Hacked: Word of emails' theft quickly spread from blogs of climate-change skeptics to right-wing political blogs

After hackers reportedly stole emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), word of the criminal breach and use of the emails to attempt to undermine the overwhelming consensus on global warming moved from the blogs of climate-change skeptics, where links to the emails were originally posted by anonymous commenters, to foreign media outlets and right-wing political blogs. Media Matters for America tracks the story's movement across the Internet, which took less than two days and culminated in a call by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) for an investigation into “the IPCC and on the United Nations on the way that they cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled.”

NASA scientist traces chronology of the hack to failed effort to dump stolen emails on RealClimate.org

CRU breach discovered through subsequent hack at RealClimate and failed effort to “upload the full batch.” Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, explained the timeline of the emails' publication in an article by New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin, which was posted online on November 20:

[Schmidt] said the breach at the University of East Anglia was discovered after hackers who had gained access to the correspondence sought Tuesday [November 17] to hack into a different server supporting realclimate.org, a blog unrelated to NASA that he runs with several other scientists pressing the case that global warming is true.

The intruders sought to create a mock blog post there and to upload the full batch of files from Britain. That effort was thwarted, Dr. Schmidt said, and scientists immediately notified colleagues at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. The first posts that revealed details from the files appeared Thursday at The Air Vent, a Web site devoted to skeptics' arguments.

Links to emails begin to litter skeptics' blogs

Schmidt: "[T]he first comment posted on this subject" was “at ClimateAudit” and was “dated Nov 17 5.24 am (Central Time I think).” In a November 23 comment on a RealClimate post about the emails, Schmidt further explained the timeline:

There seems to be some doubt about the timeline of events that led to the emails hack. For clarification and to save me going through this again, this is a summary of my knowledge of the topic. At around 6.20am (EST) Nov 17th, somebody hacked into the RC server from an IP address associated with a computer somewhere in Turkey, disabled access from the legitimate users, and uploaded a file FOIA.zip to our server. They then created a draft post that would have been posted announcing the data to the world that was identical in content of the comment posted on The Air Vent later that day. They were intercepted before this could be posted on the blog. This archive appears to be identical to the one posted on the Russian server except for the name change. Curiously, and unnoticed by anyone else so far, the first comment posted on this subject was not at the Air Vent, but actually at ClimateAudit (comment 49 on a thread related to stripbark trees, dated Nov 17 5.24am (Central Time I think)). The username of the commenter was linked to the FOIA.zip file at realclimate.org. Four downloads occurred from that link while the file was still there (it no longer is).

Air Vent blogger noted on November 19 that link to emails had been left in comments. In the first Air Vent post about the emails, an entry titled, “Leaked FOIA files 62 mb of gold,” blogger Jeff Id wrote:

This is the biggest news ever broken here. The first thing I have to say is that I have no connection to the source of these files. It was left as a link on my blog.


I need some legal advice regarding the files received today. I've verified that the data seems to be true, simply due to the volume of it and knowing the issues -- currently the link is offline, I took it down the minute I realized what it contained. I need to understand the legal ramifications of making some of the emails public.

The post went on to highlight one of the hacked emails without linking to or quoting from the others.

After taking down comment with link to emails, Air Vent blogger restored access. In a subsequent November 19 post titled, “Ok it's blown wide open,” Jeff Id wrote:

I've been advised that I don't need to hide the link. Since this is already being downloaded everywhere, check out the comment at this post:

FOIA said

November 17, 2009 at 9:57 pm e

We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.

We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.
Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.

It's comment #10 -- Open Letter On Climate Legislation

News of hack radiates from Watts Up With That?

Watts: “Breaking News Story: CRU has apparently been hacked -- hundreds of files released.” In a November 19 post to his blog, Watts Up With That?, Anthony Watts wrote:

The details on this are still sketchy, we'll probably never know what went on. But it appears that University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit has been hacked and many many files have been released by the hacker or person unknown.

Watts describes self as “former television meteorologist” who has “skeptical view of certain climate issues.” From the “About” page on Watts Up With That?:

I'm a former television meteorologist who spent 25 years on the air and who also operates a weather technology and content business, as well as continues daily forecasting on radio, just for fun.


While I have a skeptical view of certain climate issues, I consider myself “green” in many ways, and I promote the idea of energy savings and alternate energy generation.

Posts on foreign blogs apply “Climategate” smear

British, Australian writers link to Watts post. On his blog at the U.K. Telegraph, James Delingpole titled his November 20 post on the emails, “Climategate: the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'?” Similarly, Andrew Bolt titled his November 20 post on the website of Australia's Herald Sun, “Climategate: Warmist conspiracy exposed?”

Watts post attracts flood of links from right-wing bloggers

Litany of major blogs credit Watts Up With That? Blogs that linked to Watts' post on November 20 include:

  • Gateway Pundit: “MAN-BEAR-PIG Is Dead!... Emails Prove Global Warming Junk Science Conspiracy”
  • Pajamas Media: “Hacker Releases Data Implicating CRU in Global Warming Fraud”
  • Wizbang: “Global Warming Fraud”

Breitbart's BigGovernment helps oil industry-funded CEI trumpet reports of emails' theft

CEI releases statement blasting “sleazy, unseemly side” of climate scientists. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a statement about the emails on November 20 that included a quote from Myron Ebell, its director of energy and global warming policy, in which he said, in part:

The posting of private data files from the Climatic Research Unit in England reveals the sleazy, unseemly side of a number of the leading scientific proponents of global warming alarmism, including CRU Director Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Ben Santer, and Kevin Trenberth. It is clear that some of the “world's leading climate scientists,” as they are always described, are more dedicated to promoting the alarmist political agenda than in scientific research.

Horner links to Watts at Breitbart's BigGovernment.com. Christopher Horner, a senior fellow at CEI, linked to Watts in a post at Andrew Breitbart's blog Big Government. Horner wrote, “I am not able to fully digest all of the relevant material just this moment, but check out what Anthony Watts at 'Watts Up With That' among others have posted. ... I will put all of this in full context as more analysis of the revelations and their meaning emerge, but just know this was described to me as 'the closest thing you're ever going to come to a “smoking gun.” ' "

CEI has received millions from oil-industry sources. According to reports compiled by Greenpeace, Exxon Mobil Corp. and its foundation donated more than $2 million to CEI from 1998 through 2005. Furthermore, according to data compiled by Media Matters Action Network, from 1986 through 2004, CEI received $666,420 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, and David H. Koch Charitable Foundation and Personal Philanthropy. Charles and David Koch reportedly each own 42 percent of Koch Industries, whose subsidiaries “have been in the petroleum business since 1940” and “engage in petroleum refining, chemicals and base oil production, crude oil supply, and wholesale marketing of fuels, base oils, petrochemicals, asphalt and other products.”

Online freakout culminates in Inhofe's call for congressional action

Inhofe blog: “Inhofe Says He Will Call for Investigation on 'Climategate' on Washington Times Americas Morning Show.” On The Inhofe EPW Press Blog, which is hosted by the website of the Senate's Environmental and Public Works Committee, a November 23 post included included audio of Inhofe's radio appearance. According to transcript on the site, Inhofe said, “Well, on this thing, it is pretty serious. ... [I]f nothing happens in the next seven days when we go back into session a week from today that would change this situation, I will call for an investigation.” When asked to specify what the investigation would focus on, Inhofe said, “On the IPCC and on the United Nations on the way that they cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not.”