Eli Rabett's comments thread discovered that the FOIA requests involved were created by Steve McIntyre's supporters as part of a deliberate spam campaign; they came up with a question that they could re-ask for every state and territory in the world, starting with Afghanistan and working through Wallis and Futuna Island.
They could have issued a single request for "any confidentiality agreements signed with any state or territory" - instead they generated over a hundred, and unwisely discussed the standard template they used on the web. It's an attack so obvious that the Freedom of Information Act itself foresees it; one of the grounds on which you can turn down a request is if it comes as part of a "vexatious" campaign. Yer man McIntyre does seem to like slightly clunky denial-of-service attacks.
The Independent, meanwhile, interviews Sir John Houghton and discovers that:
The words are the very first to appear in the "manual" of climate denialism written by the journalist and arch-sceptic Christopher Booker. They get more than a 100,000 hits on Google, and are wheeled out almost every time a climate sceptic has a point to make, the last occasion being in a Sunday newspaper article last weekend written by the social anthropologist and climate sceptic Benny Peiser.
The trouble is, Sir John Houghton has never said what he is quoted as saying. The words do not appear in his own book on global warming, first published in 1994, despite statements to the contrary.
And they proceed to land a palpable hit on Peiser and his wanktank:
Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University, also cited the 1994 edition of Sir John's book as the source of the quote, which he used last Sunday in an article denouncing the alarmism of climate scientists. Dr Peiser admitted to The Independent that he had not read the book recently and had only used the quote "from memory" because it is so widely cited in other books on climate scepticism.
"I've seen it printed in many books. He is well known for making these statements. I've used that quote on many occasions from one of the books on climate alarmism. If he makes the claim that he never said this then he has to clarify that," Dr Peiser said.
"If he publicly says that he never made that statement then, of course, I wouldn't use it, but this is the first time I've heard [his denial] and this has been going on for 15 years. This quote has been used for the past 15 years," he said.
In fact, the earliest record of the quote comes not from 15 years ago but from November 2006...
Mind you, the Indy still lets Lawsons Dominic and Nigel babble away in its pages. You can't have everything.
*Does anyone know where the very first use of Very Serious Person might be?