Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Assad Files Paper Recycling Continues

December 3, 2017

Ian Birrell for The Mail on Sunday has dramatic, first-time revealed certain parts of a previously reported pile of papers story: "Body parts stashed in fridges, horrific accounts of torture and mystery disappearances: Full horror of President Assad's regime laid bare as smuggled documents held in secret location are opened for the first time" 2 December 2017 | Updated: 03:09 EST, 3 December 2017.  Headlining shock-point list:
  • Operatives smuggled 800,000 documents out of Syria for evidence of Assad's war crimes
  • One was wounded fleeing with a case full of documents, another was killed in an ambush  
  • At least 400,000 have been killed while thousands are held in detention centres 
  • Papers reveal corpses stacked in hallways, bodies with eyes gouged out and unexplained disappearances 
There's one cited document in the relevant period that might be opened for the first time here, one other that's pre-conflict and irrelevant, and two important highlighted documents ... that are the same two important highlighted documents in a few news reports already on the "Assad Files." These news stories span the last three years and running, well-paced for story longevity, every 7-11 months. In each reminder article, it's presented as new and shocking, and they keep pulling up these two main documents and a couple of rotating others as a sampling that's ... deliberately weak? Or just the best they could find?

Timeline of "Assd Files" stories
  • 8 October, 2014: New York Times 
  • (7 months later) 12 May 2015: Syria's Truth Smugglers, the Guardian
  • (11 months later) April, 2016 Bashar al-Assad's War Crimes Exposed Ben Taub, the New Yorker
  • (11 months later) March 15, 2017: Reuters piece, to prime us for the following?
  • (11 days later)  March (26?), 2017: Documentary: Syria's Disappeared aired on Channel 4, UK 
  • (8 months later) December 2, 2017: this in the Daily Mail.
Looking at that, I'd say the pace has picked up this year. If you do the tired old trick a little faster, it can seem fresher, seem like it's "going somewhere." 

The people responsible for collecting and spinning the "Assad files": Committee for International Justice and Accountability, a private but government-supported group dedicated to getting certain governments in legal or legal-seeming trouble. They try to do this by gathering evidence - especially paperwork - but also often-crucial and unverifiable claims from alleged witnesses. Birrell refers to the CIJA and its contractors inside Syria several times as "brave." Some of their activists/smugglers have reportedly been killed or wounded by a regime desperate to hide the blood-curdling secrets contained in these papers. 

Bill Wiley is the main visible face of this project, cited in the Mail article. Wiley and co. have a bunch of real documents - there are others who've run clearly fake docs, but I doubt these guys do. There are over 800,000, they say, hoping for a day in court. Between all of these, we have now FOUR documents shared in some detail as best examples. These aren't one-in-a-million examples or complete flukes mind you. These represent one out of every 200,000+ files. That strengthens the case. They didn't find just one shady-seeming document in this enormous cache. They found four of them.

But that appearance of oppression could also be in how you read the documents, as we'll see below. And from the rest they keep not showing, it seems they have 799,996 or more documents that don't even look criminal when put in a certain light. That is, they might have a massive documentary absolution of the "Assad regime," that they never plan to let some defense team see. It' all for show, to keep the appearance of repression and the need for this running regime change campaign.

The first three specified papers were already tallied and analyzed at the well-done ACLOS page and written about here at the Monitor. Below, in review: what's shared in Birrell's piece, what's not shared, and what's new here - a fourth entry, finally.

specific claims - not new: 
1- crisis cell meeting August 5 (ACLOS): (not dated here aside from August, presuming same document or day's set of files). This order for a crackdown  may mention non-violent activists as people to round up, and maybe that's why this one was chosen (it could literally be a typo not repeated in following orders). But some activists were coordinating and knew things, and would be good to question at least. And more importantly, said orders should also mention militants involved in this crisis. Yet this is not mentioned, suggesting Wiley and co. have omitted it in their selective presentation.

It's a serious omission to make. Just 5 days earlier in Hama, on July 31, unexpectedly capable militants launched coordinated raids on several security posts, killing some two dozens police and military, dumping 13 slaughtered captives in the river the next morning, at least one with his throat cut. Between militants killed in self-defense, and civilians (killed by the militants?) some 80+ other men were also killed in Hama this day, and the package was sold as over 100 protesters gunned down for no reason. (see here)

The Syrian government already had hundreds of security personnel killed across the country, many civilians killed as well, and daily accusations of regime crimes pushing towards military intervention ala Libya. So they had a crisis, and developed a national plan. The CIJA publicity machine gives us a distorted partial look at it, spun as an unprovoked attack on strictly peaceful protesters.  

2- DeZ bodies in fridges memo (ACLOS):
"In September, the public attorney in Deir Ezzor sent three faxes—later retrieved by the CIJA’s investigators—to the governor, the Syrian minister of justice, and the head of the province’s joint investigation committee, urging them to stop violating Syrian law. In one, he wrote, “Parents and relatives of the arrested persons are asking daily about the fates of sons, fathers, and brothers. You ought to listen to what they have to say. The hospital refrigerator is full of unidentified corpses that have disintegrated, since they have been there for a long period of time.” (Taub)
This Deir Ezzour public attorney could be a rebellion sympathizer, or just being informed by them. It could be they have relatives arrested for armed activities, or on suspicion, and are worried. Or it could be people they think were arrested but were really killed by the regime and stuffed in fridges, or by criminal gangs and dumped somewhere. Presumably found bodies the government has no identity for are being stored in fridges as people worry. "Body parts" seems to be extrapolated from the bodies "deteriorating"

Document dated September 11. No one mentions the date, but I was able to read it myself on the document - 9/11/2011 is ten years since 9/11/2001 and just as ambassador Stevens was getting killed by the same kind of "protesters" over in Benghazi. This is the extra-chilling document they actually show us - the only one, I think (shown panning by in the Channel 4 program). I asked about a translation from these screen-grabs, but got no response. I'm now crowdsourcing this. Comments open, etc. This is the one document we can see in full, mostly, and get translated. What all does it say? Note this will be the one with the least exculpatory context, their best example of a document where the whole page almost looks right. Let's see how close it gets.

3 (not mentioned here) Late May 2011 (ACLOS): Jameh orders torture stopped, no doc where he ordered it begun - apparently he heard reports or even just accusations that it was happening, and also reiterated don't shoot protesters, without specifying whether or not he believed this was actually happening. It all seems like "if you're doing this crap, please stop." 

That's the three documents they bother to highlight as best examples.

New Bits from Birrel
Mazen Hamada Family Updates: not part of the files but related to their permanently-attached star witness Mazen Hamada (it's he, not "papers" that speaks of gouged-out eyes): "His remaining family has disappeared after a recent regime attack on Deir ez-Zor." He was in touch with them under ISIS occupation until then? Hm.
"Four relatives are still missing, although he thinks he saw the body of one nephew among 53,000 images of corpses smuggled out by a military police photographer." Earlier he still held out hope... this nephew was arrested with him way back in 2012, and would have to die prior to August, 2013 in order to be seen in the Caesar Photos. but he only decided on a match, apparently, since his last stories in 2016. This is a bunch of crap digging for fresh drama to keep the story alive. He's studied the photos and cites some abuses seen therein, like gouged-out eyes, blue bodies, and a kid with a melted neck as things he saw with his own eyes, also. He might have a specific photo in mind, a dramatic one, to be his poor 15-year-old nephew.

June Beating Death Coverup? Idlib
One apparently new document is revealed, and it's not bad. I'll list at ACLOS, for best example #4. This one is "chilling," the journalist Birrell helpfully notes.
A chilling series of letters from Idlib in June 2012 exposes how a military judge signed off the death of a man from ‘sudden heart attack’ – a euphemism used often with murdered detainees. But the next day a military police officer pointed out the man died due to being beaten at a checkpoint. Doctors confirmed the real cause of death: ‘nervous system failure due to pain caused by bruises all over the body – more specifically, the testicles and the stomach’.
The claim that heart attack is used as a euphemism is unproven. There's been one document shown saying cause of death heart attack, and for all we know it was. Here, for all we know the checkpoint beating could be another like this, at a likely rebel checkpoint, they have a guy badly lashed a couple of minutes prior to having him say on camera, still weak with shock, that Assad's guys did it at a checkpoint. As a first priority, of course he rush over here in a wobbly daze to get the story documented, right?

I suppose this report sounds more like their own checkpoint (or else they wouldn't know it happened at a checkpoint - like if they found a victim dumped. I mean it's not like he'd stagger to an army post before telling the story and keeling over - that's even dumber than the story related above)

Idlib in June, 2011 had some interesting sub-areas - a number of Islamists in the military defected and killed over 100 of their colleagues in Jisr al-Shughour June 3-5, before fleeing back to their sponsors in Turkey. Some of the victims were brutally beheaded in Islamist fashion. It was sold as defectors killed by Alawite militiamen and Iranians, when they refused to kill protesters. So Just who was beating who over what, where and when in this context isn't necessarily clear or all that compelling. For example, if one of these defectors was caught trying to sneak out, and struggled at all, he might get stomped to death by infuriated soldiers, and maybe a doctor might try to write that off. Who knows?

<add 12/3>In my haste I didn't notice these faxes are from June 2012, not 2011. Ok, so that's part of why they didn't cite this yet. Most cited papers are from 2011, when it's believed there was no armed insurgency and all orders of repression were against protesters. By 2012, mentions of militants are less avoidable, and even the public knows militants including Jabhat al-Nusra were well active by then, especially in Idlib. They were more frequently doing things like taking over government checkpoints for periods of time, and whole towns.

As usual, the full context of the document is not shared to get a clearer reading. But there might be some criminal or extrajudicial activity documented in this spot. On the surface, it sounds like someone was beaten to death at a government checkpoint and a doctor tried to cover it up, but changed his story when a military man pointed out the inaccuracy. Hm. This is supposed to reflect the claimed systematic conspiracy to murder detainees all in secret? Is that really so impressive when it's alleged prisoners are rounded up, tortured and exterminated en masse on centralized orders, nationwide and from the start? The CIJA has so shared no documents reflecting such a policy. They found one possible beating death covered up, seeming to be its own unusual incident they were concocting a response to, at worst. It's the most concrete example yet for such alleged coverups, and it sort of contradicts the theory, doesn't it? <end 12/3>

That was our fourth point of proof chosen, compared to a supposed 799,996 other documents that didn't look quite so "chilling" or incriminating. I bet they even have a #5 with a passable line waiting in reserves, the clever buggers.

Consider: the only realistic way to a just peace is with the Syrian government in control and uncontested, like they were in 2010, the last time things were livable there. People like the CIJA say no way, these leaders need to face trial, not run a country or fight terrorism. They have to be brought down and arrested, face trial or get shot, etc. So they endeavor to block peace and prolong the conflict, in the name of justice. You'd better have a damn good case if you insist on this stance.  

These guys pretty clearly do not have a good case, just a repeated performance of confidence using the same small set of tricks

Any lawyers, journalists, human rights campaigners or government officials allowed to see these documents - request a full translation of these best examples, ask for any second-best examples, have those 5-8 documents FULLY translated yourself, and you will then be able to gauge the strength of the case in these 800,000 papers. Don't just accept the word of these confidence artists who get paid to act that way.


  1. Apologies for off topic but could a German speaker translte the podcasts about Yusuff al-Yousef? http://www.alyom.de/

    Many questions but have tried to make a summary here https://imgur.com/fMF8zA6

    1. I can't really do any more due to the language barrier but their map might be inaccurate anyway

      Facebook video shows Yusuf on a roof, view appears to be from one of the buildings in the next block south to where his house was marked


      A rough check on the the graves shown, seems the right area for the al-Yousefs


    2. Just to say, late - this looks like another interesting discrepancy of the kind I might follow-up on if I weren't so busy. I imagine there a lot more such loose threads to find and pull with the KS case, but for my part I have to leave most alone for now. I've got my big gun debunks and a lot of side-points on file, so a pretty good position to call it good enough (for now anyway).


Comments welcome. Stay civil and on or near-topic. If you're at all stumped about how to comment, please see this post.