This site deals only with the corporate corruption of science, and makes no inference about the motives or activities of individuals involved.
There are many reasons why individuals become embroiled in corporate corruption activities - from political zealotry to over-enthusiastic activism; from gullibility to greed.
Please read the OVERVIEW carefully, and make up your own mind.
This is a research tool for those wishing to understand how health and environmental science in the modern society is being systematically corrupted — usually by large corporations and industry umbrella groups — but also, on occasions, by greedy individuals.
We also recognise that zealous or ignorant environmental and health activists are also often themselves involved in the systematic distortion of science.
Many people imagine that public relations and professional corporate lobbyists are rather nasty, obsequious people who lie constantly.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Such people are totally ineffective.
You can't make a living in glad-handing professions [politics, PR, lobbying and the distortion of science and the political processes] unless you are an affable, attractive, one-of-the-boys/girls type. Most of these people are gregarious and intelligent.
Nor do these people simply distort the truth by outright lies: it's far too easy to be caught out. Most PR is a matter of selectively packaging the truth while de-emphasisising inconvenient facts and figures.
Similarly, don't imagine that every scientist who received a grant from the corporate research funds for the tobacco industry was necessarily engaging in distorted or corrupt science. There are many ways to skin a cat.
It should be remembered that many grants were given to independent scientists to conduct research that the tobacco industry had already conducted in secret (they had secret laboratories in Europe) so they knew the outcome before the grant was given. A null-output (finding no effect) is almost as valuable to a public-relations practitioner as a positive finding of some kind.
And the scientific conferences mounted or just funded by the tobacco industry were rarely packed solely with tobacco scientists; the trick was always to have many genuine specialist speakers, and to simply control some of the key conference/seminar roles — such as the moderator of the debates, the keynote speach, and particulary the summing up and the organisation, and editorial task of the publishing the proceedings. This sort of thankless task was often left to volunteers, and no one is keener to volunteer services more than corporate lackeys who have the resources of billion dollar corporations to fall back on for the hack work.
The running of organisations — provide the required secretarial, treasury, fund-raising, organisation, administration, and editorial services.
The fact is that every branch of science develops a group of science-administrator who prefer to play the role of meeting chairman, editor, manager, delegate — often with the prestige that such a position carries — to that of the practitioner. Some see such 'work' as simply a means for career advancement, while others delude themselves that their motives are predominantly philanthropic
One of the great tricks widely used in the corruption of science is to sieze the linguistic high-ground — take control of the jargon, and assume a proprietary interests in terminology by defining it to suit your self or your corporate clients.
This was a favourite trick in the tort reform industry. The appeals for regulators to use "sound science" implied that they weren't ... and the constant harping on "junk-science" became ambodied in a number of corporate funded "astroturfs" who purported to be the authorities identifying and defining what was good and bad science. The master practitioner of this black art was Steve Milloy, although the idea seeems to have been invented by Peter Huber.
Another is the promotion of "Risk Assessment", and the development of this as a univesity discipline. In effect it was little more than the additional accounting of cost-benefits to the principles of estimating biological risks. But it was boosted by the corporate lobbyists into a guiding prinicple, since it had the effect of hobbling the regulatory agencies, and adding an extra burden to their already-over-stretched budgets and staffing resources.
When promoted to the unknowing public, the idea of the EPA or FDA conducting "Risk assessment" before promulgating new regulations, carries much the same image as the popular medical expression "Evidence Based Medicine". Who could possibly reject either? Of course the problem is 'who decides what is the evidence, and who decides what is no...' and what assumptions like behind the 'assessment'.
The great guru of Risk assessment, John D Graham, who ran the Harvard Risk Assessment Center, supposedly attached to the Harvard School of Public Health (neither of which, despite the names, were under Harvard university's administrative or ethical control) has an almost infallible record in his ability to bet on the wrong horse. CAFE, tobacco, etc. In fact he was so consistent, that George W Bush chose him to run the OIRA, or the OMB to supervise the supervisors — the EPA, FDA, OSHA, etc.
This website began as an infromation exchange between journalists and academic researchers involved in reading and analyzing the 7 million-odd documents which the US tobacco industry released under various legal discovery actions, and as a result of negotiated settlement between the States Attorney-Generals and the executives, who were in danger of being charged with raceteering under the US RICO act.
See the main
Smoking Gun documents index
To fully understand the significance of most documents in the tobacco archives requires a reasonable knowledge of the people, the organisations and the activities — and often the nicknames and acronyms and jargon being used. Some require substantial scientific knowledge, and others require more than a smattering of legal expertise. For this reason the left-hand column alongside the time-lines always provides access to quick-check acronym/jargon indexes. There is also a Dates index if you want to discover what was happening in the tobacco battlefield at the time documents were being written.
However some documents can stand alone as clear evidence of the immoral and unethical behavior of various individuals and organisations working for the tobacco companies and/or their coalitions. These are the 'smoking gun' documents that often were so obvious (even to tobacco's bought politicians) that they could not be ignored.
| To say that the process of science has been corrupted is not the same as saying the scientists themselves were necessarily corrupt. |
This site grew out of shared research notes of university researchers and investigative journalists who were co-operating in investigating the US release of tobacco industry documents. The process began in about 1993 following some early court cases, and then exploded in 1997 with the Master Settlement Agreement of the Racketeering Case (RICO) against the combined cigarette companies.
The database has been carried on and extended as a resource, primarily for the training of journalists, but it also serves to educate and elucidate those simply interested in understanding the processes which lead to the systematic corruption of science, scientists, academics and universities; the promotion of disinformation through the media; and the bribery (often subtle) of politicians and bureaucrats.
Although the majority of the research rests on primary documents in the archives of the US tobacco industry, this does not limit the range of interests to simply cigarettes — nor does it mean that the documents are US-centric. Tobacco companies were all multi-national conglomerates after about 1980. It is important to understand that:
- The tobacco companies also owned the giant world-wide food conglomerates; soft-drink and coffee producers; wine and beer makers; oil and energy companies; international shipping and transport; very large US real-estate developments; pharmacueticals; and both insurance and assurance companies.
- Behind the scenes they also had financial and (often) controlling links to the largest of the global public relations companies, lobbying firms, public polling organisations, campaign management groups, and headhunting firms.
- Executives of tobacco and other large American industries often had 'revolving door' careers: part-time at the head of global Corporate Affairs/Issues Management divisions; part-time as apparatchiks and managers of the major political parties; partly as lobbyists and presidents of industry associations; part-time as professors of law or business at some of the most prestigious universities.
- The middle management levels of the corporations usually had a revolving door through aides to compliant politicians or Congressional committees, and the running of corporate-funded think-tanks and policy institutes.
- The tobacco industry established and coordinated many coalitions with other industries (and individual companies) that had related problems:
- public liability threats (aka 'tort reform' activities)
- discounting science which threatened their businesses (the 'sound-science' and 'junk-science' movements)
- promotion of shared interests (fake indoor air-quality testing with ventilation companies and equipment maintainers/manufacturers)
- exerting political influence in the major parties (specifically the Republican party)
- They owned scientific front organisations. The also started and controlled scientific journals (often peer reviewed), and funded and controlled scientific conferences (which published 'selected proceedings'). Some were specifically connected to tobacco or indoor-air quality, but others were more general (toxicology, risk assessment, etc) which they shared with other industries.
- They also sought to influence the general media in many different ways, including take-overs and influence activities, such as:
- outright payment made to feature writers and newspaper columnists. Special syndication deals with a number of feature distribution organisations.
- the secret purchase of a top American national magazine, the Saturday Review.
- suggestions that they purchase the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain and/or Omni magazine.[Did it happen?]
- Organised distribution of 'packages' of copyright-free general interest articles, cartoons, columns to local and small-circulation newspapers and magazines.
- Control of the CBS TV network (by the Tisch family which owned Lorillard)
- Special deals struck with the National Educational Television (NET) network.
- Organised distribution to mainstream print and broadcast media of Video News Releases (VNRs), sound bites and interviews, opinion articles (often directed at a political action).
- Organised networks of cash-for-comments academic economists, lawyers, labor union executives, etc. to write commissioned op-eds and letters-to-the-editor of capital-city and local newspapers
- Funding of the corporate-controlled National Journalism Center in Washington DC (which also provided a placement service for its graduates)
- (perhaps) establishment of an International Journalism Center in Eastern Europe following the break up of the Soviet Union, in association with the Heritage (US) and the Adam Smith (UK) Foundation
- hundreds of international junkets for journalists and editors, often to exotic tropical locations in the midst of winter.
- Special deals struck with News Corporation [Rupert Murdoch's media group] in exchange for financial and other support. (including Board swaps)
The American tobacco industry did not exist in isolation. Through litigation and the on-line archive, it simply became the most obvious and exposed of a large cluster of poisoning and polluting industries that operated globally, and share resources with subsidiaries and partners in other countries.
For this reason, every student journalist should spend considerable time with these documents. It is the best learning tool available about how multinational, multifasceted corporations operated in today's political and social environment.
What's more, the exposure of the tobacco industry to such scrutiny is unlikely to be repeated. Executives and issues-management staff in all major companies know that they should never spell out possible incriminating evidence on paper, ever again. Companies know that they should systematically purge their files.
If anyone wants to know how corporate politics operates, this is the best — and possibly only really useful — resource they will ever have.
The Corruption of Science
This web site deals specifically with how scientific processes in our society are corrupted. By this, we mean the the chain of events which begin with the original idea, and end sometimes with elaborate and expensive promotion of the findings through specialist scientific magazines, conferences, letters-to-the-editor, op-ed pieces, and through the general media.
Some corporate-funded science is open to distortion in many different ways extending to (but not limited by) the following.
- The overall design of the scientific research procedureds,
- the selection of hypotheses to test
- A certain amount of commissioned scientific research is only done when the results are foreknown by corporations..
- Some research is only done when it is already established that the researchers will find nothing.
- And a certain amount of research is done when the hypotheses to be tested are known to be irrelevant.
- the design of the testable protocols.
- conducting the research
• Was it done in the way they claim it was done?
- Many of the so-called 'protocos' read more like PR of push-polling plans
- We usually have no way of knowing that the numbers of tests claimed, were ever actually done.
- We don't know that 'blinded' techniques were followed
- the manipulation of the data and the conclusions drawn
- Who prepared the final report; who did the statistical work?
- Who subedited the final report (usually the scientific PR people)?
- How much of the data was discarded, and how much was 'normalised'?
- the distribution of information in the scientific world
- the writing and/or presentation of the study in a publication of symposium
- the 'peer review process'
- the exploitation of citations and citation-counts
- the deliberate misinformation of the public/consumer, or
- the regulatory activities arising out of scientific discoveries/findings
are being deliberately and systematically diverted from the course they would normally have taken in an ideal world.
Science is an evolutionary selection process where ideas and hypotheses take off in seemingly random directions. Researchers will often explore the way ahead, following down what appears to be promising pathways which turn out to be blind alleys or cul-de-sacs which require them to back-track and start again. Mistakes in science are a natural part of the process. Time might be wasted, but the process is eventually self-correcting, and new facts will often emerge in a serendipidous way during these side-tracking forays.
But corporate corruption of science is something else again. A thousand dollars spent on corrupting the science can have multiple-million dollar consequences to the economy, and the loss of lives and well-being for large numbers of people.
This is essentially because science corruption is a lobbying activity ... and a special kind of specialist lobbying that often has far-reaching effects in the society. Its distortion can have chains of consequences which are much more serious than normal political lobbying.
Science rarely advances smoothly in a single direction. It almost always consists of miscellaneous disputes, erratic findings, fiece rivalries, often with (sometimes well-deserved) charges of incompetence. Such things are normal in science.
Corruption is a corporate activity In this web-site we are looking at something more than the moral failings of individual scientists. Nor is there any suggestion that every person, or every organisation identified here is in some way corrupt or associated with corrupt activities.
This is primarily an aid to journalists and academic researchers looking at the tobacco document archives. These consist of 20 million pages of material written by many hundreds of employees, contractors and lobbyists — some of whom are deliberately seeking to obscure their message.
It is obvious that new readers need a guide to help them understand the documents, and the opinion sections are offered in this way. The time-lines are essentially corrected indexes (name misspellings and mis-datings are common in the original legal indexes unfortunately), and also to:
- remove redundancy — often there will be 20 or more copies of the same document. (However some might have important hand-written marginal notes)
- ignore irrelevancy — after files have been culled, sometimes we are left with nothing but dozens of fax cover-sheets when the actual contents are shredded.
- bypass housekeeping — corporate files will always contain a high percentage of useless information for the outside researcher.
- reveal submerged — sometimes, in documents with dozens of closely-typed housekeeping information, there will be one paragraph (perhaps expressed in cryptic form) which is vitally important to understanding what was happening.
- de-couple complexity — you will often find that multiple documents grouped under one file-heading have been indexed as a single document. Some of the most interesting documents have been uncovered by laboriously searching through these multiple pages of useless information.
You only get to recognise the most pertinant information after many years of research, the recognition of names and nick-names, an understanding of the different corporate divisions and the way these intereacted, and the development of an overall comprehension of the way in which these industries coordinate their activities, and influence politicians and the media.
The only way to do this is to lump the good with the bad, and the bad with the fucntionaries. We have here listed the worst of the cigarette lobbyist and professional science corrupters; the staffers who just obeyed orders; the bystanders who are refered to in the documents and need to be indentified; the 'legitimate' consultants and scientists who worked on producing the products that these companies sold, and trying to find ways to make their products safer ... and the consultants, scientist, and academics who took the pieces of silver and sold their soul to the devil.
What do we mean by Science Corruption?
Corruption is a strong word. It implies, at the very least, a systematic, conspiratorial arrangement to create a public lie. To collaborate knowingly in the production or mis-information for the purpose of profit — either economical or political — in a way that is well outside the bounds of normal social rules and national laws.
Very obviously, the tobacco industry has engaged in science corruption for decades. It began to deliberately confuse the scientific findings from their own, and other scientist's research, in the early 1950s when the first health scare over smoking emerged. At this time it formed the TIRC and the TI — the first to give the appearance of performing checks on health consequences of smoking, and the second to act as an industry lobby to shield their companies from the attack of anti-smoking groups, and promote their falsified ideas to the public and politicians. They used the media to convey this falsified message, and the media was willing to be used because it made a steady stream of income from the advertising of cigarettes - which was, at this time, the most advertised product in America
Many politicians had a hand in this deception, and were therefore part of the systematic corruption, but it is difficult to finger them individually.
The individual scientists involved in the tobacco industry's scientific corruption can best be described as having exhibited "unethical behaviour" rather than corruption. In many cases scientists have allowed their political and personal philosophies to get the better of their scientific judgements, and influence their associations with highly dubious enterprises, plans and projects. Sometimes they knew who was behind these organisations and operations, and sometimes they didn't. It is very difficult for an outsider — especially one with a different social and political mindset — to make valid judgements about the motivations of particular scientists even when the accumulation of documented evidence points strongly to what could be construed as corrupt behaviour.
Equally, it is clear that many academics and scientists were using the status afforded them by their employment in tax-payer-funded universities and medical research facilities for personal profit by offering their services to the tobacco industry. Sometimes this is so obvious that you wonder how anyone could take their pronouncements seriously, and how they could retain their tenured position in universities and colleges, but that is a judgement taken with the benefit of hindsight and 10 million tobacco industry documents.
Problems with collaboration
Another reason why you must often suspend judgement on individual scientists is because much of this type of research involves collaborations of different kinds, between scientists and academics from different disciplines, often with different ethical views.
For instance Dr Carl C Seltzer, a physical anthropologist from the Peabody Museum on the Harvard University grounds, had access to the Harvard mainframe computer at a time when such processing power was scarce. He worked virtually full-time for the tobacco industry, who promoted him as an "independent Harvard professor" and statistical expert to various independent groups conducting epidemiological research. With such qualifications and access to a mainframe computer, he became a highly attractive collaborator to have attached to the documented research reports — especially since he was offered for free, and willing to undertake the hard slog of report preparation. The Kieser Group got caught in this way, and the study which was released under their name bore little resemblance to their findings — to the point where they vocally withdrew they report and issued a fresh one of their own.
This was a case where the tobacco industry's lackeys overstepped the mark, and bought attention to themselves. But you can be certain that this was a rare occasion, and that similar activites were taking place constantly once the industry realised how effective this ploy was. It only takes one rotten apple in a barrel to destroy the value of the lot.
There are many cases where one highly-disreputable scientist's name appears in the credentials list on important studies .. which leaves you wondering how much influence he/she was in a position to assert.
The politics of science
The blind study is an important tool of science for very good reasons. Those with the problems of interpreting scientific findings have long understood that personal attitudes, religious and political convictions can play a large part in the outcome of an experiment. The idea of blinding a study, so those making the judgements of the outcomes are not familiar with other possible influences, is often essential.
Knowing this, we should also recognise that the same personal and attitudinal factors are involved in other ways — ways that very often also influence the outcome:
- In selecting what study to do, and the way to do it.
- In selecting who to collaborate with
- In selecting the source of funding, and how the approach will be made.
- In selecting where the study will be published
This is a problem that works both ways. The liberal crusader holding a position in science is equally liable to distort the findings as a scientist dependent for his comfortable lifestyle on a succession of tobacco industry grants. Collaboration Scientific collaboration creates many problems in determining the trustworthiness ofthose who have obviously collaborated with known tobacco scientists. The most obvious, is that of the benefit of hindsight. Many of these scientific friends of the tobacco industry are now well exposed, but at the time of the collaboration they were not. Lay-readers also often have a naive view of how scientific research (which covers a very wide range of activities) is conducted; they often find it difficult to believe that the science could be distorted without all or most of those involved knowing and participating. But this is not the case. You will often find known tobacco confabulators conducting slanted research with known anti-smoking scientific crusaders or totally trustworthy scientist. Some types of studies illustrate this well: for instance the 10 nation collaborative study into the effect of ETS on non-smoking wives [See] has three known tobacco scientists among those listed, but it is difficult to see how they could have manipulated the results other than by softening the language used in the final report. The fact is that the tobacco industry's confabulators will often actively seek out crusaders or celebrity scientists as partners in order to boost the standing of their research. Therefore isolated instances of collaboration with tobacco scientists shouldn't be treated as indicative. It is certainly not exceptional. Of course, the opposite is also true. In many cases it is difficult to imagine that individuals or small groups could collaborate for so many years on so many tobacco research projects, without each member of the group/partnership becoming aware of the ethics of the others. Such judgements need to be made on an individual basis, dependent on the total amount of information available which is why we are presenting the evidence in this form, and largely leaving it up to you to make your own determinations.
The problems of the niche
Certain types of biomedical research require specialised knowledge and equipment, and so the range of scientists available to do this work narrows - often to the point where only a half-dozen or so experts exist in a given field. This has another effect on the quality of the research findings ... such scientists are often limited in their source of funds. The range of industries or companies interested or required to research in this area may be totally restricted; government funds are generally provided only to problems with a 'wider market'. In this way legitimate scientist can often come under the sway of industries, even if they are not fully 'captured'. For instance, research into the biological effects of cellphones using animal models, requires very special exposure equipment. Virtually every independent study using rats, mice, hamsters, etc. exposed to cellphone-like radiation will be criticised on the grounds that the frequency wasn't right, the durations weren't appropriate, the transmission antenna wasn't close enough to the animal, or was too far, and too diffuse in its effect; the animals weren't constrained into one body orientation during exposure ... or they were, and this caused stress and a change in animal hormones ....But once specialised euqipment has been purchased, and a large animal house set up and staff employed, the scientist will be entirely subject to the whim of the cellphone companies to get his/her future funding. Just by the nature of the research, the scientist is a captive of the industry under question. What makes this even more certain, is that governments often withdraw from funding such specialised research, believing (rather naively) that it is the 'duty' of the industry to do such work.
The problem of language
When reading articles on this site you also need to take into account different usages of the language. Quite apart from the problems of spelling, not all varieties of English weigh words in the same way; very often there are cultural differences in how words are used. For instance when we think of Mexican corruption, we tend to think of the traffic policeman who dismisses a speeding charge after finding a 10 peso note folded inside the driver's licence - whereas in the USA, the term is usually applied to high-level bribery of politicians, judges, or political processes. Similarly, the words liberal and libertarian carry different meanings. In Australia, a liberal is a member of the conservative, flag-waving political party, while in the USA it often appears to be an obsenity directed at "tree-hugging, abortion-loving socialists who want to destroy the American way of life" (to quote one critic). "Libertarian" gives non-US readers an even more complex linguistical problem, because it often appears to them to be most proudly proclaimed as a philosophy by organisations, such as the Cato Institute and various La Roche institutions that take 'the defence of unfettered free-enterprise' to the extreme, in ways that would, in some other countries, be classed as 'ultra-conservative' bordering on the Facist. The only recommendation we can make is to become aware of language differences, and take these into account in your reading.
The evidence of "Need to Know".
Sections of the tobacco misinformation business operated in much the same way as the international spy business. Executives and middle management were only informed of the activities of others, especially when they involved subversive or sub activities, on a need-to-know basis. For instance, we find Leonard Zahn, acting as a monitor at the Perry Ambient Air scientific conference in London, reporting back to his Philip Morris controllers about the members he met at the conference. He clearly knew that some of them were in the pay of the tobacco industry, but equally, he did not know about others (who we now know were paid Whitecoats). You will find, for instance, that much of the activities directed by Philip Morris Corporate Affairs were played with the cards held close to their chest. Sharon Boyse at British-American Tobacco was often only vaguely aware of PM's political activities in Europe (which was considered as primarily BAT territory) as can be seen from her memos to BAT executives. While the companies collaborated in running some subterranean scientists and some disinformation projects, they also had their own, tightly guarded secret activities. Allied with this "need to know" security attitude, was also the internal use of couched language in memos and minutes of meetings. Many of the participants were fully aware of the possibility of copies of correspondence being leaked, and so their language was chosen carefully, even in casual correspondence. This care was reinforced by what were obviously executive requirements that words like "addiction" never be used without the prefix "alleged", and that anything that could be interpreted as an admission be euphemised to the point where it would have no legal standing if ever discovered. Closely allied with this is the old political standby of misdirection and simplification, so that the answer is never quite what it appears to be.
In various forums dealing with the tobacco documents and the general problems of science corruption an esoteric jargon has arisen which we believe to be useful in general. When a company like Philip Morris employed a scientist to conduct a study directed at generating some PR output (as distinct from its genuine product-improvement research) it would always ask to review the final report before its release. This document would then be passed through the relevant executives and the lawyers to ensure that it didn't contain any damaging admissions, then it would be passed over to a group of scientific writers who would 'suggest' improvements. Most of these would probably be grammatical changes or phraseology, but an additional (and much appreciated) service was to provide the author of the report with a generous list of references to add to his/her citation list. Most of these would be citations derived from other scientists employed by the tobacco industry. In this way a 'round-robbin' of citation circulation was constructed on a back-scratching, "you cite my report, and I'll cite yours" basis, which was extremely valuable to academics whose measure of success within institutions is often very much dependent on how often their work is cited by their contemporaries. If you look at the research reports prepared by scientists for the tobacco companies, or their grant-making agencies like the CTR or CIAR, you will quickly see a pattern of citation-exchange. Corporate-funded scientists might get mentioned dozens of times more than you would normally expect. Cabal of seminar friends
Someone once called this "the lure of the loan denier". [See AIDS denial New Scientist ]This refers to scientists who see themselves as uniquely brilliant and totally sure of their own intuitive judgement. They will cling to an idea even when there is apparently no economic exterior motive to maintain it. These scientists are a god-send to corporate lobbyists, and they are characterised by:
- Sticking their neck out so far that they can't retreat.
- Arrogance and self-delusion
- . Reinforcement by religious-right delusion (notable in even the Enron executives,)
- Convinced by the 'God has rewarded us by making us wealthy' delusion. This solves any conscience problems.
- The Galileo syndrome — the mistaken belief that Galileo, Newton, Einstein were so far ahead of their contemporaries that their ideas were universally rejected. By inversion of logic, they are able to accounts for why their own ideas are universally rejected.
How much document destruction took place?
If you look through the documents in the archive and search using the basic code "type=fax" to identify which documents arrived at the tobacco companies by fax you will find an incredibly high proportion are first-page oversheets only.
As anyone in the record-keeping business knows, the oversheet pages are the first to be discarded. So we can assume that for every single-page oversheet there once existed an important document which had been filed and kept — but later shredded.
Based on this evidence, you can safely assume that perhaps 80% of the major incriminating documents were deliberately trashed .
This judgement is roughly supported by checking on carbon-copy lists.
Most of these corporate executives and staff involved in disinformation, bribery and corruption were mad copiers — this was their way of telling large numbers of their associates how active and important they were. So often a document will carry 5, 10, twenty or fifty ccd names — yet when you check there may be only one or two in the files. It is a fair guess that some were only of transient interest, but the other 80% were trashed in last minute purging,
We owe it to these copiers that important documents still turns up in someone elses files — even when they have disappeared from the file cabinet of the originator.
People are always more diligent at purging self-incriminating evidence from their own files, than they are of dumping evidence which might sink the boot into someone else.
Like most investigative journalists, we are occasionally threatened by legal suits from different quarters. That is not a serious worry, but it does waste time and energy, and we don't intend to make it easy for the lawyers.
We are currently looking at the various legal structures we could use to form this association. It is clearly most likely to be a cooperative — but the definition of cooperative is radically different in various national legal systems ... and until the web, there was little in the way of legal precendent to set the best pattern.