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December 15 2011

22:08

Signs of Action On Climategate Hacker Investigation: DOJ and UK Police Probe Denier Bloggers

Fantastic news for a change - the Guardian reports that the UK police are finally making some concerted attempts to identify the hacker behind the criminal invasion of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit.

The Guardian reports:

On Wednesday, detectives from Norfolk Constabulary entered the home of Roger Tattersall, who writes a climate sceptic blog under the pseudonym TallBloke, and took away two laptops and a broadband router. A police spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that Norfolk Constabulary had "executed a search warrant in West Yorkshire and seized computers". She added: "No one was arrested. Investigations into the [UEA] data breach and publication [online of emails] continues. This is one line of enquiry in a Norfolk constabulary investigation which started in 2009."

Tattersall posted on his own TallBloke's Talkshop blog that:

"I got the feeling something was on the go last night when WordPress [the internet host for his blog] forwarded a notice from the US Department of Justice."

What excellent news to hear that the Justice Department is getting involved with this investigation, it's about time. Perhaps this came in response to the remarks by Rep Ed Markey (D-MA) last month?

Either way, it is reassuring to know that the investigation into the criminal hacking of climate scientists' emails is, in fact, ongoing.  Last month, we reported about troubling indications that the UK police effort seemed inadequate given the tiny expense reports divulged after a Freedom of Information request by a UK journalist. 

It will be interesting to learn what the investigation uncovers, if anything, from this week's actions. Since TallBloke's blog was one of the first that the hacker "FOIA" commented on when revealing the stolen goods, there may well be something of interest to investigators.

It's also interesting that Tattersall's first move after welcoming the police into his flat was to log out of his email. He writes on his blog:

"I managed to log out of my email on the big lappy as they sat down, to the annoyance of the Computer expert.

(Funny statement coming from a guy who has trumpeted the criminal hacking of the email accounts of climate scientists?) 

Only time will tell what investigators might learn from reviewing Tattersall's computers. Has he been in direct contact with the hacker? If not, has he communicated with any middlemen who might have relayed information that could lead to the hacker's identity? Perhaps they'll find an unlocked copy of the 220,245 encrypted emails that "FOIA" has teased the existence of, but so far have not been published online?

DeSmogBlog's Richard Littlemore has previously written about TallBloke's seemingly cozy relationship with the hacker FOIA. In his announcement about the release of the Climategate 2 batch, TallBloke refers to "our old friend FOIA". But later in the same post, he suggests he doesn't know the hacker's identity:

Message to ‘FOIA

Thank you, whoever you are, freedom of information is a principle worth upholding.

Tattersall is not the only target of the investigation by the UK Metropolitan Police, Norfolk Constabulary, Computer Crime Division and the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division. There are other denier bloggers whom the investigation is focusing on as well.

More from the Guardian:

"Both Tattersall and a US-based climate sceptic blogger known as Jeff Id said they had received a "formal request" via the blogging platform WordPress from the US Department of Justice's criminal division, dated 9 December, to preserve "all stored communications, records, and other evidence in your possession" related to their own blogs as well as to Climate Audit, a climate sceptic blog run by a Canadian mining consultant called Steve McIntyre. All three blogs had received messages from "FOIA" last month pointing to the link hosting a second tranche of emails first taken from the UEA in 2009.

During an interview with the Guardian last week before the seizing of his computers, Tattersall said that he had been questioned by Norfolk police "some two months" after the initial breach in 2009, but had heard nothing since. A number of climate scientists and bloggers are known to have been questioned by the police."

Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress points out that "Jeff Id" is the online name of climate denier blogger Patrick Condon who runs "No Consensus" a.k.a. the Air Vent.

Peter Sinclair caught wind of the DOJ action first, see his post: Has Denier Karma finally Run over its Dogma?

If you're interested in following the real-time reaction to this news, check out this Twitter action on hash tag #climategate

The right-wing and climate-denier echo chambers seem to be freaking out that the police are actually doing their job to identify the criminal hacker. 

Chris Horner seems particularly verklempt over this, bizarrely expressing sympathy for the criminal hacker in his op-ed today, as Media Matters For America points out:

"It speaks to the twisted pathology of climate science deniers that they'll condone, even defend, this sort of behavior."

Of course, we've seen this behavior repeatedly in our five years covering climate denial on DeSmogBlog, but it's absolutely still shocking to see the lows that they'll go to, and Chris Horner provided another example today.

 

Image credit: Elnur/Shutterstock

November 22 2011

17:41

Climategate Hackers Slither Again in the Night

Steal More; Reveal Less

The Climagegate hackers appear to be at it again, spraying the internet with dozens of out-of-context quotes from a new batch of stolen emails - in a transparent attempt to disrupt the climate talks starting next week in Durban, South Africa.

The emails, from a source that denierblogger Tallbloke identifies as "Our old friend 'FOIA'," appeared with the same serendipitous timing - and in the same devious way - as last year's more-devastating tranche: accordig to the Guardian, they were "leaked" on a Russian server and then sprinkled into the denieresphere through the usual suspects: Wattsupwiththat, ClimateAudit, AirVent and the already mentioned Tallbloke. We can undoubtedly expect a fresh round of breathless "mainstream media" coverage from the Murdoch empire.

These emails are even more ridiculous than the batch released last year. First, the hackers didn't have the decency to release the emails in context - rather they just pulled the quotes they thought would be effective in casting doubt. Second, the thieves mined only 5,000 of more than 220,000 emails they say they have in hand. This strains credulity: if there was anything in the remaining emails that was even vaguely incriminating, you can bet they would have found and released it. Third, the "best stuff" that they actually released is worse than trivial:

Take this for example: "<0813> Fox/Environment Agency: If we lose the chance to make climate change a reality to people in the regions we will have missed a major trick in REGIS."

This is apparently a reference to the Regional Climate Change Impact and Response Studies being conducted out of East Anglia University in the U.K. And the apparent intent of the quote is to say that scientists believe that their work will be wasted if they don't find a way to get people's attention with the considerable evidence that they have discovered that climate change is, in fact, a devastating threat.

It's clear enough that governments like Canada's own are committed to ignoring the climate threat - at least as long as their oily buddies can continue to cash in by making matters worse. It's also clear that Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre are desperate to portray themselves as clever contrarians, and they will make whatever allies are necessary to keep up the facade.

But really, is this all there is? They have 220,000 stolen emails and they can't find a single out-of-context quote that would overtake the so-successfully misused "hide the decline" line from 2009?

Mike Mann, quoted in the Guardian story above, is right. This is pathetic.

February 07 2011

18:23

New Scientist Weasels Out of Apology

New Scientist, a publication that is generally owed high regard, is apparently trying to weasel out of apologizing to NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt for an egregious misquote by the fallen science journalist Fred Pearce.

Pearce bungled the quote in his coverage of "post normal science" workshop in Lisbon, Portugal - really a denier fest dressed up as a reconciliation attempt. As Pearce reported in his original story, "The meeting was the brainchild of University of Oxford science philosopher Jerry Ravetz, an 81-year-old Greenpeace member who fears Al Gore may have done as much damage to environmentalism as Joseph Stalin did to socialism."

If you haven't already got a sense of the organizers' bias, consider a guest list that includes "heroes of the sceptics such as statistician Steve McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick, plus writers and bloggers such as Steve Mosher, the man who broke the Climategate story, and 'heretical' scientists such as Georgia Tech's Judy Curry and Peter Webster."<!--break--> (By "heretical' scientist, I'm assuming Pearce was trying to find a description for outliers like Curry who have decided to abandon actual scientific discourse in favour of playing patticake with the WattsUpWithThat crowd.)

The conceitof this event was that Ravetz would try to put these people into a room with some actual climate scientists and get them all to agree on "middle ground" - which is to say, the climate scientists would concede, by their mere presence, that there is a legitimate scientific disagreement. Game, set and match to the denier side.

Of course, no smart scientist would agree to play. With a host of others, Gavin Schmidt declined, saying, "No ‘conflict resolution’ is possible between the science community who are focussed on increasing understanding, and people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position."

This sharp riposte was too clear for Pearce, who made up this response, instead: "But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA's Gavin Schmidt, who said the science was settled so there is nothing to discuss."

When Schmidt objected to this invention, New Scientist went quiet and conspiracists and intermediaries, such as the secretive "science" blogger TallBloke offered a hosts of explanations (but no apologies) for Pearce's lack of professionalism. For full examinations of this story, you can head over to Deltoid or, for an even-more detailed dissertation, DeepClimate.

What you CAN'T do is read a clear admission that Pearce made up (or misreported) Schmidt's position and that he and New Scientist regret the error. Apparently - worryingly - they don't.

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