The ANU death threat story is going to keep giving for a long time. It now turns out that there never were any emailed death threats. Rosslyn Beeby originally broke the story and here she is updating events.
So it came as a surprise to learn last week that a Sydney climate blogger had made a freedom of information request to obtain examples of these emails from the Australian National University. The ANU initially refused to release the documents, and in response to a formal appeal by the blogger, the Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim was asked to a adjudicate. He is reported as ruling that 10 of the 11 emails sought under FoI ”do not contain threats to kill” and the other ”could be regarded as intimidating”. The emails in question pertain to one scientist, ANU Climate Change Institute director Professor Will Steffen. He was among the group of 30 contacted by The Canberra Times, and revealed the worst threat he received – and we will not divulge it – was made verbally to one of his staff. It was the chilling nature of that threat – and the casual way in which it was made – that prompted the ANU to question its security arrangements. If they had not, they would have been guilty of ignoring staff safety requirements.
So we were led to believe the threats came via email, but now we’re told the threats were verbal. In fact – chilling and casual. So what happened next? Graham Readfern picks up the story.
I understand there were several incidents at the ANU in early 2010. On two separate occasions, individuals had walked into institute premises demanding to see particular staff members. Both individuals were acting “aggressively” Professor Steffen said. The institute’s offices were on the ground floor with open access with no security restrictions.
Let’s be clear – most universities have open access to almost all areas and little security. But did these individuals make death threats? Was campus security notified? Did the police investigate?
Then we read of the chilling incident (emphasis added).
Shortly after ANU staff were moved, there was an incident at an ANU public engagement event where a climate sceptic who had been invited to attend had become frustrated. During an exchange, the individual had showed what he claimed was a gun licence to people sitting at the table, before claiming he was a “good shot”. The individual is understood to have left voluntarily.
Okay – sounds bad. Who is the person with the gun licence? Were the police notified? Has any one taken out a restraining order against the “climate sceptic”?
Then this instant classic comment.
Whether or not any of these incidents constitute a “death threat” is, to me at least, beside the point.
Actually no. The entire point about “these incidents” is that allegations of death threats have been made. That is fairly serious. It is abhorrent to those of us for favour open and robust debate that anyone should receive death threats.
(HT: Tim Blair)