Wednesday, December 21st 2011, 4:06 AM EST
In recent days I’ve been receiving calls and emails asking what the U.S. Justice Department wants with me. In fact, there has been a misunderstanding. I write a blog about climate-change dogma that has a similar Web address to a blogger in the United States. It is that person — who publishes under the pen name Jeff Id at [external] NOconsensus.wordpress.com — who is being targeted
Earlier this month, a trial attorney employed by the Justice Department’s criminal division sent a formal request to WordPress (the blogging software company) to freeze for 90 days “all stored communications, records, and other evidence in your possession” regarding three climate-skeptic blogs. [external] ClimateAudit.org — written by Canadian Steve McIntyre and hosted on WordPress’ U.S.-based servers — was one of that trio. So was Tallbloke’s Talkshop, written by a U.K. resident and published at [external] tallbloke.wordpress.com.
The Justice Department is interested in WordPress records spanning three days — Nov. 21 to 23 inclusive. At 4:09 a.m. on Nov. 22, someone calling themselves FOIA made a comment on McIntyre’s blog. It consisted solely of a link to a zip file posted online at a Russian Web address. The zip file contained 5,000 emails written by some of the most prominent names in climate science.
Dubbed Climategate 2, these documents are still being examined and sifted. But emails have already come to light in which scientists employed by publicly funded universities in the U.K. and elsewhere discuss the deliberate deletion and removal of records from university computers. (In the U.K., altering or deleting documents in an attempt to circumvent freedom of information legislation is a criminal offense.)
In these emails individuals such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Michael Mann also talk about “the cause” they feel they are advancing. Moreover, these exchanges make it abundantly clear that the experts who’ve been conducting climate research (and writing reports about that research for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have privately expressed doubts about the robustness of many of their findings.
The unidentified person who left the link to the zip file at McIntyre’s blog also left it at Jeff Id’s blog and at Tallbloke’s. Since the latter resides in a time zone five hours ahead of McIntyre, Tallbloke received the link shortly past 9 a.m. and appears to have been the first person to blog about it.
Which may be the reason he has attracted special police attention. Last week, six officers, from three different divisions and armed with a search warrant, raided his Yorkshire home. They spent more than three hours there and although they assured him he isn’t a suspect, seized two of his laptops and an Internet router.
Tallbloke says the U.K. police told him they requested the assistance of the U.S. Justice Department, rather than the other way around. He also says they were “well-mannered and did not overreact” when he declined to give them his WordPress password. “I politely explained that they had a warrant to search my house, not my head.”
If the authorities are trying to identify the person who calls themselves FOIA (an acronym often associated with the Freedom of Information Act) who left these links, it makes sense for them to examine WordPress records, since all three blogs are hosted on its servers. But I am aware of no reasonable explanation as to how violating the sanctity of a non-suspect blogger’s home and invading his privacy by seizing his laptops (which, no doubt, contain banking and other sensitive information) could possibly be helpful.
Nor is it obvious why the Justice Department asked WordPress “not to disclose the existence” of its notice to the bloggers themselves. (To its credit, WordPress forwarded a copy of the Justice Department’s letter to those concerned nonetheless.)
This is all rather chilling. It appears that being the proprietor of a blog in which strangers leave links pointing to material on third-party websites now exposes one to being raided by the police.
As a commenter on another skeptic blog has observed: “the mere fact of the raid is ‘intimidating’ (potentially) to many…. Some are braver or better situated than others to handle police scrutiny but NO ONE should have to face police raids merely for having a blog.”
Donna Laframboise is the author of the recently published exposé of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken for the World’s Top Climate Expert. She blogs at [external] NoFrakkingConsensus.com.