Saturday, November 21, 2009

Were the CRU materials hacked—or leaked?

Now the story about this CRU material is that a server was hacked: but what if that is not the case?

Although he is careful to state that he knows "nothing of the provenance of the that is not in the public domain", Steve McIntyre seems to be implying that the file is, in fact, one that was examined under his FoI request.
On Nov 18, 2009, I received the letter attached below from Jonathan Colam-French, Director of Information Services of UEA, turning down my appeal. The letter is dated Nov. 13, 2009. In the letter refusing the appeal, Colam-French says that he consulted a file on the matter.

Now consider the following chronology.

On Nov 17, 2009 at 9.57 pm occurred the first public notice of the 63 MB CRU file entitled “” came at Jeff Id’s blog by a poster called “FOIA”, who stated:
We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.

We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents. Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.

The file contained emails up to and including Nov 12, 2009 (the most recent is 1258053464.txt) the day prior to the date on the letter refusing the appeal.

So, what if this material did not come from a server being hacked but was, in fact, the FoI file that was deliberately leaked by someone at UAE?

This BBC news story contains the following quote from someone at CRU.
"We are aware that information from a server used for research information in one area of the university has been made available on public websites," the spokesman stated.

"Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm that all of this material is genuine.

"This information has been obtained and published without our permission and we took immediate action to remove the server in question from operation.

"We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation and we have involved the police in this enquiry."

Indeed. I am not going to go into the meaning of the word "hacked" in this context, but it is worth noting that I have heard many people—especially non-technical types—frequently use the word to mean "unauthorised release of material" rather than actual coder hacking.

However, were I to realise that certain sensitive material had been released into the public, I think that I might want to say that it was "hacked" in order to cast doubt on its authenticity.

Now, this is all just the wildest surmise but ain't it fun to speculate...?

UPDATE: it seems that The Examiner has come to the same conclusion.
The anonymous tipster, whom many people initially assumed had "hacked" into the computers at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (repeatedly called the "Hadley CRU," by mistake), might in fact be a CRU insider who released the files for his own reasons.

A lot more links are supplied in that article—this theory seems to be gaining currency.

UPDATING: a list of The Kitchen posts, so far, concerning this is posted below:
  1. Climate Alarmism revealed

  2. A selection of emails: Dr Keiller complains

  3. Real Climate responds

  4. Summarising the salient points of the emails

  5. The Englishman speculates

  6. Follow the money

  7. Harrabin leads the BBC fightback

  8. Random scandals: a conversation on dendroclimatology

  9. A note on the authenticity of the data

  10. Hacked? Or leaked?

And, just as a reminder, feel free to browse the searchable database.


Chris Gilmour said...

What difference will it all make anyway?

In a week's time the world will still be the same. Fuel duty still making petrol unaffordable, electrity bills still way above the actual cost of gas, uncle Gordon still making reckless proclaimations about the state of the global climate.

Just less faith in our elected leaders.

Anonymous said...

This might help resolve how these emails came to be released. From The Market Ticker:

Anonymous said...

What may be going on is someone getting well and truly frustrated by the way the research project is going. Research like this, you see, tends to operated with junior members of the team doing most of the dirty work, and senior members overseeing and incidentally taking most of the glory. If something goes wrong, the supervisors often distance themselves from the poor schmo doing the work and land him with the blame.

From the tone of the comments files here, the source code looks to have been a complete dog's dinner and the actual raw data is a mass of suppositions, fudges, fiddle-factors and dirty hacks. Any junior researcher when confronted with this would initially try to sort out the mess, then try to fudge the thing into some sort of order, and I hypothesise then finally realised that the whole thing was too bodged-up to repair and decided to cut his losses and run.

Leaking all this email and all this data was his way of doing the deed. Odds are this whistleblower, if caught, will never do research again but if this is the quality of the research in the field of climate science, then the putative whistleblower probably doesn't want to know any more.

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