“A leak?! Arrest those who found out what we’re doing!”

Curious news today, that the British police have been seizing laptops and routers from a blogger, and requesting police action in two other countries as well.  This pretty clearly violates the principle of freedom of speech online, I think.

The context of all this is the “Climategate” emails.  The climate research centre at the University of East Anglia was one of the big puffers of “climate change”.  Their work was seriously undermined, however, when someone leaked a large tranche of emails from the centre to climate sceptics, who put them online.

The emails revealed key staff engaged in very dodgy-sounding activities.  They were seen deliberately refusing to release data — as they legally should have done under the Freedom of Information Act — when the data would have (supposedly) shown that their conclusions were actually false.  The emails also showed them generally behaving in a less than scientific or professional way. A second tranche of emails was leaked a little while ago.

The political effect of the scandal has been to torpedo the whole “global warming” lobby in the United Kingdom.  An inquiry was held, and concluded that no-one at the centre did anything wrong (!), but this did nothing to alleviate a general impression that the unit had behaved fraudulently.

So who is being arrested now?  Well, not the dodgy-sounding scientists.  They did nothing wrong, we’re told.  No, the police are pursuing the bloggers — the people who reported on this, it seems, and took delivery of the “stolen” emails.  The Register has the details.

The question for me is not whether we agree with the climate change argument or not.  The issue that causes me to blog about this here is the free speech issue.  The police should not be doing this.  The bloggers did what journalists are supposed to do and revealed dirty-looking deeds by the establishment.  To silence them is what authoritarian regimes do.  How is this action in the public interest?

The need for a constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech in Britain has never been more obvious.

It would be interesting to know who, precisely, authorised this action.  But as with so many things in modern Britain, that particular piece of information is not being made available.

UPDATE: Updates about this at Watts up with that, including links to the Telegraph and Guardian.  A lot of people don’t like this one.  It’s beginning to look as if the US DOJ is the main mover in this.


9 thoughts on ““A leak?! Arrest those who found out what we’re doing!”

  1. I have had the misfortune to work with climatic data and I must tell you that the whole “Climategate” pseudo-scandal was overblown by the energy lobby. I was at a presentation at the Agronomy Society of America meeting where they compared several climatic datasets including that from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) but also NOAA satellite surface temperature etc over the United States. If anything CRU data UNDERESTIMATED the amount of surface temperature heating over the Conterminous US. The presentation was by a researcher at an American institution unrelated to East Anglia or any other of the data producers. I am willing to post a link with the presentation, it is online as it was presented in San Antonio.

    Environmental data whether from remote sensing or gathered at the surface of the Earth is very noisy and messy, it requires processing before you can safely derive any conclusions. The leaked e-mails showed the course of the processing, I am sure that if several of the e-mails I had with my advisor leaked I could also be at the center of controversy over the use of the NASS Cropland Data Layer. Two weeks ago a UC Berkley scientist described by his colleagues as rather rogue, unconventional and climate denier published a study reexamining the climatic data used by CRU to derive global warming (and we should note that it is not the only data out there proving global warming) and came to the conclusion that indeed global warming exists and CRU did nothing wrong. Best of all he had been funded in part by the energy lobby. “Climategate” was top news, that study was relegated to the Science section of the media…

  2. I lack the expertise to evaluate the data, the methodology, and the claims, but the climate researchers’ behavior isn’t that of dispassionate scientists. In some cases it doesn’t even look like the behavior of honest men.

  3. Your view is mine, Marcel. I can’t evaluate the science, but I can evaluate how people go about things. And that evaluation tells me that a scam is in progress.

  4. Some 50 years ago a young Arab American activist named Ralph Nader published a book called “Unsafe at any speed” in which he demonstrated that the cars of the time were very unsafe in cases of collisions. The first reaction of the car industry was to try and smear Ralph Nader rather than improve their cars. Turns out Nader had no skeletons in his closet, his finding where sound and in the end Government intervened by legislating the first car safety regulations that not only improved the safety of car users but also the auto industry: instead of competing on design auto manufacturer’s started competing on who has the safest/ most fuel efficient/ cleanest car.

    The scientific community is not a community of angels, far from it. However there are very strong interests that wish that global warming just went away and will be hurt if serious emission control are placed. Just like the first instinct of the car industry was to attack Nader rather than improve their cars, the energy lobby attacks scientists for what it is exposing rather than cleaning up their acts. If anything this reminds me of the emperor Arcadius exiling St. John the Chrysostom for exposing that the Emperess took the widow’s farm rather than returning the farm to its rightful owner. It is not a coincidence that climate deniers are concentrated in countries where Rupert Murdoch has a strong stake at the media market.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports are the consensus of the 4,000 leading climate authorities in the world. I am sure that some of them cut corners in their research or used dubious methods but the vast majority did not. Climate change is not a proposition supported by one scientific sector and rejected by others. I’ve been at lectures by meteorologists showing changes in rainfall, wildlife biologists showing systematic changes in plant and animal behavior, remote sensing scientists showing differences on the timing of the seasons and even historians showing how the cherry blossom festival in Japan, the longest lasting continuous record of phenological change in the world has been celebrated at its earliest data during the last 20 years compared to the rest of the 1000 year long record.

    The head of the IPCC came on campus last year and gave us a lecture. I’ve never seen a person so bitter from the personal attacks he has received for what was most probably honest work. I understand why climatologists would want to keep their internal correspondence confidential, malicious interests can quote it out of context and spin it out of proportion and as a matter of fact have done so already. When one receives systematic personal attacks it is very difficult to remain dispassionate.

  5. ikkoki – I don’t want to turn Roger’s blog into a battlefield over AGW, but I sincerely had to laugh at “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s reports are the consensus of the 4,000 leading climate authorities in the world.” Lat time I looked, the scientific method does not work on the basis of ‘consensus.’ In any case, hHave you even read the IPPC reports? Have you even looked at who wrote them and checked their credentials? Checked out how many of the cited studies actually involved people doing hard core empirical research on the ground rather than playing with computer models? Have you looked at some of the studies they reference or – try this for a laugh – checked the footnotes in the IPPC reports (I speak especially of IPCC4)? You should try it some time. It’s illuminating. Alternatively you can ask someone who has and documented it all… 🙂

  6. I’d rather we didn’t get sidetracked into the pro- and anti-climate change debate, on which people may legitimately have different opinions, and indeed on which I have strong opinions myself! I apologise to those ready to jump in — I’m restraining myself too! — but I think we should moderate out further debate on the climate change issue as such.

    The issue for me here, which caused me to post, was the idea of sending in the police to harass a blogger for embarassing the establishment. Regardless of our political views, this should worry us all.

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