Steve McIntyre has posted on something we’ve discussed behind the scenes for some time now. It was a weekend morning at the end of January 2010 when I got the call from Guardian reporter David Leigh for asking for Patrick Condon. Now, the interesting thing about it was that I had not released my first name to anyone except to Steve McIntyre in my entire gmail or blogging history. My gmail contains every blog comment and email associated with the Air Vent blog since its inception. I can look back and find every single disclosure of my name in its history. There are very few prior to climategate and everyone I wrote to except one, I introduced myself as Jeff (my middle name). That is the name I use for everyone except banks. Even wordpress and gmail, by which all of my blogging communication occurred, had no information on my address or phone numbers.
In fact even the UK anti-terror police knew me as Jeff when they wrote to me at the link on my blog, yet weeks later David Leigh contacted me asking for Patrick Condon of the Air Vent. Now everyone should know that an internet blogger, business owner and engineer isn’t exactly a top secret spy. It is quite difficult to have the 5000 readers/day I had prior to cliamtegate and claim anonymity but I very, very rarely mentioned my last name.
How did the UK press find me? There is more than one piece in this puzzle.
Were there legitimate avenues for discovery of my name and address? I’m sure, but they aren’t easy and what is most concerning is that if the information were legitimately located, is that supported by the Guardian’s unique responses to Steve below?
One of the most telling bits is that in the same post by David Leigh, they quote Steve’s private email to Paul Dennis. Information that to my knowledge only the UK police and Steve had. It is reasonably apparent that the Guardian’s David Leigh was in ‘close’ contact with the UK police on this matter and the UK anti-terror police had information which the general public did not. If the Guardian wishes to make public the method by which they discovered my name I would be happy to report it here. If the confidentiality of their source is a problem as they claim, then at least some remark that there were no government sources used in the disclosure would be appropriate. Finally, there is the matter of my specific request not to have my name published. In the UK, it isn’t legal to release names of people who don’t want to be identified unless there is some public good. After the release of my full name, David said that his ‘editors’ were at fault.
I’m really sorry, I asked my editors to change it, but it never happened last night for some reason
Recently we learned that many in the UK work above the law for the discovery and disclosure of private information. It seems apparent that this may be the norm of reporting in the modern age.
I look for the simple answer but am no internet expert. I had emails to Paul Dennis that would probably have IP addresses attached that would give a nearby Chicago-esque location. The anti-terror police who had access to the UEA emails and my middle/last name would have the same information. I also had some emails with RC scientists that could do the same for the police. There were methods to find me but if the methods were easy, why didn’t the Guardian reply – well we did a public records search on your name, or a private source sent an email.
My first comment to David when he called was, “How did you find me?”
He answered, “It wasn’t that hard.”
Any way you cut it, I take him at his word but the second question is, did it come from the same people who released the Paul Dennis emials? In my world, the simple answer is the most likely.
Steve McIntyre –
David Leigh of the Guardian has been added to the list of UK journalists who’ve engaged in phone hacking and other illegal/unethical conduct. Some of the more questionable conduct by UK journalists has involved their acquisition of information from police that police were not legally entitled to disclose either for payment or as a favour. David Leigh also had a role in the Empire Strikes Back phase of Climategate early last year and, in today’s post, I’ll discuss the connection.
Leigh’s admission of phone hacking is discussed at Bishop Hill here; Guido Fawkes here. Leigh himself admitted here.
There is certainly a voyeuristic thrill in hearing another person’s private messages…
Leigh differentiated his illegal phone hacking from that practised by News of the World because his cause was noble:
unlike Goodman, I was not interested in witless tittle-tattle about the royal family. I was looking for evidence of bribery and corruption.
Now the Climategate connection.
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