Thursday, July 29, 2010

CRU Hack: One Lingering Question

In the mucked stirred up by the CRU hack, one denialist talking point has risen to the surface:

...the Russell inquiry did not ask Jones whether he deleted any email. Russell's report cites two of the most damning deletion requests, then declares: "There seems clear incitement to delete emails, although we have seen no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a[n FoIA] request already made."

Note the distinction between deleting emails in respect to a request already made, and deleting emails because someone might make an FoIA request to see them--something which, if I am remembering correctly, would not be illegal under U.K. law.

In any case--whatever the Russell inquiry did or did not ask--New Scientist recently put this very question to Phil Jones:

Phil, did you delete any emails out of concern that they might be the subject of FOI requests?

PJ I haven't deleted any emails that were the subject of FOI requests, but I have deleted emails because I just have too many to cope with. I'm deleting 50 every day at the moment. It would be very difficult to guess what might be asked for in the future so I don't go around deleting emails just because they might be asked for at some point.

So there you have it.


Mark Richard Francis said...

Oh, he's doomed. The inevitable hed to come:


40 years out, we still hear about how the moon landing was faked. 'Climategate' will never go away.

Gerrard787 said...

Took long enough to answer. How is it that the Russell inquiry never asked the question?

I am unsure what Phil Jones means by his comment that he has too many e-mails to "cope" with. We all do, but it takes more time to delete e-mails then to ignore them.

Are we to take his word that he didn't delete any damaging e-mails? That type of answer wouldn't fly in the business world.

Niles said...

When litigation is opened, any data sources in the party with the faintest chance of being relevant to the investigation, are potential producible evidence. In many companies, there are designated authorities to STOP disposal of data when a litigation flag goes up, rather like a lockdown, so the corporated body cannot be accused of dumping things that are producible. The courts really, really, are not generous towards those that go oopsie, teehee sorry.

That said, depending on what a person's position is inside an organization they can *easily* have their email folders stuff to the rafters in a day -- mostly with CRAP. (anyone here end up playing "do NOT hit -reply to all- you MORONS!!!" It's a horror show. Add to that substituting email for an informal interchat program (which many orgs don't have yet)

My rambling has to do with the fact courts are aware of shit like this and the fact many organizations don't have filters that can autosort emails by retention schedules for tagged individuals.

Anyone who says it takes more time to delete emails than it does to ignore them,

a/ hasn't had IT beating down the door to empty your fu**ing email folders because you won't get any NEW email until you do...
b/ hasn't had the fun of arranging transfer of emails into other forms of data storage instead of deleting them, while convincing IT you need to save *everything*, damn the storage space/costs, because some contrarian whiner might demand to see your toothbrush someday.
c/ apparently has no IT serviced email back up that saves/restores everything in your account up to a certain date, just in case. Past a certain date, you are legally allowed to dispose. There are policies and procedures for every modern major general out there.

Also, if he makes a statement that he didn't delete any 'damaging' emails, first you would need to define 'damaging' by a legal standpoint, then the consistency of the organization's email practises would be measured against legal requirements for data management and the timeline involved. If the 'suspect's' email methods are not found irregular, then yeah to paraphrase a mountain into a teacup, his word is what happens. There's a little thing called "Good Faith" out there in corporate/legal land. Yes, officially, when actual auditing and litigation is going on-in-the-business-world.

If someone wants to contend that this profoundly perfidious professor DID delete 'damaging' emails, whatever the hell those would be, cough up proof. Proof talks, whingeing walks. A baseless accusation is something that can either be considered slander or libel.

I am sorry if I've merely repeated other people's already well thought out points.

Niles said...
This comment has been removed by the author.