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Judge Preserves Privacy of Climate Scientist's Emails 345

ananyo writes "Climate scientist Michael Mann reported Monday that he and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville have prevailed in a court case against the conservative American Tradition Institute (ATI), which had sought access to emails he wrote while serving as a professor at the school from 1999-2005. Now at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Mann says the ruling supports the University of Virginia's argument than an exemption to the state's freedom-of-information law 'applies to faculty communications in furtherance of their work.' The Prince William County Circuit Court ruling came directly from the bench in and was not immediately available online. The Virgina Supreme Court tossed out a case against Mann in March. The state's conservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, had, among other things, demanded access to the climatologist's emails, arguing that Mann might have manipulated data and thus defrauded the government in applying for scientific grants."
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Judge Preserves Privacy of Climate Scientist's Emails

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  • "Might have" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:01AM (#41373315)

    > "The state's conservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, had, among other things, demanded access to the climatologist's emails, arguing that Mann might have manipulated data and thus defrauded the government in applying for scientific grants."

    Ken Cuccinelli *might* beat his wife. I demand access to his wife's medical records.

    • Re:"Might have" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:33AM (#41373545)

      The irony is that if Cuccinelli had prevailed, it's hard to see how the same reasoning could not be used for his state-funded office communications.

      • by 517714 ( 762276 )
        The greater irony is that others rated your comment as humorous (+4 Funny as I respond) and didn't see the outcome you suggest as the one all of us should hope for. Hopefully, he (Cuccinelli) will prevail on appeal. In which case, hopefully those who choose to make Cuccinelli's life miserable with disclosures of FOI requested data from his office will also prevail. As it stands currently, Cuccinelli, and anyone else working for the state, could abuse the citizens of the state of Virginia with little chan
      • Most likely protected from disclosure.

    • Re:"Might have" (Score:4, Interesting)

      by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:33AM (#41373549)

      Mann was part of the earlier email controversy []. So Cuccinelli, while no doubt political grandstanding for *his* own benefit, didn't just pull Mann's name out of a hat. There was at least some evidence from that earlier case that Mann may have been *ahem* "exaggerating" certain claims for his own benefit.

      Now, how much of this is politics and personal aggrandizement on either side is up for debate of course.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        No, there was no evidence. Had there been evidence, the Mann would have been condemned. This is just your average jackbooted terror tactics, to tyranically threaten those who testify the truth against treacherous dogma.

    • Yup, but liberals don't listen to reason...or racists which you obviously are :)
    • > "The state's conservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, had, among other things, demanded access to the climatologist's emails, arguing that Mann might have manipulated data and thus defrauded the government in applying for scientific grants."

      Ken Cuccinelli *might* beat his wife. I demand access to his wife's medical records.

      Really, it doesn't matter if the emails are released or not. If they are not released, then there will be a whole "What are they trying to hide?!?!" campaign. If they are released, then no matter what is in the emails, the conservative pundits will find some sentence fragment to post on their blogs, which will then get posted to facebook and tweeted and retweeted, and it will be played on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and on Beck and on Hannity, and all of their followers will say "See? We told you something

  • by acoustix ( 123925 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:06AM (#41373349)

    I didn't RTFA. Doesn't Virgina have an open records law? If he was an employee of the state then his emails are a matter of public record.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Government workers are not your slaves.

      A teacher at a state university is not in the same legal classification as a public servant.

      No matter what your Galtian leanings might imply otherwise.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A teacher who is also a taxpayer-funded researcher performing research that guides public policy certainly is in the same legal classification as a public servant. And communications in that capacity should be public.

    • Re:Public Record? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:26AM (#41373463)

      Wrong. Being an" employee of the state" never means that all your emails are a matter of public record.

      Public record laws vary; what matters is what a particular law specifically sets out as included. Several courts have held that a state open records law does not apply to personal email accounts but does apply to ex-officio ones (e.g., or applies only to those emails in which state business is conducted. For example, Colorado's open records law applies to e-mail communications between more than two elected officials or public employees.

      But one important takeaway is that anyone using a state email address is wise to conduct their personal business on their own accounts.

      Unfortunately, this now appears to be true for some people's professional work as well. Many university climate research and other controversial programs now incorporate as private "Centers" that run their own email systems so as to provide researchers with an alternative to the state-funded email accounts. Corporate email accounts are generally afforded greater exemption from state open records laws even if the researcher is also an employee of the state.

      • Of course all your emails are not a matter of public record. But all of your work is. All of your emails regarding that work are. If you email Bob about your work and your niece's birthday party, then the email would be public record with the part about the niece redacted.

        All you do in your capacity as someone who gets paid with public moneys is public record and accessible via a FOIA request, with the usual exceptions for national security and whatnot (which don't apply when there's a court case - the c

    • by davide marney ( 231845 ) <davide,marney&netmedia,org> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:55AM (#41373721) Journal
      "Public records" means all writings and recordings that consist of letters, words or numbers, or their equivalent, set down by handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostatting, photography, magnetic impulse, optical or magneto-optical form, mechanical or electronic recording or other form of data compilation, however stored, and regardless of physical form or characteristics, prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees or agents in the transaction of public business. Records that are not prepared for or used in the transaction of public business are not public records." VA Code 2.2-3701 []

      IANAL, but it seems this case would likely hinge upon whether Prof. Mann is considered an employee of the State, and whether his emails were documenting transactions of public business.
    • Public records doesn't always mean all records. For example, you can request the finalized budget as a matter of public record as a citizen. You can't request all emails of the employees that had a part in the budget process as a citizen. There is some privacy expectation. Now the employees are not immune to search of government email in a legitimate government investigation. The AG in this case doesn't really have a compelling reason and his investigation seems like a fishing expedition to the court.
  • Not conservative (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:11AM (#41373387)

    The state's conservative attorney general,

    Not conservative. A conservative would want things to stay the same, to oppose human change for good or bad solely because its a human change, would want to conserve natural resources, be a "good steward of Gods creation" or whatever religious claim floats their boat of preserving the status quo.

    Yes I know "political conservative" means the exact opposite since the neo's kicked all the normal people like myself (uh, more or less) out, so all we have left is the Santorums (the politician, not the "frothy liquid") and Rmoneys. The bigger point is you know a society is completely F'd when its words become doublespeak. When I was a kid it was a running joke that any country name including "peoples" "democratic" or "republic" almost always was the opposite. Its a dark day in America, I'm sad to say.

    • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:28AM (#41373487)

      Well Romney types were in before the neocons. The Rockefeller republicans have been around a while although Romney's foreign policy is all neo.

      But just vote libertarian. Some people see it as a throw away vote, but Perot's performance in the 90s actually got both sides talking economically and probably played a big part in getting the budget balanced towards the end of the 90s (unified budget, not actual). Unfortunately, it also made both parties come together and collude and make rules to disenfranchise the 3rd parties and their voters even more.

      • Re:Not conservative (Score:4, Interesting)

        by vlm ( 69642 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:42AM (#41373627)

        But just vote libertarian. Some people see it as a throw away vote

        You only throw away your vote when you vote for someone who doesn't represent your interests, like for 99% of the population a -R or a -D. I'm voting -L. I used to vote -R and if they toss out the current crop of lunatics I might go back.

      • No, what made both parties come together and work things out was having a republican congress and a democrat president. Both knew that in order for anything to be done, they had to temper their ideals.

        And a vote for libertarian is a vote for the incumbent no matter how you look at it. If you don't mind 4 more years of Obama, then go right ahead. If you are like me and trying to pick the least of two evils who will do the least amount of damage, then determine who is the greatest evil and vote for the most l

        • by Kr1ll1n ( 579971 )

          And a vote for libertarian is a vote for the incumbent no matter how you look at it.

          Factually Wrong.
          Emotionally Correct.

          A vote for a Libertarian, or Green, or whatever you choose is factually a vote for a person of X party.
          Only those who can't control their own emotions, and are cowards, would view it is a vote for or against a target of their choosing.

          Stop regurgitating this crap.

          • Any vote that isn't for a candidate capable of beating the incumbent allows the incumbent to stay in office. It is effectively voting for them. It's factually correct if you use simple tools like math. Ross Perot and Ralph Nader proved this a couple of times in recent history.

            Here, lets play with this complicated math stuff. Suppose you have 10 voters. All anyone would need is 6 votes to have more then the incumbent to oust him. If those 6 votes are divided between someone likely to win and someone with no

            • by Kr1ll1n ( 579971 )

              Less then one quarter of Nader Votes could have gave us 4 years of Gore instead of Bush.

              Show me where "could have" is a mathematically sound principle and I will agree. You are going off of assumption that Nader's voting base was almost entirely Democrat. From what i have read, 45% of Nader voters would vote for Gore, 27% would vote for Bush, and the remaining 28% would stay home.

              Now, that being said, 28% is a large enough margin to have swung the victory back to the side of Bush, and not Gore, assuming they changed their mind and decided to vote. Or it could have just further solidified Gore.

            • If you are green just find a libertarian buddy. And vice versa.

              Smoke a joint together to build trust. Hold your noses if you have to.

          • Factually speaking, a vote for a Libertarian, Green or other minor party in the United States takes a vote away from which ever of the two major parties you would prefer to win. It's a well known flaw in first-past-the-post voting []. If you disagree you can take it up with Duverger [].

            The GP, however, is also incorrect, a vote for a libertarian is only some times equivalent to a vote for the incumbent. Specifically only when the voter would not have otherwise voted for the incumbent. This has nothing to do w

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:31AM (#41373525) Homepage

      It's the fundamental problem of a two-party political system; it pays to oppose eachother. And opposing eachother means pushing eachother ever further into extremist corners of any debate.

      For instance take "Obama-care". If you ask politicians it's either the highway to hell or the road to salvation. Few politicians will actually weigh the good and the bad and try to resolve any issues. It either has to stand exactly as it is or be reverted completely.

      Most democratic systems share power among a larger number of political parties, forcing them to work together and to maintain a working relationship for the long term.

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        But of course the USA does not have a "two-party political system". There is nothing in the Constitution about political parties [] at all. And there is in fact a richness of parties [] (see the list of so-called minor parties underneath the majors). The only problem is nobody votes for any of them except R and D. I fantasize that it would be far better to have no parties at all, but I recognize that you can't outlaw them without making a mockery of liberty (freedom of association, anyone?).

        It would be interestin

        • by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

          It would be interesting to hear substantive ideas on why no parties beyond R and D ever gain traction at the national level in the USA.

          The best explanation I have heard yet for this is the "scope" phenomena. Simply put, the alternate parties platform scopes are almost always very narrow, (IE: Single issue platforms or focused around a particular segment of interest such as the economy, to the exclusion of other interests such as foreign policy or social issues.) whereas the major party platforms are very broad.

          Also, if the alternate party platform is enough "in line" with the major party, they may "absorb" that issue into their own plat

        • It sounds like you are not familiar with the common definition of a two-party system []. According to the common definition, the U.S. has a two party system because it is dominated by two parties, reagardless of the number of additional powerless parties that exist. For the U.S. to stop being a two-party system a third party needs to have a substancial pressence in congress.

        • I would not call it a conspiracy, they have created artificial barriers to entry on the national level.

          Things like, if you do not hold 10% of the vote nationally, you can not participate in the national presidential debates.
          The two major parties have laws in place that gives them millions/billions from the national coffers for their campaigns.

          Add to that the fact that if a third party gains enough signatures to get their name on the ballot, they will have there ballot access challenged by one of the two maj

    • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:32AM (#41373535)

      There's a couple of poles:

      Conservative – Progressive : stick to what works –trust we can adapt to new stuff

      Left – Right : the system is rigged, so increase taxes and redistribute to make it fair –people are lazy, so reduce taxes to increase incentives

      Politically there's also some other poles.

      The "climate skeptics" don't fit either pole particularly because they're actually resisting "post modern science" where science and social values and social issues get all intermixed. Protesters hold up placards saying "we come armed only with peer reviewed literature" to protest against a new runway, but they don't hold up that placard when medical science says there's little evidence that GM crops are bad.

      Likewise an environmentalist told me, "it doesn't matter if global warming isn't caused by man made CO2, because by forcing a cut of CO2 you cut production and you cut consumption –– it is about reducing GREED"

      Social issues, morality, and ethics all wrapped up in "science".

      The science part is there to a degree, but the case gets overstated significantly for political reasons.

      • by microbox ( 704317 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:02AM (#41373791)

        Left -- the system is rigged, so increase taxes and redistribute to make it fair

        I see this so often, but honestly think it is baloney. Some liberals eye others' stuff -- the homologues to Hannity and Beck -- but the *vast* majority of liberals do not believe that taxes should be increased to make a rigged system fair. There are two orthogonal concerns there. The first is social justice, which doesn't involve raising taxes at all. (Most social justice programs are generally cheap.) The second is about balancing the budget -- something that the GOP seems unable to do, but the Dems have a fine record. And the second is also about Kensyian economics, and liberals have the record on job creation by 2-1. (Rich people take money out of the system because they save moe. This slows down the economy. Poor people spend everything, and this raises demand and speed the economy. Trickle-down economics is about increasing the amount of investment money; however, we already have a glut of that.)

        So please get the motivations correct.

        • by phlinn ( 819946 )
          Really? the only balanced budget in recent history happened with a republican congress. I may be alone, but I think we might get an optimal outcome with Obama retaining office but congress shifting to a republican majority in both houses. Going by party in control of the house, Dem presidents with R house happened for the first time in 50 years under clinton. [] is an interesting collection of data.

          For job growth, I didn't quickly find a good source. It's
        • by fnj ( 64210 )

          Most social justice programs are generally cheap

          Are you mad? Welfare, pensions (largely social security), education, and health care account for 60% of Federal spending [] in FY 2012. Defense is 24%, and EVERYTHING ELSE is 16%

        • by Bongo ( 13261 )

          Yes, no problem, I added taxes just as an example. So without that awkward example, that leaves the basic difference as, the right looks for problems in the individual (eg. responsibility, incentive, lack of morality, etc.) and the left looks for problems in the system (eg. the banks, the lack of medical care, corporations, the loopholes in taxes, etc.)

          And they can always argue because the world is both a system and individuals.

          Maybe global warming tends to resonate more with the left because it looks so mu

      • by smugfunt ( 8972 )
        Authoritarian/"Social Conservative"

        Radical/Progressive Conservative/Reactionary


        (Please imagine horizontal and vertical axes)
        All ma
    • When has language NOT been used in less than straightforward ways? Doublespeak and revisionist history aren't new tactics. "The House Committee on Un-American Activities," prosecuting free speech and thoughts, dated back to 1947. And that's obviously not the first either.
    • A conservative would want things to stay the same, to oppose human change for good or bad solely because its a human change, would want to conserve natural resources, be a "good steward of Gods creation" or whatever religious claim floats their boat of preserving the status quo.

      What you're describing is Conservationism [], not Conservatism.

    • by jrumney ( 197329 )

      Not conservative. A conservative would want things to stay the same,

      In this case, "things staying the same" is dependant on the public not changing their oil purchasing habits due to the findings of climate scientists. So yes, conservative is the correct label.

  • "Their" work. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GigsVT ( 208848 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @09:26AM (#41373467) Journal

    If your work is paid for with government money, your work emails should be public. Simple as that.

    • Great! Can I have access to Bush's missing emails then? []
    • Re:"Their" work. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:05AM (#41373813)
      Fuck you.

      The AG, Cuccinelli, is conspiring with extremest political groups to suppress scientific research. To say the work was "publicly funded", therefore research personal have no private communications, is bullshit. It was and is a gross political smear.

      Lets put the shoe on the other foot. I propose that Michael Mann sue the AG and the American Tradition Institute for slander. As a first step he should request all communications between the AG and ATI to see if they conspired to wreck his career. Remember, the AG's work is "paid for with government money", so all the AG correspondence should all be "public". How does that shoe feel now?

      If these records became public, Cuccinelli would clearly be found to be misusing his office. He invested significant resources in a purely political effort. This is misappropriation of public funds, along with a conspiracy to break the law with a non-governmental political organization. He clearly shared information with ATI that should have been not allowed outside his office. (This is exactly what Ken Starr did during the Clinton witch hunt. During the Watergate probe they planted insane smears in the press, none of which were true. Starr's office also broke confidentiality with the Republican operatives who were working the civil side of the conspiracy.)

      The AG deserves to be sent to jail. That will never happen. When conservatives break the law they always get away with it, because law and order only applies to minorities and Democrats. The last time a conservative insider got put away was Scooter Libby, and he was taking a bullet for Chaney's leaking Valery Plame's status as a CIA operative. Chaney put the lives of CIA assets at risk. I would not be surprised if people died from this. If it did happen, we'll never know. The coverup was successful.

      So like I said at the beginning: Fuck You.

      • The AG, Cuccinelli, is conspiring with extremest political groups to suppress scientific research.

        Indeed? Who's the one trying to have his working letters suppressed? I don't think it's the AG...

      • So if a person who is not conspiring with an extremest political groups to suppress scientific research or for some other commercial agency puts in a FOIA request for emails pertaining to tax payer funded research, should they be denied?

        The purpose of the FOIA is for anyone's benefit, not just those with an Agenda. I would back the first person, government funded is really tax payer funded, regardless of the tax payer, therefore should NOT be denied FOIA.

        Regardless of who's asking, with so much concerted e

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      So if Romney is elected, we get to see all his tax returns?

    • by dirk ( 87083 )

      While this is an awesome idea in theory, in practice, it just isn't tenable. So, if we went with this theory, should every government email be open to the public? So if a spy sends an email back to his handler, that email should be open to the public? If someone in the government gets an email from someone wanting to leave Cuba, that email should be open to everyone? If there are emails about an upcoming secret mission (say for the raid to get the next Osama Bin Laden), these should all be open to the p

    • Making a rule that says that is fine. But only for emails going forward. It shouldn't be applied to emails going backwards. Face it, most of us have some degree of personal and private emails. And the way we communicate with people we know well may not always be understood in the way it was intended by third parties.

      Would you honestly be happy to have your last 20 years worth of work emails published on the web? If not, then you do understand the problem.

      • by Troed ( 102527 )

        Would you honestly be happy to have your last 20 years worth of work emails published on the web? If not, then you do understand the problem.

        Of course I would, as long as they're not company secrets. If I was paid by the public the public would of course be free to read every single one of them.

        For private communication I have a private email account.

    • by c ( 8461 )

      > If your work is paid for with government money, your work
      > emails should be public. Simple as that.


      Also, if you receive government support like, say, food stamps, your grocery receipts should all be public. And if you live on welfare, disability, or a publically funded pension of some sort, any member of the public should be allowed to inspect your home upon request.

      If you use public roads for transportation, anyone should be able to get detailed access to all your travels.

      See where this is g

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        Yes, I see where it is going. Balance. How could anyone object to such accountability? You take free stuff which is intended to fill a defined function, you shouldn't be looked down on, but you should be accountable. Actually, and this is important, I would provide the free stuff in such a form that the very concept of "misuse" never arises. See below.

        First, one correction though. Building and maintaining public roads is an obvious legitimate government duty for all the benefit of all the people. It doesn'

        • by geekoid ( 135745 )

          " It doesn't belong with the other categories you mention."
          oh, you like it therefore it deserve and exception?

          "Nutrition would be made available from well selected stocks"
          except that doesn't work. You end up with rotting food. Been tried, to hard to warehouse.

          " form of hugely expensive apartments."
          they are not huge expensive. and living in barracks? really? did you even think about that for a second?

          You're plan simply creates a lifestyle that doesn't go anywhere.

          " use at the spoiled whim of the recipient."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @10:45AM (#41374197)

    He's another of these Bush Patriot Act appointees

    Do you recall the outcry over the political motivated dismissal of Attorney Generals and the subsequent cover up?

    The Patriot Act changed the way Attorney generals are appointed. Bush sacked a bunch of Attorney Generals because they wouldn't do political prosecutions and put a lot of conservative stooges in their places. One of those political stooges was this Michael Fisher, another was the the U.S. attorney in Alabama.

    They went on to do a political prosecutions including prosecuting Dan Siegelman, the Democrat governor for Alabama, using a witness that claimed to have been at a meeting when a donation check was handed over.

    The witness said the donation was for passing legislation, and thus a bribe not a donation, and he claimed to have witnessed the discussion and the signing of the check. However the check was signed days later so the witness was lying. However it did get the Democrat out, and a Republican in his place.

  • continue to scream and shout and grasp at straws while trying to use ad hom attacks to show there is no climate warming caused by man.

    Beside, it won't matter becasue there god wouldn't let it happen.

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the Phone Company."