FREEDOM of Information laws across the world were introduced as a way to open governments and their agencies to public and journalistic scrutiny and to extract the kind of information that tends not to make its way into press releases and government pamphlets.
But seen through the eyes of some climate change scientists, it is a law which appears to have been hijacked by climate science sceptics and free market think tanks as a means to rifle through their inboxes in search of anything which, when taken out of context, might be used to make them look bad.
In the US, Penn State University climate scientist Professor Michael Mann - he of the famous 'hockey stick' graph - recently fought off a long running attempt by the climate science denial think tank the American Tradition Institute to gain access to his emails.
As The Guardian has reported, the ATI, led by one of its directors Christopher Horner, has pursued several other scientists using FOI laws to gain access to their email inboxes. Mr Horner has also made specific requests for correspondence between scientists and journalists.
Mann has described such cases as an “abuse of public records and FOIA laws”, saying the efforts were “frivolous and vexatious”.
Lawyer with the Climate Science Legal Defence Fund Jeff Ruch told The Guardian that the requests were “basically a spying operation” to “find material that is potential of use in discrediting a scientist.”