College gives files of climate change sceptics to policeBy Donna Bowater
Apr. 18, 2010
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THE university embroiled in the scandal over leaked climate change emails has sparked outrage by handing the personal details of climate change sceptics to police.
The University of East Anglia claimed it had been deluged with requests from sceptics under the Freedom of Information Act shortly before hacked emails were published which appeared to show scientists manipulating climate change data.
But the university has angered privacy campaigners after passing on the details of those asking for information to Norfolk Police, which is investigating the alleged email theft with the National Domestic Extremism Unit.
Detectives are interviewing all those who legally used the FOI Act to request information from the Climatic Research Unit, questioning them about their scientific and political beliefs.
One of those targeted said: “It’s alarming – I thought it was a bit heavy-handed. My understanding is everyone who put in an FOI request to the university has been contacted.
“The police were looking for a conspiracy. They felt there had been an organised group of people bombarding the university with questions. I would have appreciated more of a briefing before launching into questions about my political beliefs.”
Another, businessman Sebastian Nokes, said he had been called by a detective who “wanted to know what computer I used, my internet service provider, and also to which political parties I have belonged, what I feel about climate change and what my qualifications in climate science are. He questioned me at length.”
Mr Nokes’s FOI request had asked for details about the training given to scientists to disclose information and for copies of any emails suggesting they had withheld information.
Dylan Sharpe, director of privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s disgraceful that people are being targeted without evidence. Sending an FOI request should not be a police matter.
“It is not a crime to want to know how public money is spent, any more than it is to question the science of climate change.”
A Parliamentary Select Committee report found the university had a “reprehensible” culture of withholding information and called for greater transparency in climate research. The row broke out over emails that suggested scientists used “tricks” when dealing with raw data to prove global warming was man-made.
Detective Superintendent Julian Gregory, who is leading the investigation, said: “As with any investigation we will interview anyone who may have information which is of relevance.”