London, Feb 1 (ANI): The British Government's former chief scientist has said that a highly sophisticated hacking operation that led to the leaking of hundreds of emails from the Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia was probably carried out by a foreign intelligence agency.
According to a report in The Independent, Sir David King, who was Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser for seven years until 2007, the hacking and selective leaking of the unit's emails, going back 13 years, bore all the hallmarks of a co-ordinated intelligence operation - especially given their release just before the Copenhagen climate conference in December.
The emails were stolen from a backup computer server used by the University of East Anglia.
They contained private discussions between climate scientists that have embarrassed those involved, particularly Professor Phil Jones, who has stepped down from his post as head of the unit pending an independent inquiry into whether there is any evidence of scientific misconduct.
He is not implicated in the hacking.
The email leaks were deliberately designed to destabilise Copenhagen, Sir David told The Independent, and dismissed the idea that it was a run-of-the-mill hacking.
"It was carried out by a team of skilled professionals, either on behalf of a foreign government or at the behest of anti-climate change lobbyists in the United States," he said.
"A very clever nerd can cause a great deal of disruption and obviously make intelligence services very nervous, but a sophisticated intelligence operation is capable of yielding the sort of results we've seen here," Sir David said.
"Quite simply, it's the sophistication of the operation. I know there's a possibility that they had a very good hacker working for these people, but it was an extraordinarily sophisticated operation," he said.
"There are several bodies of people who could do this sort of work. These are national intelligence agencies and it seems to me that it was the work of such a group of people," he added.
More than 1,000 emails, and some 2,000 documents, were stolen from a university back-up server where remote access is difficult.
This represents a small fraction of the total number of emails for the period from 1996 to 2009, suggesting they had been selected for the most incriminating phrases relating to possible scientific misconduct and breaches of the Freedom of Information Act.
The leak of the emails in the weeks running up to the climate change conference in Copenhagen appeared to be carefully timed to destabilise the meeting. (ANI)