at UEA are still doing this. Why would they do that unless they have a lot to hide?

  39. @ LazyTeenager
    I find it amusing that you think we (whoever ‘we’ are) “are convinced that there is this huge conspiracy between climate scientists.” Its strange how people see what they want to. I think “we” are looking for self-serving bias, pal review, and bad science. We are looking for the ones who have prevented a fair representation of facts. Conspiracy? You could call protecting yourself from others discovering that self-serving bias a “conspiracy” but I prefer to call it a self protective strategy. You see, when a task (the science predictions) are regarded as important and the researcher expects success (which has decidedly not happened for the warmists) but fails, it leads to the magnification of self-serving bias and a percieved threat–so these scientists are simply protecting themselves from this threat and they make it harder for people they discover the truth they themselves won’t face. This too, is science, albeit one of the “soft” sciences.

    http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~crsi/Selfthreat.pdf

  40. LazyTeenager says:
    August 22, 2012 at 5:28 am
    I find it equally amusing that you can come up with such a crass comment. You are right in that a coordinated conspiracy of such magnitude would be difficult to conceal. However, what is quite clear, from the evidence already in the public domain – is that there has been a degree of collusion, fraud, deception, etc, etc by a distinct group of climate scientists. Whether this collusion, fraud etc permeates through further ranks is difficult to determine – but certainly the self reviewing, pal review nature of some of their work may suggest a wider dissemination of the ‘conspiracy’? Of course, this implies that a conspiracy is present, which I don’t believe it is, but there is definitely a closed shop xenophobic mentality and a self promoting attitude of the AGW promoters, this of course includes the various government depts, as well as the NGO’s. MSM and the scientists.
    The underlying fraud/scam is there for sure – whether it be a massive conspiracy or not – the fraudulent claims, the fraudulent science, etc – is clearly self evident………

  41. LazyTeenager says:
    August 22, 2012 at 5:28 am

    Lazy, you could have been less snarky, but I understand your point. For myself, I do believe that at some level there is a conspiracy of sorts. History is littered with power grabs effectuated through deception. Good deception involves playing to beliefs people already hold and convincing them they can help save the world.

    A recent example is the successful campaign to convince Americans and Brits that Saddam had stockpiles of WMDs in Iraq and was actively working on acquiring even deadlier weapons. Never mind that U.S. and international weapons inspectors certified that wasn’t true; never mind that 10 minutes of Googling would show how ridiculous those claims were. People WANTED to believe it because it confirmed things that were important for their worldview. I know several smart people who still claim, after all this time, that we just haven’t found those WMDs – they’re hidden somewhere or something. That doesn’t mean they are, or ever were, part of the original conspiracy to establish that claim.

    Climate scientists are people too. When it comes to doing science that will either confirm or falsify deeply held beliefs, they will see what they want to see and ignore the evidence that doesn’t fit the narrative. Most folks at WUWT are pretty intelligent and much more nuanced than you give them credit for. Most, in my experience, aren’t dogmatic in what they believe; they just want to see the (taxpayer-funded) evidence so they can make up their own minds.

  42. If you assume that an effort to hide something means there was nothing to hide, you might be a Lazy Teenager with a green-neck.

  43. It doesn’t take a manufactured conspiracy to achieve a goal. All it takes is the right people in the right places. For example, those hiring applicants for NOAA simply have to screen people to make sure the ones hired match the desired profile. After 20 years you pretty much have a group that thinks alike and works to produce a desired result.

    Now, who might have been the vice president close to 20 years ago that could have influenced the selection of the leaders at NOAA. Don’t hurt yourself thinking.

  44. 2 Years…

    That means someone(s) went through those documents with a fine two comb and made sure all embarrassing items were left out. (Especially the Darft Horse we were looking for)

    Also it is the end of August and the elections are to be held on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. That leaves very little time to influence that all important presidental election and especially the Republican nominations. This means were are stuck with OBAMA-LITE:

    From Mit Romney’s MAIN PLATFORM in his own words:

    “Republicans should never abandon pro-growth conservative principles in an effort to embrace the ideas of Al Gore. Instead of sweeping mandates, we must use America’s power of innovation to develop alternative sources of energy and new technologies that use energy more efficiently.”

    “With regards to our developing more energy, I want to see us use more of our renewable resources: bio-diesel, bio-fuel, ethanol, cellulosic ethanol. I want to see us developing liquefied coal if we can sequester the CO2 properly.”

    “On the other side of the equation, in addition to developing our energy, we have to be more efficient in our use of it. And that means more fuel efficient vehicles. It means more energy efficient homes. The combination of more efficiency and the generation of more domestic-sourced energy will allow us to become energy independent. And we do need an Apollo type project. A Manhattan style project where we put in place the funding necessary to seriously get on track to becoming truly energy independent. And that has as the benefit, of reducing our emissions of CO2.”

    “…Moreover, even as scientists still debate how much human activity impacts the environment, we can all agree that alternative energy sources will be good for the planet. For any and all of these reasons, the time for energy independence has come.”
    Interview when governor, June 2006:

    Judy Woodruff: “Talking about Global Warming, is this an issue that everybody should be concerned about, that the government should be doing much more about?”

    Mitt Romney: “The issue of the over use of energy in our country is a major issue. The over use of oil in particular is a major issue. It has political implications around the world for us. And it may well be that the emission of carbon dioxide is contributing to global warming. I don’t know how much is related to CO2 emissions, how much is cyclical. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt to reduce our use of CO2, and it certainly would be great to dramatically reduce our use of oil.”

    http://aboutmittromney.com/environment.htm

    Seems Mitt is right on board Maurice Strong’s Train ride to hell.
    :“It is clear that current lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent middle class, involving high meat intake, consumption of large amounts of frozen and convenience foods, use of fossil fuels, appliances, home and work place air conditioning, and suburban housing are not sustainable.” Maurice Strong’s speech at the opening session of the Rio Conference (Earth Summit II) in 1992,

  45. davidmhoffer’s statement of the laws of evidence above (at Aug 21 8:37 pm) is incorrect, at least for US jurisdictions.

    The laws of evidence require that a documents submitted for that purpose be a true and complete copy in all ways that are material to the question at hand. A hardcopy contract signed in blue ink does not have to be photocopied in color for the copy to be admitted in court. (It may be better in color but it is not required.) If the original of an electronic copy held metadata but the metadata was not relevant, then there is no spoliation if that part of the metadata is not produced.

    Of course, relevance is a subjective matter and often gets argued in the court. What we can say here is that the blanket statement “all metadata must always be produced” is untrue.

    Even if metadata is relevant, there are some circumstances when you can be excused from that obligation. For example, if you have an MS Word document containing birthdate and Social Security number, you may be required to redact that information for privacy reasons. Redaction in native format is functionally impossible. There is no way to remove the SSN without also making changes to the document which alter it from the original, often seriously. Legal review tools universally convert the document to an image format (such as PDF) and then “burn in” the redaction overtop the image. That way, you see the full context plus the black box where the person’s SSN used to be. What you don’t see anymore is the embedded MS Word metadata. You do have to keep the original (with all its metadata) and you may have to defend your redaction and conversion decisions to a judge but you do not have to turn over the original until and unless the judge finds your process deficient.

    Of course, even beyond that, you are assuming that the hardcopy documents were maintained in electronic form. That may or may not be true. The legal requirement is that you turn over documents in the form as they are maintained in the normal course of business (or an equivalently usable form). If your practice is to print off emails and file them in your desk drawer (yes, there are still very many people who do that), then your only obligation is to produce hardcopies of those documents. You are not obligated to turn the paper copies into new electronic copies.

    What you are not allowed to do is dumb-down the copies from the way they are normally maintained. That is, if you have OCR’ed PDFs, you may not deliberately remove the machine-readable layer unless there is a specifically allowed legal reason (redaction being one of them).

    By the way, the scenarios I have laid out are based on the US Rules of Civil Procedure. (I am not a lawyer but I read about it a lot.) There is some cross-over to the FOIA rules but my understanding is that the requirements for metadata are even looser than the civil procedure rules. That is to say, there are even more reasons why format conversion can be legitimate.

    so while the production in hardcopy is suspicious, it alone is not evidence of wrongdoing.

  46. Keep ignoring the corrupt bankers, the insane military and the inane politicians and keep digging for the golden piece of “evidence” that there is a world wide conspiracy of climate scientists…and don’t forget your tinfoil hat!
    Seriously guys…can’t you hear the sound of the fossil fuel propaganda machine?

  47. Andrew says:
    August 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm
    Keep ignoring the corrupt bankers, the insane military and the inane politicians and keep digging for the golden piece of “evidence” that there is a world wide conspiracy of climate scientists…and don’t forget your tinfoil hat!
    Seriously guys…can’t you hear the sound of the fossil fuel propaganda machine?
    ===================================================================
    I think your +3 tinfoil helmet is a bit out of tune.
    (PS Do they still make actual “tin” foil?)

  48. Andrew says:
    August 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Andrew, I don’t think anybody is ignoring the many various frauds being perpetrated. This site just happens to be about the climate fraud and the money trail that leads to, e.g., Al Gore. Other sites focus on the other things you mention.

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