Police officers investigating the theft of thousands of private emails between climate scientists from a University of East Anglia server in 2009 have seized computer equipment belonging to a web content editor based at the University of Leeds.
On Wednesday, detectives from Norfolk Constabulary entered the home of Roger Tattersall, who writes a climate sceptic blog under the pseudonym TallBloke, and took away two laptops and a broadband router. A police spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that Norfolk Constabulary had “executed a search warrant in West Yorkshire and seized computers”. She added: “No one was arrested. Investigations into the [UEA] data breach and publication [online of emails] continues. This is one line of enquiry in a Norfolk constabulary investigation which started in 2009.”
Tattersall posted his own account of the police search on his blog: “An Englishman’s home is his castle they say. Not when six detectives from the Metropolitan police, the Norfolk constabulary and the computer crime division arrive on your doorstep with a warrant to search it though … They ended up settling for two laptops and an ADSL broadband router … I got the feeling something was on the go last night when WordPress [the internet host for his blog] forwarded a notice from the US Department of Justice.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Tattersall said: “I am happy to assist the police with their inquiries because I haven’t been hiding anything important like some people have. I assisted them with their inquiries, which involved voluntarily answering some questions regarding computer use etc.”
Last month, Tattersall’s blog, as well as at least four other blogs popular with climate sceptics, received a comment from a user called “FOIA” providing a link to a Russian server hosting a compressed folder containing more than 5,000 emails exchanged between climate scientists, along with a short message setting out the perpetrator’s motives. The folder also contained an encrypted subfolder containing a further 220,000 emails. It was the second time such a release had occurred.
In November 2009, thousands of emails were released in a similar manner on the eve the Copenhagen climate summit. The episode prompted a series of inquiries into the working practices of climate scientists. Although these were critical of the scientists’ handling of Freedom of Information Act requests and lack of openness, they did not find fault with the climate change science they had produced.
Both Tattersall and a US-based climate sceptic blogger known as Jeff Id said they had received a “formal notice” that their blogging platform WordPress had been asked by the US Department of Justice’s criminal division, dated 9 December, to preserve “all stored communications, records, and other evidence in your possession” related to their own blogs as well as to Climate Audit, a climate sceptic blog run by a Canadian mining consultant called Steve McIntyre. All three blogs had received messages from “FOIA” last month pointing to the link hosting a second tranche of emails first taken from the UEA in 2009.
During an interview with the Guardian last week before the seizing of his computers, Tattersall said that he had been questioned by Norfolk police “some two months” after the initial breach in 2009, but had heard nothing since. A number of climate scientists and bloggers are known to have been questioned by the police.
A spokesman for the University of East Anglia said today: “We are pleased to hear that the police are continuing to actively pursue the case following the release last month of a second tranche of hacked emails from the Climatic Research Unit. We hope this will result in the arrest of those responsible for the theft of the emails and for distorting the debate on the globally important issue of climate change.”
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