06 September 2011

ATI & UVa: An intervention

As discussed here and here, a key oddity in the ATI vs. UVa VFOIA case is that UVa voluntarily consented to have ATI review all material in the scope of the request in order to challenge any redactions or exemptions that UVa deemed necessary.

Now, Michael Mann has filed a motion directly with the Virginia court to have this state of affairs reviewed citing privacy concerns and the clear lack of ability to safeguard legitimate interests should the process go according to the current plans.

In return, ATI has thrown up another whole suite of red-herrings and strawman arguments that have nothing to do with the point of law at hand. They are arguing that Mann has no standing to intervene (which would seem to be obviously ridiculous given that it is his email account that is being mined), and that the Mann challenge is a focused on the legitimacy of the VFOIA request in the first place. This last argument is transparently false, since UVa has already sent over the material requested that did not come under any valid exemptions with no objection having been raised. Mann's intervention is solely focused on the procedure for dealing with material that UVa thinks is exempt, but that ATI thinks the exemption is invalid. The ATI release does not actually mention the point in question at all.

Even more interestingly, Chris Horner is quoted as saying that Mann is merely "sputtering ad hominem and conspiracy theories". This is the same Chris Horner who called Jim Hansen a 'fanatic' and wondered "Why is NASA hiding James Hansen's ethics records?" (see here for a more reality-based view). No ad hominem or conspiracy theorizing there of course.

ATI additionally claims that "Dr. Mann wants, after the fact, for UVA to throw out policies he accepted as a condition of living off of taxpayer dollars, in order to cover up public information and to evade scrutiny." - a statement wholly at odds with the facts in this case, and indeed with the VFOIA legislation itself. Why are there any mandated exemptions to total public disclosure if that any recourse to them is "a cover up" to "evade scrutiny"?

Indeed, since the point of Mann's complaint is that the ATI lawyers cannot be trusted to deal professionally with any material under seal, one would think that they would make more of an effort to appear trustworthy. One would be wrong.

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