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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

4-21-2014 CW Incident: Victim Questions

August 20, 2019

I've gathered some general information and analysis on this subject, first at ACLOS long ago, then recently in more detail here, including strange symptoms and chemical findings, and unusually sharp forensic questions. But that post is already sprawling, and these further victim details deserve their own post with room to breathe. Here I mainly draw on details from this 2016 report of the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS):

A New Normal: Ongoing Chemical Weapons Attacks in Syria, February, 2016

On the cover - bottom: Binnish, Idlib, March 23, 2015. That's not chlorine, as reported: it's too light, too green = prob. special effects colored smoke. Good start...

The top image is described "Bab Al Hawa Hospital, Idlib, April 21, 2014."

I was slow to connect that image (or a similar one shown below) to the alleged chlorine attack in Talmenes, Idlib, on that day, but finally did some time ago. (Such mainstream news photos were rare, not something I watched for - most visual clues come from "activist" videos and photos) As it was reported at the time:

"A Reuters photograph of another young boy who had been transferred to a hospital closer to the Turkish border showed him lying dead on a stretcher with blood around his mouth. Medics said he had been exposed to chlorine gas at Telminnes." (via Business Insider).

Well, it doesn't look like his eyes were exposed much, if at all. But his airways, apparently so. It's never good when one and not the other is affected. It's not normal, requires an explanation. (or so I think - a non-expert. If one squeezes their eyes shut on first sting, redness could be kept minimal. It's debatable if this is too minimal)

This was perhaps the best-illustrated and most widely-accepted of four deadly attacks in the Hama-Idlib border area during April-May 2014 (small tolls adding up to about 10 killed in total). It's the only one of the four where the fatalities were not listed as "displaced" from other towns. In three of four cases they were reported as strangers. At right is the map of where people from wound up dying in these shady chlorine events. It always seemed possible that "displaced" was a sort of code for captives kidnapped - as some 80 Alawi civilians were in February, from nearby Ma'an (besides from other places and times). The people taken from Ma'an (white circle at right) were mostly women and children. The IDPs listed as killed were almost entirely women and children too, a pattern that does carry over here in Talmenes. But it seems less suspicious in having hometown victims and no red arrows pointing to it. Odd that it was also the one with Reuters photo, and the best general reception, despite half its barrel bomb impacts being ruled fake by the OPCW's own experts.

But the SAMS report adds details that raise serious questions.

Background, from SAMS report
Of some 350 affected people, the report explains, 19 cases required "more advanced medical care, which they received at Medical Facility A" (one of two unnamed facilities "at the Syrian-Turkish border" that handled patients for this incident). Prior to this, many or all came to Alsiddiq field hospital, one of whose medics described the following symptoms:

* irritation
* seizure (one case)
* vomiting,
* bluish skin,
* redness of the skin with itching,
* redness of the eyes,
* hyper secretion of saliva,
* dyspnea / difficulty breathing
* pupil contraction 
* epiphora [watering eyes],
* cough,
* abdominal pain,
* loss of consciousness

Others mentioned in case details include:
* tachycardia [over-fast heartbeat]
* sweating
* dilated pupils [contraction noted in general - a contradiction?]
* crackles in both lungs areas [meaning damage evident in x-rays?]
* pink foamy secretions

These signs/symptoms are a strange mix of consistent with chlorine, inconsistent, and debatable. "Constricted" pupils were common in this attack, That's mentioned as a sign for sarin, but the only mention on an individual level is for the Al-Hashash boy, with dilated pupils - which is rightly connected to BZ or Agent 15 (see page 32). Chlorine causes neither, just irritation of the whole eye surface. This and loss of consciousness in particular suggest something other chlorine is (allegedly) at work. BZ-Agent 15 is also uniquely suggested by irritation, abdominal pain, but contra-indicated by sweating and salivation. If any one class of chemicals can explain all this, it doesn't seem SAMS has a category for it. They have four categories:
* sarin/nerve agent
* chlorine/choking agent
* mustard gas/blister agent
* BZ or Agent 15/psychotomimetic agent

The 21 April attack reportedly killed people of two families at two nearby locations - not one family as I had first read it. OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report S/1230/2014 (Dec. 18 2014 - PDF link) relates the narrative of two devices dropped by helicopter in quick succession at around 10:30 to 10:45 am. The released chlorine gas reportedly affected 350 people, and caused fatalities in two homes in Talmines about 100 meters apart. The associated names are redacted and never given, but the FFM agrees with all other sources that three died - a young boy and teenage girl in one home, an older woman in the other.

Five specific, detailed cases
The SAMS report describes five serious cases, 3 of them fatal, one unclear. Below I'll consider these in the order given, each with summarized report details, then other sources and notes.

First Case: Mohammad Abdul-Razzak Alhashash, age 6. "He was getting prepared to go to school when he was exposed to a yellow toxic gas. He was unable to breathe and lost consciousness." He arrived at the hospital at 1:30 pm, about three hours after the reported attack, already "intubated under mechanical ventilation," but he died anyway at 2:00 pm. As the one boy aged 6/7 to die, this is clearly the one in photographs. It's not clear if he was also transferred "closer to the Turkish border" (as mentioned above) in that short time, or after death, or at all. Clinical signs: "redness in the face, pink foamy secretions, pupil dilation, diffused crackles in both lungs areas." No mention of oxygen levels, as there is with the others.

VDC lists Mahmoud Abdul Razaq Hashash "Nawas" child-male, age 7, died 4-21 "Martyred due to exposure to Chlorine gas which was contained in a barrel bomb shelled on his house, delivered by the government helicopter" Mohammad vs. Mahmoud could just be a typo - very similar. Either could be accurate, but more likely Mohammad.

FFM heard about and saw medical records for "a seven-year-old boy, who died within a few hours of exposure." He was only "some 15 m from the point of impact of the barrel bomb" yet "there were no signs of physical trauma on his body" - important to prove it was the chemical part, not the dropped bomb blowing up that killed him. From suffocation, the boy "developed cyanosis and, as explained by interviewees, “turned blue in colour”." A bit in the lips, but otherwise, not really. I'd say he displays about normal lividity, suggesting his suffocation was not that prolonged. In fact, it seems very doubtful he struggled with death anywhere near as long as the claimed 3 hours before arriving at the clinic. All that blood means serious internal damage, which is more likely to cause a swift death.

On the cover, an extra-wide view shows a blue catheter tube attached to his groin with lots of tape. I don't think that's normal. A contact with more medical insights had a few guesses what this tube could be. None were related to chlorine response, all tending to respond to existing medical conditions and to happen in a hospital, not at home, likely not even at any facility in Talmines. This is a serious clue of something wrong with the lodged story.

Second Case: Khadejah Barakat, 65-year-old female, was at home when the bomb landed and "yellow gas started to spread and she experienced difficulty breathing and asphyxia." She arrived to the hospital at 2:30 pm (about 4 hours after the reported attack), awake and alert but "with symptoms of dyspnea, tachycardia, sweating, irritation, extensive cough, crackles in both lungs areas." She was immediately put on a ventilator, by a more specific "2:40" pm. A starting O2 saturation of 70% dropped to 60% before 7:00 the next morning (April 22) when she was "transferred to Turkey for advanced medical care."

The entry in the SAMS report ends there, but she's one of two delayed deaths in Turkey, both listed by the VDC on April 25: Khadiga Mohammad Barkat, A-F, Telmenes, died in Turkey, on (or was listed on) April 25, "Martyred with due to exposure to Chlorine gas which was contained in a barrel bomb delivered by the government helicopter on a house on 21-04-2014." OPCW FFM clarifies it's not just listing: "In the second house ... the matriarch of this family died as a result of this exposure on 25 April 2014, in a hospital outside the Syrian Arab Republic."

Third case: Marwa Hashash, 15-year-old girl, was at home (same one her brother was at, presumably, prior to 1:30 pm) but not preparing for school. She was, after all, a girl in "liberated" Syria. "The toxic material container hit" at the same time it did for Mohammad/Mahmoud, but it was some 5-6 hours before she "arrived to the hospital at 7:00 pm." After all that time, she was "awake and oriented" with the usual listed symptoms up to crackles, "and O2 saturation of 60%." That's bad, where Khadija got before transfer and death. But Marwa would be much younger and more resilient. Along with Mrs. Barakat and others, "she was transferred to Turkey for advanced medical care at 7:00 am on April 22, 2014."

As with Mrs. Barakat, the story ends there, but the VDC doesn't list anyone of this name as dying. The OPCW report just lists three fatalities, with the girl presumably being her sister of similar name and similar-contested-age (?) listed under "fifth case." So implicitly, this one survived despite the ominous story given.

Fourth case: Ahmad Barakat, 64-year-old male, was at home (pres. with Khadija, but not explained) "when the toxic material container hit." He arrived to the hospital at the same rounded-off 2:30 pm, with the same status: "awake and oriented" with the same symptoms but for "O2 saturation of 80% on room air," reaching "90% with the oxygen mask," even upon arrival. This increased to 95% before he was released after 48 hours on April 23. His chest x-ray shown, barring a mix-up - it's dated 4-23 in writing, image stamped 4-24, the day after his discharge.

"The patient reported his testimony about the attack and his injury, and it matched all the other testimonies previously mentioned." This might be one of those "miracle survivors" and storytellers who clarifies regime blame, and who may not be who he claims to be. Unlike some, he has a medical case, allegedly ... but it's not much of one. A serious faker might easily volunteer for mild exposure as evidenced here.

Fifth case: Marioumeh Alhashash, 19-year-old woman, at home, with her brother Mohammad, other sister. arrived to the hospital at 2:30 pm, an hour later, but 4.5 hours earlier than sister Marwa - "She was at home" when the "yellow gas started to spread, and she experienced difficulty breathing and asphyxia. Upon arrival, the patient was unconscious" (again unusually), with the usual list of symptoms, and "O2 saturation of 45%." That's worse than Marwa had, and makes unconsciousness more plausible.

It sounds like she wasn't transferred to Turkey like her sister and Mrs. Barakat, whose stories end there with no further details. Marioumeh apparently stayed closer to the people reporting details. "After observation on mechanical ventilation for 72 hours, O2 saturation did not surpass 92%. The patient was transferred to ICU and died on April 25, 2014 of respiratory deterioration and noncardiac lung edema." The report explains how images below show "the patient’s situation and CXR 24 hours after the attack," noting "The first name on the X-Ray is inaccurate by mistake." Also, it's not shown - there's a readout of vital signs, then a view of another machine displaying some other readings. the only x-ray shown is for Mr, Barakat.

But Maryomeh Abdul Razak al-Hashash "Nawas", is listed by the VDC as girl, age 14 (not adult age 19), from Telmenes, "Martyred with her brother due to exposure to Chlorine gas ..." and as dying on April 25 in Turkey, not the local ICU. By that, she strangely died after the same 4 day wait as Mrs. Barakat. FFM report nearly agrees: "The family living in the first house lost a seven-year-old boy, who died within a few hours of exposure, and a teenage girl, who died on the third day after exposure," which should be the 24th. "Teenage" is more consistent with 14 than 19, but both do contain "teen." The other girl in the SAMS report, Marwa, was a very similar age of 15. Considering the vagueness with Mohamed's age of 6 or 7, 14 or 15 sounds kind of like one person's age, not two.

arrival timeline:
(of course the universally rounded-off times are noteworthy in their vagueness)
* attack at 10:30 to 10:45 am
* 1:30 pm, Mohammad arrives, about 3 hours after
* 2:00 Mohammad dies (only death of the day)
* 2:30 Marioumeh and both Barakats arrive
* 2:40 Khadeeja Barakat put on ventilation
* 7:00 Marwa arrives, at least 8 hours after the alleged attack.

It's not clear how this adds up, and that's the problem.

A female patient, not clear who, from the report:

Another, heavier and older female patient. Possibly Mrs. Barakat? Odd yellow-brown discoloration on her cheek but not forehead, faintly on upper arm and hand, not on the very pale underside. She does look bad off, somehow...

The FFM report gives the coordinates provided with videos of the alleged attack sites.

Courtyard (staged) "impact" loc. 1 in the northeast of town (unverified), Barakat home - N36.7426167° E35.6408333° - on Wikimapia

The crater caused when the barrel bomb landed - even the FFM couldn't buy that.

Kitchen "impact" loc. 2 just SW of that ("verified"), al-Hashash home - N35.6405500° E36.7418833° - on Wikimapia

Barakat details
Barakat is a very common name, probably too common to reveal telling patterns in a VDC search. But note the SAMS report describes a man and a woman of this name and same basic age (64 and 65) as patients who both arrived at 2:30. Logically, they're from the same home and related. To be cohabiting at that age, Ahmad and Khadeeja should be a married couple. But to have the same last name suggests it was a non-Muslim marriage; they would most likely be Christians, or perhaps Druze, Atheist, or just less-observant Muslims. That doesn't prove anything, but it's noteworthy.

Someone labeled on Wikimapia (in Arabic) a library owned or founded by Fateh Barakat Abu Abdo ( فاتح بركات ابو عبدو ) from Beirut, and/or Mohamed Barakat Ascot ( محمد بركات اسكوت ), here in the northeast of town, just 80-90 m west of the staged location # 1. That might well be related. I wasn't able to quickly dig up any further information about this person.

Al-Hashash - Al-Nawas details
Al-Hasash - (ar: الحشاش ) - VDC has only 63 fatalities named Hashash, with no obvious and relevant patterns. A man and boy of the name, from Aleppo's Fardous district, died the day before the Talmenes attack. That's statistically unusual, but not clearly related to suggest family targeting.
Wikimpaia gives for a spot in the south of town (Google translated): "peace upon you Geologist Riad Hashash, Telmens southern neighborhood, is currently resident in Saudi Arabia and work in the Center for soil testing."

The VDC gives both Hashash children the added "Nawas" (or Al-Nawas - Arabic: النعواص ). I'm not sure how that connects - another name they might go by, mother's name, something. It's not a common name - VDC has it only on these two fatalities. And Wikimapia lists it only once, in their same town: a home of Mustafa Al-Nawas also in the south of Talemenes - in fact just a bit south of the Hawash label. "Mustafa al-Nawas' sons work in grain trading And some of them in education" So per these labels anyway, the names Hashash and Nawas belong here, just like Barakat. As yet I'm not sure the names really go with the victims, or give any clue as to why they would be singled-out to die (that victims are picked at random from a helicopter is not a fact but a point of faith, and it's one I don't accept.).

So at the first house, a boy and two older sisters are reported (barring a mix-up), with other family possible but not mentioned.

Add 8-22: Or other family members are generally not mentioned. Just a week after the attack, a claim I haven't seen repeated or clarified: April 29, 2014, Ruth Sherlock, the Telegraph: "... in the village of Talmenes, another attack saw hundreds wounded and a family destroyed as two of the children died and the pregnant mother was taken into intensive care." No one else mentions that or explains what happened with her, or anything about a father or other relatives. Except ...

Syrian Government account - an unreported victim
But the OPCW's FFM heard another story - they had a protecting father who was killed. FFM report s-2016-738, Annex IV, Point # 20 explains how the Syrian government "provided the name of the owner of the house that had been targeted" and it was accurate: "The name corresponds to the name of the owner of the house at location #2. The Government had stated that this person had died in the attack" The name given isn't shared, but is said to match (whose?) records. If it's Al-Hashash, or perhaps Nawas, that supports the other reports. If the name doesn't match...

Elsewhere the report says this man "and his child" were killed, for a total of two fatalities. The singular form could refer to the boy or the girl, depending on their sources. They might not deny but just didn't hear about a sibling or the Barakat woman dying as well.

But the FFM was determined not to believe that story; "however, this person was interviewed by the FFM several months after the attack" or, as point 51 clarifies "a witness interviewed by the FFM later identified himself as this person (i.e., the owner of the house and father of the child that died in the attack)." It's possible he wasn't really that man. But they ignore that possibility, and wind up with reason to reject the government's story. But we can't ignore it, and are left with the possibility of another and un-reported death.

I have to re-visit the previous day's al-Hashash deaths, seeming to be a man and his child. The 4-20 deaths clicked out from this list and re-loaded with /ar turned to /en give:
Mohammad Hashash, adult-male, age 37
Sohaib Hashash child-male, age 6

Logically the latter is the son of the former, but it's not specified or certain. Both from Ferdaws, Aleppo (seeming to refer to a district in the middle of the city). Presumably they died there, and not in a home he also owned in Talmenes? They died on April 20 from "Warplane shelling" - a rather ambiguous category, especially given the notes: "Several people martyred in a massacre due to the regime air forces' shelling with explosive barrels, Documented through the forensic office"

For what it's worth, a man named Mohamed is unlikely to have a son name Mohamed, as the 6/7-year-old boy who died in Talmenes was. His middle name was given as Abdulrazaq, and should be shared by both sisters, reflecting their father's name. But it seems plausible that, if other details lined up, a 6-year-old Sohaib Mohammed Hashash was could be re-branded in this way, as his father was not, and his sister(s) were added in the same way.

For good measure, the basic story this was part of, from the same FFM report, Annex IV, point 11: "[the Syrian government's story was that] an armed opposition group fired a projectile from Ma’ar Shamarin (south of Talmenes) that fell in the centre of the village, close to a residential house which is one of the residential properties mentioned in paragraph 10 above. The impact caused substantial damage and two people died."

The only mention of a chemical aspect was this: "One witness said to have heard the explosion and smelled an odour like “rotten eggs”, but did not see any injured people." That's definitely not the smell of chlorine, and not likely to be confused with it.

With the basic locations set, videos for geolocation and damage assessment, it's possible to check the trajectory of any projectile. From the south supports the government story. From any other direction but straight down (as from a helicopter) would support no one's story. This goes on my to-do list.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

For the Tulsi 2020 Campaign

Yet Another Outside View on Syria CW Allegations
by Adam Larson (AKA Caustic Logic)
August 11, 2019
last edits: same day

Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the surprisingly awesome 2020 presidential candidate, is taking flak for heresy against the U.S. foreign policy orthodoxy. It's not the first time, but maybe the first tie I can be of much help. Recently, the Tulsi 2010 website ran a critique of the evidence behind the April CW allegations president Trump has twice attacked Syria over - Khan Sheikhoun in 2017 and Douma in 2018.

"Reports on Chemical Attacks in Syria" - a short read.

This is a brave move, if imperfectly executed, with a laudable goal of frustrating what she rightly sees as a continuing pattern of lies supporting endless war. In that spirit of encouraging skepticism, I had to weigh in with some refinements of what she's said. This is not such a short read, and I've forced a late start to any review by taking so long to assemble it. The case for a decent skim read is quite strong.

Unlike those cited in the Tulsi 2020 article, I have no university degree or job experience to indicate credibility, except what I've built through years of volunteer reasearch on events in Syria, with work at this blog (Monitor on Massacre Marketing), the research wiki A Closer Look On Syria (ACLOS), in various articles at 21st Century Wire, The Indicter, and others, and most recently with the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM).

Chemical weapons allegations have been a special area of interest since December, 2012, so I have a rather full understanding of the field. As such, my thoughts on the matter are bound to be of some value.

Long, semi-optional prelude: who to trust?

I'll start with a lame critical analysis of the Tulsi 2020 article penned by the highly-promoted "OSINT" investigator and regime-change hacktivist Eliot Higgins, at Bellingcat.

As usual, Higgins spends most of his time going off on Dr. Postol, Maram Susli, Dan Kaszeta, and their ongoing dispute over the role of "hexamine" in the sarin findings out of Syria. I've never tried to understand this well, but I think if one party can make sarin a certain way, someone else can use the same or similar method; a recipe is not a fingerprint. I'm not even sure about recipe similarity, and greatly doubt this can prove the government's guilt, especially when there's so much else contraindicating that, from general motive to all the case specifics. It seems to me like we "know" this impure stuff with hexamine in it is "Assad's sarin" because it keeps turning up and being blamed on him. But it also seems that this blame keeps being wrongly placed.

Higgins promotional tweet: "I just wrote 4000 words ... it's really bad." Yes it's really bad, but sadly, Mr. Higgins was also able to raise some valid problems with the Gabbard 2020 article (which he of course referred to). This is largely due to her impressive-seeming sources. For Douma, Gabbard relies mainly on a leaked internal OPCW engineering report. For Khan Sheikhoun she primarily cites Theodore Postol, esteemed professor emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at MIT, an expert who's never afraid to rock the boat. The headings for both sections say "Inconsistencies found by Dr Postol, et al."

Higgins was able to show nothing wrong with the leaked OPCW report. No one can, really. But he's quite right about some of Postol's blunders like conflating two incidents years apart, for a big deal with an infographic - he did that. More relevant are several errors in his Khan Sheikhoun analysis, which leaves Rep. Gabbard's dependent position on it rather weak. These are partly explained below, but perhaps the worst was the poorly-considered wrong-sized-bombs theory I thoroughly refuted in the first half of this article, before my own reading of the related blast damage.

Postol has also weighed in on Douma, but belatedly and confusedly. Anyone overly-convinced of the professor's analytical prowess needs to read this passage from an interesting article by James Harkin for The Intercept back in February. After nearly a year to consider the case for himself, it seems Postol did little or none of that prior to a prompt from Harkin, who wrote:
"When I showed videos of the canisters to Theodore Postol in Boston, he was immediately certain that both had been launched from the sky by the Syrian military and that any “brouhaha” from the Russians to the contrary could be safely ignored. ... he immediately concurred with the analysis of internet investigators like Higgins, with whom he often ferociously disagrees."

What a strange position to adopt. As presented by Harkin, Dr. Postol thought it was unexpected how a hole was barely created in the roof (at location 2) after that fall from a regime helicopter. That unexpected turn allowing some gas to be released into the "enclosed" room below, "creating a gas chamber" with "several hundred times higher than a lethal dose." This is so wrong.

There's no "lethal dose" exactly. Chlorine is simply a gas that turns to acid on contact with water. It has no neurological effect and does not cause sudden death, paralysis, or diminished consciousness, despite frequent claims to that effect in Syria (claims there vs. reality everywhere else considered here in some detail). It burns the airways to varying degrees, causing physical damage and the production of protective mucous that combine to cause possibly fatal impairment of breathing. The risk therefore is all about severity and duration of exposure, and the quality of medical response. In the most extreme cases of sudden and total damage, and some fluke cases of laryngospasm, death can be just as quick as basic suffocation. But most fatal cases take longer to finish; in a hospital with constant suction, it can be drawn out for days (far more often, it's averted altogether). Absent medical help, death could happen much quicker, but not instantly.

In a vast majority of cases, people exposed to chlorine are bothered, walk away from it, and survive with little to no long-term effects. But circumstance that don't usually exist might come into play here. Anyone tied up in a sealed room with chlorine gas could die - eventually - from almost any amount. Conversely, anyone at liberty with only dispersed creeping gas - as the Douma victims allegedly were - would leave the scene and not die, again at nearly any level. Recovery times would vary, and a death or two out of ~50 is plausible, maybe more depending on the details. But zero remains the usual expected death toll in a case like the one the opposition alleges. Illogically, they staffed with 35 dead at location 2, plus 7+ others who died somewhere else with an explanation no one seems to have provided. This fits better with a different, deadlier poison, and/or with planned killings in a gas chamber type of scenario.

Furthermore, Postol makes it sound like everyone was crammed in the room under the cylinder at impact. But allegedly the 50 or so inhabitants were sheltering in the basement at the time, three floors below this super-deadly "gas chamber." Allegedly, the gas spread like this... through the ceiling hole, into and across the third floor as shown below - through an open door, or under a closed one - down the hall and the stairs, then a bit into second floor, down and into the ground floor, and out into the street, before some overflow would make it down into the basement - all before anyone smelled it. Some heard the valve 'pop' prior to the smell. Hmm. I guess that proves it all lines up?
Generally, it's said they ran upstairs in response, knowing this gas sinks. Considering the known building layout, this means they ran out to the street, and so escaped to open air - most people's instinctive goal in such a case. Maybe there were serious issues about being in the street as well, but they mostly ran back inside, into the washroom, or up the stairs towards other sinks they mostly dropped dead near. It doesn't appear that anyone tried to re-escape after running back inside.

Professor Postol - to be fair, with limited knowledge of these details - found it all quite likely. Or does he still? Is he torn here? After that leaked engineering report came out in mid-May, he came back whistling a different tune. Thanks to real scientist(s) and servants of the good who are still working somewhere in that Byzantine ruin of the OPCW - and no thanks to his own independent analysis - Postol seems to have decided the Russian case is not so easily-dismissed after all. His ensuing analysis appears to be pretty useful, while his prior thinking was far off-the-mark, so his overall current position on Douma is a bit unclear.

Former weapons inspector, anti-war and truth activist Scott Ritter tweeted "Dr. Postol confirmed he has been advising Tulsi’s campaign on these and other issues. After listening to Dr. Postol, I believe Tulsi is in good hands." Clearly, I'm not so sure. He's made too many important errors to ignore, including those I'll explain below. People keep citing his work, and especially the erred parts, and that's bad for the cause of truth. He's done good work, especially in 2013 with the late Richard Lloyd, whatever else I haven't assessed, and any number of his new and future arguments on varied topics might be spot-on. But anymore his assertions needs to be critically considered and double-checked, not credited blindly.

Shouldn't I take these criticisms directly to Dr. Postol and see if he can refute my findings or adjust his own? I tried once, and he made it clear to me he had no interest. Blaming my supposed bad attitude, the good professor imposed a learning embargo on himself. Too bad for him and his followers. I remain open to hearing back that it was a misunderstanding, but as it stands, further efforts on my part seem fruitless.

No one is perfect. I've made many mistakes. However, I try to learn and correct them, and so far my voice doesn't carry as much weight - and thus responsibility - as Prof. Postol's does.

When Postol debated Eliot Higgins in late 2018 (hosted by James Harkin, as it happens), it was a mess with no clear winner except ongoing confusion. When Tulsi Gabbard cites half of that problem as part of her foreign policy platform, and Higgins gets to play his familiar tricks in response, to the campaign's detriment, I needed to step in. I support Tulsi, and also I'm sick and tired of this being a long-running debate between Postol and Higgins and that stupid hexamine thing always brought to the front, eclipsing so much solid evidence ignored by both of them. Or as with Douma pre-leak, when these opponents were left agreeing on the ridiculous opposition narrative. I still don't know what to make of that, except that it underlines my point: we should not let these two men keep defining the discourse to such a degree.

My own analysis below is heavy on disputing Dr. Postol, an ostensible ally in the information war. So I thought it best preface and explained by this overview. Yes, it's an "attack," and one he can defend himself from just fine - if he actually can. If not...

Who else has the right credentials to cite? Maybe a new and improved Prof. Postol. And/or some of the sharp minds working with the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media. Our excellent approach to weighing evidence (including some of my own work) is some part of what secured the confidence of whistleblowers at OPCW and the leaked engineering assessment, allowing the latest shift in perspective that finally got prof. Postol on (the right page?) The findings were quite in line with the result of our own research at the time - some of us never did concur with Higgins, and have been on about the same page from the start up to now. Who has PhDs and professorships to make them more credible? Not me, but most other people in the WGSPM including Dr. Piers Robinson, Prof. David Miller, Prof. Paul McKiegue, and several others. None of them necessarily endorses this "attack" on Postol's credibility, but they do tend to agree on the points upon which it's based - as far as I know anyway.

In both of Trump's April CW stories, my approach is primarily based on strongest evidence - especially visual - read well and deeply. Whoever's holding it and telling whatever story, the camera in itself still does not lie. I also try to specialize in prioritizing evidence - visual and otherwise - as the best avenues to the truth of events. These are the leads I primarily follow and recommend to others, even if prof. Postol or whoever disagrees - other points I've skipped might be quite important. In those cases, someone else could be cited, or it could maybe be skipped.

Also note: The findings behind my suggested points didn't all originate with me - I'll adopt points raised in open sources, and points brought to me by fellow researchers, and it's hardly possible to cite the source for each idea. Especially in this article, I just present the amalgamated best I know. Fuller explanations by subject are available on request. I'll present raised points (with notes) and suggested points for each of the two CW incidents, for four long sections, followed by a shorter conclusion.

People with more scientific training (used properly), more "credibility" and with better tools, could improve on these findings, and maybe should.

Khan Sheikhoun, 2017: raised points

KS1: "The size and shape of the crater and the damage to the cylinder is inconsistent with an aerial bomb, but rather with an IED which was placed on the ground, and then detonated."

- First, this shows she is aware an airstrike is alleged - above is written "The OPCW report states that the chemical weapons were delivered by an airstrike at Douma, and by an artillery strike at Khan Sheikhun." Airstrike alleged in both cases. Was it a pipe bomb? No - Postol himself later backed off this point (as noted in debate with Higgins, and as Higgins reminds in his rebuttal, noting Gabbard also gives a wrong link to his later - and better - findings).He now thinks a rocket was responsible (a type of artillery, FWIW)

As for what it does look like: There's no "cylinder," just a half-tube of rolled-up metal - looks like a rocket tube bent forward on impact, but that's probably illusion. Original remnants are probably gone with these pieces set there later. A filling cap, other minimal details have led to various IDs, but I never formed a firm conclusion. These fragments are most likely planted, but could be parts of the relevant weapon, which could point either way, depending on what irrefutable ID ever emerges. And even that pointing could be true or "false-flag" ( a unique bomb, seized from the Syrian military somewhere, modified into a rocket and fired, for example). I'm not the one to cite here, but those are some thoughts.

Impact damage to the pavement to me (non-expert but somewhat versed) suggests a surface rocket from the north (roughly - signs too mixed for me to be more exact), not like the alleged gravity bomb, which usually has virtually no direction but down. Postol's revised view suggests a rocket impact, as Higgins noted, involving computer modeling. That sounds like valuable work. I'm curious what direction they found, and embarrassed now that I haven't even checked. Two explosive impacts look to me like small FAE weapons by damage, and are both clearer in suggesting a north or NNW firing direction (when these too are supposed to be gravity bombs). Those are probably not from the same firing spot as the (sarin rocket?), but a related one, obviously, all somewhere north of town. The third impact way in the south of town also looks different, with no clear firing direction suggested. It would be too far off to hit with the same rocket launcher. I don't claim to have the full picture here, but you can see how it would be a good picture to get clarity on. One could start from my work. (scene analysis, plus first Postol ctricism over his own.)

KS2:"Videos of smoke plumes show the wind blowing in a different direction than weather reports for the day of the attack, suggesting the videos were taken on a different day."

- Actually, "weather reports for the day of the attack" are of limited value. Some are unreliable, modeled predictions (a historically informed guess), others might be actual readings at a nearby time at an airport x miles away. One needs to check. And one direction "reported" is a wind from the northeast that's built into the opposition's claims, with an unusual emphasis on where people died, all southwest of the alleged sarin impact point. The best method to know the wind is to measure it at the site, or estimate it from video, if that's available (it is!). And when you do this well, you find videos show a wind opposite of that needed - it blew to the northeast. Carefully established from multiple angles to account for all directions and degrees of movement with the single wind direction there can be at one time and place, this is a fact (estimated, not precise but accurate, open to refinement). No one can show otherwise, so far or ever. (Serious challenges are best brought here.)
Below: my graphic - later revisions suggest this is the right direction for upper-level wind, while at ground level, it's harder to read but similar - a bit more to the east and less to the north, but still essentially opposite of what it "should be."

For their part, the OPCW's approved investigations concluded without basis that there was "no discernable wind" (activists likely aware of the problem described the wind as roughly nil = whole basis, except for citing the result...) so they decided the sarin vapor would roll downhill to the SW, and fit the given story, which in turn supported that guess (circular reasoning and besides, OPCW mapped it wrong, making their case look plausible - by coincidence? see below). But it would roll just west or maybe northwest in general by topography, perhaps killing to the SW but also in other areas never reported - IF there were no real wind. But many activists and "survivors" claimed there was a wind to the southwest, and the video shows one as well, just opposite of what they said. You can't just take those two opposite and average them to zero.

Now, it's hard to imagine someone actually reading that wind so far off it's opposite, or by chance finding some other reason to decide on a wind that happens to be opposite of the true one. By far the most logical reason is a simple and common misreading the same mistake Prof. Postol made in his first analysis: he misread an irrelevant wind prediction - given properly by direction of origin, but misread (as many do) as the direction it blows to , which makes for opposite of the prediction. (He corrected that error and flipped his arrows, but persisted in taking that prediction as the actual wind). I suppose their narrative spinners wanted to make the wind spread a central point of proof here. One person was tasked with assessing the wind for that. Then he or the next person, through some misunderstanding, made the same basic error so a wind FROM SW meant they would map their fatalities as living TO the SW. Oops.

Perhaps there's another cause, but I can't think of what it would be. Either way, elaborate stories, filmed returns to the scene, and mapped areas from multiple sources materialized, all based on this inversion of reality. The opposition's story - and the basis for US-led missile strikes - was built around this gross error. It's been stuck that way this whole time, and hardly anyone has noticed.

KS3: "Photographs indicate that the crater had been tampered with."

- This is probably so - original munition remnants likely removed from the area, a couple discrete chunks of another set right in the crater. It's possible that sarin traces were planted there then, or never, but ...

KS4: "Photographs show persons standing around the bomb casing wearing only gloves and dust masks, which would not be sufficient to protect them from sarin residue in the crater."

- It might be safe enough within a few hours - it evaporates about as quickly as water (about as fast a dielsel fuel - Charles Wood). The air would be long clear. Soil, best not dug into bare-handed. A man in sandals might want to avoid side-sliding into the soil. It's not a major issue. People in full biohazard suits the next day or later are playing it safe, by several degrees. Besides, traces of sarin and/or breakdown products were reportedly found in and near the same crater, by sources working for the Syrian government and for its enemies. All seem to agree on this, which doesn't guarantee it's true, but either way, the sandals in the crater point seems pretty moot. And it doesn't seem this sarin, if it existed here, is what killed people that day.

Proposed: terrorists fired a rocket, likely releasing a small amount of the same black fluid often released in incidents that yields positive results for sarin (see here). Any sarin released here would not spread widely enough to kill many (the black splash says it simply splashed - no real mist, just large droplets = very little dispersion and spread). Furthermore, no one at all was reported to be affected downwind, to the northeast. The only alleged exposures are the falsely-reported upwind cases.

It's plausible the massacre managers would use sarin to kill their victims, so everything lines up. Some autopsies are said to turn up sarin traces. But it's most likely those were a few special cases killed that way for that reason. The bulk we were shown dead and dying that day lack in consistent visual details ... the last work of my colleague, neuropharmacologist Dr. Denis O'Brien in 2017 was to argue against sarin as the cause in some detail.

KS5: "Other inconsistencies include a picture of a dead goat which, judging by the rope around its neck and marks in the ground, had been killed and then dragged to the scene from another location."

- Was the goat dragged? I didn't look into that. It might have walked. It was very close to release point, may have been closer, may show little to nothing about spread direction. It might show planting, but I'd like to see the evidence, and I may just skip the goat as I mainly have.

KS6: "There are also inconsistencies of timing, where hospital records show victims arriving before the air strike had supposedly occurred."

- I once suspected this is a false lead, but heard some counter-arguments that made me doubt that. But I forget where that left off exactly. My first question came after looking over the discrepancies and noting they were one hour too early - perhaps exactly - to match with the opposition story. It seemed some time-zone confusion and/or variance with the recent DST time change could explain it. Has this been ruled out? Sorry, I'm not sure myself. The other option, proven or not, always seemed dubious to me; a bunch of people were gassed or sent in to act like it, an hour before the planned attack? That would show planning, and a lot of faith. What if things didn't line up right to openly claim the attack? What if the explosions on video couldn't be managed, or matched-up right, or there was no jet pass even nearby at the right time to help their story? The smartest option always seemed; plan it out with the deaths, wait for the exact time of an expected jet pass near by, launch the rockets, release their special effects fog, cause any genuine open-air exposure, and/or send out the actors to put on nebulizer masks, move the bodies to presentable spots and present them, all at the right basic time on the right day. But if something this important was proven, then it would be. I should probably know that with more certainty ...

Khan Sheikhoun, 2017: suggested points

Obviously without a full grasp of all points, I would presume anyway to offer this imperfect roster of seen suggested points of evidence.

KSS1 - wrong wind: as eagerly pre-explained above, this is a crucial fact and lucky break that cannot be challenged, and yet one that hardly anyone has noticed.

KSS2 - inflicted wounds: Strange, acute injuries appear on several of the victims, especially children. Some to the head and neck appear likely fatal, some others are perhaps unseen, and some are superfical or to the arms, for example. In at least two clear cases, young children suffered serious wounds to the face and head after "rescue" by the White Helmets, suggesting those lauded "heroes" caused or allowed this further harm. It's not obvious due to the apparent randomness involved, but this all might suggest abuse of hated prisoners and/or deliberate killing those the gas didn't finish off (because the Islamist opposition forces, the White Helmets, and the poison were all on the same side in this effort).

There's a well-illustrated precedent for this in other CW attacks reported by Islamists in Syria. In the big one at East Ghouta, 2013, a man in Kafr Batna who survived the gas was placed alongside the dead in a morgue, until he finally died of a very bloody neck injury inflicted right there between allowed images. (my video explanation (graphic), based on findings from the late Dr. Denis O'Brien.

KSS3 - other signs of managed massacre of captives: In-line with suspicions of a managed massacre, there was in Khan Sheikhoun a notable lack of in-situ body imagery; corpses appear suddenly in the beds of pickup trucks and at the White Helmets mud "hospital." It's said several hundred were affected, and nearly 100 died, yet victims are never seen in their homes or where they fell in streets. That could just be a curiously total omission, or suggest they were killed centrally at a place the responsible terrorists don't want us to see, and were then driven to White Helmets places for the public footage.

Some 250 civilians, including women and children, were reportedly abducted just days before, during brief occupation of nearby towns led by HTS (al-Nusra Front). The shown victims are quite likely from a different pool of captive, or you'd think the government side would know about the match-up and prove it somehow. You might think wrong if so, but still ... This might connect, or just illustrate the general idea - the Islamist terrorists freely abduct their fellow citizens, especially along sectarian lines, but often targeting Sunnis who support the government or just oppose the militants' agenda. Then, in this case and others, they seem to use abducted citizens to provide the corpses for their CW allegations, if not for other allegations as well.

However, detailed research disproves the widespread claims that Alawite civilians kidnapped in Latakia province in August, 2013, were used as the bodies for the Ghouta massacre later in the month. Widely-parroted claims had a few dozen of them gassed and shown in videos filmed near Latakia, perhaps in Turkey. However, no proposed visual matches were definitive, and several were clearly wrong. The Latakia victims were mostly accounted for after, and were always too few in number; the bodies shown for Ghouta numbered well into the hundreds, and most can be geolocated to the Damascus suburbs, clear across the country. Therefore, I reason the captives used for that were from a larger, less-known pool of prisoners held in that area, presumably by the dominant Jaish al-Islam, who are heavily implicated in that massacre. A similar less-obvious source for the victims may be at play in Khan Sheikhoun.

KSS4 - radar questions: After some deeper analysis, this is not the smoking gun lead I once thought, but still a valid question: this jet seen on radar passing near or perhaps over Khan Sheikhoun - can it possibly explain the gravity bombs dropped on those four spots (three explosive, one sarin), when "witnesses" said it took two jets and more passes, and even then disagree on flight directions and fail to account for the pattern of impacts ? Not likely, and it can't explain the alleged spread exactly against the observed wind.

KSS5 - various problems with "eyewitness" accounts: This guy counts as a more distant "witness" - Mahmoud al-Hasna makes several weird and suspicious claims. But there's just one compound example of a survivor-witness from my own work, on a crucial player in the story: Abdelhamid Al-Yousef, analysis with a lot of detail and sub-posts, including a number of serious issues raised about his testimony and claim to have lost hos wife and two young children. Others have done more work on him and other alleged witnesses, reported fatalities, and relations between them, but I'd have to dig for where.

KSS6 - Event timing: This is mentioned for Douma, but applies for KS as well. A number of context points are included here at ACLOS, working to similar effect on the Trump end: amid signs of terrorist plots to re-emerge sarin allegations, Trump threatens to allow Syria's government to stay in power, until Damascus has to go and change that and force a Trump attack, here for the first time (with Douma it was just a repetition)

KSS7 - alternate origins for "sarin fog": I find this all very important, but so far it's hard to get others to see it. There were several accounts of a caustic, poisonous fog coating the town, reportedly the deadly sarin itself. In videos of the day, vast fields of white mist or smoke can be seen coating most of the town, including the area of reported deaths (besides other areas with no reported deaths). It loks a bit like a natural fog, but has no natural reason to appear in those areas, and so suddenly (span between videos, presuming same day, in 15-30 minutes). My analysis clearly suggests this mist originated in two or more "wrong" (unexplained) locations - one well south of the city, and one in the north, where I think it can be seen starting to form in the accepted some plumes video (connecting the fog scene to the same day). This "fog" spreads east and north from these areas on that wrong wind noted in the other videos (same wind also support same day). Possibly toxic, but surely not sarin, this fog seems to be released as a visual effect for their CW attack fakery, but it makes little sense by immense volume and observable release points. For whatever reason, it was never clearly explained with videos linked to accounts, and the whole fog issue went virtually unnoticed, not to mention poorly-understood. (Initial fog explanation - refining the origin of the SW fog field) Below: panoramic views from roughly the same spot, facing south or SSE, showing post-attack (smoke plumes slant left = east, north slant not so visible), then 15-30 min. later (fog spreading north and east, but less so at the flat hill ("tel"), which casts a 'wind shadow' at billowing fog origin just NE of it.

End suggested points. See also: Indicter article

Douma, 2018: raised points

D1: (from the intro) "...Douma was attacked with chlorine gas bombs that were dropped from a helicopter onto the roofs of multi-story apartment buildings, where they exploded, propelling chlorine gas down into the building, and killing the people inside."

- This is all just alleged and could stand clearer marking to that effect, and refers only to the one uilding dubbed location 2. Noting how Gabbard reportedly worked with Prof. Postol, I have to wonder - did he still, recently, confirm all that so it could be stated as fact? If so, that's bad for the cause of truth.

FWIW no one alleges the cylinders "exploded" - the tanks or valves were damaged or just opened, (having suffered extremely minor damage maybe months earlier...) and pressurized 'liquid' gas would pour or drip out, depending, instantly expanding into chlorine gas that would slowly expand and flow - outward with pressure and downward with gravity - to cause its almost totally non-fatal irritation of the eyes and airways of anyone it rolled over. Most or all of them would cough, leave, recover. Chlorine has no neurological effect, is not an incapacitant. It burns, mildly to badly, compelling and allowing escape to fresh air, normally. 35 dropping dead is entirely unexpected.

D2: "A leaked engineer’s assessment, which was completely omitted from the OPCW report, contradicted the report’s findings."

- Indeed, and it did so in a way that reads completely sane to those of us who had already reached about the same conclusions from the available evidence. It's hard to deny the conclusion of all reasonable observers; these cylinders did not fall from the sky to cause this damage. They were simply placed near some damage in hopes it would look right. But as the FFM's engineering sub-team found, it didn't look right. The clearly political decision to suppress these findings, to allow for unchallenged nonsense, is a major scandal.

To this observer, it seems this kind of thing happens frequently at OPCW. The difference with the Douma case is for once the scandal was exposed from within by whistleblower(s). While we're in their debt for the clarity this leak has brought to the picture, it's worth noting we were able to largely solve the crime on our own from open sources, as we have before. Going forward, more people yet have to be prepared to do the same in the near totality of cases (including Khan Sheikhoun) where we never get such a lucky break.

D3: "A cylinder dropped from a helicopter would not have lodged partway into a hole punched into the roof, but would have penetrated the roof and possibly one or more floors below."

- Indeed - it could hardly make a hole while also stopping outside of it. Those remaining bits of re-bar in the top layer didn't stop it - some force went further down, scattering the concrete below that, breaking the rebar below that and bending it in past 90 degrees. For a heavy, air-dropped gas cylinder to do that with just a tap to the surface before tipping over there just defies the laws of physics.

D4: "The size of the hole was too big. An explosive device in the shape of a cylinder dropped from height would have created a hole just slightly bigger than its own diameter."

- "The hole" at location 4 is, noted by the engineering report and others (including WGSPM's Michael Kobs) as too small to allow entry for the assembled gas cylinder bomb alleged. At the central loc. 2, I'm not aware of the hole size being an issue. At entry it's close to the right size, while being wider at the bottom of the roof slab, likely because it was excavated by an explosive blast wave radiating outward. Note that a blast wave, unlike a physical object, could do all this while passing around some rebar, leavit it intact as we see. It's such details of the damage more than its basic size that raise problems.

D5: "The hole in the roof at Douma is consistent with an artillery rather than an airstrike, which suggests that the cylinder was placed in an opening created by an earlier artillery attack, and its contents released into the building below."

- "The hole" at loc. 2 is well-noted as such, loc. 4 not as clear but most likely the same. Loc. 2 has extreme rebar bend, with some rebar intact, radial disruption of concrete, marks from that (secondary fragmentation), all most consistent with a blast wave, not an object, moving through. There's also a clear patterns of primary fragmentation (sharp, deep, unifrom "shrapnel" holes in a dense, radial pattern) around the balcony, between first impact and the hole in the cieling the cylinder was found next to. It's obvious this was an explosive device, not just a heavy thing hitting. Below: the damage as seen from inside/below, then the primary fragmentation as seen above.

D6: "The official OPCW report failed to include the discovery of a nearby weapons lab that contained several identical yellow gas cylinders, which clearly suggests that the terrorists themselves were in possession of chemical weapons devices."

- Hm. It did include mention of the place where one cylinder of a different kind was seen. The lab didn't contain sarin or any key ingredients. It might still relate, depending what toxin actually killed these folks, but it's far from proven. This is a bungled point for team Tulsi. It deserves that "Hm."

Douma, 2018: suggested points

DS1 - Damage mismatch at both locations demonstrates likely planting of cylinders at sites of prior blast damage, as pre-explained above and largely grasped by Rep. Gabbard and thankfully by many others now. We're on track here, but not finished.

DS2 - Unexplained mass death: Only chlorine-related compounds were found at location 2, no sign of a quickly fatal agent like sarin. As explained above, chlorine is rarely fatal and never kills instantly. There's no place at loc. 2 that looks like the gas chamber they could use to make chlorine more deadly. Therefore, the chemical findings suggest the victims were probably killed elsewhere in what we're calling a managed massacre, using what could be called a gas chamber, with the toxin unknown. Verbal accounts and much visual evidence suggests the same - the bodies were brought here already dead and arranged at the site. Khan Sheikhoun had no victims shown in-situ (where they fell). In Douma they tried to show that, perhaps to avoid the same criticism, but it had to be faked, because they still don't want us to see where they actually died.

Below: what may be the last 4 victims unloaded, laid along the curb prior to placement, barefoot -shoe or boot prints in the dust (best seen on the metal hatch lid, center), to no bare footprints or signs of crawling out. The woman appears more like she was being dragged in by the elbows. The older man of course is on a stretcher. Prepared for early rescue? Whatever kind, it seems that effort was abandoned suddenly - perhaps the 7 left on the truck were dumped somewhere else nearby to flesh out the 42 bodies they were able to confirm? Inconclusive, but compelling...

An older woman apparently dragged some by the ankles, just outside the ground floor washroom entrance - note how someone took this door off its hinges and set it aside...

... which would make it much easier to drag in a number of bodies. And this is where the largest portion of them was found. For example, they might pile some bodies on a big rug (below, marked with green) and drag it right up to the shower, to help wash them for some reason (see below). They might use rags, a green air-filter mask, etc. and maybe just leave these clues all laying there.

DS3 - "mask of death" An unexpected and strange point of great power, that's still hard to grasp, is best explained here - yellow-brown discoloration and red irritation corresponding to a liquid flow from the mouth and nose across the upper face, except for an area around the eyes just the size and shape of small swimming goggles, in fact darkest and sharpest in a ring where they would be. Looking a bit like a "domino" mask, this pattern only appears clearly on some half-dozen victims, but various mixtures of its sub-features appear on many more, suggesting to me these clues apply to all seen fatalities; it left no visible signs in perhaps 1/4 of the cases, mixed signs in at least half the cases, and a very clear "mask" pattern in the other 1/4. This pattern has no natural cause to appear on living or dead people, but it's perhaps universal in this pool. This is a unique and valuable clue to their manner of death.

Below: the basic pattern, extracted from the clearest example, a woman, with colored areas singled out, the rest faded. Lighter or non-selected areas had faster flow of fluid = less contact time = less discoloration. Where it slows, it's darker: under the goggles and behind that, rolling around the goggles, perhaps pooling before dripping off the brow or forehead. Here the exclusions show likely goggles, and tight straps across the cheeks, crossing up the nose (besides a likely random bit of something on her nose). These areas were unaffected.
Not just the eyelids but the eyes of these victims, as far as can be seen, were protected from all exposure to an irritant, displaying almost zero discernable redness. The foam means pulmonary edema, which suggests their lungs were exposed to a corrosive agent, so their eyes should be exposed as well, and redness would result. (Note: a white clouding is cited by some as showing the expected burning, but it doesn't - everyone's eyes cloud over after death, and these ones did so with no redness. The burn-related opacity such experts refer to is the later scarrification suffered by survivors, not by the dead. See here.)

So again, eyes should be red, considering burned lungs and also irritated, discolored skin, but they aren't. Natural clenching of the lids can't explain it; that usually happens after first contact, so even the best efforts would yield many pink eyes, and some very red, perhaps even worse-off under closed lids swollen with mysterious orange fluid - this does happen, if the exposure is severe. The only possibility anyone has suggested is eye protection. It needn't be, but might be, as total as that from goggles, which the exclusions in the mask pattern already indicated. Exactly why that was decided on isn't obvious, but we have at least a few thoughts on it, and it's essentially proven, motives aside.

Any goggles and face-straps, etc. were of course removed at the gas chambers, or prior to display, constituting a cover-up. Furthermore, a denied last-minute washing of victims' faces and hair suggests an effort to erase these signs of - perhaps - a botched mass-killing.

This theory raises many questions, but I'm confident they are or can all be answered. A more formal assessment of the clinical signs, pathologist opinions, etc. is in progress, and will hopefully pave the way for this important lead to be understood and taken up by others. So even if one is tempted to, one should not discard this notion until seeing the better explanation.

DS4 - staging of hospital scene: From Hassan Diab to Riam Dalati, pretty much everyone agrees on this. Therefore, I haven't bothered with much detailed consideration of the whole hospital scene, nor even a ready list of good links. I looked enough to note no red eyes, so no serious chlorine exposure - a common pattern suggesting these scenes are often faked with unaffected children, who are given carrots over sticks for taking part (as described amply in relation to the Douma incident). And why would the opposition need fake scenes to show supposedly poisoned people? Because they lacked real ones they were willing to show?

DS5 - timing: noted fairly well.

DS6 - enemy family targeted? A rare family name - Bakriyeh - is given for 12 of the 35 identified fatalities. The same name appears in the records of the Douma-based VDC at an average rate of about one death per year prior to that, including an opposition military commander, Mohamed Diab Bakriyeh. In 2012 he founded a Douma Martyrs' Brigade to fight government, but by late 2014 DMB had come into open conflict with the ruling Islamists of Jaish al-Islam (JaI - Army of Islam, Saudi-backed). In fact the Douma Martyrs' Brigade spearheaded the most ambitious rebellion against JaI which, sadly, was crushed in short order. All fighters who survived re-grouped and sided with the Syrian Government, helping them shut down the rebellion they were once part of.

Fascinating story. That began a few months after commander Bakriyeh's death in battle, as they say, on 4 April, 2014. But a likely brother (Haitham Diab Bakriyeh) is listed as dying the same day from random "shelling." Perhaps they were both murdered over growing friction with JaI that had the commander's family targeted. Years later, at least 12 other apparent relatives died at once in this shady incident. A few names include other parts of the commander's, suggesting a close relation. Considering the unclear number of maiden-name wives of Bakriyeh men, and husbands of Bakriyeh women (where he and any children they have will bear a different name) it's possible a majority of the dead, or even all of them, were relatives. Were they kidnapped and finally gassed to death over the same friction initiated in 2014? We can't be certain these are even the real names, nor that it relates in such a way. But it seems likely they are and do, and the power of this possible lead begs for more exposure and, if possible, some further investigation to clarify the matter.

DS7 - bigger massacre claims called-off: Several sources gave a rising death toll that climbed to 70, 85, 100+, 120, 150, all with expected rises to come. Finally an estimate of 180 sounded final. A couple reports of 185, 190, and a rounded 200 appeared, but nothing higher, before the White Helmets and all 'credible' soures settled on "more than" 42 killed, but no more than that verified. (35 with IDs, 7 without). (see-sawing death toll reports) A year later, the story stood except for knowledgeable Islamist insiders reviving the other count to claim 187 people had in fact were killed. Until the 2019 allegations, no one indicated how many "more" than 42 had died, or explains why the rest were never "confirmed" despite so surely existing. Were those higher numbers made up or were that many truly killed? Did they suffer this botched job and "mask of death" even worse, too horribly to show off or even "confirm"? That's plausible. Did they realize too late they couldn't lace the site with sarin, had to drop sarin and claim chlorine, and realize 187 was far too many deaths to claim? That's possible, considering even the number they settled on is about 40 times bigger than it should be.

End suggested points. See also: Indicter article

The Tulsi 2020 article explains in its intro: "There is evidence that both the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad as well as the armed opposition groups aligned against him have used chemical weapons (CW) during the Syrian war."

That's a safe starting point prior to flipping the picture right-side up like it deserves. But we should note that "evidence" is a word with little inherent meaning - some kinds are strong and true, others can be totally fake. Furthermore, evidence in both directions - or even actual guilt in both directions - doesn't mean an equal division of blame. One side is probably more guilty, or exclusively guilty. The evidence for government use tends to fall apart on closer inspection, in favor of use by terrorists in false-flag events. If there's any one side to blame, and I suspect there is, it's the foreign-backed Islamist "opposition."

"The bottom line is that I and thousands of my brothers and sisters-in-arms went to war in Iraq based on false intelligence and lies from our leaders—our president, our military officials, and our political leaders. We should have been skeptical then, but we weren’t... "

Weren't we? There was a lot of skepticism then, as there is now. But soldiers have to fight either way, and missiles fly regularly, sanctions are imposed somewhere with a shrug every week, etc., all regardless of the truth. It takes more than skepticism to prevent false wars. But what it takes does have to start there, and start well.

"... The cost in blood and treasure was thousands of lives lost and trillions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars down the drain. I believe it is my duty, as a veteran and member of the House Committees on Armed Services and Foreign Affairs, to make sure such false intelligence and lies are never again used to justify use of American military force."

Yes, or something towards that end. Never again, and ensured - that would be quite a feat. It's hardly ever been stopped before. What the public and its servants need is this kind of skepticism, followed up on, and more of it. We're several steps behind the warmongers and their lying lackies and need to not only catch up but get out ahead of them.

Congresswoman Gabbard, responsible assistants on such matters, thank you for your time. I hope I didn't take too much for too little gain. Any intriguing points that seemed worth a fuller explanation, let me know.

- Adam Larson, independent researcher
Spokane, WA
August 10, 2019
@CL4Syr on Twitter
e-mail: caustic_logic@yahoo.com

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Clearer View on the "Assad Files"

August 3. 2019
(rough, incomplete)

The following article serves as a review of the report "Walls Have Ears: An Analysis of Classified Syrian Security Sector Documents," published April/May 2019 in Washington, DC. by Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC), dedicated to "a Syria defined by justice, respect for human rights, and rule of law." Direct link: https://syriaaccountability.org/library/walls-have-ears/

As explained, the report is based on analysis of some 5,003 pages of documents "obtained from intelligence agency offices that were abandoned by the government during the Syrian war." Actually just 3,470 of those wound up relevant enough to consider, and a smaller portion of those are said to expose "serious human rights violations."

These include a vast majority from the "Assad Files" as I've covered them, from a separate but likeminded Committee for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) with a touted 800,000 pages worth. The Globe and Mail (Canada) recently spoke with Canadian Bill Wiley, CIJA's founder, who said the files ("more than 800,000 pages" worth) present “the best evidence against a regime since Nuremberg,” and is “much, much better” than what was presented in court against Slobodan Milosevic. Huh. I leave it to the reader to decide what that means.

Other documents are from the SJAC's own smaller collection of about 5,000 pages. From what's cited and not, the SJAC's files seem to be more of the same (legitimate documents but lacking in criminal orders). As such, they should be included in, and add a sliver to the "Assad Files," which is not exclusively the domain of CIJA.

With a total of 3,470 pages examined for this report, this is the largest body of such documents specifically looked at and assessed in total, and our best view yet into how the "Assad Files" in general really look. So far it's been down to noting the weakness of their chosen best examples. Here, we get a sort of overview of a very large set - good and bad examples - chosen supposedly at random.

In that light, I'll re-explain their stated selection process (but further down - see "sample selection and relevance") to show why this sampling matters and helps clarify the significance of patterns illustrated here. First the patterns - what kinds of alleged regime crimes wound up having evidence located, and which did not.


Mass irrelevance
As the file selection process shows (see below) of all "Assad Files" - a vast majority probably over 96% - are completely irrelevant. Of the more relevant 3-4%, this sampling suggests a majority also have no bearing on relevant subjects (only 848 "high priority" pages vs. 2,622 not so high). And even with those ... the examples shown thus far suggest nothing terribly incriminating was found, and that impression runs right through everything the SJAC adds here.

The juicy core: admitted violations
Of the selected pages (3,470) only about 6% of them (214 pages) "included a confession to a possible violation" - a criminal order given in a top-secret file is the main thing the CIJA and others have been suggesting they have lots of. Some are orders for acts most readers would disprove of, but this 214 pages with "confessions" also include an unclear percentage with "indirect admissions, such as instructions to cease a certain activity that is a clear violation" So orders to stop an activity - ordered in the first place or not - count as "admissions." "SJAC found no evidence to suggest that these directives (to cease violations) were followed," perhaps allowing violations to continue. But they also admit by omission they found no orders to start any serious abuses.

Even with "violations" seeming relatively mundane, or vague and poorly-explained (see below), and with "admissions" to them defined so broadly, just 214 out of some 3,500 pages fit the bill. This suggests close to 6% of all equally "relevant" documents across the "Assad Files" will include such a broadly-defined "admission" - probably just as grossly padded as this, and probably including zero real support to the opposition's outlandish mythology.

Seven shared pages
11 pages from the sample set were deemed important enough by SJAC to share in their original form and translated to English (with minor redactions). But four of these are about "repression of the Kurds" and date from 2010, before the terrorist insurgency and current allegations began. (such dated files are included, ostensibly, because measures in this span MIGHT feed into relevant resentments in 2011. But it wasn't an uprising of repressed Kurds, was it?) Just seven shared pages concern all other alleged crimes from 2011 and forward, combined! This select seven has a lot riding on it - they had better be good. But here are all of them, briefly summarized:

- orders to “do the necessary” regarding a certain journalist (presumably arrest her, if she re-entered Syria)
- orders from 2014 to destroy vehicles left at checkpoints and suspected of being rigged with explosives, but as SJAC complains ... without a reminder to avoid civilian casualties (why is a reminder needed?), and without urging troops to search the vehicles first, which ... SJAC thinks is the best way to be sure it's rigged to blow up?
- An admission of at least three children (or "juveniles under age 18" as given) were arrested in one place (unclear) during 2013-14. Aged 14-16 at the time, depending, all three were accused of terrorism-militant activities, including joining armed groups as child soldiers (they recruit usually from age 13 and up), training to shoot, and even shooting in militant attacks. Also, they were arrested, and that's a "violation" by the government?
- In December, 2011, orders stop having civilians in Homs help run security checkpoints and openly identify targets for arrest. The practice was raising sectarian tensions, which had led to kidnapping and killings by civilians on both sides (app. meaning Sunni and Alawite), and must be stopped. See ACLOS posting.
- Orders to use seized motorcycles for new counter-terror group (according to SJAC, this practice was later halted, or "passively admitted," besides here being seen ordered.)
- A warning of likely chemical weapons use by terrorist, using materials seized from Libya's stocks, in order to frame the government (as it happens, about 2 weeks before the first such allegations I know of, in February, 2012) See ACLOS posting.
- An official felt there was a conspiracy of lies against the Syrian government, and wanted thoughts on it.

And remember these seven are probably among the best examples they could find, out of ~3,500 potentially relevant pages, to illustrate those "serious human rights violations" the SJAC want us to believe in.

The report admits "None of the pages in the sample set explicitly admitted to the use of torture, despite widespread and consistent accusations..." That's zero out of 3,470. But the SJAC prefers the accusations, of course, and suggest as probable that "despite the government’s detailed records, certain topics were intentionally omitted or concealed in written communications." This would be convenient - everything you want to find but can't must have been ordered in more secret files since burned, or issued verbally, or in code, with a system of winks and nods, or perhaps by pheromones as with ants. But never could they consider that such thing simply were never ordered by the Syrian government. SJAC also notes, as if in desperation: "At least one page, however, included a handwritten note from a detained individual who confessed to crimes and swore that he was not beaten or tortured during his arrest, raising suspicions that he may have indeed been tortured or mistreated in detention." So they have some pretty self-raising suspicions, that enjoy only inverse support from the documents.

Mass killing of prisoners
Among 3,470 pages, enough mention detainees that a "vast majority" of them don't mention a death, let alone a murder, ordered or otherwise. It seems reference to just one death in custody was found, and they have to doubt its claims that he died from an infection, stemming from an injury sustained during his arrest. As they put it, the files have the patient treated in a hospital and declared stable, only to die anyway, apparently just before he was to be transferred to a Mukhabarat prison (unclear timeline). To the SJAC, "The YouTube video" of the victim's body, and not any located document, "indicates that he may have experienced torture and other mistreatment in custody," This is based on noted "bruising" that might actually be infection-related, for example.

This one case alone gave enough material to "raise questions" to this effect, to people over-eager to see them raised. One death with no clear admission or order involved actually raises the question "where the hell are the orders behind the alleged mass of prisoner killings?" Was this too "omitted or concealed"? Of course they would have to find this likely enough it's probably true...

The "Caesar Photos" indeed prove something quite terrible and very large. My analysis of the timeline of CP victims suggests these abused bodies were produced at an alarming rate - averaging around 1,000 per month from late 2012 through August, 2013 - all with no reflection in official orders? The given story of systematic killing in regime prisons has long coat-tails, provided by those very many photographs as "proof," and which these Assad Files tend to ride on. They focus on the same class of allegations, with CIJA trying to craft a paperwork version of that stronger story; the two are repeatedly used together in moving videos by UK "news" outlets, leaning against each other as is convenient. But closer inspection reveals how they probably do not show the same thing, as sold. The CIJA and SJAC have so far failed to find any remotely clear link between that criminality and the top-secret communications that should reflect it somewhere - if that mass extermination of prisoners was ever the work of the government. There was a specific effort - or two - that seems like well-researched tries at a timeline match-up with two specific CP victims, both pinned on branch 227 in a short time span.  But I was able to almost prove that both of these best tries were phony. That's the best it gets, so no line-up; these numbers and documents refer to different people in different prison systems! As it stands, the "Assad Files" line-up with a growing body of evidence suggesting the thousands of murdered men and boys in those "Caesar Photos" were killed by others (probably Jaish Al-Islam) on the "moderate Islamist" opposition side (Al-Qaeda-Al-Nusra and the rest, aside from ISIS), whom the CIJA admits it works with, and does not investigate at all.

Targeting journalists and coded orders
At least one file (November 18, 2011) speaks to targeting of journalists and well enough to include in full. A foreign female journalist (name redacted) was considered criminal for her pro-militant reporting and agitation, and had been barred from Syria. There are unexplained orders to "do the necessary" - a standard phrase, here probably meaning keep monitoring her two known phone numbers, and arrest her if she was caught back in Syria. That's not terrible at all, unless one imagines hidden meanings. And it seems nothing more criminal along these lines came up in the sample set.

SJAC imagines hidden meaning here, proposing that the standard phrase "do the necessary" (or “take the necessary measures” or similar) - as used with the case above - can be a code ordering killing or other criminal activity. Do cue the mood music. "The difficulty" they opted to have "was in understanding whether the phrase was a relevant indicator of a potential violation or a simple catch-all used in even mundane circumstances." The doubt comes not from anything in the files, but from military and intelligence "defectors" lodging some unverified and propagandistic claims.

- one defector said that a similar - but different - phrase meant to arrest or kill journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed, under murky circumstances, allegedly on government orders, but seemingly with no supports found in the Assad Files - just from the allegations of this defector.

- some 63 defectors all told HRW in 2011 that another similar phrase - "By all means necessary!" - meant to shoot and kill peaceful protesters ("about half" said killing was explicitly ordered, even with death quotas given, the rest all felt it was hinted but not said outright. All agreed the orders were issued verbally, not on paper, and in fact "Ameen" said "On paper, it said “Stop the protesters,” but verbally he explicitly said, “Kill.”")

The best example SJAC found in their search suggested "do the necessary" meant to paint over some graffiti (reported as done) and then do "the necessary" with the law-breakers if they were ever found. That's supposed to sound ominous, but it probably isn't. With the above case around the journalist (by the way, not Marie Colvin), it probably means monitor and arrest a person, if warranted.

Admission to the Commission of Crimes
This is the key thing you should find lots of here, in top-secret orders for said crimes, reports of carrying them out, etc. SJAC identified 214 pages that included a confession to a possible violation. That's ~ 6% of the sample set. Of these 214 pages, a majority are "implicated human rights abuses" (violating right to freedom of assembly, due process rights, etc.) while "a much smaller number of pages implicated violations of international humanitarian law," more specifically criminal activities. But generally, the gravity of offense and degree of implication are left unclear.

"The largest percentage" of those related to "protests, including surveillance of suspected government dissidents, wanted lists and arrest campaigns, and government security forces’ activities during protests" (or maybe during those armed "events" they also refer to - dealing with immediate militant problems, not issuing orders for massacres, prison torture and other acts of random villainy.

"The types of alleged violations which the Syrian government directly admitted to in the documents" - which should include the most severe violations possibly located - are given as:

Violation of Freedom of Expression and Assembly.
Violation of Due Process Rights.
Arbitrary Detention and Death of Children.
Violations of the Principle of Distinction.
Manipulation of Humanitarian Aid.
They found nothing more serious, like systematic genocide, or it would be noted. Let's consider a couple of these.

Conflation of Unarmed Civilians, Armed Groups, and Terrorists.

I can vouch for some abiguity in the wording. As we've seen, the CIJA deliberately exaggerates any conflation and then ignores the militant part, to falsely claim a government strategy in 2011 of rounding up peaceful protest organizers. (it was in fact specified all wanted targets were wanted for violent crimes including mudering and "terrorizing" citizens, and some of the militants were also organizing some kind of armed "demonstrations." A rare glimpse of the original document proves it contains nothing criminal, but it was sold based on distorted paraphrasing as the "linchpin" of the CIJA's case against government officials. Let's keep calling it their linchpin. It probably will tie in nicely with the rest, with reasonable actions distorted to sound criminal... nothing in the SJAC report or previously does much to counter that impression.
Is this what they meant? If so, there's my guess; "demonstraions" has a different meaning than usual. Two different documents clarify these events had someone "arming" them, and were organized by armed militants, not peaceful activists. The word they used for "demonstrations" (as CIJA had translated it in at least one important case from 2011) is التظاهرات (altazaharat). This Google-translates vaguely to "events" and is not the usual word for "demonstrations" ( المظاهرات - almazaharat, very similar), nor the usual word for events ( الأحداث - al'ahdath - not similar at all). If spelling = meaning (which it doesn't), this word suggests an unusual "event" that looks like a protest but isn't. That might be about its meaning, as used.

It might be pretentious for this non-Arabic speaker to challenge the SJAC reading, but I challenge it (after consulting a couple native speakers). The word used apparently means a hard-to-classify "event" that involve both protest and shooting, and used in line with thinking shaped by years of emergency law, by which anti-government, Islamist, or sectarian demonstrations like these were roughly as illegal as the armed violence that tends to come with them. People involved in these "events" do, as translated, "demonstrate" and are called "demonstrators" (usual words). But they're clearly armed, as it says, and in other contexts with no protests at the moment, it's probably the same people they refer to as "armed gangs."

The flip-side of this reading is there would be no distinct word for non-violent demonstrator. Unless, perhaps, they did exactly what I just did: specify this one was peaceful. For all we know they do this, and the SJAC just didn't mention it, as they claim deliberate conflation, presumably to "justify" that plan to shoot down harmless protesters (for which there's still no clear evidence whatsoever in the "Assad Files.")

Manipulation of Humanitarian Aid"
From the given details, it sounds like questionable controls were placed on aid deliveries, perhaps with political conditions attached (limiting the number of aid trucks allowed in, etc.) This isn't the best-sounding practice, but let's pause to consider what it also doesn't sound like. There's nothing mentioned about imposing a total starvation blockade anywhere, when it's been alleged just about everywhere, and generally believed. The CIJA has never mentioned finding such a thing either. "Omitted or concealed"?

Even if there were orders somewhere, the mechanism of its implementation remains mysterious. The visual record is clear that militants and allies eat as well as they like (see Yaser al-Doumani's weight-gain during the siege of E Ghouta). Accounts and images suggest most people suffer shortages (due mostly to hoarding and price-gouging by militants and allies) with real health effects, but nearly all of them keep finding enough to eat they stay alive, at least. And then we've been shown what must be a select few people get entirely cut off from food, probably water and all care (or sometimes fall ill and aren't treated), but as soon as they finally pass away, concerned people are able to get that skin-and-bones corpse on video, shown off as to prove Assad's starvation blockade. How "Assad" got the people in these rebel-held areas to stop sharing food with each other was never explained, and no one pressed for an explanation. Also, as CIJA and SJAC confirm by omission, no orders related to such a (human decency embargo?) have been located. The evil behind this must have another source. (Is there another power with a hand in Syria known to use total starvation blockades for real? Consider their proxies.) (Below: Yaser al-Doumani vs. a contrast in the alleged regime starving of Yarmouk Palestinian camp.

"Arbitrary Detention and Death of Children"
The report notes "One page was a telegram request for a list of children being held at security offices, indicating that the security apparatus was aware of such practices." As noted above, one shared page gives a reply: three teenage boys (all aged around 15) are listed as taken in for membership in armed militant groups and related activities (training to shoot, joining in attacks, filming attacks, suspicious surveillance of pro-government civilians, etc.) Militants recruit children, the government arrests them as needed, and regime officials were aware of this! They almost surely approved of it! I would too! (below: cropped from SJAC's page translation)

SJAC reports two further documents out of 3,470 referred to three other juveniles arrested for things that aren't even crimes in most countries (but are in Syria, and it's known). One refers to a boy arrested "for participation in protests" of a disallowed sort, and the other is about two kids taken in "for supposedly saying “shame” when passing a photo of Assad." Ages weren't given. We may not approve of these cases, but is it fit for a trial at the Hague?

"Another page listed names of individuals who were killed in clashes at a protest in Deir Ezzor, which included minors." Who killed who and all other circumstances are left totally unclear. Maybe those killed were more opposition child soldiers killed in self-defense? It seems nothing else in 3,470 pages came closer to illustrating criminal targeting of innocent children.

"Indirect Admissions"
"Another recurring pattern was indirect admissions, such as instructions to cease a certain activity that is a clear violation, meaning there was knowledge the crimes had previously occurred (e.g. orders to cease the use of deadly force during protests and the looting of humanitarian aid convoys)." SJAC found orders to stop certain moderately criminal activities, but wasn't impressed, claiming they "found no evidence to suggest that these directives were followed," allowing the abuses to continue. Orders to start such "violations" were found in at least once case (the motorcycles), but in general, SJAC admits by omission they also found no orders to initiate most cited practices - and no mention whatsoever of entire classes horrific crimes that have been widely alleged and believed.

The SJAC report does get specific about what kind of crimes were "admitted," possibly permitted, perhaps secretly ordered. "Soldiers were to cease certain activities, including" these, most likely listed for being the most severe violations found in a look at in the juiciest portions of the touted "Assad Files" (some with my notes added below).

- "stealing propane to fuel their personal vehicles"

- "shooting protestors" - "using military weapons during protests"
-- previously I've seen orders not to shoot, not an admission anyone was shooting (likely just repeating a standard order for good effect). Same here? And if they were shooting, was it at the kind of armed "demonstrators" involved in the "events" some documents refer to? (see aove, on "conflation") And still no one has seen and shared an order to start shooting, defensively or otherwise.

- "holding family members of suspects hostage"
-- documents said to prove "the detention of family members to encourage suspects to turn themselves in" - no details given)

- "the use of confiscated motorcycles by security personnel for patrols"
-- another SJAC file - unusually - shows the order to start this (22 Jan. 2012). Even this was called off, according the SJAC; this repressive regime would not use or profit from seized property, even if it was taken from terrorists and used to protect the citizens from them.

Anti-Sunni sectarianism / genocide policy
This has been widely alleged, its supposed factual bases repeatedly accepted, and yet ... The SJAC found nothing to suggest repression of the Sunni Arab majority ("aside from everything," some would stupidly argue; "the whole point of the repression is to crush the Sunnis"). Nor did they locate and mention anything illustrating promotion of Alawite supremacy of the kind alleged behind the raging genocide of Sunnis. These are two sides of the coin by which Assad's economy of evil is said to run, but SJAC and CIJA before them found nothing explicit to suggest either side of it (the coin is counterfeit!), nor about targeting of other religious minorities, despite some effort looking for it.

The biggest thing the SJAC found was sectarian tensions in Homs where Sunnis and Alawites (presumably, not stated) were arresting each other - "reciprocal sectarian kidnappings and killings peaked in Homs" - indeed - I had read of a spate of killings in roughly the first week of December. Gruesome and murky stuff: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Early_December,_2011_Sectarian_Killings_in_Homs

The government was accusing civilians both sides of some part - not necessarily equal - in a crisis they wanted resolved. That seems to be the true situation, so maybe the true intent? Problem identified: "the use of civilians at some checkpoints to openly select targets." The civilians were drawn from neighborhoods on a rotating basis, and would tend to have a religion or sect. Alawites with some knowledge of Sunnis extremists in their vicinity might be useful right at a checkpoint. But it was done openly, so people could see an Alawite helping arrest a Sunni at some point, for example (the vice-versa being pretty unlikely). And guess who might go on a rampage against all Alawite citizens then? Who's more likely to reciprocate for that, as opposed to starting it?

The practice was to be banned ("as of this date it is prohibited"), and authorities were urged instead to "use covert security methods that do not incite hatred and tension among the citizens." But the SJAC and their ilk suspect, no matter what, increasing tensions and forcing Sunnis to kill their neighbors was the whole plan. They'll suspect this memo was just for internal show, and they really meant to amp it up, maybe taking these sectarian Alawite civilians on home raids, armed with machetes, call them "Shabiha," have them chant sectarian slogans as they slaughter multiple families, but leaving a miracle survivor or two from each house, and leaving all the bodies behind … It has been alleged, a lot. But the best suggestion SJAC could find in that direction was this relatively sane counter-terror policy that was only cancelled, I would guess, once it started getting the adjunct security and their families kidnapped and murdered.

However, the Kurds …


Sample selection and relevance

Total: "SJAC possesses high quality scans of an estimated 483,000 pages of documents taken from government facilities," some of which (nearly 5,000) were collected by SJAC’s team, and far more (nearly 478,000) were collected by and loaned from CIJA. The latter should be some 60% of CIJA's touted collection of 800,000 pages (likely the more fruitful half, perhaps picked at random, surely not picked as the weaker half). All files from CIJA and SJAC will henceforth be considered part of the same "Assad Files."

First that larger pool of 483,000 was sorted into relevant and irrelevant documents, based on the criteria below, "to focus on documents related to state practices that fueled resentment prior to 2011 or that depicted orders and practices employed after unrest began in 2011." Anything earlier than the year 2000 was deemed irrelevant, and anything from there to 2010 was too, "unless they included information about the surveillance and targeting of political dissidents and/or ethnic/religious groups." Documents from 2011 and later "were deemed relevant unless they were publicly available documents." Copies of presidential decrees, a "police magazine" (article?) and "a procurement document from the department of agriculture" are cited as examples of things they found and filtered out.

Using those criteria, the report explains "approximately 18,000 pages" were found worthy of inclusion. Out of 483,000, that means just 3.7% were even broadly and potentially relevant. Around 80% of that is CIJA, same or worse likely applying across the remained of its larger collection - a claimed 800,000 pages, presumably at least 96% will be totally irrelevant (more like 29-30,000 "relevant" pages).

18,000 may have still seemed too many to analyze, so a solid sampling of about one in four documents was selected at random, with a randomization process described and sounding plausible (I'm no expert). They were apparently aiming for no less than 5,000 pages, and a multi-page document left it at exactly 5,003. FWIW this sample set includes a disproportionate share of SJAC files: 927 or 19% of their total, vs. 4,076 from CIJA (less than 1% of their collection).

Finally, some folder-mixing made it so some relevant documents were filtered out and irrelevant ones filtered in (unclear if that was a random or a "convenient" error). Considering how selection was randomized, the proportion should be 31% still irrelevant: 3,470 of the 5,003 wound up possibly mattering. (applied to the 18,000 files, we might expect ~12,400 "relevant" ones)

So these 3,470 pages should be representative of all "relevant" documents, about one in four (28%). And of those 3,470, they found only 848 "high priority" pages; just 24% wound up "relevant" enough as to include "names of specific detained individual(s)," or to give insights on the government's military strategy, OR to contain "information about the state’s involvement in violations of international law."

Finally just 214 of those 848 pages included the main thing everyone's been looking for, and acting like they've found in droves - "a confession to a possible violation" like, for example, direct orders for a criminal act. We all "know" there should be a lot of these. But only about 6% of the relevant sample set included such, even with "violation" defined broadly and "confession" set to include orders to cease activities that authorities never ordered in the first place.

214 out of 483,000 touted files means = 0.04% wound up arguably proving something criminal. From there, the quality of argument is what narrows the proven criminality down further, to what I presume is very near 0. I'd guess 0.002% or less (that's maybe 16 pages with actually illegal orders, in a total body of 800,000). And I would guess somewhere between 0 and 3 of those 16 would support any of the more extreme allegations we've heard over and over.

How SJAC got its files
As we've seen, it's not so much the documents as it is things you heard and believed somewhere else - plus the documents, blended together however works. Not that important here but interesting anyway is "SJAC’s documentation extraction process" as described in the report:

"To secure documents, SJAC’s Documentation Team members inside Syria entered abandoned government facilities" and recovered files, on just two big occasions: once was in Tabqa and Raqqa in 2013, after the area's conquest by the Al-Nusra-led Islamist coalition, and presumably prior to ISIS taking it over from them. Following the Turkish-backed offensive, "the Turkish-Syrian border was relatively unrestricted, and the Documentation Team members were able to leave Syria and transfer the physical documents to Turkey without hindrance." Then in Spring of 2015, Al-Nusra-led Islamists again overran most of Idlib province, again with Turkish assistance, and some more secret files were carelessly "abandoned" and shuffled over to Turkey by the SJAC's activists with no hassle.

So while SJAC claims independence and opposition to terrorism, they do move freely between terrorist-held areas and the Turkish border, and it almost seems like they operate nowhere else. The SJAC apparently enjoys Turkish state support, yet seems very supportive of Kurdish cultural rights, focusing heavily on that in this report, in lieu of anything sectarian against the Sunni Arab majority they could locate. Kurdish separatism is an issue all regional states have to deal with, and where Turkey and its proxies (SJAC?) have no room to preach about "repression" by others. So this line of criticism seems a bit hypocritical, besides being the best they could find.