ATI’s FOI request to the University of Arizona ‘excessively burdensome’

Chris Horner writes in with this news, I had to chuckle at some of the language UofA used in the reply, seen below, as if Malcolm Hughes and Jonathan Overpeck had to sit in the scribe room on hard wooden stools for days painstakingly reviewing each email with a magnifying glass. That’s what FOIA compliance officers are for, and even my own little local University has one. – Anthony

UA_Bradley_Peck

Horner writes:

Attached please find our request and invitation to the University of Arizona to satisfy its statutory obligations, and provide sufficient information about certain records they are refusing to disclose under that state’s Open Records Act. Our request was simple, and that was for them to allow us to make reasoned judgement about the propriety of each refusal. This is in our continuing quest to assist the Hockey Team solve the Mystery of the Missing ‘Context’ that, we are assured, would establish the ClimateGate leaks as a big misunderstanding, with no there there.

Also attached is U of A’s reply received yesterday. (see links below)

I am particularly intrigued to learn WUWT readers’ thoughts on the notion that disclosing public-record emails to and from fellow IPCC participants, whether or not an assessment report process has yet kicked off and indeed even just “involving” the IPCC process, “would also be against the best interests of the State”. That being a standard in Arizona law invoked by U of A, in which it would seem the IPCC and the state are at some level interchangeable (in certain dreams, no doubt).

Alternately, I’m curious about this learned crowd’s input as to the notion that emails mentioning or otherwise somehow relating to IPCC are “Composed of unpublished research data, manuscripts, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research and prepublication peer reviews.” As we note, the IPCC still acknowledges that it performs no scientific research and it rises to no definition of peer review that withstands a moment’s scrutiny, as certain of your peers have established.

Such lines of argument only add to the mystery surrounding our efforts to solve the Mystery. Like U of A’s assurance yesterday that, e.g., a “UCS [Union of Concerned Scientists] Summary” written by a faculty member rises to the same, described level. Which, if true, would mean that everything does, so long as you slap the word “science” on it. In this last instance we see in stark relief the sacrifices involved, how science has to lower itself to proclaim that nothing isn’t science in order to establish its lofty, privileged status, free from those nagging if agreed to “strings” that come with living off the taxpayer.

Of course, this is as much to update and inform as solicit input. It represents the state of play of the academic and scientific establishments’ efforts to slip out from under conditions they agreed to when living off the taxpayer. How broadly can they claim that they didn’t mean it or anyway, aren’t amused by the prospect of being held to it, debate over which will surely continue apace so long as the IPCC and its players continue to try and use their taxpayer-funded perches to so manifestly influence public policy and our economic well-being.

Christopher_Horner,_ATI,_Follow_up_Response (PDF)

ATI Reply to U of A Production Indexes (PDF)

39 thoughts on “ATI’s FOI request to the University of Arizona ‘excessively burdensome’

  1. Another attempt to use the enforcement mechanisms of government to force others to act. Does ATI see no limit to government power?

  2. Unless the University of Arizona is still operating in the 60, they should have an email administrator that can run a series of queries against their server using keywords and produce the needed FOIA.

  3. Well of course it was excessively burdensome. Going through every damning email and inventing increasingly ludicrous excuses as to why it can’t be released takes hours. Then there are many more hours cross-checking to see if a “reply to” might contain the body text of one of those emails you have worked so hard to redact. And more hours again to check that no written reference to emails damaging to the “Cause” is contained in the junk emails you plan to snow them with. This all needs the personal oversight of team players. A mere compliance officer cannot be trusted with defending the “Cause”. An honest person might get tired of the sleaze and evasion and just say “Sod it!” and press “send all”.

    /sarc

  4. “would also be against the best interests of the State”

    Chris, The only place In the AZ FOIA that I see where that laguage appears is in 39-103 that deals with the physical size of retained public records.

    B. This section does not apply to public records smaller than eight and one-half inches by eleven inches, public records otherwise required by law to be of a different size, engineering drawings, architectural drawings, maps, computer generated printout, output from test measurement and diagnostic equipment, machine generated paper tapes and public records otherwise exempt by law. Additionally, records kept exclusively on photography, film, microfiche, digital imaging or other type of reproduction or electronic media as provided in section 41-151.16, subsection A are exempt from the size restrictions of this section. On written application the director of the Arizona state library, archives and public records may approve additional exemptions from this section if based on such application the director finds that the cost of producing a particular type of public record in accordance with subsection A of this section is so great as to not be in the best interests of this state.

    http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=39

    Maybe I missed something, but seems your getting the run around. No surprise.

  5. sceptical says
    February 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    You obviously do not understand. Whenever a university researcher and/or the grants department sign to accept a government grant, they also sign away their ownership of everything that the monies they receive is used for. That includes desks, chairs ball point pens, lab notebooks, and yes – emails – and all the associated intellectual property rights – all are vested in the government.

    If you do not like that idea – don’t accept government research funds.

  6. Normal you suggest that these people are taking the pee , but then they are climate scientists so perhaps they really don’t have IT skills , which could automate much of this , worth a dam .

    The ‘trick ‘ of claiming its ‘ongoing ‘ research is one we are going to see time and again , its down to those enforcing the FOI to make sure their not allowed to get away with it .
    But you have to say ,has before , if the science is has settled has claimed, the facts validate of AGW and the situation has dramatic with no time to lose has they said. Why all the need for such smoke and mirrors in the first place , why are they not kicking people doors down to show it?

  7. Chris recons
    and its players continue to try and use their taxpayer-funded perches to so manifestly influence public policy and our economic well-being.
    ———–
    This is a bogus attribution of motivation.

    It’s also likely back to front. Scientists are paid by the state to act as a reservoir of expertise. It’s their duty to provide expert advice. If they did not that would be in violation of their social contract.

    Maybe the issue here is the Chris doesn’t like the competition when it comes to providing advice about social policy issues. Chris is simply trying to exclude those he percieves as competitors to his own schemes of power and influence.

  8. Actually they are attempting to make government employees be accountable to their employers – the people of the state! You really have no clue what you are typing about!

  9. I’m ashamed to be a Wildcat, Class of 1968, and am withholding my alumni contributions and urge others to do the same until the University of Arizona realizes it has a responsibility to law, taxpayers, and transparency.

  10. Federal law requires data retention for a period of time. As written originally this period of time was eternity. Can you imagine the server space on storing eternities worth of emails? So the actual practical outcome of various court filings and practice have determined that you need an email retention policy. Recommendation is generally 1 – 3 years with some agencies going for 7. The draw back is that during this time everything gets archived and at the end is destroyed unless actively saved by printing or converting to a PDF or other format. Legal filings of course should trigger saving of the archive as of that point in time.

    Now that above is based on practical experience with K12 institutions and federal agencies. State agencies can have different laws modifying this but that is the federal rules on data retention and storage and the practical response that has evolved over the last dozen plus years.

    That said if you have a proper email archive system in place and they can run $50,000+ for a small one that manages a years worth of emails … It is relatively easy to search and recover emails or specific users emails from the retention period. The tools are part and parcel of the storage system. Even systems not designed specifically as email archiving systems can provide an amazing degree of flexibility in searching for and recovering emails. For example the Barracuda system has an amazingly flexible email back up and recovery system and thats just a side focus of the system.

    I’m not positive how all of the above impacts universities, thought it likely they are under one or more of these rule sets and are legally bound to have an email and data retention policy. Mind you they may have looked and set their policy to as short as one year and that can impact future FOI requests. Because if the agency your questioning has a retention policy in place and your request comes in after the expiration of the retention period they can legally tell you the information is gone. Destroyed per policy.

    Now that said to avoid lawsuits for discovery to search every computer in the organization you need to actively prevent the saving or archiving of the data on home or work systems. If it turns out that Professor Green has an email archive on his computer it makes the entire organization subject to an active legal hostile search for other data. Additionally if you file a request for email data the organization should archive the archive as of that date pending the outcome of the request. If they permit the archive to age out in hopes of avoiding the request they could be very vulnerable to a lawsuit seeking damages. In the past such lawsuits have brought penalties of $2,000,000+ as a result of such action.

  11. Walt says:
    February 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm
    Take a lesson or two in writing so your prose are intelligible. Shorter sentences with single points would really help.
    >>>>>>>

    Take a lesson in reading comprehension so that well written prose are understandable to you, that would really help.

  12. LazyTeenager;
    Scientists are paid by the state to act as a reservoir of expertise. It’s their duty to provide expert advice. If they did not that would be in violation of their social contract.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Ah the naivete of youth.

  13. Why are these guys involved in it? It’s like the crims sorting out what evidence to give to the police. Shouldn’t the lot be seized and some independent judge or panel decide what is okay to hand over? I know it’s not set up like that, but isn’t there a fairer method than letting these jokers cover their own butts?

  14. Rob Dawg says:
    February 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    I’ll do it for free if that’s the issue.
    ———————-
    Yup. Seriously, if it’s such a burden, disclose it all.

  15. my earlier post was aimed at Sceptical. My point is if you do not want to answer open government and freedom of information requests, don’t work for the government or accept government grants. Once you are on the government payroll, anything you do relating to said employment is the property of the people, though intellectual rights are assigned by contract provision. In other words, you can’t use FOIA/Open Government laws to steal a patent or copyright. Every citizen has a right to know what the government is doing with their tax dollars and has a duty to be familiar with the actions taken in their names by government officials (and yes, college professors are government officials if they teach at a state run school) so they can vote in a manner consistent with good stewardship of the people’s limited funds and the values, priorities and needs of the general welfare of their state.

    Any other result is lazy or diseased.

  16. The cloak and dagger response to a FOI request only makes sense if there is something to hide, related to the IPCC so called scientific discussion.

    It appears the IPCC has an ideological basis, a preconceived conclusion, an agenda.

  17. Dodging and weaving cause they are still deceiving.
    Sorry we can not provide you with the requested info, as the truth if widely known, would be very bad for the state of our finances and future freedom.
    Context, amazing how after climate gate,the team claimed context would clear them all, then no further explanation of this new and post reality context.
    Instead 5 pathetic whitewashes and this ongoing rearguard fight.
    But the team has nothing to hide.
    IPCC, most transparent ever….
    Another communication problem, for the cause??

  18. LamontT says:
    February 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm
    Federal law requires data retention for a period of time. As written originally this period of time was eternity. Can you imagine the server space on storing eternities worth of emails? So the actual practical outcome of various court filings and practice have determined that you need an email retention policy. Recommendation is generally 1 – 3 years with some agencies going for 7. The draw back is that during this time everything gets archived and at the end is destroyed unless actively saved by printing or converting to a PDF or other format. Legal filings of course should trigger saving of the archive as of that point in time.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    I find that incredibly hard to believe though probably true. In my company, every active project was kept on line for review until complete, even if the project lasted 10 years. All inactive projects were archived and taken off the servers. Storage is relatively cheap. We used to use tape, then CD’s then DVD’s and now you have many forms of storage that can compress and hold thousands upon thousands of files that can easily be retrieved. Almost all of our engineering material has been kept for around 20 years, then they were offered to our clients for storage or disposal. Key design material has been kept virtually forever. Most engineering material MUST be kept for at least 10 years from completion of projects due to liability issues. I have been retired for 11 years and I still pay liability insurance. Revenue Canada requires financial and related information to he held for a minimum of 7 years and they retain the right to go back farther if they see anything suspicious. I am amazed that US law would allow destruction after a year. (Although a lawyer once told me that for every document you find in the archives that will support your case, you will find another that won’t – so they sort of suggested it might be better to ask for forgiveness than for permission which I assume is how case law has developed in the document retention area.)

  19. Its pretty easy to do email searches for discovery. It is called search. Most exchange admins in companies do this on a regular basis. It takes about two days for really long demand letters and a few minutes for something simple. Something like this is routine.

    And just to respond to some of the comments on here. A medium sized email system like a university has will fall into two categories – outsourced or home grown. In either case, there will be two to five people on the staff who can do the FOIA – and who have done something like this already for legal and HR.

    Done right, a system with 500 users on staff accounts will be about 25 TB for the last 7 years. The actual servers are cheap compared to the SW licenses and labor to maintain. By law most public agencies have to keep docs for the last calendar 7 years. Universities are far more rat packy – and keep stuff going back forever in a lot of cases.

    UA’s response looks like it was written by someone having a hissy fit and who was not technically literate in email searches or used to dealing with large amounts of data. Which to me sounds like your average professor.

  20. Just another thought. What is UA’s FOIA policy? Did it get violated in fulfilling this response? I’d ask for a copy of the pertinent policies and related procedures..

  21. LazyTeenager says |February 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm:

    “Scientists are paid by the state to act as a reservoir of expertise. It’s their duty to provide expert advice.”
    ———————-

    Must be a drought at that university then.

  22. Konrad says

    Well of course it was excessively burdensome. Going through every damning email and inventing increasingly ludicrous excuses as to why it can’t be released takes hours. Then there are many more hours cross-checking to see if a “reply to” might contain the body text of one of those emails you have worked so hard to redact. And more hours again to check that no written reference to emails damaging to the “Cause” is contained in the junk emails you plan to snow them with. This all needs the personal oversight of team players. A mere compliance officer cannot be trusted with defending the “Cause”. An honest person might get tired of the sleaze and evasion and just say “Sod it!” and press “send all”.

    Actuall,Konrad,I think you can leave off the /sarc tag,as what you say is all true.

  23. Lazyteenager, your nickname is SOOOOO appropo. Maybe go visit “Climate Change Guide” and have a field day. Your robust stance should have weight there.

  24. What does the 2 paragraph description of the IPCC in the UofA reply have to do with the FOIA? Is this some sort of appeal to authority?

  25. “sceptical says: February 6, 2013 at 5:24 pm
    Another attempt to use the enforcement mechanisms of government to force others to act. Does ATI see no limit to government power?

    Oh, I’m sure ATI recognizes and abides to many limits to government power. What is the issue here are UofA’s belief’s that UofA is obligated to no limits of power, Federal, State or local.

    The issues identified in the climategate debacle, for the colluding anti-climatec ‘science violators (in the biblical sense)’, include a number of one-ended partial email discussions. When quieting (in PR known as spinning) the ugly shenanigans it was widely claimed by all directly involved that the few emails exposed were “…out of context…” and that the innocence of those involved would be obvious if ‘we’ the public knew the entirety of the communications…

    Well we, including and fortunately often led by ATI and Chris Horner, are attempting to fill in that total context.

    Can you pronounce s-t-o-n-e-w-a-l-l? How about o-b-f-u-s-c-a-t-i-o-n? Every organization involved in climategate emails and queried so far has refused to answer, answered after serious entire page redacting, denied the existance, hid the existance, deleted requested emails; and fought in court to avoid releasing the requested emails.

    Personally, I think the FBI (In the United States) should march in and confiscate all hardware used; both in the original communications and in the followup compliance avoidance series. The outward exposure of avoidance actions to date, combined with the climategate emails, indicate sufficient evidence exists that some level of fraud is occurring. here may not be much of a penalty series for FOIA avoidance, but there are significant penalties for covering up bad behavior (fraud) and especially if collusion is evident and third parties are injured/damaged (RICO). A RICO conviction would send an educator, researcher, board member, publisher to a prison for quite a while.

    Why would a university go to so much trouble? To hide some embarrassing language? Perhaps to cover up threats or requests for illegal actions? Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to hide these issues when only the educator/researcher involved would feel the career impact?

    I guess it is possible; but darned unlikely. What the involved universities are trying to do from a broad perspective is to prevent that leak in the dike that becomes a full fledged flood drowning everyone involved. From the actions UofA describes, they believe no effort is too great when plugging the tiniest of leaks.

    Yup! This needs the FBI. Once they discover why so much effort is used, then they can discover just how large the body of people involved in that effort is and proceed accordingly.

    There is that other possible alternative best supplied by as quotes:
    “Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.” ‘Robert A. Heinlein’

    “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein

    “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” – Albert Einstein

    Those involved could be just plain dumb hacks who should’ve known better and acted for the best interests of the students and citizens.

  26. This is an all too common attitude this is reflected in many universities. The University is really trying to obfuscate the truth. I would suggest that Mr. Horner contact the state Attorney General.

  27. Chris, have you taken a look at where government is on truth and honesty, and being of and for the people? Do you seriously think any government agency or agent now believes that “law” has anything to do with the way it chooses to operate? You will probably get your information as soon as the American public takes back control of government through accountable balloting, which would require giving up the convenience of touch screen voting machines. In other words, as long as the American public is too lazy to do ITS job, you can expect the government to see fit not to do ITS job as well. Sorry, but you are probably going to end up coming up basically empty on this one.

  28. “Yup! This needs the FBI. Once they discover why so much effort is used, then they can discover just how large the body of people involved in that effort is and proceed accordingly.”

    Yeah, unfortunately the FBI is under the pervue of the Dept. of Justice. No way, no how, is Holder going to get involved in anything of this nature when the behavior serves the purposes of his master.

  29. The reluctance by anyone to see their correspondence handed over to those whose primary objective is to discredit you is understandable. Some might suggest that they have nothing to fear if they haven’t done anything wrong, but witch hunts always manage to find witches.

    It is sad to see freedom of information laws used in this manner.

  30. The public is still under the impression, wrongly, that the IPCC is an august, esteemed research body. Rather it is a propaganda machine with the mission to promote a false crisis to be used as the excuse to pursue a reorganization of the world to a New World Order as designed by the UN’s Agenda 21, a world governed by a totalitarian/communist cadre and the peoples of the world enslaved to the state. Think of the world conditions indicated in Hunger Games. It’s what they want. The games, in the story, were created to remind the people that the state had life or death control over everybody. Nice place to live?????

  31. Leo Geiger says….

    In most cases I would agree. However, in this case a clear pattern of stonewalling has been repeatedly demonstrated. We’re not talking about one or two universities and a handful of researchers; this behavior is endemic to the ‘team’ and the institutions that employ them. It smacks of a conspiracy, a massive coordinated cover up to prevent the truth from being exposed. As a taxpayer who helped subsidize this research, and someone who values truth, I have the right and a very strong desire to know if fraudulent researchers wasted our money and perpetuated one of the biggest hoaxes the world has ever seen. Chris Horner and ATI have every right to pursue this. I applaud them and hope they pursue it to the bitter end.

  32. Leo Geiger:

    Your post at February 7, 2013 at 5:24 am says

    The reluctance by anyone to see their correspondence handed over to those whose primary objective is to discredit you is understandable. Some might suggest that they have nothing to fear if they haven’t done anything wrong, but witch hunts always manage to find witches.

    It is sad to see freedom of information laws used in this manner.

    The duty of those employed from the public purse is clear: they are required by law to disclose – except for a few stipulated reasons – any and all of their information pertinent to their work. This legal duty provides an important protection of the public: the duty acts to ensure that any improper use of public monies is exposed to the public.

    It is not relevant what anybody thinks is or may be the motivation of persons asking for such pertinent information from people employed from the public purse. Failure to abide by the law is crime. And if people want to be exempt from that law then all they need do is not undertake employment from the public purse.

    The law is the law and if you don’t like it then try to change it. Those who deliberately flaunt the law can – and should – expect the consequences.

    It is sad to see freedom of information laws flaunted in the manner demonstrated by the U of A.

    Richard

  33. Is it just me, or in their definitions are the U of A just saying that ‘authors’ and ‘colleagues’ are all ‘collaborators’?
    As for defining ‘collaborators’, no need, we know what it means : > )

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