Climategate: Operation Cabin files released by police

Cyber crime

Last night BBC Radio 4 broadcast a documentary about the Climategate affair, in which thousands of documents mysteriously obtained from a computer server at the University of East Anglia were released onto the internet in 2009.

The material belonged to some of the world's leading climate scientists and caused them difficulty just before the major United Nations Copenhagen summit on climate change.

Called Climategate Revisited, the programme examined the impact of the ensuing controversy about the conduct of climate science on public opinion, media reporting and the scientific community. It was produced by me.

Making a radio documentary is always an exercise in trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot. Your researches invariably collect more information and recordings than it is possible to fit into the allocated slot.

Since in this case some unbroadcast material comes from a freedom of information request, I thought I should write about it here. So this contains some additional information about the police inquiry beyond what was in the programme.

More released

Norfolk police investigated the possible criminal hacking of the university's computer system, until they announced in July they were abandoning the operation. Proceedings under the relevant part of the Computer Misuse Act have to be brought within three years. Since they had not yet identified a suspect, they said there was no prospect of a prosecution within the time limit.

I submitted an FOI request for some of the files compiled during their inquiry, called Operation Cabin. The first point I should make about their response is that they released much more information than in any previous case in my experience where the police have been asked about such a recent investigation. I did not get all the material I requested, but they did send a number of interesting documents.

During the operation some people queried whether the Norfolk force had sufficient expertise to run a specialist technical cybercrime inquiry. This concern is reinforced by the files released.


The operation was reviewed by a senior counter-terrorism officer who concluded that "there are national units both in policing and with partner agencies that have specialist knowledge and skills that would have added value to the inquiry."

He did praise the Norfolk investigators for their "impressive" commitment, adding that most UK police forces have little specialist capability in this arena.

The Norfolk investigation was led by Detective Superintendent Julian Gregory, who has since retired. He told us: "We sought assistance from a number of quarters and we probably didn't get everything we wanted."

"If you look at national assets, they've all got their own workloads," he said. "We got the technical support we needed from counter-terrorist command, but other units had their own priorities."

Another document shows that the police decided not to make a media appeal for information to assist the investigation during the Copenhagen climate summit (known as COP15), because "with COP15 still underway in Copenhagen raising awareness still further may have an negative impact on the conference".


Some may be surprised that the police would allow these apparently political considerations to affect their conduct of an investigation.

Former Det Supt Gregory explained that "we didn't want to create even more speculation around that conference". But he also stated that more significant was a practical consideration, a feeling that the police infrastructure might not be able to cope with the deluge of calls which could result.

Other files released show that the University of East Anglia was represented on the Gold Group which oversaw the strategy of the investigation. Meetings were attended by Brian Summers, the UEA Registrar.

I was initially surprised to discover this, since one hypothesis the police had to investigate was whether it could have been an "inside job" in which a UEA employee had leaked the material, acting as a kind of whistleblower. But I gather from other police sources I have talked to since that this is not necessarily unusual.

"We'd often engage the people we think need to be involved in a Gold Group," former Det Supt Gregory told us. "Presence at the meeting doesn't give any undue influence or anything untoward like that. It was appropriate that they were engaged and we understood their perspective as we undertook our work."


But he added there were constraints on what he said at the Gold meetings. "Where appropriate I would not enlarge on certain lines of enquiry. I would deal with those in a more private context. I never felt compromised as the senior investigator."

The disclosures also reveal how the police worked their way through certain websites on which Climategate had been discussed, printing off and filing away, for example, a list of staff at the Taxpayers' Alliance.

And they also contain a list of operational tasks actioned, plans for forensic examination of UEA computing equipment, and questionnaires for police interviews, which included asking people for their stance on climate change.

However, there was other information which the Norfolk police refused to release, such as the identity of those countries from which they sought help with the investigation. They argued that this could damage future international cooperation.

These are some of the documents released by the police:

PDF download Operation Cabin review[88KB]

PDF download Operation Cabin media strategy[25KB]

PDF download Gold Group minutes[61KB]

PDF download Record of actions[118KB]

PDF download Taxpayers' Alliance staff list[94KB]

PDF download Forensic computer examination[112KB]

PDF download Questionnaire for CRU staff interviews[61KB]

Martin Rosenbaum Article written by Martin Rosenbaum Martin Rosenbaum Freedom of information specialist

10 things we found out because of Freedom of Information

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  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Little Old Me
    It would help if you knew the details you are arguing.
    The Himalayan glacier melting error is in IPCC 4AR and had no connection at all to UEA research.
    Climategate e-mails relate mainly to the attempts to reconstruct temperatures using proxy data in the period before thermometer records are available.
    Irony - One of the main financial contributors to CRU is BP

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    So, apparently it's "OK" to illegally hack into someone's computer now ?

    If we can prosecute News International, why can't we prosecute the UEA hackers ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    39.TomH - "......Well I don't think they know what science is at UEA. All they do is manipulate dodgy data to get the answer they want."

    To make such an assertion you must have some evidence. Would you lind to provide us with it - and note, this is a request for EVIDENCE, not some oil industry funded blogger's opinion on data he/she doesn't understand......

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    History has shown us that the climate moves in cycles, what we do or what we don’t do will not stop this element of climate change from happening.

    This does not mean however that we should treat our planet with disrespect.

    However it seems that exhaling carbon dioxide is the new Original Sin preached by the politically correct brigade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I do wish people would stop calling it climategate. In the end it was a scandal over nothing and hardly deserves the same name as Nixons downfall.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    39.TomH - "......I don't think they know what science is at UEA. All they do is manipulate dodgy data to get the answer they want."

    They DID NOT manipulate dodgy data - they merely made a mistake in collecting the data, a mistake they owned up to.....

    ....the himalayan galciers are STILL MELTING.....

    ....just not quite as quickly as first thought......but they are STILL MELTING.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    @18 Mike From Brum

    Right on Mike. At least you know I'm on your side. "The science is settled." My Arse! Prescott has said that so many times he now beleives it. Well I don't think they know what science is at UEA. All they do is manipulate dodgy data to get the answer they want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    2 Hours ago

    Climategate was never news, it was purely a distraction for climate skeptics to pretend human induced climate change isn't happening.


    Has a +19 rating.

    3 Hours ago

    is this even news?"

    Has a -6 rating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    What staggers me most about the deniers' industry (for it is an industry & an extremely well financed one - just look at the "Heartland" files....") is the people who fund it are going to ruin their own families/fortunes...

    ....when civilisation collapses in a couple/few generations time there will be no banks, no money, no police/courts etc to protect their descendants inherited advantage...

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I wonder if the police force in question were 'sponsored' by the oil industry?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I was always told at school to investigate many sources before coming to an objective opinion. I still try to do this and whichever way I look at it Global Warming IS happening. I can find no robust evidence to the contrary.

    Climategate just gave another evidence source and shows, not surprisingly, there is data, not to be trusted, on both sides of the argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    31. stereotonic

    Wallow in your ignorance

    Oh OK then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It baffles me that with a huge scope of legislation these days that we would expect a provincial force to have the expertise do deal with a specialist area like these- surely this sort of thing should be centralised. What a waste of police time, manpower and resources.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    24. paulmerhaba
    Is Climategate in-between Margate and Ramsgate.

    Closer to Watergate actually, the same people live there

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.


    Wallow in your ignorance

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Expect this will descend into the usual "yes it is - no it isn't" free-for-all; But the fact remains there is a change (manmade or not) and we need to either DO something about it or adapt our lives to survive it

    And to all those who drive - stop preaching and DO something

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    27. stereotonic
    We all know it's happening without mooching through paperwork. Some choose to ignore it, some completely deny it, but let me ask you this. . . . . . Are you prepared for the wrath of Nature coz we are due some major payback
    Nature does what it has always done, the only change is that we have built over most of all of the world and get in the way more often.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    The biggest scandal in this was how the deniers got away with making claims that the scientists were covering up the truth, when all they did was make a stupid mistake, which they'd already added to the corrections & clarificatiosn introduction to the draft of the next big state of the climate report that was about to be relased anyway - it was an already self corrected mistake, that's all....

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    We all know it's happening without mooching through paperwork. Some choose to ignore it, some completely deny it, but let me ask you this. . . . . . Are you prepared for the wrath of Nature coz we are due some major payback

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Why on earth are we wasting police time and money on this investigation?

    Are there no internet pedophiles, drugs barons or street muggers left to catch?

    Who thought spending scarce taxpayer money on this was a good idea? Can we sack them too and save even more money for causes that the public wants - not what some ideological zealots demand.


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