Penn State whitewashed ClimateGate

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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Correction: Mann didn’t “ask” Wahl to delete the emails, he just forwarded him a request to delete the emails.

A federal government inspector general has revealed prima facie proof that the so-called independent inquiries widely if implausibly described as clearing the ClimateGate principals of wrongdoing were, in fact, whitewashes. This has been confirmed to Senate offices. It will not be released to the public for some time because the investigation is ongoing.

The document, an interview transcript, will put an end to the foolish talk of anything resembling a ClimateGate “inquiry” having taken place. It will also invite a real inquiry into the affair. Expect fireworks, as the one such effort, by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, is being fought hysterically by Big Science and Big Academia.

Critically, it also begs questions of Penn State University, which conducted one of the three supposed inquiries into ClimateGate.

The key point is that the Penn State investigators never interviewed a principal who was able to confirm or deny a key charge against “Hockey Stick” lead author of “Hide the Decline” infamy Michael Mann. This individual has now been interviewed, and what he told federal investigators has indicted Mann and Penn State.

The inspector general’s report specifically reveals Penn State’s wagon-circlers to have been at best comically negligent/inept in allowing Mann to not answer the damning charge they were tasked with examining: did he delete or ask others to delete records? At worst, they were complicit in the cover-up.

Simply by interviewing Mann’s colleague Eugene Wahl, PSU would have exposed Mann’s “answer” for what it was (and wasn’t). Such an interview was obviously necessary for any inquiry. Penn State chose not to conduct it, for its own reasons. A federal inspector general has now conducted it. And the result is damning of both Mann and the parties that chose not to interview Wahl.

As background, Phil Jones in the United Kingdom asked Mann, now at Penn State, by email to delete records being sought under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act, and to get a colleague to do so as well:

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.

“Gene” is Eugene Wahl, who now works for the federal government.

Mann’s terse reply included in pertinent part:

I’ll contact Gene about this ASAP

Now, from Penn State’s supposed inquiry and exoneration of Michael Mann:

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.

If the above excerpt accurately reflects Mann’s testimony, both Mann’s “answer” and his peers’ acceptance of it ought to raise red flags. Penn State asked Mann and only Mann if he destroyed records or was indirectly involved in destroying records. Mann said only that he did not destroy records. And that did it. Even though Phil Jones asked Mann to instruct Wahl to do so as well.

Allow me to translate this in relevant part:

PSU: This is potentially very grave. We must know: Did you do A or B?

Mann: I did not do A.

PSU: Ah. There we go. It appears there is no evidence he did A or B.

Close enough for academia, I suppose. But spare us the “cleared” tag and the claim to have conducted an inquiry.

Not only is it risible to accept this, but Penn State then chose to not speak with the one person Jones asked Mann to also have destroy records.

So, were Penn State’s investigators staggeringly incompetent, willfully ignorant, or knowingly complicit?

Did Mann merely let investigators so grossly misrepresent what he told them in order to paint him as less culpable than he admitted to them? Did he have some reason to believe they would let him get away with that non-answer?

Does instructing someone to delete records violate any U.S. laws?

Of course, Mann might just say that his colleague is a liar. Get some popcorn.

Regardless of how this evidence particularly indicts Penn State, it offers further troubling evidence about Michael Mann — still vacuuming federal taxpayer money — and his relationship with the truth. Combined with other evasive answers, it’s clear he has lawyered up. Putting aside for the moment how well he did so, we at least now see why.

This begs the same questions of PSU as it does of the UK’s two supposed inquires into ClimateGate, which were also cited as “clearing” the participants. Obviously we know that’s not possible because, if either had bothered to interview Wahl, they’d know what we now know. Wahl says Mann did indeed ask Wahl to destroy records, and Wahl did.

One cannot be cleared if there is no inquiry, and we have proof that no inquiry worthy of the name was conducted. New talking points must be developed, sans the spurious claim that anyone has been exonerated or even that any actual inquiry has been undertaken.

At best, the key questions still remain outstanding. Worse, the list of implicated parties has grown. Which is it, Penn State? Were you incompetent, willfully ignorant, or willfully in on covering for Michael Mann?

Chris Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of “Red Hot Lies“, which explained the actions underlying ClimateGate nearly a year before they were revealed in leaked emails.

Update 1: Eugene Wahl has just released the following statement:

The Daily Caller blog yesterday contained an inaccurate story regarding a correspondence that was part of the emails hacked from East Anglia University Climate Research Unit (CRU) in November 2009.

For the record, while I received the email from CRU as forwarded by Dr. Mann, the forwarded message came without any additional comment from Dr. Mann; there was no request from him to delete emails. At the time of the email in May 2008, I was employed by Alfred University, New York.  I became a NOAA employee in August 2008.

The emails I deleted while a university employee are the correspondence I had with Dr. Briffa of CRU regarding the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, all of which have been in the public domain since the CRU hack in November 2009.  This correspondence has been extensively examined and no misconduct found.  As a NOAA employee, I follow agency record retention policies and associated guidance from information technology staff.

Update 2: Horner responds to Wahl’s statement.