The Cyber Bonfire of GISS’s Vanities

I decided to make this a sticky top post for a day or two – it needs wide circulation. New posts will appear below this one. – Anthony

Playing email hidey-ho in Hansenland to circumvent FOI laws

Guest post by Chris Horner

That political appointees and career activists in government would use private computers is in keeping with tactics I have uncovered as being epidemic in government, and particularly the current administration, and which I detail in The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information “Criminal” released this week.

These tactics range from the widespread use of private emails, hiding meetings with lobbyists, using “handles” and lobby groups as “cutouts” or go-betweens with pressure groups with whom the administration doesn’t want a paper trail. I even detail the White House arranging for a digital equivalent of a “safe house”, a privately owned and managed computer server on which to quietly conduct discussions about the IPCC presumably away from the taxpayers’ prying eyes.

But I also have an affidavit admitting to an elaborate system established by one activist agency — NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) — to view its emails remotely on a non-official computer, purchased with taxpayer money and used for the taxpayer’s business but access to which is being denied the government for inspection, whose use erases any trace of the records back on government servers.

This was provided me by NASA in an ongoing FOIA lawsuit we filed at the Competitive Enterprise Institute to obtain records of Gavin Schmidt, a GISS scientist who was running a third-party activist website promoting an ideological agenda on taxpayer time — at least if you believe the time-stamps, which were then “disappeared” after we pointed this out to NASA. But which we captured nonetheless.

The administration attested to this in federal court in order to defend their failure to provide certain emails to and from Schmidt’s email accounts relating to this activity. Their claim is that, because the emails were written or accessed on this unofficial computer, their system is such that the official emails are beyond the administration’s reach. In fact, the government’s copies are destroyed.

This is their defense.

The affidavit, by GISS’s Associate Chief Larry D. Travis, attests in pertinent part (emphasis added):

Dr. Schmidt uses two separate computers on which he conducts his work for NASA. . . . One computer Dr. Schmidt uses is a laptop computer that is owned by NASA. . . . The other computer is a desktop computer owned by Columbia University. Dr. Schmidt purchased this computer with National Science Foundation grant monies he received while he was an employee of Columbia University, prior to his becoming a civil servant with [NASA]; . . . [T]he [Space Station Program or SSP] contract providing IT support to GISS covers service for this computer. Nevertheless, Dr. Schmidt maintains this computer; SSP does not regularly service Dr. Schmidt’s computer and no SSP contractor has administrative privileges on the computer. Dr. Schmidt’s email correspondence is stored on his Columbia desktop computer [NB: that’s the private one, paid for not by Schmidt but by the taxpayer, to which he does not allow NASA access]. Dr. Schmidt accesses his Columbia University email via an Internet browser on the computer. Dr. Schmidt does not download his Columbia email messages to his computer; rather, they are located on a remote Columbia mail server.

NASA’s boast is that official records can be and are accessed by private computers, which not only corrupts the agency’s ability to properly comply with FOIA, it erodes the agency’s record retention and preservation. Elsewhere in the affidavit NASA states that the computer Schmidt uses is (emphases added):

a desktop . . . which Dr. Schmidt uses to send and receive all of his email from the @giss.nasa.gov, @nasa.gov, @columbia.edu, and @ realclimate.org domains. See Travis Decl. ¶ 18. Dr. Schmidt has never given administrative information technology (“IT”) privileges for either computer to the IT support services contractor that serves Agency personnel. See id. Thus, the email sought here is relayed to and resides on a computer that the Agency does not own, to which the Agency has no right of access, and for which no Agency official or contractor has administrative privileges. Moreover, there is no central mechanism by which GISS IT personnel can obtain access remotely to email sent to or received by a GISS email user; instead, the only way to reach such email would be via directly accessing the hard drive of the computer on which the user accessed his or her GISS email. See id. at ¶ 12b.

Which hard drive, you will note, is on a computer to which the government (taxpayer) has no access but for which the government (taxpayer paid). And pays to service. Even if it isn’t permitted to. Had this been the government computer, well, then email traces — in the event a record is destroyed, which we know that would never happen, there are laws….stay tuned — could be reconstructed.

But GISS is using private computers, it seems, for this public service, denying the public access to the legally required record of its activities.

NASA might explain how it is not hereby knowingly sanctioning a corruption of responsibilities to create, retain, and preserve documents, both for the Federal Records Act and for FOIA. This ain’t rocket science. But we do know it is with NASA’s sanction.

However, as Dr. Travis explains, even with respect to the emails from the @giss.nasa.gov and @nasa.gov domains, these have not been integrated into an agency record system or file.

Once a[n agency] employee accesses his or her [agency] email via his or her personal computer, those emails are no longer located on any server at [the agency]; in other words, the act of accessing a specific email deletes that email from the ‘spool’ on the server. [The agency] does not currently have (nor has it had in the past) a centralized backup of [agency] email traffic.” Id. at ¶ 12b. Moreover, even if the Agency did have a centralized backup of emails from the @giss.nasa. gov or @nasa.gov domains, emails sent or received by Dr. Schmidt pertaining to his work on the RealClimate blog would not be integrated into an Agency records system or file. . . .

Traces of the records are only on the computer the employee uses to access them. Which, at great pains, is not a government computer or one to which the government is being permitted access.

In this affidavit, NASA’s point was that its own system has gotten so far out of their control that an entire class of records cannot possibly be deemed “agency records” and so they have no obligation to search for or release them because the truth is while they may relate to official business, well, their employee won’t let them see them. And as is inherent in the system, the approved process destroys the government’s copies.

One could not hope to find a more explicit acknowledgment—or, more accurately, series of admissions, enthusiastically volunteered in an effort to get out of one frying pan (producing emails the employee wants to keep to himself) into an apparently bigger fire—that employees use unofficial computers for official duties and keep the records accessed on these computers away from the prying taxpayer eyes, skirting FOIA and, it seems other laws. They even use them to access official email accounts in a way that destroys the record.

As we have already been forced to argue to the Obama White House regarding the IPCC “safe house”, and have already filed an action to argue in court, conducting public business on private accounts or computers doesn’t make the business, and therefore the records, any less public. This particular example is simply an extreme case of flaunting disregard for this principle, particularly given NASA’s brazenness of sanctioning it and invoking the abusive practices as an expedient excuse to not turn over records produced on taxpayer time and resources.

Christopher C. Horner is a Washington, DC attorney and author of the newly released The Liberal War on Transparency: Confessions of a Freedom of Information “Criminal” (Threshold Editions).

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109 Responses to The Cyber Bonfire of GISS’s Vanities

  1. jeez says:

    You need to get Inhofe or Issa on this ASAP. Congressional subpoenas need to be issued.

    This flaunting of the intent of the law cannot be allowed to stand. I have long felt that all personnel correspondence (alternate email addresses etc.) should be a firing offense for all Federal Employees if they conflate any of their work with their private correspondence. This is something that should be lobbied for and pushed ASAP. gmail, yahoo mail etc. should be cut off by the IT administrators at the firewall. No access via any government VPN should be allowed.

    Gavin should be fired for flaunting FOI laws and most likely other legal policies.

  2. NASA has almost no credibility left. What happened to that once admirable organization? Sadly, it seems to totally corrupt.

  3. Martin Clauss says:

    So any chance that this info could get to the Romney campaign for the next debate – or would this be part of what would be on topic . . ?

    Aside from that, though, this just is continuation of the attitudes and actions of certain GISS employees, and by association, the current administration, that just disgusts the hell out of us.

    Fire ‘em all or remove ‘em all from their positions.

  4. The fact that the NASA email servers are not configured to retain mails has to be a violation of policy, and perhaps Federal Law.

  5. Mooloo says:

    @Jeez
    This flaunting of the intent of the law …

    flouting. flouting.

    To flaunt is to show off. To flout is to show contempt for.

    (Chris uses it correctly in “flaunting disregard” because he means that not only are they disregarding the law, but that they do so openly – which is where the flaunting comes in.)

    @Chris
    One could not hope to find a more explicit acknowledgment—or, more accurately, series of admissions, enthusiastically volunteered in an effort to get out of one frying pan

    I doubt that they are doing this to “get out of the fire”. They are merely reporting the facts, as they see them, regarding Schmidt’s refusal to hand over his e-mails.

    Their lawyers, in the end, just have to tell the truth, knowing that it is pretty painful. What other option do they actually have.

    My bet is that there are some angry people behind the scenes at NASA. Let’s hope one them does an “FOIA” of his own.

  6. Andrew Lyon says:

    Inhoffe is my Senator. Would it help for me to send this to him?

  7. National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Office of Inspector General
    Washington, DC 20546-0001
    February 28, 2008
    TO: Chief Information Officer
    FROM: Assistant Inspector General for Auditing
    SUBJECT: Final Memorandum on Audit of Retention of NASA’s Official Electronic Mail (Report No. IG-08-010; Assignment No. A-07-007-00)

    The Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of NASA’s retention of official electronic mail (e-mail). Our overall objective was to determine whether NASA was effectively and efficiently managing its official e-mail records in accordance with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. Specifically, we determined whether NASA had (1) established and implemented adequate policies and procedures to ensure that e-mail users identified, designated, stored, and retained official e-mail communication in accordance with National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) regulations and (2) developed and implemented training to ensure that all Agency e-mail users were aware of and understood the process by which to identify, designate, store, and retain official e-mail communication in accordance with NARA regulations and NASA’s requirements. We also reviewed internal controls as they related to the overall objective. (See Enclosure 1 for details on the audit’s scope and methodology.)

    Executive Summary

    We found that NASA was not effectively and efficiently managing its official e-mail records in accordance with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. Although NASA had established records management policies and procedures in accordance with NARA regulations, NASA’s e-mail retention guidance does not adequately address NARA’s requirements for electronic records management. …..

    Source

    This was 2008. See doc for more info.

  8. From the NARA regulations.

    § 3106. Unlawful removal, destruction of records

    The head of each Federal agency shall notify the Archivist of any actual, impending, or threatened unlawful removal, defacing, alteration, or destruction of records in the custody of the agency of which he is the head that shall come to his attention and with the assistance of the Archivist shall initiate action through the Attorney General for the recovery of records he knows or has reason to believe have been unlawfully removed from his agency, or from another Federal agency whose records have been transferred to his legal custody. In any case in which the head of the agency does not initiate an action for such recovery or other redress within a reasonable period of time after being notified of any such unlawful action, the Archivist shall request the Attorney General to initiate such an action, and shall notify the Congress when such a request has been made.

  9. Ian H says:

    It isn’t at all unusual for organisations not to run their own email servers these days. Many institutions now use Gmail. That means that the email itself isn’t located on a local server. It is off in the cloud. The only thing the organisation supplies in this kind of arrangement is user authentication.

    There are quite legitimate reasons for doing this and it is viewed as the way of the future by many people. Managing email properly is very expensive and time consuming. It makes sense to subcontract it to a specialist. Also having the email on the cloud means you can access it and manage it from multiple devices – at home – at work – laptops – smartphones – etc – without difficulty. And it is archived off site, hence safe from local disasters.

    I guess what I’m saying is that the article seems to view the fact that GISS no longer runs its own email servers in an unduly sinister light. The implication is made that the only reason anyone could have for doing this kind of thing is to be able to hide from FOI requests. But the shift to cloud based computing is actually a global phenomenon backed up by very sound reasons which have nothing to do with a desire to hide or conceal anything.

    Just wanted to point that out to y’all before we get too carried away here.

  10. http://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/grs/grs20.html

    National Archives and Records Administration
    General Records Schedules
    Transmittal No. 22
    April 2010

    GENERAL RECORDS SCHEDULE 20
    Electronic Records
    ……………………………………………….
    14. Electronic Mail Records.

    Senders’ and recipients’ versions of electronic mail messages that meet the definition of Federal records, and any attachments to the record messages after they have been copied to an electronic recordkeeping system, paper, or microform for recordkeeping purposes.

    Delete from the e-mail system after copying to a recordkeeping system. (N1-GRS-95-2 item 14)
    ………………………………………………..

  11. Ian H,
    Not a Federal Agency, nope. Not legally anyway.

  12. Twodogs says:

    The intent behind the hiding of emails is so absurdly transparent that one wonders how they ever thought they would get away with it.

    It’s a bit like burning records and claiming that it was cold!

  13. F. Ross says:

    Ian H says:
    October 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Did you actually read the article by Mr. Horner?
    The situation you refer to is in no way comparable to the actions of a government agency and/or a government employee in an apparent effort to avoid FOIA.

  14. theduke says:

    Warning: this is a political comment.

    Liberals love to pass laws to constrain and regulate their political opponents and ideological enemies, but when it comes to enforcing the spirit and the letter of the law against other like-minded liberal individuals, special dispensations are often accorded.

    There is no area of law that is more violated in this manner than the so-called “sunshine laws.”

  15. Mr. Horner, perhaps a request for the waivers giving Gavin permission to run his little walled garden while on the government payroll would be in order.

    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/322720main_N_ITR_2830_1A_.pdf

    Appendix C Information Technology (IT) Waiver Process.
    Waivers to Information Technology (IT) Policies, Procedures, Standards, or Federal
    Requirements
    I. Waivers to IT policies, procedures, standards or requirements standards, shall be granted by the NASA CIO.
    2. The NASA CIO may delegate authority and responsibility to Center CIOs for a specific type ofIT waiver or for a specific program or issue.
    2.1.
    The NASA CIO delegation ofwaiver authority and responsibility shall be in writing for the specific delegated authority or be as specified in NASA policy directives, e.g. in an NPR.
    3.
    The individual/office preparing the waiver request shall submit the waiver request to the cognizant Center CIO for Center CIO concurrence and action. Example: The Sounding Rocket Program at the Wallops Flight Facility would submit the waiver to the GFSC CIO for review and concurrence/non-concun·ence.
    4.
    The waiver request shall include:
    a.
    The NASA IT policy, procedure, standard, and/or Federal requirement to be waived.
    b.
    The reason and justification for the waiver is required including:
    (I)
    Risk Assessment;
    (2)
    Cost-Benefit Analysis;
    (3)
    Business Impact Assessment;
    (4)
    Identification of compensating controls/actions;
    (5)
    Proposed period oftime for the waiver;
    (6)
    The proposed date by which the Center will be compliant with the NASA IT standard, security control, and/or Federal requirement; and
    (7)
    For an IT security control waiver or for any waiver that results in an unmitigated security weakness or deficiency, an Authorization Official (AO) approved Program of Action and Milestone (POA&M) shall be included with the waiver request.
    ………………………………………………………….

  16. Twodogs says:

    IanH, it failed its audit, which appears quite explicitly to be in contravention of the law.

    Are you being disingenuous? The problem here is not that records are being kept offsite for data recovery, but that they are automatically DELETED! I don’t know if you have them where you are, but you need a trip to Specsavers!!

  17. The NASA email accounts should be configured to be IMAP. The emails should be retained on the server as per US Law that such emails be retained. In no way, shape, or form should the employee be responsible for the retaining of emails that are subject to FOIA requests – this should be done at the server, beyond the reach of any employee action, up to and including the deletion of email. That is to say, deleted emails are removed from the inbox and placed in a deleted email folder – but everything should be retained (and backed up), server side, in order to comply with the law. This is BASIC system administration, period. Whoever is in charge of their email system should at minimum be fired for incompetence, and more ideally, charged with aiding and abetting the circumvention of applicable federal law.

  18. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    So a system has been set up that allows unknown parties acting against the interests of the United States to directly communicate with US government employees without traceability and record retention accessible by US government security agencies without subpoena, while simultaneously allowing US government employees to communicate with unknown parties acting against the interests of the US without traceability and record retention accessible by US government security agencies without subpoena, and it is installed in and operating from a US government installation, thus allowing US government employees to transfer US government documents directly from a US government installation to parties acting against the interests of the US without traceability and record retention accessible by US government security agencies without subpoena, which includes controlled documents of a sensitive nature.

    Considering that the Obama administration is borrowing money from China to send to renewable energy projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan where it’s diverted to Taliban and Al-Qaeda interests (poppy stalks are a biofuel), I guess it’s just par for the course these days. And it’s possible GISS employees are using their covert system for purely innocuous purposes. Like advance releases of temperature data to investors and gambling interests.

  19. Ok, I’ve spammed up this thread enough quoting regulations. Here’s one more link with general email retention policies.

    http://www.archives.gov/about/regulations/part-1236.html#partc

  20. Chad Wozniak says:

    Let’s hope we can pin some serious prison time and fines on these lawbreakers.

  21. hro001 says:

    Gee, perhaps it’s time to call in the Norfolk Constabulary – and their associates – so that they can seize Gavin’s computer(s) to determine if there is anything that might help them solve the mystery of the Climategate leaks.

    After all, they had no compunctions whatsoever about seizing Tallbloke’s computers last December, did they?! And Gavin has certainly never presented any evidence in support of his Nov. 23 claim of an alleged “hack” of RC on Nov. 17/09 – part of his ever-changing story.

    Ooops. Sorry, I forgot … Norfolk’s finest very conveniently closed the case, in a carefully screened cloud of fog) circa July 18/12.

  22. John Trigge (in Oz) says:

    Should the proverbial bus come along and hit any of these people using their own PCs, inaccessible to their departments IT personnel, how much important info would be lost?

  23. eyesonu says:

    charles the moderator says:
    October 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm

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

    I don’t feel that you have spammed the thread at all. Your contribution is very much relevant. I hope Anthony can do a leading post on the issue. This is a very serious breach of the law and what’s left of any trust in government.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  24. Blade says:

    @Chris Horner, thank you for your dogged efforts! I’ve long thought that this one, Gavin’s possible misconduct, will be one key to fixing NASA. Hansen being another. And what a strange coincidence that they are connected at the hip.

    @Anthony, perhaps you can invite Gavin to reply here and assure us he follows regulations strictly to the letter of the law with no excursions or slip-ups whatsoever. Sure, he might decline, but then you get to update the article with ‘Gavin refused to answer questions here’. ;-)

  25. eyesonu says:

    Ian H says:
    October 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

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

    I will not steer this thread off topic to discuss the contents of your comment, but there is no justification or legitimate reasons for Schmidt’s actions. It appears to be unlawful and if not then that needs to be addressed.

  26. burnside says:

    It would be naive to credit these practices solely to liberal policy or to imagine them confined to questions of climate.

  27. eyesonu says:

    James Hastings-Trew says:
    October 4, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    The NASA email accounts should be configured to be IMAP. The emails should be retained on the server as per US Law that such emails be retained. In no way, shape, or form should the employee be responsible for the retaining of emails that are subject to FOIA requests – this should be done at the server, beyond the reach of any employee action, up to and including the deletion of email. That is to say, deleted emails are removed from the inbox and placed in a deleted email folder – but everything should be retained (and backed up), server side, in order to comply with the law. This is BASIC system administration, period. Whoever is in charge of their email system should at minimum be fired for incompetence, and more ideally, charged with aiding and abetting the circumvention of applicable federal law.

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

    Very well stated sir. And to follow up with the comment from kadaka (KD Knoebel) would summarize the importance of such policies.

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    October 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    So a system has been set up that allows unknown parties acting against the interests of the United States to directly communicate with US government employees without traceability and record retention accessible by US government security agencies without subpoena, while simultaneously allowing US government employees to communicate with unknown parties acting against the interests of the US without traceability and record retention accessible by US government security agencies without subpoena, and it is installed in and operating from a US government installation, thus allowing US government employees to transfer US government documents directly from a US government installation to parties acting against the interests of the US without traceability and record retention accessible by US government security agencies without subpoena, which includes controlled documents of a sensitive nature.

  28. atheok says:

    “charles the moderator says:
    October 4, 2012 at 9:02 pm
    The fact that the NASA email servers are not configured to retain mails has to be a violation of policy, and perhaps Federal Law.

    The fact that the agency’s email server is explicitly configured (must be, not an accident) to delete emails is a violation.

    I am curious, about how this is stated. It sounds like an email access program, (Outlook, etc.) choice in configuring individual IMAP email account downlads where the user gets to choose deleting them from the server. Even though this box is checked, most Federal email servers should not delete any emails.

    The difference is an agency’s email server versus a users email account.

    Now if the IT group specifically set the server to delete emails after downloading, well, fraud comes to mind, along with gross incompetence or wilful malfeasance. And yes, if I was that IT guy, I’d insist on written and signed orders explicitly telling me to break regulations.

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    In the long ago time of ancient text email, about 1990, it was common to have a mail server just “deliver the email’ and delete the copy in “spool”. Then SarBox hit (and the Gov FOIA equivalents). It then became mandatory to ‘retain records’.

    I have painful memories of changing entire email systems to “keep for years”. Network Appliance made a bundle selling specially configured vast file storage devices that could be written, but no one could delete the records, specifically for “records retention” in compliance wiht law. NASA buys a lot of NetAp equipment.

    We hired some of our better programmers for sys admin work from NASA then too.

    So I conclude:

    The Tech guys know exactly what to do.
    Their server is NOT configured in compliance with retention requirements OR you are being told it isn’t, but it really is.
    In any case, the process described is in violation.

    @Ian H:

    Doesn’t matter WHERE or by WHOM the email services are run or operated. The legal retention requirements still apply. One of the standard “talking points” in selling external services is “Backups, disaster recovery, and retention policy compliance”.

    @Chris H.:

    I would not be surprised to “discover” that the I.T. departement has “backups” of the email server that are not being discussed in the letter to you. A request for “Backup procedures for email servers” might be productive…

    If they really are running as a straight “spool only” email transit server, I would be astounded. That would say that they have NO retention policy other than whatever individuals do on their desktop machines. That alone likely breaks several laws…

  30. Chuck Nolan says:

    Ian H says:
    October 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm
    ……………….. Just wanted to point that out to y’all before we get too carried away here.
    ————————————-
    Cloud does not mean they are allowed a lack of sunshine.
    Access via cloud does not prevent communications and use trails from being downloaded and archived. It’s the law. The folks our president hired to lead these organizations for taxpayer benefit need to figure out how to comply with, not circumvent the FOIA. Hey Mr Holder, it’s the law.
    Instead of declaring how they didn’t follow the law they need to tey need to step up and fix it. They need to establish an information and data trail.
    Poor leaders accept poor excuses. How do NASA and the rest of the Alphabet Departments not recognize this failure and how this it the root of skepticism. (along with climategate, UN failures, data loss and manipulation and model failure etc)
    Question is how do a Hansen, Schmidt, and the team keep their positions with such contempt for the law?
    cn

  31. James Allison says:

    Three cheers for Sherlock alias Charles The Moderator.

  32. Bill Irvine says:

    For a government agency, working on classified material ,to allow this seems unbelievable. No need to leave microfilm or memory sticks tucked into tree knotholes for your minder to pick up. Just bring in your own computer and upload all you want to wherever in the world you want, and instantly delete the trail.

  33. steveta_uk says:

    “In any case, the process described is in violation.”

    Worse – the process as described is so stupid that it is not credible.

    So a NASA employee is reading email on a laptop and power failure occurs. Data not saved locally – never mind – power returns – log in again – oh dear, all that vital data from my boss has gone, and the IT folk have no way to recover it?

    Seriously? I for one don’t beleive it.

  34. pat says:

    ***Schmidt’s words below seem somehow hollow:

    25 June: 2009: Nature: Olive Hefferman: Funding cut for UK climate research
    Ministry of Defence pulls £4.3 million from Met Office
    The loss of £4.3 million (US$7.0 million) in funding from the MoD will affect the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change in Exeter, the world-class climate modelling institute whose researchers made key contributions to the last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.
    “This news comes as a shock,” says climate scientist Martin Parry, formerly at the Met Office and now at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. “The UK’s core modelling work on climate change has been funded from this source, up to now.”…
    This will be the first time that Met Office climate research has gone without MoD cash, according to a Met Office spokesman. The office became an executive agency of the ministry in 1990 and a commercialized trading fund in 1996. By 2008, one-sixth of its budget of £176.5 million came from commercial services. But government, and the MoD in particular, has continued to be its main customer and funder….
    Although the MoD has withdrawn its remaining funding, a Met Office spokesman insisted that the programme is not threatened.
    The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is committed to providing £4 million per year in funding up until 2011 to ICP, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will provide approximately £10 million in annual funding over the same period…
    ***”If they don’t recoup it, they are going to be in serious trouble,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeller at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York. “Losing 25% of your funding is a huge deal. Five percent is generally containable, but 25% is not an amount you can hope to absorb easily.” …
    However, the cuts could also lead to a better way of funding climate research, says Schmidt. The Met Office’s link to the defence ministry is unusual among national climate research centres, and some feel that it can lead to unnecessary bureaucracy.
    ***”Climate research should be as open and transparent as possible,” says Schmidt, “and institutional links with the defence establishment can sometimes impede that goal.

    http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090625/full/news.2009.602.html

    Reply: good find ~ctm

  35. rogerknights says:

    This I’m-above-the-law attitude is also manifested in GISS’s evasion of the rules requiring it to document the rationale for changes to its historic global temperature anomaly records, as a thread here within the past two weeks or so complained.

  36. John Whitman says:

    So, based on the investigation by CEI described in the post by Chris Horner, there are two things to ask.

    First, did Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s GISS evade FOI exposure?

    Second, if Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s GISS did evade FOI exposure, was it intentional evasion?

    The investigation is important to establish the answers, because the reputation of science is once again in a uncomfotable spotlight due to the behavior of some climate researchers.

    John

  37. John Silver says:

    I don’t understand this:

    “Dr. Schmidt accesses his Columbia University email via an Internet browser on the computer. Dr. Schmidt does not download his Columbia email messages to his computer; rather, they are located on a remote Columbia mail server.”

    Schmidt is no longer employed by Columbia University. Can someone explain this with words and preferably graphics.? Chefio? Charles?

  38. Kaboom says:

    It is quite unheard of that a federal agency would not have an email retention policy by using a MAPI interface for email clients to read or retrieve local copies of email permanently stored and backed up on/from the main email server. It also is quite unheard of that a federal agency would permit the use of equipment not issued by the same agency to access the computer network, retrieve outside data or transmit data from within to the outside of the network. That is a major security breach and for that point alone heads at GISS/NASA IT should roll.

  39. Ian W says:

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Office of Inspector General
    Washington, DC 20546-0001
    February 28, 2008
    TO: Chief Information Officer
    FROM: Assistant Inspector General for Auditing
    SUBJECT: Final Memorandum on Audit of Retention of NASA’s Official Electronic Mail (Report No. IG-08-010; Assignment No. A-07-007-00)

    So NASA has been in breach of these regulations now for 4 years?

    I would think that Congress should defund all IT and computing for NASA (including all remuneration to IT staff and scientific computing, operational space and Mars exploration systems) until the agency has taken corrective action and put in place solid legal procedures which all agency staff are mandated to follow. NASA might take notice of such a blunt approach.

  40. dave ward says:

    If there really is no server backup, what happens when (not if) Gavin’s personal PC hard drive finally refuses to store & retrieve data, or gets hit by a really nasty virus? He’s going to be in a bit of a pickle then! Unless, of course, he has his own personal backup on a portable drive somewhere….

  41. John Silver,

    From:

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/about/

    GISS works cooperatively with area universities and research organizations, most notably with Columbia University. Many of our personnel are members of Columbia’s Earth Institute, Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR), Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and/or Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. We also collaborate with researchers and educators at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the City College of New York, the American Museum of Natural History and elsewhere

    Gav is certainly still affiliated with Columbia.

  42. Geoff Withnell says:

    Kaboom says:
    October 5, 2012 at 3:47 am
    It is quite unheard of that a federal agency would not have an email retention policy by using a MAPI interface for email clients to read or retrieve local copies of email permanently stored and backed up on/from the main email server. It also is quite unheard of that a federal agency would permit the use of equipment not issued by the same agency to access the computer network, retrieve outside data or transmit data from within to the outside of the network. That is a major security breach and for that point alone heads at GISS/NASA IT should roll.

    Actually it is quite common for unclassified government email and networks to have web access enabled. I work for a DoD agency as a contractor, and I can access my unclassified official email from my home network, and a good bit of of SharePoint file system, from my home computer. Of course, email I access from my system, or even delete from my system, emails stored on the agency email server archives.

  43. Mark says:

    At the risk of being really dumb here, surely it doesn’t matter which computer Gavin accesses and sends his NASA emails from? He will be using a mail client of some description, but this is accessing mail on the NASA mail servers. The only local items would be any private folders on the computer to which he moves mail for storage.

    But that mail is still NASA mail that passed through the NASA mail system and which will have been logged there and be subject to all their retention and archiving policies (if any). I access my corporate emails from all over the place thanks to the joys of OWA, VPN, mobile integration and so on. It doesn’t matter where or how, because the mail is on the corporate mail server.

    Perhaps someone who isn’t quite so many years removed from email admin can correct me, but this sounds like extremely basic bluster and misdirection.

  44. MarkW says:

    If there is nothing to hide, why work so hard to hide it?

  45. MarkW says:

    “the Archivist shall request the Attorney General to initiate such an action”

    With Eric Holder as AG, there’s no chance of that ever happening.

  46. MarkW says:

    John Trigge (in Oz) says:
    October 4, 2012 at 10:49 pm
    Should the proverbial bus come along and hit any of these people using their own PCs, inaccessible to their departments IT personnel, how much important info would be lost?
    —-
    Given the quality of work demonstrated so far. None.

  47. Chuck Nolan says:

    John Trigge (in Oz) says:
    October 4, 2012 at 10:49 pm
    Should the proverbial bus come along and hit any of these people using their own PCs, inaccessible to their departments IT personnel, how much important info would be lost?
    ————–
    Not to mention damage to the bus.
    cn

  48. TomB says:

    Ian H says:
    October 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm …..
    I guess what I’m saying is that the article seems to view the fact that GISS no longer runs its own email servers in an unduly sinister light. The implication is made that the only reason anyone could have for doing this kind of thing is to be able to hide from FOI requests. But the shift to cloud based computing is actually a global phenomenon backed up by very sound reasons which have nothing to do with a desire to hide or conceal anything.

    Sorry, but you couldn’t be more wrong. As a litigation support and IT professional with decades of experience and specializing in e-discovery, this type of records management and retention is so far out of the bounds of what is considered acceptable that it is clearly evidence of the intent to hide these records from discovery. Compliant government agencies back-up everything, including all emails, daily. Email servers are mirrored and all communications can be accessed and retrieved from the server itself. No need to go to the user’s computer. For example, Financial firms in the US are required to keep, archive, index, and have ready for retrieval all emails for a period of not less than 10 years. This includes instant messaging, by whatever means, as well as all telephone communications. Financial firms, and the government, spend millions on this to be compliant.

    Moreover, GISS is not using “a cloud based” solution. They have their own email server that is purposely configured to only act as a relay, not a repository, of email communications.

    Nope, this isn’t even close to being acceptable records retention and viewing it as a deliberate attempt to “hide or conceal” is an obvious and common sense conclusion.

  49. Doug Proctor says:

    Those who wish to do secret things will find a way. The best we can do is make small secrets too awkward to hid well so that we can find them should the need arise: these small ones will lead us to the bigger ones if we push hard enough.

    Consider “waterboarding” and other illegal-in-America, tortures. Although strictly against all federal, state and local laws, the CIA (and other national agencies around the democratic, “free” world) continue to use torture as local agents deem necessary. They do this with the third-party cut-outs, and we now know they do. But does this stop the activity? Rhetorical question.

    FOIA laws do not prevent secrets being held, they allow us to uncover them. The CTI has found the “small” secet of off-site computer usage and record/non-record keeping. The larger secret is in GS’s harddrives. Like Nixon’s taperecording, I would expect any FOIA requirement for that harddrive to be seeking for something that mysteriously disappeared (before it was legally required to be kept, of course).

    The business of democratic politicians is manipulation. (Otherwise it is known as “force”, which is what fascists do.) Manipulation does not work in the full light of understanding, but in the dimness of shadows and dark. Secrets are the primary weapon in the politician’s arsenal. Uncovering them is a full-time job in our society, not because we are inherently ruled by criminals, but because we have chosen to be ruled by discourse rather than fear.

  50. LamontT says:

    If that is their excuse than they are in violation of federal email retention laws.

    Basically as written you must retain every single email that passes through your government server forever. That by the way that is congress not having a clue what is involved in email archiving. Over time at least for agencies such as school state, federal, and local agencies it has been accepted by the courts that so long as you have a consistent data retention policy in place and follow it you can use a shorter data retention time than forever. Say 1 year. But that said you still must retain everything for that year. And if you don’t you are vulnerable to lawsuits.

  51. TomB says:

    Mark says:
    October 5, 2012 at 6:14 am

    At the risk of being really dumb here, ….

    Not a dumb question at all. But you’re used to a corporate email environment where data retention for purposes of litigation preparedness is a normal way of life. Also, from your comment about using OWA, your corporate email server is Microsoft Exchange. Exchange does retain a copy of all emails that pass through it.

    In the legal response to the FOIA request, they specifically state:

    “Once a[n agency] employee accesses his or her [agency] email via his or her personal computer, those emails are no longer located on any server at [the agency]; in other words, the act of accessing a specific email deletes that email from the ‘spool’ on the server. “

    I suspect that the email server GISS has set up and is using is some flavor of *nix which acts only as an email relay. There is no retention of email or attachments once a client connects and retrieves the email. Recovery of any non-deleted email and attachments would require doing a an examination (perhaps a digital forensic examination) of the user’s actual client computer hard drive(s).

  52. @mod: Gav is certainly still affiliated with Columbia

    So what? Mail he receives via @*.*.gov has passed through government computer infrastructure and is therefore a government document, not personal.

    Think of the sender in this equation. A person who sends to an @nasa.gov address should expect the email to be part of the public document database and have no possibility of it being “lost” by the addressee.

    Using a *.gov email address for personal correspondence is at best an improper convenience. It is a slippery slope from improper convenience to misrepresentation to deception and only weasel words away from outright fraud.

    fraud (def):an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual;

  53. Mac the Knife says:

    charles the moderator says:
    October 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm
    Ok, I’ve spammed up this thread enough quoting regulations. Here’s one more link with general email retention policies.

    http://www.archives.gov/about/regulations/part-1236.html#partc

    CTM,
    Thanks for posting the relavent regulations and laws governing record retention!
    MtK

  54. John Whitman says:

    GISS => email amateurs . . . cloaked for FOI discovery mode?

    CEI => uncloakers extraordinaire

    John

  55. Louis Hooffstetter says:

    Blade says:

    “Anthony, perhaps you can invite Gavin to reply here and assure us he follows regulations strictly to the letter of the law with no excursions or slip-ups whatsoever. Sure, he might decline, but then you get to update the article with ‘Gavin refused to answer questions here’.”

    I second this excellent request! Where there’s smoke, there’s likely fire, and it seems there’s enough smoke from this to cool the planet! As MarkW says: “If there is nothing to hide, why work so hard to hide it?” It’s no wonder the general public is becoming increasingly skeptical of Climate Science.

  56. Anthony, I think “Bonfire of the GISS Vanities” is a poor choice for a title. I get it as a very in joke. For the passer by, however, “who is GISS and why should I care? ” It isn’t until line 16 that “NASA” is mentioned.

    “Bonfire of the Vanities” either the original 1497 event or the Tom Wolfe refer to destruction of valuable things and reputations by a mob.

    Who is destroying what here? The “mob” (that’s us) wants to retain documents. We want NASA to follow established proceedures, not circumvent them.

    Maybe the subtitle can be improved:
    NASA GISS email retention policies non-compliant for 4+ years as a reason to circumvent FOI laws.
    The AIG report and the affidavit together establish that much, don’t they?

  57. William says:

    The reason why it is necessary to resist freedom of information requests is science is not on the side of the extreme AGW paradigm pushers. If science has on the side of RealClimate and the IPCC it would not be necessary to hide correspondence concerning their work.

    There are three problems:

    (1) There is an effort to hide the fact that observations and analysis in peer review journals does not support the extreme warming paradigm, that plants eat CO2, that greenhouses inject CO2 into the greenhouse to increase yield and reduce growing times, that the planet resists warming (negative feedback) rather than amplifies warming (positive feedback). There is an effort to hide the fact the amount of observed warming does not support the extreme warming mania. See below for details.
    (2) There is an effort to connect every extreme weather event: Hot, Cold, High precipitation, High wind, and Drought with warming to justify spending money on green scams. Independent scientific analysis and observations do not support the assertion that extreme weather events have increased.
    (3) There is almost no media coverage of the scandalous waste of money on “green” energy scams. (i.e. The Liberal media do not want to be accused of being a `denier`. The mania is fed and supported by that concern.)

    Observations, logic, and analysis in peer reviewed journals are on the side of the so called “skeptics”. There is no extreme AGW problem to solve. Satellite analysis of top of the atmosphere radiation vs ocean surface temperature indicates planetary cloud cover in the tropics increases or decreases reflecting more or less radiation off into space thereby resisting warming (negative feedback). The IPCC general circulation models assume the planet amplifies CO2 warming (positive feedback) to create their high warming predicts. Data and analysis (for example the amount of warming current observed, plateau of warming, the lack of warming in the ocean, the increase in short wave radiation reflected off into space, and so on) in peer reviewed journals indicates that assumption is incorrect. As the planet resist warming (negative feedback) as opposed to amplifies warming a doubling atmospheric CO2 will result in less than 1C warming with most of the warming occurring at high latitudes which will expand the biosphere. I would recommend a read through Joanne Nova’s summary of some of the observations and technical paper that supports the so called “skeptics” position.

    http://joannenova.com.au/2012/10/man-made-global-warming-disproved/

    Observations show major flaws
    1. The missing heat is not in the ocean 8 – 14
    2. Satellites show a warmer Earth is releasing extra energy to space 15 -17
    3. The models get core assumptions wrong – the hot spot is missing 22 – 26, 28 – 31
    4. Clouds cool the planet as it warms 38 – 56
    5. The models are wrong on a local, regional, or continental scale. 63- 64
    6. Eight different methods suggest a climate sensitivity of 0.4°C 66
    7. Has CO2 warmed the planet at all in the last 50 years? It’s harder to tell than you think. 70
    8. Even if we assume it’s warmed since 1979, and assume that it was all CO2, if so, feedbacks are zero — disaster averted. 71
    9. It was as warm or warmer 1000 years ago. Models can’t explain that. It wasn’t CO2. (See also failures of hockey sticks) The models can’t predict past episodes of warming, so why would they predict future ones?

    http://www.climatechangefacts.info/ClimateChangeDocuments/LandseaResignationLetterFromIPCC.htm

    “After some prolonged deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from participating in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I am withdrawing because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns…. Shortly after Dr. Trenberth requested that I draft the Atlantic hurricane section for the AR4’s Observations chapter, Dr. Trenberth participated in a press conference organized by scientists at Harvard on the topic “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity” along with other media interviews on the topic. The result of this media interaction was widespread coverage that directly connected the very busy 2004 Atlantic hurricane season as being caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas warming occurring today. Listening to and reading transcripts of this press conference and media interviews, it is apparent that Dr. Trenberth was being accurately quoted and summarized in such statements and was not being misrepresented in the media. These media sessions have potential to result in a widespread perception that global warming has made recent hurricane activity much more severe. …. ….Moreover, the evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricane will likely be quite small. The latest results from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Knutson and Tuleya, Journal of Climate, 2004) suggest that by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today. It has been proposed that even this tiny change may be an exaggeration as to what may happen by the end of the 21st Century (Michaels, Knappenberger, and Landsea, Journal of Climate, 2005, submitted)…. ….It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity.

    The extreme AGW issue is a mania with no basis in fact.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/warrenmeyer/2012/02/09/understanding-the-global-warming-debate/

  58. D. Patterson says:

    Another approach is to subpoena the suspects before a Congressional subcommitte to provide requested evideence under oath. When the suspects refuse to deliver true evidence, they may be prosecuted for criminal contempt. If the suspects deliver false evidence, they may be prosecuted for perjury. If U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder attempts to forestall prosecution, he and the Obama Administration may face another Fast andFurious type scandal and its consequences.

  59. As a long term NASA contractor I can tell you Dr Schmidt is violating a lot of NASA rules and ITSec policies. He cannot be collecting/storing/managing govenment information on a “private” computer willy-nilly. He has responsibility to record and protect all data. Government data runs the gamut from personal, to proprietary, to procurement sensitive, to ITAR/EAR. Schmidt needs to demonstrate he has taken the proper precautions to protect NASA, GISS and Columbia data.

    This would give just about anyone who needed, reason to audit his system. When they do they will find he is woefully out of ITSec compliance and has been for many years. Which in turn will initiate the next step: what data did he have that could have been compromised.

    Schmidt and NASA have used the dumbest excuse they could think of to try and keep this machine off limits. Since it is an unmaintained machine over which all NASA email traffic (with attachments that will fall into all the categories listed above) has run it is now a huge data protection risk. Personnel resumes, proprietary science and industry data, specifications on science instruments – all of this must be protected.

    Clearly Schmidt has some ‘splainin to do.

  60. David Jay says:

    I am confident that the media will become VERY interested in use of private computers for official business in the Executive branch on January 21st.

  61. lurker, passing through laughing says:

    Let’s see…..sneaky, deceptive behavior, check
    elaborate efforts to avoid accountability, check.
    deflection of inquiries by accusation, check.
    This looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck.

  62. Most transparent administration.
    I guess what they meant is that they will make everything disappear.

  63. Michael Jankowski says:

    So when are they going to address Gavin using a personal computer and personal email at work and during work hours? I wonder how he accesses the internet as well. Gov’t agencies typically don’t allow employees to use their personal computers to access their internet/bandwidth, nor connect to their networks to access files.

    Having worked in gov’t before, I’d have been fired if I’d been doing any of this for days, let alone years!

  64. Skiphil says:

    Numerous flagrant violations of regulations, laws, and sound govt practice.

    In an era when NASA’s budget is under severe pressure, they must be made to feel the heat at the top, immediately, now. Congressmen looking hard at NASA condoning and facilitating such outrageous misbehavior….. This should go way beyond GISS or Schmidt, make top officials at NASA and above NASA answer for this kind of misconduct! As soon as NASA has to start answering hard questions at House and Senate committees, that’s when pressures will be felt from the WH on down. GISS clowns will discover they are quite expendable when the WH is facing pressures of an election year.

    One problem is that Congress is on a long recess, but that does not mean a Rep. or Senator could not announce interest in an inquiry, schedule hearings etc. There are ways to get it into the news even when Congress is not in session. Especially with elections looming…..

  65. Luther Wu says:

    David Jay says:
    October 5, 2012 at 9:16 am

    I am confident that the media will become VERY interested in use of private computers for official business in the Executive branch on January 21st.
    _________________
    50/50 chance?

  66. jaypan says:

    Where is Law Enforcement when you need them?

  67. Mickey Reno says:

    There is, of course, the issue of Schmidt’s (and others?) work-related e-mails and other official communications not being properly secured, and scientific openness being evaded for distinctly political purposes. That could have lots of implications, both for the integrity of science, as well as for the integrity of public sector employees.

    But there’s also the issue of Schmidt actually running Real Climate from his office on work time. Does anyone have a record of Gavin’s posting time stamps, and from those, could we make some estimate of how much of his official NASA work day is spent governing his little totalitarian blog empire? If the answer is, a lot, and if this is not part of his official duties (and I hope to God it is not), then does he have his supervisor’s permission to run Real Climate from his official desk? If so, how high up the chain of command does this permission originate? I’m just asking to see how widely terminations might be on tap, once pro-Obama bureaucrats, and Obama and Eric Holder too, are no longer in charge of the work rule violations, and the law breaking aspects of this BS behavior by those who, in the end, are employees of the American taxpayers.

  68. davidmhoffer says:

    This is so contrived as to be absurd. Were a private company to take such steps to avoid scrutiny by say the IRS, or a criminal investigation, there would be senior execs sitting in jails pronto. Several commenters have already alluded to the risk factors that such a system exposes NASA to in terms of potential to lose important data and documents. There’s two other observations I think worth noting:

    1. This removes the ability of NASA to defend themselves against fraudulent attacks. Suppose for a moment that a wrongful dismissal case or a sexual harrasment case were brought against NASA and the accuser presented email correspondence with Gavin to substantiate their claim. With no record of the email of their own to rely on, NASA would have no way to determine if the emails presented were genuine or not.

    2. Compliance law is ugly complex, but at day’s end, there are two driving factors that determine how long any given email (or any other document) must be kept. The first is for regulatory compliance. If the law says that financial records must be kept for 7 years, then they must be kept for seven years, period. An amazing amount of information that comprises part of the financial records of an organization (receiving quotes, sending purchase orders, making changes to contracts, etc) is in fact, contained in emails. For that specific reason, deleting ALL the email of ANY given user automatically is pretty much a violation of compliance law since any data that falls into that category (financial information is only one example, there are other types of data that must also be retained) is deleted when it should be retained. The other driving factor is the organization’s data retention policy, which can in fact be as simple as “we delete everything daily except as required by law”. What NASA appears to be arguing here is that is in fact their data retention policy as it applies to Gavin, and that nothing in his correspondence is required to be preserved by law (ie no financial data such as quotes, purchase orders, contracts, etc). There have been several rather interesting court cases setting precedent around compliance law, including a $1.3 Billion judgment against a stock brokerage for saying they had deleted all email older than a certain date and it coming to light that they had (inadvertantly) not done so. Note that the judgment had nothing to do with what was in the emails they said they deleted, the judgment was enitrely based on them saying that the deleted something and it turned out they hadn’t. So not meeting your own data retention policy is very serious in the court’s eyes. My reading of the precedents already set in terms of compliance law is that if it should turn out that NASA’s retention policy that they are relying upon to protect Gavin’s emails is a “special” retention policy just for him, is that the courts would throw that out in a heart beat. If NASA’s data retention policy as stated for Gavin (deleting email automatically upon client download) is in place for the organization in general, then they’re in even deeper caca because there is no way that across that organization they are not deleting email which the law requires them to keep.

  69. davidmhoffer says:

    mods – hidey hile, TIA
    darn thing hates me recently

  70. John Whitman says:

    I have written a parody press release to be used in the not too distant future:

    Parody starts –

    For immediate release to Andy Revkin and other previously fawning news folks by Gibbon Schmight of NOSAW’s GASS;

    “I am looking for career advancing job opportunities primarily in the area of ‘match-pump***’ science. Preferably in jurisdictions that do not have extradition agreements with the US government.”

    “Doing good has no end.” ******

    Signed: Gibbon Schmight of NOSAW’s GASS

    Parody ends –

    *** ‘Match-Pump’ science is where you invent research out of flawed statistics that creates a bonfire of alarmism, then you provide a highly profitable government subsidized solution (pump) to put gasoline on the original flame of false alarmism.

    ****** Apologies to Clint Eastwood for using a line by the Captain Redlegs character in his movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales”.

    John

  71. Fred says:

    You would almost think that this is a deliberate attempt to conceal correspondence, operate outside of the law and act like criminals.

    But these are just honest scientists trying their best to save the world and all the little children and puppy dogs and fluffy kittens from the eeeeeeeevil Glowball Warming thingy.

    So we should have no reason to doubt their motives and we should continue to allow them to devise public policies that determine the spending allocations for hundreds of $$$Billions of dollars. Because we know they are trustworthy.

    Right?

  72. kcrucible says:

    “I guess what I’m saying is that the article seems to view the fact that GISS no longer runs its own email servers in an unduly sinister light. The implication is made that the only reason anyone could have for doing this kind of thing is to be able to hide from FOI requests.”

    And whether they maintain the servers or not, GISS emails must be accessible via FOI. It’s the information that must be free. No one gives a damn about the hardware.

    If he’s sending nasa.gov emails from his columbia computer, then the government needs to have an arrangement where they can tap those emails at will. If that hasn’t happened, then NASA isn’t complying with the act.

  73. kcrucible says:

    “In the legal response to the FOIA request, they specifically state:
    “Once a[n agency] employee accesses his or her [agency] email via his or her personal computer, those emails are no longer located on any server at [the agency]; in other words, the act of accessing a specific email deletes that email from the ‘spool’ on the server. “

    Which is utter BS, because the agency is obligated to keep copies around. They will be in backups, if not in the active “spool.”

  74. Nick de Cusa says:

    An analogy comes to my mind : if you work for a business and they suspect you (rightly or wrongly) of antitrust wrongdoing, they’ll just raid your house, and take you PC, and raid your private email accounts. Period.

    Double standards.

  75. Francisco says:

    It’s very hard to believe that a public agency leaves the retention of written communication records (that’s what emails are) at the sole discretion of each employee and the lottery of hard-drive longevity. It’s as if t he only future need they ever envision for those records are FOIA requests. There is no difference between this and the systematic shredding of written communications.

    Even most private companies retain employee emails in case they need them for possible litigation events in the future, including legal processes between employer and employee.
    It’s just not credible that a Federal agency like NASA is deleting those records. And if they are doing that, it certainly has to be illegal. Maybe Congress should look into this. Maybe they are counting nobody will look into it. But I really don’t believe for a second they leave email retention at the discretion of each employee. It doesn’t make sense. it’s not credible.

  76. Latimer Alder says:

    Schmidt is in the Shidt :-)

    Does the same apply to Hansen?

    Presumably NASA has auditors who would take a very dim view of these shenanigans.

  77. Kev-in-Uk says:

    Schmidt appears as a shmuck – end of.
    being in the uk, I cannot undertake any direct action – but if he were on my (taxpayers) payroll – I’d be complaining like a madman……….and he’d be out on his ear for gross misconduct!

  78. TomB says:

    kcrucible says:
    October 5, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Which is utter BS, because the agency is obligated to keep copies around. They will be in backups, if not in the active “spool.

    No, they won’t. You’re making the mistaken assumption that their email server is even marginally in compliance with data retention standards. it isn’t.

    [The agency] does not currently have (nor has it had in the past) a centralized backup of [agency] email traffic.” Id. at ¶ 12b. Moreover, even if the Agency did have a centralized backup of emails from the @giss.nasa. gov or @nasa.gov domains, emails sent or received by Dr. Schmidt pertaining to his work on the RealClimate blog would not be integrated into an Agency records system or file. . . .

    Their email server is not backed up.
    I’d want to do a complete forensic image of Gavin’s hard drives (both the laptop and the desktop) as well as a forensic image of the email server. You could at least compare the server logs with the email recovered from the workstation to determine what communications had been deleted.

  79. Jim G says:

    NASA may be politically and legally challenged but they are still doing some real science and have some real scientists on staff. This is real science: from the Sky & Telescope article regarding Curiosity’s Mars landing Nov. issue 2012.

    Ryan Anderson, who did graduate work on orbital data regarding the Curiosity landing site says about his prior work, “ I am fully expecting I’ll be wrong. I think it’ll be nice if I was close on some of it. But being wrong is part of how science works. I am looking forward to seeing why I was wrong.”

    If we could only get some of the warmists and skeptics alike to think this way, climate science might become a real science.

  80. hro001 says:

    ajstrata@strata-sphere.com says: October 5, 2012 at 9:00 am

    As a long term NASA contractor I can tell you Dr Schmidt is violating a lot of NASA rules and ITSec policies. [...]
    [...]
    Clearly Schmidt has some ‘splainin to do.

    Indeed. However, if his past performances are any indication, his motto (and that of his inner-circle activist-scientist buddies at RC) seems to be: “Never explain, always complain … and point finger of blame elsewhere”.

  81. Paul Coppin says:


    . . The other computer is a desktop computer owned by Columbia University. Dr. Schmidt purchased this computer with National Science Foundation grant monies he received while he was an employee of Columbia University, prior to his becoming a civil servant with [NASA]; . .

    So, in a deposition, its admitted implicitly that Schmidt stole a computer from Columbia? In most insti8tutions, notably government and most unis I’m familiar with, hardware purchased with grants are the property of the receiving institution, unless the grant contract specifies otherwise. Is Schmidt still an employee of Columbia?

  82. Paul Murphy says:

    Dear Mr. Horner:

    I’ve done a lot of sysadmin – including mail admin, and what you’re talking about here is probably just an IT management failure that just happens to have happy consequences for the bad guys.

    In general companies (and governments) are confronted by users who want to bring their own devices into play – whether that means business calls on a personal iPhone or emails on a home Mac, the bottom line is that the individual, not the business, is responsible for these devices. The answer for organizations with legal records management responsibilities is simply to route all documents through a company owned, and operated, server -and if NASA didn’t do that, somebody needs a trip to the woodshed.

    On a personal note, I’d bet they did do that – and therefore that you’re being directed to look in the wrong places – but that’s based on nothing more than assuming basic competence, and it’s always surprising how rare that is.

  83. more soylent green! says:

    If I bring in my computer to the office, can I do outside work on while I’m on the job? I would be fired in a heartbeat.

    Does that second computer use the GISS network? Is it connected to the internet through GISS? It’s possible Schmidt has his own mobile broadband modem (he has to have access to the internet to send/receive emails), but you can count on Schmidt using GISS resources for internet access.

  84. Latimer Alder says:

    I went over to ‘real climate’ and was not surprised to find there was no mention of this development there.

    But then, it is a near moribund website. Only 2 head posts and fewer than 200 comments between them in the last fortnight. I note that WUWT manages that level of reader interaction in much less than a day.

    Perhaps Schmdt has at last been told to do what NASA pays him for? Or maybe they’ve seen the way the wind is blowing and know their game is up.

  85. more soylent green! says:

    Francisco says:
    October 5, 2012 at 11:58 am
    It’s very hard to believe that a public agency leaves the retention of written communication records (that’s what emails are) at the sole discretion of each employee and the lottery of hard-drive longevity. It’s as if t he only future need they ever envision for those records are FOIA requests. There is no difference between this and the systematic shredding of written communications.

    Even most private companies retain employee emails in case they need them for possible litigation events in the future, including legal processes between employer and employee.
    It’s just not credible that a Federal agency like NASA is deleting those records. And if they are doing that, it certainly has to be illegal. Maybe Congress should look into this. Maybe they are counting nobody will look into it. But I really don’t believe for a second they leave email retention at the discretion of each employee. It doesn’t make sense. it’s not credible.

    Have you ever heard of various government employees who spend their time at the office watching porn instead of working? How are they even allowed to access porn sites from the office? I couldn’t get to one of this sites if I tried.

    BTW: About 15 years ago, I was on network admin and support contract at a company where the employees decided to find the most outrageous site they could access through the proxy. Here’s a hint: WhiteHouse.com isn’t a government run site!

  86. JEM says:

    I mean, many of us think a fair question for Mitt would be ‘On your first day in office, will you have James Hansen, Gavin Schmidt, and the rest of GISS arrested, or just fire them for cause?’

    That may be a little too inside-baseball for the average debate viewer, though…

  87. Hugh Kelly says:

    The failure of GISS to properly backup their data seems especially ludicrous considering their precarious physical location in Manhatten which according to GISS’ own Hansen predictions will be underwater in a now dangerously short matter of time.

  88. eyesonu says:

    William says:
    October 5, 2012 at 8:50 am

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

    Thank you for posting your comment. That alone should be enough to convince any believer to do some investigating into the CAGW scam.

    There is no longer any foundation on which the CAGW scam can stand. It is past time for those involved to be held accountable and face fraud charges where applicable.

    How could something like this happen in the modern age of science and information? I doubt that trust in real science will recover in my lifetime. I just hope that future generations will learn to not trust the media or their government and to verify anything presented to them. The implications of that could be both good and/or bad, but will be necessary and the long term outcome will hopefully be positive.

  89. kramer says:

    If the ‘science’ is so “unequivocal” and “settled,” why would they have to hide it from FOI?

  90. Please consider helping this effort. Alex Epstein debating McKibben. http://www.indiegogo.com/mckibbenvsepstein

  91. Paul Carter says:

    From the posting, NASA’s administrative staff (and thus administrative domain accounts) have no access to an employee’s work machines. This means they can’t enforce anti-virus or other security policy rules on that employee’s machines.This is an unforgivably lax attitude to security by NASA – I would have thought they had some relatively sensitive material and processes, yet in this case they are permitting insecure platforms to access their networks.

  92. Skiphil says:

    What we see is that NASA/GISS shows utterly slovenly IT procedures in place for security, email, and data storage. Many/most small companies and offices of 10-20 workstations are far more careful and reliable than this set-up for Gavin Schmidt implies. How can NASA pretend to be a federal agency or (supposedly) world class scientific entity and operate in such a slip-shod manner? Do they actually implement and enforce sensible IT security and data retention policies, or not? Do they actually allow an insecure unmonitored “personal” PC to access NASA/GISS networks?

    This needs to be put in front of every relevant Congresscritter, Inspector General, and watchdog entity.

  93. Neville. says:

    Prof Murry Salby’s talk to the Sydney institute is now on youtube. I just hope Anthony and others have the chance to watch this thought provoking video. The power point presentation is included.

  94. Rich Lambert says:

    I would think that GISS would have a docment retention policy. If so, it would be interesting to see what it says about the retention of emails.

  95. LazyTeenager says:

    Well Chris is good at relentless spin, you have got to give him that. It must take a day or so of hard work for Chris the activist lawyer to massage the facts before they can be presented in this way.

    Me, I am a real hard core skeptic, so I can x ray this fog faster than Chris can write it. But Chris knows his audience and they want to believe.

  96. Michael D Smith says:

    The more money you throw at a government object, the less effective it is, possibly with an exponent on the divisor. I honestly think you could cut most of these rogue agencies by 75% or more, and get vastly more value add out of the deal. Been through it in the private sector, and there is no question that cutting our size to 20% of its former size made us vastly more efficient. We’re now back to near original employment, but we are razor sharp and it is very difficult to compete with us.

  97. Mooloo says:

    Me, I am a real hard core skeptic, so I can x ray this fog faster than Chris can write it. But Chris knows his audience and they want to believe.

    I’m a sceptic too. And I think you’re talking ****!

    Why do people in climate science attempt to defend the absolutely indefensible. Do they think no-one will notice. Or do they think that just by saying “it is spin” that it makes it spin?

    C’mon Lazy Teenager, explain why a NASA employee should be able to work without any ability of his superiors to track what he is doing!

  98. Great Greyhounds says:

    Fire every single one of them!!!

  99. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From LazyTeenager on October 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm:

    Me, I am a real hard core skeptic, so I can x ray this fog faster than…

    X-ray fog? That’s the high-energy penetrating end of the EM spectrum. You need a separate transmitter and receiver. Radar is usually used for penetrating fog, although SWIR imaging is also being used for fog and haze penetration.

    Gee, the hard core skeptics on this site usually do some research so they can have the knowledge to avoid saying silly things.

    Although if you were a TSA agent staring at luggage scanner images all day, perhaps it does look like you are x-raying through fog.

    Or did you buy those x-ray glasses featured in those comic book ads? Aren’t they cool?

  100. atheok says:

    ”davidmhoffer says:
    October 5, 2012 at 10:46 am
    (snip) …An amazing amount of information that comprises part of the financial records of an organization (receiving quotes, sending purchase orders, making changes to contracts, etc) is in fact, contained in emails. For that specific reason, deleting ALL the email of ANY given user automatically is pretty much a violation of compliance law since any data that falls into that category (financial information is only one example, there are other types of data that must also be retained) is deleted when it should be retained…
    (snip)”

    David: You might be a genius! If there is any sure way to get Inspector Generals interested and involved, it is to deliberately go astray regarding government contracts.

    Perhaps identifying any GISS contracts that Gavin is involved with during the time period in question (published in the Federal register); and FOIA any and all communications regarding those contracts between workers, bidders, bid winners, contractees, deliverables, budget department, etc.. There might be some proprietary information that would get redacted, but the key is to see if somehow GISS can mysteriously produce emails that Gavin downloaded (and presumably deleted from the server). Missing emails smack of mishandling government funds and IGs love easy dereliction of duty homerun fraud cases. The higher the profile, the better as this proves what a good job they’re doing prosecuting fraud. NOAA and NASA IGs get first crack at bat. Local Attorney Generals can also play.

  101. GeoLurking says:

    And the royal crapfest of the matter… is that NO MATTER what the results of ANY investigation reveal…

    No one will be fired. no one will be penalized. At worst, a slap on the wrist and an a short admonishment. They guilty will still get paid and will suffer nothing of any hardship.

    Your tax dollars at work. Pleasing eh?

  102. Berényi Péter says:

    “[The agency] does not currently have (nor has it had in the past) a centralized backup of [agency] email traffic.”

    Bunch of liars. See:
    NASA Information Technology Requirements (NITR)
    Email Services and Email Forwarding
    Effective Date: Sep 18, 2009
    ID: NITR 2800_2

    I mean, really. A must read.

    NASA Operational Messaging and Directory (NOMAD), described in the document and made obligatory for every NASA employee and contractor since 2008 is a centralized Microsoft Exchange based solution. With no centralized backup, they claim. Well, mental state of some NASA FOIA officers must be far worse than we thought.

  103. artwest says:

    Twodogs says:
    October 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm
    The intent behind the hiding of emails is so absurdly transparent that one wonders how they ever thought they would get away with it.

    ——————————————————–

    a) Climate “scientists” learned that they can get away with anything e.g. all the “independent” inquiries, the virtually zero consequences for them of climategate, the ignoring of any evidence of their wrongdoing produced by sceptics etc, etc.

    b) These guys aren’t half as smart as they think they are – especially when it comes to IT.

    In short – hubris.

  104. GuarionexSandoval says:

    Compared to this Dick Nixon and Rose Mary Woods were totally pre-K.

  105. eyesonu says:

    Berényi Péter says:
    October 6, 2012 at 2:51 am

    NASA Information Technology Requirements (NITR)
    Email Services and Email Forwarding
    Effective Date: Sep 18, 2009
    ID: NITR 2800_2

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

    Does anyone remember the date that the first batch of Climategate emails were sent out to I believe a media organization prior to the “official” release to the public via internet in Nov 2009?. I’m thinking it was a couple of months. The effective date above is: Effective Date: Sep 18, 2009.

    Just curious. All NASA employees would have been aware of these policies as Climategate was certainly high profile within the so called “climate science” community.

  106. dmacleo says:

    giss.nasa.gov seem to use the nasa.gov mx servers, see about 6 mx records on quick look.
    I find it hard to believe ALL of nasa.gov email acts this way and I suspect only giss.nasa.gov would act this way.
    I suspect its done like that on purpose too.

  107. Skiphil says:

    eyesonu

    I think you might be referring to Paul Hudson of the BBC receiving some of the Climategate emails early, on October 12, 2009 according to his statement (below). I’m not sure how that would have any relation to NASA GISS policies.

    It wasn’t clear to me whether Paul Hudson ever specified how many of the Climategate emails he saw prior to Nov. 2009. The statement below only seems to refer to emails written with comments about a piece of his, so he may not have seen a large proportion of the Climategate emails before they were released publicly.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/paulhudson/2009/11/climategate-cru-hacked-into-an.shtml

    “…I was forwarded the chain of e-mails on the 12th October, which are comments from some of the worlds leading climate scientists written as a direct result of my article ‘whatever happened to global warming’. The e-mails released on the internet as a result of CRU being hacked into are identical to the ones I was forwarded and read at the time and so, as far as l can see, they are authentic….”

  108. uzurbrain says:

    Use Google. NASA is not the only government performing the same illegal activity. Even the Whitehouse has a similar “off the record” server using Gmail. Perhaps that is where they got the idea. The recent WH security breech involved this “secret” system.

  109. eyesonu says:

    Skiphil says:
    October 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm
    ==============

    Thanks for the reply. I recalled reading something with regards to some emails being released prior to Nov 2009 and the memo Effective: Sept 18, 2009 was close to the Nov 2009 release date. I guess it was just a coincidence with regards to that memo’s date being less than a month earlier than Paul Hudson getting a sample.

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