Finding FOIA

A few thoughts on the police action at Tallbloke’s house last night…

No I’m not going to repeat all the ranting, and huffing and puffing about freedom. There are enough people doing that.  I’ve no comments, conspiracy theories or speculation about the contents of the emails already known and those potentially yet to come.

Some people have been asking what the police hope to gain by cloning Tallbloke’s hard drives when all the action took place on the cloud. Well several thoughts occur to me.

  • They need to be seen to be doing something. This is something.
  • Hitting out at skeptic bloggers, if you want to put it that way, is probably a popular move for them (thumbs up from the warmist side, including the MSM, politicians etc.).
  • Closing lines of investigation which don’t lead anywhere is often as important as following up on real suspicions.

I think this last one is the key.  Perhaps it is not what they hope to find on Tallbloke’s hard drives, but what they want to know/show is absent and rule out.

Some people have been sure from the beginning that the emails were leaked not hacked – an internal rather than external security breach. The terminology used has tended to fall by belief (skeptics – leak or  /warmists – hack).

After reading a post last month by Pointman Why Climategate was not a hack  I am thoroughly convinced it was a leak, or a least that there was an insider involved.  (Highly recommended – “The intended audience is the general reader; no great knowledge of IT is assumed.”)

Pointman sets out a profile and outline of a classic hack…


Despite what Hollywood and the movies would have you believe, pulling off a successful external hack is far from easy. It requires skill, talent, detailed technical knowledge and above all, patience. Hackers come in three flavours; script kiddies, ascendants and what I like to call the Great Whites. […]

If the Climategate breach was a result of a hack, then it would have to have been done by a Great White. This outline analysis of a classical frontal assault on an organisation should make that point.

He explains what a hack entails (including a lot of patience and not inconsiderable good fortune) in fairly generic language (well I understood it) and concludes:

Anyone who thinks all of the above effort was expended to obtain apparently innocuous material from an obscure unit of an equally academically obscure university, needs an introduction to William of Occam’s razor.

The police (IMO) are looking for a leaker and clues from the person’s normal professional network.  In any profession, you use what you know and who you know; you tread familiar paths, except when you wish to cover your tracks. The leaker may have ‘worked alone’, not actually conspiring with the network, but that does not mean ‘no contact’.

And what does this have to do with Tallbloke? Simple. They’re looking for evidence of collusion. In cloning the hard drives they’ll not be interested in the activity on the day but looking for any clues in the run up to the day when the link was left. Perhaps even activity in the run up to Climategate 1.0.  That’s my (naive) view anyway.

Do they seriously believe they’ll find such links? No idea, but I’d guess if they can rule Roger out (and Jeff Id and Steve McIntyre) that’s progress.  It may not get them any closer to finding FOIA, but it closes off some areas of effort, and that’s important in an investigation.

'Warlock' from "Die Hard 4.0"/"Live Free or Die Hard" Image: @keepitscifi

Six cops? Maybe it was ‘a show of force’. Or…

…maybe the police also watch too many Hollywood films (see right).  Or…

….maybe they really believe that all sceptics are well funded by Big Oil and Roger would have £gazillions of the latest computer equipment instead of a pile of old stuff and a couple of laptops.

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15 Responses to Finding FOIA

  1. gallopingcamel says:

    Bumbling British police trying to act like super sleuths. Hilarious!

    While this is probably a storm in a tea cup, it is going to backfire if they find something or even if they don’t. Nobody likes the idea that “Big Brother” may be watching……….

  2. Pascvaks says:

    @gallopingcamel –
    Unfortunately, since the 1930’s “Big Brother” has been so increasingly omnipresent that he’s become part of the furniture AND the house AND every aspect of our daily life. We don’t even “see” him anymore. The problem of fighting long, long, long wars is that they really never end. No one alive today can even begin to tell you what things were like in the Good Old Days before the War. I personally like to date the beginning of our present difficulties to ~ 1 January 1900, but really, it goes back to our days in the caves. When did WWII start? Really? Wasn’t WWI the reason for WWII? When did WWI start? Then there’s the more recent matter – When did WWII end? Did it ever end? Now, all the power that “We The People..” granted to our central governments to defeat our enemies, did they ever give anything back to us after they said “we’d won”? Aren’t they still playing the “game” of fighting our common enemy to save us? Wasn’t the COLD WAR just WWII Part 2, 3, and 4? The’re trying to find FOIA to save us from all the other bad people like FOIA who are really dangerous and who would disrupt the equilibrium and kill millions and bomb Big Ben to pieces? It never stops. There’s always someone who wants to do us harm, right? And, there’s Big Brother, who just wants to get BIGGER, and BIGGER, and BIGGER, and “protect” us from everything and everyone, cause it’s a BIG, BAD, DANGEROUS world out there, right? This is all about BIG BROTHER being BIG BROTHER, it’s not about some bozo breaking into some stupid computer and sending some poor, unsuspecting people a few million bits of information. BIG BROTHER is our friend, our protector. Sheep make funny people don’t they?

  3. Bloke down the pub says:

    They tried to sell Tallbloke a ticket for the policeman’s ball. Turned out it was a raffle.

  4. a.batty says:

    If the fuzz find the whistle-blower,what will they do,try them in closed court.
    I am certain a court case would be very good for the truth and bad for the establishment.

  5. Verity Jones says:

    I agree about the storm in the teacup. It will be interesting to see just how far this does go. I hope the publicity does not have negative consequences for Tallbloke (job etc..).

  6. j ferguson says:

    Verity and all,
    I’d be interested to know what any of you think about the prospect of libel suits in TallBloke’s behalf. A solicitor is raising funds at WUWT to support actions in this area, or maybe just the more orderly contemplation of such actions. There seem to be libelous statements on the web which could adversely affect TallBloke’s livelihood and/or tranquility, so such a response might not be unprovoked, or unwarranted.

    I think this ill advised. In the US, it doesn’t look like libel suits are often effective. It does look like they are in the UK – Winston seems to have often prevailed in the suits he undertook.

    How do you see it?

  7. Verity Jones says:

    @j ferguson
    It’s a difficult one. I have no more knowledge of such things than the average person and while I am insensed for Rog I think in such cases it is important not to overreact, and it is quite likely that much of what has been said is an overreaction.

    I don’t think suing Greg Laden and possibly Michael Mann is necessarily an overreaction, however, suing for libel means seeking damage for loss of reputation and several things spring to mind.
    – If the damage is small then action is probably pointless and, as some are suggesting over at WUWT, may actually be detrimental. Negative consequences could includ costs (unsympathetic judge dismissing it?); precendents set; further adverse publicity, including being painted in a less than favourable light in the press; loss of personal time in pursing the action.
    – If there is real damage resulting from loss of reputation, for example, loss of job, then the old adage “revenge is a dish best served cold” is wise council. Wait and see, then decide to act.
    – Acting early (now) in terms of declaring an intention to sue, and collecting a fighting fund, is no bad thing. Having created interest it is wise to capitalise on it while the subject is ‘hot’. I hope Rog and Stephen Wilde take the time to decide on the best course of action, which might not necessarily be to initiate an action, or if they do, not actually go to court – not least because they might get a result without it.

    One thing that concerns me is that action against the police depends on proving actual damage (physical to computers – possible I suppose) or in the absense of that damage to reputation (again). The bigger part of that action would depend on proving “Oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional actions by the servants of government.” (from Wikipedia), in this case the police and/or their political masters. That could be a very hard case to win.

    None of us can say if Tallbloke is overreacting – we weren’t there. We (sceptic bloggers and denizens) are actually a small community and it was quite natural for Rog to want to share the news with people, however it has gotten out of the community and been made bigger news than it actually is by the reaction of adversaries. It could be said that in sharing the news, he initiated the chain of reactions, but he wasn’t to know that or even think of it at the time. While believing him completely blameless of any actual wrong doing, I have to say he has been, to some extent, a contributor to the adverse publicity by sharing the news so publicly in the first place. Difficult call.

    He has a very clear case for libel in the UK, although reaching to the US could be more complex and as I said above, any compensation could be quite limited. It depends if he wants compensation or revenge, and whatever he decides he should act for himself and not for the baying hounds of sceptics on blogs calling for blood.

    • j ferguson says:

      I imagine he reads here and some of the other thoughtful sites and on reflection may conclude that this sort of suit might be better left un-pursued.

      We once had a classic whistle-blower wrongful-termination suit opportunity in the family which on very close consideration turned out to risk our assets to such an extent that we dropped it – not worth the risk. My conclusion at the time, was that lawsuits were for the very poor (little to lose) or the very rich. If you are in the middle, it is possible for the system to eat you alive.

      As to Jeff’s fear of DOJ, maybe he too has seen the 1937 Paul Muni movie, “I was a fugitive from a chain gang.”

    • Verity Jones says:

      I should add that my comment above is considering the wider community and population, however I have just noticed a comment on James Delingpole’s blog where a commenter says that the police action was reported on BBC NorthEast. I have no idea how much loss of reputation and damage to one’s standing in the local communty is measured. Another comment somewhere mentioned Rog’s charity work and raising money for the local air ambulance, so he has more than ‘good standing’ to be damaged.

      I mean it is conceivable that without complete public apology, widely reported, his future funding raising potential would be reduced. How do you put a figure on that?

  8. j ferguson says:

    If his suit can produce that result, it would be worthwhile. Don’t you get into the issue of whether the libel would come to the attention of people whose opinion of Roger could have an effect on his life and livelihood?

    As an aside, the police in the US are enabled, sometimes by warrant, but then only if necessary or if the host is not wholly indifferent to the matter under inquiry, to gather evidence not related to any suspected activity of the evidence’s host. This can sometimes be very inconvenient for the host, but does seem a reasonable condition of life.

    I do worry that Roger is a sacrifice to the sort of hysteria that Hume reports was rampant in the final year or two of Charles 2’s reign.

  9. Verity Jones says:

    “Don’t you get into the issue of whether the libel would come to the attention of people whose opinion of Roger could have an effect on his life and livelihood?”
    Yes, absolutely. In both the positive and negative sense. It is one of the reasons I was suggesting a wait and see approach.

    I too think the police actions may just be part of the necessary broader perspective, however inconvenient. For example – who coined the term ‘raid’? I wonder if Rog’s reaction has been ‘whipped up’ by the enthusiasm of others and that has been blown out of all proportion.

    If the libel case is a strong it will be very tempting to say ‘go for it’. Given the risk of being either a hero or a sacrifice, my advice would be to forego the opportunity to be former in this case if there is any risk of the latter. Like you I fear there is.

  10. Verity Jones says:

    Interesting comment from Stephen Wilde at WUWT (December 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm)
    The other problem the Police have is that as yet I see no evidence that the grounds for the issue of the warrant could ever have been reasonable.

    They are filing paperwork to see what the grounds for the warrent were. I think that is sensible. In fact, despite the feeding frenzy by some of the commenters. I think Rog will have good advice.

  11. gallopingcamel says:

    Over here in the USA we have Markey talking about bringing to justice those who pierce government’s veil of secrecy:

    What he is trying to do will fail miserably but that would be a better result for him than what will happen if he has some success. The more he succeeds, the greater the backlash.

    One of the ideas I find most appealing is turning the central theme of George Orwell’s “1984” on its head. Thanks to the Internet and video cameras in cell phones it is becoming ever easier for us “Little People” to watch “Big Brother” in action. Maybe Markey will hand us a cause worth fighting for.

  12. Doug proctor says:

    The raid on Tallbloke should be seen in the context of the FOIA debate and the general government belief, voiced outright by Blair, that the FOIA law is a great nuisance to “good” governance, meaning flexibility with the truth. The Brits – I am an ex-Brit, by the way – have revealed a startling sympathy with totalitarianism (as have the Americans and, to a lesser extent because Canada is a lesser nation, Canada. Australia should be on the list, now that I think of it).
    The sympathy is with getting the job done – or changing your mind about the job.

    The global warming scam will die of its own illness as the world’s temperatures and sea levels don’t cooperate. Whether this occurs in 2015 or 2020, I don’t know, but the IPCC Reports will come closer and closer to reality as data forces their hands. Of course, manipulation of data, to get the F&R 2011 continued temperature rise from the HadCru data from 1997 as an example, is available for a few more years, but is not a long-term solution. The problem is in finding memos that show the agendas involved, and the lack of belief in what is being put out. That’s where the FOIA has become such a problem.

    The internet depends on getting information for free or close to it. The FOIA law facillitates getting the information. The Tallbloke raid is just part of the governments’ desire to shut down taxpayer questioning. The nonsense of Durban is the cover. Regional controls, market distribution, anti-competivitive movements are more important fallouts than reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The “leaders” are probably annoyed that they used AGW as the vehicle for their mission, thinking the subject too complex and data-heavy to be disputed by the average voter. Without the FOIA law, however, they can shut down most investigations.

    Tallbloke is the ship with the cannon shell crossing its bow. Reaching across the ocean, the Americans and the Brits show how much desire there is for the AGW scam to remain hidden. As I propose, it will go away on its own, but if Tallbloke and Monckton et al keep on looking at data and asking for emails and financial records, AGW is going to damage a lot of powerful interests. And undermine whatever economic and political (hardly social) orchestrations are really going on.

  13. Verity Jones says:

    Maybe the internet has given us a means to constitute true democracy where we have a means to ensure the oversight of the people and the influence of their collective knowledge on the government.

    @Doug Proctor
    AGW is an attempt at a level of control and manipulation too far. With time (and patience) it will die naturally, but so much damage to world economies (and individual pockets) has already been done. I keen thinking there was a better way. Yes we need replacements for oil, but with a fraction of the money spent on AGW put up for serious and meaningful research there was (and still is) time to produce alternatives that are efficient and economic. AGW created an artifically supported market for technologies that were able to come to market without the addtiional time spent on efficiency gains and cost reductions to make them competitve without massive subsidies.

    Whether they were dupes or manipulators or have (investment) vested interests, there are a lot of people with a lot of reasons to keep stuff under wraps.

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