In the case of data apparently stolen from the University of East Anglia, the Norfolk Constabulary today confirmed a criminal investigation is "in its early stages and no further information will be released at this time."
The university has its own internal probe into the leak of thousands of e-mails and data files last week. It’s not uncommon for servers to register when and by whom files are copied, offering clues.
A lengthy statement from UEA yesterday included comments from Trevor Davies, pro-vice-chancellor, research, and Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit.
Davies said that “the publication of a selection of stolen data is the latest example of a sustained and, in some instances, a vexatious campaign which may have been designed to distract from reasoned debate” on climate change.
The files may have been released in connection with a dispute between greenhouse skeptics and the university over Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for climate data. In its statement the university denied that it had deleted any requested e-mails or other files.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) oversees the FOI process in the United Kingdom, and on Thursday tried to clarify the situation with its own statement regarding data destruction:
Destroying requested information outside of an organisation’s normal policies is unlawful and may be a criminal offence if done to prevent disclosure. The ICO has specific guidance relating to the destruction of requested information that can be found on our website.
The ICO added that it doesn’t think it helped East Anglia and other universities develop a strategy to deflect skeptics’ FOI requests, despite what some e-mails suggested. The office said:
The ICO is dealing with a complaint concerning information about research, reviews, conclusions and reports into climate change studies at the University of East Anglia, but we have no records to suggest we have provided informal advice about handling large numbers of requests for similar data at the university.