Monday, November 30, 2009

Hudsongate: the mystery deepens

OK, it seems that the CRU thing isn't going to go away any time soon, so I might as well fan the flames a little.

Recently some journalists have been getting very excited about BBC journalist Paul Hudson's supposed complicity in all this. When the story first broke, Hudson quickly reported "I was forwarded the chain of e-mails [just the small subset relating to an article he wrote] on the 12th October" - a month before the widespread release. Many people initially attributed this to a careless slip really meaning 12 November, but Hudson confirmed explicitly that he meant October, saying "I was copied in to them at the time".

But....he wasn't. The email addresses of all participants in that sequence of messages are clearly identifiable, and none of them are he.

The obvious conclusion, which may explain why he has been a bit coy about all of this, is that one of the participants forwarded these email to him rather than including him in the conversation. That is, they secretly divulged private email conversations to a journalist. Not that there is anything particularly noteworthy or scandalous in the emails, but if I was talking about someone behind their back, I'd be a little surprised to find a colleague was forwarding my comments directly to them. It seems that at least Hudson is adhering to his journalistic ethics by not revealing his mole. Not so long ago, a prominent climate scientist was sacked for unauthorised contact with the media, so perhaps it's just as well!

[OK, it's theoretically possible that he was openly forwarded the emails with the prior agreement of all participants, but that those messages have not found their way into the released set, but it seems a bit improbable.]


sylas said...

I don't actually see what is improbable about Hudson being forwarded the emails openly in an email which did not manage to get into the list of hacked emails.

Note that none of the UAE folks were active in the discussion; they just received CCs. Therefore it is very likely that Paul received something that was not CCed so widely, and hence did not show up in the hack.

It is also obvious that the hacked emails have been subject to some kind of crude selection by the hacker; he's posted a selection of some sort. You can easily see that some of the emails in the chain are actually missing. Furthermore, it isn't quite a chain. I can infer a divergence into two subchains; and one other subbranch within that.

Hudson has explicitly linked to 1255523796.txt as an instance of what he can confirm, and this is dated 14th Oct.

I would guess he must have been included somewhat earlier than this, and that what he was actually forwarded would be a subset of the chain present in 1255523796.txt

It may have been another subbranch of discussion. I see any reason to think it must have been done behind anyone's back.

All told, unless Hudson is a bit more explicit, we can only guess at precisely what he was sent.

Let's not make the same mistake of jumping to conclusions, as has been done by everyone who thinks the hackers had access for a month and were the ones who passed stuff to Hudson!

William M. Connolley said...

Text is so last-century. What happened to the pix?

James Annan said...


I agree it is not impossible. However it is curious that there is no contribution from him, nor any hint that any of the participants have been in contact with him. Note also that he specifically claims to have seen exactly the same string of emails.

But anyway, what's the point having a blog if I can't jump to conclusions based on limited evidence? :-) I do think my version fits the evidence more plausibly that the alternatives. And it is certainly more fun than quote-mining the emails themselves.


I suppose this is what you want then :-)

P. Lewis said...

Isn't it just likely that Hudson was forwarded copies of the original e-mails internally as part of the BBC's editorial meetings amongst the climate journos, possibly as a matter of courtesy when discussing his output?

Of course, I think the way this choice of language was featured in his blog pieces may have been suitably vague for reasons germane to his stance on the AGW issue.

James Annan said...

But he says he got them at the time of writing, so someone inside the circle of trust must have sent them...there are no BBC people included.

Mind you, the emails do include the suggestion of talking to him or other BBC people, but if someone did so openly it's odd there is no direct mention either of that, or any reply he might have made. Had he been copied in openly, I'd have expected to see a bit of debate. Remember, he specifically claims to have seen some of these emails, not some hypothetical separate conversation that may not have been revealed.

Anyway the conspiracy theory is much more fun, so I'm sticking to it!

P. Lewis said...

Ah! I've not actually seen "the e-mails", and I didn't intend to either. But perhaps I should.

Deep Climate said...

Hudson may have been bcc'd on the referred email or one later in the same chain.

Now that I've started on topic, I must give you a slightly OT link for another aspect of the CRU hack - the connections between Friends of Science and the de Freitas/Soon/Baliunas Climate Research controversy.

James Annan said...

BCC still means someone wanted him to see the message *without* letting the others in the correspondence know it.

Nice detective work. BTW the comment on McLean is working its way through the peer review system, no hiccoughs so far but it's painfully slow.

Deep Climate said...

Well, yes, either way the others wouldn't know - only the "forwarder/copier". But bcc is more consistent with the phrase "copied in".

On McLean et al, I'm curious - have you seen a response yet? My guess is they will claim that the difference filtering was only done to find the temp/ENSO lag, and that their conclusions do not rest on that fit (they already tried that one on in one of the several press releases, IIRC). That's the last OT comment, I promise.

James Annan said...

Part of the AGU's delaying tactics is that our comment went though a full review - 3 people - before even being sent to McLean for a reply (that finally happened a couple of weeks ago)! So 2 months for that, another 6 weeks in review, month or two to revise (sequentially us then them) and month to re-review - best likely case is about 6 months to go, making 9 in total. Schwartz was the same.

And people sometimes wonder why I just slag off papers on the blog rather than writing comments...