Leo Hickman: Factual Inaccuracy

Posted: December 16, 2011 by tallbloke in Incompetence, Politics

In his Guardian article, Leo Hickman says

“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””

This makes it sound like the U.S. DOJ is requiring Jeff and I to preserve records on our own computers. As can be see from the preservation notice I published online yesterday before Leo went to press, it is WordPress that has been asked to preserve logs, covering the date that the mysterious ‘foia’ placed a comment on each of our blogs.

I hope Leo has the decency to clarify this ambiguous passage in his article, because now that he has dragged my employers name into this, my job is on the line.

I am currently awaiting legal advice on how to obtain a copy of the affidavit made by the detective inspector from the Norfolk Constabulary to justify obtaining a warrant to seize my property.

When I have received that, I will know more as to the police reasoning for thinking they might find something on my laptops which would help them in their investigation of the copying of the CRU’s data two years ago.

Watch this space.

UPDATE 17-12-11 16.00GMT

My thanks to Leo Hickman, who has taken time on his weekend to get the Guardian editors to clarify the incorrect passage in his article and also to add a footnote explaining the change. The section now reads:

Both Tattersall and a US-based climate sceptic blogger known as Jeff Id said they had received a “formal notice” stating that their blogging platform WordPress.com had been asked by 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 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.

….

• This article was amended on the 16th and 17th December to clarify that the “formal notice” from the US Department of Justice’s criminal division asked WordPress.com to preserve information. The notice did not ask the bloggers themselves to do so.
==========================================================

And, I might add, nor would we be able to even if we wanted to. The servers are in California, not my house (or The Met’s computer crime forensics lab).
Minor quibbles apart this update has resolved the issue and we can lay this one to rest.

Comments
  1. Willis Eschenbach says:

    I assume you’ve contacted Leo directly?

    What a drag …

    w.

    [Reply] Yes. – Rog

  2. Employers name? What am I missing?

    [Reply] First paragraph. – Rog

  3. Michele says:

    Roger,
    your story

    You are online on “daltonsminima” for italian people.

    Bye,
    michele
    Nia

    .
    http://daltonsminima.altervista.org/?p=17901

    [Reply] Bravo Michele! Grazia! – Rog

  4. I think you’re very wise to seek counsel on this whole episode, TB. I’ve been following the story on all the blogs and newspapers (and it was even mentioned on the BBC R4 midnight news last night – my good wife came and told me!).

    You just cannot trust the scoundrels at the bottom of all this. I’m sure there is much alarm in their camp right now, and they will be lashing out in all directions in an attempt to cover their backsides. And with all the resources they have at their command, it’s just not sensible to try and go it alone.

    I wish you well, my friend.

  5. Not sure why Hickman would’ve been learning from a McCarthyism manual (days ago he buried the Booker GWPF report under a made-up news story on Lawson).

    Hard to imagine it’ll make him any good.

  6. Leo Hickman says:

    Hello Roger,

    Thanks for clarifying that about WordPress. I will try and get that reworded as soon as possible.

    I didn’t ‘drag’ your employer’s name into public. It was already in the public domain. For example, look at The Register’s article which was live before mine…

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/12/15/climategate_police_action/

    Leo Hickman

    [Reply] Fair play Leo, Thanks for the effort to correct this. – Rog

  7. Brian H says:

    I doubt Hickman was aware of the distinction between orders directed at WP and at you before you drew it to his attention. Deep penetrating perceptive thought is not his forté.

  8. Symon says:

    That should be “Jeff and me”. You wouldn’t say “U.S. DOJ is requiring I to preserve records”. Just because you’ve been raided by plod, there’s no reason to let your standards slide to Grauniad levels.
    Good luck with it all!
    🙂

  9. Ed Moran. says:

    Decency from the Guardian to a sceptic?
    Yer ‘avin’ a larf’ mate.
    I hope I’m wrong but I’m not holding my breath.

  10. Ed Moran. says:

    OK! Hands up!
    Well done Mr Hickman.

  11. hro001 says:

    The other curious thing I found about Hickman’s <free speech for me but no comment for thee> piece was the following paragraph:

    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. [emphasis added -hro]

    I couldn’t find this “interview” on their site, but assuming that it wasn’t a figment of Hickman’s imagination, the timing is somewhat curious. Particularly since it wasn’t until Feb. 25/10 that WUWT’s Charles the moderator was contacted by Norfolk’s finest. This was three weeks after The Guardian had mentioned his name (along with that of several others) on Feb. 4/10.

    Makes one wonder if Norfolk’s finest are getting their “leads” from reading the Graun!

  12. BammBamm says:

    Oh i love this stuff …

    They are worried and covering their tracks least the whole carbon trading system comes crashing down – and is exposed as a fraud.

  13. tallbloke says:

    “I couldn’t find this “interview” on their site, but assuming that it wasn’t a figment of Hickman’s imagination”

    Leo asked me in email why my blog was chosen rather than a higher profile uk site. I told him maybe it was because I made one of the FOI requests to CRU back in 2009 and because of this, I was one of the people contacted for a telephone interview by Norfolk police in early 2010. I probably said “some two months” off the cuff from (dodgy post crash) memory. I speculated that because I had commented about that on Climate Audit, FOIA might have chosen me as a recipient for the link comment, or it was just a random blog roll click from another site, or FOIA likes my science. 🙂

    You can read the exact words and the rest of what I said to him here:
    https://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/opinion-foia-and-where-its-at-with-the-global-warming-issue/

    I think Leo might have been mildly stung by my comments about re-publishing press releases and that might explain why he has attempted to cast me in a negative light in this piece (Unless that’s just my currently somewhat stressed perception – you tell me).

    Journalists have a lot of power compared to ordinary folks like me, and they should use it wisely and responsibly.

  14. tallbloke says:

    I see the Grauniad has done further injury to the English language. The offending sentence now reads:

    “Both Tattersall and a US-based climate sceptic blogger known as Jeff Id said they had received a “formal notice” that their blogging platform WordPress had been asked by 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.”

    1) This is a very long and convoluted sentence.
    2) It still implies on casual inspection that Jeff and I were sent a “formal notice” which applied legally to us. This is incorrect. We were simply given a copy ‘for our information’ of the “formal notice” from the DOJ to Automattic inc requesting they hold wordpress.com logs for a day either side of FOIA’s comment on our blogs.
    3) The word “WordPress” is linked to wordpress.org whereas it should be linked to wordpress.com
    This is an important distinction. WordPress.com hosts our blogs on their servers in California, over which we have no control further than that afforded by our browser based ‘control panel’.
    Wordpress.org is where you can download a copy of the blogging platform software to install on any server of your choice, and over which you would have full control, including access to logs, and full responsibility for.

    I’ll give the Guardian one more opportunity to get it right before I get my solicitor to send them a letter copied to the Press Complaints Commission. They just shouldn’t be this sloppy when reporting on legal matters which can seriously affect people’s livelihood.

    This would be my suggested rewrite:

    “Both Tattersall and a US-based climate sceptic blogger known as Jeff Id said they had received a copy of a “formal notice” sent to blogging platform WordPress.com by the US Department of Justice’s criminal division, dated 9 December. This requested that Automattic inc, owners of WordPress.com preserve “all stored communications, records, and other evidence in your possession” related to the two blogs for Nov 22/23rd, as well as those for Climate Audit, a climate sceptic blog run by a Canadian mining consultant called Steve McIntyre.”

  15. Brian H says:

    Speaking of publishing press releases, for the UK there’s a new site, Churnalism, which matches phrases in news stories to press releases. Poor Leo!

  16. Leo Hickman says:

    Hi Roger,

    I asked an editor to make that change yesterday within 10 minutes of me learning about the error on your blog. The first two of your new objections I would beg to differ, namely, they are subjective observations. But, again, I’m more than happy to pass on your grievance to my editors for their consideration. (But, being the weekend, it might take longer for any change to be made than yesterday, but I will try my best to get the message to them as soon as possible.)

    On your third point about WordPress.org vs WordPress.com, I had a note from Automattic last night pointing this out and, again, I forwarded it straight to my editors. Again, being late on a Friday night, I suspect sadly it will take longer to make that clarification than yesterday, but please don’t read it that I am ignoring your point. I – and, more importantly, the Guardian – take matters of factual clarification very seriously.

    I’m disappointed, given the civil tone in which we have spoken to each other in the past, that you feel I’m trying to “cast you in a negative light”. I would strongly disagree with that. I was only trying to report the facts of what happened on Wednesday – albeit getting the WordPress/DOJ issue a bit mangled, which I’m making every effort to correct and for which I apologise. I have to be honest and say that I don’t recall you saying anything to me about “republishing press releases” but I will go back over our previous exchange and look that up. But, again, I can assure you that has nothing to do with the article in question.

    Leo Hickman

  17. Lets give Leo a breake. The Grauniad is rightly femous for mjsspelings and other sligth inaccurraccies.

    And a source of unlimited (wink wink) entertainment for pedants the world over!

  18. HaroldW says:

    “…a climate sceptic blog run by a Canadian mining consultant called Steve McIntyre.”
    At the risk of being cited for excessive nitpicking, I’d complain that this wording faintly suggests that “Steve McIntyre” might be a pseudonym like “Jeff Id”. This would be better rendered as “a climate sceptic blog run by Canadian mining consultant Steve McIntyre.” Or replace “called” with “named”.

  19. Brian H says:

    Leo spiks! Ready, fire, aim. Oops! Sorry!

  20. tallbloke says:

    Hi Leo,
    a little apology goes a long way with me and I thank you for that.

    Nonetheless, for a computer professional, any slight innuendo of impropriety with computer use can be devastating to future employment prospects. The longer the innaccuracies in this article remain online, the worse the damage.

    I will be talking to my legal representative later today about this.

  21. tallbloke says:

    Post updated.

    Leo emailed me this afternoon to say he had managed to roust the editors out to fix the offending section. My thanks to him for his efforts to ensure the facts are reported accurately (and legibly). 🙂

    CASE CLOSED.

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