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Climategate: Mann Ordered Wahl To Delete Emails

Steven Mosher
Watts Up With That?

March 9, 2011

Sources confirm that a federal inspector has questioned Eugene Wahl and Wahl has confirmed that Mann asked him to delete emails. Wahl has also informed the inspector that he did delete emails as the result of this request.

There are times during the course of Climategate when you feel like you are in a twilight zone episode, especially the kind where the ambiguous meaning of terms plays a critical role, like “To Serve Man”.

That episode is apt because of the central role trust plays and because of the role puzzle solvers play  in uncovering that the do-gooder aliens cannot be trusted. “Serving”, of course, has now taken on new meanings, as in “you got served” or pwned. With the release of the news that Mann successfully instructed Wahl to delete emails,  it’s clear that Mann got served or pwned by Wahl; but more importantly, he got served or assisted by Dr. Pell, Dr. Scaroni, Dr Brune, and Dr. Foley. Who are they? They are the Penn State team who served Dr. Mann by purporting to exonerate him in the Penn State inquiry, despite Mann’s own non-responsive response to a key question being on its face evasive, and begging followup questions. Regardless, Mann’s non-answer did not even purport to support their conclusion about his actions. In short, they covered for him.

The puzzle begins back in 2006. Keith Briffa the author of chapter 6 in the 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC (AR4) is struggling under the directive of review editor Johnathan Overpeck, who has encouraged him to come up with something “more compelling than the Hockey Stick”, that iconic symbol of Global warming created by Michael Mann in the third assessment report.

Briffa is struggling with the comments and suggestions of a particular reviewer who we now know was Steve McIntyre, the citizen scientist who has been dogging Mann for several years. In what appears to be violation of IPCC rules Briffa writes to Eugene Wahl asking for assistance in answering McIntyre’s comments. More important than this communication being apparently at odds with IPCC directives, is that Briffa is asking Wahl to comment on McIntyre’s work, a process that is clearly supposed to take place in peer reviewed literature. Wahl and McIntyre had both been critical of each other’s work and such disputes are most fairly handled by independent third parties and not by the disputants themselves.

In mid 2006 the following exchange occurs between Briffa and Eugene Wahl:

From: Keith Briffa [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Tue 7/18/2006 10:20 AM
To: Wahl, Eugene R
Subject: confidential

I am taking the liberty (confidentially) to send you a copy of the reviewers[McIntyre’s]  comments (please keep these to yourself) of the last IPCC draft chapter. I am concerned that I am not as objective as perhaps I should be and would appreciate your take on the comments from number 6-737 onwards , that relate to your reassessment of the Mann et al work. I have to consider whether the current text is fair or whether I should change things in the light of the sceptic comments. In practise this brief version has evolved and there is little scope for additional text , but I must put on record responses to these comments – any confidential help , opinions are appreciated . I have only days now to complete this revision and response

Wahl responds

Thoughts and perspective concerning the reviewer’s comments per se. These are coded in blue and are in the “Notes” column between pages 103 and 122 inclusive. It got to the point that I could not be exhaustive, given the very lengthy set of review thoughts, so I am also attaching a review article Caspar [Ammann]  and I plan to submit to Climatic Change in the next few days….Please note that this Ammann-Wahl text is sent strictly confidentially — it should not be cited or mentioned in any form, and MUST not be transmitted without permission. However, I am more than happy to send it for your use, because it succinctly summarizes what we have found on all the issues that have come up re: MBH. As you can see, we agree at some level with some of the criticisms raised by MM [McIntyre]  and others, but we do not find that they invalidate MBH in any substantial way.

Briffa responds

here is where I am up to now with my responses (still a load to do) you can see that I have “borrowed (stolen)” from 2 of your responses in a significant degree – please assure me that this OK (and will not later be obvious) hopefully.You will get the whole text(confidentially again ) soon. You could also see that I hope to be fair to Mike[Mann] – but he can be a little unbalanced in his remarks sometime – and I have had to disagree with his interpretations of some issues also. Please do not pass these on to anyone at all.

Wahl responds, jumping into the “divergence” problem which has come to be known as the “hide the decline” problem.

Hi Keith:

Here is the text with my comments. I will go over the “stolen” parts (highlighted in blue outline) for a final time tomorrow morning, but I wanted to get this to you ASAP. The main new point I have to make is added in bold/blue font on pp. 101-103. I question the way the response to the comment there is currently worded, as it seems to imply that the divergence issue really does invalidate any dendro-based reconstructions before about 1850–which I imagine is not what you would like to say. I give a series of arguments against this as a general conclusion. Maybe I got over-bold in doing so, as in my point (1) I’m examining issues that are at the very core of your expertise! Excuse me that one, but I decided to jump in anyway. Let me know if I got it wrong in any way!

Briffa responds

First Gene – let me say that I never intended that you should spend so much time on this – though I really appreciate your take on these points. The one you highlight here – correctly warns me that in succumbing to the temptation to be lazy in the sense of the brief answer that I have provided – I do give an implied endorsement of the sense of the whole comment. This is not, of course what I intended. I simply meant to agree that some reference to the “divergence” issue was necessitated . I will revise the reply to say briefly that I do not agree with the interpretation of the reviewer. I am attaching what I have done (see blue highlighting) to the section in response to comments (including the addition of the needed extra section on the “tree-ring issues” called for by several people). I have had no feedback yet on this as it has not been generally circulated , but thought you might like to see it. PLEASE REMEMBER that this is “for your eyes only ” . Please do NOT feel that I am asking /expecting you to go through this in any detail – but given the trouble you have taken,I thought it reasonable to give you a private look. Cheers

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So, Briffa writes confidentially to Wahl for help and Wahl assists him by passing a copy of a paper that has yet to be published. The aim is to answer concerns that McIntyre as reviewer has raised. Wahl and Amman’s words are incorporated in the response to McIntyre with the hope that no one will ever notice.

Two years later, someone does notice.  It’s May 24th 2008, Steve McIntyre, climate science puzzle solver, is reading the reviewer comments to chapter 6 of AR4 written in 2006.  In the course of reviewing Briffa’s replies to him, McIntyre notes something peculiar. Briffa’s replies, written in 2006, seemed to plagiarize an unpublished paper by Casper Amman and Eugene Wahl published in 2007. That is, in 2006 Briffa was repeating the argument of a paper that was not published until 2007. How could Briffa plagiarize an article that hadn’t been published? Why would he repeat the arguments almost word for word? Who was feeding Briffa his arguments? How was Briffa doing this if all communication with the authors had to be part of the official record?

At the time, in May of 2008, McIntyre assumed that Briffa was getting information from Casper Ammann since Ammann was listed as a contributing author to chapter 6. It did not occur to McIntyre that Wahl was the source of the text. Thanks to the individual who liberated the Climategate emails, we now know that Wahl was the source of that text. The Climategate emails, quoted above, show Briffa and Wahl exchanging emails about the way McIntyre’s arguments should be handled. Confidentially, outside the process of the IPCC which is designed to capture reviewer objections and authors’ responses to those objections. Wahl is brought in by Briffa to defend his own work. And defend it with literature that has not been published yet.

At the same time in 2008, across the ocean, David Holland had been reading McIntyre’s work and he had issued an FOIA request to the Climatic Research Unit–CRU. That FOIA request covered all correspondence coming in and out of CRU relative to chapter 6 of AR4.  The hunt for the source that was feeding Briffa was on, with Holland leading the charge. At CRU, FOIA officer Palmer instructs the team that they must do everything “by the book” because Holland will most certainly appeal a rejection letter.

In that context, Jones writes the famous email to Mann. Jones requests that Mann delete his emails and he requests that Mann contact Wahl and have Wahl delete his emails.  Is Jones covering his bases in case of an appeal? Is he covering his bases against an FOIA request that might be served on Mann and Wahl in the US? In any case, he appears to be conspiring with others to deny Holland his FOIA rights.

Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?  Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis  Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t  have his new email address.We will be getting Caspar to do likewise. I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature  paper

Mann responds that he will contact Wahl ASAP, which he does.

Hi Phil,

laughable that CA would claim to have discovered the problem. They would  have run off to the Wall Street Journal for an exclusive were that to  have been true. I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP. His new email is: [email protected]
talk to you later,

As Wahl told the investigators in 2011, Mann contacted him and Wahl deleted his mails.

In 2010, in an effort to clear Mann of any wrong doing, a committee of inquiry was set up at Penn State. We now know that committee failed miserably. They failed for many reasons, but the Wahl admission is the starkest example.

Here is one allegation the committee investigated:

Allegation 2: Did you engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with  the intent  to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related  to AR4, as suggested by Phil Jones?

Finding 2. After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the  inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had  ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with intent to delete,  conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data related to AR4, as suggested  by Dr. Phil Jones.  Dr. Mann has stated that he did not delete emails in response to Dr.  Jones’ request. Further, Dr. Mann produced upon request a full archive of his emails in  and around the time of the preparation of AR4. The archive contained e-mails related to  AR4.

The committee found this because they apparently failed to understand Mann’s reply. As they reported:

He [Mann] explained that he never deleted emails at the behest of any other scientist, specifically including Dr. Phil Jones, and that he never withheld data with the intention of obstructing science; …

What can we make of this? Mann was apparently asked the question: “Did you engage in or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions with the intent to delete emails.”

And it seems clear he only answered half of the question, leaving the unanswered second part dangling: did you contact anyone or otherwise ‘indirectly’ participate in deleting records? This either did not strike, or did not interest, the Penn State ‘investigators’. This despite that Mann, it appears, answered “carefully” and incompletely. He only answered that he hadn’t deleted emails. He never directly denies partaking, indirectly, in the deletion of Wahl’s emails. He apparently withheld the information that he had asked Wahl to delete emails.

Is this a lie? Not directly. It’s more what Wikipedia would describe as “Careful Speaking”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lie [3]

Careful speaking is distinct from the above in that the speaker wishes to avoid imparting certain information or admitting certain facts and, additionally, does not want to ‘lie’ when doing so. Careful speaking involves using carefully-phrased statements to give a ‘half-answer’: one that does not actually ‘answer’ the question, but still provides an appropriate (and accurate) answer based on that question. As with ‘misleading’, below, ‘careful speaking’ is not outright lying.

So why did the inquiry, stocked with Mann’s fellow professors, fail to ask good follow up questions? We really do not know because we don’t have access to the transcript of their interview with Mann. Did he intend to deceive? Or did he just speak “carefully?” It would seem that the actual transcript of the questions and answers should be published. Perhaps Congress should serve the members of the inquiry with a subpoena. That would allow people to decide if Mann lied or if he just spoke carefully.

And there are a few more questions we need to ask. Mann claims that he never deleted the emails. But he asked Wahl to delete the emails. This makes no sense. It makes no sense that Mann would participate in a cover up by passing along a message to another participant of that cover-up downstream and not delete emails himself. It defies any logical reconstruction of events. Why would Mann ask Wahl to do something that he himself would not do? We also know from the inquiry that Mann delivered emails to the inquiry. From that evidence and his testimony they concluded that he deleted no emails. This does not compute. [S.M: See update below for a possible explanation ]

Jones requested of Mann: Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?

The inquiry stated: The archive contained e-mails related to AR4.    (Hmm…more “Careful Speaking”?)

Did the inquiry find any emails of Mann communicating with Briffa re AR4 or just some emails related to AR4?

Did Mann turn over all the emails he wrote/received or only those he didn’t delete?

Was the email from Phil Jones requesting deletion among the emails Mann delivered to the inquiry?

Did the IT staff serve Mann, by letting him know that what he initially attempted to delete were in fact retained on the University mail server?

Did Mann turn over emails to the inquiry that he had previously deleted, deleted and then recovered with the help of some sympathetic University IT staff?

These questions need to be asked.

Perhaps Congress should serve Mann a subpoena.

Perhaps, the IG, the NSF, or some other suitable independent third party can investigate this with people who know how to watch for the pea under the thimble, and not be mislead by “Careful Speaking”.



Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit has the goods in this: Wahl Transcript Excerpt [4]

Chris Horner at DailyCaller also has a review: Penn State whitewashed ClimateGate [5]

In fact, Chris Horner and the Competitive Enterprise Institute were instrumental in efforts over a year to get this and other forthcoming FOIA info into the public domain. – Anthony


h/t SF Grand Master, Damon Knight, who was the author of the original short story this Twilight Zone episode was based upon.

Jones specifically asked Mann to delete emails with Briffa with regard to AR4. Mann claims that he deleted no mails. This is entirely possible, especially if there were no mails fitting the description. Canvasing the  Climategate mails, we can only find a few mails between Briffa and Mann related to Ar4. If  there were few or no mails to delete, then it does make sense that Mann could have passed the instruct to delete onto Wahl, without deleting mails himself.  S. Mosher.