Climategate Ratchets Up
December 15, 2011 - 7:38 am
Okay, I’ll admit, Anthony Watts wrote me last night about this and I didn’t jump right on it. But more has happened overnight, and it’s … puzzling.
It started first in the UK yesterday, when the proprietor of Tallbloke’s Talkshop was raided by the UK police and had several laptops seized. This was followed in the US when the Department of Justice sent letters to WordPress.com asking them to preserve data and logs from Jeff Id’s Air Vent. The letter making the request is here. These are both blogs that received the first word of the second drop of Climategate emails, and the letter is focused on the time period in which the files were announced.
“Tall Bloke” reports that he’s been told he’s not the subject of any investigation, that the police just want to clone his hard drives and return them. I don’t know enough about UK law to know if that makes sense; I know that if it were me in the US, I’d want to lawyer up.
I called Kendra Ervin, the DoJ attorney who signed the letter. At first she said she didn’t know anything about it until I pointed out I had the letter under her signature and had called her direct line, which was in the letter, at which point she said she “couldn’t comment on an ongoing investigation.” She directed me to the DoJ press office for the criminal investigation group; I’ll be following up with them.
I don’t quite know what to think about this. Jo Nova thinks it’s an effort to intimidate bloggers; me, I suspect it’s a sort of normal fishing expedition aimed at finding and identifying “FOIA”, the person or group that obtained the emails. Either way, it’s troubling on First Amendment grounds — it may or may not be a coincidence that there was a recent decision saying bloggers aren’t “journalists”.