1) Language is a tricky and powerful thing. Climategate, of course, has its semiotic roots in the Watergate scandal, in the 70ies. The Watergate scandal resulted from the break-in into the democratic Headquarter, which lead to the arrest of five men. Later on president Nixon, who had covered up the break-in, resigned office. Whatever the burglars (and Nixon) found in the office of the Democrats is obviously of no importance; the Watergate scandal deals exclusively with those who broke the law and the men behind. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watergate_scandal)
Climategate instead deals exclusively with the stolen goods, with the content of the hacked emails. Thus, the analogy, the wordplay, is not correct. If it were, the debate would be about the hackers and their accomplices. Was it to cover up this mismatch, that the break-in was (intentionally or not) linguistically transformed into a 'leak'? 1000 or so emails just 'leaked' out of a server, only to appear well filed and accessible on the internet - shortly before the climate summit in Copenhagen.
2) Today, Michael Mann was largely absolved by an academic board of inquiry in three out of four points; the fourth point will be under investigation by another panel. See here the full story:
Dear skeptics, neo-skeptics, post-skeptics, ex-alarmists, and taxpayers: before you join into the choir conducted by senator Imhofe, just consider for a moment that Michael Mann was the victim of a burglary (just like the Democrats in Watergate).
And now the Imhofe singalong:
“We need to reassure the American people that their tax dollars are supporting objective scientific research rather than political agendas,” he said.
I am sure that those who hacked the server will join the choir.
I don't want to take sides in the scientific part of the debate, but I am an expert in storytelling. Seen from the perspective of narration, this story stinks.
3) Thus, the story - climategate! fraud! scandal! - was ready for the big stage, for CNN and Fox and the like. Julie Holar shows in her article 'Climategate overshadows Copenhagen. Media regress to the bad old days of false balance' (http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4006) how the media immediately staged political debates about this story. In the name of balance of interests and opinions, they invited so-called critical climate scientists, formerly simply called skeptics and now again proud of their name. The debate was open again - is climate change really real? Global warming - trick or truth? Innocent moderators like Anderson Cooper pretended to be neutral; he just followed this brand new developing story, in search of the truth. Innocent? Neutral? The truth? Brand new? The debate was not about cap & trade versus decarbonization; it was not about clean energies and infrastructures; it was not about mitigation and / or adaptation; it was not about the conflict between developed and developing countries - instead, it was a rollback into the stone age of the climate discussion.
Maybe climategate never really was about good or bad climate science; instead, it seems to be a dirty little story that developed into a big thing driven by cultural (not scientific!) logic and based on crude analogies, forced metaphors, familiar symbols and the usual stereotypes. Good enough for many to jump on this bandwagon in order to rearrange the power relations and agendas in climate science and climate politics.