Saturday, November 21, 2009

Global warming: More on those hacked emails

Strong words from Andrew Bolt:

The leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit indicate an astonishing conspiracy of the world’s leading warmist scientists, involving collusion, rigged evidence, suppression of dissent, the possibly illegal destruction of evidence under FOI request, and the smearing of sceptical scientists.

Time will tell if that's something of an overstatement but the emails do reveal a very strong desire to prevent troublesome outsiders from gaining access to critical temperature data. This is contrary to what science is all about, of course.

Since some of the emails involve those at Real Climate, the site had to say something, choosing to emphasise the illegality of the hack:

As many of you will be aware, a large number of emails from the University of East Anglia webmail server were hacked recently (Despite some confusion generated by Anthony Watts, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Hadley Centre which is a completely separate institution). As people are also no doubt aware the breaking into of computers and releasing private information is illegal, and regardless of how they were obtained, posting private correspondence without permission is unethical. We therefore aren’t going to post any of the emails here.

Breaking into the UEA webmail server was almost certainly a crime. The emails are not "private correspondence", however. UEA is a public institution. All of the emails on the webmail server in question, and on any UEA computer for that matter, are subject to public access and scrutiny. UEA provides the following Freedom of Information guidance (my bold):

5 key facts that all staff should know about Freedom of Information

  • The Act gives everyone both in and outside UEA a right of access to ANY recorded information held by UEA

  • A request for information must be answered within 20 working days

  • If you receive a request for information which mentions FOI, is not information you routinely provide, is unusual, or you are unsure of, you should pass the request to your FOIA contact or the Information Policy and Compliance Manager

  • You should ensure that UEA records are well maintained and accessible to other staff, so that they can locate information needed to answer a request when you are not there

  • As all documents and emails could potentially be released under the Act, you should ensure that those you create are clear and professional

So whereas breaking into the webmail server was illegal, the information taken and subsequently released to the public was information the public was entitled to scrutinise anyway. Real Climate's bleating about the unethical release of the emails is therefore something of a diversionary stretch.

Regardless, the theft and release of these emails is one of those whistle-blowing events the left normally greatly admires.

Update: ScienceBlogs blogger James Hrynyshyn reckons the emails are "mostly dull little missives", making the whole affair much ado about nothing. His commenters disagree:

What is wrong with you? I'm wondering if you're even reading the same stuff I am reading - I also downloaded the entire file and I'm just SHOCKED at the behavior in them.

This is a truly sad day for Science, the behavior of these criminals reflects poorly on all of us who are scientists (I'm a geologist) and will further feed an anti-scientific meme in the current zeitgeist.

Some scientists seem oddly detached from reality.

Update II: Media Matters charges hypocrisy:

Rush Limbaugh - who had previously condemned the "thugs" who hacked then-Gov. Sarah Palin's email account - joined right-wing bloggers in touting a series of emails that were apparently stolen from the UK's Climate Research Unit [CRU]. .... Limbaugh called Palin email hackers "thugs" and asked: "Do we live in a sick era, or what?" On the September 18, 2008, edition of his show, Limbaugh decried the "thugs" who hacked Palin's email account.

The Palin emails were stolen from a private email account at Yahoo, not from a government computer. Whereas any emails in Palin's Yahoo account relating to offical government duties might have been subject to release under FOI legislation, many were personal and were released simply to embarrass her.

In her book, Palin explains how she felt after the hack. "I was horrified to realize that millions of people could read my personal messages, including the thoughts of a friend who had written of her heartbreak over her pending divorce," Palin writes, adding: "What kind of responsible press outfit would broadcast stolen private correspondence?"

The hacked emails were quickly posted on the Web - and they included phone numbers and email account addresses for her children. They soon began receiving what Palin described as "vulgar email threats and phone calls."

The release of work related emails taken from a government computer is not the same as releasing documents stolen from a hacked personal email account. The Media Matters lefties were really groping in trying to equate two dissimilar events.


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