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« Tallbloke legal fund | Main | David Colquhoun on the data debate »

The Palutikoff email

This is a guest post by David Holland.

Last time I googled 2526.txt to see if this email had been commented upon I did not find any. This is as near the smoking gun proof as we will get, that Professor Phil Jones’ instruction to delete all emails “re AR4” was complied with – at least using the team definition of the word “delete”. Note that on 29 May 2008 Jones had emailed,

“Mike [Mann], Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith [Briffa] will do likewise. He's not in at the moment - minor family crisis. Can you also email [Eu]Gene [Wahl] and get him to do the same? I don't have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar [Ammann] to do likewise. I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!! Cheers Phil”

Now read the Palutikof email that Jones sent on 4 June 2008 to his former CRU Co-Director, then at the Met Office, just 6 days after telling Mann to delete his emails and that Briffa would do likewise. Note particularly these statements.

“John Mitchell did respond to a request from Holland. John had conveniently lost many emails, but he did reply with a few. Keith and Tim have moved all their emails from all the named people off their PCs and they are all on a memory stick.”

Note also that in a pdf file created on 14 July 2010, a week after the Russell Review published its Report, Jonathan Colam-French told Sir Muir Russell at the very start of his Review in December 2009

“for example Keith Briffa took home emails that were subject to FOI to ensure their safekeeping”.

Remember also those strenuous assertions on 27 October 2010 from Professor Acton to the Commons Science and Technology Committee that Jones never knowingly deleted an email that was the subject of an FOIA request. We knew in 2008 that Mitchell had not really deleted his emails and we now have good reason to believe that no one did. All they now appear to have done was to move them off their PC’s and onto memory sticks. Whether deliberately or not, no one seems to have asked the right questions of these people, which are whether they held the emails on any electronic device or third party server and, if they had deleted them from their PCs, was it to avoid their disclosure. I dare the UEA to add email 2526.txt to their Cherry-picked phrases explained page.

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Reader Comments (49)

In an interview on Sky News yesterday, Professor Barry Brook dismissed Climategate 2 as revealing that scientists are vigourous in their language. The 'Boys will be boys' meme. Let's be charitable and say he hasn't read them.

Dec 17, 2011 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Yes, deleting emails from one's computer to avoid FOI requests or another kind of legal inquiry is an action that qualifies as a "smoking gun." Conspiring to delete them is a separate offense. Why has this conspiracy to avoid FOI requests not been pursued by the authorities. I realize that under the simple FOI law the statute of limitations had expired, but what about the conspiracy? That too is a violation of law. Oh by the way, in case anyone wants to declare that The Team are not conspirators, what is it about these emails that do not scream conspiracy?

Dec 17, 2011 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

hmm, ok, so the emails were, at one point, on a semi-secure email server. How would one move a large volume of emails from a email server to a flash drive? You would probably first download the emails onto a more accessible machine and then copy them to the flash drive. And if this more accessible machine had an internet connection and a few open ports...

In other words, could it be that the email volume was copied onto an unsecured fileserver open to the public internet? Could simply have come across the emails sitting in full view on the UEA domain? If that's the case, then there was no hack -- it was publicly available.

Dec 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered Commentermpaul

I am sure there are a few anecdotes from the 60s and 70s , when the univisitti was not yet a completely red ticks infested rathole, where the "protesting" students, now all morphed into establishment comfort zone surfers no doubt, acquired information form the university cabinets and amdinistration desks and drawers that were not granted to them via FOIAs ? Have the univissitties prosecuted ? Has the police been instructed to go into people's homes for it ?

Dec 17, 2011 at 11:41 PM | Unregistered Commentertutu

How would one move a large volume of emails from a email server to a flash drive?

Using the Eudora mail client, which is what Jones appeared to be using, the emails would be brought down to the local machine via the POP3 or IMAP protocol (not the MAPI protocol used by Outlook on Microsoft servers). This means that his local machine kept a mail store. He could copy the desired emails into a folder and then copy the folder to the flash drive, then delete the folder. Now the thing is, just because he deletes the message doesn't mean the mail server with the main mail store honors that request! He might have THOUGHT he deleted them from the server, but might not have in reality.

Dec 17, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered Commentercrosspatch

Wow, I have something in common with Phil Jones; I (still) use an old copy of Eudora for my business emails and now have 15 years worth, which thanks to Eudora's *.mbx and *.toc files, make backing up emails and porting to other machines easy. I use POP3 to collect, and can tell Eudora to delete from the server on collection, delete after x days etc. I thought no-one used Eudora anymore, as Thunderbird was now the client of choice. If Jones was using Eudora it would be very easy for him to stick emails he wanted to keep on a flashdrive and (once he had deleted the local folder) avoid prying FOI eyes.

Dec 18, 2011 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

I'm surprised that the UEA haven't tried the 'ignoramus' defence. In that Jones et al's protestations that they didn't actually delete anything is, infact, true, because even though they clearly actually conspired to delete their emails, removed them and moved them onto external drives, they didn't commit any offence because they are all actually too stupid and ignorant of computer protocols to realise that they CAN'T truly delete emails in this way as the originals are still on the server.

We know form Harry READ ME and Jones' own admissions of Excel incompetence that they are useless on computers. maybe if all else fails they can wheel out the 'ignoramous' defence.

Dec 18, 2011 at 12:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Phil Jones cannot calculate a regression coefficient with Excel - so I think that the 'silly me' excuse can be called up and validated at any time, if needed.

At some point Phil Jones started using Thunderbird, as we know from Muir Russell inquiry (assuming that Jones was research A, B, or C).

The Muir Russell IT "expert" (Professor Peter Sommer) also employed the 'silly me' excuse to avoid looking at the emails which have now probably been partly released by FOIA. 'The emails as provided to me are in the format of an email program called “Thunderbird” and before they can be searched require indexing. There are large numbers of un-indexed emails and time constraints in
preparing this initial report preclude indexing and any form of sophisticated analysis.'

So Muir Russell likely had his hands on everything needed to show that Phil Jones had indeed deleted emails subject to FOIA, and incited others to do so, and yet failed to look at the evidence because of the baffling (industry standard, of course) Thunderbird format.

Nice post David.

Dec 18, 2011 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

The 2526.txt email references a URL <!uea_manual_draft_04b.pdf> that actually links to what appears to be a final draft of the policy document. It is entitled "CODE OF PRACTICE FOR RESPONDING TO REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000," and is subtitled "v. 1.0, Final Draft 22 November 2004." This document, in turn, contains a link to a document titled "Management of Records under the Freedom of Information Act 2000." This latter document is password protected. Does anyone have a copy or has anyone filed a FOIA request for it? I suspect it contains procedures for managing emails, and might make interesting reading. If Jones in 2008 violated the policy for records management established in 2004, then at the very least he should be disciplined by UEA for disregard of university policy.

Dec 18, 2011 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom Vaughn

Isn't conspiracy to commit a crime a crime in the UK? It is ubiquitous here in the US. The clearest case is conspiracy to commit tax fraud. Every adult knows that if you discover a "trick" to improve your tax return and you share that trick with someone else who is penalized for that trick by the IRS then you can go to the federal pen. Nothing like that in the UK?

Dec 18, 2011 at 1:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

For reference the comments from Professor Acton are on page 58 of this pdf report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee.

I am confused by this passage:

Q95 Graham Stringer: Did you ask them under caution?

Professor Edward Acton: The relationship that I have with them is rather different. It is absolutely part of my duty to address that kind of spirit and make sure I drive it out of the university and establish the facts. Can those e-mails be produced? Yes, they can. Did those who might have deleted them say they deleted them? No. They say they did not. I wanted to be absolutely sure of those two, and I have established that to my satisfaction.

This seems to me to be a push to convince the Committee that because the emails can be produced (post FOIA 2009) then little untoward has happened. I am minded to agree with Stuck-record.

Dec 18, 2011 at 2:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

To "move" the emails to another storage device they were required to delete them from the original. A delete operation is simply a copy followed by a delete, the digital bits can't be moved they can only be cloned. They could have chosen to _copy_ the emails if they wanted to back them up which would have left the original data store as it was.

Dec 18, 2011 at 2:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Dec 18, 2011 at 1:00 AM | ZT

"So Muir Russell likely had his hands on everything needed to show that Phil Jones had indeed deleted emails subject to FOIA, and incited others to do so, and yet failed to look at the evidence because of the baffling (industry standard, of course) Thunderbird format."

Fascinating! In the US this is called the "Southern Lady" excuse. "I wanted to scrub the kitchen floor but try as I might I could not get it into the kitchen sink." Remarkable that this excuse has become acceptable among prominent Englishman.

Dec 18, 2011 at 5:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

@ Dec 18, 2011 at 1:40 AM | Theo Goodwin
Nothing like that in the UK?

Certainly, Theo. But it only works when the 'powers that be' want to bust a group of people.

But if the Government (and all political parties, the media, the scientific establishment, the universities, the financial institutions - in other words all the "Establishment") just want all this scam to go on so they can carry on stealing money from tax payers and energy users and avoid looking like the credulous cretins they really are - in those circumstances:- absolutely impossible.

"Conspiracy"? Never heard of it. Now, move along, matey!

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

I wanted to look at his computer, but Phil said it wouldn't even regress in Excel.

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

The Norfolk plods are regressing in excellence, but not to the level of the US Dept. of Justice.

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Lord Acton sent me for a left handed monkey wrench and it took some money, but I found him one.

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I wanted to release the information to Steve McIntyre, but try as I might, I couldn't find it.

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Can't release anything to Holland, 'cuz that's a country, right, and there are these international agreements, see? Don't want a diplomatic crisis, now, do we?

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I wanted to rule the world and go down in history. Alright except I misread 'rule'. There was an unexpected ell in it.

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:56 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I wanted to understand climate but the weather never cooperated.

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Oh, yeah, Hat Tip to Ringer TG and his Southern Belle.

Dec 18, 2011 at 6:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Can you give us some context here. Why gas the Palutikoff email not appeared before.

40 Shades

Dec 18, 2011 at 7:49 AM | Unregistered Commenter40 Shades

Theo Goodwin Dec 17, 2011 at 11:14 PM


The Team were self-admitted conspirators. See Climategate 1 email 1119957715 where Tom Wigley says

The others who could be added to this email list at this early stage are Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes, your “co-conspirators”—and perhaps Phil Jones, Keith Briffa and Tim Osborn.

The email list was Oppenheimer, Mann, Schneider, Lashof, Hansen, MacCracken, Santer & Ammann

Dec 18, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby


May be an idea to get this, and all relevant links, to Chris Monckton as he seems to be assessing evidence for bringing fraud action against some individuals.

Dec 18, 2011 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterjazznick

Picking up on Gareth's comment: Professor Acton tells the HofC Science and Technology Committee that no e-mails were deleted because he has 'established that [it] to my satisfaction'. No proof offered, of course, no evidence. Just a patrician, de haut en bas assertion.

Clearly therefore there is no more to be said. Acton knows. Acton has 'established' the truth of the matter to his 'satisfaction'. No one need concern themselves with the fact that Professor Jones himself is on record asking colleagues to delete e-mails. That, after all, is a mere distraction, an insignificant pin-prick of a detail dwarfed by the omniscient Acton's superior understanding.

The man is either a half-wit or an outright liar.

What is truly shocking is not just that he calculated that he could get away with so feeble a defence, but that he did.

Or at least for now anyway.

How I look forward to his inevitable humiliation.

Dec 18, 2011 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

It would, of course, have helped matters if the Committee hadn't given him and others an easy ride.
The chairman's reply (or Stringer's) ought to have been "I'm not interested in your satisfaction, professor; I'm interested in this committee's."
The trouble is that climate change has become such a polarising subject that virtually every scientist, politician, journalist feels obliged to take a stance one way or the other. A HoC Committee is supposed to be trying to get at the facts, not starting off with any assumption about what the facts are on any subject.

Dec 18, 2011 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

CG1 and CG2 are gifts that keep on giving.

You discover that the CRU, Reading and the Met Office FOI officers collaborated over FOI requests. #3509

You also discover "senior members in both MOHC (Hadley) and UKCIP (John Mitchell and Roger Street) had serious concerns with the validity of the underlying modelling for UKCIP08". #4895

All the information being gleaned is painting a bigger picture in that a lot more scientists and officials were involved in the scandals.

Dec 18, 2011 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

The reasons for the refusal to supply data seem to be obvious to all but me.

What was so valuable that would justify the risks involved in the evasion of FoI requests? The contention that they were jealoysly guarding professional niches, does not seem worth the risk of the possible legal repercussions.

The possible answers that come to mind are:

They are protecting some patentable product or methodology, which seems slim,

They are afraid of qualified vetting of the data itself,

There is no actual data, which is a scary thought,

The data are manipulated, which is even scarier,

Anoyne care to add other possible motives for the refusal and the frantic, multiperson agreements to delete/hide data?


Dec 18, 2011 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterNik

If as seems the case, some of the emails have been moved onto memory sticks, are they subject to a new FOI request?

Dec 18, 2011 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

2, 3, and 4 are all possibilities.
Jones was the one who asked why he should be expected to hand over data "when all you want to do is find fault with it."
There is certainly some evidence that data have either been lost or destroyed and the tendency to extrapolate or interpolate into areas where there are no data (known in the "real" world either as 'guessing' or 'making things up') is tantamount to admitting that data do not exist ...
... which is also manipulation of data, I would have said.
Added to which there is known manipulation. It's called 'adjustment' and though it may have quite legitimate uses, the climategate emails lead one to suspect that it might also have other, less legitimate, uses. And anyway until we see the data we don't know whether even the legitimate adjustments made any scientific sense.
I don't know off-hand of any other possible motives, but how many do you need?

Dec 18, 2011 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson


It seems to me that "There is no actual data, which is a scary thought" is closest to the truth. Don't we know from Jones' email exchanges with his FOI officer at UEA that Jones was unable to pair stations with temperature records. My guess is that the data was in such bad shape that it amounted to no data.

Dec 18, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Dec 18, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Phillip Bratby

Nice one! Thanks.

Dec 18, 2011 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

I am grateful to the correspondent that corrected my description of Professors Palutikof and Jones as being CO-Directors of the CRU. I had taken my information on this matter from the History published by the CRU themselves.

Hubert Lamb retired as Director in 1978. He was succeeded by Tom Wigley (to 1993), Trevor Davies (1993-1998), Jean Palutikof and Phil Jones (jointly from 1998 to 2004) and Phil Jones (to the present). Each has brought their own specialities to bear in guiding CRU through what have been generally good times as far as successful funding is concerned, but occasionally through fallow periods.

The point I was making was that they were long standing colleagues.

Dec 18, 2011 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Nik -

Or how about "The reason academic politics is so vicious is that the stakes are so small" suddenly became inoperative and there was a late realization that their data collecting, handling, and processing simply weren't up to snuff as groundwork for the wrenching changes now being proposed? Data, adjustments, and conclusions which were perfectly suitable for academic oneupmanship within the somewhat restricted field of climatology might not withstand careful scrutiny by outsiders like engineers, economists, statisticians, and physicists. Must save face at all cost, you know. Grant money's involved. Just tell the sods to bugger off. Nothing to see here. How dare the riff-raff question my results!?! And so forth.

Dec 18, 2011 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterCrusty the Clown

40 Shades asked

Can you give us some context here. Why has the Palutikoff email not appeared before.

I had found it pretty much straight away, but as occurred with CG1 for me, I was buried with other important work, which came to an end on Tuesday last in a Tribunal hearing, of which the decision should be published in a few days.

What I can say is that 2526.txt was officially brought to the attention of the UEA on 28 November and I for one am a little disappointed that it has as not as yet appeared on their Cherry-picked phrases explained page. We all know how regularly the UEA looks in here, so I am looking forward to reading their explanation.

Dec 18, 2011 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Given the amount of emails in Climategate 1.0 and 2.0 (and 3.0 behind a password), it's hard to imagine anything was actually deleted.

This points to FOIA being a techie employee of CRU and/or UEA.

Dec 18, 2011 at 7:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito


" 'The emails as provided to me are in the format of an email program called “Thunderbird” and before they can be searched require indexing. There are large numbers of un-indexed emails and time constraints in
preparing this initial report preclude indexing and any form of sophisticated analysis.'"

That was pretty much the most blatant lie of the whole inquiry. It might have taken a slow PC overnight, or some such, to do the indexing, but really on any modern PC would take a few hours at most. Since it is simply impossible that MR received technical advice contrary to that from any competent professional (or even an incompetent one), it is only plausibly explained by assuming an outright deliberate lie.

Dec 18, 2011 at 7:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

No 0021 Sep 12 2009: from Phil Jones
Hola Manola, I've saved emails at CRU and then deleted them from the server. Now
I'm at home I just have some hard copies.

No 0058 Oct 9 2008 from: Keith Briffa - IN STRICT CONFIDENCE to: "Toumi, Ralf"

Ralf ...Finally, might I ask that you note and then erase this email. I have found that recent enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act, or Data Protection Act, can become considerable time sinks , or the basis of some inconvenient subsequent distractions. with best wishes Keith

Dec 18, 2011 at 7:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

This implies very strongly a credible story plot that involves an insider scientist, not a "mere" clerical type.
These guys, in a regulated industry in the USA, would be dealing with felony charges. At the least they are unethical and unworthy of receiving more public money.

Dec 18, 2011 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker

Maurizio Morabito - whilst I will not rule out that FOIA is a techie employee the non deletion of emails is easily explained. 4 researchers (Jones,Briffa,Osborne,Hulme) maintained email backups on the CRU backup server as opposed to the rest of UEA which were maintained by the UEA email system. By an unfortunate accident (for them) any email deleted on their PC was not deleted from the backup server due to the way the backup had been set up. FOIA somehow got access to that backup server.

Dave - I do not see the Peter Sommer report as a lie. Any kind of search through the volume of emails is a mammoth exercise for anyone to undertake without some clear criteria to look for. The PC time is not the issue here. The time needed to read 8GB of emails would require a massive team effort. I can understand why they would not want to do it.

However I would be sympathetic with the viewpoint that Sommer should have looked for some of the additional email content on the controversial areas already raised by CG1.

On the subject of FOI we alrady know they were in major breach because the ICO has confirmed that. CG2 is providing more details on the extent of the breach but I dont see how the additional details take us further forward given that the time lapse appears to prevent any kind of prosecution due to a technicality.

Dec 18, 2011 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterclivere

It is hard to believe much that Russell Review concluded. They paid £9,000 to get the emails of Jones Briffa and Osborn and had them on 14 May long before the Review Report was published. Prof. Sir John Beddington, who had been consulted in setting up the Review, told Dr Naysmith MP that he wanted to wait before commenting on the Climategate emails until Sir Muir could "look at emails in context"

Prof. Sommer's Initial Report on 17 May looks to me like an agreed report after a verbal one. This is pure speculation, but I think they could have done, as we all did, and and try a few keywords and key date searches. The "hide the decline" and "delete any emails re AR4" emails were obvious targets, and I think they would have found the Palutikof email searching on my names as easily as I did.

It could be that Prof Sommer said he could do what he had been asked to do but the result would not be what they wanted. Pure speculation of course, but I find it hard to understand why, when they knew on 18 December 2009 that Briffa took home emails that were subject to FOIA, they did not publish the minute of the meeting, in which they had been told it, until the 14 July 2010 a week after the Report was published - according to the create date of the published file.

Dec 18, 2011 at 8:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

U.S. Navy and ExxonMobile oil companies promptly provide requested data sets to "the Team" upon first request.

This appears to be a one way courtesy...

Dec 18, 2011 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterpouncer

I too produced a series of emails from Jones on FOIA, but focused on why Jones could never produce the raw station data so folks like McIntyre could verify the CRU gridded data sets,

Bottom line: The data is corrupted and over written. So there is no way to reproduce Jones' results, which in turn makes them useless.

Dec 19, 2011 at 4:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterAJStrata

David (above) is right; a 'Move' is a Copy followed by a Delete.

But there is no necessity that there was ever a temporary folder on the machine into which the USB memory stick was plugged. It appears as a drive with its own letter to the machine as soon as plugged in, and any folders you wish can be created on it, to downloaded data into them directly. I.e., the Copy operation is a 1-step, not a 2-step.

Dec 19, 2011 at 5:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrian H

typo: "to download data into them directly.'

Dec 19, 2011 at 5:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrian H

I seem to have some recollection that a conspiracy to do something is often a far more serious charge than the act itself. So a conspiracy to thwart the FOIA act would be far more serious than merely the effect of witholding particular pieces of information. And an international conspiracy could be even MORE serious in view of the impact of the global policies proposed by alarmists.

However, such litigation would have to be carried forward in the USA since the British Legal Establishment is too hidebound to be capable of such a challenge to government or international organizations.

Dec 19, 2011 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered Commentermarchesarosa


>The emails as provided to me are in the format of an email program called “Thunderbird”

You can imagine his nose wrinkling. I can practically hear him saying "and who are the Beatles?"

Dec 19, 2011 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Thunderbirs mailbox format is mbox. One wonders how long it took to find such an inexpert (Sommer) to (not) do any analysis?

Dec 23, 2011 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterAJC

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