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Who leaked the Hadley CRU files and why

CRU
Climatic Research Unit (Photo courtesy CRU)

The anonymous tipster, whom many people initially assumed had "hacked" into the computers at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (repeatedly called the "Hadley CRU," by mistake), might in fact be a CRU insider who released the files for his own reasons.

The user, known only as "FOIA" (which now appears to be a reference to the British equivalent of the US Freedom of Information Act), left only one comment on The Air Vent to announce his release of his 61-MB ZIP archive. He has never been heard from since, nor has anyone stepped forward claiming to be that person since the story became widely known.

Persons knowledgeable in information security hold that this is not the behavior of a hacker. A hacker normally boasts of his act, even if he were hired or otherwise suborned to commit his act by someone else. These two reports provide illustrations of such behavior.

Other commenters have observed that the very form and organization of the archive, which expands to 168 MB of text files, word-processing documents, PDF files, raw data, and even program code, indicate that someone already having access to the system logged in through his usual channels, made the archive, and then logged out. The user's choice of words indicate someone having a motive to disclose to the world certain activities and mindsets that the user found distasteful, at least.

This Examiner has been able to reconstruct a timeline of the story, from the initial attempt by the user to publish his material to another site, to the events of yesterday morning. However, before presenting this timeline, this Examiner is obliged to issue a correction: the phrase "Hadley CRU" is not the true name of the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. The first person to use that phrase was Anthony Watts, of Watts Up With That. As RealClimate.org and others have noted, Watts is the first person to use the phrase "Hadley Centre" to describe the CRU. This is incorrect; the CRU does not use the word "Hadley" in its name, and the "Hadley Centre" is an entirely separate institution, having no connection with Phil Jones or his team beyond, perhaps, being in sympathy with Jones' stated theories and goals. That Watts was initially confused becomes evident when the photograph of the Hadley Centre headquarters, published on the Centre's own web site, is compared with the photograph that Watts initially ran with his own comment. Watts has since replaced that photograph with one of the actual CRU building.

The timeline begins on November 17, when the user named "FOIA" left this comment at The Air Vent site:

We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.

We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents. Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.

This is a limited time offer, download now:

He then continued with a link to a Russian anonymous FTP account. (That account no longer works, but this Examiner was able to obtain the archive from it when a correspondent alerted him to it.)

This is consistent with Phil Jones' statement to Ian Wishart of Investigate magazine, dated November 20. Jones said that he had known about a security breach of his organizations computers "three or four days ago," having heard about the matter first from the administrators of RealClimate.org. Concerning RealClimate's immediate reaction, Jones said:

Real Climate were given information, but took it down off their site and told me they would send it across to me. They didn’t do that. I only found out it had been released five minutes ago.

RealClimate's own statement says this:

We were made aware of the existence of this archive last Tuesday morning when the hackers attempted to upload it to RealClimate, and we notified CRU of their possible security breach later that day.

This indicates that the tipster first tried to submit his material to RealClimate.org, and when the administrators refused to accept it, he then established his Russian anonymous FTP account and submitted the link in his comment to The Air Vent.

The Air Vent's administrator, Jeff Id, was out-of-contact when the comment was posted. No one said another word about it until, two days later, the user named Steven Mosher alerted The Blackboard. Initially he left only a link to the original post, not a specific comment link. But apparently Lucia, the Blackboard administrator, followed the link and examined the files for herself. She was, however, reluctant to publish the link, but another user, Jean S, published it for her. In the process, she said this:

Seems to me that someone has hacked UAH computers. All e-mails seem to contain at least an addrees ending uea.ac.uk. Also all the files seem to be UAH-related. At least some of the material has to be real, there are just so many small details that were just impossible to fake (for instance under briffa-treering-external/timonen there are some file names only a Finn would use).

She might be referring to file names like "kilpisj" and "hossapal", and extensions like "tuc". The file names fail to translate when subjected to Google's Translate routines.

At the same time, Steven Mosher published an alert to Climate Audit. Then within hours, Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That published his own brief commentary. Shortly after that, this Examiner made his initial report, which is, as far as this Examiner has been able to determine, the first report by a professional or semi-professional journalist of this whole affair. Ian Wishart, editor and publisher of Investigate, also took note of the story at the same time and published his own initial blog entry, in which he announced that he had sent an e-mail to Phil Jones requesting an interview.

In all that time, the original poster of the Russian FTP link never made another comment in any forum. As discussed above, this is not typical of a hacker. A hacker would be boasting about his act, and loudly. Instead, his file sat in that anonymous FTP account for more than forty-eight hours, and the poster never made any further attempt to publicize his find. Hence the conclusion, by this Examiner and a host of other commenters, including IP security professionals, that this unknown user was one who had had access to CRU computers, in accordance with his duties at the CRU.

Mr. Stephen McIntyre at Climate Audit has made no secret of his repeated attempts to demand, under Britain's Freedom of Information Act, that Phil Jones and his team yield up the data that are the basis of their claims for anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and its effects. Preliminary analysis of the archived e-mails also indicates that Jones knew of McIntyre's efforts and was taking steps to stall and thwart them, in violation of the law. Perhaps, then, someone at CRU decided to take the law into his own hands.

A request-for-comment to Mr. McIntyre from this Examiner is now pending. Climate Audit is back on-line, though it appears to be slow to load.

The archive remains available at MegaUpload and FileDropper, and at Pirate Bay's torrent.

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Comments

  • grouchyoldman 5 years ago

    Well done! This is big news even if the emails/docs turn out to be a hoax. IT IS HUGE NEWS if they are real. This is too important to be kept under wraps, treat this as though it were the Pentagon Papers redux.

  • J O'Niel 5 years ago

    Terry, you are now sounding as if you are one of the Msn/CRU sockpuppets.

    Why dont you check what the relationship is between Dr Peter Stott (Hadley) and Phil Jones (CRU)

    Remember the maxim..........follow the money

  • hardybear 5 years ago

    Noticed the many requests for a place to comment, and thought to offer a link to a political discussion blog that badly needs moderate conservative voices. Free Range Talk, www dot freerangetalk dot com. We encourage commenting and posting with almost no moderation. Researching the story on the hacking into the UK climate change centre, I've come across blogs like this that seem to have interesting commenters. Hope it is all right to simply leave the address and the cordial invitation. My thanks.

  • jethro 5 years ago

    Who leaked them and why is known and irrelevant. Someone within Hadley did. It is on many blogs. They left a message only that says basically "people need to see the truth on AGW and the people/attitude behind the fear mongering". The info does exactly that. Manipulation of data, hiding of data, destruction of data allfor political gain by supposed well known scientists who should be jailed for pertpetuating a fraud on the World.

  • Terry Hurlbut 5 years ago

    @J O'Neal: My purpose in distinguishing the Hadley Centre from the East Anglia CRU is merely to set the record straight and avoid a charge of willfully perpetuating a mistake in identity. Now if the Hadley Centre and the CRU be shown to be working together in support of the same goals, that's a different thing. As it happens, my examination of a PowerPoint file found in the archive suggests strongly that the two organizations might have a relationship that is far closer than the worthies of the Hadley Centre might now wish to admit. And, of course, I rely on commentators like you to provide me leads to investigate just such possibilities.

    @jethro: Who leaked the archive and how is both material and relevant. Dr. Jones cried "Foul!" to Ian Wishart, saying that the releaser had acted unlawfully. But if the releaser were an insider, then he has committed nothing more serious than a breach of confidentiality--which I'd say that Dr. Jones' conduct makes moot.

  • Hostile Knowledge 5 years ago

    The AGW mob has finally been caught falsifying the climate data! I don't care who "purloined" the files, he /she has done a great service to the truth.

    As one headline put it, "This isn't a smoking gun. This is a mushroom cloud."

    Are you listening, Pope Al?

  • JimCricket 5 years ago

    Erm, this was a political act. Pure and simple, there was no other reason for doing it.

  • JimCricket 5 years ago

    BTW, out of how many megabytes of data?
    there are a few alleged 'conspiracy' comments that can be interpreted many ways depending on ones prejudices.

    What exactly is that supposed to prove???

  • max 5 years ago

    It is not necessarily political. The hackers did not know what to expect.

    the file is 62mb
    thepiratebay.org/torrent/5171206/Hadley_CRU_Files_(FOI2009.zip)

  • jethro 5 years ago

    Terry- Are you slow or what??? The file itself is what is relevant. It shows a perpetuated fraud on the people of the world by Liberal loons for financial gain. Trying to divert attention away from the facts will not help thanks to the internet. Very few will buy your crap.

  • Hostile Knowledge 5 years ago

    The AGW mob has finally been caught falsifying the climate data! I don't care who "purloined" the files, he /she has done a great service to the truth.

    As one headline put it, "This isn't a smoking gun. This is a mushroom cloud."

    Are you listening, Pope Al?

  • jethro 5 years ago

    JCricket- Sorry, that spin will not work. The proof is in black and white. CAN YOU READ!!! Read some of it then! Manipulating data, hiding data, deleting data, wishing disbelievers to die. By saying you can not see that makes you look really ignorant.

  • Terry Hurlbut 5 years ago

    @jethro: Easy! I don't deny that the archive is very powerful stuff. But I have to answer the question of how this was obtained, because the lawfulness of that obtaining might bear directly on its provenance--and I *must* establish provenance in order to be taken seriously.

    @JimCricket: Was the releaser's act political? Let's suppose it was, and construe that however you like. Now answer me this: did Phil Jones not have political motives? Don't *you* have political motives? If someone inside his organization decided to fight the dirty politics that his boss was playing, is his act any less noble for that? And does his act ennoble Phil Jones' conduct? I say not.

  • goober 5 years ago

    Yep, AGW is a scam and these emails proves it without a doubt. In other news, the world is flat and I steadfastly refuse to believe any mountain of evidence to the contrary. Al Gore invented the whole thing.

  • Meriweather 5 years ago

    Is Hurlbut your real name? I think you're a hoax.

  • severn 5 years ago

    Perhaps someone can point out anything in the emails that actually shows that the evidence for AGW (as published in thousands of scientific papers by a wider range of people and institutions than those involved in the emails) is wrong?

  • JimCricket 5 years ago

    BTW, out of how many megabytes of data?
    there are a few alleged 'conspiracy' comments that can be interpreted many ways depending on ones prejudices.

    What exactly is that supposed to prove???

  • JimCricket 5 years ago

    Apologies for the repeat post, finger trouble.

    In response to Jethro.
    Surely scientists are always talking about leaving out data, putting data in, manipulating it etc.
    That's what they do, because most scientific data is noisy.
    Can you read?
    The fact that this is discussed by email isn't surprising.

  • Alex Hagen 5 years ago

    Wow, their is just no journalistic integrity here. Here this guy is saying that it "might" be an insider. That's quite a claim, so what is his evidence?

    "Other commenters have observed that the very form and organization of the archive [...] indicate that someone already having access to the system logged in through his usual channels, made the archive, and then logged out."

    Ok, that claim is just total stupid. Exactly how can you tell how someone got the archive from the format of the archive? And how would someone who "logged in through his usual channels" have access to the entire mail feed at all? This just shows complete ignorance of how mail systems work...but of course ignorance has never stopped the deniers before.

    That really leaves only the second argument:

    "Persons knowledgeable in information security hold that this is not the behavior of a hacker. A hacker normally boasts of his act, even if he were hired or otherwise suborned to commit his act by someone else.

  • No Sweat 5 years ago

    The files area also available for download at www.wikileaks.com/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_emails%2C_data%2C_models%2C_1996-2009

  • John WOods 5 years ago

    Wow, no way dude that is totally crazy!

    RT
    www.ultimate-privacy.br.tc

  • Z 5 years ago

    What money? I still want to know how it benefits financially to create artificial fear of global climate change. Who does it benefit? Compact fluorescent light bulb manufacturers? There's more vested interest to maintain the status quo in business and special interest groups. We all want transparency (regardless of who it "serves") - based on the above, the motive here seems politically driven, which to me creates bias and potential selective information release.

  • Terry Hurlbut 5 years ago

    @z: What money? How about Al Gore's carbon-offset scheme? Now there's a scheme for graft if ever I saw one! Of course the difference between Al Gore and guys like Phil Jones and Kevin Trenberth is that at least those guys try to make themselves believe something even when the numbers don't add up. ("Travesty", yet!) Al Gore cannot possibly believe what he spouts--else why does he travel by private jet and tell his limo driver to keep his car engine running, with the heater (or the air conditioner, as required) on, while he's in some hotel making a speech about how horribly profligate we're all living?

    What money? How about government grant money--did you ever think of that?

    What money? Taxpayers' money.

    But the graft gets more dangerous than that. Some of these guys aren't in it for money, but rather for power. Raw power. "Political power comes from the barrel of a gun"--so said Mao, Anita Dunn's favorite person. And maybe Phil Jones', too, from the way he acts.

  • Nigav 5 years ago

    It is apparent that Real Climate is the propoganda site for AGW Alarmists. It was set up by CRU. The emails are there.

    Any thinking person who reads even a selection of these emails (as I have) sees the conspiracy of fraud related to IPCC Assessment report No.4

    Real Climate are mobilizing to try to down play this. They are trying to make the story about the hacking not the hockey stick fraud.

    Jim Cricket and Z, who are you really?... are you one of Gavin Schmitts chronies from Real Climate.... or are you just completely stupid....

  • Jonathon Hill 5 years ago

    I've posted the actual CRU files on a reliable (Amazon S3) web server at http:\\bit.ly/4Ztg1f. Read the evidence for yourself.

  • Nivag 5 years ago

    Go here. It's a searchable database.

    www dot anelegantchaos dot org slash cru slash index.php

    Sorry about the URL format.

    Bishop Hill has a great summary of the emails. There is definately criminal activity here.

    For a start, the director instructs his stuff to delete all data to do with AR4 so they can avoid an FOI request. That is a criminal act. Professor Phil Jones (head of CRU) is a criminal.

  • Nivag 5 years ago

    Apologies.... "instructs his stuff".... should read "instructs his staff"...

  • Daryl M 5 years ago

    I think it's very likely that the files were not obtained by external hacking but rather by a person internal to UEA and that this was done by someone who saw what Jones, Briffa, et al were doing and ultimately decided that their unethical, if not illegal behaviour should be exposed. Who ever did this is in my opinion a hero and a defender of open, truthful and objective research. I only hope the person does not get caught and that more files are forthcoming.

  • AA 5 years ago

    I challenge your assumption that "A hacker would boast" Criminals who like their freedom try not to draw attention to themselves and their crime. You may be correct that this was an inside job, but there is as yet no hard evidence one way or the other.

    Meanwhile, although the email archives are unflattering and contain some references to unethical behavior, the fundamental results and theories of Anthropogenic Climate Change remain intact.

    Indeed, the bar for conspiracy theories is low, whereas the bar for honest science remains high, and therefore I put my faith in the latter.

  • frank verismo 5 years ago

    Realclimate.org is registered to Environmental Media Services:
    (check whois dot net for confirmation).

    Environmental Media Services was founded by Arlie Schardt, none other than Al Gore's press officer:
    (check wiki for confirmation).

    It's a giant pseudo-science circle-jerk with these people.

    Had enough yet?

  • TUNNNA 5 years ago

    The PROOF is THERE. There are EMAIL MESSAGES that mention ALIEN BOARDS and ALIEN OPINIONS. This isn't a story about climate change, it's a story about the TRUTH. YOU know that the truth is there - it's just waiting for you to uncover IT.

  • glory be 5 years ago

    You can never say anything too foul about Al Gore, but this needs to be noted: After losing to George W. he tried to launch a new career as the marriage and family expert. Two books on how to have a great marriage -- and both bombed. Then the big lunk got lucky and stumbled onto global warming. Presto! Al's a rich man (and, give him credit, the failed divinity graduate probably believes this stuff). Meanwhile the corrupto-boffins like Jones et al rejoiced that a useful idiot had stumbled into their midst.

  • Turboblocke 5 years ago

    In the UK suspicion is falling on the USA as a source of this hack.

    Who benefits from it? There is no organised sceptic movement in the UK, policy for copenhagen is fixed and the chances of being prosecuted for the hack are significant. In the US there is an organised sceptic movement, your policy for Copenhagen is not fixed and there is little cjhance of being prosecuted for the hack.

    In addition Senator Inhofe cliamed that this was the year of the sceptic on Wednesday: after the hack but before it was made public.

    And the real smoking gun: the hacker is called FOIA. In the UK we talk of the FIA or a FOI request.

  • Peter 5 years ago

    In regards to Z's question (who stands to benefit from the hysteria of global warming), the financial institutions will make a killing trading carbon credits. There are even people who think that carbon credit trading will become the next bubble, and you know what happens with bubbles after they bust. The people in the know ie. financial institutions, bankers and other wealthy and powerful people of society come out richer while the people suffer.
    Just look at what happened in our current "financial crisis."
    I do agree with you also that it does have a political agenda element to it as well. It serves two benefits.

  • Turboblocke 5 years ago

    In the UK suspicion is falling on the USA as a source of this hack.

    Who benefits from it? There is no organised sceptic movement in the UK, policy for copenhagen is fixed and the chances of being prosecuted for the hack are significant. In the US there is an organised sceptic movement, your policy for Copenhagen is not fixed and there is little cjhance of being prosecuted for the hack.

    In addition Senator Inhofe cliamed that this was the year of the sceptic on Wednesday: after the hack but before it was made public.

    And the real smoking gun: the hacker is called FOIA. In the UK we talk of the FIA or a FOI request.

  • Turboblocke 5 years ago

    Sorry that my post went up three times: everytime I refreshed this page it posted it.

  • Jimbo 5 years ago

    If anyone has seriously read the emails, and not just picked up on quote mined cherry-picked tidbits from the blogosphere, they would realise that there are no smoking guns, no dead bodies to be found, not even any bullet holes. No deleted data, no unreasonable denials of FOI requests that don't involve 3rd party IPR legal ramifications.

    You've been conned alright; by those wishing to derail or at the very least upset Copenhagen.

    "Trick" is a common scientific and mathematical term.

    "Hide"? It was so well hidden it was in plain sight all of the time.

    Raw temp data are always available from NOAA.

    A very sweet and audacious misdirection that's sucked the discussion into ad hominem attacks on the people, but leaves the cause of recent climate change still scientifically standing exactly where it has been for some time now: anthropogenic.

  • Terry Hurlbut 5 years ago

    @Jimbo: Mind what you say, and whom to. I possess the archive, don't forget. I know what it contains, and I'm not through analyzing it yet. Which means that more revelations might indeed be forthcoming.

    What is a *reasonable* refusal to comply with a FOI request? That's like describing a *reasonable* non-response to a subpoena, is it not? If you were to sue me at common law, and have me served with a subpoena to yield up certain documents, how would you react if I shredded them instead?

    And how would any scientist, in any discipline other than climate science, expect to be taken seriously if he refused to yield up his data for a cross-check? How do you think science operates? Someone discovers something and invites others to see for themselves. But Phil Jones said, "I'd rather destroy my data than yield it up to my adversary!" And to think that, when I was at college (Yale 1980), science was supposed to be value-free.

  • Jimbo 5 years ago

    Sorry Terry, but Phil Jones' comment was in line with the need to protect data he was legally obliged to keep confidential. It was Nat Met Services IP and not his to give away. After a search of the archive I found no keyword match to "adversary" as you quote him saying. Perhaps you could be more specific?

    The emails cannot be read in context without the full set. They seem more likely to have been selctively chosen to provoke ad hominem attacks, and succeeded very well.

    There is no evidence that I have seen so far of illegality. What there is evidence of is that these scientists genuinely believe that climate change is anthropogenic. If they seem unsavoury individuals at times, big deal. Who said they had to be incredibly nice to get the science right?

  • Jimbo 5 years ago

    Terry, can I just add a few things?

    The FOI requests from MocIntyre & McKitrick became so frivolous and were taking up so much time and resources there was a discussion about charging a fee.

    They consulted representatives of the FOI body who reviewed the requests and agreed that they were unreasonable.

    Why would M&M also need private emails and private code in order to replicate and test Jones et al's research? Where is their expertise as climate scientists?

    Any of the licensed/proprietary scientific data M&M required was available via the various nations' Nat Met Services, in the same way Jones must have acquired it.

    If anything, they were trying to spend research funds on what it was intended for: scientific research. Imagine the scandal if they hadn't: Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

  • Cullen 5 years ago

    @Jimbo Climate change happens over hundreds if not thousands of years, thus differentiating it from weather(which changes everyday). I question the science of anyone who trusts and defends data gathered by farmers 100+ years ago. Seriously, we were crapping in the woods back then but somehow we gathered this accurate climate data, and on a global scale at that... These people must be the smartest people on the face of the earth because that's some really sound science. Just kidding. The only data they have is their gut feeling. They're kooks and the people that eat their unverified BS up as fact are kooks also.

  • Jimbo 5 years ago

    @ Cullen: Climate is 30 years or more.

  • anned 5 years ago

    I believe this is from ether a NSA (US government agency)employee that is anti AGW that used a NSA backdoor to copy everything.
    "A hacker would be boasting about his act," a NSA employee would no "need"to boast he is a professional and the people he works with know it. (likely so do some terrorist who's email has been read.)

    The other possibility is the Chinese government leaked this in a attempt to discredit and throw a monkey wrench in the works just before Copenhagen. It also could be seen as retaliation for Obama"s little speech in china where he complained about china's environmental, internet freedom and other things that would be a loss of face to the Chinese leaders.
    It's will known that China has a large number of very good hacker working for the government.

  • John Archer 5 years ago

    To Jimbo: "Climate is 30 years or more."

    Right. Proof please.

    BTW, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. And 30 years is conveniently long enough to secure most of those nice pensions. Just a thought. Ha ha.

  • John Archer 5 years ago

    To Jimbo: "Climate is 30 years or more."

    Right. Proof please.

    BTW, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. And 30 years is conveniently long enough to secure most of those nice pensions. Just a thought. Ha ha.

  • John Archer 5 years ago

    To Jimbo. It happens when on refreshing one's browser after posting a comment. This is a test.

  • Henrik 5 years ago

    The emails wherent hacked. It was an inside whistleblower. The hacker wouldnt bother to blackout email addresses.

  • Jimbo 5 years ago

    "The hacker wouldnt bother to blackout email addresses. "

    The hacker, maybe. The person he or she sold it to? Perhaps a very different story.

  • Don 5 years ago

    And the alarmists wonder why we're skeptical of the science behind AGW. These aren't scientists at all, but a band of bullies so full of themselves that they're willing to do anything to feed their ego.

  • Jimbo 5 years ago

    "These aren't scientists at all, but a band of bullies so full of themselves that they're willing to do anything to feed their ego."

    In that case, we'd better throw out all of Newton's laws. Like I suggested before, who said scientists need to be saints to get the science right?

    Get your favourite novels off the bookshelf and ask yourself if the authors were incredibly nice people.

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