On the status of scientists’ emails

by Judith Curry

The issue of scientists’ emails is heating up.

One would think that, following Climategate, climate scientists should expect that their emails might by made public, either through hacking or FOIA requests.

Nevertheless, more than 6 years later, the debate continues to rage over the sanctity (or not) of climate scientists’ emails.

Paul Thacker

The flag bearer for the latest push to make scientists’ emails available for public scrutiny is journalist Paul Thacker, who sits on the ‘warm’ side of the climate debate.  A few days ago, Thacker wrote an op-ed in the NYTimes Scientists give up your emails.  Excerpts:

NOAA has denied this request, and some within the scientific community have called Mr. Smith’s demands a witch hunt. But allowing agencies to keep secret the communications of scientists who work for the government sets a dangerous precedent. Some of what we know about abusive practices in science — whether it concerns tobacco, pharmaceuticals, chemicals or even climate change — has come from reading scientists’ emails.

Last August, a colleague and I wrote an article on the importance of transparency in science for one of the blogs of the science journal publisher PLOS. The argument was fairly simple: When research is paid for by the public, the public has a right to demand transparency and to have access to documents related to the research. This might strike most people as reasonable.

Our article promptly came under attack by several scientists and by the Union of Concerned Scientists. PLOS then removed our article from its site, though left the comments about it online. Never mind that the article had been peer-reviewed and promoted on social media by PLOS. In removing the article, PLOS explained that it “was not consistent with at least the spirit and intent of our community guidelines.”

About two weeks later, this newspaper, in a Page 1 article, underscored the importance of access to scientists’ emails. Based in part on emails that had been sought by U.S. Right to Know, The Times reported that university scientists had become part of “an inner circle of industry consultants, lobbyists and executives who devised strategy on how to block state efforts to mandate G.M.O. labeling.” Similar articles appeared in The Boston Globe and in Bloomberg Business.

As interest groups on both the left and right increasingly try to politicize the scientific process, there’s little question that there will be misuse of the Freedom of Information laws that some journalists and watchdog organizations have used to uncover wrongdoing.

Scientists have been harassed in the past and no doubt will continue to be harassed in the future, just like other public servants. 

But the harassment argument should not be used as an excuse to bar access to scientific research that the public is paying for and has a legitimate interest in seeing.

Scientists who profess agreement with transparency only when it is on their terms are really not for transparency at all. The public should be alarmed.


Ronald Bailey of reason.org has an article Government-funded scientists: never hide anything from the public.  Subtitle:  Actually, science only works well when all scientists show their work. Punchline:

Earlier I was leery of possible FOIA abuse, but I now am persauded that the far greater danger is that researchers and government bureaucrats will use claims of harassment to hamper public debate and as excuses to hide information from the public that would embarrass them.

Union of Concerned Scientists

Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists has a thoughtful response:    The public interest lies in promoting transparency AND protecting scientists from harassment.  Excerpts:

Nobody—not UCS, not any credible science advocate—argues that access to scientific data and methodology should be off limits (except in narrow circumstances such as patient privacy or national security), especially when it is publicly funded. And many of us argue that we should be able to see documents that show financial relationships and any strings attached to those relationships.

Disclosure exemptions are important but should have limits

Should universities or government institutions that employ scientists be exempt from open records laws? Certainly not. Should all scientists’ emails be protected from public view? No way. Should we ensure that disclosure standards lead to accountability? Absolutely.

Those who have fully read the Freedom to Bully report and many subsequent articles should note that we consistently argue against overly broad exemptions to open records laws.

Scientists would argue that the public should be alarmed when politicians and advocates attempt to stymie scientific research they don’t like. The argument scientists and scientific societies have made, repeatedly, is that there is a public interest in disclosure and a public interest in protecting scientists from political interference and harassment. 

Do we know where the line is? Not yet. And that’s the challenge our society is grappling with. We have plenty of work to do to increase transparency in science and rid it of inappropriate influence. But that doesn’t mean we should scan every handwritten note, record every phone call, or publish every email on a website.

Where should we go from here?

For scientists, the best defense against attacks is proactive disclosure of anything that could create a real or perceived conflict of interest, especially for researchers who work on issues that are publicly high-profile or contentious. But researchers receive severely inadequate guidance on what constitutes responsible disclosure. Often, the mistakes they make are out of ignorance or carelessness rather than an attempt to hide the truth.

Together, we need to develop common disclosure standards and incentives to adopt them. The best way to avoid these costly and distracting fights is to agree on what should be disclosed and what should be kept private and develop mechanisms to encourage these standards to be embraced. This would put all researchers—public and private–on more equal footing. I think that scientists, journalists, corporations, and universities could come up with a common framework. Then, all institutions that receive government grants could be compelled to comply with that framework as a condition of receiving those grants. There are probably other enforcement mechanisms worth considering, too.

A more thoughtful balance between academic freedom and accountability will lead to better public understanding of science and policy outcomes that are more in line with the public interest. In the meantime, scientists who work on contentious issues should be prepared for all kinds of scrutiny, both justified and unjustified. 

JC reflections

During the past year, my emails at Georgia Tech have been subject to FOIA or other requests.  The first was the request made by Rep Grijalva [link], which I interpreted as a politically motivated fishing expedition since we were identified as testifying for his political opponents, letters were sent to the university presidents, and the requests were publicized by Grijalva before obtaining any information from the requests – clearly an example of harassment.

The second request was a recent one, from reporter Timothy Cama, who requested:

I request any and all records concerning communications from January 1, 2015 to the present day between earth and atmospheric sciences professor Dr. Judith Curry or anyone on her behalf, and the following:

1. Sen. Ted Cruz or anyone on his behalf
2. Sen. Jim Inhofe or anyone on his behalf
3. Anyone with an email address from the United States Congress (containing “senate.gov” or “mail.house.gov”)

In both instances, Georgia Tech Legal Affairs promptly handed over the emails; I understand that Cama was asked to pay the costs of an electronic search of my emails (the estimated cost was less than $100.)

I didn’t particularly object to Cama’s request (relative to Grijalva’s request) because this was a FOIA request sent through the normal channels (not a letter to Georgia Tech’s President, implying I had done something ‘wrong’), and was targeted at a specific topic (rather than a fishing expedition).

The third instance was  a subpoena from the Florida  in the Supreme Court case on the water wars between Georgia and Florida [link] – I identified the relevant materials myself (it took a few days).  I had absolutely no concerns about this request, and the process and deposition were rather interesting.

I have been accused in the blogosphere of taking an inconsistent stance on the Grijalva request versus Lamar Smith’s NOAA request regarding the Karl et al. paper [link].  I regarded Smith’s request as justified,  targeted at obtaining additional information regarding judgments that went into the Karl et al. paper, and to assess whether the NCEI Director (Tom Karl) had been dancing to the tune of the Obama administration.

So, 11 months after the Grijalva inquisition, where do I stand on the subject of scientists’ emails?

I have a longstanding public commitment to transparency in climate science, since my first Climategate essay [link]. Since Climategate, the situation has vastly improved – data are publicly available, as well as methods, models, and metadata.

However, given the public importance and policy relevance of much climate research, this isn’t enough.  Additional transparency is needed:

  • We badly need to know what the reasoning is (and debate) behind the IPCC’s assessment of confidence levels.  This issue was called out in the IAC review of the IPCC [link].
  • More extensive documentation of what data is ignored and why in global climate data records.
  • More extensive documentation of choices regarding methods used to ‘fix’ data biases
  • More extensive documentation on the rationale for, and actual process of, climate model calibration

Formal documentation of these deliberations and the rejected data or choices would be best; in the absence of such documentation, emails provide the main source for such information.  Journal articles with their word limits, even with supplementary information, simply do not allow for adequate documentation.

There needs to be better guidelines for providing information regarding sources of conflicts – funding sources, membership on committees and boards, etc.  But as I have written elsewhere, this is not likely to be the major source of bias [link].

And finally, I am tired of scientists whining:

  • that responding to FOIA requests is a burden.  Most govt agencies and universities have staff that will conduct the email search (this is certainly the case at Georgia Tech, where such requests are handled by legal affairs and the IT office).
  • that making scientists emails publicly available hampers the freedom to conduct unfettered research.  Get over it – if your research is funded by the government, then your materials and emails are fair game.  Keeping this in the back of your mind might even hamper the kinds of unprofessional and even unethical actions that were made apparent in the Climategate emails.

Politicians and journalists and advocacy groups are the most likely to make such requests.  FOIA requests (at least in the U.S.) is the appropriate way to make these requests.

Scientists employed by the government (e.g. NOAA), have a greater responsibility to transparency and to responding to such requests, relative to university employed scientists who receive government funding.  And of course independent scientists have no particular obligation in this regard, although many independent scientists (e.g. Nic Lewis) go above and beyond the usual requirements, by making all code and data available, and writing blog posts that go into further detail.

FOIA requests are not prima facie harassment; however the method used by Grijalva definitely constitutes harassment: publicizing the request before he receives any information, making a request that is clearly politically motivated (targeting scientists that have testified for Republicans), writing a letter to university presidents with the implication that the researchers have done something wrong, and whose request constitutes a broad fishing expedition.

I am glad to see Paul Thacker raising this issue.   I agree with Michael Halpern’s statement: “Together, we need to develop common disclosure standards and incentives to adopt them.”

412 responses to “On the status of scientists’ emails

  1. It seems that the biggest difference is that the warmists are terrified that people will read what they’ve been saying in private, and depressed by what they know they’ll find when reading skeptics’ emails.

    • The issue is certainly important, but not easy to decide. Should privacy be sacrificed to confirm what we already now know: Truth promotes more investigation in order to persuade others of its veracity. Deception tries to present itself as “settled science, case closed”!

      • For some of us, personal rights and the scientific method are almost as sacred as Catholism is to the Pope. That is why I personally regard the information recorded in exact atomic masses of ~3,000 known types of atoms as sacred:


      • Read this if you doubt that we live inside the matrix of deceit George Orwell described in a book he started writing in 1946: “Nineteen Eighty-Four”!


      • In industry, anything you write on the Company computers, any notes you take during work time wrt Company projects, all of it is open to the Company scrutiny. If they pay for your phone, your phone records are theirs to peruse. This is straightforward and no problem. Don’t want to be called on the carpet? Don’t do weird stuff!

        When government grants or salaries paid by taxpayers are involved, the same principle should apply. It’s easy. I agree that it could be burdensome, but when it is all on computers, and a computer searches for it, then it is a systems IT problem. Again, not a problem.

        The only reason anyone should complain is when they use their employers equipment, time and money for non-appropriate or internally awkward things. The solution is simple. Don’t do it. Of course, that is why Hillary Clinton used a private server, but she forgot that the information, not the server, is the property belonging to the government/people.

        In industry there is a LOT of internal disagreement. Officep politics is rampant and does influence decisions. As one of the working technical people, I know that if the higher management and Board of Directors were more clued in to what the workers think, there would be less shenanigans – things like the VW cheat programs would not have occurred.

        If someone else pays for your work, your opinions and your conclusions, they should have a right to see all of it. The only reason they would want to do so is if they think there is something “off”. They can only embarrass you if there is something in the pages they see you can’t justify. Don’t do it.

  2. Steve McIntyre

    Union of Concerned Scientists wrote:
    UCS wrote:

    Nobody—not UCS, not any credible science advocate—argues that access to scientific data and methodology should be off limits (except in narrow circumstances such as patient privacy or national security), especially when it is publicly funded.

    That is obviously not true, or at least, has not been true in the past. Santer, for example, went ballistic when I tried to use FOIA to obtain scientific data that he had refused. Similarly, Nature and other organizations and individual described use of FOIA to obtain refused data as “harassment”.

    • Looks like they have changed their tune. Especially interesting to see Paul Thacker defending FOIA (he sits on the warm side of the climate debate). A welcome change in the climate – time to formalize it.

    • Steve, you’re in Canada? It’s an interesting debate that was had here before the electon about the previous Conservative government tightly controlling what scientists could say. The thought being the new liberal government will loosen control.

      The issue in this article almost seems like the flip side of the very same coin. In Canada it was seen as the anti-environment government controlling the message and scientists looking to be freed. This discussion would seem to hinge around scientists controlling the message, free from FOIA’s and in depth scrutiny.

      The consistent thing to do would be to have transparency in the whole process so critics from all sides can fully assess the process.

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  4. Scientists have been harassed in the past and no doubt will continue to be harassed in the future… But the harassment argument should not be used as an excuse to bar access to scientific research that the public is paying for and has a legitimate interest in seeing.

    The first hurdle is that aspiring academics must not lean to the right. “One of the key reasons why the statist left has so much control over the nation is that it has succeeded in its project of taking over the education system. In particular, they have wormed their way into schools of education and use their domination of the training grounds for future teachers (many of whom aren’t particularly bright; the education curriculum repels students who don’t want to waste their time on pabulum) to impart collectivistic, pro-government, anti-market ideas in the students’ minds. ~George Leef (National Review)

  5. I’m with Judy here. Research should be in the public domain, and a lot of discussions about how to do things or present results are done by email. If someone is so bored that they want to read through my emails, they are welcome to.

  6. Your integrity and transparency are 2 of the many reasons you are held in such high regard in this field of science and by your many followers.
    Thank you.

  7. If a scientist, or his work, impacts government policy at any level, there is a need for transparent substantiation of such impact. One would expect a projection of pride in the science from a scientist whose work has such impact on many facets of the life we live. Vetting should be an everyday practice in policy creation and science publication. No excuses.

  8. It may be true, but I am doubtful that Representative Smith’s request does no have at least some “witch-hunting” elements to it. It is hard to imagine that it doesn’t.

    Part of the reason I believe this, and there may be things I am not knowledgeable of or thinking about, is why was there no fuss from Rep. Smith when UAH came out with its version 6 which made a huge adjustment to their data product? Was there a fuss and I am just not aware of it?

      • April 28th, 2015 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

      • From what I understand NOAA has provided data, methods and code to congress. Isn’t this, along with the actual published paper, at least equivalent (if not substantially more so) to a blog post??

        Also, my memory is that NOAA has also testified before congress on the results of the Karl paper (apologies if I am wrong on this). If true, were either Spencer or Christy called to testify on the adjustments they made?

    • There was no fuss about UAH for three reasons. First, they explained what and why: a better solution to the aperture problem. Second, they explained how, and have a paper in process. Third, the results better match the independently derived RSS estimates.
      There is a fuss about Karl for several reasons. Better buoy data was changed to match worse engine room intake data. The method used has high uncertainty that was not disclosed. And Rep. Smith has said he has whistleblowers inside NOAA. The refusal to turn over the relevant emails is contempt of congress, and strongly indicates NOAA has something to hide.

      This is not an irrational presumption. There were climategate emails about erasing or lessening the 1940’s blip– ‘hide’ natural variability so that warming is anthropogenic. Karl erased the pause, again ‘hiding’ natural variability. This is a consistent warmunist theme. Mann’s hockey stick and GISS homogenization are further examples. On the latter, compare the GISS global 2001 to 2016. Posted yesterday by Tony Heller at Real Science. The ‘new’ past has been cooled since 2001 twice the amount of the 2001 error bars, and twice the amount of the 2016 error bars. Manufacturing AGW by data manipulation. Just like Karl did.

    • The changes to UAH, while substantial, didn’t materially change the policy relevant conclusions that are drawn from the data set, e.g. regarding the existence of the pause.

      • I appreciate the reply. But I also find it very interesting, because it seems to me that, in climate science, just about any piece of data (and changes to data) can have policy implications.

        In this case, since UAH was adjusted down to match RSS, instead of RSS adjusting their data up to match UAH, with the result that the the pause in the lower troposphere temperature data is strengthened since both sets now agree, and they agree at the lowest trend.

        How can that not result not be used by some as a means to frame discussion of policy?

      • It certainly could be used, but it doesn’t seem to have been

      • The intent of V6 was a better solution to the aperture issue (MSU field of view given earth’s curvature). It happens to better match RSS. Both still show the pause. As do UAHv5.6 and v6.0

      • Or of you are gong to look for purely natural ‘cycles’ then the first half of a 60 year cycle. To my mind that has to be a candidate at the very least.

    • Maybe you haven’t heard of the NOAA scientist whistleblowers who have alleged to the Congressional oversight committee that that Karl et al. was influenced by politics and did not follow prescribed NOAA scientific methods and procedures. Do some research and get back to us when you are better informed. We don’t have a lot of time to waste going over this ten more freaking times for those who can’t keep up.

    • Another trolling expedition. I was about to say one skippered by Capt. Kangaroo, until I remembered he was a US Marine. Perhaps Gilligan would be the better comparison.

    • It’s too difficult to measure the progress of science from the political side (and many other issues for that matter). No surprise Smith may have missed the chance to question other data. But this is JC’s role I believe, out of political arena on the whole.

  9. making a request that is clearly politically motivated (targeting scientists that have testified for Republicans),

    Do you really think that Smith’s actions aren’t politically.motivated? I don’t think politicizing science by having Congress go after scientists emails is the way to go unless we have clear evidence for fraud or political influence/interference. It said a bad precedent that could become a slippery slope.

    • Smith said whistleblowers have come forth from within NOAA. Satisfies your concerns. It is only a witch hunt if there are no witches.

      • To say the paper was flawed and or there was political influence? Smith keeps saying that he thinks that the administration pressured Karl. I haven’t seen any evidence for that. He is still fishing for that evidence..

      • They have allegations from fellow NOAA scientist whistleblowere, yoey. They are obligated to investigate. Even if there were no allegations, the committee still has the oversight power to ask for virtually what ever they want to examine. The Constitution and Supreme Court say so. Scientists who are government employees are not exempt from Congressional oversight, period. What is it that you don’t get about that?

      • Joseph comments that he hasn’t “…seen any evidence for that.” Referring to possible Administration direction (it isn’t pressuring if NOAA fine with it) regarding publishing of the Karl paper.

        Note to Joseph: That is exactly why Smith has asked for the emails. That is where any evidence would most likely exist.

        Any bets on missing or crashed hard drives coming soon to NOAA computers and servers?

      • @Tony Banton

        “I fear you are actually serious with this.
        Since when did time run backwards??
        The start point is before the end point chronologically.
        The period is therefore chosen as a cherry-pick and is statistically worthless.”

        I am dead serious about this and your reposne shows you didn’t understand, but it’s NOT that hard. You are simply trying to work out if there is a trend in the data, but because the data is sensitive to START point, reverse the data and START at the end, on the RIGHT hand side and work backwards. Detecting a trend is insensitive to the direction you calculate data.

        The question is “how far back can you go before you get a trend that is significantly different from 0”.

        The answer to that changes each month as new data comes in. The recent El Niño has SHORTENED the period of no trend by a few months.

        Framing the question this way means you cannot be accused of cherry picking a start date since your start date is the most recent measurement. You could argue that if you make the calculation this way it will run through the 1998 El Niño which is a huge outlier, but that El Niño had a subsequent La Niña which balances that out somewhat.

        From the point of view of trying to establish a case for CO2 as a driver for warming, that needs explaining, it’s contrary to what was expected and indeed what is expected with growing emissions.

        Furthermore, Spencer and Christie corrected their error, and the UAH does not differ significantly from the RSS or the HADCRUT3 temp series, something not pointed out in the video. Did you spot it being pointed out in the video?

        It’s perfectly perfectly valid to point out that satellite record is not free from bias, instrumental or otherwise, but the implication is that S&C are somehow tying to manipulate the data, or allowing errors to show there has been no warming, without showing us how there results compare to other data sets. Given the 2 satellite sets agree with one another very well and there coverage is much more complete than land based data sets (where was the discussion of the problems with them?) then the assertion that they are “the best data we have” is fair enough.

        But as an exUKMO employee you should know and acknowledge that. I’m curious to know why you don’t.

    • Karl et al were targeted owing to the publication of a specific paper that is of policy relevance, that generated controversy in the media and blogosphere. This is very different from Grijalva targeting scientists in a fishing request because they testified for Republicans.

      • that generated controversy in the media and blogosphere

        You mean in the “skeptical” blogosphere and the right wing media, right? But of course it’s not political or motivated by bias..

      • So yoey, are you saying that it was only the right-wing and the skeptics who were concerned about Grijalvas foolishness? That would seem to imply bias on the part of everybody else. They only care when it’s their ox being gored. You always make it plain that you are not very bright or honest, yoey.

      • Karl et. al. were government employees.

        They neither have nor should have expected the right of privacy, particularly from a congressional request.

        If President Obama wanted all of their communications they would be getting uploaded to his office as soon as he put the phone down.

        It is unbelievable that people claim otherwise. You sometimes wonder what planet Karl’s defenders come from.

      • Karl is not refusing to send his emails; the NOAA administrator, I hear she’s an American hero, is so far refusing to do that.

        I doubt Karl has any fear at all about anybody looking at his emails.

      • Would refusing to comply with a Democrat run Congressional investigation of an Army guy, or an intelligence operative, or a file clerk make an agency head an American hero?

      • Don,

        I think that JCH is referring to the fact she is a former NASA astronaut. While that gets her my respect, she is currently a political appointee. One who appears to be running interference to keep her agency from possible embarrassment.

      • So yoey, are you saying that it was only the right-wing and the skeptics who were concerned about Grijalvas foolishness?

        I do think conflict of interest is important, but I don’t support going after scientists emails unless there is some reason to believe there is unethical or illegal behavior. And I don’t think there is any evidence that Dr. Curry has engaged in any unethical or illegal behavior So now that that is out of the way, are you going to actually address the substance of what I said. It is a fact that only “skeptics” and the right wing media thought there was something wrong with the Karl paper, right?

      • She’s got brass Don Don. A valley girl, Banana Slug and a geologist.

      • Wrong, yoey. Smith has cited allegations from NOAA scientists that Karl et al. was influenced by politics and violated established NOAA scientific methods and procedures. Judith has apparently heard something like that from NOAA scientists. Try dealing with reality, yoey. It will make you look a little smarter.

      • That is a ridiculous take. If they had a problem with the emails, they would have withdrawn the paper and gone into full damage control… firings.

        They have lawyers.

        What she is doing is defending a tradition.

        People fight congressional investigations. They jockey for position, and they often win concessions,not always, from the committees or from congress itself.

      • Thanks for the heads up mi amigo, horse grabber. I don’t think that formerly stellar background of accomplishments give her license to defy the authority of the people’s representatives in exercising their Constitutional oversight responsibilities. When Trump takes over, he will jail her butt. Anyway, she’s used to confined spaces.

      • She is only defying the lawful Congressional investigation because Obama and his corrupt DOJ have got her back, as barry says. If the White House were occupied by someone with a penchant for following the law, she would give it up in a New York minute. Period.

      • No Don Don, she is backing up her troops, not throwing them under the bus. I thought you sold yourself as a standup guy.

      • She took the job knowing that she and her underlings are subject to FOIA. She is defying the legal authority of the Congress. I bet she wouldn’t be doing it without assurances from the WH and the DOJ.

      • The only thing I have heard, Don, is that someone thinks it was “rushed” I haven’t seen any evidence that there was political influence or interference. If you have, I would love to see it.

      • Want data? Yes. Want records? Yes.

        Want emails? No. It’s like retroactive wiretapping.

        My concern is inhibiting frank discussion and the exchange of ideas that might put the writer in a bad light if taken out of context.

        I co-wrote a book on the Climategate emails. Once they were in the public domain there was no reason not to. However, I received the emails in advance and decided I would not publish them.

        The signature example from this experience that I would give of the danger of this is the use skeptics made of ‘Hide the decline,’ where several (many?) skeptics cut the phrase and used it out of context to mean a decline in temperatures when it clearly was not.

        In China I had ‘sensitive’ (from a business standpoint) discussions face to face at the request of people I met. Emails were presumed to be read as a matter of course. Telephone conversations were presumed to be tapped. As a foreigner I was advised that I would be a target for surveillance just on that basis. Do we want to be like China?

        Do we want scientists self-editing their brainstorms, conjectures and opinions based on a fear that some day some one will do something that prompts a FOI request?

        Doing so will negate many of the benefits the internet has brought us and will return influence to those in proximity to each other and sources of power, whether that power be over funding, publication or research directions.

        I’m not afraid of Big Brother so much as I am of a never-ending procession of information requests trying to find fault with procedure or politically incorrect speech to harass those on the other side of the fence on any issue.

        If there is prima facie evidence of wrong-doing, email correspondence can be subpoenad through existing due process. Let’s leave it at that. Unlike our hostess, I see no difference between Grijalva and Lamar Smith–in their potential effects on scientific conversation.

      • And Fuller doesn’t get it. The case we are principally discussing is a Congressional oversight investigation. Then the FOIA issues are similar. Both the Congressional oversight investigation and the application of the FOIA law are due process. What’s your problem? You want a different due process? Criminal courts?

        People who land themselves a cushy, well-paying and secure job with the federal government know when they sign on that they are subject to FOIA and Congressional oversight. If they want freedom from irrational worries over getting in trouble for brainstorms, conjectures and opinions they should go with uber.

      • thomaswfuller2 – It’s like retroactive wiretapping.

        If there is prima facie evidence of wrong-doing, email correspondence can be subpoenad through existing due process.

        Yes, exactly.

      • And Fuller doesn’t get it. The case we are principally discussing is a Congressional oversight investigation. Then the FOIA issues are similar. Both the Congressional oversight investigation and the application of the FOIA law are due process. What’s your problem? You want a different due process?

        People who land themselves a cushy, well-paying and secure job with the federal government know when they sign on that they are subject to FOIA and Congressional oversight. If they want freedom from irrational worries over getting in trouble for brainstorms, conjectures and opinions they should go with uber.

      • Do you know what prima facie evidence is, Pat? Do you think it would be necessary to see the freaking emails AFTER you have prima facie evidence? Do you really think the Congressional oversight function should require prima facie evidence before it is triggered? Do you have any idea why we have the FOIA laws on the books? People who do wrong try to hide crap from the authorities and the citizens at large. Do we need a smoking gun, a body, and freaking video before we get to look into something fishy? You people are not using your little heads.

      • > Do we need a smoking gun, a body, and freaking video before we get to look into something fishy?

        Here’s one video, Don Don:


        Do you think that would be enough to ask if any public officer kept their emails discussing some “retrieval algorithm”?

      • Thanks willard.. I had not seen that.

      • That’s a really odd question, willito. Work product emails of public employees are subject to FOIA and Congressional oversight investigation. Get over it. Stop the freaking whinging.

      • > Work product emails of public employees are subject to FOIA and Congressional oversight investigation.

        Indeed they are, Don Don, and indeed they should. There’s no need to dispute the auditability of the government to question under what conditions such audit is fit for purpose. One does not simply direct an oversight of Mordor without any rationale except cheap political gains. It would be like rerouting a proviso about slavery to create omnipotent entities now known as corporations.

        Oh, wait.

        You were talking about “prima facie evidence” and doubled down your caricature by speaking of “videos.” So I offered you to take a look at a video in which we have prima facie evidence that the satelitte “data” has been revised four times by a model, I mean an “algorithm.”

        What if there is prima facie evidence?

      • I didn’t look at your video, willito. Why should I? I have stated my position on the subject of work product of gubmint employees. Play your dumb games with somebody else.

      • It’s a slick production. Judith gets a nod in the credits, I would think unwittingly, through her performance at the recent hearing.

      • Yes, that was just my guess. Perhaps she knew and endorsed it? Which do you think?

      • Just seems like the wrong word to use in speculating on Judith’s awareness or unawareness of that, yimmy. You are generally unwitting, so I wouldn’t find it odd for that word to be associated with yourself. Anyway, we can move on.

      • It’s just a better word than unawarely which doesn’t exist, but you could use unknowingly if you prefer.

      • Don, you often make make comments that are substantively worthwhile in response to posts but are couched in inflammatory, insulting and patronising language. It’s extremely irritating. I beg you, please desist!

        It would make posts shorter, more concise, and ultimately more effective. Your reponse to Joseph here is a perfect example – you make an extremely good point but it’s lost in the tone.

      • Agnostic seems appropriate. Indecisive, uncommitted, sitting on the fence, wishy-washy, namby-pamby, etc.

        You ain’t in step with the modern culture. Heard of street cred? You don’t know what is effective. I am pretty sure you don’t like Trump, at all. Right? He is very likely going to be the next POTUS.

        Watch the comedians on BET. You will loosen up and enjoy life more. And very likely will do better with the ladies. Old school is out. Bad boy is in. You will thank me.

      • Willards video is interesting but I fund it deeply ironic that Dessler talks about confirmation bias.

        – Presumably RSS uses a different approach by a different group and it broadly confirms UAH. I haven’t looked into the details but that seems a reasonable assumption.

        – Most egregiously, the video made a lot of the STARTING point on the LEFT side but the “18 years of no warming” isn’t calculated from the LEFT side it is calculated from the RIGHT and working backwards. Starting from the most recent measurement, how far back can you go before you get a trend significantly different from 0?

        – in the video, they make the point about the large El Niño, which is far one to make but then draw a trend line from the subsequent La Niña!! Isn’t that hypocritical?

        – they mentioned artic warming, but didn’t make any mention of the Antarctic cooling.

        – they talked about incorporating all the data sets to draw a picture, and kept repeating Dr Currys trestimony that the satellite data is the best we have, without talking about the inevitable uncertain that is implied by constant adjustment, incomplete coverage from land based data sets. Every time you make an adjustment, you imply that you weren’t really sure about the measurement in the first place…that isn’t acknowledged.

        – and they repeat the argument from ignorance; since they have ruled out all natural factors, the only answer for the warming must be CO2. But they do not acknowledge that there be natural factors they do NOT know about. They essentially ruling out ignorance.

        – the video is just an attempt to discredit Drs Spencer and Christie. It’s pretty deplorably hypocritical.

      • > the video is just an attempt to discredit Drs Spencer and Christie.

        It’s rather a visual explanation as to why the notion of “satellite data” might deserve due diligence. Where’s Baseball Jim when you need him? I miss Jim.

        We don’t need no stinking video to discredit good ol’ Bud when we have NG:

        Spencer has recently dropped below my credibility threshold so don’t bother citing him here unless the work is corroborated.


        Paraphrasing Lamar, Bud needs to come clean about why he and brother John altered the data to get the results they needed to advance his reactionary agenda.

      • Bad boy is in.

        I think obnoxious is a better term for your behavior.And I don’t think “obnoxious” has or ever will be “in.”

      • That’s rather low Springer.

        You’d have been better off with just the Willard response. I’d contribute to the 5 bucks.

      • agnostic:

        “Most egregiously, the video made a lot of the STARTING point on the LEFT side but the “18 years of no warming” isn’t calculated from the LEFT side it is calculated from the RIGHT and working backwards.

        I fear you are actually serious with this.
        Since when did time run backwards??
        The start point is before the end point chronologically.
        The period is therefore chosen as a cherry-pick and is statistically worthless.
        Not least because of the non-physically enormous EN spike that is a facet of sat temp sensing. If it was put forward as evidence of real warmth what would you say?

        “in the video, they make the point about the large El Niño, which is far one to make but then draw a trend line from the subsequent La Niña!! Isn’t that hypocritical?”
        BUT, no they don’t – they draw a trend-line from a much longer period before the EN and on through it.

        What is hypocricical is calling out the surface record for “manipulation” and then obsessing over UAH/RSS as the only truth. There is nothing more manipulated than UAH (which version?). Apples and oranges.
        Oh, and they use a model, sorry algorithm. But its Ok, we’ll not question that – or the correction needed for the satellite’s falling ~1km per year.
        I mean a bod walking to a stevenson screen twice a day taking a temp reading from a thermometer and resetting them is obviously much more complicated and, well it’s on the surface as well, so it’s not the same as the TLT is it?
        And see Mosh to explain why sampling works and consider why the averaged global temp does not deviate wildly year to year if it didn’t.

        “Every time you make an adjustment, you imply that you weren’t really sure about the measurement in the first place…that isn’t acknowledged.”
        Exactly – you got it (see above).
        BUT then you’d want the MAX to be recorded twice when the following day was cooler, eh?
        Or that the record has been warmed prior to 1940 for ship>buoy changes, making overall warming less steep.

        “without talking about the inevitable uncertain that is implied by constant adjustment, incomplete coverage from land based data sets.”
        You got it again!
        Like RSS does not sample away from 70S to 82.5N ?
        But UAH tries to, despite the obvious radiance problems.

        “– and they repeat the argument from ignorance; since they have ruled out all natural factors, the only answer for the warming must be CO2. But they do not acknowledge that there be natural factors they do NOT know about. They essentially ruling out ignorance.”

        No “natural factors” are NOT ruled out. BUT when they are taken away from the record, global ave temps are still rising.
        What’s doing that? given the Sun has had slowly diminishing radiance for ~50 years?
        Plus: the Strat is cooling. What’s doing that in tandem?

        “– the video is just an attempt to discredit Drs Spencer and Christie. It’s pretty deplorably hypocritical.”

        I suggest that they discredit themselves as Mears effectively states and that it is you who are hypocritical.

        BTW: Well done your post is a classic example of the (wrong kind) of skeptic at work.

        BTW: I am a retired UKMO employee.

      • @Tony Barton

        I posted my response here:


        In the wrong spot. Basically you haven’t understood why you start at the right hand side and work backwards. The question is “How far back can you go before you get a trend significantly different from 0”? Which implies starting from the most recent temp measurement and working backwards.

      • David Springer


        Don’t worry she’ll probably take it as a compliment. 64 years old, never married, no kids, looks like a man, and was the third US female astronaut which is almost exclusively a military boy’s club. Connect the dots. No shrinking violet there to say the least.

    • Joseph,

      I’d explain that the issue is political motivation, but about lawful process, but it is probably a waste of time. There is a political aspect to any and everything a member of Congress does. Lamar Smith acting within the purvey of his position as committee chair, asking for information and documents he is entitled to is undeniably justified. Cries of it being politically motivated is nothing more than a whiny attempt to distract attention and provide a smoke screen to those worried about what he might uncover.

      Since I don’t think you are a dummy, the fact you keep trying to push this lame argument is a good sign that you suspect he will find something.

      • I don’t think politically motivated attacks against scientists is a good thing. Smith is attacking Karl’s paper as being politically motivated with absolutely no evidence. What about that do you not understand?

      • You don’t know what evidence he has, yoey. Judith might be able to tell you something.

      • Joseph,

        The only thing I don’t understand is how someone can be so naïve, dense and completely blind to anything which doesn’t fit their narrative as you are. All at the same time.

        What part about the emails being the evidence don’t you get?

        And try to keep in mind that Tom Karl is an administrator and a political appointee, in addition to being a scientist. Are you arguing that just because Karl has a PhD he does not have to be responsible to Congress?

      • You don’t know what evidence he has, yoey

        Right, what is he waiting for?

      • What part about the emails being the evidence don’t you get?

        So he is fishing for evidence in the emails? Why?

      • Poor joey. He has reason to believe there is evidence in the emails. Whistleblowers told him so. A whistleblower or three very likely were in on a chain of emails with such evidence. Whistleblowers attended meetings. Heard the talk around the water cooler. Saw a document lying around somebodies desk. It’s a freaking investigation, yoey. The perps don’t just hand in the evidence.

        In any case, the Congressional oversight committee is entitled to the freaking work related emails. Period.

      • And Don this is quoting Rep Smith:

        t was inconvenient for this administration that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades. The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made. NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda.

        What evidence is there for any of this?

      • David Springer

        Hey Joseph. You ever hear the phrase “circumstantial evidence”?

        Lamar Smith, indeed all of us, have circumstantial evidence that the paper was rapidly cooked up to serve a political purpose. Smith has both the right and responsibility to see if more than circumstantial evidence of this exists.

        You seem worried he’ll find it.

      • David Springer

        For your edification:


        “Circumstantial evidence is most often employed in criminal trials. Many circumstances can create inferences about an accused’s guilt in a criminal matter, including the accused’s resistance to arrest; the presence of a motive or opportunity to commit the crime; the accused’s presence at the time and place of the crime; any denials, evasions, or contradictions on the part of the accused; and the general conduct of the accused.”

        Plenty of circumstantial evidence, Joey. Means, motive, and opportunity are established. Refusing to give up possibly incriminating emails in fact makes the perps look guilty.

        I suspect you know all this and you suspect guilt as much as any of us if not more.

  10. If climate scientists want to be immune from the consequences of public ownership of government communications, they should set up secret, illegal email accounts like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Hillary Clinton and various EPA officials. /sarc off

    • Everyone seems fixated on Clinton’s emails but she didn’t come up with the idea on her own. Colin Powell did the same thing while at State.

      The Bush Administration illegally deleted 22 million emails:

      And Cheney took the government documents he didn’t want to shred:

      • Hilarity is running for POTUS. Her indiscretions came after the others had got lambasted, under stricter rules and had got lambasted and possibly more egregious. Let’s see what the FBI comes up with. I am hearing from my peeps that they are going to fry her butt.

      • Fox cited three separate in the know insiders that the FBI investigation has been expanded to include political corruption, specifically the apparent tits for tats between foreign Clinton Foundation donors and State. That only makes sense if Hilary’s server (which FBI has) was not wiped (remember, she did not know what that means) and they have been able to retrieve the deleted ‘private’ emails.
        They already have evidence from released State emails that classified info was illegally on the server. For example by 2002 executive order all ‘private’ back channel communications between foreign governments and states foreign reps (e.g. ambassadors) is automatically deemed classified to preserve backchannel trust. Lots of that was on the server. A former US district attorney told Fox the publically disclosed stuff is already a stronger criminal case than other ‘secrets’ cases Justice has successfully prosecuted.
        Just like Smith/Karl, FBI/Clinton promises to get very interesting very soon.

      • David Springer

        Yup. Even my wife who is about as disinterested in national politics as can be knows that Hillarious is in trouble over state department emails. She’s at a loss over who to vote for if the race is between the Donald and the scofflaw. It’s an understandably difficult choice but if the nation survived Obama for eight years it can survive anything. I’m sick of professional politicians and am voting for Trump because he’s an outsider. Not a difficult choice for me.

      • @David Springer…

        Hillary’s Chinese Espionage Problem.

        In 2000 I had a suspicion (never confirmed or otherwise) that the US intelligence services got together to defeat the Democrats due to concerns about PLA ties to the Democratic party.

  11. Pingback: Scientists’ Emails | Transterrestrial Musings

  12. “…however the method used by Grijalva definitely constitutes harassment: publicizing the request before he receives any information, making a request that is clearly politically motivated (targeting scientists that have testified for Republicans)…”

    I doubt this is harassment as much as it is an attempt to discredit and thereby marginalize any public position you might take. Harassment is included in the mix here but I would take it to be a subsidiary value.

    And BTW, this is a time honored (ironic use of honored) political tactic. The idea is to cast doubt or if possible to impugn, simply by asking a question. A classic example that covers this ground and more is the old saw: “Have you stopped beating your spouse?”

    • definition of harassment: aggressive pressure or intimidation

    • Jeffrey B McKim | January 13, 2016 at 12:50 pm |
      “I doubt this is harassment as much as it is an attempt to discredit and thereby marginalize any public position you might take.”

      Sounds like a distinction with out a difference.

  13. This is an important subject. Judy has it about right.
    There are at least two scientifically valid reasons for email transparency in government labs and, I would argue, government funded University research. Neither having to do with funding bias per se.
    First, what is omitted by choice can be as important as what is included. In the Karl case, at least the uncertainty around the SST adjustments exposed by McKittrick.
    Second, how results are framed. There are countless examples. PMEL concerning oysters, exposed in guest post Shell Games. Gignot and JPL on Amundsen Embayment ice loss in Antarctica, exposed in guest post Tipping Points.

  14. Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  15. I view FOIA requests of academic’s emails the same way I view the deposition (taking testimony outside of a court room) process for a medical malpractice case. Prior to the formal deposition, there is a discussion with one’s attorney about both the process and content. There is also some degree of “fishing” on the plaintive’s part which eventually will be adjudicated as being relevant later on, many times by a judge.

    To me, the deposition/FOIA is not a process for making research data/methodology/conclusions transparent. The publication process fills that need. Nor are depositions/FOIA processes appropriate for discussions of the sausage making that goes into a manuscript. Such “thinking out loud” type of formulatng process also does not belong in the formal deposition/FOIA process as there are all sorts of bits and pieces, nuances, hunches that are part and parcel of this formulation process. As most manuscripts are a compromise for inclusionary/exclusionary of data and other considerations, the discussion portion of the manuscript should be the location of such deliberations. The final part, the conclusion should state the most parsimonious hypothesis. This is the ideal.

    Given that most published papers are but shadows of the ideal, picking up the phone and asking the researcher why this and why that makes the most sense to me. The phone, then the email, then a brief letter and rebuttal is what is needed if the paper has merit.

    What seems to me to be an issue, is the worry on the part of the author(s) that the person on the other end of the phone or email becomes augmentative and starts name calling. Simply stating that any further discussion should be respectful and courteous is enough. For those people who may have poor spoken language skills or want an arm’s length relationship with the inquiring individual, have available for such use the dialogue function of electronic medium. A science “chat room” so-to-speak. If at some later date, the chat room discussions become relevant, deposition/FIOA then becomes a formal avenue for transparency.

  16. I’m confused over the “context” of this issue.

    On a project receiving federal funds, if Dr. Curry sent Scientist X an email using the Georgia Tech server — this would be fair game under FOI.

    But —-

    What if Dr. Curry and Scientist X communicated on the same project using a private email server? (like from their home use ISP) Is this also fair game under FOI?

    • You are really slow. Hilarity used a private server. Her emails are being released to comply with FOIA.

      • Yes, I must be slow. If Dr. Curry was working on a project receiving federal funds, all of Dr. Curry’s private server emails (her personal ISP) should be available under FOI?

      • Her government funded work product would be subject to FOIA. Use your head.

      • But who goes into Dr. Curry’s private email account (her personal ISP) to determine “what is what” and “what is publicly released?

      • Who went into hilarity’s private server? Let’s see how long you want to continue making a fool of yourself.

      • Mr. Monfort — Geez. Lets assume in my personal email example that Dr. Curry didn’t commit any suspected criminal activities or endanger national security.

      • Stephen:

        This is my understanding of how it works.

        Assume you are using a computer provided to you by the government (a public university qualifies in the USA).

        Assume you are using the government email server (like Microsoft Exchange server) and not a personal gmail or hotmail account.

        Under those circumstances all the emails run through that account are owned by the government.

        If you choose to write emails about birthday parties or whatever on your work machine, those are not private.

        Now a FOIA request comes in – pertinent emails are pulled as responding.

        It is my understanding that you cannot use FOIA to ask for personal stuff – for example you could not ask for a government scientists emails related to any medical procedures they email about on their government computer.

        Of course, the IT guys for the government can read all the stuff which is flowing through the email server, because they own all that content in the first place.

        Now turn to a private company situation.

        You have a work computer and send email using your work email account.

        The company can read anything you get or send via your work email account – they owe those emails.

        FOIA doesn’t apply to a company, but litigation can request emails from employees or a subpoena can sweep in work emails – and if they are responsive and not subject to a privilege (attorney client privilege or work product come to mind), they have to be produced.

        So bottom line – any emails related to work which a government scientist sends or receives, using a work computer and a work email account are owned by the government (not the scientist).

        Ditto for any University Professor or any private company employee for that matter.

        The emails are owned by the University (by the government) or the Employer – not the scientist or employee.

        If you want some privacy, use gmail or hotmail or yahoo etc.

        Even these are subject to disclosure in litigation involving the person (such as Dr. Mann and Mr. Steyn).

        Hope that helps.

      • Wrong: So bottom line – any emails related to work which a government scientist sends or receives, using a work computer and a work email account are owned by the government (not the scientist).

        Correct: So bottom line – any emails related to work which a government scientist sends or receives are owned by the government (not the scientist).

      • David Springer

        Not surprisingly you have it bass ackwards, Monfort. Pay attention to what Richard Arrett wrote. The government doesn’t automatically own emails discussing government business, made by government employees, made using a private email address. Those are discoverable only by court order.

  17. I am for transparency and disclosure. But I doubt that getting emails from professors or government scientists will help in the long run.

    In corporations all emails are presumed corporate property, and subject to review by internal and external agents (e.g., regulators, attorneys via courts). This works because most corporations require their business to be conducted on their email system. Sending emails to co-workers from your personal email will be detected and punished.

    I’ve worked for investment banks for 35 years, where emails are legally considered “records” and terms of retention are described in detail by regulators. These policies are ruthlessly enforced.

    There are some level of similar requirements for the Federal government, as recent scandals about the EPA and SecState Clinton have shown. But these also suggest widespread violation of those regs.

    Do we want to build the supervisory machinery to enforce such correspondence regs for government scientists? If not, they will (rationally) take their discussions off the government servers.

    Also, what is the regulatory status of professors’ emails? They are university property, I assume, if sent on university email systems. What if they’re sent on a university computer using gmail? What if sent from a university office on a personal laptop using gmail?

    Does it depend on the content? Do government contracts expressly state that the government has access to all correspondence in the preparation of this work? If not so stated, what is the legal basis for a FOIA?

    More broadly, do universities want to set up the apparatus of regulations and staff to enforce such rules?

    I do not believe the practical and legal details have been well considered. My prediction: calls for a transparency crusade will probably have the usual horrific unintended side-effects, which nobody will take responsibility for.

    • My apologies for the length of that comment.

      • Long and rather pointless. The FOIA is a law. People subject to that law need to turn over the freaking emails.

      • Don,

        Wow. So the FOIA status of personal emails by university scientists is specified in the FOIA act, no matter where or how sent. Who knew?

        Thanks for the information.

        Also I love the invocation of “it’s the law”, as if that was the Final Word. So we are all driving at no more than 55 mph on highways because it is Settled Law.

      • As far as I know, private emails are not under FOI; there is no case law about what is private and what is work.

        For what it’s worth, SkS Forum is private, although it is promoted by U Queensland, maintained by a U Queensland employee during working hours, and used to host U Queensland data.

      • I didn’t say anything about personal emails. You just made that up. Do you really want to waste your time constructing strawmen? Use your head.

      • You don’t know what you are talking about, Richard. You are allowed to read the actual FOIA law. Everybody is. It’s public record.

      • Don: I do make a point of understanding the law as it applies to me. You can ask for the email I send from my U Sussex account, but not for the email I send from my Vrije U account (as there is no FOI in the Netherlands) or from any other email account I may or may not have.

      • We are principally talking about U.S. FOIA law here, Richard. Those who want to participate intelligently should familiarize themselves with it.

      • Don,

        Most of the requests to date have been made under State laws to public universities. They have not, in general, fared well.

        Why do people assume that Federal FOI requests would do better? But, as usual in climate discussions, they do so with confidence.

      • Don Monfort said “ I didn’t say anything about personal emails.

        Mr. Monfort, yes you did and very clearly in my above post.

      • Don: I am less familiar with US law. It is clear that federal officials (Hillary Clinton, Richard Windsor) do not have a private email accounts. University staff are not federal officials, however, so it may not apply. The Michael Mann cases suggest that the rules are different.

      • Different jurisdictions have different FOIA laws, Richard. I believe the Mann case was adjudicated entirely in the state of VA. I am not going to spend any time looking it up as this discussion is already meandering and wearing thin.

      • Don: So, state rules apply to public universities, and federal rules to federal agencies?

      • Don, your terminology got confusing.
        Hillary’s problem was that she conducted all her State Department official email correspondence on a private email server. Hence it’s subject to FOIA.
        You can’t skirt FOIA by telling everyone “hey, use my gmail account from now on about all this research so we don’t get caught.” The work is publicly owned, not just the address.
        Here are the rules:
        don’t operate your @noaa.gov email on a home server – it’s illegal.
        use your @noaa.gov email for NOAA work and expect anyone will be able to read it.
        don’t use your personal home address for NOAA work unless you want your personal email subpoenaed.
        don’t send naughty emails to your mistress from your @noaa.gov account, use your home address.

      • Jeff,

        I wonder if you are overstating the regulations. Regs for senior government officials are tighter than for all gov’t managers, and those are tighter than for all employees. Which are tighter than for private sector scientists working on gov’t contracts.

        Hillary’s largest violation was mishandling classified material by putting it on a private server.

        Much of discussion here assumes there is some sort of universal bright line behind which all emails must be contained and are subject to FOI or State open records law. That is false.

      • “Don, your terminology got confusing.
        Hillary’s problem was that she conducted all her State Department official email correspondence on a private email server. Hence it’s subject to FOIA.”

        My terminology should be easily understood. You started out confused. Hilarity’s emails are not subject to FOIA, because they were on her private server. Her work related emails are subject to FOIA, period.

      • Don’s reply to Jeff is spot on. In fact, Hillary probably setup the private email in part to evade FOI. Here are two articles explaining this (but not her violations of govt security regs, which might prove more serious).



        Note neither makes an sweeping statement about govt employees being forbidden to talk about govt business on private email systems — let alone about private sector workers on govt contracts being unable to do so.

        Much of this discussion assumes FOIs and Open Records requests are some sort of uber-law. They are narrow, with their extent still unclear.

      • Not so unclear. There have been a lot of FOIA cases adjudicated. Google “FOIA case law”.

      • Don,

        You must be kidding us. I am referring to requests for e-correspondence, esp by employees of government contractors (e.g., university scientists) — the subject of this thread.

        That thousands of cases about FOI have been litigated about getting “documents” in the usual sense is not relevant.

        When replies get to the level of for proof “Google for (absurd broad topic)”, then IMO the thread is dead.

        Someone mention NAZIs to officially end it. I’m done.

      • you guys are getting hung up on semantics again. We agree more than we disagree.
        Yes, Hillary tried to avoid FIOA by using a private server for all her State Department emails. My point is– don’t do that, it’s both illegal and it doesn’t work, her government activities are subject to FIOA whether they are done on a private server or the government server.
        Whether it’s a private email address or a .gov or a .edu doesn’t matter. The content is what matters. It doesn’t matter if Judith Curry conducts all her Georgia Tech climate research on her gmail instead of her edu account, the Georgia Tech climate research belongs to Georgia Tech and the public who pays for it.
        It’s “illegal” – can be illegal – because some agencies and levels of government- i.e. State Department and secretary thereof – are legally required to archive their work and because some agencies – i.e. State Department – have very significant security concerns and it’s illegal because it’s an attempt to avoid a law.
        I’ll try to simplify the rest for clarity. The “rules” – note the word choice – to live by are: do all your work with your work account, not your home account. If you don’t: trouble, possibly legal.
        Don’t do personal stuff with your work account. Why not? Embarrassment, possible legal issues.
        Don’t ever buy a personal email server, set it up in way that it pretends it’s your work server, hide it in a toilet and plan to wipe its hard drive if someone comes asking about your emails. If you do- big trouble, shows intent to evade laws, violates laws.

    • Larry: In the UK, or perhaps in England & Wales, all emails sent from a university account fall under FOI. As far as I know, every university has a proper email archive and a few administrative staff to handle requests. Public universities in the USA and Australia have much the same set-up; dunno about private universities.

      • Prof Tol,

        That misses my point. If university scientists take their correspondence off the university servers, what has this crusade accomplished?

        Correspondence regs in gov’t and corporations — to the extent they do — because of regulations and enforcement mechanisms requiring use of their systems — prohibiting doing business elsewhere.

        I doubt that would work for university scientists — and perhaps not well for gov’t scientists. Esp as discussions could be done not directly mentioning the gov’t or university work.

        Saying that everything that scientists say becomes subject to FOI might have difficulty getting court approval.

        As for the “it’s simple argument, courts have often disagreed. Even narrow requests for emails have been disallowed, such as for those of Profs Hall, Mann, and Cronon under State open records laws.

      • ClimateGate suggests that some UK universities are good at complying with the letter of the law while violating its spirit.

    • Editor

      When our agency accepted Federal grants, all the documents related to that grant were considered Federal property. They bought it, they owned it. There should be no question about the responsibilities in turning over documents when the Federal Government supports activities of an organization. That organization is a legal extension of the granting Federal agency.

      The NOAA issue is a no brainer and all requested material should have been immediately turned over to the committee. Is there a claim of Executive Privilege? I have not heard it and it would be on very weak ground if there had been. Executive Privilege has been used as an extension of the deliberative process argument but more having to do with the President’s Office and staff. This case does not rise to the circumstances for which there is precedent. The bottom line: a bunch of Federal Bureaucrats who don’t want to be held accountable.

      Judith, outstanding summation, especially this “And finally, I am tired of scientists whining:”

      Bravo, aren’t we all. But then, I am tired of whining by everyone, scientists or not.

      • The kid get’s it.

      • Cerescokid,

        Define “documents”. In places where these regulations have meaning, there are specific definitions and regulations.

        More specifically, were you told about the definition and retention of correspondence? Were you told to conduct discussions only on work email systems, for example?

      • Are you serious, Editor? You expect him to answer all that crap.

      • Editor

        There is a simple principle guiding this entire issue. When you are working on a Federal grant or program just assume for those activities you are a Federal employee. If the document or email related to the Federal grant or program, it was to assumed to be Federal property with all the associated implications that are involved. I’m surprised there is this much ambiguity in the mind of some. Cut and dried to me.

      • There is ambiguity, because they are too lazy to inform themselves on the FOIA laws. This is not rocket science.

      • Follow the documents. Follow the activities. Forget the technicalities of what system you are on. Just assume you are a Federal employee.

        Just as an aside. About 40 years ago I was interviewed by the FBI about one of our grants due to its association with a friend of the President. Before the days of email, everything in my files were his, no questions asked.

        Maybe that is an easier way to sort through this. Think of what would be required before email. Pretty easy.

      • This issue could be resolved simply by modifying the law. Any recipient of government funds is required to be completely transparent or return all the funds from the government.

        There is no reason all this information isn’t up on a public server to begin with.

        There is no reason someone who isn’t completely transparent should receive government science funds. None.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        Mentions of whining – can we please learn to use the apostrophe? Don, “The kid get’s it” is wrong.
        Many of us old pedants lose interest when bad English is used. Misuse of “here, here” for approval, of “It’s” for the possessive when “It’s” means “It is”, use of “Your welcome”, widespread misuse of “phenomena” when the singular “phenomenon” is proper .. the list is long and growing in ways that will not be adopted as natural evolution.

    • If you look at this thread it becomes clear that people like Don Monfort care neither about FOI, personal liberty or the scientific process. They want for political reasons to see Karl’s (or Hilary’s) emails to look for something that may be damaging.

      The argument about what is covered by FOI and what is not is just a preview of coming distractions. No matter how it is worded, political opponents will always find a reason why this time it’s different and they should be able to look at their enemy’s emails.

      Monfort wants to limit the conversation to American law, but doesn’t explain why. Okay. As an American I tell you Mr. Monfort, we’re better than this.

  18. I really don’t understand why people would think their emails are private. Anything that goes out on the internet can be found. That goes for text messages as well. The government is also listening to phone conversations if you haven’t noticed. If you want to keep a secret find a place you’re sure it is not bugged and be sure the person you’re talking to is trust worthy. Otherwise privacy is a thing of the past and no it’s not in the constitution. You may expect it but you may not get it.

    • Yes, and does anybody believe that these NOAA scientists weren’t told about FOIA, when they were hired? Were they told they are exempt? I freaking doubt it.

    • True, emails are not private, however they have always been consider PERSONAL. For instance:

      Dr. Tritebeh,

      I have looked over your results and appreciate the manipulation of your paremeters to produce the desired result. We should get this published while the media is still pushing our previous paper.

      By the way, it was nice talking with you at the Conference, hope your wife and kids are doing well, and look forward to meeting with the Marxist group in Boulder next time you are here!

      -Mackey Marn

      Not really anyone’s business, see. It would be a burden to have to strictly separate business from the personal in the scientific world and the world of email.

  19. A standard where computer number crunching is accompanied by a makefile for the results would be nicer.

    You’d have the raw datasets, the makefile, and the programs.

    What the people said then doesn’t matter.

  20. Again — If Dr. Curry has a federally funded project, does Congress have the authority under FOI to ask Dr. Curry’s personal ISP (eg. Verizon) to release all of her emails to them? (assuming that there is no hint that a crime has been committed or a breach in national security).

  21. Congress has direct oversight responsibilities for NOAA. Congress also has plenary subpoena power to carry out its investigations. This power is much broader than statutory FOIAs.

    The NOAA situation is not even a close call, IMO. The one exception I can think of to the Congressional power to compel delivery of such materials is Executive Privilege. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_privilege

    If the White House claims the Karl/NOAA materials are intimately connected to official political duties, Chairman Smith will have proved his suspicions are correct. All of this talk about intimidating researchers is legally irrelevant.

    • Correctamundo! The Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution grants Congress broad investigative powers but that Congress must confine itself to “legislative purposes” and avoid strictly private affairs of individual citizens. I have provided links to this stuff several times. It ain’t that hard.

    • Opluso — If under the heading of oversight, does Congress have the authority of subpoenaing a private ISP (e.g., Verizon) for all of Dr. Curry’s emails? No Court action would be allowed? An ISP must just automatically comply?

      • If subpoenaed by a court, then I would have to comply (I also have a gmail acct that i use for non-university stuff). But no subpoena without probably cause (for something or other), so hard to imagine they could subpoena all of my emails.

      • OMG!

      • Just a legal note. A subpoena must be backed by a showing of probable cause to a judge. That can only happen with respect to some specific circumstance. It is not possible to subpoena all personal communications on all matters as a fishing expedition. Although some zealous attorney could always try.

      • SS:

        You are getting confused about what Congress does and how it does it. Congress investigates matters outside of lawsuits and court cases.

        In my experience, the first step is to ask for the materials. This is almost always sufficient. In the specific case of NOAA, the agency decided to withhold certain materials which eventually led to a Congressional (not court issued) subpoena. NOAA may challenge the validity or scope or color of the subpoena but, IMO, they would lose if Chairman Smith decides to push it.

        All of this silliness about going after Dr. Curry’s emails is just trolling.

      • Specifically regarding Congressional subpoenas there is a lot of interesting information and discussion on this site:


        Jeralyn is indeed a lefty, but sensible and fairly objective. There are about a half-dozen of them around.

      • It is so wonderful that we have so many CE Denizens who are also Constitutional Legal Experts.

        Democrats are saying that Rep. Smith has issued more subpoenas of this type than in the entire history of the Congressional Committee — whatever this means.

        Also, the question on public (e.g., dot edu or gov) vs personal (e.g., gmail emails) can be confusing.

      • >…can be confusing.

        Especially when you are confused, or conflicted. Cognitive dissonance…

      • SS, you actualy have at least one here.

      • Rud Who is the Constitutional Law Scholar that is commenting on this here at CE? I want to re-read and pay particular attention to his comments.

        Where I’m especially confused is private versus public email — under the assumption that no possible criminal activities were occurring.

      • Rud Who is the Constitutional Legal Expert here on CE that you are referring to? I’d like tp re-read his posts and ask questions.

        Where I’m particularly confused in both a FOIA and Congressional Oversight subpoena is over personal/private email (e.g., a private ISP like Verizon or gmail) — assuming of course there is no hint of criminal activity

        Democrats are saying that Rep. Smith is mis-using Congressional Subpoena Power — issuing more subpoenas of this type than in the entire history of the Congressional Committee. What’s this about? What are Congressional limitations on subpoenaing private emails?

      • Probable cause has to be shown before the government can issue a warrant for a search. A civil subpoena (as for example in the Mann vs. Steyn case) is a much different animal. If a civil case is pending, the party issues the subpoena. The recipient can then move to quash. To defeat the motion to quash, the party issuing the subpoena need only show that the documents/information sought is relevant to the case, or more liberally, is likely to lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.

        It is a very broad standard.

        As for congressional subpoenas, congress “has the power to inquire about and investigate any issue “on which legislation could be had.”

        There is no requirement for probable cause, nor a limitation based on relevance. It is extremely unusual for a court to interfere with a congressional subpoena.


      • GaryM – everybody who has watched gangster movies knows gangsters can take the 5th in front of a congressional committee.

        So a hypothetical, if a NOAA scientist revealed evidence of the commission of a felony by them in one of their emails, could that email be protected from a congressional subpoena?

        My guess is the email would go to congress.

        From memory, I believe O. North eventually got off because some of the evidence against him was thrown out because he was compelled to reveal it to a congressional committee.

      • JCH, You can’t be forced to testify against yourself under the 5th Amendment. But that does not extend to documents. You can’t withhold emails because they might incriminate you.

      • This is really IANALand.

  22. It is hard for one who practiced as a Professional Civil Engineer for years to understand why this is a problem. Civil Engineers have long been subject to FOIA and “Discovery” requests by anyone that has a legitimate interest. When new engineers are hired, most companies educate them in the openness of our profession and the need to mind what is said in written correspondence, emails, notes, etc., and to insure that only pertinent information and data is kept in both project and personal files.

    A system does exist that protects companies from harassing requests and disclosure of Trade and Competitive secrets that keeps the process fair.

    Academia is just now catching up.

  23. Reblogged this on I Didn't Ask To Be a Blog and commented:
    “When research is paid for by the public, the public has a right to demand transparency and to have access to documents related to the research.”

  24. This all got me to wondering what climate scientists did prior to the ubiquitous webbed thingy that makes interactions both fast and discoverable. What did they do when everything depended on dead-tree residue and (shudder) in-person communication? No doubt things took longer at every stage of the grant-research-publication chain. Were they any more or less accountable and “transparent” than today?

  25. While Halpern’s comments seem very reasonable, the action of the UCS with regard to the Paul Thacker piece in PLOS gives me reason to doubt his sincerity.

  26. The line “Often, the mistakes they make are out of ignorance or carelessness rather than an attempt to hide the truth” doesn’t appear to hold true in many of the IPCC supporting/consensus believing scientists involved in the climate debate, or indeed where scientific malpractice has been demonstrated in other disciplines. The unexplained ‘adjustments’ of temperature data sets to support the warning meme have seemingly been done so deliberately and therefore done to suppress truth.

    • ilma630:
      “The unexplained ‘adjustments’ of temperature data sets to support the warning meme have seemingly been done so deliberately and therefore done to suppress truth.”

      Please could you provide evidence of your assertion of “unexplained”.
      That is say – what data series you mean? So I can follow that up and see if there is any truth in that bald statement.

      • TB, I documented dozens of examples from around the the world, including organizations other than GISS and NCEI. Essay When Data Isn’t in ebook Blowing Smoke. Read it, then get back. NOAA’s NClimDiv switch is particularly damning, as is station Rutherglen for Australia’s BOM. And apropos this thread, challenging questions have been met by information stonewalling. Just like Karl’s emails at NOAA.

    • Re-purposing an instrument has always required a re-calibration and re-assessment of accuracy. They wouldn’t be doing their jobs if not. Why are thermometers exempt? Nothing else in science and industry is any different. Only the stakes are larger.

  27. The unseemly pursuit of emails just shows the weakness of the peeping tom. This persecution and prosecution fetish only diminishes science to be dominated by the least creative bureaucratic functionaries who are careful and politic above all other talents.

    • It could be a risk here. The thermometers will have these maroons soaking in mercury by May.

    • Oh!!! The Drama!!!

    • Horst,

      What about the whistleblower?

      Just wondering’ …

    • Someone lacks an understanding of the issue. Sounds like willito, but his name is horse grabber:

      “The unseemly pursuit of emails just shows the weakness of the peeping tom.”

      That foolishly assumes that the emails are protected by some right to privacy.

      “This persecution and prosecution fetish only diminishes science to be dominated by the least creative bureaucratic functionaries who are careful and politic above all other talents.”

      It is neither a persecution nor a prosecution. It is an oversight investigation undertaken in accordance with the powers and responsibilities of Congress. Congressmen are the elected representatives of the citizenry subject to replacement every two years. The bureaucratic functionaries are the apparatchiks running NOAA.

      Does anybody think the head lady over there told the Senators that she would not submit to Congressional oversight, when she was pleading to be confirmed in her cushy well-paying job? Does anybody entertain the silly idea that the NOAA scientists believed they were exempt from Congressional oversight, when they were hired to do a government job?

      • > That [the unseemly pursuit of email] foolishly assumes that the emails are protected by some right to privacy.

        This would be true if legality implied seemliness. This implication presumes you can reduce ethics to the law. This is still an open problem. Best of luck with that.


        Since you tingled my ear, here’s an excerpt from an email by the (second) star witness of Ted Cruz’ last crusade:

        If I write the paper alone, I don’t think there would be any problem stating that “the author received no financial compensation for this essay.”


        Does that look seeming to you, Don Don?

      • Irrelevant and immaterial, willito. The usual navel claptrap we expect from an Emeritus Navel Gazer.

      • stevenreincarnated

        I don’t see a problem with it, Willard. He wouldn’t know if someone else was involved if they would request compensation or not. You have been showing those emails for some time now and I have yet to see unethical behavior at least on the part of Happer. Why don’t you point out what you consider unethical.

      • > He wouldn’t know if someone else was involved if they would request compensation or not.

        That’s a lot of indefinite persons for one sentence, stevenreincarnated.

        Here are proper names:

        I [Happer] would like that whatever fee would have come to me would directly go to the [C02] Coalition. This was the arrangement I had with the Peabody Coal Company in the regulatory hearings in Minnesota.


        Our Pr. Emeritus was advising of a prospect client of a way to pay him without anybody to know. That way, Happer could pretend having received any financial compensation in the future essay’s disclosure.

        It also means Happer pulled the same trick during the regulatory hearings in Minnesota.

        However legal it might be, it is quite unseeming, don’t you think?

      • See, Don Don. The Spanish Inquisition cuts both ways exponentially increasing the entropy of problem solving. This is more analysis paralysis. Thought you were old school Don Don. Time to go back to the future and flush out your headgear.

      • Oversight and documentation is one thing, full anal-probe investigations everytime a crappy report is written is petty BS. You are reminding me of a more shrill version of Gloria Allred and a dumber version of Nancy Grace. The result of what you propose is to turn every department into the DMV. No thanks.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Willard, “If I write the paper alone…” is what it says in the email. I was talking about if there were additional author(s) he wouldn’t know if they would work without compensation. That’s what seems the obvious meaning of his comments to me.

        He said he accepted nothing besides traveling expenses from the CO2 Coalition was what I remembered reading. Did I misread or do you have any sort of evidence that isn’t true? Traveling expenses aren’t usually considered income. If they were there would be a lot less people taking climate vacations on my dime.

      • > He said he accepted nothing besides traveling expenses […]

        You might have missed this bit, stevenreincarnated:

        My fee for this kind of work is $250 per hour. The testimony required four 8-hour days of work, so the total cost was $8,000.


        What will be your story this time?

      • If your client was considering reimbursing me for writing something, I would ask that whatever fee would have come to me would go directly to the CO2 Coalition. [my transcription]

        From the same linked document.

        Typical of Wilbur: dishonest implications from links he hopes most people won’t follow.

      • stevenreincarnated


        He specified what his views were and said you may pay to have me write up those views if you wish. So it seems changing his opinion wasn’t for sale.

        He stated that instead of taking the money himself he preferred to have the money given to an organization he supports. So it seems he wasn’t interested in personal gain.

        He was quizzed on how to make it unknown who the donor was and had to get more information. So it seems he wasn’t even well versed at being sneaky.

        I don’t see an indictment of his ethics at any point.

      • > He stated that instead of taking the money himself he preferred to have the money given to an organization he supports.

        Exactly, and there lies the truthiness of it all, stevenreincarnated.

        Happer more than offered a “preferred” to redirect his fee toward the CO2 Coalition: that’s how he negociated with his prospective client. These are contractual terms for a work product. The contract exists and the conditions are the same as with the Peabody Coal company. There is a deliverable and an exchange of money involved.

        Happer’s “personal compensation” declaration smells at best truthy, since he can’t deny competing interests. The contractual terms clearly indicate Happer’s interests in the CO2 coalition. The information we have on the contractual terms clearly shows Happer failing to disclose his competing interests.

        Happer should own his lobbyism.

      • stevenreincarnated

        Nice argument, Willard. The thing is regardless of if he did pro bono work for the coal company or the coalition, he still did it pro bono so he wasn’t compensated.

  28. I was involved in a very similar politically charged situation. In the ’80’s there was a great deal of controversy about what to do with nuclear waste. We at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site had chosen glass as the waste form for our 35 M gallons of high-level nuclear waste – the legacy of the Cold War. A host of others argued that it wasn’t the “best” choice and questioned our integrity. At the time, DOE made what was a personally uncomfortable but ultimately wise decision: they appointed a technical review group of independent professionals who looked at everything (and I do mean everything!) we did. We were required to respond to any comments or question in writing. In addition, we averaged a visit from some “oversight” group (Nuclear Reg Commission, EPA, DOE Inspector General, state regulators) every two weeks. We also responded to one or more FOIA requests.

    As a result, our technical basis was rock solid – and perceived so, and the controversy about our selection of glass was rather quickly put to rest. I would urge those working for the government (and preferably in universities as well) on climate change research of any type to practice that same openness. I am convinced this is the only way that we will ever come to a true consensus understanding of what Mother Nature is doing.

    • Thank you, John. That is exactly what transparency in government is about. And the obscene lack of transparency in our current administration is why government is seen as the problem, rather than the solution. A whole lot more people are afraid of the government than there are folks who are worrying about global warming.

  29. David Springer

    I think all .gov email addresses are all subject to FOIA requests. That doesn’t mean you can see whatever emails you want. It only means the agency in question has to respond in a prescribed manner and people using the .gov address know it might be subject to public or media disclosure.

    When I was a city councilman with a .gov address I attached a warning/disclaimer that any discussion of city business is a public record and may become subject to disclosure to the media or others.

    Public disclosure of corporate email is subject to whatever the corporation deems appropriate. That should apply to universities too. I don’t know what the policy is at Georgia Tech but when I write to Dr. Curry @ gatech.edu I presume the email becomes the property of the university. Court orders of course can’t be ignored by anyone.

    None of NOAA’s email should be exempt from FOIA requests but as I said just because they are required to respond to requests doesn’t mean the response can’t be to partially or fully deny it if the law allows. Taxpayers, including their representatives, generally have a right to know how public employees are conducting public business. That’s the bottom line.

  30. Well if we don’t already know from numerous previous discussions, we could read the short list of FOIA exemptions:


    • “James Hansen, the retired NASA climate scientist who issued the clearest warning about the 20th century about the dangers of global warming, said, “they’re looking for anything where they can make it appear something is untoward” with climate research. He was forced to turn over his e-mails to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “but they didn’t find anything juicy.”

    • “Which appears to have to do with this, none of which would not apply in a congressional investigation”

      The Congressional oversight powers have zero to do with FOIA, dolt.

  31. One problem is that anyone who did do something wrong might have the option of deleting the incriminating or controversial emails or avoid turning them over unless there is some sort of independent audit. And another likely scenario is that anything that someone didn’t want public could be communicated through private email.

    • Are you an advisor for Hillary?

    • David Springer

      Generally gov’t emails are kept in such a way that users can’t permanently delete them. In fact most emails are like that unless you own the mail server. There’s also an obligation to preserve them on the part of individual gov’t users. So if you’re using a .gov address you’re screwed either way.

      The thing to do is pick up the phone if privacy is that important.

  32. e-mail is private?

    I’m not a scientist or a Presidential candidate, or smart, but I know that e-mail is akin to standing on the side walk in your underwear.

  33. Willis Eschenbach

    Outstanding exposition and discussion, Dr. J, most welcome.

    Great post, great site … many thanks.


  34. Said it before, will say it again. This is a very important post at several levels. Karl science transparency. FOIA legal disobedience…
    Shame that some of the subdiscussions sidetracked from the clear national policy transparency issues the post started out highlighting.
    I am sure the Wizzard of Oz wished Totto had not pulled back the curtain…

  35. stevefitzpatrick

    I find the suggestion that public employees (like Tom Karl) have some special protection from FOIA, ridiculos on its face. Scientists who work for publicly funded agencies work for the taxpayers, and their work products (including email messages) are clearly public property. If they want to keep secrets about their work, then they should quit feeding from the public trough and find private funding.

    • They could be plumbers. Not too many people are interested in watching plumbers work. That butt crack thing.

      • Don Monfort wrote, “They could be plumbers.”

        Thanksgiving evening in 1972, David Young arrived home from his planning at the Special Investigative Unit, when his grandmother asked him, “What do you do at the White House?”, to which he replied, “I am helping the president stop some leaks”. She replied, with astonishment, “Oh, you’re a plumber!”
        [ … ]
        The White House Plumbers, sometimes simply called the Plumbers, were a covert White House Special Investigations Unit, established July 24, 1971, during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Its task was to stop the leaking of classified information, such as the Pentagon Papers, to the news media. Its members branched into illegal activities while working for the Committee to Re-elect the President, including the Watergate break-in and the ensuing Watergate scandal.


  36. The arrogance of scientists is just staggering. First thing, when you are in the employ of an entity, any email you generate on their systems are their property – period. As well, if you use their equipment and network, they can and will screen them via monitoring technology even if you are accessing your personal email accounts. The only time you have “personal” or ‘private” email is when you send an email from your device, on internet access you pay for from an account that is your’s personally.

    Every employment agreement makes this clear. When you go to work for government, it’s even worse because govt spending is subject to oversight and the presumption is that the taxpayers funding the work of anyone on govt payroll have a right to examine any work done that they are paying for. There is no need for cause or suspicion – it’s part of our right as citizens and the responsibility of our elected leaders to oversee the actions and work product and communications of govt employees.

    None of this is up for debate – it’s all very clear under the law. The very idea that some scientists believe that they have a right to any privacy wrt email they use on govt accounts is ridiculously naive and arrogant. And when you are an employee of some organization, they still are not your’s so don’t expect privacy there. Your employer can look at them and share them for any reason they deem fit. And under subpeona they can be gotten to via the courts and you as an individual have no say.

    Everyone subject to such conditions signs an agreement stipulating such things when they join an organization – govt or not. In the private sector we simply know that conducting personal business on our work email is a bad idea and operate with the knowledge that whatever we say in email may be looked at by others and that we should use these email systems accordingly.

    All I have to say to scientists who believe they are somehow privileged above the rest of us is grow up and get a grip on yourselves.

    • scribblerg, we’re obviously talking about different things. Do organizations have a right to look at employees’ emails? Yes and that includes government organizations.

      Do we want people outside those organizations to have the ability to inhibit conversations between scientists and hinder the progress of research because at some point in the future someone may have a problem with something one of the scientists has said, written or done?

      I argue that it is not in the best interests of either science or society for the answer to that question to be yes.

      • Congress could subpoena the NOAA spouses, and force them to testify against the scientists. They have that power.

        Lamar Smith easily could have had these emails months ago if not for one thing.

      • I’m with you 100% Tom. These guys are expressing power-mongering exposed in the Stanford Prison Experiment:

      • Wake up. Govt employees are accountable to the people – that’s our work they are doing. Anyone has a right to file a FOIA request on any govt work done and all the records regarding that work. Period. Dot. End of sentence. If you don’t want to work under those conditions, work in the private sector or fund your own scientific research. As for what’s in the best interest of science, what – besides your own bloviation and massive ego – do you base that contention on? Answer: Nothing, you are just making it up in your head. In fact, oversight should encourage good behavior.

        You neatly exemplify the arrogance I speak of. Scientists have no privilege to spend MY MONEY and keep the work product and records of their work from me. None .

      • > Scientists have no privilege to spend MY MONEY and keep the work product and records of their work from me.

        The MY and “me” come in two different sizes. How much of YOUR money and how much work product and records are we talking about? If we’re talking about pay-per-view, you might be entitled to less than a paragraph from the article of your choice.

        Even better, it’s not “me” to which we should be referring, but the Congress, who is empowered:

        To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.


        Most of the time, “me” doesn’t own what is paid with whoever’s MONEY it is, unless that me’s the one who created the product. Governments don’t fund things to own them, but to make sure they’re created. It’s called Progress.

        Denizens ought to be arguing using specific contractual terms, not from empty principles.


        All this for silly emails, a communication tool that the younger generation barely uses and that may not even exist in a few decades.

      • Do these clowns want to do away with FOIA and Congressional oversight, or do they just want to carve out a special exemption for government employed scientists? I know other government employees would love to avoid scrutiny. The IRS boys and girls would run wild. My friends in the military and intelligence communities would like to be free to ply their trades without anybody looking into their business. What’s good for the REMFs should be good for the people on the front lines.

      • > Do these clowns want to do away with FOIA and Congressional oversight, or do they just want to carve out a special exemption for government employed scientists?

        You should focus on what you want out of this, Don Don.


        All you can ever get are the traces of official activities. What could be printed on memos, with letterhead and all. If you want more than that, than you have to accept that the oversight you’re pushing for restricts civil rights quite a bit.

        I don’t think anobody owns public servants in the Land of the Free. Perhaps you’d like to own a Canadian instead. Even that seems forbidden, alas:

        Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?


      • Don’t tell me to focus, willyboy. I am already focused. This isn’t about owning Canadians or anybody else.

        This is about the laws of the land. Laws that the clown who runs the NOAA knew about when she went to the Senate and pleaded her case for confirmation. I am quite sure she promised to follow the freaking law faithfully and to submit to Congressional oversight. She took an oath.

        She has two honorable choices: resign, or give up the freaking emails. As we speak, she is dishonorable. You seem to be fine with that. Are you Canadian?

      • > This is about the laws of the land.

        That’s another interesting subject, Don Don:


        Your “she has two honorable choices” is just your opinion. If you stick to the law, you can’t substantiate that opinion. It’s the second time on this page you’re trying to justify an ethical judgement using the law.

        Sullivan refused to comply. You and Smith can hold her in contempt all you want. That would be a very honorable thing to do.

        Please, do continue.

      • She is dishonorable, willy. she has failed the people. She has failed to adhere to the promises of the most transparent administration in history. you obviously approve. Shame on you, if you are an American. And who gives a flying —- if you are not.

        I won’t watch your dumb videos, willy. But if that is about those dumb clowns occupying that thing in Oregon, I would give them about 10 minutes to surrender.

      • We should first ask if scientists are entitled to more protection in their correspondence than the rest of us. I am not sure I see any reason for scientists to be singled out on this issue, so I say what’s good enough for scientists is good enough for the rest of us–and vice versa.

        Which then brings us to the overwhelming question, what expectation of privacy should we all have with regards to our email correspondence?

        I think we should have a presumptive right to privacy in personal communications of all types, including emails. (I believe for example that the NSA routinely violates these rights and I don’t think they should.)

        Emails we write using company property (servers, computers, email programs) are a matter of contract between employer and employee and if that contract is freely entered into by both parties I think it’s fine for organizations to have the right to examine work emails.

        But I don’t think that outside organizations should have the right to look at emails without a warrant. There should be a specific accusation of a specific crime and prima facie evidence justifying examination of those emails.


      • You should definitely do everything you can to get the Constitution and the laws changed to protect the scientists, tommy. Let’s us know how it turns out.

      • What is taking so long? Why doesn’t Smith already have the emails? He has the power to already have them.. months ago. What is wrong with him?

      • David Springer

        JCH – one cannot be compelled to testify against one’s spouse in the USA. That’s pretty common knowledge in the states. Not so common is the logic behind it. It is based on the understanding that a married couple is one entity then extending that to the fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination.


        What country do you live in?

      • David Springer

        JCH writes: “Why doesn’t Smith already have the emails? He has the power to already have them.. months ago.”

        Not surprisingly you misunderstand the federal FOIA. It only requires an organization to respond to requests within a certain period of time. The range of responses can be anything from complete disclosure to complete refusal depending on what exactly is being sought. So NOAA is refusing. If the matter is pursued the refusal will probably be overturned if the material being sought has to do with government business and isn’t classified confidential. Neither of these exemptions seem to apply.


      • Smith is not using the FOIA.

        The emails of NOAA scientists have been published after FOIA requests. They had to do with ocean acidification.

      • David Springer

        Thanks for the correction that it’s not an FOIA request, JCH.

        It’s a congressional subpoena. Here then is a guideline for what may follow:


      • So exactly what is not surprising? I put a link on here to a website that discusses the history of congressional investigative powers… several weeks ago.

      • David Springer

        Dispositions in congressional contempt cases is enlightening. It’s almost always complied with (agency cooperates and discloses) before the full chamber meets to consider the contempt citation.

        In the cases where the contempt citation made it before the full chamber the person refusing has always lost and in some cases the criminal punishment included prison time and fines.

        NOAA’s refusal seems to be a holding action-only. Compliance will follow before the matter comes before the full house.

      • > she has failed the people. She has failed to adhere to the promises of the most transparent administration in history.

        It’s far from clear she’d need to release all the emails to fulfill that promise, Don Don. The people is not Lamar, and you’re not the people.

        Your biblical appeal to duty is duly noted.

      • David Springer


        The unsurprising thing is you not understanding why there’s been a delay in compelling NOAA to answer the subpoena. It hasn’t been very long since the last response (December 17th) and congress has been in adjournment a lot of the time since then for the holiday season. In fact NOAA complied by releasing some emails before the holiday break:


        As I said in previous comment this is simply a holding action by NOAA. They’ll eventually cough up whatever a congressional subpoena demands or the head of the agency will face prison time and he won’t be the first federal official sent to the clank for contempt of congress.

      • Yes, possibly as the result of a negotiation… negotiations with committees can result in limitations on the scope of the investigation.

      • Willard, that’s two very interesting videos you’ve posted. Both of them horribly biased, and actively advocating to the opposite of the position I personally support, but both well constructed and raising some very interesting points. I tried to put together some quip about “with enemies like this, who needs friends?” but it didn’t quite come together. Anyway, thanks, and are there more of them where those came from?

  37. It’s ridiculous. Everyone knows Obama wouldn’t have used emails, but probably sent his heavies over to Karl’s office to tell him personally to process the ship and buoy data pronto. Untraceable, see.
    OR. The issue of biases due to the ship to buoy transition was known to everyone in the field many years ago, and it was only a matter of time that some expert in data (university or government) got around to evaluating its impact. The time came, and the paper came out. It was always a ticking time bomb for the “pause”.

  38. Do we want to do actual research or grub around in other people’s emails?

  39. Dr. J. Very interesting post. In the post you state that a second FOIA request came from a journalist (Timothy Cama) regarding your communications regarding your (at the time) upcoming testimony to congress, and that the Georgia Tech legal affairs promptly handed over the relevant emails. What became of the request? Did the journalist write a story regarding these communications? Or presumably did the information contain such mundane communications between you and the members of congress that there was no “smoking gun” of conflict of interest to report upon that there was nothing to write about and “muckrake” about. FOIA should never be a concern if you are acting ethically in the first place, which from following your writings and thoughts is exactly how you behave and interact.

  40. Interestingly, the FoIA act of the United States has a series of exclusions, the last one being:

    geological and geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells.


    I’ll be dam.

    • Just in case anyone takes your comment seriously, this exemption (#9) is completely irrelevant to the current discussion. See http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/oip/legacy/2014/07/23/exemption9_0.pdf for what it’s actual role is in US FOIA law.

      • It gets even more interesting. Exemption 9 applies to “well information of a technical or scientific nature” and was intended “to protect the oil and gas exploration and extraction industry from unfair competitive harm by “speculators.” Let’s recall that Lamar voted NO on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies:


        Let’s also note that Lamar speculates quite a bit on climate change issues:

        Rep. Smith attended the recent Congressional Hearing on Policy-Relevant Climate Issues in Context where I presented testimony. Rep. Smith’s op-ed touches on some of the main themes included in my testimony, including global temperatures have held steady over the past 15 years, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science, climate models have overestimated recent warming, Hurricane Sandy can’t be attributed to global warming.


        The expression “unfair competitive harm by speculator” seems quite fitting for this whole farce.

    • Its actually boring Willard.
      Even Jones realized that IP trumps
      Trade secrets also trump.
      Existing trade secret definitions didnt cover drilling information.

      It would be like so.
      To get paid Karl has to supply his SS number
      I cant FOIA that.

      To drill ( even water wells) a company has to file paperwork
      I cant FOIA stuff that amounts to their trade secrets (where we looked)

      But if you want to argue for fewer exceptions, feel free to

      • > I cant FOIA stuff that amounts to their trade secrets […]

        What you call “trade secrets” they call “information of a technical or scientific nature.” That’s an interesting nuance.

        What’s even more interesting is to imagine Lamar Smith investigating agencies that deal with oil & gas (& water) companies for this kind of information. It’d be interesting to compare the scope of his mandate with the one with NOAA, and the size of the lawyer practices that take over that personnel’s defense.

        What would be even more interesting would be to see the pushback from the industry against Lamar’s claims (paraphrasing) that it needs to come clean about why they the results they needed to advance their “drill, baby drill” agenda.

  41. Pingback: Scientists, Privacy, Emails, Climategate… | The Lukewarmer's Way

  42. Geoff Sherrington

    Would anyone like to think about and discuss these words from Judith –
    “More extensive documentation of what data is ignored and why in global climate data records.”
    Example. Very few climate proxy studies from mainland Australia have been published, a couple of dendro studies from Tasmania have. See PAGES 2K compilations. Maybe there was not enough funding in years gone by, or not enough experts here.
    Would I be regarded as overtly political if I took steps to discover what causes this comparative lack of proxy studies? Would I be regarded as cynical if I suggested in public that more studies had been done, but the results did not match preconceptions, and so were not published? Would studies done by our Universities and the CSIRO be easily regarded as paid for by the public, therefore open to public access? Would it be reasonable to ask these bodies for lists of relevant projects undertaken, but not published? Or not publicized? Or for what reasons?
    While FOI has some good features, it seems to be addressed to actions following publication (of one type or another). Is there a need for a variation designed to release what was suppressed?
    There is another suppression complication. This example comes from the USA, which for years has maintained dispersed ICBMs whose performance is affected by weather and whose silos are well instrumented to measure weather. On the face of it, the US military could have an independent historical temperature record for comparison with more public ones. A bloke on the Clapham bus would possibly make little progress after asking for the data sets. It is so easy to claim military security. Is FOI adequate to try to obtain these records, or is there a need for more types of FOI for special scenarios?

    • Geoff, this is supposed to be the most serious threat faced by mankind EVAH! But they want to hide crap from us. Why should we trust these clowns? Climate scientists are already regarded as being down in the neighborhood of used car salesmen on the credibility scale. If they want to save the freaking world they need to open the kimono.

  43. Judith,

    Another excellent post explaining and exposing these issues. Thank you for your persistence. You are doing a fantastic job for humanity.

  44. I always assumed my emails were being read by my employers, possibly the competition (we had found a Chinese spy passing documents in the 1980’s), the NSA, the CIA, the KGB, MI6, Mossad, etc. This meant they could be sent on to the NY Times, the Guardian, bloggers, and end up in Wikipedia. So I always kept that in mind, and would only talk to my boss about really confidential matters as we walked in a forest covering our mouths. Our confidential talks mostly involved a review of the material we would allow the people spying on us to access. This allowed us to give them misdirected junk. One time I “forgot” my briefcase in a conference room in Beijing with documents the Chinese could copy. About a week later we noticed their negotiating team had a certain urgency to close the deal, and we landed things exactly like we wanted.

    So my advice to climate scientists is to copy my work methods, and if you are gong to discuss sensitive business matters make sure you have a nearby forest where you can carry out your discussions. And don’t forget to cover your mouths. Those directional mikes are really pesky.

    • The other alternative is just do and talk about things that can be published on the front pages. That eliminates adjustments to data without clear justifications, fair and open evaluation of alternatives and reporting honestly on the discussions. Unless classified by some entity with appropriate justification. The best way is to actually be in reality what we would appear to be. That means climate scientists are searching for the truth and evaluating observations and data in a fair and objective manner, transparent to all.

    • “…could be sent on to the NY Times..”

      I”ve been following a local environmental controversy involving Federal, state and local agencies. Some of the internal emails have been published in the media with most of the focus on the tone of the emails rather than the substance. I see no criminality but the language and the apparent lack of sensitivity is nearly as damning. There is simple advice for any government employee in their communications which my wife gives to our daughters for their Facebook posts: assume the world is going to see it.

  45. I’d just like to note that this is a very Anglo-centric thread. As Richard Tol alluded to above, in most of the rest of Europe, if not the world, the notion of FOI or public access to anybody’s correspondence is really quite foreign.

    • David Springer

      You’re quite wrong. Ignorance of the law is no defense either. Phil Jones at UEA discovered it the hard way.


      • Dave, They have laws, but that doesn’t mean that the local interpretation is anything like what you think. In Germany the law basicially gives you the right to go to court to fight to get official Government documents that the U.S. Government probably would have published as a matter of course.

        Trying to get anybody’s correspondence, official or otherwise, would certainly be quite futile. That would conflict with Privacy.

        e.g. Here, local town councils do most of the real work in closed session. Try to get the minutes of a closed village meeting – much less the Bürgermeister’s email – and you’ll know what I mean.

        It’s a cultural thing. I’m not saying it’s good, just pointing out the difference.

        Do American town councils even have closed door sessions?

      • > Phil Jones at UEA discovered it the hard way.

        Which part of “anglo-centric” you do not get, Big Dave?

      • David Springer

        In Texas there are no closed council meetings and public notification of any meeting of a quorum must be announced 72 hours in advance in two public places (usually at city hall in public view even after hours and the city website). More than that it’s a crime for a quorum of council members to communicate with each other in any fashion to deliberate on city business. Even if it’s done by relay like I call council member A who calls council member B who calls council member C or have an intermediary do the calling. Texas has one of the strictest, if not the strictest, open meetings acts (TOMA) in the US. It’s only a class C misdemeanor though so not a big deal. The bigger deal is any legislation discussed in violation of TOMA may be voided. I’ve been known to video-tape meetings and have been videotaped many times myself. They’re all audio-recorded and the recordings are available upon request by anyone.

      • David Springer

        Phil Jones was an example of ignorance of the law. Many countries in the world have FOIAs, Open Meetings Acts, and so forth. Not that many date back to 1966 or earlier as they do in the US. For much of Europe the laws were enacted after the year 2000. Read the link.

        And please:


      • > Phil Jones was an example of ignorance of the law.

        Citing an Englishman remains unresponsive to KenW’s “this is a very Anglo-centric thread.”


        > Many countries in the world have FOIAs

        Which part of “that doesn’t mean that the local interpretation is anything like what you think” you don’t get?

      • Dave, I can say that my local pols would be pretty baffled if they had to play by your town rules – although the experience of having armed constituents might sharpen their learning curve.

        “Richard T” indicated that there is no legal means by which his correspondence in the Netherlands could come into the public domain. Even if a prosecutor obtained access, I’d wager that the content would never go beyond his defense attorney and the judge(s).

        In science other than climate (which is a special case anyway), depending on the circumstances, it might become attractive to do research elsewhere if the burden of disclosure becomes too onerous.

        While I personally believe that Sunshine is the best policy, we should take into consideration that we don’t operate in a vacuum and not everybody plays by our rules.

      • Thank you, KenW.

        It’s also important to bear in mind that UK’s FOIA law is a bit younger than the one in Texaskistan:


        Here’s Tony Blair, retrospectively:

        “The truth is that the FOI Act isn’t used, for the most part, by ‘the people’. It’s used by journalists. For political leaders, it’s like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, ‘Hey, try this instead’, and handing them a mallet. The information is neither sought because the journalist is curious to know, nor given to bestow knowledge on ‘the people’. It’s used as a weapon.


        Sunshine is good, and skin cancer is bad.

      • On the Tony Blair quote that FOIA is weapon.

        Yes – for the truth. Opposed only by those who wish to stifle it.

      • > Yes – for the truth.

        Yes, for more than truth. Selling newspaper. Starting a crusade. Gerrymandering. Hyping truthiness.

        Lamar’s own audit may very well be above FOIA, BTW.

      • David Springer

        Hah. I noted on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting is consideration of an ordinance to prohibit open carry of firearms in city hall in response to State of Texas recently passing a more liberal open carry law.

      • Yes, FOIA is a weapon for the truth. Opposed only by those who wish to stifle it.

        Willard > Yes, for more than truth. Selling newspaper. Starting a crusade. Gerrymandering. Hyping truthiness.

        The only people opposed to the truth appearing in newspapers are those opposed to the truth being aired because it hinders some underhand activity they support.

        The only people opposed to the truth being used in crusades are those opposed to the truth being aired because it hinders some underhand activity they support.

        gerrymander, verb
        manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favour one party or class.


        “Hyping truthiness”. Does that actually mean anything at all? My best guess is that it refers to the impertinence of criticising some underhand activity the complainer supports.

        Lamar’s own audit may very well be above FOIA, BTW.

      • Oops, the last line above copied+pasted in error.
        But Yes, everything should be FOIAable. Barring military/security etc issues, anyone in receipt of government funds should be given 30 days to answer any question directed at them, before their salary check is stopped.
        And after 60 days they are given the sack.

      • Everybody knows that Lois “I’ll take the fifth!” Lerner is a criminal and she is only walking the streets because her accomplices, Obama and his corrupt Dept. of Injustice, have helped her cover up her crimes and given her a Get Out of Jail Free card.

        The IRS must to be investigated and cleaned up no matter how much effort and money it takes. The Donald’s DOJ will get on it, about this time next year.

  46. The public has an absolute right to ALL the of work product of a government employee, they must have this to fully understand the reasons behind the policies that affect their lives.

    The public sector is radically different from the private sector. While both the private and public sector make decisions that affect our lives, only the public sector has coercive power – and because of the power to compel, the public must have absolute knowledge about the motivations of government.

    While the privacy of communication is a public good, the right of the public to access the work product of government employees is a greater good.

    • David Springer

      Absolutely. As a former legislator I understand completely and support open records between members of the government. I put a warning on my official .gov emails that they may be subject to disclosure to the public. This is especially important when the emails are between government officials.

      Constituent emails are of course private and I used a private email address for that. The weird thing is NOAA complied with the request for responsive emails only from those not on the federal payroll. That’s the polar opposite of who should have their privacy respected but even in that case once you press that old send-button on an email you no longer own it, control it, or have any expectation of privacy unless there’s some contractual agreement that it be kept private.

  47. stevenreincarnated

    I don’t even know why we need the FOIA now that we have the most transparent administration in history.


  48. I may be the only one on the other side of this. There are two different issues. First I was appalled to learn the the Universities had adopted FOIA procedures. If there is one place where we want people sharing ideas, without fear that their correspondence will be seized and made public, it is academia.

    Second, under US Federal research grants and present law the government basically buys two things — the labor of research and a final report. They also get limited rights to certain data and copyrightable works developed under the grant. They get absolutely no right to conduct surveillance, do wiretapping (wires used to be documents like emails), or demand documents such as emails, notebooks, draft articles, etc. If anyone thinks they should have these rights they need to propose legislation.

    I do not believe the bogus “science is broken” argument justifies this attack on privacy. Only climate science is broken.

    • Well the issue is that scientists’ emails are uninteresting (and extremely unlikely to be subject to FOIA request) unless the topic is of high policy relevance and/or the scientists are playing politics with their science.

      • And Dr. Curry, you’ve defined the problem.

      • Dr. Curry, I am addressing two other issues that are interlaced with yours. Both have to do with privacy.

      • unless the topic is of high policy relevance and/or the scientists are playing politics with their science.

        Seems like there are a lot of “skeptics” that think climate scientists are lying and or exaggerating for whatever motivation. I could see FOI as a way to for them to harass scientists they disagree with.

      • Well the issue is that scientists’ emails are uninteresting (and extremely unlikely to be subject to FOIA request) unless the topic is of high policy relevance and/or the scientists are playing politics with their science.

        Quite remarkable thing to say, as it ignores the likely scenario where it is the politicians requesting the information that are playing politics when the scientist aren’t, which is what you asserted when your emails were requested.

        Imgaine that, politicians playing politics

        Double standards attack again.

      • Uh, there should be no difference between elected politicians playing politics, versus scientists playing politics?

      • Joshua
        So because politicians play politics, publicly funded-scientists should be allowed to operate in secret?

        Once again your claim of double standards is self-serving drivel.

      • They have the emails where the politics would have been played out… the White House and their NOAA contacts. That was the negotiated settlement. If there is nothing in them, then it appears the leadership of congress has intervened with Smith and this baby is a finished pie: all crust, no filling. If the emails indicate untoward influence, then Smith can continue. But NOAA is acting very confident. And they should be. The Met Office has essentially affirmed Karl. 2015 is knockout warmest year. The monthly anomalies are now off the chart. The PDO index just went back up. 2016 is forecast to be even warmer than 2015. I used to be a lone voice on RSS and UAH being complete garbage as to surface warming; now blogs are full of negative science on the virginal satellite data. Lol. When you pick a fight, people punch back; and even nature picked a side and punched back. On a good day, bullies lose. It’s looking like a good day.

      • Punksta –

        ==> “So because politicians play politics, publicly funded-scientists should be allowed to operate in secret?”

        That’s a strawman, and not directly related to my point.

        I haven’t argued as to whether scientists’ email should be subject to the scrutiny of politicians.

        My point was related to consistency of standards. Combatants on both sides decry the politicization on the “other side” and turn a blind eye or even worse, rationalize and defend,the politicization on their “own side.”


      • Entirely and blatantly false: “They have the emails where the politics would have been played out… the White House and their NOAA contacts. That was the negotiated settlement.”

        The Committee has the emails from the:

        “communications” people- aka the PR flacks

        “front office” people-aka the secretaries and receptionist

        Chairman Smith had amended the subpoena to leave out, for the time being, the political flacks and the scientists. He will go after them after having now established that the NOAA will turn over emails. There has been no settlement.

        The only possibly effective legal defense the dishonorable NOAA head lady has now is if Obama invokes executive privilege. The courts are not likely to go along with that, as the claim has already been made that the conjuring up of the paper had nothing to do with politics and the White House. If executive privilege is invoked it is an admission that politics is involved, period.

        Keep shoveling the transparent lies. Dig a deeper hole. It’s funny.

      • Joseph> I could see FOI as a way to … harass scientists they disagree with.

        Only if by “harass” you mean “continue to request information that has been wrongfully refused”.

      • The negotiated, bent-over surrender of Lamar Smith, in his own words:

        Please provide all documents as soon as possible, but no later than December 15, 2015:

        All documents and communications by NOAA officials, with the exception of scientists acting in their official capacity, referring to or relating to the Karl study, including but not limited to, any official in the Office of the Administrator, Office of Communications and External Affairs, Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, and the Office of the Chief Information Officer from January 1, 2014 to present. …

        NOAA says they have complied.

        If true, Smith got every email with the exception of NOAA scientists who were doing science in their email. If the scientists were chatting about policy with Obama, Smith has those emails.

      • He is talking about the response to that particular
        subpoena, little lying dude. He has now established the fact that the NOAA dishonorable head lady is well aware of her obligation to turn stuff over to the Congressional oversight committee. The subpoena for the scientists will be coming along soon. The Chairman ain’t going to stop. Here is his position stated clearly, forcefully and with Constitutional authority that has been affirmed by Supreme Court decisions:


      • Bad link. The Smith letters on the NOAA story to Sullivan and Pritzker story can be found here:


        The letter of 11-18-15 to Pritzker makes it clear that NOAA scientists have informed the Committee of emails they exchanges with Karl et al. detailing complaints on violations of NOAA rules on scientific methods and procedures that were ignored. That’s the crux of the issue.

        And this is obviously false:

        “If the scientists were chatting about policy with Obama, Smith has those emails.”

        He doesn’t have the scientists emails. Duh!

      • Only if by “harass” you mean “continue to request information that has been wrongfully refused”.

        No I mean harass by barraging them with FOIA requests.

      • Can you give us any evidence that climate scientists have been harassed by barrages of FOIA requests, yoey? Or that any climate scientist has had his/her work impeded by FOIA requests?

      • Smith altered his subpoena. He gave it the VVViagra antidote and turned it into a softy.

        n his letter, Smith claims “it appears that NOAA employees raised concerns about the timing and readiness of the study’s release through emails, including several communications just before its publication in April, May, and June of 2015.”…

        Peterson says he’s not aware of any issues raised in the months just prior to the publication of the Science study. But in 2013 and early 2014—well before the disputed study was submitted to Science—Peterson says there was tension between agency scientists and data managers. The scientists wanted to publish a paper based on a then-new, more comprehensive database of land temperatures from the ITSI. Others in the agency pushed for a delay out of concerns the new ITSI data hadn’t fully met NOAA protocols for releasing such databases to the public. The dispute led to a 6-month delay in the publication of that earlier study in the Geoscience Data Journal, says Peterson. The ITSI data was later used in the Science study. …

        I think Peterson meant ISTI data set – international surface temperature initiative.

        So your whistle blowers are possibly data managers from 2013 and early 2014, which shows the paper was likely not rushed to publication for political reasons.

      • The usual disingenuous claptrap. Smith can send them 7,000 subpoenas. He has made it very clear that more are coming and actions will be taken, if they are not honored.

        NOAA scientists involved in the process made complaints in advance of the publication and up to the time of publication. If you read the letters for which I provided the link, you would know that.

        Smith says the NOAA scientists told him of emails that contained their concerns about violations of NOAA policies and procedures. That is what Congressional oversight committees are for.

        The NOAA dishonorable head lady could clear it up by cooperating with the Committee, as she swore to do when she was confirmed in her cushy well-paying gubmint job by the Senate.

        Now that’s all the time I have for your foolish obfuscations. You are not doing the cause any good. You got no cred, little dude.

      • I said I could see it happening, Don. This might become a regular tactic used by skeptics considering how paranoid they are about the behavior of climate scientists.

      • Do you jokers think that you are making actual arguments? Pathetic.

    • “If there is one place where we want people sharing ideas, without fear that their correspondence will be seized and made public, it is academia.”


      • What an intelligent reply (not)! Is the ideal of academic freedom lost on you, Mark?

      • Willis Eschenbach

        David Wojick | January 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm |

        What an intelligent reply (not)! Is the ideal of academic freedom lost on you, Mark?

        It’s called the right of academic “freedom”, and not the academic “right to hold clandestine discussions”, for a reason … publicly funded academics should be free to research and study what they choose. They should not be free to do so in secret.


      • Privacy and secrecy are two very different things, Willis. Try being less hyperbolic. If it is secret then no one knows it is going on. Federal research funded through the university is the opposite of secret. The award is announced by the Feds and administered by the Uni.

        Giving the government more power is not going to solve the problem,of climate science corruption, because government power is the source of the corruption.

      • David,

        Been on the road all day.

        The threats to academic freedom in academia (particularly climate academia according to Judith) are much more insidious than having to cough up some emails.

        You’ve been hanging out with those Cato Libertarians too much David. All hung up on theory and unable to get anything done. I’m not sending them any money this year.

      • David doesn’t understand that FOIA is not empowering the government. It allows the people to pry information out of the government and from people funded with taxpayer money.

    • DW:

      Only climate science is broken.

      I don’t think that’s a very strong position to take.

      • It is strong because it is true. I do research on scientific integrity and there are no outstanding problems outside of climate science, certainly nothing on the grand scale of climate science, just a lot of faddish hype.

      • …there are no outstanding problems outside of climate science, certainly nothing on the grand scale of climate science, just a lot of faddish hype.

        You clearly disagree with Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet (11 April 2015):

        The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”.


      • Yes, Opluso, this is a perfect example of the “science is broken” hype. His claims are ridiculous.

      • Your opinion is clear to me even if your facts are not.

      • David Wojick | January 14, 2016 at 12:25 pm |
        “It is strong because it is true. I do research on scientific integrity and there are no outstanding problems outside of climate science.”
        Well apart from Psychology as well. I understand S Lewindowsky has actually given Climate Science an A plus for integrity while demolishing the integrity of Psychology as a science/
        Perhaps medicine in Australia which being politically correct includes Acupuncture and Hypnosis which totally lack scientific credibility in their science basis if not their placebo basis.
        Cold fusion springs to mind.
        I could go on but am a fan of brevity.

    • Willis Eschenbach

      David Wojick | January 14, 2016 at 10:41 am |

      I may be the only one on the other side of this. There are two different issues. First I was appalled to learn the the Universities had adopted FOIA procedures. If there is one place where we want people sharing ideas, without fear that their correspondence will be seized and made public, it is academia.

      Absolutely not. Wherever things are done in secret, malfeasance is an ever-recurring problem. Sunshine is by far the best disinfectant. Look at the university scientists whose misdeeds were revealed by Climategate. Not only is the FOIA necessary to prevent this kind of outrageous and even illegal behavior, it needs to be strengthened.

      Next, the public universities didn’t “adopt” FOIA procedures. They were required by law to do so, because they are funded by public money. If you want to take the taxpayers shilling, you can’t be doing secret stuff. Simple.

      Finally, I’ve never understood the underlying argument, that somehow climate (or other) scientists need the right to hold secret conclaves and have hidden back-channel communications where they can reveal their inner thoughts that they don’t want the public to know about. Hey, if you need secret meetings to talk about climate with your co-conspirators, then you are not doing climate science.

      Second, under US Federal research grants and present law the government basically buys two things — the labor of research and a final report. They also get limited rights to certain data and copyrightable works developed under the grant. They get absolutely no right to conduct surveillance, do wiretapping (wires used to be documents like emails), or demand documents such as emails, notebooks, draft articles, etc. If anyone thinks they should have these rights they need to propose legislation.

      Sorry, but that’s simply not true. Despite your claim to the contrary, the government does have the right to “demand documents such as emails, notebooks, draft articles, etc”, as well as a number of other rights. From the Federal Regs 2 CFR §215 for National Science Foundation grants (emphasis mine):

      (e) The Federal awarding agency, the Inspector General, Comptroller General of the United States, or any of their duly authorized representatives, have the right of timely and unrestricted access to any books, documents, papers, or other records of recipients that are pertinent to the awards, in order to make audits, examinations, excerpts, transcripts and copies of such documents. This right also includes timely and reasonable access to a recipient’s personnel for the purpose of interview and discussion related to such documents. The rights of access in this paragraph are not limited to the required retention period, but shall last as long as records are retained.

      And as to whether the public has rights to access these scientists’ records, indeed we do:

      (f) Unless required by statute, no Federal awarding agency shall place restrictions on recipients that limit public access to the records of recipients that are pertinent to an award, except when the Federal awarding agency can demonstrate that such records shall be kept confidential and would have been exempted from disclosure pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) if the records had belonged to the Federal awarding agency.

      Finally, as to whether scientists working under Federal grants are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, indeed many of them are:

      (d) (1) In addition, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for research data relating to published research findings produced under an award that were used by the Federal Government in developing an agency action that has the force and effect of law, the Federal awarding agency shall request, and the recipient shall provide, within a reasonable time, the research data so that they can be made available to the public through the procedures established under the FOIA.

      Since the EPA and other agencies routinely use climate studies and the IPCC report to develop their policies and guide their actions, such studies as are used are subject to FOIA.


      • [Willis’ Major] Wherever things are done in secret, malfeasance is an ever-recurring problem.

        [Minor Fact] Private corporations and private individuals do things in secret all the time.

        The conclusion is left to Denizens.

        Go team!

      • Wilis, can you point to the law requiring universities to adopt general FOIA procedures? The Federal government has no power to do so.

        As for your quotes, they are misleading at best. The last one only applies to research specifically funded in preparation of an agency action, especially a regulation. It does not apply to research merely cited by the agency, as you seem to claim. This is a common misconception.

        The next to the last says the agency cannot restrict access, except under stated circumstances. It in no way requires the researcher to grant access. In fact it places no requirements on the researcher.

        The one before that is the standard financial audit language. Yes the government has access to my documents if they want to audit my books. That is not what we are talking about here.

        Try again.

      • “During the reign of a king, professional historiographers maintained extensive records on national affairs and the activities of the state. They collected documents and wrote daily accounts that included state affairs as well as diplomatic affairs, the economy, religion, meteorological phenomena, the arts, and daily life, among other things. These daily accounts became the Sacho (“Draft History”). Great care was taken to ensure the neutrality of the historiographers, who were also officials with legal guarantees of independence. Nobody was allowed to read the Sacho, not even the king, and any historiographer who disclosed its contents or changed the content could be punished with beheading. These strict regulations lend great credibility to these records.[5] Yet at least one king, tyrannical Yeonsangun looked into the Annals, and this led to the First Literati Purge of 1498, in which one recorder and five others were cruelly executed because of what was written in the Sacho. This incident led to greater scrutiny to prevent the king from seeing the Annals. In the Later Joseon period when there was intense conflict between different political factions, revision or rewriting of sillok by rival factions took place, but they were identified as such, and the original version was preserved.
        The original recorders recorded every word and act of the king in the Sacho although not all details were included in the final version. For instance, King Taejong fell from a horse one day and immediately told those around him not to let a recorder know about his fall. A recorder wrote both Taejong’s fall and his words not to record it. In another instance, Taejong was recorded to complain about a recorder who eavesdropped on him behind a screen and followed him to a hunt behind a disguise.
        Upon the death of a king and the coronation of his successor, the Sillokcheong (“Office for Annals Compilation”) used the Sacho to begin compilation of his annals.
        The Annals of the first three kings of the Joseon dynasty, those of Taejo (r.1392–1398), Jeongjong (r.1399–1400), and Taejong (r. 1401–1418), were hand-written manuscripts. Later annals, from the Annals of Sejong (r. 1418–1450) onwards, were printed with movable metal and wooden type, which was unprecedented in the making of annals in Japan and China.
        Four separate repositories were established in Chunchugwan, Chungju County, Jeonju County, and Seongju County to store copies of the Annals. All but the repository in Jeonju were burned down during the Imjin wars. After the war, five more copies of the Annals were produced and stored in Chunchugwan and the mountain repositories of Myohyang-san, Taebaeksan, Odaesan, and Mani-san. The Chunchugwan copy was lost in 1624, due to the treason of Yi Gwal. Part of the Mani-san copy was lost during the Manchu invasion (1636), and the surviving volumes moved to Jeongjok-san in 1678. The Myohyang-san copy was moved to Jeokseong-san in 1633. During the colonial era, the Japanese moved the Odae-san copy to Tokyo University, but most of the copy was soon lost in the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. 47 books have remained, and in July 2006, the copy returned to South Korea.

      • David

        The Federal government has strings attached to all their grants for programs and projects. If you want the funding you comply. Simple issue that should not even be debated.

        There is no difference between being a Federal employee and being an employee of another organization with your specific activities funded by the Federal government. You abide by the same rules.

      • Mosher

        Do you think the mold remains from the 14 century heat?

      • Steven,

        Do you have any recommendations for books on Korean history?

        I don’t usually find much in bookstores. Even Powell’s had very little.

  49. As a practical matter, so long as those working on “climate science” are doing so in an atmosphere where many “scientists” have strong political objectives, those “scientists” who are funded by government entities or by public universities should be subject to FOIA. If climate change work was not so politicized, this would be a close question. Because it is politicized, it is not a close question. Matters dealing with potential large public expenditures merit fully open disclosure.

    In response, to D Wojick’s point that US Federal Research grants only give the government limited rights, I would respond that to the extent his point is correct, in the matter of climate research, it should be totally changed. What are called mainstream climate scientists have virtually no option for funding other than government funds. That is different from those doing drug research, for example, who have the option of obtaining private funds for potentially profitable drugs.

    Also, the FOIA issue highlights an important issue dealing with the immaturity and narrow-mindedness of many university professors. They live in an artificial, privileged world where they are not held to the same level of responsibility as are businesses. Substantial numbers of professors are academically bright people who have lived in a cocoon during the course of their professional lives and who don’t understand that they are shielded from financial responsibility for their mistakes and transgressions in a way that businesses are not. For instance, many universities charge huge sums for tuition and graduate substantial numbers of students with crushing debts that cannot be repaid. If business did this, it would be subject to stringent regulation or fraud lawsuits. Universities on the other hand, merrily go on their way impoverishing students and enriching the professors who benefit from high tuition.

    As a lawyer, I realize that if someone claims that I have violated the rules of ethics, I have to release all of my written communications and emails. So all of them are written with the idea that if a jury were to see them what would a jury think. It is not that big of a burden. If I can be professional in my writings, climate scientists should be happy to do the same.


    • > They live in an artificial, privileged world where they are not held to the same level of responsibility as are businesses.

      Because, FOIA laws are tougher there, no doubt,

      Another interesting myth.

      • Not FOIA for the private business sector, you numpty.

        Audit rights of employers as well as external regulators.

        Honestly, why are warmy zealots so ignorant of how the world works?

      • > Not FOIA for the private business sector […]

        That was the point:



        > Audit rights of employers as well as external regulators.

        Because, the public sector don’t have that kind of thing.


        If you want to claim that people sign all kinds of indecent agreements to get a job, you may have a point. However, you’d still need to argue that these agreements top FOIA.

        Good luck with that.

    • As always, I respect your opinion and reasoning, but on this I differ with the conclusions.
      One has to look at the fruits of these requests for email. They are almost exclusively petty.
      Everyone knows to make sure your email is not going to get you fired. But for a scientist to sanitize them completely is a change in the manner email in science has traditionally been used. As a lawyer I consider your work higher stake and more formal. Every case of yours is an investigation. Not so in science.
      Most science is a combination of personal and professional cooperation. The personal side of email communication helps facilitate understanding between collaboraters.
      One has to keep in mind the fruits of legislation.
      Papers and data are the result if science. Not emails, how many times one goes to bathroom and the like.
      At any rate, a different view.

  50. Federally funded researchers are not subject to FOIA, only Federal employees. What would your law look like? We cannot have a separate FOIA law for climate research and it is only 4% of all basic research, if that. I regard your proposal as preposterous. Plus your view of university professors, which I was once, is both insulting and absurd.

    • A large percentage of researchers in the US who are not Federal Employees are state employees at state funded universities, thus would and should still be subject to state FOIA laws.

      If you don’t like scrutiny by the public, don’t work for the public.

      • “If you don’t like scrutiny by the public, don’t work for the public.”

        When every job is a government job the adage “he who does work doesnt eat” becomes “he who doesnt obey doesnt eat.”

        Tell Keynes to quit eating all the private jobs.

    • DW “Federally funded researchers are not subject to FOIA, only Federal employees. What would your law look like?”

      I would enact a statute that states that all federally funded climate research subjects those that do work funded by the government to be subject to FOIA laws on any emails that either directly or indirectly deal with climate research. Not very difficult. There will be issues of interpretation and scope dealing with the statute as there are with all statutes. So what. All enacted laws have the same issues. People in business and other ventures deal with imperfect laws all the time.

      DW “Plus your view of university professors, which I was once, is both insulting and absurd.” I have attended three universities up through law school and I stand by my statement. To give you an example of how stupid universities can be, I am attaching the link to Penn State’s report bias website. http://equity.psu.edu/reportbias It among other things encourages students to report issues of bias, hostility, injustice and oppression. — A simply ridiculous site sponsored by the University which is inimical to the free thought that universities should encourage. Additionally, there was the phony “investigation” of Michael Mann that didn’t even delve into the important allegations made against him. Academia is a strong breeding ground for such clearly stupid ideas and practices. (Also, consider the really stupid idea of microaggression that is taken seriously in academia.)


    • Federal agencies are, so any federal research sponsored by a federal agency would be, unless secret or top secret . There isn’t any reason for an academic to believe they are above FOIA law. Part of any federal contract is dealing with the massive amounts of paperwork. If anything, academics should be better prepared for the BS than any other group. Academia should be leading the way on transparency shouldn’t they?

  51. Charles the m: “If you don’t like scrutiny by the public, [and desire to influence the application of public funds] don’t work for the public.” +10


  52. Thanks to all Denizens, we now have a thread worthy of a commemoration of Aaron Swartz:

    Somehow, we need to get beyond the “I’m right so I’m right to nuke you” ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.

    One word, and endless tears.


    Go get these scientists!

    Go team!

  53. By coincidence today:

    Oral argument will be heard today in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit concerning White House science advisor John Holdren’s alleged use of a private email account for government work.


  54. it might worth mentioning that Congress has little incentive to resolve anything

    these parades go on non-stop and are for the purpose of getting attention
    few are paying attention to the issue discussed here

    DC is an industrial town
    the product is political division

    stark division wins elections and raises money

    the climate issue is really good for this
    perhaps second only to immigration
    neither side wants an immigration bill
    particularly the Left
    most immigrants have traditional values, comprehensive immigration reform would take away the major reason for them to vote for Democrats
    sensible climate policy is not good politics
    painting the other guy as a polar bear hater is

    DC’s attention is being overtaken by the election
    It will interesting be to see how often we hear “climate change” after the primaries

  55. I despise much of the culture around climate science as much as anyone, but I think asking for disclosure of emails is an overreaction and simply brings the Skeptic side down to miscreant level of the establishment.

    If emails are in the open, just as any other annoying regulation is skirted, this one will be. Communication will take other channels to the detriment of all, making it simply harder to get things done.

    Government intervention rarely leads to anything positive.
    We should not be turning our scientific institutions into one giant Post Office (or Department of Motor Vehicles, if you prefer).

    On the other hand people need to be fired over the RICO letter.

    • I should point out that such an open policy regarding emails completely defeats the spirit and tradition of emails, which have always operating on a basic of semi-confidentiality.

      Also, how in the world are the hackers going to get any good stuff if everyone is using a hidden gmail over TOR?

    • You are blurring some things. First, there is an FOIA. Get used to it. Passed originally by Democrats, btw. Second, in this case the issue is not FOIA. It is NOAA refusing to honor a lawful subpoena from its Congressional Oversight committee, with clear jurisdiction. That is the clearcut definition of criminal contempt of Congress, punishable by 1 year in prison, according to long since on the books statutes. And, in this case investigating whistleblower complaints from within NOAA about improper processes.

      • I was responding generally to the sentiment of making scientists emails public, not these specific cases. It is a bad idea and should be resisted in any form it takes. It destroys the tradition and the usefulness of email.

        Also, I don’t have to get used to FOIA as I ditched working fir the post office years ago.

      • “Nevertheless, more than 6 years later, the debate continues to rage over the sanctity (or not) of climate scientists’ emails.

        What exactly am I blurring?

      • Nickels: “I was responding generally to the sentiment of making scientists emails public, not these specific cases. It is a bad idea and should be resisted in any form it takes. It destroys the tradition and the usefulness of email.”

        There is a much longer tradition of FOIA for very good reasons. (Without the fear of disclosure, all sorts of shenanigans would occur.) Hansenite “scientists” are not scientists in a traditional sense because policy is as important to them as the science.

        To give you an example of the far reach of FOIA laws: In my county a levy was on the ballot to increase taxes to pay the police. I knew the police were highly paid. So I asked to see what starting prosecutors were paid [less than police]. Instead of just giving me the starting salaries of prosecutors, the administrative person simply gave me the salaries of all of the prosecutors in the county. FOIA is an intrinsic part of government service and expenditures. Those in the government or paid by the government know that that is how it works. Hansenite scientists think they are above the laws that apply to everyone else. There is no reason they should be.


      • “FOIA is an intrinsic part of government service and expenditures”

        I see where you are coming from, FOIA as a check and balance.

        I guess drifting to the more abstract in my worry is:
        -massive expansion of government in the name Keynesian economics.
        -massive expansion of irrelevant government agenda to these enterprises (think ‘rape culture’ on campuses because of federal grants, diversity requirements, etc…)
        -pettiness and absolute control by extending absurd requirements that will require to be broken to accomplish anything.

        I’ve watched the government the last 8 years. They want absolute control to enforce their redustributive and multicultural agenda.

      • ‘Sanctity’ – a chameleon word,
        encompassing divine right of kings,
        god-given directives and guvuhmint
        non-accountability – raison
        d’etat versus human liberty,
        what should rightly, in an open
        society, be disclosed in the
        public interest, and what’s yer
        own goddam business.

      • David Springer


        FOIA is a limit on gov’t not an enabler. It gives the public the power to see more than just the final results of gov’t work but also the motivation and process behind the result. It’s meant to expose hidden agendas.

      • > FOIA is a limit on gov’t … meant to expose hidden agendas.

        Opposed only by those who want unregulated government free to pursue hidden agendas.

  56. Wanting to see warmies’ emails means you are taking their pottiness seriously. Don’t prosecute the climatariat. Ridicule it. The bill for this tripe is already in the trillions. So ridicule harder.

    Hell, they haven’t even noticed there are clouds up there!

    – ATTC

  57. ” that responding to FOIA requests is a burden.”
    Sure is – and that’s true for senators, EPA inspectors, IRS staff etc etc.It is, however, a part of the job of a govt. employee. If you don’t like it enough, get someone else to pay you to do the research who won’t ask the same – good luck.

    ” that making scientists emails publicly available hampers the freedom to conduct unfettered research.”
    No, it doesn’t. It makes you accountable for the spending of public monies. It makes sure that the direction of the research is under the control of those authorizing the payments that allow you to do the research. Just the same as privately funded research.

    What is it about publicly funded scientists that makes them think they are different to other govt. employees, or can operate differently from privately funded researchers? The people who pay the bills want to know you are doing what they have asked for – that’s hardly “burdensome”. Would you pay a plumber to fix your leak without some confirmation that they actually fixed the leak and didn’t spend their time doing other things that, while they needed to be done, where not what you asked them to do? Of course not! Is it too much to ask that YOUR work be scrutinized the same way?

  58. “Good fantasy always mirrors the world we live in, usually commenting on something that is immediately recognizable to readers and threatening to them.”

    Author of the “Shannara” novels



  59. This article says this was over in December. Nothing came of it. What now? Has anyone even asked Smith if he is still looking for more?

    • Well yes, if you are a clown and you only read the part that suits your agenda, it looks like it’s over and the NOAA has declared itself innocent of whatever, based on turning over some documents from some of the staff:

      Article sets the stage:

      “In October, Smith subpoenaed internal NOAA communications between scientists, as well as some agency data, related to the research.

      He amended his request in December, specifying he first wanted to see communications and documents from NOAA’s political, policy and non-scientific staff rather than its scientists.”

      NOAA mouthpiece says:
      “The documents NOAA delivered to the committee contain emails among NOAA communications and front office staff discussing the routine mechanics of a communications plan for the paper,” NOAA spokeswoman Ciaran Clayton said.

      “The documents include discussions that show NOAA front office staff was aware that the study was particularly noteworthy and would likely be the focus of scrutiny and debate. At the same time, there is nothing in these materials that would support the notion that substance or timing of the paper was politically motivated.”

      I says:
      This is disingenuous. The communications and front office staff did not produce the paper. The emails the NOAA have so far refused to turn over would be the communications to look into to find political motivation. If climate change is the greatest threat to mankind, why not turn the emails over and remove the cloud of suspicion created by NOAA scientist whistleblowers?

      Chairman Smith has maneuvered them into producing emails of some of the NOAA staff. How is it that emails from other members of the NOAA staff can be kept hidden from the Congressional oversight investigation?

      Chairman Smith says:
      “I am encouraged by NOAA’s acknowledgment of its obligation to produce documents and communications in response to the committee’s lawfully-issued subpoena,” Smith said in a Wednesday statement.

      “I am also glad to see that NOAA has committed to produce additional items as they are identified. We will carefully review these documents and expect additional productions from NOAA.”

      So no, it obviously ain’t over.

      This was an interesting, important and well constructed post. However, the comments are full of mendacity and ignorance that can only be appropriately addressed with ridicule.

      • It’s over, Don. Let it go.

      • I think Don Don is right on this one, JimD. Lamar can’t really step back after so many fighting words all over the place. Grab some popcorn.

        Judy’s post seems prompted by Thacker’s editorial, which underwhelmed Orac:

        Thacker, as you might recall, wrote a highly biased article with Charles Seife for PLoS One attacking scientists who work on and defend genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and foods made from them from pseudoscientific attacks by cranks like Vani Hari, better known as The Food Babe. It was an article that was ultimately retracted. Reviewing his articles, not just the retracted PLoS One article, but his most recent NYT article, I find it hard not to conclude that Thacker advocates the unfettered use of FOIA requests, even abusive ones, to go on fishing expeditions for undisclosed conflicts of interest (COIs), real or imagined.


        Some more fighting words over there.

      • Continually making a fool of yourself is not helping the cause, yimmy. Try something else.

        Smith will soon issue a subpoena for the warmist scientists’ emails. The dishonorable Head of NOAA Apparatchiks will very likely continue to stonewall. They may cite her for contempt of Congress, but nothing significant is likely to happen until POTUS Trump takes office about this time next year. Will you be moving to France, or will you choose Canada, yimmy?

      • We will see, Don, But I wouldn’t be surprised if this investigation goes no where. That’s my prediction. Smith riled up the base and so he got something even if it accomplishes nothing

      • Don, I suspect Smith has moved on to one of his many other personally requested scattershot of subpoenas because there was nothing interesting here. Maybe you can FOIA Smith’s emails to make sure he is still on the case for you. That seems to be the way the Washington people find things out these days, so you would get his attention.

      • Bizarre, yimmy. If you were aware at all, you would know that Smith is on the case like an ole hound dog. If you were at all informed, you would also know that FOIA doesn’t get you emails from Congressmen. They made the law, silly. Exempt.

        Your incessant foolishness doesn’t serve the cause well, yimmy.

      • DM, so you argue in favor of government workers paid by your tax money having to show you their emails, unless those government workers are the ones responsible for also allocating your tax money. How does that work?

      • We get a chance to send the Congressmen home every two years, yimmy. The apparatchiks are a permanent class. You should familiarize yourself with the Constitution and the laws of the land. Try to become a good citizen.

      • Just be glad that it’s not Ted, JimD:

        In 1997, Michael Wayne Haley was arrested after stealing a calculator from Walmart. This was a crime that merited a maximum two-year prison term. But prosecutors incorrectly applied a habitual offender law. Neither the judge nor the defense lawyer caught the error and Haley was sentenced to 16 years.

        Eventually, the mistake came to light and Haley tried to fix it. Ted Cruz was solicitor general of Texas at the time. Instead of just letting Haley go for time served, Cruz took the case to the Supreme Court to keep Haley in prison for the full 16 years.


      • David Brooks savaging Ted Cruz. Perfect. Even the pearl clutchers are for Trump. The Donald is going to be the next POTUS.

      • From “likely” to “will” in a matter of days – teh Donald overcomb modalities.

        But not so fast:


        What if Marco went after the NOAA?

      • It’s a good thing you are Canadian, willito. You won’t have to move.

    • However this episode turns out, what is not being covered is the non-written communication and the decision making process associated with those communications. If you work with individuals long enough and trust is built up, then “the look” or a “grunt” is all that is needed to achieve what emails may now be accomplishing. State government is vastly smaller than the Federal behemoth and the individual relationships may not be as intimate, due to size and distance, but the dynamics are the same. I had thousands of meetings, phone calls and one on ones with the director’s office and political appointees over 20+ years. It might have taken a long time to develop that trust with some colleagues, but when it exists, the number of decisions made in one on one settings and over the phone, absent a paper trail, vastly outnumbered those in written form. Priorities from the Governor’s office did not need to be communicated in writing. Everyone in every meeting knew what they were. You were immersed in it. Decisions that flowed from those unstated assumptions were a natural outgrowth of every meeting and conversation. When new leadership was elected, a new set of unwritten priorities were established. If you breathed the stuff every minute of every day as we did, everyone was on the same page from day one and no one needed to be reminded what they were. Occasionally the trust between political appointees and careerists took years to develop or just never existed at all. But if it was there, a tremendous number of decisions could be made without any written communication. Try finding those fingerprints.

      My sense, just from knowing how the Federal government works and having worked there for a short time myself. is that the level of trust between individuals to the extent outlined above, probably does not exist and so the unwritten communication and resulting decisions are less frequent. It just depends on how well the individuals know and trust each other.

      • In this case the timeline had the paper submitted a year ahead of Paris, accepted a few months later at a normal rate, and due to be published in the summer, and then someone in NOAA wanted to sit on it until after Paris, and got angry when their delay tactics failed. That’s what it looks like to me. The process was normal until the delay attempt.

      • You are making crap up, yimmy. Nobody wanted to sit on the paper. They wanted it to be done according to the established NOAA scientific methods and procedures. You are not fooling anybody with your disingenuous yammering, yimmy.

      • It was already accepted. Normally the next step is publication, not intervention.

      • Publication in a journal has nothing to do with the obligation of scientists employed by the NOAA to follow the agency’s prescribed scientific procedures and methods. I am sure you know that. But you are dishonest.

        You don’t have any credibility here, yimmy. You very likely know that, but it makes you feel like you feel like a hero of the cause by incessantly annoying us. Playing the part of punching bag clown on a blog is no decent way for a grown man to spend most of his waking hours. Think about it.

  60. Privacy is a big concern in Australia.
    Everyone has an entitlement to privacy.
    but private e mails?
    one has to be joking.
    Anyone who thinks that a written e mail at work is private is extremely confused.
    FOI for Government work, fine.
    FOI or congressional inquiry for private communication?. Fine.
    There is nothing ever stopping Govt business being discussed in private e mails.
    If you are silly enough to do so the Government has every right to find out about discussing it on a “private” email.
    How else can FOI/congress work to find out that you have committed an indiscretion or crime?
    If something else criminal comes about , tough luck. If you are a criminal and silly enough to put it down where someone can read it using FOI for a separate reason, your own fault.
    Something embarrassing? Should not go anywhere. Privacy laws work to hit investigators who release personal information, extremely severely.
    Only exception is if your mother in law or girlfriend’s husband is the investigator [see definition of tough luck].
    For what it is worth your boss or fellow employee who knows your password is already tracking all your private e mails and if you have not already got the sack or had your bank account emptied you must be the sensible, normal, paranoid employee everyone becomes to survive.

  61. JC deserves enormous credit for bringing this issue up, for her outstanding transparency and commitment to truth, scientific method and amazing courage. Thank you Judith. I enjoy so much reading your blogs and comments as they always enlighten and make me feel like finally I am reading something rational, thoughtful, brilliant and authentically honest.

  62. It’s been over ten years now. Time now to remind ourselves of perhaps the most famous of all climate emails, laying bare as it did the accepted ethical and intellectual baseline of government-funded climate ‘science’ :
    (Emphasis added)

    Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2005 12:12:22 +0000
    From: Phil Jones

    To: “wshughes@xxxxxx.au”
    Subject: Re: WMO non respondo

    Hans Teunisson will reply. He’ll tell you which other people should
    reply. Hans is “Hans Teunissen” .

    I should warn you that some data we have we are not supposed top pass on
    to others. We can pass on the gridded data – which we do. Even if WMO
    agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested
    in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim
    is to try and find something wrong with it.
    There is IPR to consider.

    You can get similar data from GHCN at NCDC. Australia isn’t restricted
    there. Several European countries are. Basically because, for example, France doesn’t want the French picking up data on France from Asheville. Meteo France wants to supply data to the French on France. Same story in most of the others.


    Prof. Phil Jones
    Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
    School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
    University of East Anglia
    Norwich Email p.jones@xxxxxx.uk
    NR4 7TJ

    • That brought a smile to my face. I remember all about that.

    • Punksta,

      I sent your comment to Warwick Hughes and suggested he offer to write a post for Climate Etc. describing the history of the interaction with Phil Jones. He tried to post the below comment on Climate Etc. but was asked to supply a password. So he sent the following to me and asked me to post it for him:

      From Warwick Hughes

      Thanks to Punksta January 15, 2016 at 8:23 am for reprising that 2005 email from Dr Phil Jones to me. And in view this is my first comment at Climate etc – can I just thank Dr Curry for her efforts time and again standing up for better science.

      Back to 2005 – I am searching my HDD archives for the timeline of the story around that email – which extended over six months and hope to post something for the record in a day or so at – http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/

      Here is his post on his web site:

    • The real problem of course wasn’t Jones, but rather that barely a climate eyelid anywhere was batted.
      A precursor of the deafening silence following Climategate.

  63. Good ol’ private sector, a model for the auditing sciences:


  64. David Springer


    In this article you have 69 of 396 comments or 17%.

    I know you like to hear yourself talk and you’re like a really super important guy, a mover and shaker extraordinaire, but the rule is 5%. How about it, huh?


  65. As a scientist whose work has mostly been funded by the government, I completely agree with Judith. I have assumed for a long time that all of my e-mails and certainly all of my lab notes and data are public property and that the public has a right to access them in the reasonable manner as provided by FOIA laws. One of the major reasons I became a skeptic of CAGW was the unwillingness of many climate scientists to make their data freely available to other scientists and to the public. Although there are a few situations in which data might be part of projects with potential for commercialization, which scientists should be able to keep confidential, the vast majority of data from publicly funded research should be available to the public and to other scientists. In fact, it was the resistance to this principle by leaders of the climate science research community that initially caused me to become a skeptic of CAGW. I have never known a scientist in my field of research (biomedical) who was reluctant to share data, unless there were specific concerns regarding commercialization. In fact, most biomedical research journals will not consider manuscripts that include high throughput data sets (like mRNA sequences or microarrays) unless the raw data have been deposited in a public database. Why is there resistance to such practices in climate science?

  66. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #212 | Watts Up With That?

  67. Pingback: Timeline around the “We have 25 or so years invested in the work.” 2005 email from Dr Phil Jones | Errors in IPCC climate science

  68. Brian G Valentine

    I am a scientist working for the Government (actually, an engineering physicist). Everything I write is public – except messages to my daughter.

    NOAA if you try to hide anything that is cowardly and fraud. There is no other word for it

  69. I also work for a government agency and every note, email , fax, or phone call I make is recorded for posterity. Even though most of my communications also fall under federal HIPAA regulations, there is no expectation of “privacy” on my part, as these communications may be (and often are) subject to a court subpoena at any time. My employer is free to, and does, scrutinize anything I do on agency time or with agency equipment (all paid for by taxpayers). This was made clear at the beginning of my employment.
    Federal employees have received the same sort of pre-employment advisement.
    Emails on equipment paid for by taxpayers or regarding work paid for by taxpayers are no exception, even for scientists. . On the other hand, I would also want to know if a NOAA scientist/employee is sending or receiving 30 emails a day to their “dog”.
    We don’t work for you, you work for us!
    If you don’t want public scrutiny, don’t work for the public. It really is that simple, so stop the incessant whining! If you are doing legitimate science, your data and methodology should be archived, and procedures are spelled out. Your emails shouldn’t be containing intrigues on the order of a junior high school clique.
    I find it appalling that NOAA employees have become so arrogant as to think they are entitled to some sort of special exclusion from scrutiny of their work, all paid for by taxpayers, by the Congressional oversight committee whose specific job it is to do exactly that! I guess some of the other posters here didn’t see a problem when it was a Democratic chair investigating alleged NOAA improprieties during the Bush administration, according to the linked article.

    There are legitimate questions to be answered.
    For me, one would be “why has it taken NOAA (or GISS , or any other US agency for that matter) 18+ years to come up with some dubious “explanation” of why the climate isn’t warming catastrophically when all the models that you assured us ad nauseam were ”settled science” , have said it would be?”.

    Although Rep, Grijalva was certainly within his rights (like any other American) to file FOIA requests, it is fairly evident from the way he went about doing it ( including at taxpayer’s expense, for no apparently compelling reason, which seems like a misuse of public funds and there may be ethics issues to address there ) and who exactly he targeted, that it was definitely a political witch hunt. But like it or not, the freedom to go hunting for information initially paid for by taxpayer dollars, for whatever reason or for no reason at all, is exactly why the FOIA was passed in the first place! Why does it seem that only the public ‘climate’ scientists are having conniption fits about being asked for their communications, data, code, source materials, etc?

    Some prior posters on this thread seem to want to mix apples and walnut shells by attempting to conflate the two very different issues (FOIA vs. Congressional Oversight and jurisdiction). Rep. Smith is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing as Chairman of the Congressional Science, Space, and Technology Committee , his jurisdiction of which is precisely summarized here: