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CRU Refuses FOI Request

November 21, 2009

Given the tumultuous events of the past few days, the receipt of yet another refusal to provide station data pursuant to an FOI request may seem a little uneventful. But the chronology of this most recent refusal is, to say the least, interesting.

In late July 2009, I appealed CRU’s decision not to provide then current station data, sending a follow-up letter on Sept 2, 2009, pointing out the inconsistency between their claims to be protecting confidentiality agreements dating back to the 1980s and their delivery of station data to the US Department of Energy in the early 1990s and posting on their website of station data versions in 1996 and 2003.

On Nov 18, 2009, I received the letter attached below from Jonathan Colam-French, Director of Information Services of UEA,  turning down my appeal.  The letter is dated Nov. 13, 2009. In the letter refusing the appeal, Colam-French says that he consulted a file on the matter.

Now consider the following chronology.

On Nov 17, 2009 at 9.57 pm occurred the first public notice of the 63 MB CRU file entitled “” came at Jeff Id’s blog     by a poster called “FOIA”, who stated:

We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.

We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.  Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.

The file contained emails up to and including Nov 12, 2009 (the most recent is 1258053464.txt) the day prior to the date on the letter refusing the appeal.

Housekeeping emails are absent from the file. In addition, the file contains statements by Jones that he had “deleted loads of emails” (1228330629.txt) and a request from Jones to Mann to “delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4”, noting that similar requests were being made to Briffa, Wahl and Ammann (1212073451.txt).

I first learned of the existence of the file a few hours after notice was posted at Jeff’s blog and first saw the files a day later. I know nothing of the provenance of the that is not in the public domain.

Here’s the letter.


Pursuant to Mr. Palmer’s letter of 21 September 2009 to you regarding the handling of your appeal of 24 July to our response of the same date in regards your FOI request of 26 June 2009, I have undertaken a review of the contents of our file and have spoken with Mr. Palmer and other relevant staff involved in this matter. I apologise for the delay informing you of my decision but we were awaiting the ‘further particulars’ in relation to this matter that you mentioned in your email of 2 September. Having not received such particulars, I have decided to proceed, given the passage of time, with my decision in their absence.

As a result of this investigation, I am satisfied that our overall decision to not disclosethe requested information is correct.

In response to your first point in your email of 24 July regarding the non transmission of data to non-academics, I have concluded that the reference to non-academics was in error and that the status of yourself, or any other requester, is irrelevant to the factors to consider regarding disclosure of the requested information.

Turning to the points you raised in your email of 2 September, you note that other earlier versions of this data are available on the US Department of Energy website and that Dr. Jones had sent an earlier version of the data to you and had mounted it on FTP server.

In regards the information provided to the US Department of Energy, my investigation has revealed that this was done in the early 1990s prior to the imposition of the restrictions now pertaining to the data pursuant to a contractual obligation at the time. Therefore, the analogy you are drawing does not apply to the data that is the subject of this request.

In regards your second point regarding the provision of the data to yourself, and the fact that the information was mounted & left on our FTP site & also provided to Georgia Tech without securing consent of the institutions that provided it, we would, upon reflection, consider this an action that we not choose to take again. However, having made errors in past does not, in our eyes, justify making the same errors again.

I note that in your email of 2 September, you state that your request was ‘for the current version of the data set’ but in your original request, you asked for the subset of data that was sent to Georgia Tech University. I would advise that the many of the same restrictions apply to the full CRUTEM dataset as apply to the subset sent to Georgia Tech, but this analysis and answer is based on your original request.

In regards the substance of the exception claimed under Reg. 12(5)(f), I would maintain the position taken to date. There are restrictions on the release of at least some of the data cited, and our opinion is that any release would be contrary to the agreements, and release would have an adverse effect on those organisations. DEFRA guidance notes that the Aarhus Convention, which contains the origins of the Directive on which the EIRs are based, protects information volunteered by a third party and requires their consent to disclose it. The purpose of the exception is to encourage the free flow of information from private persons or institutions in order to protect the environment where making it available to the public could inhibit that process. To provide information that has a restriction on further transmission on it would not only damage CRU’s ability to secure such information in future, but would also harm the interests of the organisations providing the information, who clearly have an interest in restricting transmission of the information due to the very existence of the restrictions.

Regulation 12(11) requires that we provide as much requested information as is possible outside the coverage of any applicable exception. After consultation with Phil Jones and other relevant staff in regards the nature and composition of the requested dataset, I have concluded that the data is organised in such a way as to make it extremely difficult and time-consuming to segregate the data in the manner that you suggest and would indeed, in our view, amount to an unreasonable diversion of resources from the provision of services for which we, as an institution, are mandated. Further, we would maintain that where no such segregation has, or will occur, we should not release any of the data for fear of breaching such restrictions as do exist.

I would note that we are, however, proceeding with efforts with the international community to secure consent from national meteorological institutions for the release of the information that they provide us with, and it is fully our intention to publish such data where, and when, we have secured such consent. This is in line with guidance from DEFRA that suppliers of volunteered information should be encouraged to consent to release where appropriate, and where it is lacking, such consent can be sought later in response to a particular request or in order to proactively disseminate the information.

In regards our obligation to assess the public interest in applying these exceptions, I am of the opinion that the public interest balance is in favour of non-disclosure of the requested information. As noted above, the public interest in maintaining the flow of information from institutions to CRU, and maintaining good working relations with international organisations, outweighs, in this case, the interest in the release of the data.

We have contacted the Information Commissioners Office in regards this matter and their advice is that if you are still dissatisfied with this response, you should, at this time, exercise your right of appeal to the Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely
Jonathan Colam-French

113 Comments leave one →
  1. Luke Warmer permalink
    November 21, 2009 2:49 pm

    So many fruitful search terms – “Wegman” throws up this one for example:


    “It is not clear what makes the Wegman Committee Report in your opinion a
    “new low”. In scientific study, one part is clearly physical (growth
    rates of trees, IR absorption, etc.) and a separate part is the
    statistical treatment of the data.”

    “Your last comment seems to reflect a belief that it is scurrilous to
    “question unquestioned science”. Wouldn’t there seem to be a long
    honored history of exactly this type of action, both before and after
    Einstein? Or perhaps I’m misinterpreting your remarks.”

  2. mpaul permalink
    November 21, 2009 2:57 pm

    “In regards your second point regarding the provision of the data to yourself, and the fact that the information was mounted & left on our FTP site & also provided to Georgia Tech without securing consent of the institutions that provided it, we would, upon reflection, consider this an action that we not choose to take again. However, having made errors in past does not, in our eyes, justify making the same errors again.”

    This is not the case is the US — but the UK might be different. Once a disclosure is made without confidential restrictions, under US law the information is forever more deemed non-confidential. The colloquial expression is “you can’t out the toothpaste back in the tube”.

    Although, I image that this point is no longer the salient point. If the emails are to be believed, there’s a lot of evidence that there was an organized and coordinated effort to obstruct the production of the data.

    From your timeline it’s a bit unclear — had the publication of the emails happened prior to when you received this refusal notice?

  3. rephelan permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:05 pm

    Ahhh, Steve Mosher’s cryptic references to the significance of November 12 are becoming a little clearer. I wish the mole well.

  4. Ryan O permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:12 pm

    Test satisfactory, Steve!

  5. mitchel44 permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:17 pm

    It’s been interesting to read the various pieces and see what is taking place “behind the curtain”.

    Bishop Hill thinks that there will be another release of stuff, and I saw a comment elsewhere that speculated a further release, of items from after the date of the drop on AirVent, to show it’s all real.

    Interesting times, and I’ve been paying attention for a while.

  6. LukeM permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:20 pm

    So you think that the file that was uploaded is the file that he mentions or a part of that file?

  7. ali baba permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:21 pm

    “But the chronology of this most recent refusal is, to say the least, interesting.”

    That is saying the least! Perhaps you can be more explicit why you think it’s interesting? And by “you” I do mean you, not your readers.

  8. Glenn permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:21 pm

    On attempts to load CA my browser shows “transferring data from” and before page finishes loading. Also each time I can get CA to load without timing out, “Bad Behavior”counter changes, sometimes backward. Perhaps plugins and utilities are affecting performance, or being hacked?

  9. OldUnixHead permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:28 pm

    Given the usual volume of responses/comments to your headposts, if you have to stay on the WordPress servers, I hope that you are able to configure your site for response-post numbering (with their link-IDs visible) like you’ve had at CA. That has been very helpful to me over the years to keep track of where I’ve progressed through those comments. The lack of those numbers/link-IDs has been one of the primary reasons I’ve generally given up trying to stay on top of the comments for WordPress sites like WUWT.
    Thanks for all that you’ve been able to do.

  10. November 21, 2009 3:38 pm

    Yes I think I now understand the likely provenance of the file. One wonders who in the UEA was the whistleblower/mole

  11. Drew permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:40 pm

    So it would appear this is not some random russian hacker, but a leak from an insider who must have been disgusted at the coverup.

    Well done that chap(ess)!

  12. hengav permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:42 pm

    I posted on the CA Mirror thread. Are your moderators moving over here for the time being?

  13. November 21, 2009 3:45 pm

    PS I found this Yamal related email ( ) rather amusing:

    you’re fully aware, trying to figure out what McIntyre has done is going to be difficult.
    It would be so much easier if they followed normal procedure and wrote up a comment and
    submitted it to a journal. I looked through the threads yesterday trying to make sense of
    what he’s done. My suspicion is that he’s brought in other tree ring series from more
    distant sites, some of which may not even be larch.

    As a total climate amateur I was able to figure out what you’d done, and even replicate the graphs with the R code. And I could create a map where it was obvious where the various sites were located. It took me about 20 minutes from my first exposure the ITRDB to getting the relevant Long/lats and another 10-15 to figure out how to make a google map with them all.

    These guys either aren’t able to use google and modern programming languages or they are being deliberately obtuse

  14. jetsetradio permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:56 pm

    Fascinating. What more are they hiding? Would like to be a fly on the wall down at CRU tonight. Shredders working overtime I bet.

  15. Doug in Seattle permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:16 pm

    I noted on WUWT that the dump appeared to be compiled in response to a FOI request. I am more convinced after reviewing Steve’s chronology here. I am also more certain that the whistleblower is at UEA.

  16. JimB permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:18 pm

    This has generated a tremendous amount of traffic on every site connected with the event. Glad to see Anthony with his very own hockey stick now.

    I’ve read several posts/comments from folks that have picked out various emails that the feel are indicative of evil intent. Things like the “trick” email, etc.
    I believe, for the most part, that what the bulk of these emails show is they don’t like skeptics very much, and are quite comfortable with somewhat of a “boys club” atmosphere. While there isn’t indication of outright felonies in most cases, the attempt to muddle in order to promote their own findings is everywhere, but that’s pretty easily chalked up to having conviction in what one does.

    There are two things I’ve seen mentioned that do not fall into that category. The first is the nonsense about Steve not being qualified to “audit” someone’s findings because he’s not published anything peer-reviewed himself. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other, and this is nothing but a convenient screen to hide behind, imo. If I walk by a house that you’re building, and I clearly see that your house is about to fall down due to the way you have fastened beams, joists, etc….I can certainly tell you what’s about to happen without running off and building my own house first.

    Second…this issue of deleting emails is a definite problem, and that’s perhaps the biggest problem the team has to deal with now. If there are problems with the data, that’s fine, and that will come out, but up until now, the reasonable assumption to people watching this unfold over the past several years is that they HAVE the data, and they’re just being asses about sharing it.
    If that were the case, then now they would have just said “Ok…the gigs up…here’s the stuff…whatever.”
    Deleting emails is an obvious attempt to hide/cover up something, and that seriously diminishes any claims of innocence for any casual reader.

    What an incredibly exciting weekend. I think both Anthony AND Steve for allowing all of us to participate in this incredible story.


  17. JimB permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:20 pm

    Make that “THANK both Anthony AND Steve…”

    Damned submit button…


  18. crosspatch permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:21 pm

    It certainly would make one wonder if this is an “inside job” by someone who made a copy of the file as opposed to some outside “hacker” breaking in and running amok through their systems had randomly happening upon his files AND the random hacker knowing what they were looking at, putting that up for download on a Russian ftp server, and not putting up anything else they might have found.

    Also, the wording of the posting Jeff Id’s blog doesn’t seem like something that a typical Russian “script kiddie” would write. “Hackers” generally broadcast their deeds on IRC, not climate blogs.

    Also, hackers don’t use the word “we” unless they are part of some sort of organization but the notion of organized hackers is something of an oxymoron. There are some who crack systems under various banners, though.

  19. November 21, 2009 4:22 pm

    Deleted emails may still exist on backup tapes from the mail server which are often retained for years. If there is any legal method to get those tapes protected then it ought to be acted on.

  20. trzupek permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:31 pm

    Excellent work Steve. Gavin’s response to CRU over at realclimate seems a wee bit defensive. Wonder why? I rather suspect Gavin and Hanson et al are having a pretty lousy weekend.

  21. Les Johnson permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:33 pm

    The timing, and the name of the Zip file are interesting.

    Pure conjecture on my part, but I also think this is related to your FOI. After your FOI was refused, the person responsible had finally had enough.

    I don’t think it was random, though. There are no “bring home milk and butter” e-mails; at least that I could find. Same with the documents. All relate to the subject at hand. For the same reason I don’t suspect hackers. To keep on topic would require first hand knowledge of the subject.

    Someone spend the time from Nov 12 (last email), to Nov 17, winnowing through the documents, and removing any off topic.

    At least that is my initial assessment.

    I also suspect that our Climate Deepthroat will be found out, and will pay too high a personal price on this.

  22. Jeremy permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:34 pm

    So, is Johnathan a lawyer or a scientist? This is an honest question since he really comes off as a lawyer.

    —> “…I am of the opinion that the public interest balance is in favour of non-disclosure of the requested information…”

    Uh, right, so what exactly are universities and public research supposed to be doing for us again?

  23. tallbloke permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:34 pm

    Steve, were you aware that Rashit Hantemirov sent Keith Briffa Yamal data in 1996 with ‘no strings attached’ regarding redistribution?


    From: “Tati*na ”
    To: k.
    Subject: Rashit
    Date: Thu, 10 Oct 96 13:24:01 +0500

    Dear Keith,
    enclosed are data concerning Yamal chronology.
    1 – list of samples: 139 subfossil samples (checked only),
    covered time span from about 350 BC and 18 samples from living
    trees (jah- from Yada river, m- and x- Hadyta river, por- from
    Portsa river);
    2 – general chronology (1248 BC – 1994 AD). I have some little
    doubt about 360 BC – may be it is false. It was found that
    in chronology I sent you before 155 BC was false ring;
    3 – ring widths of living trees from Yada and Hadyta;
    4 – ring widths of living trees from Portsa. Some of them didn’t
    include in chronology, because were not measured at that time;
    5 – ring widths of subfossil trees. Zero means that ring didn’t
    find on sample.
    I don’t send description of collection sites, deposits and etc.
    for the present. Some details you can find in our article
    (Shiyatov,…., Loosli). By the way, do you know something about
    its fate?
    Please, inform me if you have any questions about these data.
    Sincerely yours,

    begin 644 data.arj

    Sorry if this is OT, it’s just FYI. Feel free to delete.

  24. dearieme permalink
    November 21, 2009 4:55 pm

    Pleased to see that you’ve chosen not to Hide the Decline of your server.

  25. ice core permalink
    November 21, 2009 5:07 pm

    howdy Steve

  26. kuhnkat permalink
    November 21, 2009 5:33 pm

    Nothing like voluminous, self-serving, bureaucratese!!

  27. November 21, 2009 5:42 pm

    When national governments are using this data to bring in massive changes it is a necessity that it be available for audit right across the scientific community and the public. Transparency of government during these times is an absolute must but seems to be an absolute denial

  28. Dave permalink
    November 21, 2009 5:55 pm

    I´m wondering if the ¨docs¨ folder contains any ¨tree ring¨ data that was unavailable
    prior to the break in ?

  29. Carl Gullans permalink
    November 21, 2009 6:08 pm

    What is the punishment for lying in response to a british FOIA request? Please don’t read more into my question than I’ve asked.

  30. Kevin Davis permalink
    November 21, 2009 6:24 pm

    As noted on the Watts Up With That blog, someone created a website that allows you to search the CRU emails:

  31. Rod Fabian permalink
    November 21, 2009 6:26 pm

    An excellent reconstruction of the Team’s response to Steve’s paper on Briffa’s work is here:

    And a nice exposition of the problem of deleted email is here:

    This would be where criminal charges would come in, if at all, I would think.

  32. November 21, 2009 6:40 pm

    The rejections read a little differently now.

  33. danbo permalink
    November 21, 2009 7:03 pm

    If the person who leaked this was following the Breitbart/Acorn scandel in the US. There may be several more dumps.

    There could be interesting days ahead.

  34. Dave Dardinger permalink
    November 21, 2009 7:20 pm

    I wonder about the timing of CA getting overloaded. A minor point which may mean nothing is that I noticed a tiny smileyface in the bottom left corner of the CA site. It may have been there for a long time or maybe it’s a sign something was turned on making CA overload…

    Anyway it’s a pain not being able to look in Steve’s archives. I was just looking at the e-males containing Bristlecones and was surprised to see in late 2006 that the team wasn’t aware that the problem with the Bristlecones isn’t CO2 growth enhancement as Idso thought but rather the strip-bark growth form itself. I wanted to see when CA came to that conclusion. But it looks like I’ll have to wait.

  35. Banal permalink
    November 21, 2009 7:31 pm

    Steve, I think now is a perfect time to say this. You have been hijacked by Anthony Watts in the last months. You’re a skeptic like many here, but not a denier. You have done an amazing work in recent years, and I think climate history have a place reserved for you. But Watts is just a banal character. In the last year I saw him make good use of viral marketing on social sites like Digg or Slashdot, just marketing stuff, but many times and always, in his own benefit, even when source of thinks came from climateaudit. No surprise with your dead server.

  36. Wolfgang Flamme permalink
    November 21, 2009 7:54 pm

    No way to post this to CA, so here:

    I was baffled by 1233245601.txt where Ben Santer says that if Steve had some understanding of climate science he would acknowledge that with more and more data dropping in significant differences between model and observational trends inevitably will emerge (not basically changing conclusions, of course).

    Well he could have demonstrated good understanding of climate science to the scientific community in his paper … but didn’t. Instead Santer used non up to date data and an insensitive test to demonstrate the very absence of significant differences.

  37. theduke permalink
    November 21, 2009 8:41 pm

    I highly recommend the Powerlineblog material linked by Rod Fabian.

  38. EdeF permalink
    November 21, 2009 8:43 pm

    The UK Freedom of Infomation Act as it relates to Environmental policy can be found at the following link:

    Regulation 5(1) of the EIR provides that “a public authority that holds environmental information shall make it available on request”.

    Regulation 12(2) states that “A public authority shall apply a presumption in favour of disclosure”. Public authorities should therefore bear this in mind when considering any request.

    Regulation 12(4)(b) Manifestly unreasonable

    The word “manifestly” means that a request should be obviously or clearly unreasonable. There should be no doubt as to whether the request was unreasonable. Volume and complexity alone may not be sufficient to make a request manifestly unreasonable. The fact that a request would be considered vexatious or repeated under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the “FOIA”) does not, in itself, make a request made under the EIR manifestly unreasonable.

    There are no cost limits for responses to requests for environmental information; it may therefore be possible for some exceptionally costly requests to be considered manifestly unreasonable.

    So there is a presumption of release unless some serious mitigating
    factor is involved such as health and safety, national security, etc.
    Clearly, the volume of the data, the complexity of the data or cost
    are not to be used for reasons of denial for most cases. Their denial
    of release of FOI data seems to be arbitrary and wrong.

  39. tom t permalink
    November 21, 2009 10:02 pm

    I have not been able to get on CA to read comments on original post since the leak/hack. Can’t read comments on The Reference Frame either. Found this mirror a cached page on Google.

  40. Kevin Davis permalink
    November 21, 2009 10:49 pm

    Hi Banal,

    As long as Mr. Watts isn’t plagiarizing, I wouldn’t be too concerned about his particular stance. The “dead server” at CA is likely due to tremendous traffic volume, which is a good thing. If some of it came from WUWT, then just as well.

  41. Chris S permalink
    November 21, 2009 11:40 pm


    “I have concluded that the data is organised in such a way as to make it extremely difficult and time-consuming to segregate the data in the manner that you suggest”.

    I wonder if Jones may have inadvertently segregated these files for you himself, directly into his recycle bin, in an attempt at “housekeeping” that backfired.

    Now that would be ironic

  42. Fred B permalink
    November 22, 2009 12:24 am

    Maybe it’s time to make some more FOI requests.
    They maybe more open to it know.

  43. Kasmir permalink
    November 22, 2009 12:28 am

    Kind of bad timing to try to ingratiate yourself with Steve, isn’t it? Comments about Steve in the liberated emails make it pretty clear that even an extraordinary commoner like Steve will never be welcomed by this generation of “peers”.

    BTW, the word “denier” is explicitly ad hominem and really has no place in gentle discourse.

  44. Andy permalink
    November 22, 2009 12:40 am

    How about this one:

    ”PS I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act !”

  45. Matt permalink
    November 22, 2009 1:05 am

    The “investigation” conducted by Jonathan Colam-French, in which he decided the material he reviewed didn’t warrant release, was flawed. Someone should request that they review their processes and figure out how a scheme to delete emails could go undetected. Or perhaps it was detected, but nothing was done about it. If that’s the case, then someone should be facing disciplinary action.

    Perhaps an FOIA on whether or not the investigation was closed IN SPITE OF knowledge that a coverup was underway.

  46. aurbo permalink
    November 22, 2009 1:13 am

    Good to have you accessible again here on the mirror.

    First of all, I agree with your presumtion that the CRU release was an inside job from a whistleblower. Also, it seems pretty clear that based on the rules for whistleblowers that you posted elsewhere that the person or persons involved at UEA are well protected. It also appears…by their own admissions…that the team is not adverse to deleting emails or other unpleasant material. But it is also evident from the emails already released that they are fully aware that this violates any number of laws.

    Once again, the cover-up may be the most serious action of their multi-year malfeasance. I don’t know how secure email records are in the UK, but I know that it is difficult to delete these electronic paper trails in the US, especially at Government institutions. It is also clear that many, if not a majority of the CRU correspondence has/had been sent to email recipients in the US.

    So. Is there anyway to insure that at least one or more investigative or other legal agencies are pursuing a hold on such correspondence as we speak? And nonwithstanding that, I have confidence that at least some, if not most of such correspondence and associated data will survive. This leads me to paraphrase the eponymous detective in Dirty Harry: Go ahead and burn the emails; make my day!

  47. November 22, 2009 1:34 am

    “I would note that we are, however, proceeding with efforts with the international community to secure consent from national meteorological institutions for the release of the information that they provide us with, and it is fully our intention to publish such data where, and when, we have secured such consent.”

  48. Grant B permalink
    November 22, 2009 1:55 am

    Fred B – Maybe it’s time to make some more FOI requests.
    Indeed – this from Andrew Bolt’s blog on this in Australia (nothing in our MSM of course) –

    “Australia seems to be punching above its weight –

    Apparently the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre now has a policy not to deal with anyone associated with Climate Audit –

    Phil Jones said the following on 6/19/2007 4:22 AM:
    2. Had an email from David Jones of BMRC, Melbourne. He said they are ignoring anybody who has dealings with CA, as there are threads on it about Australian sites.

    Hopefully I’m still allowed to watch the weather report at the end of the 7 o’clock news.

    On a more serious note , I’m considering an FOI request to see if BMRC Melbourne has promulgated such Orwellian drivel internally as corporate policy.”

    I don’t know if this guy will do it, but I’m going to.

  49. Glenn permalink
    November 22, 2009 2:38 am

    A search on “DEFRA” nets some interesting results.

    Here’s one starting in Dec 08:

    “When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide
    by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions – one at a screen, to convince them otherwise showing them what CA was all about. Once they became aware of the types of people we were dealing with, everyone at UEA (in the registry and in the Environmental Sciences school – the head of school and a few others) became very supportive. I’ve got to know the FOI person quite well and the Chief Librarian – who deals with appeals. The VC is also aware of what is going on – at least for one of the requests, but probably doesn’t know the number we’re dealing with.”

    October 27 2009 txt1228922050.txt

    “>From: Phil Jones []
    >Sent: 27 October 2009 17:05
    >To: Graham F Haughton
    > Dear Professor Haughton,
    > The email below was brought to my attention
    >by the help desk of UKCP09 – the new set of UK
    >climate scenarios developed for DEFRA. It was
    >sent by the person named in the header of this
    >email. I regard this email as very malicious. Dr
    >Boehmer-Christiansen states that it is beyond her
    >expertise to assess the claims made. If this is
    >the case then she shouldn’t be sending malicious
    >emails like this. The two Canadians she refers
    >to have never developed a tree-ring chronology in
    >their lives and McIntyre has stated several times
    >on his blog site that he has no aim to write up
    >his results for publication in the peer-review literature.
    > I’m sure you will be of the same opinion as
    >me that science should be undertaken through the
    >peer-review literature as it has been for over
    >300 years. The peer-review system is the
    >safeguard science has developed to stop bad science being published.”

    Dec 2008 1256765544.

    “I’ve occasionally checked DEFRA responses to FOI requests – all from Holland.”

  50. November 22, 2009 2:51 am

    “TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Deleted emails may still exist on backup tapes from the mail server which are …”

    I don’t know how many of y’all are presently using MS Outlook in a corporate e-mail environment, but at previous employer (and now C*sco) it looks to me like e-mail (up to the ‘quota’ limit) is mirrored on the server (while the e-mails are also _downloaded_ to our company-issued laptops and thereby avialable off-premises when not in network range) –

    – e-mail OVER the quota limit (ALWAYS going over quota here!) can be _saved_ to a personal (and different) storage directory within MS Outlook other than the normal “Sent” and “Inbox” categories in the main ‘directory’.

    Bottom line here is, e-mails *should*/could still be resident on individual PCs or laptops in ‘personal’ directories if they were *moved* and not strictly deleted.

    Actual mileage, of course, could vary.

  51. November 22, 2009 3:06 am

    “Les Johnson

    There are no “bring home milk and butter” e-mails; at least that I could find.”

    There are no routine corporate/company/institution-wide e-mails either; no about special events notices (donation drives, inter-company/department competion, all-hands meetings), HR notices (promotions, new policies etc), cafeteria opening/closing or hour changes for holidays, facilities shut-downs (like wiring bus/changes or over a long holiday weekend), car-in-parking-lot with lights on and storm warnings to name a few –

    – e-mails co’s/institutions routinely send their employees/associates!

  52. November 22, 2009 4:24 am

    Thanks for the reference : >> “” came at Jeff Id’s blog by a poster called “FOIA”<<

    FOIA deserved a reply and a sign of gratitude, which was expressed at Jeff Id’s posting: Open Letter On Climate Legislation, by Jeff Id on November 13, 2009; Comment #21, , whereby the OPEN LETTER mentioned is also at:

    TO: FOIA
    You did it. You made many people very, very happy with your visit here and the given link. Luckily Jeff Id discovered it immediately: “This is the biggest news ever broken here. hunter said November 20, 2009 at 12:01 am , „Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. God bless you.“ And at : Terry Hurlbut (Nov19; 9:42 PM) said: „Commentary on all the blogs involved has been brisk, except, oddly enough, at The Air Vent, where only seven comments have been received.“
    Allow me to assume you did it intentionally with regard to the subject OPEN LETTER. That would at least make me very happy, as it would be a clear indication that there are other person out (at minimum one), which would agree with me that a science is nuisance if it is not able and willing to define in a reasonable scientific manner what it is talking about. That the talking about a definition on CLIMATE should not be taken lightly, is indicated in my previous comment. If a nonsense term is used by science it is not only misleading the simple people, but also shows that they do not understand what they are talking about. That is the real tragic of all the talking about the CO2 greenhouse gases since the James Hansen’s AGW claim before the US Senate in 1988. They stare in the air, without knowing where they are going to. OK. Currently, presumably only you, (few other ?) and I know. That should change, and your kind appearance here may have been a help, hopefully, for which you deserves my highest appreciation, and sincere thanks.
    Gratefully yours


  53. WWRTC permalink
    November 22, 2009 4:41 am

    Morning Danbo, I think this Whistle Blower is certainly mimicing the AB staggered disclosure method. Isn’t it amazing how freedom of information may be released by a few good men!
    Thank you Mr. McIntyre for your diligent work and this mirror site!

  54. Xyrus permalink
    November 22, 2009 5:08 am

    I assume people on here can read correct?

    I’ve just spent the past several hours reading through the emails. There aren’t nearly as many as most seem to think there are. But I know how people don’t like to RTFM so why should this be any different?

    So let’s cover a few things. About 10% of the emails refer to Steve with a smaller number referring to his blog pals.

    But why, you may ask? Because he basically became spam. Repeated requests for data that was already available. Refusing to make the effort to reproduce the results in peer reviewed articles even though the methods were clearly laid out. And the list goes on.

    If you read through the emails, you get the scientists view of things and more importantly WHY they don’t want to deal with him or other skeptics.

    No political agendas. No massive conspiracies. If Steve and others like him had merely gone through the normal research channels as opposed to becoming some self proclaimed climate science “victim”, then the science community in general would be far more likely to respond to requests.

    Instead, Steve and others antagonized them to the point where they are just regarded them as nonsensical hostiles like most everyone else who has suddenly granted themselves a Ph.D in Armchair Climate Dynamics.

    If you read the emails, you learn a few things. FOI requests are a huge PITA and should NOT be asked for on a whim. The requests weren’t just for the data, but for the private emails between scientific colleagues as well which is ludicrous (I don’t think Steve et al. would like their private emails published). There are consequences to pissing people off, i.e. they don’t want to deal with you and will generally not like you very much. Asking for in progress research data is idiotic especially when papers are in the process of being written. Asking for code for much of this research is, at best, redundant since the methods for reproduction are in the paper (code it yourself, since you wouldn’t trust theirs anyway). If you can’t produce a paper that’s got good science backing it up, don’t be surprised when it gets shredded in peer review.

    And if a peer-reviewed journal has an editor that no longer listens to the peer-reviewers, then it’s not a peer-reviewed journal.

    People deleting emails for nefarious reasons? One researcher was freaked out because he had deleted a bunch of emails earlier and then an FOI request came in (he was worried about repercussion because he didn’t think he needed to keep his emails). People trying to get out of FOI requests? If you read the chain, you’d understand why. They were sick of dealing with the crap (to the point where they wanted to impose a fee for wasting their time).

    Fudging data? Hiding data? Nothing in the emails indicate anything of the sort. There’s talk about how to present data, what to do about data sets with issues, the usability of such sets, but nothing otherwise.

    Now add on top of this that the email chains are incomplete, so in a lot of cases there simply isn’t the context there. If you read a large enough swath you may be able to get an idea, but there’s little that can be drawn from single emails, let alone sensationalistic line grabs (oh mass media, is there nothing you can’t distort?).

    And the result of this hack? Once cooler heads prevail and see that indeed this was much ado about nothing (an out of the 1047 emails, most really are nothing) what then?

    Firewalled Fortress. Now a merely annoyed community will view itself as under heavy hostile attack. Your “wish” for openness has now been completely shot to hell. Servers may get locked down. Data access may only be granted on an authorized basis (fill out forms, get a password and keyfob, etc.). This will, if anything, hurt the aims of what Steve claims he wants.

    In fact, it would not surprise me in the slightest if at least one climate scientist didn’t regard this as somehow orchestrated, perpetrated, encouraged, or at least instigated by Steve et. al. in the skeptic community, given the emphasis of FOIA by the hacker.

    Fair? Not by a long shot. But fair hardly comes into it when you view yourself as being attacked (a position I’m sure many on the skeptic side is familiar with).

    I’m under no illusions that this will be published here. The CA community isn’t exactly known for welcoming differing viewpoints. But if this does get published, then at the very least read the emails for what they are, not for what you want them to be.


  55. SamG permalink
    November 22, 2009 5:47 am

    Dave Dardinger

    (-: is in the bottom left hand corner of WUWT as well. I think it’s probably inconsequential.

  56. AndyL permalink
    November 22, 2009 5:55 am

    It would be interesting to see a chronology of the discussion to delete emails, mapped against dates of FOI requests.

    In principle, I believe precautionary deletion before an FOI request arrives is legally acceptable. Organised deletion after an FOI request arrives could be a serious matter.

  57. tallbloke permalink
    November 22, 2009 6:20 am

    This blog could do with comment numbering turning on.

  58. Henry permalink
    November 22, 2009 7:57 am

    Clearly Steve should appeal to the Information Commissioner.

    The key points seem to be that at least some of the information should have be released to Steve, that CRU/UEA do not seem to know precisely what might need to be protected by prior agreement (which undermines their case since the presumption is to release), and that some of the leaked emails suggest that there was an attempt within CRU/UEA to suppress and delete information so that it could not be released even if it should have been.

    Appeals are very slow. All the more reson to start them early.

  59. Tony permalink
    November 22, 2009 8:02 am

    I’d caution everybody to be extra-vigilant in looking out for any other stuff that is being sneaked out into the open, under cover of this sensational whistleblower event.

    To paraphrase another infamous saying: ” … a good time to release bad news”

    I’d look to the US end of climate-science sources, to see if there are any seemingly minor or innocuous revelations, that would in fact involve major corrections to the temperature record; to CO2 measurements, and so on.

    My reason is that leaders of climate-science, at least as revealed from the Climate Science website, are motivated more by their desire to manipulate perceptions, rather than pursue objective scientific truth. And therefore they may not be above such temptations.

  60. Paul Coppin permalink
    November 22, 2009 8:02 am

    Banal, your comment is, well, just banal. You do know, of course, that Anthony Watts provides the servers that CA runs on, right (you did contribute to the rebuilding of those servers, right)? Steve M does the science. Anthony helps him get the science out to the community. What has happened, is that the word is getting out, no more, no less. As to Anthony’s “business”, well yes he has one, with employees and mouths to feed, like everybody else, and he still finds time to get the word out about the “perils” of AGW. What, exactly, has been your contribution to truth in AGW science?

  61. Bob Koss permalink
    November 22, 2009 8:08 am

    Bishop Hill provides a short synopsis with links to some of the more interesting emails.

  62. Nick Moon permalink
    November 22, 2009 8:19 am

    Seems to me, and the leaked emails seem to confirm, that UEA aren’t going to comply with any FofI request you make, or is made by anyone linked to Climate Audit. The scientists have managed to convince management that you are some lunatic fringe trouble maker and can be ignored.

    I think there are two ways forward. Appeal their decision by going to the courts or going to the Information Commissioner. This will probably take years. And I think instinctively, the Information Commissioner (a bureaucrat) will tend to defend the institution – in this case UEA.

    The other way forward, is simply to go on making FofI requests, in the full and certain knowledge that they’ll be refused. But each request refused, just makes them look like even bigger idiots than they actually are. I think a lot of the supporteers of the AGW movement will themselves be very uncomfortable to be associated with this kind of behaviour. Most of the people, in the pro-AGW camp, like to see themselves as the little guys bravely struggling against, big oil, big government.

    I’ve been looking through the leaked code. it would be quite easy to construct a new FofI enquiry – where you could actually name the files you wanted. say all files of the form *.dtb/*.dts/*.nrm houses on either crua6, the beowulf cluster or the alpha worksations. You don’t really need the .nrm files. But please redact any files where the station data has been supplied under a confidentiality agreement.

    Might also be fun, to ask for a copy of the synthetic data that is used, to infill the grid where there is no station data.

  63. November 22, 2009 9:32 am

    I’ve got a lot of faith in the Info Commissioner – he doesn’t take any crap from what I’ve read about his adjudications.

    Such as this one:

    “The Information Commissioner has ordered the Government to release minutes of cabinet meetings at which the decision to invade Iraq was made. The order has been made under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

    The decision comes despite the fact that the FOI provides qualified exemptions which mean that documents about the formulation of Government policy and ministerial communications do not always have to be released…”

  64. M Yoxon permalink
    November 22, 2009 9:56 am

    Nonsense. I can’t see how Mr McIntyre’s emails could be called ‘spam’. Santer was simply not willing to provide the data because he thought it would cause him problems in the future – under the UK’s FOIA, an entirely illegal course of (in)action.

  65. Crotalus permalink
    November 22, 2009 10:59 am

    Did you ever attempt to purchase the data from the met stations?

  66. Michael Jennings permalink
    November 22, 2009 11:12 am

    Unlike pro AGW sites Xyrus, most differing viewpoints are allowed to be posted on “skeptic” blogs. Oh, and I have read the emails and you are

    snip – please don’t say such things

  67. Paul Coppin permalink
    November 22, 2009 11:30 am

    “I assume people on here can read correct?”

    We’d also like to assume people can write, correct? […correctly.] ? When your opening line doesn’t work in the language its written in, perhaps your reading of the emails isn’t fully comprehensive either. In any case, it appears your comment was intended for Real Climate, since it was published here, in all its glory. Enjoy your alternate reality.

  68. Tenuc permalink
    November 22, 2009 12:44 pm

    The context of a set of documents is often more important than the factual information they contain. The more I read through these emails, the more I get the feeling that the guys at CRU and GISS are more interested in the politics of climate change and the funding of their research. They also seem very scared of any information which refutes their work from sceptical scientists like Anthony and Steve. This is particularly noticeable in their later emails.

    The other major worry I have is that the have what appears to have a cavalier attitude to the accuracy of their results and seem to want to cling onto the consensus view no matter how many observations bring this into question. They seem willing to change the goalposts when needed to protect their out-dated paradigm.

    Finally I get the feeling that the CRU are very concerned with the way that even ‘tame’ mainstream media outlets are starting to ask questions and giving more exposure to sceptical views.

    In view of the above and the 12 November information, I too think that it was an internal whistle-blower who published the damning data on the Russian FTP site. Let’s hope that this encourages others working in climate science across the world to do the same – freedom is more important than personal gain.

  69. AKD permalink
    November 22, 2009 1:29 pm

    Plato, I think your faith is misplaced:

    From: Phil Jones
    To: Gavin Schmidt
    Subject: Re: Revised version the Wengen paper
    Date: Wed Aug 20 09:32:52 2008
    Cc: Michael Mann


    Almost all have gone in. Have sent an email to Janice re the regional freshening.
    On the boreholes I’ve used mostly Mike’s revised text, with bits of
    yours making it read a little better.

    Thinking about the final bit for the Appendix. Keith should be in later, so
    I’ll check with him – and look at that vineyard book. I did rephrase the bit
    about the ‘evidence’ as Lamb refers to it. I wanted to use his phrasing – he
    used this word several times in these various papers. What he means is his
    mind and its inherent bias(es).

    Your final sentence though about improvements in reviewing and
    traceability is a bit of a hostage to fortune. The skeptics will try to hang on to
    something, but I don’t want to give them something clearly tangible.

    Keith/Tim still getting FOI requests as well as MOHC and 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.
    As an
    aside and just between us, it seems that Brian Hoskins has withdrawn himself
    from the WG1 Lead nominations. It seems he doesn’t want to have to deal with
    this hassle.

    The FOI line we’re all using is this. IPCC is exempt from any countries FOI – the
    skeptics have been told this. Even though we (MOHC, CRU/UEA) possibly hold relevant info
    the IPCC is not part our remit (mission statement, aims etc) therefore we don’t
    have an obligation to pass it on.


  70. Chazz permalink
    November 22, 2009 1:55 pm

    Xyrus, you say “and the list goes on”. Since you now know that your comment was, contrary to your expectation, shown on this thread, please do us the favor of disclosing the entire list.

  71. Jean Demesure permalink
    November 22, 2009 2:31 pm

    “I think there are two ways forward. Appeal their decision by going to the courts or going to the Information Commissioner.”
    @Nick Moon
    That’s rather a nice joke. The way the Information Commissioner will treat FoI requests will be the same the peer reviews will treat a skeptic paper : into the dustbin. That’s why Steve has been replied with this time sink “exercise your right of appeal to the Information Commissioner” and the Team keep insisting that climate science should be done through peer review.

    How do we know ? Because Jones has said that !
    “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.”

  72. November 22, 2009 3:49 pm

    Xyrus – If you are subject to FOI requests, you have no right to discriminate based on the requester. It is illegal in the US and I would be very surprised if the law treated frequent requesters any differently. The BBC and other major news organizations are likely to be much more frequent users of the FOI law than anybody else over the long haul. How ridiculous would it be to ding their requests because they take advantage of the law frequently.

    If government funded scientists have a problem with complying with the law, this is a scandal and they will either reform themselves or find themselves cut off from government funds. It cannot be otherwise.

    There is no legal category of “nonsensical hostiles”. While it is true that “There are consequences to pissing people off”, if those consequences extend beyond what the law permits, people who go beyond the law are going to lose their funding, their posts, and possibly their freedom. Nobody is above the law.

    The proper response to frequent data requests is to establish quick, efficient procedures for sharing data that can be automated. Any response done more than twice should be added to a FAQ list so that their computers can talk to your computers instead of wasting your time. Instead, the bunker mentality seems to have prevailed, wasting everybody’s time and the taxpayer’s money.

    You seem to not realize that the FOI requests only came after informal requests were refused. This is the proper order. You drop an email note asking for something, and only after you are rebuffed do you go to the trouble of filing a formal FOI request. Had the established climate community acted normally, no FOI requests would have been filed and many of these issues would have been laid to rest years ago, advancing the cause of science. This was the choice of the academics whose information was being requested, not the choice of the requesters.

    And if a researcher makes a mistake, that’s a minor problem. Mistakes do happen and most will merely frown and move on. If he enlists others to replicate his mistake to destroy information that should not have been destroyed, that’s criminal conspiracy which in the US can be punished by 10 years in prison. I am unfamiliar with the laws of the UK but suspect that there is similar disapproval for cover-ups and secret conspiracies to destroy information, even when the information is ultimately determined to be innocuous, something that has by no means been determined yet. In fact, isn’t that the problem? If the information is destroyed, there’s no way to tell without spending large amounts of the taxpayer’s hard won money to redo the science. Surely this sort of behavior should be punished.

    Your “firewalled fortress” speculation is unlikely. It’s already a firewalled fortress as the emails make clear. Any punishments levied for the conduct discovered by this will be for excessive secrecy and insufficient information sharing as well as criminal information destruction. The replacements for those fired and/or imprisoned are unlikely to take the lessons their predecessors have provided to mean that more of the same is called for.

  73. frequent poster permalink
    November 22, 2009 4:27 pm

    I am on the editorial board of a journal which published a paper about both climate and an endangered species, presenting a skeptical viewpoint. A scientist whose work was criticised in that paper went to the press and we got 2 calls from journalists who asked why we didn’t censor the skeptical paper. I gave the one I talked to a piece of my mind, that journals should not censor unpopular views, which he actually printed (in shortened form). Then the criticized scientist sent a reply to the article in which he really threatened the editorial board if we did not publish his (really sloppy) reply.
    By the way, Gavin’s comparison with Newton is funny because Newton tried to (and mostly did) ruin the career of a competitor who also thought of the idea of calculus (Liebnitz?). Great example.

  74. November 22, 2009 5:12 pm

    I’ve been skimming the email archive, and thought it might be good to summarize who the players are, so I wrote a ruby script to do that. The most common email senders were:

    214 from: p.jones
    171 from: michael e. mann
    144 from: k. briffa
    103 from: jto
    80 from: t.osborn
    60 from: santer1
    45 from: wigley
    31 from: m.hulme
    21 from: eystein.jansen
    19 from: trenbert
    18 from: steve mcintyre
    16 from: wahl, eugene r
    14 from: drdendro
    11 from: rahmstorf
    10 from: narasimha d. rao; rashit

    The full list of 331 unique senders is here:

  75. November 22, 2009 5:50 pm

    …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… The FOI line we’re all using is this. IPCC is exempt from any countries FOI – the skeptics have been told this. Even though we (MOHC, CRU/UEA) possibly hold relevant info the IPCC is not part our remit (mission statement, aims etc) therefore we don’t have an obligation to pass it on.

    This concerns me. Especially given what looks like an ongoing “silence of the pack” ie the MSM silence when one would expect the hounds to be baying loud and clear in hot pursuit. Any legal comments?

  76. ncmoon permalink
    November 22, 2009 7:55 pm

    I’d forgotten about that email. It would seem likely that a request to the Information Commissioner would be left in an in-tray to gather dust for many months. And then in the end, the I/C wouldn’t want to turn on a bunch of fellow civil servants.

    I think it might take quite a bit of skill to set things up so the I/C had to find in Steve’s favour.

    one thing that would help, is to make sure that the I/C knew that he was exepcted to turn things down, and the intention is to take his decision and challenge it in the courts.

    And, I’ve just spotted that this version of WordPress supports nested comments. I’ve been meaning to suggest that this would be an improvement for ages.

  77. patrick healy permalink
    November 23, 2009 2:35 pm

    Greetings from Scotland,
    What a wonderful job you are all doing. I have not felt an emotion like this since I was in Newport News the day Jack Kennedy (RIP) was shot. Long before most posters time! What I mean is that this could be epoch making.
    BTW the wonderful Andrerw Neil smashed through the BBC censorship curtain in todays Politics Prog on BBC2 TV. He actually got Singer and Watson sitting side by side and got them debating AGW. He even mentioned the CRU computer hack. This (to my knowledge) was the first and only mention it has got on the Global Warming Channel aka BBC.
    I am not sure about Andrew Neils tenure at the BBC after that.
    Also excellent article in todays Daily Mail by Chris Brooker. Things are looking up in Gordon Browns Kremlin.

  78. Jasonf permalink
    November 24, 2009 7:51 am

    The BBC are running a foia article on their open secrets blog about this some of the comments need looking at.

  79. Charlie permalink
    November 24, 2009 9:35 am

    When the Dir of Info Svc at UEA says “I have undertaken a review of the contents of our file”, he most likely means that he has reviewed the records of your initial request and the rejection thereof.

    I doubt he was referring to a file of e-mails and data.

    In legal matters it is common for appeals to be decided strictly from the existing record of the original trial. I’ll bet that it is the same for this sort of appeal.

    Hence the “review of the file”.

  80. Jonathan permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:19 pm

    I’ve finally submitted my appeal against UEA’s refusal of my request (see the CRU Gong Show thread at the original climate audit). I am taking the liberty of posting a copy here as well.

    I wish to appeal the refusal of my FOI/EIR request to the University of East Anglia for “a copy of any digital version of the CRUTEM station data set that has been sent from CRU to Peter Webster and/or any other person at Georgia Tech between January 1, 2007 and Jun 25, 2009”, their reference FOI_09-117; EIR_09-14. My appeal through the UEA internal process has been refused (final refusal on 23rd October 2009). Copies of all major items of correspondence are attached. I apologise for the delay in this appeal, which was due to illness.


    My request (JAJFOI-1-request) on 24th July 2009 was initially rejected on 14th August 2009 (JAJFOI-3-request-refusal). The grounds for rejection were (my numbering and summary):

    1a) Information is available elsewhere: “the requested data is a subset of data already available from other sources; namely the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) and the Climatic Research Unit already makes requested information available on it’s website in a gridded format”.

    1b) Excessive effort required: “We believe, following DEFRA guidance, that it is unreasonable for the University to spend public resources on providing information in a different format to that which is already available.”

    2a) Release would damage relations with scientists and institutions from other nations: “If this information were to be released contrary to the conditions under which this institution received it, it would damage the trust that other national scientists and institutions have in UK-based public sector organisations”

    2b) Information is covered by a confidentiality agreement: “the data was received by the University on terms that limits further transmission”

    I rebutted these four claims in my appeal (JAJFOI-4-appeal). The response from UEA was delayed (JAJFOI-5-appeal-ack, JAJFOI-6-appeal-referral, JAJFOI-7-appeal-reminder, JAJFOI-8-appeal-reminder-ack) and the eventual reply (JAJFOI-9-appeal-refusal) rejected my appeal, citing modified versions of claims 1a, 2a and 2b (claim 1b was not formally conceded by UEA, but they did not contest my rebuttal). UEA also refused my request under regulation 12(11) for access to parts of the data.

    I am therefore appealing to the Information Comissioner.


    1a) Information is available elsewhere

    In their original reply UEA claimed that “the requested data is a subset of data already available from other sources; namely the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) and the Climatic Research Unit already makes requested information available on it’s website in a gridded format”.

    UEA has accepted my argument that the gridded data made available on the CRU website. However they continue to claim that the data I requested is available at the GHCN. This is not correct: while the GHCN database is similar to the data I requested it is not identical. This is stated by UEA themselves in a recent statement on their website at “Climatic Research Unit update – November 24, 3.30pm”, attached as JAJFOI-A-CRU-statement, which says “Much of these data are already available from the websites of the Global Historical Climate Data Network and the Goddard Institute for Space Science”: the word “much” rather than “all” is critical in this context.

    1b) Excessive effort required

    UEA appears to have accepted my point that I requested “a copy of a data set which has already been prepared by the university, and so is already available” rather than “information in a different format to that which is already available”. I believe this point is no longer at issue between us.

    2a) Release would damage relations with scientists and institutions from other nations
    2b) Information is covered by a confidentiality agreement

    As in my appeal I will take these two points together. Fundamentally UEA’s original claim was that the data I requested was covered by confidentiality agreements, and they provided a link to a supposed list of such agreements at As described in my appeal document, none of the documents available at this website are confidentiality agreements, and none of them create an actionable breach of confidence within the meaning of section 41. I further noted the perversity of UEA’s claim that the data I requested was simultaneously “publicly available” and “confidential”.

    In his response to my appeal Mr Colam-French accepted that the data was not confidential, but claimed that it was nevertheless acquired under terms which prevented its further transmission. No additional evidence of such terms was provided and I can only assume that he is referring to supposed agreements available at However none of the documents available at this website assert clear restrictions on further distribution.

    My appeal noted that the data I requested had already been transmitted to a third party, namely Peter Webster of Georgia Tech, which is inconsistent with their claims on restrictions on further distribution. Mr Colam-French now claims that this transmission was in error. This is not, however, the only such “error” on their part: in UEA’s reply to a previous FOI request to Steve McIntyre, available online at , UEA accepts that earlier versions of this data set were transferred to the US Department of Energy and to Steve McIntyre himself, and were made available on a public ftp site. It is extremely difficult to square UEA’s sudden concern about distribution rights with its clearly established pattern of behaviour.


    As noted above I do not believe that UEA has countered my rebuttals of their claims in their original refusal notice, and so I wish to appeal their refusal of my appeal. Beyond this, however, I have three particular concerns about the manner in which UEA has handled this case.

    1) UEA did not respond to my appeal within their self-imposed time scale. I belive this shows a lack of seriousness in their approach.

    2) UEA’s approach has been characterised throughout by a reliance on two mutually contradictory claims about the data (minor variations on the claims that it is publicly available and that it is simultaneously confidential or restricted). I believe this shows a lack of good faith in their approach.

    3) Recent emails and documents obtained from within the CRU appear to show a plan to subvert the Freedom of Information Act (while UEA has not formally confirmed the accuracy of these emails, they have not denied this either). I draw particular attention to the email apparently sent by Phil Jones of the CRU which is attached (JAJFOI-B-CRU-email) and which includes the paragraph:

    “When the FOI requests began here, the FOI person said we had to abide by the requests. It took a couple of half hour sessions – one at a screen, to convince them otherwise showing them what CA was all about. Once they became aware of the types of people we were dealing with, everyone at UEA (in the registry and in the Environmental Sciences school – the head of school and a few others) became very supportive. I’ve got to know the FOI person quite well and the Chief Librarian – who deals with appeals. The VC is also aware of what is going on – at least for one of the requests, but probably doesn’t know the number we’re dealing with. We are in double figures.”

    It is hard to interpret this as indicating a willingness by the CRU and UEA to conform with the principles of the Freedom of Information act.


    JAJFOI-0-summary: This document
    JAJFOI-1-request: My original request
    JAJFOI-2-request-ack: Acknowledgment sent by Dave Palmer, UEA
    JAJFOI-3-request-refusal: Refusal sent by Dave Palmer
    JAJFOI-4-appeal: My appeal against this refusal
    JAJFOI-5-apeal-ack: Acknowledgment sent by Dave Palmer
    JAJFOI-6-appeal-referral: Referral from Dave Palmer to Jonathan Colam-French
    JAJFOI-7-appeal-reminder: My request for a reply to my appeal, which was now late
    JAJFOI-8-appeal-reminder-ack: Acknowledgment sent by Dave Palmer
    JAJFOI-9-appeal-refusal: Refusal sent by Jonathan Colam-French
    JAJFOI-A-CRU-statement: webpage statement bu CRU/UEA
    JAJFOI-B-CRU-email: email ascribed to Phil Jones, CRU/UEA

  81. David permalink
    November 28, 2009 2:48 pm

    So Steve,

    Does any of this data help you?

    I hope CRU feels proud of itself.

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