Washington Post Editorial on Abuse of FOIA to Harass Climate Scientists

I was very glad to see this editorial in the WaPo, which I excerpt below:

FREEDOM OF information laws are critical tools that allow Americans to see what their leaders do on their behalf. But some global warming skeptics in Virginia are showing that even the best tools can be misused.

Lawyers from the Environmental Law Center at the American Tradition Institute (ATI) have asked the University of Virginia to turn over thousands of e-mails and other documents written by Michael E. Mann, a former U-Va. professor and a prominent climate scientist. Another warming skeptic, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), recently demanded many of the same documents to determine whether Mr. Mann somehow defrauded taxpayers when he obtained research grants to study global temperatures.

A judge quashed Mr. Cuccinelli’s chilling “civil investigative demand.” But even though Mr. Mann wasn’t an agent of the commonwealth in any practical sense when he worked at U-Va., the university hasn’t been able to dismiss ATI’s requests, since Mr. Mann’s e-mails are public records in a technical sense. U-Va. agreed last week that it will hand over all the material that state law obliges it to release by Aug. 22.

ATI’s motives are clear enough. The group’s Web site boasts about its challenges to environmental regulations across the country. Christopher Horner, its director of litigation, wrote a book called “Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed.” (We wonder whether the “alarmists” who wrote the National Research Council’s latest report on climate change are threatening, fraudulent or merely deceptive.) And ATI declares that Mr. Mann’s U-Va. e-mails contain material similar to that which inspired the trumped-up “Climategate” scandal, in which warming skeptics misrepresented lines from e-mails stored at a British climate science center.

I was also pleased to see the concluding paragraph:

Teresa A. Sullivan, U-Va.’s president, said that the university will use “all available exemptions” from the state’s public records law to shield Mr. Mann. And a university spokesperson said that U-Va. anticipates that most of the documents at issue will be exempt under a statute that “excludes from disclosure unpublished proprietary information produced or collected by faculty in the conduct of, or as a result of, study or research on scientific or scholarly issues.” The university is right to make full use of such exemptions.

Of course, so-called skeptic WUWT posts this headline about the editorial opinion:  The Washington Post produces a bigoted editorial against the public right to know and article written by none-other than Steve Milloy who has reveived funding from both big tobacco and big oil.

No need to comment on that.

But feel free to do so.

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9 Responses to “Washington Post Editorial on Abuse of FOIA to Harass Climate Scientists”

  1. David Schnare

    Posted May 30, 2011 at 8:48 AM | Permalink | Reply


    We had several reasons, but the main one was to examine the history of this important period of time. Mann is an iconic figure and his work from this period had a large influence on what are becoming massive changes in social and economic policy. The debate over his conclusions continues. The process through which he reached his conclusions are as important as the conclusions themselves. If he demonstrated less than full intellectual honesty, the foundation of the new social policy will not support that policy. The size of the economic implications of climate change alarmism justify an investigation into the process.


    From the horsie’s mouth. Stop harassing UVA! It’s our turn!

    It appears like another climategate on the horizon. Meanwhile the world drowns…

  2. I forgot to add this one:

    David Schnare

    Posted May 29, 2011 at 10:33 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Mosh and Steve:

    Stop already. Let the ATI process work. There is no benefit to asking for more than what we agreed to in terms of a slightly narrower request. Horner and I will get to look at everything. If UVA is obstructionist, we will make our arguments to the court. None of what you folks are suggesting is going to change UVA’s mind. Something we have in the works might, so be a little patient. This ain’t our first rodeo, you know.

    • Had to correct McI on something he says there:

      Steve McIntyre Jun 3, 2011 at 6:48 AM — “Jones had claimed that the confidentiality agreements prohibited CRU from sending the data to a “non-academic”. Quite aside from whether there were any confidentiality agreements at all, there were no confidentiality agreements that contained this language. It was a total fabrication by CRU and the University of East Anglia.”


      UK Met. Office

      Meteorological Office (UKMO) data supplied through NERC Data Centres to bona fide research programmes.

      Conditions of Use

      Arrangements have been set in place whereby bona fide academic researchers working on agreed NERC-endorsed scientific programmes may obtain access on favourable terms to UKMO data (and associated software). To streamline the process, UKMO is providing relevant datasets / software ‘wholesale’ to NERC and NERC will then undertake the subsequent sublicensing and distribution to individual scientists.

      The British Atmospheric Data Centre and the British Oceanographic Data Centre will handle requirements for the atmospheric and oceanographic user communities respectively. Requests for UKMO data / software should therefore be sent to the appropriate Data Centre and not directly to UKMO.

      UKMO data / software so obtained may be used solely for the purpose for which they were supplied. They may not be used for any other projects unless specific prior permission has been obtained in writing from the UKMO by a NERC Data Centre. Note that this applies even for other bona fide academic work.

      UKMO does not discourage the use of its data for commercial applications, but different licensing arrangements and charges will apply. Should any commercial prospects emerge subsequent to the original supply of the data, the licensing position must be clarified, and any appropriate fees negotiated with UKMO before such prospects are followed up.

      Data sets must not be passed on to third parties under any circumstances. Any scientist requiring data which happens to have been supplied already to someone else, even within the same institute or programme of research, must first approach one of the NERC Data Centres, who have agreed to maintain records of data users for UKMO.

      Once the project work using the data has been completed, copies of the datasets and software held by the end user should be deleted, unless permission has been obtained for them to be retained for some alternative use.

      It is to be expected that ‘bona fide academic research’ using the data will eventually result in scientific publications in the open literature. The Data Centres will request details of such publications in due course, and if they do not arise UKMO may seek further evidence that this was at least the intention at the outset of the research. Scientific papers must give due credit to UKMO, either through acknowledgement or, if the data provide a significant basis of the work, co-authorship. Any processed / derived datasets resulting from the project should be made available to the appropriate NERC Data Centre for licensing / transfer to other researchers and the UKMO.

      The copyright / intellectual property rights of any data, software, information or documentation so supplied by UKMO in support of such a programme are retained by the original owner (generally the UKMO or its subcontractors). UKMO will protect its IPR by legal action if there is misuse of these rights such as the passing on of data to other third parties. NERC recognises that some data holdings supplied by UKMO under the arrangements are commercially valuable : the recipients of data are under an obligation to respect the terms and conditions of data supply, and to have regard to the security of datasets entrusted to them. Any infringement, whether by deliberate abuse or negligence, will be regarded extremely seriously by NERC, as endangering Council’s own reputation and the integrity of the NERC supported scientific community. The introduction of sanctions against individuals or Departments may be considered if breaches occur.

  3. American Traditional Institue – How is rejecting science traditional?

    • Rattus Norvegicus Reply May 31, 2011 at 11:57 am

      It’s not rejecting science, it’s raping the environment that’s an old American tradition.

  4. Rattus Norvegicus Reply June 7, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    For an example of trying really hard to not understand the facts, check here:


  5. Rattus Norvegicus Reply June 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    The WaPo didn’t have the half of it:

    Click to access ATI-NASA-Hansen-Appeal-Exs-3-6.pdf

    This is a disgusting attempt to shut people up. I am offended.

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