An example of a different ethos when you have access to private documents

While many websites are deriding me for my mentions in the Fakegate emails distributed by Dr. Peter Gleick, and many now (including Dr. Gavin Schmidt) are coming down on Dr. Gleick for his lack of ethics, I thought it might be useful to remind the climate community at large that I too was recently in receipt of private documents through a security lapse presented in the Climategate 2 emails.

I (and many other WUWT readers who notified me about it) had full and open access in Dr. Phil Jones Journal of Physical Research (JGR) author account, which showed all of his papers (including some not published yet) plus comments from reviewers.

What did I do with the access? Read below to find out.

To demonstrate what I did, I’m reposting an excerpt from this WUWT essay: Who gets the most access to network data (like emails at CRU)? published Dec 6th, 2011 on WUWT.


The sharing of system access in emails was broadly demonstrated in Climategate 2.0. For example, Dr. Phil Jones and others at CRU sent some emails out years ago that linked to papers under review at the Journal of Geophysical Research. Some WUWT readers found these early on, and sure enough, such links from years ago in the CG2 emails still worked.

A few days ago I made the issue known to Dr. Phil Jones and to the JGR journal staff so they could close this security hole. As far as I know, all have been closed. I’ve tested again tonight and the live link fails now. Now that they have been closed, I can talk about it safely without putting JGR’s manuscript system at risk.

From: Anthony
Sent: Thursday, November 24, 2011 5:10 PM
Cc: ;
Subject: password enabled JGR links in Climategate 2 files
Dear Dr. Jones,
I know that you know me, and probably do not like me for my views and publications. Regardless of what you may think of me and my work, it has been brought to my attention by a reader of my blog that there are open access links to your manuscripts at JGR included in the email that are now in the public view.
Therefore, it is my duty to inform you that in the recent release of Climategate 2 files there are links to JGR journal review pages for your publications and also for the publications for Dr. Keith Briffa.
For example, this link:[access code redacted]
I have verified that in fact that link opens your JGR account and provides full access to your JGR account.
In fact there are 35 different emails in this release that contain live links to JGR/AGU author pages. Similar other links exist, such as for Dr. Keith Briffa and others at CRU.
This of course is an unintended and unacceptable consequence of the email release.
I am cc:ing Joost de Gouw Editor, JGR Atmospheres in hopes that he can take action to close this open access to these accounts. It is a holiday here in the USA (Thanksgiving) and there may not be office hours on Friday but hopefully he is monitoring emails.
JGR should immediately change all passwords access for these CRU members and I would advise against allowing transmission of live links such as the one above in the future. JGR might also consider a more secure method of manuscript sharing for review.
The open nature of these links is not publicly “on the radar” even though they are in fact public as a part of the email cache, and I do not plan on divulging them for any reason. Any mention of these links will be deleted from any public comments on my blog should any appear.
Dr. de Gouw (or anyone at JGR) and Dr. Jones, please acknowledge receipt of this email.
Thank you for your consideration.
Best regards,
Anthony Watts

So clearly, CRU and others in the emails didn’t think twice about sending around open access live links. As David M. Hoffer points out in his article, the researchers don’t seem to have a clue about security. They also leave “sensitive” files they don’t want to share under FOIA requests lying about on open FTP servers. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think any of the research staff at CRU had either broad access nor the specific tech knowledge to pull this “hack” off.

Somebody who had the ability to peek at these emails as part of their job might just as easily have had access to the RealClimate Server too. Remember there’s almost a quarter million emails we haven’t seen. Chances are, one of those contained the key to the RC server, which allowed them to become an RC administrator and post the original FOIA story which Gavin Schmidt caught and squelched.

I and others I correspond with have our theories about who the leaker might be. From my perspective now, someone with broad system access looks to be a more likely candidate than a malicious outsider.

UPDATE: Many people in comments think I’m doing something wrong by writing to Phil Jones and AGU/JGR.  In Phil Jones reply to me, he wrote: A couple of other people sent me emails about this issue.

So clearly I wasn’t the first to notify him of the open links to AGU. But more importantly, my email was also sent to AGU editors and the editor of JGR Atmospheres. Despite what troubles Jones and his group have caused over the year with skeptics, AGU/JGR has been a reasonable journal that has published skeptical papers, including my own. Protecting that relationship with skeptics who publish is valuable and the last thing we need is a scandal where papers submitted to AGU/JGR are showing up on other skeptic websites before they are reviewed because Jones sent active links around in emails. Having the knowledge of the security holes was a damned if I do damned if I don’t proposition, but I opted on the side of doing what I felt was the right course of action. If that upsets a few people, so be it. – Anthony


I’ll note that Phil Jones recently had his CRUTEMP4 paper published…

Jones, P. D., D. H. Lister, T. J. Osborn, C. Harpham, M. Salmon, and C. P. Morice

Hemispheric and large-scale land surface air temperature variations: An extensive revision and an update to 2010

J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2011JD017139, in press.

[Abstract] [PDF] (accepted 17 January 2012)

…and no skeptic I know of, including me, has yet “outed” the early drafts and author notes contained in Phil Jones JGR account. It would have been easy to do so, to publish Dr. Jones first submitted draft for the broadest peer review possible on the Internet. But no skeptic (that I know of as of this writing) did.

That’s a distinction of difference compared to the actions of people who created Fakegate via potentially criminal actions.


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Well, evidently some people have ethics.

Louis Hooffstetter

Mark your calendars folks!! It’s a rare day when readers at WUWT and Dr. Gavin Schmidt agree. May I be the first to welcome Schmidt to WUWT, and urge him to participate here more often.

“Having the knowledge of the security holes was a damned if I do damned if I don’t proposition, but I opted on the side of doing what I felt was the right course of action. If that upsets a few people, so be it. – Anthony”
Your decision was both proper and ethical.

Chris D.

Anthony, I’ve had the pleasure of reading your blog for years now, and have always witnessed you err on the side of caution and take the high road in all of your dealings along this line. This ought to be blatantly obvious to any long-term reader or WUWT.

You are a lot nicer than I think I would have been! 🙂

Charlie H

The ethical difference is very clear.


Yes, a man of honor and honesty (Anthony Watts), in drastic contrast to Peter Gleick and all who are defending Gleick.
The contrast between how the Phil Jones/JGR security breach was handled and how Peter Gleick approached “Fakegate” is clear.


You’re a gentleman and a scholar, Sir!

I’m glad that you at least got a reply from Jones.

Frank Kotler

Different situation entirely, Anthony. You’re a gentleman! Further, deponent sayeth not.

Henry chance

Does Dr Gavin think it is ethical to be on government payroll and blog all day?

Jose Mayo

La Ética, no es bastante saber lo que es; tiene que “ser parte” de nosotros…
Gracias Anthony
Buen trabajo!

40 Shades of Green

Did he reply and thank you. Suggest you answer that in an Update at the top.


“May I be the first to welcome Schmidt to WUWT, and urge him to participate here more often.”
You must be joking.

I shared the private emails between myself and Texas A&M climatologist (and sometimes climate alarmist) Gerald North because he was my paid consultant at Enron, there was no stipulation in our agreement that I could not do so, and he is a taxpayer-paid professor in my state where I pay a lot of taxes.
I was motivated to do so because he was saying things privately that he would not say publically which reflected negatively on climate alarmism–and thus helps explain the very peculiar science polarization we have because of politics and peer pressure.
I like what Milton Friedman once said: “I have a single rule. What I say to one person, I say to everyone. I never say anything off the record.”

A physicist

That was well done, Anthony, and please accept my appreciation of it and thanks for it.
By your actions and ethics, I hope you inspire others to similarly respect the process of rational science-driven debate, which in the end is all of our responsibility and duty, to the generations that will inherit our planet.


Unfortunately the UK “computer misuse act” does not even allow you to look at, or think about looking at files you have not been given access to! It’s not necessary to distribute what you looked at for it to be illegal.
For computer misuse a high court judge recently said that there is no get out clause for whistleblowers.
The UEA leak was illegal (criminal) The US case is whatever the US law says but looks like a $1k fine or 1 year

Jack DuBrul

Well done, sir!

TG McCoy (Douglas DC)

“integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.”
C.S. Lewis
Good job, Anthony..

Gordon Ford

When in doubt, take the high ground. Applies to many situations, not just war.

From JC’s blog
curryja | February 23, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply ***BREAKING NEWS ****
Gleick, Mandia, Curry to be interviewed on NPR 2 pm EST


…. and now for another contrast of “different ethos” we are seeing the progression from Fakegate to “Linkgate”…. I hope this is not quite “OT” since it applies to the different ethos of CAGW proponents:
Watch out, more websites will be scrubbed of “inconvenient” content as Fakegate develops. All who have time and capabilities for collecting relevant info (screenshots, links, copying article and page content, etc.) should please do so widely around the web.
A lot of attempts to scrub and re-write history are being made already…..


Anthony, sir – Of course, I agree with your stance, though at the same time I feel it should not be necessary to ‘pat you on the back’ as such behaviour should really be the norm!? (if you see what I mean)

Duke C.

Well said, Anthony.
I will admit that I discovered the link(s) in early December, and forwarded the paper to a few notable bloggers. I never considered making it public and trusted the others not to do so. Getting a “head start” on the analysis was the main goal.

Matt Schilling

People and entities pay big money to first draft and then disseminate a “compare and contrast” between themselves and their opponent or competition, etc. Yet, this powerful example happened spontaneously. I think it arose naturally as inherent qualities manifested themselves in the various parties. As the saying goes, “The same sun that melts butter hardens clay.”
It would still have been a clear contrast, but less so, if Anthony had discovered the security leak AFTER Fakegate. It is made stronger still that Gleick didn’t merely stumble upon the Heartland docs and out them; he went out of his way to fraudulently obtain them and, quite possibly, added a fake to the real set to ‘sex them up’.
Well done, Anthony! Thanks for this timely reminder that honesty is the best policy.

Steve from Rockwood

Anyone who doubted you then can see how painful it can be sending out confidential information. There’s a saying about revenge. It will be interesting to see how this train wreck unfolds. If Gleick isn’t fired then I am giving up on humanity.

Richard Percifield

There really wasn’t a DIID, DIID situation. There was only the right thing to do and your did it well. Maybe some will rub off.


To bad the position of Chairman of the AGU Committee on Scientific Ethics is already filled. I guess we all now know of an excellent candidate for the job.

Martin A

JJThoms says: February 23, 2012 at 10:22 am
“The UEA leak was illegal (criminal) The US case is whatever the US law says but looks like a $1k fine or 1 year”
Do you have any information to lead you to believe that the person(s) who accessed the UEA emails and files did not have an authorised logon to the system that gave them access to the material? If they did, then I think you will find that no offence was committed under English law.
What Are Identity Theft and Identity Fraud?
“What Are Identity Theft and Identity Fraud?
The short answer is that identity theft is a crime. Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception”

Ian W

JJThoms says:
February 23, 2012 at 10:22 am
Unfortunately the UK “computer misuse act” does not even allow you to look at, or think about looking at files you have not been given access to! It’s not necessary to distribute what you looked at for it to be illegal.
For computer misuse a high court judge recently said that there is no get out clause for whistleblowers.
The UEA leak was illegal (criminal) The US case is whatever the US law says but looks like a $1k fine or 1 year

You are making the assumption that the UEA leak was carried out by someone who did not have legal access to the emails. If it was someone with full administrator privileges they had every right to access the data. In that case some part of the data protection legislation could apply but not the computer misuse act.

Leon Brozyna

Dr. Peter Gleick talks about ethics; Anthony Watts practices ethics.


The problem for the alarmist side is that it’s a slippery slope.
Once one party has spliced instrument data to proxies with minimal disclosure and his fellow scientists circle the wagons to prevent his being called on the carpet for it, it’s a far smaller leap to conspiring in sub-rosa career attacks on authors and editors with whom they disagree.
Once that conspiracy has been supported by a large enough body of prominent scientists, it’s a small jump to broadening that conspiracy to the sidestepping of IPCC rules and procedures.
Once IPCC rules and procedures are no longer taken seriously, it’s trivial for those involved to believe that FOI laws deserve any greater respect.
Once evasion of FOI laws is accepted as normal behavior, then any law that interferes with furtherance of The Cause becomes a mere obstruction, including those against identity theft and forgery.
The lesson for the skeptic side is that we are one bad apple away from being ‘just as bad as they are’.

One of the things I most admire in you Anthony is how much thought you put in everything you do! I believe that is a characteristic of a gentleman, but also of someone who loves science, and the scientific method!
I salute you for that!


Anthony; thanks for this reminder, and object lesson, in how to behave honorably. Some may think that it’s obsolete; I happen to believe that, without it, we are nothing. Well done.
The whole Gleick thing is very troubling. I share Megan McArdle’s concern that he may need spiritual help.

As one of the early delvers into the Climategate II emails I found those links and immediately, since you are far better known, emailed you.
Here (with your permission) is that email….
Subject: EXTREMELY Interesting
Check this foia search term
// xxxxxxxx // (redacted the actual term)
Lots of interesting stuff, including logins and passwords…..
The search term I used produced many logins and passwords for the files and journal review articles and I tried one and it worked and went oh crap. This search term provided information on Keith Biffra’s investments as well.
There are a lot of us out here who are appalled at the conduct of Glieck and others in this debacle we don’t want to destroy them, simply to uncover the truth of the science and then let an informed public draw their own conclusions.
Hopefully some of these guys will start to understand that.


I’ll allow other’s to decide the diffrence between the ethical Anthony and the unethical Peter.
I just think if Anthony and his family don’t get their dream holiday soon then society can just go [snip].

John F. Hultquist

I agree with your actions. Well done.
A couple of years ago I made a comment (perhaps on WUWT) about academic folks. They generally have not been prepared for the scrutiny and intensity of the CAGW debate. There have been exceptions. Things that come easily to mind include research areas such as particle physics or some medical issues (autism ?). In these and a few other instances the standard practice has been multiple critiques and rapid replication. Note also that to enter these research areas there are high barriers of education and money. With the idea of “climate science” some of the above things are missing. Folks have gravitated to the issue from lots of academic areas. In many instances one could write, publish, and deliver results of a study with minimal questioning. Say 50 years ago you wrote about peculiar vegetation on the Niagara Escarpment. Those in your field would read or listen to your presentation, ask a question or two, make a suggestion or two, followed by applause, and then they would return to their own investigation, while including your findings in their classrooms. They would not immediately start out to hang from ropes off a limestone cliff to check your work.
In the case you mention (papers in the review process), how many years has it been since such activity only involved paper copies sent via the USPS? Can you even imagine someone intercepting your mail, steaming the envelope, and phoning others regarding an academic paper not yet published – on a topic of interest to only a few like minded folks? Now introduce a digital era, and the game changes. As “climate science” became a political/guilt/tax/reorder thing, many standard-issue academics were/are ill-prepared. Not only academics but everyone is struggling with this openness. Note that many countries want to control the WWW to stop the flow of unwelcome scrutiny.
It is not necessary here to name them, but I can think of a half-dozen folks to blame for the current “climate science/ anti-science” situation.


They are who they are and we are who we are. It’ll always be this way. You will have always done the right thing even if given this option a thousand times over a thousand years. We don’t need to cheat, or lie or steal because we don’t care in some sense whether CO2 is warming the earth or not. We care about the truth and the denial of the freedom to consider questions of whether it is. We believe the Science chips should fall where they may and not have their landing rigged!


The same goes for religion, medicine, evolution, physics, history(!) and anything else we care to muse about. Cheers to Anthony. My hero.

Jenn Oates

That’s the way to do it right, Anthony.
But oh, I am curious. 🙂

Jack Cowper

Mr Watts
This confirms to me what I have always thought – you are a man of integrity.

Your action does not surprise me, it is just what I would have expected.

Dumb. This is a war and the other side started it. Ethics don’t win wars.
Did Phil thank you for being nice? Did Phil stop being nasty because you’re nice? No.

Ethics? Privacy?
Concepts which have little relevance when the fate of the planet is at stake.

So, does Briffa invest in Greenscam companies? Inquiring minds want to know!!


Somebody has to set the example. Obviously Anthony Watts is an excellent choice.

Darren Potter

JJThoms says: “Unfortunately the UK “computer misuse act” …” “For computer misuse a high court judge recently said that there is no get out clause for whistleblowers.”
Did the same “high court judge” make any statement as to whether there is a “get out clause” for Climate Scientists receiving government funding; who comment, blog, or publish deceptive information, or hide, edit, delete, obfuscate information that is counter to their work or cause, or lie about their work or doings?

At least some of us who do climate-related research are very deeply troubled by the Gleick affair, the content of many of the Climategate e-mails and related matters. Since I’ve previously endorsed Anthony’s ethical stand, it’s appropriate to allow Gleick to speak for himself and to then ask if he still stands by his remarks. “Science—even environmental science that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries—works by some fundamental rules. Those who publish must understand the basic concepts in the fields they tackle, including definitions of fundamental terms. Their work must be open and available for independent peer review. Data cannot be chosen selectively to prove a point. Arguments taken from others must be properly cited and quoted in the appropriate context. Conclusions must be based on evidence, not on suppositions or desires. If I violate these fundamental rules, my work deserves to be criticized and corrected.”
Peter H. Gleick, 2002. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Is the Skeptic All Wet? 44, Jul/Aug 2002, 36-40. (

Darren Potter

Without doubt, Anthony took the high road.
With the tables turned, how many think – Phil, Hansen, Mann, Gore, Pachauri, … would not have Gleicked it?

We’re not at War. During the Battle Of Britain, we took flying officers to the officer’s mess for a beer. Always proud of that! It matters who we are and not just whether we win. ‘Love you enemies’ because we’re going to win anyway. The truth always does!!