UEA – the new crimestoppers

https://i1.wp.com/www.north-wales.police.uk/portal/photos/acpoblogs/images/7820/original.aspxSometimes I wonder what sort of logical thinking skills are employed over at UEA and CRU. Surely, they have little skill with public relations, that has been demonstrated time and again. Climategate itself is a direct result of “failure to communicate“.

The UK Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has made a letter available (here Summers_UEA_ICO_20100129 PDF) that in British terms could only be described as “gobsmacking”.

UEA is apparently trying to make the mere mention of a crime committed disappear.

This is ICO’s response to UEA’s Brian Summers, who  wrote a letter to the ICO asking them to withdraw claims about the ICO’s position on a violation of the FOI law pertaining to CRU’s conduct.

…the ICO has been alerted by the complainant and by information already in the public domain via the media, to a potential offence under section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act. The prima facie evidence from the published emails indicate an attempt to defeat disclosure by deleting information. It is hard to imagine more cogent prima facie evidence…In the event, the matter cannot be taken forward because of the statutory time limit.

It makes clear that the UEA staff committed an offense by deleting emails subject to an FOI and were only saved from prosecution because the offense was timed out under the legislation, due to it’s built in statute of limitations.

In my email exchange with Jonathan Leake he points out to me that:

It’s fairly self explanatory except that in Point 4, Graham Smith, the commissioner refers to errors in The Times report without specifying them. I actually don’t know what he is referring to because although I initiated and researched this article it was Webster who wrote it as it was eventually appearing in The Times – his title.

Leake also mentions that “Webster does not accept that there were any errors in his article.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Hill reports that:

Some explanation of the rather surprising statements on FoI made by Sir Edward Acton and his colleagues in their submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee has emerged. As noted in the previous post, Sir Edward said that no offence under the FoI had been established and that the evidence was prime facie in nature. Here is the exact quote for reference

On 22 January 2010, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) released a statement to a journalist, which was widely misinterpreted in the media as a finding by the ICO that UEA had breached Section 77 of the FOIA by withholding raw data. A subsequent letter to UEA from the ICO (29 January 2010) indicated that no breach of the law has been established; that the evidence the ICO had in mind about whether there was a breach was no more than prima facie; and that the FOI request at issue did not concern raw data but private email exchanges.

But there’s a problem, the word “private” has come up missing in Bishop Hill’s search:

And what about the statement that the information related to “private emails”. I’ve read and reread the document. I’ve put it through OCR and searched the text. The word “private” does not appear in the document.

Oh dear.


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60 thoughts on “UEA – the new crimestoppers

  1. It is not the crime, it is the cover-up. Actually, it is not even the cover up, it is the cover up of the cover up.
    You cannot really make this stuff up.

  2. If somebody were to repeat that same FOI request now, it would have to be given a proper answer… won’t anybody do it?

  3. Are we surprised? We all knew there would be a some sort of coverup/whitewash (Insert any such similar word at will).

  4. hmmm.

    From the UEA:

    that the evidence the ICO had in mind about whether there was a breach was no more than prima facie;

    From Wiki:

    prima facie denotes evidence which — unless rebutted — would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact.

    So, the evidence has not been rebutted, and thus, by definition, would be sufficient to prove that FOI had been violated.

  5. How are these emails remotely considered to be private if they were sent via government (taxpayer funded, therefore public) email accounts?

  6. Nothing changes

    Bureaucrats will always protect bureaucrats, almost regardless of right or wrong.

    We tend to forget that almost no one goes to jail for ‘white collar’ crime, certainly never a bureaucrat. Even in the private sector, Bernie Madoff was a very unusual exception.

    Rest assured, no climate alarmist will ever go to jail for fraud for trying to enhance/secure their personal job environment.

  7. There’s bound to be a good Columbo/raincoat joke in it somewhere.

    Anyway, aside from deleting e-mails, they also discussed deleting data, which in itself should be a inchoate crime (the crime of preparing to commit a crime) since the e-mails certainly establish mens rea.

  8. I’d like to see the written request from the UEA, to which the ICO has responded. Though it’s possible to deduce much of its content from the ICO’s response, I’d rather be drawing conclusions on material evidence. Perhaps it warrants a FOI request of its own, since (prima facie) we can infer that an attempt has been made by the UEA to manipulate the ICO.

    The ICO’s response reads a bit like a smack-down, but I’m a little concerned that there’s also a little bit of a suggestion from the ICO that Leake’s explicit interpretation of the ICO’s response to him had been embellished upon. I’d like to be sure that I understand in what way and to what extent.

    Acton’s submission to the Parliamentary Enquiry, however, is misleading to the point of a lie. You could only infer from the UEA’s/Acton’s submission that the ICO had declared no crime had been committed and that all is well. It would be impossible to rationally draw that conclusion from anything we’ve seen out of the ICO. Quite the opposite.

    Are you allowed to lie in a submission to a Parliamentary Enquiry?

  9. Sounds like Summers is saying ‘because you can’t prosecute us, we didn’t commit a crime’. ICO disagrees. Summers should be nominated for a brassneck award. The two outstanding inquiries may or may not disagree, but then if Cyclops pulls the trigger on a general election, the media gets distracted and the government investigation gets put on hold.

  10. Put this as a criminal charge infront of 12 “peers” the most incriminating part is the e-mail asking to destroy data before Steve would get it and orddering e-mails to be deleted. Enron had a lot of trouble for Anderson CPA’s when Andersen spent off hours shredding.
    The moment Steve asked for data and e-mails or formulas on, all the devious deeds expressed in writing demonstrate intent to destroy evidence. Martha Stewart lied to an investigator, Her saved messages for insider trading found her guilty of lying. She didn’t actually do time for the trading part but for lying about the insider conversations.

    America has a lot of criminal cases tried under aswindling statutes. Mann made the mistake about boasting about funding. That gave the criminal motive.

  11. Simon H (15:29:06) :
    “Are you allowed to lie in a submission to a Parliamentary Enquiry?”
    ————————————————-

    Any action taken by either a Member of Parliament or a stranger which obstructs or impedes either Parliament in the performance of its functions, or its Members or staff in the performance of their duties, is a contempt of Parliament. Examples of contempt include giving false evidence to a parliamentary committee, threatening a Member of Parliament, forgery of documents and attempting to bribe members. The Commons has the power to order anyone who has committed a contempt of Parliament to appear at the Bar of the House and to punish the offender. If the offence has been committed by an MP he or she may be suspended or expelled.

    from http://www.theyworkforyou.com/glossary/?gl=95

    …. include giving false evidence to a parliamentary committee …..

  12. An interesting quote from RC –

    “91.Denialists have failed to learn the lessons of history.

    What they’re doing to global warming is no different from what they did to tobacco — even some of the cast of characters is the same. It worked for a while, but how do tobacco companies fare today? Joe sixpack is not just willing, but eager to approve record-setting punitive legal settlements against them. Their advocates, like Seitz and Singer, escaped public wrath because of their relative obscurity. No more; Monckton and his cadre will suffer mightily at the hands of a very fickle and very angry public.

    When global warming becomes so obvious that Joe sixpack can no longer deny it — which will happen before this decade is out — the backlash will be ugly. I hope it doesn’t reach the heights of abusiveness that struck the nobility class after the French revolution — but I wouldn’t bet on it. Even pacifists like myself will probably be unable to stem the thirst for revenge.

    My advice to Monckton: prepare to flee the pitchfork-and-torch-carrying mob.

    Comment by tamino — 17 February 2010 @ 8:40 AM”

    A pacifist? LOL!

  13. I read this as the ICO will investigate over the next few months, find that UEA did not comply with the FOI Act. Then issue their usual enforcement notice and practice recommendations.
    Slap on the wrist, must do better. End of story really.

  14. DeNihilist (15:58:43) :

    “My advice to Monckton: prepare to flee the pitchfork-and-torch-carrying mob.”

    Can you say projection?

  15. When global cooling becomes so obvious that Joe sixpack can no longer deny it – which will happen before this decade is out – the backlash will be ugly.

  16. T’would seem something is rotten in Britian.
    Might No.10 be involved in these dastardly tricks?
    Only The Shadow knows for sure.

    Tune in next week for more of ‘The Shadow’.
    Find out if Mr. Brown is forced out of office
    By the missing “private”.

    Who knows? The Shadow Knows…

  17. Re: Alan S (Feb 25 15:37),

    “An absolute disgrace, I am embarrassed to be English.”

    No your not, your are just p**s off like the rest of us. Just get of your stool and come out fighting. Vow to vote UKIP and take at least 10 others with you. You will feel an awful lot better for it!

    This nonsense has got to stop and the incubent LibLabCon cartel will never, ever do it.

  18. I want to be “The Man on the Clapham Omnibus”. Perhaps my disgust with the flouting of law, demonization of ClimateAudit, the obsession with CO2, the foisting of AGW as the one true faith upon us, could possibly get through to the political class and every person at the CRU.

    My grateful thanks to the unknown hero who released that cache of e-mails.

  19. These were not “private” e-mails. All my e-mails at my workplace belong to my employer – no problem; they are written about my employer’s business on my employer’s time. It would be considered very poorly by my employer to write private e-mails on company time.

    So, all these highly payed “scientists” can be payed by the people but everything they do is private.

  20. Quote from RC: “When global warming becomes so obvious that Joe sixpack can no longer deny it — which will happen before this decade is out — the backlash will be ugly.”

    Uh-huh, another prognostication from the gang that can’t shoot straight. And what will make Joe really angry? It won’t be the thermometer. If “Cap and Trade” is passed, there will be even more government intrusion into our lives, Wall Street will pay out even larger bonuses, while Joe sixpack will be diminished to Joe fourpack.

  21. I still can’t get over “no more than prima facie” evidence? What better evidence can you get? How can they write that except in an attempt to obscure the truth by hoping that the general public will not know the meaning? This has to be considered as a deliberate choice of words and thus as nothing short of obfuscation.

  22. Simon H,
    Yes it is a crime to lie to a parliamentary enquiry.
    You can be called to the Bar of the House and the members can sentence you
    to a gaol term, or whatever they think appropriate.

  23. Robert of Ottawa
    These were not “private” e-mails. All my e-mails at my workplace belong to my employer – no problem; they are written about my >>

    Sorry, little known jurisdictional issue. In Canada and the United States e-mail sent during normal course of work is the “property” of the employer. In the UK, the e-mail is the “property” of the employee. Drives compliance officers nuts when they are trying to set data retention policies for multi-nationals.

    So… speaking of data retention…. I find it difficult to believe that the information is gone. Accepted IT best practices are for a full backup to be performed once per week and daily incrementals (changes only) from which the state of the data on any given day can be constructed. Best practices also require that that these backups be stored off site, most frequently on tape media. Retention periods in theory can be as little as 12 months but most are in the 5+ year range. So if those deleted e-mails and missing data were on the server for more than 24 hours, I would expect that they still exist in the off site backup. I have no clue if an FOI request could be made against backup data. If there is no copy in the backup data, then the IT department is either totaly incompetent or complicit in the cover up.

  24. Some explanation of the rather surprising statements on FoI made by Sir Edward Acton and his colleagues in their submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee has emerged. As noted in the previous post, Sir Edward said that no offence under the FoI had been established and that the evidence was prime facie in nature….

    It’s interesting to note that Sir Teddy and his buddies are applying the same homogenisation trick to the English Language as the Team employed to manipulate Numbers.
    As long as he’s acton for the best of reasons, I feel that adding his private(s) into the debate is a valid mechanism whereby his neutral stance is exposed to all.
    Gawd bless you Teddy!

  25. woops – i meant PRIVATE BANK robery
    OR
    PRIVATE bank robery
    or
    whatever.

    Yep – that works
    no problem – move along.

  26. All WUWT readers should understand that Britain is now a banana republic, where Marxist politicians manipulate and propagandize all statements emanating from government sources and inclusive of the CRU which to all intents and purposes is an organ of the Marxist propaganda machine.
    Therefore, any in depth inquiry is wholly and totally a white-wash and anyway government employees in the UK are automatically exempt from allegations of gross misconduct, inadequacy, incompetence, fraudulent activities and if found perpetrating any of the previous list, will automatically be considered for promotion and addition to the civil awards lists.
    In GB it ‘pays to be bent’, should be a government motif.
    Because if you are at the top of the Nu-Labour party, it simply wouldn’t do to surround oneself with competent and capable people – now would it?

  27. This is all a case of semantics that perhaps those not conversant with British (or derived) justice systems do not follow.

    There can be no guilt established until someone has been found guilty of a crime, and an essential part of any trial includes establishing that a crime was indeed committed. No trial, no conviction, no established offence!

    Prima facie evidence has no standing except to suggest that a full trial should be carried out. An early part of the trial procedure is the “depositions hearing”, often carried out before a bench of “Justices of the Peace”*. At this hearing the Crown lays out their case and calls witnesses to provide evidence. The accused, who can question the Crown’s witnesses, rarely call their own although they have that right. The justices can either rule that there is no case to answer and dismiss the case (rare) or find that a prima facie case has been established and remand the case for trial, when it goes to a higher court and before a judge. There has not been any ruling of guilt, or even that a crime has indeed been committed. That is a prerogative of a judge.

    *Justices of the Peace are not legal officers in any shape or form. They are chosen from (historically) upper middle class people of good character and standing in the community. In a hearing they are assisted by a clerk who is a lawyer who hopefully stops them from making any errors.

  28. “It ain’t over ’til the Fat Lady sings.”

    I think the Fat Lady has been singing so much since Nov 2009 that her voice is starting to fail.

    Note To Self: Find a backup Fat Lady fast as possible.

    John

  29. The time period may have expired for an FOI violation, but does UK criminal law make it illegal to conspire to break laws such as FOI? What is the statute of limitations on a conspiracy?

    Is it a criminal act or a firing offence to threaten to delete data which is government property, or which one has been paid to create?

    And if someone makes an FOI request now for the materials which were deleted, is it an FOI violation if those materials can not be retrieved or the materials were not kept?

  30. the positive development is that enablers such as

    Gerry North,
    Jerry D. Sachs,
    Geouffrey Boulton,
    Edward Acton,
    Lord Rees,
    Tom Karl

    now had to step forward.

    their behaviours and opinions are often even more disturbing than those of the accused activist scientists, and it is good thing that this information is now available to the public.

  31. The letter from the ICO also says:

    “I can confirm that the ICO will not be retracting the statement which was put out in my name in response to persistent enquiries from the Sunday Times journalist Mr Jonathan Leake. … The statement was not inaccurate.”

    and that statement said:

    “The legislation prevents us from taking any action but from looking at the emails it’s clear to us a breach has occurred.”

    That’s pretty clear.

  32. Dennis Nikols (22:02:55) :

    Does the name George Orwell come to mind, another Brit as I recall.

    George Orwell, was his pen name, his real name was Eric Arthur BLAIR.

    Now there’s a thought.

  33. > The time period may have expired for an FOI violation, but does UK criminal law make it illegal to conspire to break laws such as FOI? What is the statute of limitations on a conspiracy?

    I seem to remember it’s been covered elsewhere. I’m no lawyer, but I do remember the outcome of the discussion, which seemed fairly clear:

    1. Yes a conspiracy to break the FOI is illegal
    2. The conspiracy is just as time-barred as the breach. You can’t bootstrap your way round the time limit.

    > Is it a criminal act or a firing offence to threaten to delete data which is government property, or which one has been paid to create?

    I don’t think it’s a criminal act to delete data (assuming you authorised to do so, and not some hacker or exceeding your authority, etc).

    It’s seems to be a criminal act to delete data in order to avoid an FOI request. That’s what the ICO office seems to be referring to in its comments about section 77. Of course, the ICO also says there is a time limit for prosecution of such acts.

    As to regards whether it’s a firing offence. I presume that is upto the employer.

    The question is whether an employer wants to fire somebody who committed a criminal act while in their employ – even the act can not be criminal act can not be prosecuted because of time limits. Maybe some employers feel comfortable employing people like that. (If I was the employer, I wouldn’t, I think firing for gross misconduct is entirely appropriate in such circumstances).

    > And if someone makes an FOI request now for the materials which were deleted, is it an FOI violation if those materials can not be retrieved or the materials were not kept?

    You can’t get blood from a stone.

    If something doesn’t exist, I very much doubt it can be a criminal act to not deliver it.

    I believe that the criminal act is in the original deletion in response to the FOI request (which would have occurred to thwart provision of the information), rather than the fact it can be retrieved later.

  34. Richard C: everything you say is true, and of course because of the absurdly short time limitation, which the IOC points out should be addressed, there will be no legal finding of guilt. However the IOC is clearly not satisfied that UEA should hide behind this legalistic interpretation of “prima facie” and makes the point that “It is hard to imagine more cogent prima facie evidence”.

    While in the strictest possible terms, a man is innocent until proven guilty, this remark, and the complete absence of any attempt at rebuttal by the UEA, entitle the public, and MPs, to assume for all practical purposes that an offence has taken place. I normally try to resist argument by analogy, but if I see a man stab someone to death, and the police fail to arrest him, it is very foolish of me to presume his innocence because he has not been convicted. It could be me next, with Grant Foster cheering from the sidelines!

  35. Nothing surprises me about the workings of the corrupt political classes in the UK.

    However, I am surprised by the legal interpretation of the FOI act, as I had to evaluate data handling processes at a major government department, as part of my job. This included the processes associated with responding to FOI requests.

    In this department, the absolute rule was that all requests had to be responded to within 30 days of receipt. Any failures to meet this deadline had to be investigated and reported on (from memory this included sending a report to the ICO).

    So, I am bemused by this 6 month deadline which has appeared in the case of the CRU requests.

  36. I have made a complaint to the ICO about information that they may have given to UEA to avoid FOI requests. I copy the reply, below.

    I am, quite frankly, not impressed and have sent the ICO a FOI request for all correspondence they have had with CRU.

    Dear Dr Keiller

    I am responding to the enquiry that you made regarding what advice may have been provided by the ICO to the University of East Anglia in relation to its handling of requests for information related to its Climatic Research Unit. This has been looked into and I have outlined below the ICO’s view on this matter.

    One of the emails exchanged between IPCC authors and related parties placed in the public domain contains the following sentence:

    Keith and Tim are still getting Freedom Of Information (FOI) requests, as are the Meteorological Office Hadley Centre and the University of Reading. All our FOI officers have been in discussions and are now using the same exceptions not to respond-advice they got from the Information Commissioner.

    Viewed in isolation, this sentence may have created the false impression that the ICO provided advice to the University of East Anglia encouraging it to withhold information.

    The Commissioner does not accept this view and wants to stress that such action would be in direct conflict with the vision, aims, and values of the ICO and would undermine his role as statutory regulator. The ICO would not, in any circumstances, encourage an authority to avoid compliance with the law. To do so would undermine the Commissioner’s role as an impartial regulator and compromise his duty to support the presumption of disclosure implicit within Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).

    Both FOI and EIR assume a default position of disclosure in response to requests made to public authorities, and this presumption is the default position adopted by the Commissioner in responding to enquiries and considering complaints. It underpins all of the Commissioner’s work in relation to FOI and EIR and his officer’s would not provide advice encouraging an authority to avoid compliance with the legislation.

    It is unclear what the ‘advice’ noted in the email consisted of, or indeed whether the use of exemptions being proposed resulted from contact with the ICO’s staff or interpretation of the ICO’s existing guidance. The Commissioner has a statutory duty to disseminate advice and guidance on the operation of FOI and the EIR. This takes the form of guidance documents, responses to written queries, and telephone contacts (usually through his help line).

    Although the Commissioner’s Officers seek to address enquiries as satisfactorily as possible, they only provide general and impartial advice. When responding to queries the ICO gives high level, non-specific guidance on how an authority might consider approaching a request. This can involve directing them to published good practice guidance or to relevant ICO Decision Notices or the findings of the First-Tier Tribunal. The ICO deliberately provides this advice at a general level to minimise the possibility of being drawn into specific discussions about individual requests, as the ICO may subsequently be required to adjudicate on a related complaint.

    The written queries are recorded on the ICO’s electronic case management system. Telephone enquiries are more numerous, with over 2,000 per week, and given their volume it is not practical to record the content of each (assuming that the caller consented to identify themselves, which they are under no obligation to do). The ICO has checked its records and can trace two examples of written advice provided to UEA which predate the email in question, but these were on unrelated topics with no bearing on the climate-data issue. If the University had sought verbal advice before then, the ICO would only have provided general advice, and certainly would not have explicitly supported or endorsed the use of a particular exemption or exception.

    I hope that this goes someway to explaining the ICO’s position and provides some reassurance on this matter.

    I hope to be able to provide you with a response to your other query regarding time limits for criminal prosecutions under the Freedom of Information Act shortly.

    Yours sincerely

    XXXXXXX
    Senior Complaints Officer
    FOI Team 1

  37. Having read enough govt bureaucracy-speak the ICO’s response letter seems to indicate pretty clearly:

    – they ARE investigating, and/or, WILL investigate the relevant matters
    – including those that have passed what we in the US call the statute of limitations
    – but will restrict their resulting actions to that allowed under the law

    It seems reasonble, in other words.

    But as is typical with such matters, publicly disclosing facts, allegations, findings & so forth before everything has been sorted out & put into proper context will NOT be done. This is typical and proper for a number of reasons which are clearly not apparent to most of the readers of this blog, who would like every sordid detail, in or out of context, presented immediately. As a general rule, that results in bad outcomes.

  38. Alan S (16:18:03) :

    re: to DeNihilist (15:58:43) :

    ‘“My advice to Monckton: prepare to flee the pitchfork-and-torch-carrying mob.”

    Can you say projection?’

    You took the words right out of my mouth…er…fingers.

    If, by some fluke of fate and nature, skeptics are proven wrong, the world will forgive the honest error.

    If by our silence, we allow the Alarmists to foist economy- and freedom-killing taxes and regulations upon the free world, it won’t be us they’ll be coming after with pitchforks.

  39. Irregardless of whether there is a statute of limitations for whatever they did in the past, going forward, they should no longer be allowed to deny FOI requests. They are acting as if the leaked files has relieved them of any obligation to release to the public their data, methods and code. I personally couldn’t care less about their personal correspondences, I just want to check their science.

  40. boballab (16:33:51) :

    Actually the more Whitewash they use the better off we are according to the Wikipedia article on Whitewash:

    Whitewash
    Whitewash cures through a reaction with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form calcium carbonate in the form of calcite, a reaction known as carbonatation.

    Oh, but the lime in the white wash they produced by heating the carbonate in a kiln and expelling CO2…what goes around comes around.

  41. Given that communicating is – by definition – conspiring, and that emails are – by definition – communication, I’m surprised that the ICO hasn’t gone down the route of “conspiring” or “aiding and abetting”.

    Which I believe are at least either-way offences and not subject to the six-month limit.

  42. A six month statute of limitation is equivalent to removing FOI from the books. It is absurd and could only exist as the creation of a desperate VR programmer.

  43. Are we to believe that in the UK as long as you scheme to thwart laws using private e-mail you’re exempt from consequence?

  44. >>>Earlier post: If somebody were to repeat that same FOI request now, it would have to be given a proper answer… won’t anybody do it?

    Why not, indeed? Perhaps someone with standing will…

  45. “A subsequent letter to UEA from the ICO (29 January 2010) indicated that no breach of the law has been established; that the evidence the ICO had in mind about whether there was a breach was no more than prima facie; and that the FOI request at issue did not concern raw data but private email exchanges”

    But surely [some of] the FOI requests at issue concerned primarlily temperature data sets and the code, not emails? So surely the fact that the evidence of an offence (ie an intention not to comply) was in the emails, is irrelevant? It’s not the emails which were being requested.

    God talk about obfuscation…

    Re: ““no more than prima facie”
    I don’t know how old Sir Edward Acton is, but I suppose it’s possible he learned no Latin – certainly the case if he didn;t go to Public School and is under about 45! – so maybe he doesn’t know what the phrase means ;^)

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