The ultimate hack.
An article this week in India’s Economic Times newspaper reported on a formal complaint lodged with the Delhi police of sexual harassment from an employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) against one of its directors, a certain RK Pachauri, who also happens to be the chairman of the IPCC. Obviously there’s no conflict of interests in holding down both posts. The 75-year-old is accused by a 29-year-old woman of inappropriate and unwelcome advances, even after she’d repeatedly indicated any infatuation was not returned.
The article has been taken down from the paper’s website because of what looks to be an injunction, commonly called a gagging order, by the Indian courts but you can still find screen print copies of the article in these two pictures here and here (H/T Ric Werme). Given that the respected daily also has a reasonable paper circulation in which the story has already appeared on the front page, I’m not sure how a retrospective gagging order can be applied to the story. Perhaps it obliges people to hand back that day’s paper.
Among other things, the 33 page formal complaint alleges a bombardment of inappropriate communications using different social networking platforms, such as SMS and WhatsApp messages, as well as his email account and even his mobile phone. The truth or not of the allegations will no doubt be thoroughly investigated by the police, though it has to be said it would take a brave and deeply aggrieved woman to go up against such a rich and powerful figure, especially in a country like India, which is considered by many to have a systemic rape culture largely indifferent to a woman’s right to say no, never mind something thought less grievous such as sexual harassment.
In a statement to the paper, Mr. Pachauri said that these risqué messages didn’t originate from him because all the various accounts and devices the messages were sent from had been mysteriously hacked by a party or parties unknown. At face value, that seems a reasonable explanation but it does seem a lot of trouble to hack all these different accounts. Some time back, I outlined how much work an external hack takes in reality rather than in the movies, and after the disastrous fallout from the climategate “hack” (wink wink nod nod), I’m sure the head of the IPCC would certainly be more security conscious than most.
Apparently this harassment has been going on since September 2013, which is when the lady joined the company, so I do find it curious that such an extensive breaching of all his accounts has gone undetected for nearly a year and a half.
I have to say though, that if I had access to his email account and wished him ill, I could think of a lot more interesting ways of making his life extremely difficult, rather than harassing a relatively junior employee of his company. Perhaps something like the anonymous publication of all his emails – Pachaurigate? I think I should TM that name right now, if only in the unlikely event that such a thing should occur.
At least he’s not accusing the poor woman of making a malicious complaint to the police about him which, if there should be a complete miscarriage of justice and he’s found guilty of the accusations, would leave him open to a defamation countersuit. I’m sure he must be very confident that after an exhaustive investigation, enough traces will be found of the mysterious hacker by a co-opted section of Norwich Constabulary to completely exonerate him à la climategate.
Of a more technical consideration, I have to say that there’s only so much hacking can do. For instance, it can’t hand-write notes which are apparently part of the documentation attached to the woman’s complaint. I suppose we could be dealing with a multi-skilled hacker who’s also expert at forging a person’s writing. I think hacking someone’s handwriting is a very reasonable explanation of what was obviously a part of a nefarious plot.
The ultimate and most sophisticated step of the hack can be deduced from a quote in the newspaper from the formal complaint – “On many occasions, against my wishes and despite knowing that I am totally against any such behaviour/act, Dr Pachauri has grabbed my body by hugging me, holding my hands, forcibly kissing me and touching my body inappropriately.”
Since Dr Pachauri has not accused the lady in question of making false accusations and indeed put all those regrettable incidents down to hacking, then the only reasonable explanation is obvious – someone hacked his hands on several occasions. This is a whole new area of what can only be called grope-hacking, which I must confess I’ve never heard of.
When you put it all together; the hacking of multiple accounts, his mobile phone, his handwriting and even his hands, it becomes obvious that Mr. Pachauri is the target of a massive and very sophisticated conspiracy, which is no doubt being financed by the usual suspects of Big Oil, Koch brothers and the bulging coffers of the skeptic blogosphere. If I didn’t know better, it could almost be mistaken for “conspiracy ideation” or a rather flimsy excuse for some rather dirty old man behaviour.
His explanation is strongly supported by a flood of commenters, whom nobody has seen before, onto the skeptic blogs which are covering the story. Strangely enough, their advice seems to be suspiciously uniform – for various reasons of both shame and virtue, we shouldn’t mention Pachauri’s travails. Just move along now. Some cynical types might just think these newbies are nothing more than a few paid trolls operating under several sock puppet personas brought in to minimise the damage and get the story suppressed.
There’s no chance of this ballooning into another Strauss-Kahn affair, with more women being emboldened to come forward and make complaints against him, since Pachauri’s reputation with regard to how he treats ladies of the opposite sex is quite legendary in climate circles. It really is.
Getting back to the realms of reality, there’s absolutely nothing funny about sexual harassment for its victims. It’s a deeply distressing experience and should be recognised and condemned for what it is – predatory sexual behaviour which should be prosecuted with the same rigour as any other crime against the person.
Related articles by Pointman: