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« Shutting down the police | Main | Licensed to thrill - Josh 195 »

Acton's blind eye

Readers may recall that at the Science and Technology Committee hearings into Climategate, Professor Acton told MPs that when he had discovered that the Russell inquiry had failed to investigate the question of breaches of FOI legislation, he had instituted his own inquiry which had determined that Jones and Briffa had not in fact deleted emails subject to FOI.

This was widely assumed at the time to have been the standard mealy-mouthed UEA response, which neatly avoided addressing whether emails had been illegally withheld (as opposed to deleted). This supposition was strongly reinforced by the Climategate 2 emails which confirmed that Briffa and Jones had systematically hidden emails to prevent their disclosure under FOI.

These questions all came up again at the Information Tribunal on Tuesday, when Acton waxed lyrical about the written statements he had received from Jones and Briffa confirming that they had not deleted emails subject to FOI. These statements, he assured the Tribunal, had been signed in good old-fashioned blue ink. Unfortunately, he went on to explain, they had subsequently been lost.

David Holland had subsequently questioned Acton about the possibility that there had been concealment and Acton, if I recall correctly, had said that this had been ruled out too.

Today, however, UEA's legal team wrote to the Tribunal to say that they have uncovered a draft of the statements - no signatures, but perhaps more importantly, no mention of withholding emails without deleting them.

Everybody, but everybody knows that staff at UEA were systematically withholding emails subject to FOI. Acton knew, or if he didn't, he knows now. Which then raises the awkward question of why nobody at UEA has lost their job.

Is criminal behaviour no bar to advancement at UEA? It would appear that way.

Briffa statement

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Reader Comments (73)

Does Climategate email 2526 refer?

Jan 18, 2013 at 7:43 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

It would seem (for the nth time) that the people accused of deception and misrepresentation are being allowed free passage on their own recognisance, without any evidence being actually presented.

It's not unreasonable to say that this makes a mockery of accountability.

The weaving, ducking & swerving continues. Another truckload of whitewash delivered to UEA-CRU

Jan 18, 2013 at 7:54 PM | Registered Commentertomo

Nonetheless, the perimeter tightens. As does the noose they've placed on themselves.

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

No "Created" or "Modified" dates?

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:01 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

This may be where Prof Acton's recollection of blue ink came from. It was disclosed at on 6 December 2012, but not sent today to the Tribunal today:

It is obviously what was sent to the SciTech Committee.

Green Sand well spotted!

Interestingly, in his letter of 26 July 2010, asking Prof Briffa for his statement, Prof Acton wrote,

Following your meeting with Trevor Davies earlier today, I would therefore like your written reassurance on some of the concerns that have been thrown up.

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Why all these sudden discoveries now? Is anybody putting pressure on Briffa?

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:11 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Now whose hard drive or pen drive were the draft statements located I wonder.

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Remember these guys crave respect to such a heightened degree that is beyond any actual achievement that could possibly deserve it - so it is clear they must hope and pray that their real disdain for transparency remains forever hidden.
Part of their tactic is publicly portraying themselves as only responding to “denier” attacks and to say everyone else is hunky-dory. It is clearly a futile task on their part but I think one must expect many years to pass before the real paucity of their worth is shown.

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:17 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

' Unfortunately, he went on to explain, they had subsequently been lost.'

Lost for words!

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterLosferwords

Briffa's statement is interesting for what it doesn't say.

"Taken files home for safekeeping", for example.

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

" say that they have uncovered a draft of the statements..."
Please tell us you can get hold of the doc history on these 'drafts'.

Jan 18, 2013 at 8:45 PM | Unregistered Commentersnotrocket

Very carefully worded...

RE: deleting: "...not knowingly the time..." - although the CG emails tend to suggest otherwise, this wording seems to indicate that he is claiming he MAY have done so where he was unaware of an FOIA. Very difficult to prove he KNEW about the FOIA when he did it, especially given that the documents are no longer available to look at their timestamps!

RE: asking for deletion: "...I will not..." - no mention here of "have not", which given the previous statement of "...have not...and will not..." seems to indicate he has done so in the past.

As a sysadmin for a hosting company, I am extremely surprised that the UEA does NOT appear to have - or at least to keep for extended periods - log files of who deleted what and when, given that the mechanisms to do so are trivially easy to implement. Perhaps they DO keep this information, but nobody has ever asked for it? I would certainly be keeping such from now on if was them - if nothing else, it would allow them to reply to FOIA's with things such as "...was deleted from our server on 12th Jan 2011 and is therefore no longer held by us"

Jan 18, 2013 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterKneel

The real culture of openness (not) is revealed in email 0344


'> Ben,
> 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.
> One issue is that these requests aren't that widely known within
> the School. So
> I don't know who else at UEA may be getting them. CRU is moving up
> the ladder of
> requests at UEA though - we're way behind computing though. We're away
> of
> requests going to others in the UK - MOHC, Reading, DEFRA and
> Imperial College.
> So spelling out all the detail to the LLNL management should be
> the first thing
> you do. I hope that Dave is being supportive at PCMDI.
> The inadvertent email I sent last month has led to a Data
> Protection Act request sent by
> a certain Canadian, saying that the email maligned his scientific
> credibility with his peers!
> If he pays 10 pounds (which he hasn't yet) I am supposed to go
> through my emails
> and he can get anything I've written about him. About 2 months ago
> I deleted loads of
> emails, so have very little - if anything at all. This legislation
> is different from the FOI -
> it is supposed to be used to find put why you might have a poor
> credit rating !
> In response to FOI and EIR requests, we've put up some data -
> mainly paleo data.
> Each request generally leads to more - to explain what we've put
> up. Every time, so
> far, that hasn't led to anything being added - instead just
> statements saying read
> what is in the papers and what is on the web site! Tim Osborn sent one
> such
> response (via the FOI person) earlier this week. We've never sent
> programs, any codes
> and manuals...

> ...When you look at CA, they only look papers from a handful of
> people. They will start on another coming out in The Holocene early
> next year. Gavin
> and Mike are on this with loads of others. I've told both exactly
> what will appear on
> CA once they get access to it!
> Cheers
> Phil

The other solution to the culture of openness problem is hinted at in the subject title of email 0450 Between Brian Hoskins of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Keith Briffa date: Tue Jul 15 10:27:10 2008

'from: Keith Briffa <REDACTED>
subject: Re: no details by email
to: Brian Hoskins'

concerns 'FOI requests we have received from Holland'

Jan 18, 2013 at 9:43 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Dear UEA,

I would recommend that you continue to use the Armstrong defence. Try to destroy the career and reputation of anyone who spots that you are lying. It works really well for a few years.

Best of luck.

James Evans

Jan 18, 2013 at 9:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Some may call it silver-tongued, but to me, Briffa’s tongue has more of an autumnal tinge.

Dear Edward
I am writing..first to thank you for your kind remarks ... and for your appreciation of my own small role. I also note the concern felt by yourself and the University ... a culture of openness and, of course, complete compliance with the spirit and letter ... For my part I wish to assure you that I have not knowingly... and will not do so in the future. I also assure you that I will not suggest to anyone that they should ... I will use whatever means at my disposal to encourage greater openness and pro-active compliance ... With best wishes,
Keith R Briffa
I’ve sometimes thought maybe I was too harsh on him, e.g. at
But this is pure pantomime.`

“Look behind yer! it’s on the stick!”

Jan 18, 2013 at 9:47 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

One wonders if these buffoons are starting to wish they had not been given so much rope.

Jan 18, 2013 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

To coin no phrase at all, Acton is a real piece of work. I look forward to the day when he is drummed, howling and humiliated, out of office, his reputation sliced into tiny pieces.

Jones, being merely smug rather than smart, is a different matter, a victim rather than the orchestrator. But his supine willingness to go along with the clear deceit will do for him no less certainly.

It's beginning to look positively Shakespearean.

Jan 18, 2013 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

Note that Briffa uses the construct of "did not and will not" when discussing deleting emails but uses the construct "will not" when discussing directing others to delete. I'd like to know whether he directed others in the past to delete emails.

Jan 18, 2013 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMpaul

You've got to hand it to UEA, their record-keeping is consistent. Consistently abysmal, that is. Whether it's temperature data, email archives or inquiry papers, they seem to constantly lose things.

I envision an enormous shoebox kept in the Vice Chancellor's office, marked "UEA Stuff". It contains all the university's records, except those that went through the wash in someone's pockets, blew away in the wind or were thrown out last time someone moved offices.

Jan 18, 2013 at 10:24 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna


I envision an enormous shoebox.....


Jan 18, 2013 at 10:31 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

"Whether it's temperature data, email archives or inquiry papers, they seem to constantly lose things."

Yeah they sure do, but they found the lost statement quite quickly.

Jan 18, 2013 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

I was going to suggest that they are very good at losing things when it is convenient for them, then I remembered "HARRY READ ME".

The real scandal is that an organisation which is demonstrably incompetent from top to bottom is regarded as having some credibility,indeed its works and employees are some of the central pillars of the CAGW scam.

Jan 18, 2013 at 10:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

... and talking of lost stuff. The undertaking signed by Acton:

Ref: ENF0280278

I, Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia (the “UEA”), for and on behalf of the University, hereby acknowledge the details set out below and undertake to comply with the terms of the following Undertaking:

1. The University is a public authority as defined in section 3(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the “Act”), and regulation 2 (2) of the Environmental Regulations 2004 (the “Regulations”).

2. The Information Commissioner, having regard to complaints made to him under section 50 of the Act; the findings of Sir Muir Russell’s Inquiry; and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s report into the “disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia” (Eighth Report of Session 2009–10), considers that the University need take further steps to ensure that both current and future requests for information are dealt with appropriately. In particular he considers that a public statement of intent, facilitated by this Undertaking, will provide assurance that the University has embraced the culture of openness and transparency the legislation seeks to promote.

3. The relevant provision of the Act is section 1 “the general right of access to information held by public authorities”.

4. The relevant provision of the Regulations is regulation 5 “the duty to make available environmental information on request”.

5. Following consideration of the processes in place at the University prior to November 2009, and additional steps implemented since that time it is agreed that the Commissioner will not exercise his powers under section 48 of the Act or regulation 16 of the Regulations to issue a practice recommendation provided the University undertakes the following:

The University shall, as from the date of this Undertaking and for so long as similar standards are required by the Act, the Regulations or other successor legislation, ensure that requests for information are handled in accordance with Section 1 of the Act and regulations 5 and 11 of the Regulations. Internal reviews are to be handled in accordance with part VI of the section 45 Code of Practice, or regulation 11 of the Regulations as appropriate. In particular the authority shall take steps to ensure that:

(1) All staff, where appropriate, receive adequate and proportionate training on the requirements of the legislation so they are able to understand its purpose and intent, and that advanced training be mandatory for staff whom have direct responsibility for the handling of information requests;

(2) The University review its present systems for the archive, storage and retrieval of emails with particular emphasis on reducing the prevalence of localised procedures and instilling a common standard of approach. This should be supported by an action plan for developing or revising polices and procedures to cover any existing gaps in provision;

(3) The importance of good records management is embedded into the Universities information management processes, procedures and culture;

(4) Where gaps in the provision exist, the University take steps to improve the understanding of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

Dated: 10 December 2010

Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia

Dated: 21 December 2010

Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner

seems to have disappeared from the internet. It is not on the ICO website nor can I find it using the wayback machine (Maurizio?).

Above is my contemporaneous copy.

Jan 18, 2013 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

The submission by the Institute of Physics to the science and technology committee pulls no punches at all about the culture at CRU.

Jan 18, 2013 at 11:07 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

How many years will it be before one of the Climatgate Culprits appears on the Oprah Winfrey Show?

Jan 18, 2013 at 11:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

That undertaking rather destroys the well worn warmist meme that UEA did nothing wrong.
For a University vice chancellor to be forced to sign something that humiliating something had to be very wrong indeed with the organisation. It's no wonder Phil Jones has been very quiet since - I bet his Interview Without Coffee was something he will remember for a long time.

Jan 18, 2013 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterNW

I wonder how many ulcers there are out there? I can't see how these people can sleep at night, and by day they must be mired in worry, too. Coming clean would ease their burden - some of them must be thinking it.

Jan 18, 2013 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterA.D. Everard

What exactly is the status of the unsigned letter that is presented with Keith Briffa's name on it?

IMO it is possible it was drafted for his signature and that he declined.

Jan 18, 2013 at 11:52 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I urge all to review this early PR from UEA just after the CG1 release, to consider just how many untrue and/or misdirected statements could be uttered in one document:

Jan 19, 2013 at 12:04 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Lying to the face
Of the Parliamentary Mum.
Harness up the horses,
There's drawing to be done.

Jan 19, 2013 at 12:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

'Is criminal behaviour no bar to advancement at UEA? It would appear that way.'

In the name of keeping all that lovely funding coming it what do you think . But if it all goes wrong they better be careful who they throw to the wolves, even lowly admin person can now more than you think .

You need to understand the importance of CRU to the university, a second rate place know for nothing more than its 'writing courses , included ironically fiction , before the gory days of 'climate doom ' CRU and its 'work ' brought them a status and attention they could otherwise never have got . Now having put all those eggs in that basket , if it falls the mess it will create will spread all over the university and take a long time to clean up . Hence Acton's actions .

Jan 19, 2013 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Pharos your link to the Institute of Physics document is broken

Jan 19, 2013 at 1:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeH1946

Lord Actaeon.

Jan 19, 2013 at 1:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

MikeH1946 --
Link not broken, just ran over the edge. Try this instead.

Jan 19, 2013 at 3:00 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

"I also assure you that I will not suggest to anyone that they should delete emails or files subject to similar requests under FOIA or EIR."

"Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith [Briffa] will do likewise."

Peas are rolling around on the table. Perhaps Bob Ward will be called in to help out with the logic? Or perhaps the nice man from News International?

Jan 19, 2013 at 7:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Records of FOI enquiries at UEA posted online as above are divided into sections which include "animal research" and "other research". Climate enquiries are not recorded separately - I wonder why?

Jan 19, 2013 at 8:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Undeniably, there is rampant finagling and gross statistical chicanery, much in keeping and totally in cahoots with their bros down in Exeter.
Covering it all up and denying any knowledge is a criminal offence, is it not?

Well it would be for us ordinary mortals - but in the brave new world Britain now inhabits - which is now a province of the greater Brussels empire - academic institutions pursing a blatant political agenda receive unlimited immunity from all and any prosecution.

Viva La Revolucion!

Jan 19, 2013 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.


Providing misleading information, knowing it to be misleasding, is an offence under the Fraud Act 2006. The Serious Fraud Office wouldn't touch it unless it is a big financial fraud. The local poilce would have to investigate, if someone lodged a complaint. And we all know how well the Norfolk Constabulary would pursue the issue.

Jan 19, 2013 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby


Thank you for posting that link. The memorandum submitted by the Institute of Physics should have been enough to trigger a complete review of 'Climate Science' in this country, the advice given to politicians and the legislation that resulted from it.

That link should be posted anywhere an apologist for the UEA and CRU pops up.


Jan 19, 2013 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

I searched for part of the link, but didn't pick up HaroldW's link until after I worked it out myself.

Here it is for anyone doing a partial search:

and then add


Jan 19, 2013 at 11:31 AM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Link problems

Links don't always wrap in this setup but invisibly run on. I've never had a problem grabbing them by holding left click on through to the next line to capture the invisible part, then right click and copy. If this is done, my original link works.

Allowing for this problem, it is always a good idea when pasting a link to leave an open line both above and below the link. I've still not learnt (too lazy) how to hotlink a link.

Jan 19, 2013 at 11:57 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

About 2005, the UK gov hired consultants to determine why the gov's efforts to enlist the public support for climate change was failing. This group were consultants to advertising companies that had a failed advertising campaign. They provided a report and it was on a web site.

Can anybody help me find this? It was buried, but IIRC I originally got the link from someone at this site.

I wanted to read it again. With all the dancing by UEA, I think the article had some advice about conduct that would put a light on the recent revelations.

Jan 19, 2013 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Pittman

Hi John

Is this Futerra BS from 2005 what you are looking for?

Jan 19, 2013 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

Incidentally, Futerra do not seem to realise that Mark Twain was joking when he wrote, "Everbody complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it."!

Jan 19, 2013 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

Futerra of course are still going Strong - Sell the Sizzle - And - New Rules - New Games (quote deniers, these guys haven't gone away)

Jan 19, 2013 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Jan 19, 2013 at 11:57 AM | Pharos

Your suggestion worked in IE, but I couldn't get it to work in Chrome.

Jan 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

I'm told Chrome has 'issues'.

Jan 19, 2013 at 1:02 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Phillip Bratby @10:17 AM

I'm involved in another situation that resonates strongly with the UEA business. The police understandably do a public interest cost benefit / political assessment of any action and as we can see, public bodies are treated with "kid gloves". In our case the police asked the EA boss who assured them that his officials always acted entirely properly - so everything was fine ... move along..

This does not mean that a criminal action cannot be started - and indeed, the mechanisms (albeit a bit rusty and in need of a squirt of WD40) are in place for citizens to prosecute criminality with actually low financial risk to themselves once the viability of any charges is established AIUI the practice of private criminal prosecution was the prevailing method in the 19th century and much of that is still actually in place...

We have reached a place where the option to prosecute individual officials in a public body vs. years of institutional legal thrashing up through the European system looks like a sane option and also feels like a good remedy for dealing with criminal acts perpetrated by individuals rather than the organisation itself.

Call it accountability.

Jan 19, 2013 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomO

A generalisation - and it does NOT apply to all - but having some experience as a consultant to a certain senior university just north of Saffron Walden (and the great and good of its indivuidual colleges) - it is that we proles and plebs out in the real world are to be treated a bit like Inconvenient Children - to be seen and not heard, and to be returned to watching Big Brother or TOWIE, or whatever it is we do on a daily basis, at the earliest opportunity.....
They, in the meantime, will be having learned discussions at High Table about The Meaning Of Life and REALLY shouldn't be troubled with tedious matters like record-keeping...

Jan 19, 2013 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

@Jan 18, 2013 at 9:40 PM | Kneel

Surprised? Don't be. It is clear that UAE [*UEA] had no IT standards whatsoever. No QA. No dodumentation. An ad hoc backup system at best. Student trainee programmers who noted they didn;t have a clue what they were doing, and that the data they were using was a shambles.

Had that set-up been implemented in a private company, they wouldn't have lasted six months.

Fantastic use of taxpayer money.

*[correction. BH]

Jan 19, 2013 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

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