the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Paul Dennis Article -Normal Editorial Process

Posted by Jeff Id on August 17, 2011

I wrote to the Guardian several times after Steve McIntyre questioned them to see if they would simply state that they did not receive my full name from government sources.  The best they would say was that there were plenty of ways any reporter worth his salt could find me.    I kept at it despite the fact that the wiser Steve McIntyre had temporarily given up on the Guardian.  Eventually though,  I got the following interesting responses.

James Randerson

date Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 5:22 AM

subject Your email to Damian Carrington

Dear Mr Condon,

Please excuse the delay getting back to you. Damian is away on holiday

(as is David Leigh) and as you may have seen we’ve had our hands full

over the last few days covering the disturbances here. All that Damian

meant by saying he was bemused by Steve’s questions about this report

was that Steve had offered no evidence at all to suggest that we had

obtained the information for that piece improperly, but seemed

determined to pursue a line of reasoning that we had said was not

true. We’ve explained quite clearly that nothing illegal or unethical

was done to acquire the information you and Steve have asked about.

You will understand that I can’t go into our sourcing in any more

detail but it’s worth pointing out that I’ve been looking back at your

blog and there was plenty of material there and elsewhere on the web

prior to the Feb 2010 piece that could easily have been put together

to find you. There are references to your surname as you know, a

reference to your “non-representative in Congress” Deborah Halvorson

that locates you in Illinois’s 11th congressional district, a

reference to the Dresden nuclear plant near Morris and to your day job

as an engineer. I’m pretty sure that between all that and the White

Pages (there aren’t many Condons in Morris) any reporter worth his

salt would have been able to track you down. I hope that goes some way

to putting your mind at rest.

Yours Sincerely

James

James Randerson

Environment and science news editor

I’m no black-ops MI6 spy by any means, but were it through public sources, the discovery of my name should be easily identifiable as public with very little risk to them. Lies exposed are difficult problems for media so I do take them at their word on this.  I asked again, with a small question added as an afterthought that I expected nothing for.

James,

Thank you for the reply.  It seems you have spent more time looking around my blog than I have so hopefully you have learned a bit about climate science.  I didn’t ever and still don’t believe the Guardian did anything difficult or illegal to find me because I am a non-story other than the value of distraction from climategate.  What I still suspect though is that government sources were in fact the method used to disclose my name.  As I have requested several times, if you specifically confirm that it was not a government source used to locate me but a public one I would be happy to publish your claim at my blog?  No more detail than that required.  I’m sure you realize that there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable person to guess that the information of my identity came from the police.  If you recall, the Paul Dennis emails quoted by the Guardian in the same article were in fact only in the hands of the police and UEA at that time and the Guardian article by Leigh specifically named the police as the source.  Your group was in possession of some very unusual information at that point in an “investigation”.

Also, since the article had little merit of any kind other than to potentially create distraction from the climategate fraud, could you confirm that there was no contact with any outside publishing group to initiate the article?

Cheers,
Jeff

My italics here of course.   They could have said – actually we don’t know the exact public source anymore but it was not government related, we don’t have records of the sourcing, we got it from public information, we got it from a non-police source.  Whatever they want with no real answer.  Except they answered like this:

Jeff,

Thanks for your swift response. As I have explained I’m afraid that we
just don’t talk about sourcing of stories. However, I hope the
material I alluded to in my previous email demonstrates that there
would be no need to use “government sources” to find you – there is
plenty of information on the web and on your blog.

This article was part of our extensive reporting into the UEA emails
and their unlawful release. It was initiated by our normal editorial
processes, not any outside publishing group.

Thanks
James

So understandably, it as a matter of policy that they simply don’t talk about the sourcing of stories.    Here is a link to the story in question.

According to files obtained by police, he wrote: “Hi Steve, Yesterday we received the following email, sent to all staff in environmental sciences and the climatic research unit. I have no idea what stuff was collected or where it was posted, but interesting nonetheless!”

Oddly, they chose to disclose the police as the source of this information in the linked article.  I’m sure that everyone wonders why the press had access to specific information in an ongoing unbiased investigation of an incident of such obviously global importance.  My wife and I also found it amusing that the second paragraph of the email sent to me discloses the source of the Paul Dennis article as internal, right after explaining that their policy is not to discuss sources even in general discounting terms.

Perhaps disclosure of sources isn’t as much a rule as a selectively permeable membrane of information controlled by the wise god’s of print. Alternatively, it may be that James did answer my question to the best that his current personal situation allowed.  After all, no need for government sources is not the same as no use of government sources.


29 Responses to “Paul Dennis Article -Normal Editorial Process”

  1. jstults said

    They seem to have zip code and gender; did you have your birthday up on the site?

    What Information is Personally Identifiable?

    The non-denial denials are funny though…

  2. Thanks for the story, Jeff.

    Unsuccessful efforts to obtain straight-forward, truthful information are themselves revealing!

    The roots of the Climategate story and efforts to hide new findings about Earth’s heat source and to promote the illusion of “anthropogenic global climate change” suggest more intrigue and deception than Watergate [1].

    I am less interested in identifying who is responsible for this fiasco or in winning debates about AGW or the Sun then in identifying how to protect our previously assumed right [2] to

    a.) Government by the people, and
    b.) Transparency and veracity (truth) of information given the public.

    References:

    1. Deep Roots of Climategate

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110722_Climategate_Roots.pdf

    2. Harmony from Climategate

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110815_Climategate_Harmony.pdf

  3. GregO said

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the detail on this. Climategate was my wake-up call. Everything for me has changed. I see the world differently now. I have canceled magazine subscriptions. I evaluate my elected officials from an entirely new view point. I have re-evaluated much of my trust in the media version of the truth. Disturbing times? Yes. But we will get through it fine but need to hold to an impeccable standard of truth. Thanks again for all your work.

  4. TerryS said

    If you keep your log files long enough then you could check if anybody accessed the pages he mentions. I would assume that old pages don’t get that many hits so it wouldn’t be a particularly difficult job.

  5. Carrick said

    Your editor says:

    This article was part of our extensive reporting into the UEA emails and their unlawful release.

    It’s my understanding that newspapers have a policy of not making claims that they can’t substantiate. If the release of the data were done lawfully (e.g. whistleblowing would fall in that category), then this contradicts this remark by the editor. (In fact, I’ve seen zero evidence that any law or regulation of import was broken in the release of the data…that doesn’t extend to the handling of the data by the UEA and any outside agency that may have aggregated it as part of their FOIA response.)

    So it would be quite interesting to me for the editor to demonstrate that the release was “unlawful.”

    I’m sure his response is “you’ll just have to trust us.” We’re reporters not humans, and therefore not fallible like you.

  6. Carrick said

    I’m not sure what there is to gain from the non-denial denial either. If they used a finder service (reverse email lookup etc), there’s nothing illegal in this, and at worse, it is an advertisement for the service.

    The only possible reason for his non-response response I can pin down is he is prevaricating, and even though the information could have been obtained legally, it wasn’t.

  7. j ferguson said

    “….could easily have been put together….” “could” not were.

  8. steve fitzpatrick said

    Jeff,

    They got the information from the police. Most reasonable explanation… Occam and all that.

  9. Beth Cooper said

    Parry and weasel words …make me think there’s ‘something rotten in the state of Denmark.’

  10. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I would think that if the Guardian can say that they could have obtained the information in question without government sources they then could say, without revealing any confidential sources, that they did not use government sources. Adding in that they could have obtained the information without government sources would appear to then be a either distraction for no apparent reason or that they did use government sources and the distraction is for good reason (for them that is).

    I have heard a number of journalists in recent times lament their decreasing numbers and importance and talking seriously about the need for journalism as we know it today (or maybe better as we knew it in the good old days) being essential to democratic processes and therefore providing a rationale for public support (taxpayer) of the media. I heard an author of a recent book (I do not remember his name or book) refer to the current media model as failed. I keep thinking that, yes, the market place will inform you that a model is broken, but that in no way is rationale for government intervention. That, of course, is where the cry for their works as essential to democracy is required cover.

    The author also noted in his talk that others have shown that government financing of the press leads to greater independence and not biases towards government. He did not cite sources but I would certainly like to see how those studies were conducted. Surely the USSR and Nazi Germany were overlooked.

  11. Jeff Id said

    Steve,

    That is my opinion but there is always the possibility it came from somewhere else. Consider the time it would take at this blog to locate Debora Halvorsen or Dresden. They have quite clearly scoured this blog in recent weeks for another plausible answer. They needed that plausibility for some reason.

  12. Anonymous said

    The “their unlawful release” is indeed problematic. Such a determination could not have reasonably been done at that time without an inside source at the police or similar. Now does not mean it had to be the police at all. It could have been an update to an official at say CRU would inadvertantly left it in the open. There are all sorts of legitimate ways information could be obtained. The kicker is how many would include a determination of “unlawful”?

  13. PaulM said

    As Steve F says, it is quite clear that they got the information from the police.
    As you point out, the article openly admits to having got Paul Dennis’s email to Steve Mc from the police.
    And as you also point out, you are a relatively small fish that would not be worth trawling through pages of blog comments and phone books to try to identify.

    Did you complain to the guardian about them publicly identifying you, against your wishes, which they claimed was a mistake?

    If you want to take this further, the organisation to complain to about the police is, ironically, the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission)

    For the press, there is the Press Complaints Commission. They have an editor’s code of practice which includes a statement on privacy that the Guardian may have violated by releasing your details.

  14. Carrick said

    Anonymous, from what I see, I don’t believe the police think the release of data (itself) was illegal. Bottom line, this editor is just being a weasel and the more he talks, the deeper he digs in.

  15. @Paul M #13

    Reminds me of “1984,” when Big Brother was in charge of different departments.

    We are in “interesting times” now, Paul. Today truth is “breaking out” anyway – despite forty years of government misuse of science for propaganda [1] – and we face an uncertain future.

    In the years ahead, I hope that all sides of the Sun and AGW debates – you, me, your children, my children and others – will join together to campaign for restoration of:

    a.) Government by the people, and

    b.) Transparency and veracity (truth) of information given the public.

    Today all is well,
    Oliver K. Manuel

    1. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10640850/20110722_Climategate_Roots.pdf

  16. RB said

    Jeff,
    It took me less than a minute to locate your post about “Deborah Halvorson”. All I had to do was enter Illinois in your search box.

  17. DeWitt Payne said

    Slightly OT:

    From Walter Russel Meade’s blog on August 16:

    To the extent that they think about it — as opposed to simply letting their little lights artlessly shine — liberal journalists seem to think that acting like cheerleaders strengthens their team. It doesn’t. That more conservative candidates and causes face hostile media scrutiny that liberal lions don’t makes the conservatives tougher and more battle tested. It can ground their political calculations more securely in reality; if there are any gaping flaws in conservative arguments, programs or personnel, they can be reasonably sure that a vigilant mainstream media will point them out in great and loving detail.

  18. RB said

    The Dresden nuclear plant post was considerably harder. Nothing in that post except maybe Chicago is an obvious search term.

  19. Jeff Id said

    See RB, the point is that they searched tAV fairly hard in order to find anything. If you have to know illinois to find me that sort of defeats the purpose. Now as I have repeatedly and endlessly said, I’m not impossible to find. You don’t run a blog with this traffic anonymously for long. The point is that without that information, it isn’t obvious and the UK police were obviously sitting right there with stacks of info in hand.

  20. RB said

    Well, actually, searching for Illinois on google, not your search engine, produces a considerable number of entries, one of which is the Dresden one.

  21. RB said

    Jeff, yeah, I don’t know if Illinois was an obvious search term then ..

  22. stan said

    Simple — they had an opportunity to say it wasn’t the police. They had every reason to do so. They didn’t. Instead, they weasel and squirm and slide and dance. Obvious conclusion — the cops.

    If they expect people to believe otherwise, they’d be more forthcoming.

  23. PaulM said

    News – A Police detective has been arrested for leaking information to the Guardian.
    See Daily Mail, Huffington Post, Sky News.

  24. boballab said

    As PaulM stated above the Guardian got caught using leaks from a Police Detective so that they scooped everyone on the Phone hacking scandal:

    A Scotland Yard detective has been arrested for allegedly leaking information about the hacking inquiry to The Guardian.

    http://news.sky.com/home/uk-news/article/16053350

    Now do you really think a reporter that has admitted to phone hacking in the past, who works for a paper that gets information about active investigations from police officers wouldn’t get Jeff’s name from them?

    If you do I got this Bridge for sale real cheap. It has a very good view of Brooklyn.

  25. Brian Hall said

    Refusal to deny, even when that would be straightforward and advantageous, leaves only one reasonable possibility. It’s true.

    The unreasonable possibilities are that he just likes making trouble for himself and his employer, or that he lies by preference to truth-telling routinely and compulsively.

    Oh, wait …

  26. kim said

    Boballab, I’ll trade you for the one I got with an even better view of Manhattan. But I expect sustantial baksheesh to even it up.
    ==============

  27. boballab said

    Sorry Kim not interested, I’m looking to get out of the bridge owning business. Now if you had some beachfront property in Arizona…

  28. hro001 said

    Clearly “accuracy” and “clarity” are no longer part the work ethic for journalists at the Guardian – or the Times – if they ever were. Come to think of it, in his first response to you on Carrington’s behalf, Randerson appears to have thrown “brevity” under the bus, as well.

  29. kim said

    One might guess that the absence of Paul Dennis emails on the UEA server is the ‘normal editorial process’.
    ==============

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