Thursday, January 07, 2010

Tomsk Hackers Part III: FBI Investigating Death Threats Against Global Warming Scientists

"[KGB Chief Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists' 'crafty' plots were fabricated in KGB offices."--Izvestia (3-19-92)

In 1992, the KGB Chief Yevgeni Primakov admitted to an audience of students from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations who were considering employment with the RFIS (Russian Foreign Intelligence Service) that the Soviet regime had mounted a propaganda campaign against American scientists. Primakov's frank admission was reported in Izvestia.

I suspect that the so-called Climategate scandal is evidence that the polonium-packing Russian FSB, not the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU), is up to KGB-era tricks. So far, I have written three articles about the theft of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, U.K.

[Search Tomsk hackers or Climategate on this site to read my other posts. Search FSB hackers Tomsk or ФСБ хакеры Томск to read more about this scandal. English readers can use the Google translation tool to read articles in Russian.]

The British media and some U.N. scientists have suggested that the Russian secret service, the FSB, was complicit in the theft of the e-mails and that the FSB or its proxies (Tomsk hackers) defamed the CRU climate scientists by posting selective e-mails that could be misunderstood out of context.

The FSB's predecessor agency, the KGB, often attacked legitimate science or promoted junk science in order to promote the regime's agendas. As noted above, the KGB admitted in 1992 that they spread the canard that the U.S. Army developed the AIDS virus to kill blacks, although the Soviet Academy of Sciences distanced themselves from this conspiracy theory as early as 1987.

The KGB also promoted the crackpot theory of "sluggish schizophrenia" (вялотекущая шизофрения) in order to hospitalize political dissidents on fabricated grounds of mental illness. The KGB's role in punitive psychiatry was exposed by a group of dissident Soviet scholars. Their struggle was chronicled for English-speaking audiences by the Australian psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Bloch and the British political scientist Dr. Peter Reddaway in their book Soviet Psychiatric Abuse: The Shadow over World Psychiatry (1984).

In 1989, Soviet psychiatrists at the World Psychiatric Association's World Congress admitted that Soviet psychiatry had been misused to repress dissent in the U.S.S.R. Most Soviet psychiatrists never participated in this unethical practice, but a few opportunistic psychiatrists would collaborate with the KGB.

According to British media accounts, the Tomcity server, where the controversial e-mails were posted, is used by Tomsk State University and is reportedly owned by a Russian security business. That's a little suspicious. I would not be surprised if this server were controlled by or monitored by and accessible to the FSB. In earlier post-Soviet years, an agency called FAPSI (ФАПСИ) controlled the Russian government's telecommunications, but now the former FAPSI's functions are performed by a department of the FSB. Wikipedia has an informative entry titled FAPSI and the Internet. The entry notes that the "Military School of FAPSI in Voronezh, [is] sometimes referred as the world largest hacker's school."

The FSB claims they have investigated the hacking of the Tomcity server and have traced it to the Chinese. Bloggers who are global warming skeptics claim that the e-mails were leaked by a CRU insider who wanted to expose supposedly dishonest scientists. The British authorities are investigating this crime, so hopefully we will hear the truth at some point.

I wonder if bloggers who are mocking, attacking, and even threatening these scientists have considered the possibility that an FSB active measures ("Активные мероприятия") operation may be behind this campaign of vilification? Perhaps these bloggers should read what the scientists say the e-mails mean. (See here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

The famous Tomsk scientist Sergei Kirpotin, who studies the permafrost, has already defended the CRU scientists and described the hacking and posting of the CRU e-mails as a "provocation" that was "ordered," but Kirpotin's assessment was only reported by Russian Greenpeace. I hope we will soon hear from more Russian climate experts.

The Guardian (12-8-09) reports that the FBI is also investigating death threats against scientists who research global warming:

Two of the scientists involved in "Climategate" – the e-mail hacking incident at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, UK – have been emailed death threats since the contents of their private e-mails were leaked to the world. No further information can be revealed about these particular threats at present because they are currently under investigation with the FBI in the United States.

Many other CRU scientists and their colleagues have received torrents of abusive and threatening e-mails since the leaks first began in mid-November 2009. Tom Wigley, previous Director of CRU and now at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, US, has been horrified by the e-mails he and other colleagues have received. "They are truly stomach-turning and show what sort of venomous monsters we are up against," he told environmentalresearchweb.

The scandal, dubbed "Climategate", broke on 19 November this year when hundreds of messages between scientists from CRU and their colleagues around the world were posted onto websites. Since then, segments of the messages have been used by climate-change sceptics to undermine the scientific case for climate change being caused by humanity's greenhouse-gas emissions.

In the UK a police investigation is underway to uncover how the material was hacked or leaked. Meanwhile, the University of East Anglia has ordered an independent review into the allegations against CRU and Phil Jones has temporarily stepped down as director of CRU, until the investigations are completed.

Many of the accusations being made by climate-change sceptics are based on fragments and selected phrases from e-mails sent by eminent climate scientists, dating back to 1996. The scientists involved are confident that they can counter all of the claims against them. "None of it affects the science one iota," said Wigley. "Accusations of data distortion or faking are baseless. I can rebut and explain all of the apparently incriminating e-mails that I have looked at, but it is going to be very time consuming to do so."

In particular Wigley vigorously denies that any data was ever destroyed. "We did not destroy any primary records," he said. "All these data came from National Meteorological Services, and the originals are still there for anyone to access. Indeed other groups such as GISS and NOAA have independently accessed these data and independently reproduced our results."

Climate scientists not caught up in the scandal agree that the independent investigation is necessary, but don't believe that the CRU science will be discredited or any misdoings uncovered. "CRU is just one of many climate-research institutes that provide the underlying scientific basis for climate policy at national and international levels," said Dave Reay, a climate scientist at the University of Edinburgh, UK. "The conspiracy theorists may be having a field day, but if they really knew academia they would also know that every published paper and data set is continually put through the wringer by other independent research groups. The information that makes it into the IPCC reports is some of the most rigorously tested and debated in any area of science."

And some scientists express little surprise at the tactics being used to try and undermine the science. "We have always had a very vocal minority of people who have long since decided to ignore the science and the data and take a deliberately and completely contrarian view, and who have always and constantly accused (all) climate scientists of falsehood and being in it for the money," said Andy Ridgwell, a climate scientist at the University of Bristol. "They have been playing Chicken Little and claiming the sky is falling in on climate science for a decade. There is nothing left that is new or different that they can (falsely) claim or accuse us of."

Nonetheless there are now concerns that the e-mail leaks could derail some of the objectives due to be set at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, next week. On Friday 4 December Saudi Arabia's lead climate negotiator, Mohammad Al-Sabban, told BBC news that the hacked e-mails suggest climate change does not have a human cause, and that he thought it could have a huge impact on agreeing limitations of greenhouse gases at the summit. Meanwhile, Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was reported by the BBC as saying that the claims were serious and needed to be investigated.

For now the scientists involved in the scandal are anxious to get back to doing their research. "We must continue to do the science," said Wigley. "As time goes by the evidence mounts – it is already overwhelming – and we must continue to report this through normal channels in peer-reviewed scientific journals. We must continue to strive to understand the complexities of the climate system better and to improve climate models so that we better know how to respond to future climate changes."

But Wigley fears that time may be running out. "As time goes by, however, we are approaching the point where any actions we might take will be inadequate to protect humanity and the planet from dangerous climate change," he said. "Those people – the hackers, the sceptics, the luddite bloggers – who are hindering and slowing down the process of response will, I hope, eventually be held accountable. They already have much to answer for." [Read full text.]

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