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« The two cultures of science | Main | Chill man - Josh 114 »
Sunday
Jul312011

More from the police

Norfolk Constabulary have now made a somewhat fuller disclosure of information about their dealings with the Russell inquiry, making available some of their correspondence.

Although they are not mentioned in the Norfolk disclosures, the first meeting between the Russell panel and Julian Gregory, the policeman in charge of the investigation, dates back to the end of 2009, when Russell visited Norfolk for exploratory talks. He was joined by Norton for a second meeting at the end of January 2010. The Russell panel has withheld the minutes of these meetings on the grounds that they might prejudice the police investigation.

On 4 March 2010 Norton approached  Norfolk Constabulary asking for a "forensic copy" of the data on the CRUBAK server, also explaining the reasons for the request.

Amongst other things, we would like to examine how the leaked e-mails relate to the rest of the material on the server, e.g. How they were selected and using what search terms, and whether the server still contains any traces of e-mail or data deletion...

Norton's request was turned down because of the sensitivity of the information to the police investigation. However, Gregory offered to have the forensic IT consultants Qinetiq supply answers to UEA's specific questions, these responses being checked and vetted by his officers before release.

Norton responded in turn with an email setting out the areas the panel wanted to examine. Interestingly, point 1 has been redacted from the response. The other points are:

2 Have Qinetiq been able to determine the search terms that were used
(either locally on the server set of e-mails that were disclosed?

3 Would Qinetiq be prepared to run some searches for us on the server as a
whole against search terms that we would provide?

I can see no earthly reason why point 1 should have been redacted, the areas for examination presumably not falling under any of the exemptions to the FOI Act. I will appeal this decision.

Later in the same thread Norton explains what it is the inquiry is after:

We would like to know both, if there are other pointers to areas we should also investigate in the rest of the CRUBAK material, and whether there is further information out "in the wild" that might subsequently be released in an effort to denigrate our report once published.

He goes on to outline some specfic information requests:

We also have some very specific questions - for example the leaked 'e-mail entitled 'Censored' has some content redacted and we would be interested to know if CRUBAK3 holds the full text...

The email in question is this one.

In an email a week or so later (8 April) Norton says that the Russell team have decided to simplify their request so as to shorten the timeframes involved. This is the first mention of timescales or problems arising from the complexity of the request, and it may be that there is an email that has not been disclosed. Norton asks Gregory to obtain a quotation from Qinetiq:

1. Could Qinetiq please quote costs and timescale just to extract the e-mails from the backups of four specific machines - those of Prof. Phillip Jones, Prof. Keith Briffa, Dr. Tim Osborn and Dr. Mike Hulme?

There is then a lengthy redaction, which again seems curious. A response seems to have been delivered on 13 April, although all of Gregory's message to Norton has been redacted. The following day Norton explains the way forward:

Just a heads up. The Review Team discussed this yesterday and we have made a recommendation to the UEA Vice-Chancellor (who in DPA terms owns this information on behalf of the University) that Qinetiq should be asked to proceed but just for three machines (those of Prof Jones, Prof Briffa and Dr Osborn). We have also suggested hiring a (highly reputable) independent forensic analyst to carry out a targeted search of this limited set of e-mails on behalf both of the University and the Review Team We await a response from UEA...

The ellipsis is in the original, but is followed by a lengthy redaction.

Attentive readers will note that the Review team has decided not to examine Hulme's email. This may have been on cost grounds. If so it would be very surprising to have the scope of the Russell inquiry determined by the university in this way.

There seems to have been some further to-ing and fro-ing over costs - the quotation provided by Qinetiq has been redacted, apparently on commercial grounds - but by 22 April the university seems to have decided to go ahead.

There is an undated email from Qinetiq which refers to the emails of Jones and Briffa having been extracted. It is not clear if Osborn's correspondence was extracted later or was excluded from the inquiry like Hulme's.

A month later, the work appears to have been complete, and we see a very interesting exchange between Andy Guy, who I think is part of the major investigations team at Norfolk Constabulary, and an unidentified correspondent, but probably someone at Qinetiq - the addressee and much of the text has been redacted:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I have authorised Steve mitchell to receive the data of the 3 email accounts you have extracted for the RUSSEL enq. I would ask that they are couried in a seciure fashion to DC Mitchell at Wymondham today please We will then get them to London for examination by the appointed barrister.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The involvement of a barrister is interesting and one can speculate on the circumstanes in which a legal adviser would have been engaged - this might have been because something suspicious had been uncovered or it might have been simply to examine the email exchanges to see if any laws had been broken. Then again it might have been something completely different.

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Reader Comments (8)

Do police still have whistles?

Aug 1, 2011 at 12:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

I believe that the peas have been removed from the whistles - so as not to disturb the politicians.

Regarding the barristers - they probably just needed Harbottle & Lewis to ok (=turn a blind eye to) several gigabytes of flagrant scientific fraud. Standard operating procedure when you are paying for you own inquiries.

Aug 1, 2011 at 1:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Environmental agencies have now concluded that raw FOI may contain substances injurious to the public health. In future, therefore, FOI will be filtered, pasteurised and approved for release prior to general release.

Aug 1, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Could this all be a case of, as in so many things in this sloppy world of ours, of the guilty (allegedly) parties not having actually done anything illegal, in as much as no law has been broken? Of course ethics & morals & "smoothing" & "adjusting" the data don't come into the law do they!

Aug 1, 2011 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Prof. M. J. Norton (on Russell's panel) said in an email (around March 2010) to Detective Superintendent Julian Gregory (of Norfolk Constabulary),


“”””We also have some very specific questions - for example the leaked 'e-mail entitled 'Censored' has some content redacted and we would be interested to know if CRUBAK3 holds the full text...”””” [emphasis by John Whitman]


--------------------------


Norton’s reference to a climategate email as having been leaked is something I find interesting.


A member of the Russell panel was saying "leaked email" to an official representative of the climategate investigation team of the Norfolk Constabulary. This was in March 2010; in the middle of the Russell panel investigation and in the middle of the Norfolk police investigation.


John

Aug 1, 2011 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Interested in search terms, eh? Like, fer instance, what was searched for when, and by WHO?

And I agree, "leaked" is meaningful. Evil Hakzors, forsooth!

Aug 1, 2011 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered Commentermojo

Waiting for Godot is less of a drag than waiting for Russell and Gregory.

Aug 2, 2011 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAntonyIndia

AntonyIndia said on Aug 2, 2011 at 1:34 PM,


"""Waiting for Godot is less of a drag than waiting for Russell and Gregory."""

---------------

AntonyIndia,


Great analogy.


Also, with regards to waiting for Russell and Gregory, the phrase '. . . til Hell freezes over . . . ' comes to mind. Cheers!

John

Aug 2, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

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