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Discussion > FOISA Request for "Insulting/Embarrassing" Emails

BB, now you’re just making stuff up as you go along. That isn’t a “reasonable guess at the sequence [of] events” at all. If Dr W had already deleted the emails, I’m sure that at some point he would have said so and the University would have passed this information on. Even if he had done so, it’s extremely unlikely that they would have been deleted from the main server. Possible of course, but unlikely. However, since neither Dr W nor the University has made any mention of the emails being deleted at any point, I think it’s safe to assume that they weren’t. Therefore, in light of the evidence presented so far, we are free to draw our own conclusions on the veracity of Dr W’s claims.

You also have a very strange interpretation of the word “harass”. Since when was trying to ensure that a person, or body of persons, comply with the law harassment? How odd.

May 2, 2013 at 4:08 PM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

Laurie Childs, yes of course I'm making it up. So are you and so is everyone else who proffers an explanation.

You think it unlikely that mails are deleted from the server. Why? Is that a guess or do you have details of Dr W's mail setup? You must know from your own experience that you can set your mail client to delete mail once it has been collected. Equally if the mail is going into a UNIX mail spool and the client deletes it, it is gone. The relevant blocks are almost certainly on the disk for some time thereafter, but you'd have to use tools that the average user doesn't have to get them back - and why would you bother calling someone in for something so trivial?

My guess is that Dr W came to the Hill used to being treated with a good deal of respect by his colleagues and students and expected the same here. When he didn't get it and then into the bargain got rude emails he was probably quite shocked. Getting an FOI request for things he'd deleted could well have been the last straw and decided, "to hell with BH, I want nothing more to do with them"**. People can be quite stroppy once they've been offended (whether you think taking offence was justified or not) and the Uni is certainly on his side, not yours. And they all doubtless considered the issue far too trivial to be bothered with - which indeed it was and is.

** pedants beware, not an actual quote

May 2, 2013 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

BB - "My guess is..."

No need to guess - go and read the thread.

May 2, 2013 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Martin A, did Rob say he'd deleted the mails? I seem to remember you told him on line, luckily for him as he was getting deeper and deeper into the mire, so it enabled him to huff off. Then there's the mystery of why the Uni wouldn't let you have the emails, if one of its lecturers was hectored or threatened it had everything to gain by giving you the emails and SFA to lose. The only reasonable explanation is there were none, or the Uni IT people are incapable of retrieving a deleted email, which would be odd.
May 2, 2013 at 3:46 PM geronimo

Geronimo - Yes, I announced online that I'd made an FOISA request for the emails. Unless his FOI officer was asleep at the wheel, Dr Wilson would have already heard it from his FOI officer who would have phoned him immediately to brief him on what to do/what not to do.

No, at no stage, neither on BH, nor to me, nor to the Commissioner, did anyone from the University ever say that the emails had been deleted.

Had they been deleted but this was not mentioned to the Commissioner, they'd have known they could face criminal charges if it subsequently came to light that the emails had been received - and they would have had no way of knowing that the senders of such mails would not pop up and gleefully reveal that they really had been sent. This fantasy can simply be disregarded.

At the time, I imagined that, had Dr Wilson genuinely received some insulting emails, he would have forwarded them to Andrew Montford, with whom he seems to be on cordial terms, and asked Andrew to sort it out. Or he could simply have posted them on BH, with senders information redacted.

Neither of these things happened, so at once I smelt something funny going on - as did several other commenters.

I had assumed that my FOISA request would quickly result in the release of several emails which would be either insulting or juvenile and silly. That they did not exist at all seemed unlikely to me at the time..

When my FOISA was refused for bogus reasons, I changed my opinion and began to think that either:

[a] The emails did exist but were only borderline "insulting/embarrassing" and therefore it would be mildly embarrassing for Dr Wilson for them to be released.

[b] They did not exist at all, though, at the time, I thought this was very unlikely.

When my requested review again rejected my request for the emails, I began to think that maybe they really did not exist. At that point, the University was risking a Commissioner's judgement against them as they were giving reasons for not giving me the emails that were obviously invalid.

When the University finally released two emails, after being instructed to do so by the Commisisoner, neither of which was in any way insulting nor embarrassing, and only one of which pre-dated my FOISA request, I really was quite surprised. But that's how it is.

So far as I can see, there is no rational explanation other than, notwithstanding Dr Wilson's statement on BH, that he received not a single "insulting/embarrassing" email from BH commenters.

As I suggested above, my suggestion is not to use further keystrokes/bandwidth addressing BB's fantasies any further. He's not going to change his view nor concede anything.

May 2, 2013 at 6:26 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

MartinA you are a dramatist. You make it sound almost exciting, with you making your dramatic announcement and the FOI officer rushing to put Dr W in lock down mode to protect him from doing something criminal...

The reality is more mundane. How do you you read mails? For me it is something like, Open mail, hmm rubbish - delete, delete again, ah that is interesting I'll read that more carefully later, next, hmm next, delete, delete, delete.

See the pattern there - I delete most of it. Some are interesting and are kept, some are just kept, most are deleted. Am I unique in this? You believe Dr W is different in that he does not delete things he finds useless or offensive.

You say, "...and they would have had no way of knowing that the senders of such mails would not pop up and gleefully reveal that they really had been sent". Think about that. If as I imagine, deletion took place immediately, such consideration is void. You then announce your FOI request, so after that nobody has an interest in embarrassing himself by claiming to have sent a foul mouthed email. And if he does how and why does he prove it - show the world his email account thus identifying himself and proving that such emails were indeed sent? And now? What does anyone stand to gain from making such a claim now that you have the hammer you sought with which to bash Dr W?

You theorise that Dr W would have forwarded to AM. So lets see: Dr W: Andrew, I received some nasty emails. AM: Let's have a look,... no, none of then is a subscriber or registered user. Nothing I can do really but I can issue a dressing down to the troops if you like... Dr. W, no I'll give them a stern telling off in my next post. That should sort them out!

AM could of course confirm whether discussions about emails took place, but he might consider it a breach of confidentiality... My guess is that this FOI request is just an embarrassment for him. He would most likely be very happy if BH could become the 'go to' place for scientists to discuss their work with 'sceptics', but with petty-minded FOI requests being a danger of participation, such an outcome must be much less likely.

May 2, 2013 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Now,... Mr Bitbucket would know a lot about timewasting now, wouldn't he?

May 2, 2013 at 11:08 PM | Registered Commentershub

BitBucket - you are floundering. Give it a rest.

May 2, 2013 at 11:25 PM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

Of course, it's always open to Rob Wilson to clarify things if he considers that Martin A's account is inaccurate.

May 3, 2013 at 12:33 AM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Calling Rob Wilson.

May 3, 2013 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

BB's replies seem to suggest that he has never worked in an organisation with a data retention policy. How surprising is that! The idea that deleting an email from a corporate account makes the email vanish is, frankly, a ludicrous conjecture and implies that nothing he says on this matter should be taken seriously.

May 3, 2013 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

There are some serious disconnects between the world that BB inhabits and the reality that the rest of us know. His postings in this thread give examples.

May 3, 2013 at 2:45 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Diogenes, it was not a corporate setup but a university. And nobody looked for backups squirrelled away on a server, they asked Dr W to hand over what he had.

May 3, 2013 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Andrew Montford, if you read these threads, it would be very interesting to know your opinion of the usefulness and propriety of this witch-hunt and whether it embarrasses or has embarrassed you.

May 3, 2013 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

BB, AM ought to be interested to know which if any BH commenters send threatening emails. I'd think you could us that for ammo too, as it supports a contention you regularly make without proof. Don't you want to expose the guilty? It does not seem sensible for Martin to pursue the question unless he waned to find this out. Doesn't the fact that no emails were forthcoming mean we are all left hanging? Doesn't that bother you? It makes the AGW bunch look shifty that they can never substantiate this kind of claim.

May 3, 2013 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

May 3, 2013 at 1:30 PM diogenes

"Your mail folders are automatically backed up centrally..."

[St Andrews IT Facilities guide for staff]

May 3, 2013 at 4:26 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A ,

Bang goes another of Bucket's attempts to make argumentative bricks without straw.

May 3, 2013 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Yikes! There goes my argument! MartinA has found the user guide. And yes, here it is, "mail folders are automatically backed up centrally". Damnation! But wait! What is this? "You are responsible for ensuring that your email, documents and other University data are all securely backed up" - how can that be when they just said it was centrally backed up? And what's this, "Data held on the Central File Store is backed up daily by us" - could that mean that it is done once a day? I bet those crafty IT guys have figured out how to backup just after offensive emails are received or just before Dr W can hit the delete key. So they must be on the backup tapes, unless, what's this, "The backup tapes are only kept for four to six weeks"... So eleven months seems like a stretch.

Your selective quotation skills are impressive Martin. You would make a good climate 'sceptic'.

To be fair my selective quotation may be just as dishonest as yours, as I really don't know how they operate their systems and haven't read the whole guide. They might manage to backup every mail that is received with their backup procedure, assuming it isn't really just daily. On the other hand, they don't seem to have been in a hurry to dig out the tapes, but instead just asked Dr W to hand over the goodies.

May 3, 2013 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Yeah I can sympathise with Rob Wilson being p'eed off by having to deal with - what he thinks is some ancillary communication during the day – along with what he is trying to do - trying to deal with a community he congratulates himself he is "great" for dealing with ;)

Nothing wrong with over -blowing the rhetoric like that, but this tendency is political and we all should know by now that climate today is only about politics - something Rob Wilson will never admit he has done. Or thought about :) Hence the fight ;)

Imagine it. This is hard to admit when you think of yourself as a scientist.

For instance think of the Aussie alleged “death threats” case.

I followed it with interest and became well read upon it.

I had some interesting and rewarding word-smithing sessions with Nick “Racehorse” Stokes on this very site. Talking to Nick made me realise that there is some place that is forever Narnia and that maybe that the interlocutors could never have satisfaction and it will only be flame war with the blinkered ;)

I couldn't quite put my finger on the dis-satisfaction that was clearly felt on all sides…

Until now.

Keanu Reeves Woah! Pop quiz!

Q: Bitcoins (BTC) or Climate Scientist Email Threats (CSET) are both currency’s that only exist in cyber space.

Which one of these would you invest in?


May 3, 2013 at 11:39 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

BB - stop it. You are foaming at the mouth now. Admit that you have no real life experience of a corporate email environment - which adds to all the other areas of experience of which you have no knowledge, as you freely admit. In other words, you know nothing about anything. And your opinions are worthless.

May 4, 2013 at 12:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

Wonder if BB has noticed Rob contributing on the "trust statistics" thread? Surely an impossibility in BB world?

May 4, 2013 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

"You are foaming at the mouth now."

Not a pretty sight. Floundering was the word I used.

May 4, 2013 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

The emails aren't "backed up" in the sense that the admin goes into the computer and copies the email folders, Outlook, or some other PC mail system interacts with the mail server run by the university IT department, so all mails outgoing and incoming, pass through that mail server where they are stored, and kept sine die by transferring onto discs if more memory is needed. Hence, if Rob had deleted the mail it is only on his own PC, the copy is on the university mail server and is not deleted. Rob could have deleted his "nasty" emails, but they're still on the mail server. In short he received one email saying he worked for the taxpayer not the EU, which must have frightened the bejasus out of him.

I thought we'd plumbed the depths of little bucker's ignorance, but apparently we've only scratched the surface. He gives new depths to the meaning of the word "shallow".

May 6, 2013 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Just seen this thread, well done Martin A. As so often with climate scientists, the terms "dishonest" and "juvenile" spring to mind.

May 6, 2013 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterSJF

Geronimo, it took you 4 days (since your last post) to find out how the mail server might work but I'm ignorant for not knowing it... Sure.

May 6, 2013 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket


Yes you are ignorant for not knowing that the situation described by geronimo is the norm for just about all corporate email regimes. Why not stop digging?

May 6, 2013 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes