Given that The Australian‘s editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell threatens to sue Julia Posetti, alleging that he has been defamed, you’d think they’d want to avoid defaming scientists, but the law on defamation is really only useful to the rich and powerful.

In a column entitled Radicals get rich while truth begs, regular columnist for The Australian, David Burchell defames two scientists, Phil Jones and Riyadh Lafta. He first accuses Jones of professional misconduct:

Last week the journal Nature interviewed professor Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, the man whose email inbox was spread out across the internet a year ago like a patient etherised upon the operating table, revealing a decades-long pattern of professional misbehaviour.

Any journal that dared to publish a rival point of view was blacklisted; any paper for review which varied from his own view was rejected out of hand; any element of professional doubt demanded expulsion from the climate science garden, much as Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden for eating promiscuously from the tree of knowledge.

This isn’t true. Burchell fails to mention that multiple inquiries have checked into these allegations and cleared Jones. For example, the International Panel:

We saw no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice in any of the work of the Climatic Research Unit and had it been there we believe that it is likely that we would have detected it.

And the House of Commons report:

In addition, insofar as we have been able to consider accusations of dishonesty–for example, Professor Jones’s alleged attempt to “hide the decline”–we consider that there is no case to answer.

Burchell continues, switching from repeating discredited allegations, to making stuff up on his own:

In truth Jones’s dilemma is a nice one. Having built an entire scholarly career on a brief but influential 1990 study in Nature that purported to prove planetary warming on the basis of Russian weather-station data that has turned out to be less than robust, he has spent the past 20 years stubbornly defending his record and the future of the planet as if they were the same thing. As a consequence he has trashed his own career, while damaging the reputations of scrupulous climate scientists by association.

Google scholar is quite a useful tool. It lets us examine a list of Jones’ publications, ordered by the number of times they have been cited. And while that 1990 study in Nature was cited 146 times, Jones has forty-one papers with more cites. And if Burchell had ever read the paper he would know that it didn’t try to “prove global warming”, that it didn’t just use Russian weater-station data. Nor has that Russian proved non-robust.

Second, he defames Riyadh Lafta:

they allowed the entire interview program to be conducted, without supervision, by a Ba’ath Party member who served as propagandist for Saddam Hussein’s campaign against UN sanctions.

But Lafta was not a member of the Ba’ath party

I have tried to point out that Riyadh Lafta is part of the university system (Ministry of Higher Education) not the Ministry of Health. He was one of the very few doctors who refused to join the Baath Party under Saddam. This meant that he had limited career prospects in the in the Ministry of Health

And nor did he serve as a “propagandist”, Richard Garfield commented:

Reading this paper now, my conclusion is quite the opposite to Munro’s about its political bent. Many of those that I did read prior to 2003 were laced with political comments, making the separation of primary data and interpretation nearly impossible. This, by the way, is not uncommon in countries even without dictatorships where peer review and a tradition of scientific inquiry is weak. But this paper by Lafta is almost completely devoid of such political commentary, including only a few words about the social and political situation of the country among a substantive report on the weights and heights of children attending one clinic. This paper, among the ones that I read in Iraq prior to 2003, would stand out as an apolitical report, one that might even get the author in trouble for its lack of repetitive politicized language commonly used then in Iraq. I would have read this and assumed that the author was not supportive of the regime, just the opposite conclusion that some of the critics, who knew nothing of the times and context for such work, seem to have made.

“Propagandist” might be a better description for Burchell who also writes:

the investigators violated basic protocols of human subject research

Burchell doesn’t mention that The Johns Hopkins review found after examining the original data collection forms:

The review concluded that the data files used in the study accurately reflect the information collected on the original field surveys.

And the “basic protocol” that they “violated” was collecting the names of the people interviewed. Except that it is OK to collect the names as long as you keep them confidential. Which they did. What they got into trouble for was that in their research proposal they said that they would not collect names. Burchell consistently exaggerates when he isn’t just making stuff up.

Comments

  1. #1 Bill W.
    November 30, 2010

    Some day Rupert Murdoch will be (or should be, at any rate) prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

  2. #2 Majorajam
    November 30, 2010

    Jones needs to stop taking these things lying down. He should start furiously publishing rebuttals to nonsense like this and if the paper in which it appears does not print them, he should sue their asses for defamation. You can’t just let them beat up on you for sport or even as in this case to buttress their corporate sponsored disinformational polemics.

  3. #3 Michael
    November 30, 2010

    Just commented on the article over at The Oz.

    Quite amusingly, there is now a pop up which informs you that your comment may not be published if it contains “obvious errors of fact”.

    If only they put some of their own articles to that test!

  4. #4 Nick
    November 30, 2010

    Phil Jones [PhD 1977]had authored or co-authored scores of papers before the one that Burchell claimed was a career-launcher. And,for a man who ‘trashed his own career’,Jones has been doing OK.Three papers this year.

  5. #5 Bill O'Slatter
    November 30, 2010

    For an academic Burchell makes a lot of howlers.This undergraduate level essay from Burchell would have to be given a failing grade in any university in Australia.
    I’ll comment on Iraq war death esimates to Lambert, but more attention needs to be paid to the attacks on Jones and Mann by the Murdoch media and other right wing media. The source of these attacks for the right wing echo chamber is that moron McIntyre.

  6. #6 Paul Norton
    November 30, 2010
  7. #7 Syd Walker
    November 30, 2010

    In Chris Dodds article in Crikey (The ‘torture’ of writing about climate change at The Oz) he quotes Asa Wahlquist saying “The one bit of good news from this is that it shows that News Limited editors are independent.”

    That comment, it seems to me, is off the mark. In my own blog article on this controversy I wrote:

    “It’s my observation that when the Murdoch Empire requires uniformity, it gets uniformity – in trumps. Did anyone notice a single News Corp editor who opposed the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 or Iraq in 2003, said so publicly and survived in his/her job? If anyone knows instances of this I’d like to be to be told and I’ll correct my record promptly. As things stand, I have the distinct impression that support for these appalling, divisive and illegal wars attracted 100% NewsCorp editorial compliance, worldwide.

    “If Murdoch’s media empire now purports to be ‘even-handed’ or ‘aiming for balance’ on the issue of climate change, I’d say it’s because Mr Murdoch and his backers speak with forked tongue on that issue. Murdoch & co claim to be concerned about anthropogenic global warming, but set loose attack dogs like Andrew Bolt (a particularly obnoxious, well-promoted Australian ‘climate sceptic’) and Fox News (’nuff said) to undermine consensus for action. Let’s get real. This is clearly no accident. Murdoch knows how to fire staff if he so chooses – and there’s always reform school. Mixed signals from the Murdoch media on the challenge posed by climate change are an indication of conscious planning.”
    __________________________
    _____________________

    Any may I be the first to second Bill W’s comment?

  8. #8 frankis
    November 30, 2010

    Here is the measure of Chris Mitchell’s master, told in his own words in the Guardian of Feb 2003:

    Murdoch backs ‘courageous’ Blair over Iraq

    Rupert Murdoch has given his full backing to war, praising George Bush as acting “morally” and “correctly” and describing Tony Blair as “full of guts” for going out on a limb in his support for an attack on Iraq.

    The media tycoon, who has developed a close relationship with the prime minister, said he was full-square behind Mr Bush and Mr Blair, who are now facing critical opposition from Germany and France over war.

    “I think Tony is being extraordinarily courageous and strong on what his stance is in the Middle East.

    “It’s not easy to do that living in a party which is largely composed of people that have a knee-jerk anti-Americanism and are sort of pacifist,” Mr Murdoch told Australian magazine The Bulletin.

    On the war Mr Murdoch was equally unequivocal.”We can’t back down now. I think Bush is acting very morally, very correctly, and I think he is going to go on with it,” he said.

    “The fact is, a lot of the world can’t accept the idea that America is the one superpower in the world,” he added.

    Mr Murdoch said the price of oil would be the war’s main benefit on the world economy.

    “The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil. That’s bigger than any tax cut in the any country.”

    Mr Murdoch’s comments come just a week after he told Fortune magazine in the US that war could fuel an economic boom.

    “We’re keeping our heads down, managing the businesses, keeping our profits up. Who knows what the future holds? I have a pretty optimistic medium and long-term view but things are going to be pretty sticky until we get Iraq behind us. But once it’s behind us, the whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else,” he told Fortune.

    Mr Murdoch believes there is no doubt that President Bush will be re-elected if he wins the war with Iraq and the US economy remains healthy.

    “He will either go down in history as a very great president or he’ll crash and burn. I’m optimistic it will be the former by a ratio of two to one,” the Australian-born media magnate who now holds US citizenship told The Bulletin.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2003/feb/11/iraqandthemedia.news

    That was the sound of evil and stupidity running amok in the world back in 2003, and Tony Blair and George Bush went on to dutifully do its bidding. Did they have any choice after those words from the most powerful media voice in their countries?

    Today Murdoch’s underling Chris Mitchell sees himself as untouchable in Australia, too powerful for a lowly paid, socially inferior scientist like Jones to go after him. He must be as wrong about that as he is about the other firmly held personal beliefs and convictions that he shares with (read: gets from) the warmongering, wrong-about-just-about-everything Murdoch.

  9. #9 James Haughton
    November 30, 2010

    How do I donate to the Phil Jones legal defence fund?

  10. #10 Bill O'Slatter
    November 30, 2010

    More funny peculiar at Climate Audit. McIntyre wrestles Assange for ownership of ClimateGate.
    http://climateaudit.org/2010/11/30/assange-on-climategate/

  11. #11 happy_heyoka
    November 30, 2010

    @James

    How do I donate to the Phil Jones legal defence attack fund?

    there, fixed it for you ;-)

    +1 on the fund… should he decide to jump into that particular pit of molasses…

  12. #12 Martin Vermeer
    December 1, 2010

    > Russian weather-station data

    No, it wasn’t Russian weather station data, it was Chinese weather station data that Burchell wants to falsely claim has turned out to be less than robust.

    The guy cannot even get his errors straight.

  13. #13 Martin Vermeer
    December 1, 2010

    > McIntyre wrestles Assange for ownership of ClimateGate

    and in this case he is right. Although he wouldn’t be McIntyre if he didn’t substitute his own nonsense for Assange’s…

    This is useful as it exposes WikiLeaks for the egotripping fools they are. There is nothing behind the shell of ideological slogans ‘information wants to be free’. No awareness I could find that confidentiality sometimes is a good thing. I don’t expect WikiLeaks will take responsibility if a war breaks out that could have been prevented, had not the diplomatic instruments for that been blunted by these elephants in a china shop.

  14. #14 Bill O'Slatter
    December 1, 2010

    Martin , calling Assange an ego tripping fool is an over reaction.Wikileaks serves a useful function and the idea that war wpould result from its activities is laughable.If anything it’s revealed how inane most diplomatic traffic is. I was just drawing attention to the comical way that McIntyre reacted to what he saw as somebody poaching on his territory.

  15. #15 PDO Smith
    December 1, 2010

    Delightfully off topic, but I couldn’t help nodding in agreement at Martin’s characterisation of Assange as an ‘ego tripping fool’. Wikileaks is a great idea. But Assange has a misplaced idea of his importance, leading him to insert his own ego driven political agenda and trivialising what would otherwise be a very important tool.

  16. #16 Wow
    December 1, 2010

    > Burchell consistently exaggerates when he isn’t just making stuff up.

    Monckton does it too. And McIntyre. And… hang on, I think, all the denialists do this.

  17. #17 Wow
    December 1, 2010

    > There is nothing behind the shell of ideological slogans ‘information wants to be free’.

    a) There is: you have to HIDE information to keep it secret. Therefore it “wants” to be dispersed just like an ideal gas “wants” to have an equal pressure in its volume, or energy wants to be equipartitioned.

    b) Irrelevant anyway, since that isn’t what WikiLeaks is enacting.

    > No awareness I could find that confidentiality sometimes is a good thing.

    you mean apart from redacting lots of names, asking the US government for help in identifying other elements that may be endangering people?

    I guess none so blind as will not see.

    > I don’t expect WikiLeaks will take responsibility if a war breaks out that could have been prevented

    Yah, bit late for that one. Iraq War 2 already done.

    The other difference is that, unlike the CRU theft, these documents were leaked and aren’t being posted piecemeal in a quote-mining bonanza.

    At least you’re consistent: you don’t like the CRU theft nor the release of WikiLeaks info. The Right Wingnuts love the CRU theft (calling it a leak) but loath both WikiLeaks (calling it treason) and, for example, the hacking of Sarah Palin’s illicitly abused email account.

    What you’re not consistent about is seeing any of the monumental differences between them.

  18. #18 Wow
    December 1, 2010

    > leading him to insert his own ego

    I read this a lot.

    Nothing to substantiate it, nor why this makes WL wrong or the information produced untenable.

    I guess it’s because it’s embarrassing to the “Leader of the Free World”. That can’t happen, it’s unpossible.

    But when you don’t have facts on your side, play the man, not the ball.

  19. #19 Martin Vermeer
    December 1, 2010

    > you don’t like the CRU theft nor the release of WikiLeaks info

    I’m sorry to say but I’m not consistent there. I liked very much the helicopter gunship video that they released, and stuff in the Iraq dossier. Even some stuff in this leak. But that’s not good enough.

  20. #20 Wow
    December 1, 2010

    > But that’s not good enough.

    No, it’s plenty good enough.

  21. #21 Dominion
    December 1, 2010

    Delightfully off topic, but I couldn’t help nodding in agreement at Martin’s characterisation of Assange as an ‘ego tripping fool’. Wikileaks is a great idea. But Assange has a misplaced idea of his importance, leading him to insert his own ego driven political agenda and trivialising what would otherwise be a very important tool.

    Look, there’s the messenger. Now hold steady…steady…now aim…and fire!

  22. #22 Marco
    December 1, 2010

    Wow, I think you will find it is more than just embarrassing to the US. The qualifications and various descriptions also embarrass several other countries. Regardless of the official dismissal by Iran about various Arab countries asking the US to attack Iran, rest assured this has created a raging fire in Iran and its diplomatic contacts with other Arab states. On the streets of several of those Arab countries these cables will not go down lightly either. Which, in turn, embarrasses the leaders of those countries again: if the US would attack, they can’t funnel the street anger against the US and Israel, but would likely be drawn into the street fight.

    There’s a few more less violent but similar situations that may show up over the next few weeks.

  23. #23 Wow
    December 1, 2010

    Aye, there were releases that the UK government silenced from the WL site by telling the media to ignore it.

    There’s an apparent anti-US bias only from people that

    a) think the Light Of God shines upon the USA like no other country

    and/or

    b) have short memories

    Very similar “issues” arise whenever the EU fine or sanction a US originated corporation. Lots of people complaining the EU has an Anti-US bias, forgetting that they frequently sanction EU corporations and also forgetting that it is, for example, MicroSoft (EU) being fined, not MicroSoft (USA).

    There’s a lot from the US because a lot from the US has been leaked recently. That’s all.

  24. #24 Jeff Harvey
    December 1, 2010

    I think Pepe Escobar sums it up perfectly here:

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LL01Ak01.html

    There’s much in the Wikileaks revelations that we don’t know (or at least should know) already. The real embarrassment should be directed at our state/corporate media, which look like a bunch of idiots when the truth is revealed. Its the mainstream media which, with few exceptions, peddles ‘myths’ about western benevolence and dedication to noble ideals such as committment to freedom and democracy, when it should have been clear for years that the real agendas – outright expansionism, subjegation of other countries assets and nullification of alternatives to the ‘Washington Consensus’ – are kept hidden and seldom discussed.

    Its also worth pointing out, as Noam Chomsky did quite recently, that the Wikileaks stories are hiding western atrocities which are far vaster in scale than anything that the leaked documents reveal:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHfYtvYRgdk

  25. #25 J Bowers
    December 1, 2010

    How the hell do these hacks sleep at night?

  26. #26 Wow
    December 1, 2010

    Like babies, JB.

    You see, they are fighting THE ENEMY. Therefore *any* ruse that removes them or crushes them is not only acceptable but *mandatory*.

    They have looked long into the abyss and hunted monsters of the mind too long.

    In short, they are nuts.

  27. #27 PDO Smith
    December 1, 2010

    Dominion, you said ‘Look, there’s the messenger…etc’.
    If only he behaved like the messenger then perhaps he might receive some respect. As it is he has become involved in the manipulation and presentation of the message , making him more than the messenger. Given his involvement it is only natural to examine and question his behaviour and motivation. Why should he be immune?

  28. #28 Wow
    December 1, 2010

    > As it is he has become involved in the manipulation and presentation of the message

    There’s a commonality with denialist arguments here (where they talk about the temperature records).

    If no editing is done, then Assange is putting people’s lives at risk and the CRU are running GIGO.

    If editing is done, then Assange is now spinning the documents and the CRU are manipulating the data.

    “Given his involvement”?

    You mean the fact that he’s the only name for the five people at the top, his work to get names redacted from the reports and his work at getting governments to open up?

    Because I don’t see anywhere in his actions Assange is manipulating the work.

    Your aim is, thankfully, worse than the gunners of Apache helicopters, but your intent no better.

  29. #29 Martin Vermeer
    December 1, 2010

    Wow, look at yourself — you’re behaving like the nutter here.

    > As it is he has become involved in the manipulation and
    > presentation of the message

    He has. Not just Assange, but WikiLeaks as an organization. Just read up on their misrepresentation — i.e., exaggeration — of their role in the climategate exposure. On their own website, no less.

    When I catch them with their pants down in a matter that I happen to have some familiarity with, shouldn’t I assume that this applies generally?

  30. #30 Donald Oats
    December 1, 2010

    Just the other day Jonathan Holmes noted that the defamation laws in Australia are extremely restrictive, making the claim of Chris Mitchell’s (ie of being “defamed” by Posetti) one that may actually succeed if taken to court.

    Therefore, I reason, a claim by Phil Jones of being defamed by the author/editor, if tested in an Australian court, should be a lay-down misere, a caught and bowled, a shoo-in, etc. Are any lawyers here in Oz prepared to consider this, perhaps pro bono even? I’m thoroughly sick and tired of the relentlessly one-sided trail of reputational destruction being waged against climate scientists.

    Phil Jones had depression during the fallout, so I can understand if he doesn’t want the added stress and distraction of a defamation trial. Still, Murdoch Media settle out of court quite a bit, it seems…

  31. #31 SteveC
    December 1, 2010

    Apparently Amazon has pulled the pin on Wikileaks usings its hosting service in the US and Europe, following the release of “sensitive” documents from the US State Dept.

    Sydney Morning Herald story.

    The Grauniad.

  32. #32 Bill O'Slatter
    December 1, 2010

    Martin ,all this gibberish about ownership of “Climategate” from McIntyre rests on the interpretation of one word from Assange “released”. Interestingly McIntyre claims that a major reference for the emails available from Nov 20 was the site anelegantchaos.org registered to Hugh Miller aka Shug Niggurath.

  33. #33 peterd
    December 1, 2010

    Donald Oats: I’m with you on this, as I too am growing tired of the continual character assassination and denigration of science. As I see things, climate science suffers from the attacks on climate scientists, and in turn science as a whole is then being undermined. It’s about time scientists started taking a stand against the perpetrators of the defamation, fraud and libel.
    It’s like the bullies in the school playground: if you don’t fight back, you just give them a green light to carry on with more, and launch yet more vicious attacks.
    It’s about time some of this stuff was tested in a court of law. As to how to get the ball rolling, well, surely we have to find at least one scientist who thinks that he/she has been defamed?

  34. #34 Hank Roberts
    December 1, 2010

    > depression … stress and distraction of a defamation trial

    Sounds like a recipe for pure hell.

    Lawyers and publishers are highly skilled at making life horrible for others. Scientists, not so much. What could Jones win that would be worth the misery of such a trial?

  35. #35 Vince Whirlwind
    December 1, 2010

    A judgment by a court of law that the Denialists and the newspapers that support them are careless with the truth.

    Surely that would be worth it.

  36. #36 Martin Vermeer
    December 2, 2010

    Bill #32,

    what McIntyre says doesn’t interest me all that much. WikiLeak’s ‘about’ page still proudly mentions their role in climategate:

    > Climatic Research Unit emails, data, models, 1996-2009 – Over 60MB of
    > emails, documents, code and models from the Climatic Research Unit at
    > the University of East Anglia, written between 1996 and 2009 that
    > lead to a worldwide debate

    …this in spite of their actual role in this being marginal, and more importantly, a year having elapsed in which a string of investigations cleared the scientists of misconduct charges.

    Yes, it led to ‘a worldwide debate’. That statement tells me all I need to know about WL, their intellectual integrity and their willingness to admit mistakes and correct the record.

  37. #37 Wow
    December 2, 2010

    > Yes, it led to ‘a worldwide debate’. That statement tells me all I need to know about WL

    WL didn’t cause the debate. Denialists did.

    That you jump to making this WL’s fault tells me all I need to know about your position here.

    Dogmatic and ill-thought.

  38. #38 Dominion
    December 2, 2010

    Dominion, you said ‘Look, there’s the messenger…etc’. If only he behaved like the messenger then perhaps he might receive some respect. As it is he has become involved in the manipulation and presentation of the message , making him more than the messenger. Given his involvement it is only natural to examine and question his behaviour and motivation. Why should he be immune?

    Got that messenger right in the head. Good shot old man!

    Until you explain just how Mr. Assange manipulated anything I am afraid I am just gonna have to consider you a messenger killer.

  39. #39 luminous beauty
    December 2, 2010

    [Here](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W17dW_aJEwU) is what Assange actually has to say about the hack. I see no manipulation, assertion of original credit, nor egoistic grandstanding. I do see such in McIntyre’s accusations, though.

  40. #40 BPW
    December 2, 2010

    Wow @37,

    “Dogmatic and ill-thought”

    Pretty much describes about 99% of your posts Wow. All you need to add is arrogant and condescending and you have it pegged.

    Regardless of who started the “debate” I think the point is that, since WL had little to do with the release of the Climatgate emails, the fact that the WL site makes the claim they did says quite a bit about the character of those involved. And luminous, it sure sounds to me from your link that they are asserting that they were the ones who released the emails. Ultimately, it’s pretty irrelevant aside from knowing who the original hacker/leaker/whistleblower really is.

    As to the comparison between the CG emails and the recent dump of government docs, the issue is does the latter endanger the lives, rather than the reputation, of innocent people. Secret government docs have the potential to do so, emails about climate discussions do not.

    Frankly, from what I have seen thus far, the leaked docs are mostly damaging to people’s egos, and really just tell us things we already knew or assumed to be true.

  41. #41 luminous beauty
    December 2, 2010

    BPW,

    >And luminous, it sure sounds to me from your link that they are asserting that they were the ones who released the emails.

    Regardless of what it ‘sounds like’ to you, Assange is explicitly saying they received the hack from third parties (not the FSB), and decided to publish it on their web-site, for reasons of being consistent with their philosophy of openness. He makes no claim, nor implies, that wikileaks was the first to publish nor that wikileaks had any role in acquiring the information.

    >As to the comparison between the CG emails and the recent dump of government docs, the issue is does the latter endanger the lives, rather than the reputation, of innocent people. Secret government docs have the potential to do so, emails about climate discussions do not.

    I guess that, for you, [wikileaks](http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/08/20/wikileaks) efforts to engage with the relevant security agencies to redact the names of such endangered parties prior to publishing nor the flurry of death threats received by climate scientists in the wake of the UEA hack holds much significance.

  42. #42 BPW
    December 3, 2010

    luminous @41,

    “Sounds like” when he says he felt they had an obligation to release the emails that he is saying they were not already available, thus making it “sound” as if they were the primary source.

    As for the comment another made about their claims on their site, I went and did not find where they make the stated claim that they had released the emails. Perhaps removed to acknowledge the error? One way or the other, I do not believe in their cause when it comes to secret leaked material as I think some things should be secret. And that people who leak state info and secrets are essentially committing treason. Emails between climate scientists shouldn’t be considered secret, nor treasonous IMO. Nothing worth hiding. Yes?

    To be fair, the fact that they redacted names is commendable, but changes little about their motives. I don’t think, as you seem to, that the WL folks provide much a service to the world unless you think that stirring the international political pot is a service.

    As for death threats, no, I don’t think those can be blamed on the release of emails. The nuts in the world don’t need much fuel for their fire. Do you really think anyone who is unhinged enough to send a death threat really needed the release of a bunch of borderline worthless emails to confirm their hatred of scientists and the AGW debate? I think not. I think it gave them specific names to target, but nothing more, and nothing they could not have learned through other channels.

  43. #43 Bernard J.
    December 3, 2010

    Whatever the fact of Wikileaks’ role in the CRU email publication, Assange has certainly got up a few people’s noses.

    Rape charges, revocation of the Wikileaks domain name, and now attempts to prosecute him for espionage. It seems some folk are very protective of their secrecy -I wonder if these were the same folk who were so eager to disseminate the CRU emails and data?

  44. #44 Martin Vermeer
    December 3, 2010

    Emails between climate scientists shouldn’t be considered secret, nor treasonous IMO. Nothing worth hiding. Yes?

    BPW, really? Please post the link to your email archive for the last decade or so. Nothing worth hiding, right?

    You are confusing confidentiality with secrecy. Some things are legitimately confidential, such as much diplomatic messaging, and I would say, also emails within scientific authoring teams that are written with a legitimate expectation of privacy. No, releasing these will not kill anybody, but it has a chilling effect on the activities of the professional community in question. And yes, it may sound far-out, but people may die because of this. Just not named individuals whose names can be redacted.

  45. #45 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    > You are confusing confidentiality with secrecy.

    It’s not even that. It’s privacy with secrecy. The emails aren’t what the science is based on and have, in any case, shown no problem.

    Yet, despite this, there are continued calls for yet more time to be wasted not doing their job (the science) and answer any denialidiot’s claims again and again and again.

    It’s not even the chilling effect. It’s pointless because it wastes time to no avail (well, if your aim is to stop the science going forward and delay action, there’s plenty availing…).

  46. #46 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    @40, tone troll projects again. News at 11…

    I know you don’t like Wikileaks because it’s showing up your country’s illegal and reprehensible actions, but complaining about me isn’t going to make the US or you and your fellow homechair hawks look any less of an asshole.

    Don’t like WL? Don’t do things that look bad.

    The CRU didn’t do anything that looked bad. The theft of their stuff was pointless and a waste of time, but delay was the point, especially sinking Copenhagen (hence the timing).

  47. #47 Martin Vermeer
    December 3, 2010
  48. #48 Rick Bradford
    December 3, 2010

    Muir Russell: “In addition, insofar as we have been able to consider accusations of dishonesty — for example, Professor Jones’s alleged attempt to “hide the decline” — we consider that there is no case to answer.”

    Phil Jones: “The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

    Obviously, some people have different standards of honesty — or dishonesty — than others.

  49. #49 Jeff Harvey
    December 3, 2010

    So, Martin, I assume that you think Danile Ellsberg was also a criminal because he acted as a whistlerblower through his release of the Pentagon Papers?

    Don’t get me wrong, I have mixed feelings about Wikileaks. But if you bothered to go through actually declassified planning documents, as Mark Curtis has done in ‘Web of Deceit’ and ‘Unpeople’, as well as declassified State Department memos and quotes from influential people like Brezinski and Kennan, you’d see that our government planners are supporting some pretty appalling agendas that have nix to do with promotion of freedom, democracy or combatting terrorism but are based on promoting agendas based on outright expansionism and control of other countries assets.

    Tobias writes a pretty shoddy piece in my view. He apparently takes, at face value, the notion that we are waging a war with Al Qaeda, and that the leaks damage our noble efforts to counter international terrorism. Check the US Office on Foreign Assets Control, and you’ll find hardly any staff there monitoring the flow of cash to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, but many more working to ensure the economic blockade of Cuba continues. This is because, aside from media sound bytes, the threat of international terrorism is hardly taken seriously by western elites. They don’t like it, but they know that much of it is the result of abhorrent foreign policies aimed at controlling ‘the greatest material prize in history’ and a ‘source of stupendous stategic power’ as quoted in a declassified 1950 State Department memo.

    All Wikileaks has done is to, in a small way, cut through the lies, hyperbole and rhetoric and lay bare the real agendas underlying US foreign policy. It appears that Assange is a right wing libertarian, and certainly that he has his own reasons for doing what he does, but let’s not go down that semantic road of suggesting that Wikileaks is damaging US credibility abroad, given that it has used up much of that over the past 60 years.

  50. #50 Marco
    December 3, 2010

    Rick Bradford: I think Phil Jones was brutally honest there. Sheer and outright frustration of having worked his butt off for several decades, only to be attacked and harassed and bothered with frivolous requests. I think everyone deep down knows where the dishonesty lies, and it ain’t with Phil Jones.

  51. #51 chek
    December 3, 2010

    As Deep Climate’s investigations have exposed, Phil Jones was absolutely right in his appraisal of the (lack of) good faith in M&M’s pestering for access to data.

    The denialist machine runs with the meme that Jones didn’t want what they imagine were his errors and biases exposed, when in fact the case was – as DC clearly shows – what a dishonest hack like McI can do to pull wool over the eyes of the unwary when complex data processing is involved. Just look at the red noise hockey sticks myth as a blatant example, yet it’s firmly believed in the denialosphere.

    Plus the whole “auditor” schtick that McI. runs is in itself deeply dishonest. If he were really that interested in the science he’d have acquired his own data and sources, but as we now know that isn’t his agenda at all. He’s up to his neck in colluding to deceive Congress at the behest of lobbyists.

    Of course, real scientists already knew that after M&M2005.

  52. #52 Martin Vermeer
    December 3, 2010

    > So, Martin, I assume that you think Danile Ellsberg was also a
    > criminal

    Jeff, you would assume wrong. It’s about the ‘greater crime’ criterion. Means vs. ends.

  53. #53 Bud
    December 3, 2010

    For anyone interested, a [Q and A session with Julian Assange in the Guardian](http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2010/dec/03/julian-assange-wikileaks).

  54. #54 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    Rick, M&M aren’t UK taxpaying citizens, therefore they have no standing to request the data.

    Yes, there are people who have an “alternative” view to honesty.

    Despite stating they wanted to check the figures, M&M never managed it, yet the report into the case did so merely as part of their investigation, within two weeks.

    This shows that McI was lying through his back teeth about why he wanted the data and whether he was going to use it.

  55. #55 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    So what, Martin (@52), are the ends and the means in the two cases?

    Ends: Show the war crimes enacted by US pilots and hidden by the US military

    Means: Leak gun camera footage

    you have a go with the Pentagon Papers.

  56. #56 P. Lewis
    December 3, 2010

    Rick, M&M aren’t UK taxpaying citizens, therefore they have no standing to request the data.

    Wow, you don’t need to be resident or a UK citizen to request info under the UK FoIA.

  57. #57 Jeff Harvey
    December 3, 2010

    Martin,

    You still have not answered the thrust of my points. The msm, for the most part, takes most government pronouncements at face value. The idea that our leaders may be pursuing clandestine agendas that are the polar opposite of what they say in public is rarely analyzed by the punditocracy. Thanks to the internet, many people are gaining access to much broader sources of information, and the real agendas are becoming much easier to elucidate. All Wikileaks has done is lay bare the myth that the US government is pursuing noble agendas in its foreign policy. I don’t think much from the leaks so far tells us things that we already shouldn’t know. Sure, its a huge embarrassment for those in higher office, but at least it reveals the truth.

    One reader had a letter published in the Guardian which reads:

    *If all our emails, however personal, are to become subject to the scrutiny of the government, why shouldn’t all the government’s emails, however sensitive, become subject to the scrutiny of us? If we can’t plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament without their knowledge, why can they and Saudi Arabia plot to blow up Iran without ours?*

    This sums it up exactly. What say did the general public have in deciding whether Iraq would be invaded? Or Iran? Whether its OK for ther UK to sell fighter aircraft to abhorrent regimes like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia under Suharto? Shouldn’t the general public be privy to the decidions made by government planners that inflict serious harm on people elsewhere in the world?

  58. #58 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    > The msm, for the most part, takes most government pronouncements at face value.

    A particularly egregious one recently was the media’s report that activists against the G20 summit in Scotland recently poured oil on a major highway and caused crashes that injured many innocent people.

    However, this was what the highlands police had stated and taken without checking for, say, any car crashes or hospitalisation records of crashes or, even, oil residues on the road in question.

    If they had done this, they would have found the report false.

    When the Metropolitan police shot dead a Brazilian, the papers reported that he had jumped over a turnstile whilst running away from the police and wore a suspiciously heavy coat (it was midsummer) with wires and stuff coming out of it.

    In the court records of the CCTV cameras in the London underground, these were all shown false.

    And, unfortunately, many many more examples exist.

  59. #59 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    > Wow, you don’t need to be resident or a UK citizen to request info under the UK FoIA.

    The FOIA requests are to allow people to see how their government spends its money.

    Since you have to be a UK resident and pay taxes for it to be your government and your money it’s spending, I suppose they didn’t figure they had to put in “to UK resident taxpayers”.

  60. #60 P. Lewis
    December 3, 2010

    No, there was never any intention of restricting it to the UK’s citizens. IIRC, most countries that have an FoIA operate on the same principle.

    The intention, “screaming and kicking” à la LBJ’s signing into law no doubt, from the start was to frame it in line with Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

    Anyway, it would easily be circumvented if such a restriction had been written in to the act, as there will be no problem locating a UK citizen to do one’s bidding.

  61. #61 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    > No, there was never any intention of restricting it to the UK’s citizens.

    Nope, you’re wrong.

    Go read the house of commons notes. Just like the laws written in the USA by congress, the intent of the law is explained in the proposal for the law.

  62. #62 Wow
    December 3, 2010

    > Anyway, it would easily be circumvented if such a restriction had been written in to the act, as there will be no problem locating a UK citizen to do one’s bidding.

    So why didn’t they do it?

    Out of (IIRC) 25 requests made, only three were from definitively UK citizens. 17 were from definitely non-UK residents.

    Still nothing on the FACT that these people asking for the data were lying on their request, too. Not one of them has used the information to do what they said they wanted it for and for which the data availability was intended for: research.

  63. #63 Martin Vermeer
    December 3, 2010

    Jeff,

    on the contrary, it is you who fails to appreciate the thrust of my argument, disappointingly so. Let me try again.

    I agree that in our real, messy world there are legitimately leakable secrets. I agree that there is a place for an organization facilitating such leaks. But I also would insist that such an organization needs to take the moral high road if it is to be successful in its mission.

    I am not a legality freak, but if you’re gonna break the law, your reasons had better be good. Not self-serving. WL fails that standard, exhibit A: Climategate, see above. That’s the argument I’m making. Sure, sometimes (often?) they hit a deserving target. Well, so does an artillery shell. WL needs to be the gunner, not the shell.

    > why shouldn’t all the government’s emails, however sensitive,
    > become subject to the scrutiny of us?

    Indeed, why not. The CRU scientists are civil servants, their salaries paid from taxes. Yet I know that, in this example case, you don’t share this belief (and neither do I). Exercise: reflect on why not.

  64. #64 P. Lewis
    December 3, 2010

    Wow, in response to Rick Bradford mentioning the UK’s FoIA in

    Phil Jones: “The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

    you replied:

    Rick, M&M aren’t UK taxpaying citizens, therefore they have no standing to request the data.

    Again, as I stated above, you are wrong. You do not have to be a UK citizen to obtain information under the UK FoIA. That’s the act’s intent. Anyone can apply for the information. (And if it’s a period prior to the FoIA becoming law being talked about, then nationality is still not an issue.)

    But fine, if you say there was an intention originally in the White Paper to restrict the act to the UK (strictly, England, Wales and NI), then I’m not going to argue (I even have an inkling you may be correct), though everyone who has pushed the various UK governments over the years has had Article 19 as the basis for the push for freedom of information in the UK. And the act is at least loosely framed around Article 19′s intentions. But perhaps you could reference the House of Commons notes explicitly so that I can read them to correct my possible misconception on the original intention being to restrict the act to UK citizens? I can only presume that the architects of the legislation saw that any such restriction would be unworkable (simply delaying release by a matter of days or weeks), for the reason I opined earlier.

    You also later said

    So why didn’t they do it?

    in reply to my

    Anyway, it would easily be circumvented if such a restriction had been written in to the act, as there will be no problem locating a UK citizen to do one’s bidding.

    Who are the “they” you refer to? M&M?

    Why didn’t the “they” do what? Locate a UK citizen to make the request?

    Because they didn’t/don’t have to under the FoIA extant. Again, there is no FoIA requirement to be a UK citizen to request info.

    You then go on to say

    Out of (IIRC) 25 requests made, only three were from definitively UK citizens. 17 were from definitely non-UK residents.

    Yes, but, but, but,… it doesn’t matter. Again, the FoIA doesn’t require a person to be a UK citizen to request information from a public body.

    And then you say:

    Still nothing on the FACT that these people asking for the data were lying on their request, too. Not one of them has used the information to do what they said they wanted it for and for which the data availability was intended for: research.

    Well, you seem to have conflated two things here: a request to a public body information holder holding information releasable under the FoIA and a request to a (not necessarily) public body information holder holding information not releasable under the FoIA.

    1. The FoIA does not require a person to submit a reason as to why they want the information they are requesting. A person just asks the public body for the information. The person making the request doesn’t even really need to mention/invoke the FoIA in asking for the information. The public bodies know their duties under the FoIA and should act accordingly. Those bodies can reject the request if the information is covered by any one of the numerous exemptions listed in the act. Neither does the body receiving the request require the person making the request to do anything specific with the information they receive. Once they get the info they’ve requested, they can burn it, eat it, sit on it, use it for toilet paper, make exposés in the MSM, use it for some weird fetishistic reason, blog on it, or not, write academic papers on it, or not,… And neither does the body receiving the request for information have any legal standing to ask what the data/information is to be used for and withhold it if they don’t like the answer.

    2. Now, (i) prior to the FoIA becoming law, (ii) after the FoIA became law but where release of information requested may be legally declined under the terms of the act (e.g. as some of the CRU data belonging to a third party probably does/did), and (iii) when, trivially, the information holder is outside the scope of the FoIA anyway, a body (such as the CRU) may, we know, still be willing to release info for a specific purpose (say, a stated “academic” purpose). The requester can then go to the CRU or whoever and request the information for that stated purpose. If the keeper of the requested info, after legally questioning your intent for seeking the information, decides that you are a fit and proper person to have the info/data (e.g. as Wahl and Ammann might be deemed to be, say), then (notwithstanding it need not be released under the FoIA even though you’re a public body covered by the act), the info/data can be released, presumably after signing some sort of agreement. Of course, if the holder of the data/info thinks you’re a scumbag (e.g. …) and, because of previous experience perhaps, aren’t going to do something worthwhile with the data or are deemed likely to transgress the terms of any agreement, then the info/data holder can say “sod off” if it wants, but only if the info isn’t releasable legally under the FoIA.

  65. #65 frank -- Decoding SwiftHack
    December 4, 2010

    Wow:

    > Out of (IIRC) 25 requests made, only three were from definitively UK citizens. 17 were from definitely non-UK residents.

    I’m curious — where can I find the data on which particular countries the various FOI/EIR requests to the CRU came from? I happen to be looking for this information.

  66. #66 Wow
    December 6, 2010

    The ICO report on the requests summarised the figures.

    I can’t find a link at the moment, since all the ones coming at the top of the google search are exhortations to span CRU or complaints the CRU aren’t letting data out.

    I’ll hunt around on the ICO website, but it’s not pretty.

  67. #67 Wow
    December 6, 2010

    > 1.

    > The FoIA does not require a person to submit a reason as to why they want the information they are requesting.

    The release of CRU temperature information does.

    When you ask for the CRU data, it is to be released for the purposes of research. It’s on the form you fill out to get the data.

    The temperature record isn’t part of government data to be released under FOIA regulation because it’s mostly paid for by NON UK Governments, most of whom are trying to get money from their activities, but will share for reasons of getting other people’s data back.

    In short: it isn’t the UK government’s to give.

    > Of course, if the holder of the data/info thinks you’re a scumbag e.g. …)

    Or thinks you’re lying about why you want the data. Remember:

    > when, trivially, the information holder is outside the scope of the FoIA anyway, a body (such as the CRU) may, we know, still be willing to release info for a specific purpose (say, a stated “academic” purpose).

    in your words.

    > Yes, but, but, but,… it doesn’t matter. Again, the FoIA doesn’t require a person to be a UK citizen to request information from a public body.

    But only data that is covered by the act and that act was passed for a reason: to make our government open to us, the taxpayers.

    Read the Act itself.

    When McI starts paying UK taxes, he can ask and expect an answer.

  68. #68 Wow
    December 6, 2010

    > I agree that in our real, messy world there are legitimately leakable secrets.

    It’s much more than that, Martin.

    The governments throughout the world abuse the secret designation to cover up damn near everything.

    When all government communication is Top Secret and will Lead To The End Of The World if released, then when we find out one example is someone paying £15k for a duck pond in their home, we don’t believe any security designation.

    Nothing has been leaked by WL that has caused anything other than extreme embarrassment to the USA. Even the defence department admitted that no deaths of agents were attributable to the leaks from WL.

    And none of the stuff released has been required TS marking.

    If governments didn’t over use and abuse the TS marking, the need for WL wouldn’t exist.

  69. #69 Wow
    December 6, 2010

    As I said before, Patrick:

    > Go read the house of commons notes.

    You’re wrong.

    If you’re so certain, please tell me what the point of making it possible for a non-UK taxpayer to get a government official to use his time which I pay for to answer this foreigner’s questions is.

    There isn’t one.

    Just like, when the copyright laws in the UK were written, there was no need for fair use laws since all such exceptions to copyright were nulled by the fact that copyright was a strict damage tort and therefore in the case of private copying or nonprofit copying, the damages are nil, therefore, though you’d be guilty of copyright infringement, there are no damages and anyone bringing such a case to court would be done for wasting the court’s time.

  70. #70 Jeff Harvey
    December 6, 2010

    Martin,

    I do not think that your views and my views on the WL affair differ by all that much. I also think that WL involvement in the ClimateGate affair is shameful, as it fed into the propaganda machine of those who are distorting science to downplay the real threat posed by AGW.

    However, I broadly disagree with this statement: *I am not a legality freak, but if you’re gonna break the law, your reasons had better be good. Not self-serving.*

    First of all, what laws are you talking about? Those written by government beaurocrats and planners in which some pretty horrific foreign policy agendas are laid out in secret, but with virtually no public recourse or debate? Let’s be honest, most of the stuff coming out of WL is minor league stuff, but some of it lays bare the myth that our leaders support democracy. Listen to Hillary Clinton last week in response to some WL material, spouting nonsense about how the ‘world’ views Iran as a threat to peace, and claiming, along with Netanyahu, that the WL documents showed that countries in the region broadly agreed with this view.

    What she means by the ‘world’ is the US, UK and a few other nations that supinely go along with them. By ‘neighboring countries’ she does not mean the people in these lands, but their despotic rulers, most of whom are US puppets. A recent poll of views of citizens in the Arab world, conducted by the Brookings Institute – and virtually ignored by the US media – showed that 80% of Arabs view Israel as the biggest threat to regional peace and security, with the US a close second at 77%. Iran came in at a lowly 10%. More shocking is that 57% viewed a nuclear-armed Iran as a good thing for the region. Without WL, we would not have had Benajmin Netanyahu or Hillary Clinto doing ‘damage limitation’ exercises in order to claim support for their constant threats against Iran.

    As for being ‘self-serving’, I find this hard to interpret. Much of the WL material has gone through the corporate media filter and will not be discussed at all, particularly if is sheds bad light on western foreign policy agendas in the developing world. And, as I said above, much of what has been leaked is stuff that should be obvious to anyone with half a brain. That our leaders lie? That they veil their often horrific policy agendas in rhetoric about promoting ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ purely for public consumption? The their agendas are often based on promoting the business interests of western corporations? Is this really all that controversial?

  71. #71 Wow
    December 6, 2010

    > Let’s be honest, most of the stuff coming out of WL is minor league stuff,

    Which is also showing us that it shouldn’t have been classified in the first place.

  72. #72 dhogaza
    December 6, 2010

    Which is also showing us that it shouldn’t have been classified in the first place.

    Apparently 6% are marked secret, and about 40% classified.

    There are many reasons to mark things classified, i.e. to keep a source’s name out of the public view, to keep frank assessments (such as the comments regarding Berlusconi’s partying habits) from getting back to the subject, etc.

  73. #73 Martin Vermeer
    December 6, 2010

    > I do not think that your views and my views on the WL affair
    > differ by all that much.

    I think so too.

    > First of all, what laws are you talking about?

    Yeah, good question. Of course I am talking about the laws passed, and enforced at their discretion, by the powers that be. If it included international law, my position might be a different one…

    What I am aiming at is that it is tactically a bad idea to choose the power of arms against an enemy that has the balance of the fire power. The powers that be have the balance of media access and resources, the power of framing. You don’t stand a chance if you’re not taking the moral high road, and seen to be doing so, in a way that no propaganda can undo. It’s not the easy way; it’s the only one.

    It’s the same with, e.g., violent demonstrations; no matter how worthy the cause, the debate will be on the violence, not the cause, and you lose — which is what WL seem to be doing as we speak.

    I hope this makes my position clearer.

  74. #74 BPW
    December 6, 2010

    I think what Wow misses and what dhogaza alludes to is that, right or wrong, releasing the communications of one nation state can do serious damage to the ability of that country to maintain diplomacy. It does nobody any good to print documentation that we think a certain leader is a drunk or a danger to the world. Our ability to figure that out on our own should be plenty. I didn’t need WL to tell me the US probably don’t love Sarkozy, but releasing a document proving that is the case only strains relationships we should be trying to foster.

    Some (many) things are confidential and/or secret for a reason and should remain that way. I think watching the court martial of Pfc. Bradley, which could get him 50+ years in prison, should be a deterrent for others.

  75. #75 Jeff Harvey
    December 7, 2010

    BPW,

    You appear to be taking such innocent sounding terms as ‘diplomacy’ much too far. Let’s be honest here, our governments and the powerful vested interests that sustain them are only interested in ‘diplomacy’ inasmuch as it allows them to project their own economic and political interests aborad and that enables them to (1) nullify alternatives to our economic model (e.g. the Washington Consensus), (2) subjegate the assets of other countires, and (3) facilitate outright expansionism. This means that ‘diplomacy’ entails the support of some pretty appalling policies which, either miltarily or economically, have led to the death and suffering of huge numbers of people. Where is the diplomacy in the words of planners like Kennan, Nitze and Brezinski? In the Project for a New American Century? In Wolfowitz’s ‘Defense Planning Guidance’? In Kissinger’s infamous memo 200? In Nixon’s declassified orders to Kissinger for a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia? In the serial lies and coercion used by the war party to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq? In the sanctions regime which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq between 1991 and 2003? In the west’s support of mass killers like Mbutu, Rios Montt, Suharto, Batista, Somosza, Pinochet, to name just a few?

    Then you write,

    *releasing a document proving that is the case only strains relationships we should be trying to foster*

    What relationships are these? Does it include cozying up to brutal dictators, torturers and human rights violators as the US, UK, France et al. have traditionally done for decades? I just do not get your logic. You appear to take the rhetoric of western leaders at face value, and bury your head when it comes to the real agendas which are always suppressed.

    Sorry to disagree, but, as I said above, much of what WL has done is expose the hypocrisy in statements by our leaders that the media hardly evber challenge but usually take for granted (e.g. the ‘threat’ posed by Iran) but which are contradicted by actual evidence and especially by the views of the civilian populations in regions whose resources our elites wish to control. As I said to Martin, I have my disagreements with some of their actions, but, on the whole, WL is simply destroying the well-cultivated myth of western ‘benevolence’ in foreign policy as constantly implied by the corporate-state MSM.

  76. #76 Wow
    December 7, 2010

    > right or wrong, releasing the communications of one nation state can do serious damage to the ability of that country to maintain diplomacy

    What you seem to forget is that one of the options there is that releasing the communiques is right.

    If it’s right, it doesn’t matter if it’s inconvenient or damages the ability to maintain diplomacy.

    Maybe be diplomatic all the time, or honest all the time.

    And, still, nothing to show that these items needed to be classified documents, illustrating the abuse of the classification system.

  77. #77 Wow
    December 7, 2010

    > There are many reasons to mark things classified,

    Indeed they are but THIS:

    > to keep frank assessments from getting back to the subject, etc.

    Isn’t one of them.

    It’s also funny how Assange is being villified for releasing Top Secret documents, yet when it comes to defending the classification of he documents WL has relleased, suddenly it’s all “there are many levels of classification”.

    There’s a reason why you swear to tell the truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth when in court.

  78. #78 BPW
    December 7, 2010

    @Wow,

    Typical responses. Is there anything you aren’t an expert on?

    First, unless you have paged through the thousands upon thousands of docs already released, you have no clue. And sorry, but in a world which requires diplomacy, telling all to the masses isn’t in the best interest of world peace.

    As for whether it is “right” to release them, I don’t know of many soldiers who get court marshaled for doing the “right” thing. Unfortunately for your argument, releasing them was illegal. Period.

    “Maybe be diplomatic all the time or honest all the time.”

    Sure. Because the world works in such a simple fashion.

    Classified is classified, and keeping documents that way in order to keep the peace and to not offend leaders, especially those who are allies, is perfectly justifiable.

    “And, still, nothing to show that these items needed to be classified documents, illustrating the abuse of the classification system.”

    And you know this how? I work with classified scientific information all the time. Some actually secret. I can assure you what I work on are things that should not be public information. But I don’t get to choose what does and what doesn’t fall into those categories. I just abide by those choices. And I don’t ask “why?” If I were to discuss these issues, I would be a criminal. Some would say traitor. Just like Pfc. Bradley.

    As for Assange, his issues regarding this are moral and ethical, not legal, in my mind. The WL release, though irritating to some, I don’t think can be considered criminal. If he had stolen the docs, then yes. But they were passed to him. Which is why he now is being detained on “other” charges. Somewhat akin to arresting John Gotti for tax evasion.

  79. #79 Wow
    December 7, 2010

    > Is there anything you aren’t an expert on?

    Depends how deep expert goes.

    cf. Jack of all trades.

    You can read stuff you know.

    It’s called “education”.

    > > “And, still, nothing to show that these items needed to be classified documents, illustrating the abuse of the classification system.”

    > And you know this how?

    Because there’s been no justification given.

    There’s been posts saying it’s all well-known stuff (“like, Duh! Who doesn’t know that”) which therefore shouldn’t be classified.

    Absence is evidence of absence, you know.

  80. #80 Wow
    December 7, 2010

    > I can assure you what I work on are things that should not be public information.

    Probably 99.9999% of it has no point being kept secret. So why shouldn’t it be public information? You’re a public servant.

    > But I don’t get to choose what does and what doesn’t fall into those categories.

    Indeed not, but what difference does that make?

    Someone decides.

    And in the majority of cases, they’re deciding “Everything”.

    Hiding the gun camera footage was not done for reasons of security, it was done for reasons of hiding a crime.

    Is obstructing justice now demanded of public servants and all foreigners?

  81. #81 BPW
    December 7, 2010

    Wow,

    You’re not speaking from a position of “education” on this subject. Nor have you read nearly enough. I am not a public servant. I work in the private sector but I am privy to secret things for “need to know” reasons. And to be sure, 99.9999999% of what the people I help work on should NOT, EVER, be public information. Some are state secrets. Some are intellectual property. The reason they are secret is to protect our citizens and, for that matter, yours. You might not agree with what these people do on behalf of the US and the world, but that is another matter. You would not want the wrong people to get the information I sometimes see.

    “Because there’s been no justification given.”

    Why do they need to justify to you or anyone else what they deem to be classified unless they are hiding illegal activities. And I have seen no evidence of that. In some ways, you are making the case that the climategate emails SHOULD have been made public. No justification as to why they should be private, right? I don’t agree, but it would seem to be the same argument.

    “And in the majority of cases, they’re deciding “Everything”.”

    And you know this how? Pure speculation.

    “Hiding the gun camera footage was not done for reasons of security, it was done for reasons of hiding a crime.”

    This is an entirely different situation, and here you have a point though having watched it, not sure I would deem it a crime. The victims were in a war zone and unidentifiable. I don’t think the soldiers in question have been prosecuted. War is hell. You can judge the US government for engaging in perhaps an illegal war, but it is another thing to question the actions of soldiers when you have never been in their shoes.

    “Is obstructing justice now demanded of public servants and all foreigners?”

    And who has obstructed justice? The guy who wrote Sarkozy is an empty suit? Obstruction of justice would be destruction, or non release of evidence in a criminal investigation. None of that pertains to what is going on here. The only criminal investigation is against Private Bradley for stealing and leaking the documents.

    There is also, I guess, the investigation of Assange for some sex deal that looks to me to be a bit trumped up given the circumstances. But that is another matter. He has made his enemies and his bed. Now he has to lie in it and deal with them. And those enemies, like it or not, are formidable.

  82. #82 Gaz
    December 7, 2010

    The victims were in a war zone and unidentifiable.

    This is perhaps the most piss-weak justification for killing someone I have ever heard.

  83. #83 MFS
    December 8, 2010

    >”And to be sure, 99.9999999% of what the people I help work on should NOT, EVER, be public information.”

    Well, there’s a fundamentally different way of seeing the world. As far as I am concerned, living in a democracy, the government works for me. And I surely do want to know if my employees the pollies and public servants are keeping secrets and I want to know whether there is or is not a good reason to keep those secrets.

    Airing the dirty laundry like this has made it clear that the vast majority of the secrecy is kept to prevent embarassment, and not for reasons of ‘national security’. When a country like the U.S. commit a mistake, and gun down TV crews, the only way they will be made to admit they made a mistake and tighten procedure (whether they were trigger-happy or not for starters is a totally different argument), is by exposing what they’ve done.

  84. #84 Philip Machanick
    December 8, 2010

    To put the FOI thing into perspective, Muir Russell, which I actually read, rather than quote mined, do their own analysis based on independent data sources and find results consistent with CRU’s. The FOI requests are a harassment tactic, not a valid way of verifying a scientific result.

  85. #85 BPW
    December 8, 2010

    Gaz,

    I didn’t justify it, I explained it. From the point of view of someone who is quite close to a person who has been “there.” That doesn’t make it right, or fair, or just, or make the occupation of another nation, where hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died even remotely a good thing. But the fact is, the people in that video, the ones who actually killed those people, were doing their job as they saw it. They weren’t conscious murderers. Blame the US? Fine. I agree, the war was/is unjustified and flat out wrong.

    I cannot, nor will not, condone what my (the US) government has done in the name of power and arrogance and money and power. But I can, and will, defend the soldiers because they really don’t have much choice but to do what they are told. Even if what they are told is to kill people. There are war crimes. The evidence presented does not suggest this was one.

    MFS,

    Repeating, I think the video is a different story than this last round. There is a legitimate point to be made, and visual media is far more effective in telling a story. But once again, to demonize the soldiers personally I don’t think is justified by the evidence. I will stand corrected when they, and not their superiors, are prosecuted for the event. As I said above, want to blame the US? No argument. I don’t condone invading sovereign nations with no just cause.

    As for secrets, like it or not, there are plenty of things which need to be kept secret. The question is, where do you draw the line? Who makes that decision? I can tell you that I don’t think it’s a decision a Private in the US Army is qualified to make. They are Privates for a reason, and it isn’t because they have demonstrated a tremendous amount of life experience. So forgive me if I don’t trust the integrity or common sense of the leak in this case. Bulk download of a quarter million docs is not the equal of a release of a specific or telling event. It’s just stupid.

  86. #86 Martin Vermeer
    December 8, 2010

    > But once again, to demonize the soldiers personally I don’t think
    > is justified by the evidence.

    Agreed 110%.

    > I will stand corrected when they, and not their superiors, are
    > prosecuted for the event.

    I would hope you have better judgment than that… poor Lynndie England was in much the same situation in Abu Ghraib, she took the fall for her superiors, up to the Commander-in-Chief. Whose job, in which they failed, was to maintain a culture of law abidance. That was the disgusting message also of this video.

  87. #87 Jeff Harvey
    December 8, 2010

    *The victims were in a war zone and unidentifiable. I don’t think the soldiers in question have been prosecuted. War is hell*

    What an appallingly brazen and simple remark. You might as well add that war is mostly hell for the victims of aggression and not for the aggressors. And of course the soldiers involved in committing crimes are very rarely prosecuted. Do you honestly think for a second that crimes committed by ‘us’ are taken seriously by our political elites? The US has been directly or indirectly involved in committing crimes against humanity for much of its existence. How many examples do you want? And how many people in the military – especially those in the upper echelons – have ever been prosecuted?

    Your post reeks of standard imperial mentality. When you write, *but in a world which requires diplomacy, telling all to the masses isn’t in the best interest of world peace*, you are speaking utter gibberish. Your biggest no-brainer is to assume that our political leaders are interested in ‘diplomacy’ and that much more nefarious hidden agendas do not exist. And peace? Don’t make me laugh. Thomas Friedman, of all people, an empire apologist if there ever was one, once wrote that, “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps”.

    John Naughton wrote an excellent piece in the Guardian two days ago entitled “Live with the WikiLeakable world or shut down the net. It’s your choice”. In it he says:

    *What WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. In the last decade its political elites have been shown to be incompetent (Ireland, the US and UK in not regulating banks); corrupt (all governments in relation to the arms trade); or recklessly militaristic (the US and UK in Iraq). And yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted, their reflex reaction is to kill the messenger*.

    Perfectly put.

  88. #88 Jeff Harvey
    December 8, 2010

    One last point. BPW writes, *But the fact is, the people in that video, the ones who actually killed those people, were doing their job as they saw it*.

    He must of been watching a different video from the one I saw. IMO they WANTED to kill. They were straining at the leash for permission to ‘engage’ (e.g. shoot) those on the ground. Listen to one of the soldiers desperately waiting for permission, with words ‘C’mon. c’mon!’. When the bodies are on the ground, another says, ‘Bastards’. They’d been trained for a combat mission alright and they were itching for action. It seemed to me that they saw it like a computer game. Like the people on the ground were animated and not real.

    At the very least their actions can be attributed to the way in which they were trained and dehumanized, as if the Iraqis on the ground were vermin or worse. If you want, go up the chain of command, but these criminals at the top are always immune and sheltered. If there was justice in this world, scum like those in the Bush and Blair regimes would be standing bnefore a criminal tribunal.

  89. #89 Wow
    December 8, 2010

    > The victims were in a war zone and unidentifiable.

    the victims were in their home city and in an area with civilians SOLDIERS are meant to ascertain the target is viable, not assume it is.

    THIS is the reason why “friendly fire” is so common among the “friends” of the USA in military engagements.

    “If it moves, and I don’t know what it is, I shoot it”.

    It is a war crime to shoot indiscriminately in a civilian area, war zone or not, so you’ve just asserted that these soldiers have committed a war crime.

  90. #90 Wow
    December 8, 2010

    funny how you say this:

    > You’re not speaking from a position of “education” on this subject. Nor have you read nearly enough.

    then admit this:

    > I am not a public servant.

    When I HAVE BEEN a public servant for seven years, part of the MoD even.

    Seems I’m more educated than you on this, yet you assert no knowledge on my side, and huge amounts of unfounded and unassailable knowledge on yours.

    > “And in the majority of cases, they’re deciding “Everything”.”
    > And you know this how? Pure speculation.

    No, I know this because, even in your assertions, the stuff released that has been classified has been “everyone knows this happens”.

    If everyone knows it happens, why classify it?

    It isn’t a secret if Everyone Knows.

  91. #91 Wow
    December 8, 2010

    > Why do they need to justify to you or anyone else what they deem to be classified unless they are hiding illegal activities.

    This demonstrates your inability and the source of your lack of understanding.

    It isn’t that you need to justify opening government communication, but that you have to justify keeping it secret.

    Whether it is not illegal, not criminal or not of immense import to the public HAS NO BEARING WHATSOEVER on whether it must be kept secret.

    That which is kept secret MUST be justified in being kept secret. By default, all deliberation is open when you’re a government.

    That you fail to even consider this shows your education is actually indoctrination.

  92. #92 Robin Levett
    December 8, 2010

    @WoW:

    I note that you work for the MoD. I sincerely hope that you aren’t an Information Officer – because you are simply wrong on the question of who is entitled to request information under FoIA. There is *no* restriction to UK residents/taxpayers/citizens/anything else. “Any person” may request information; those are the first two words of the Act, and they mean what they say.

    Fronm the ICO website:

    “Q: Who can request information?

    Under the Freedom of Information Act, any individual, anywhere in the world, is able to make a request to a public authority for information…”

    (My emphasis)

    http://www.ico.gov.uk/Global/faqs/freedom_of_information_act_for_the_public.aspx#fCD2A8EE2-8F08-4AE7-A7AE-60BF092CA184

    If you can be so wrong on a trivially obvious point, why should your assurances of expertise and education on other issues be taken at face value?

  93. #93 Wow
    December 8, 2010

    > I note that you work for the MoD.

    You note wrong.

    > Fronm the ICO website:

    Who didn’t write the Act, nor repeat what the act debate in the HoC and HoL before being made law said.

    Just like the USA, the debate on what the law is for and meant to do is kept and is part of the record, but not necessarily part of the written law, since you are meant to know both parts.

    Please read up on how law is made.

    In any case, the data is not releasable under FOI regulations for several reasons.

    PS the ICO isn’t part of the MoD, I hope you don’t actually work in any capacity, since your errors would be disasterous for any putative employer…

  94. #94 Robin Levett
    December 8, 2010

    @WoW:

    The ICO is the “Information Commissioner’s Office”; the Commissioner is the first instance decision maker on any issue arising under the FoIA. He can be expected to know what he’s talking about at the least at a basic level.

    Oddly enough, I do know how law is made and interpreted (as well as knowing something about the legislation and processes); for example, I know that reference to Hansard is only permitted to resolve any ambiguity (or avoid absurdity) in a statute – and even then that has only recently been permitted (since Pepper v Hart in 1993). There is no ambiguity in the Act – “any person” means what it says.

    If you say that the Government suggested in debate in Parliament on the Act that the intention was to restrict use of its provisions to UK citizens/taxpaers/residents/whatever, you can no doubt supply a reference. Certainly no such reference appears in the White Paper (Cm 3818).

    Then you said (in response to my noting that you work for the MoD):

    You note wrong

    So what did you mean by this:

    When I HAVE BEEN a public servant for seven years, part of the MoD even.

    You may not be aware that virtually all governmental bodies, local and national, employ Information Officers; my concern was that you didn’t work for the MoD in that capacity since the knowledge you have displayed of FoIA is minimal.

  95. #95 Philip Machanick
    December 8, 2010

    @Robin Levett: You should have read the bit of the FAQ two questions down from the part you quoted:

    Public authorities are not obliged to deal with vexatious or repeated requests

    If you look at the explanatory notes on the Act itself you will find that an initial “vexatious” request should be turned down with reasons, but subsequent such requests can be ignored. In fact if you read the Act itself, it simply states that vexatious requests can be ignored, so the explanatory notes are a generous interpretation favouring those keen to waste busy people’s time.

    I also draw your attention to 21(1):

    Information which is reasonably accessible to the applicant otherwise than under section 1 is exempt information.

    Since as has been demonstrated by others including the Muir Russell team who have reproduced CRU’s results that the information needed to do so is publicly available, they are under no obligation to provide their data under FOI, though they are obliged to inform anyone who has not crossed the line to repeatedly vexatious as to why.

    I also advise reading Section 3(2), which makes it doubtful that data held by CRU that was sourced from someone else is subject to FOI.

    Since you claim to know a lot about the law, why are you arguing on the basis of a FAQ rather than going to the Act itself?

    As I said before, this whole FOI thing is harassment, not a valid way to conduct science. Had CRU been basing their work on secret data that they refused to make public, that would have been a different matter. But in that case, a single turned down FOI request would have sufficed to make the case, not a denial of service attack, which is what the flood of similar FOI requests amounts to. The legislation clearly permits an organisation to stop responding to this kind of harassment.

    Why do you think this sort of attack on scientists is acceptable conduct?

  96. #96 Robin Levett
    December 8, 2010

    @Philip Machanick:

    My point was a narrow one; WoW had the law wrong on the originator of FoIA requests, and badly so, and seemed to be suffering from Dunning-Krueger syndrome. My first reference was to the Act itself; I then referred WoW to the ICO’s FAQ for an easily digestible authoritative interpretation (given the ICO’s role) of those words.

    I don’t disagree that vexatious requests can be ignored; but you have to be careful here; the motive for the request is generally irrelevant to whether it is vexatious, although the requester’s intentions may be. The ICO has published guidance on this:

    http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/freedom_of_information/detailed_specialist_guides/awareness_guidance_22_vexatious_and_repeated_requests_final.pdf

  97. #97 BPW
    December 8, 2010

    Jeff Harvey @87,

    “Do you honestly think for a second that crimes committed by ‘us’ are taken seriously by our political elites?”

    No, I don’t. I think the political elites have little concern for the little people and human collateral damage. And to your previous point, not so simple. I think there is a level of hell experienced by both the aggressors (soldiers) and the victims of said aggression. It is certainly not black and white.

    “The US has been directly or indirectly involved in committing crimes against humanity for much of its existence. How many examples do you want? And how many people in the military – especially those in the upper echelons – have ever been prosecuted?”

    I need no examples because I am fully aware what you say is correct. And the answer to your second question is *not enough*.

    “Your biggest no-brainer is to assume that our political leaders are interested in ‘diplomacy’ and that much more nefarious hidden agendas do not exist.”

    I made no such statement nor did I make any assumption of the sort. But diplomacy does exist and does have it’s place and *should* be fostered. Hidden agendas exist **everywhere**.

    “He must of been watching a different video from the one I saw. IMO they WANTED to kill.”

    Your opinion. From what I heard, they did not WANT to kill innocent people. They wanted ACTION. So would most people given their training and location. They were given orders and followed them. Their job was to engage insurgents. I didn’t hear them say they knew they were shooting a reporter and cameraman. They fucked up. Big time. But I do not believe they consciously chose to kill innocents.

    “They’d been trained for a combat mission alright and they were itching for action. It seemed to me that they saw it like a computer game. Like the people on the ground were animated and not real.”

    EXACTLY. This is what soldiers are trained to do. Disassociate themselves from the fact that their job is to kill human beings. You don’t like it, I don’t like it, but that is the reality.

    “At the very least their actions can be attributed to the way in which they were trained and dehumanized, as if the Iraqis on the ground were vermin or worse. If you want, go up the chain of command, but these criminals at the top are always immune and sheltered. If there was justice in this world, scum like those in the Bush and Blair regimes would be standing bnefore a criminal tribunal.”

    We agree. Although it is not at the very least, it is simply, as I just stated, a reality that they have been “dehumanized”.

    Wow @89,

    Once again, speaking from a position of ignorance. YOU HAVE NO IDEA what their orders were. And though I would agree soldiers *should* attempt to ascertain what it is they are shooting, doing so in many cases is not realistic. As for friendly fire, you are right, except that it is far from being a US problem only. It’s a military problem. Every country in conflict has friendly casualties. And I am quite certain that none of the people doing the accidental killing are happy about it.

    Wow @90,

    “funny how you say this:

    You’re not speaking from a position of “education” on this subject. Nor have you read nearly enough.

    then admit this:

    I am not a public servant.”

    Umm, what the hell does one have to do with the other? Are you trying to state that one need be a public servant to have insight to specific issue? Or government secrets? Or the reason for their existence? I speak as someone who works, regularly, in places where things are secret. For a reason. So I know there are very real reasons why certain things are kept that way. You seem to think secrecy is an all or nothing proposition. It isn’t.

    “No, I know this because, even in your assertions, the stuff released that has been classified has been “everyone knows this happens”.

    If everyone knows it happens, why classify it?

    It isn’t a secret if Everyone Knows.”

    Nobody, aside from the few of those who do, actually *knows* any of these things. Those of us with half a brain *assume* these things go on. It’s war. I figure some pretty horrible shit goes down. You seem to be under the odd impression that the world’s governments should just act with total transparency. Delusional much? That isn’t happening. That’s just reality.

    And, finally, Wow @91,

    Wow. And by that I mean, *wow*. To whom are we to justify what is *secret*, and what isn’t, Wow? A secret panel of, secret, *secret deciders*? Perhaps the general public should just vote on whether to keep nuclear bomb technology secret from terrorist organizations and rogue nation states? Even better, how about we just let a random member of the US army’s lowest rank decide for all of us? Are you living in a fantasy world rather than reality Wow? One where we should all hold hands and hug? Quaint to be sure. Also, unfortunately, laughably unrealistic.

    To be clear, I don’t condone much (most) of what the US or other countries do in times of war. Not sure how I have given that impression. But I am not so naive as to think there is no justification for secrecy. I see it first hand on a daily basis. Again, the problem is what to release, and who makes the decision. Not easy questions to answer.

    There was once, and still is, a saying in the Navy which seems appropriate. “Loose lips sink ships.”

    There’s more than a little truth in that statement.

  98. #98 Philip Machanick
    December 9, 2010

    @Robin Levett thanks for the clarifications. Whether you agree on the core point or not it is important to get your facts straight, and I think we are in agreement there. I hope you also agree on my core points, that a denial of service attack is not reasonable use of FOI, and using FOI to demand information that is not necessary to validate someone’s research results is harassment.

  99. #99 frank
    December 9, 2010

    Interesting quote from Cancun by a german economist Ottmar Edenhoffer.
    “But one must say clearly that we redistibute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy….This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.”
    Does that sound like world socialism to anyone?

  100. #100 Jeff Harvey
    December 9, 2010

    BPW,

    I am busy today, but just two points. You write, that, in the leaked Iraq video, *They [the gunship pilots] wanted ACTION* but did not intend to kill anyone. What exactly IS the action they sought? They wanted to use their high tech firepower and to mow down the locals on the street below. They must have been brain-dead if they did not think that opening up on them would not lead to carnage. I reiterate: they wanted to kill. Theyn were itching for the chance to use their firepower, knowing they were largely immune.

    As for evidence of ‘two hundred years of senseless butchery and democracy deterred’, may I suggest Ward Churchill’s “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” (2003), Bill Blum’s “Rogue State” (2005) and Greg Grandin’s “Empire’s Workshop” (2007). Any of Noam Chomsky’s last three books would be worth a read, too.