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Friday, November 8, 2019

OPCW Whistleblower Expands our View on Douma Sham Investigation

...and I expand on that.
November 8, 2019
small adds Dec. 7, 2019

Back on October 14, a panel was convened in Brussels by the Wikileaks-connected Courage Foundation to have journalists, diplomats, and other professionals hear from a second public whistleblower from within the OPCW. Richard Falk (the U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian situation) was in attendance, and so too - in absentia - was José Bustani, the first-ever Director General OPCW, famously forced from office in 2002 for refusing to play by the Americans' rules in the run-up to their war on Iraq. Bustani is quoted as saying about this event (which was used to justify U.S.-led missile attacks on Syria):

“The convincing evidence of irregular behaviour in the OPCW investigation of the alleged Douma chemical attack confirms doubts and suspicions I already had. I could make no sense of what I was reading in the international press. Even official reports of investigations seemed incoherent at best. The picture is certainly clearer now, although very disturbing”
Claiming to be specifically involved in their investigation into the 2018 Douma incident, under the code-name "Alex," the whistleblower added several points on that agency's systematic mutilation of the truth that have been making waves in the media since then (where it's not corporate-controlled and keeping the gates, anyway).

Troubles at the leading point
Among the published revelations, perhaps the most powerful point of immediate appeal relates to the environmental samples collected from the two attack sites. Apparently these showed no increase of chlorinated compounds over the control samples from unaffected areas. That has different possible readings, but the straightforward one many are taking (like journalist Jonathan Steele, who was present in Brussels) is that there was no chemical release at all - so no attack, and a much-less-effective staging of one than I had been assuming.

But that assumption - the managed massacre and staged attack scenes used a genuine chlorine release for some simple "realism" - was pretty well-founded, so this point needed special consideration here. I didn't so much try to answer any questions as to raise ones it seems no one else was raising. Considering the strong visual clues for a serious chlorine release at both sites - supported by other evidence and considerable logic - I can't simply accept the claim or suggestion of normal levels without some good explanation.

The risk, hypothetically anyway: if this claim is somehow untrue but becomes widely-believed, that means a lot of people are confused. Then the mass confusion could be illustrated and cleared up, a lot of people would be discredited as easily-confused fools, and the OPCW leadership (and its allies in governments, media, etc.!) could lecture us all about why they keep things controlled - to protect us from just that. It could help underwrite some new laws, new internet rules, or at least some tighter-yet rules to guard in secrecy the obfuscation needed for the OPCW's future work, and to "re-build its credibility." (that doesn't mean get honest - it means re-convince people they're honest, PERHAPS by getting honest (I wouldn't bet on that) or just by not getting caught in a lie until after the memory fades.

Maybe I'm just confused there, but when I know so many relevant things, that in itself means something; if I'm confused, that means more people should be. And if I'm wrong to have these doubts, thank goodness I've got no power to hold things up. And since I don't think anyone else is taking this position... even if I'm wrong, it's a reasoned enough stance someone should take it.

But otherwise...
So far those questions I raised are far from answered, but might be noted and spreading to more minds, so we'll see. Now to the remainder of the subject matter raised by "Alex" - here under the 4 categories in the Courage Foundation report, in the same order - their headings in bold, my added by-line (?) for each not bolded:

- Toxicology and the limits of its relevance to this case
- Ballistics studies still point to staging
- Witnesses testimonies still clash, some with logic and each other
- Exclusionary practices and obfuscation ensured the 'politically correct' outcome

Considering the primary effect regarding environmental samples seems so dubious, I'll have to pay extra attention to these other points to see if they add to that problem or help balance it out. Happily, I can say the information is otherwise interesting and in line with what we have already learned. There's nothing as revolutionary as "no chlorine release" in there, aside from that itself, but we get further insights and a raised profile for this issue, further cementing the overdue realization that the OPCW lacks true credibility, hence the attacks on its undeserved and much-abused fake credibility. 

Sources (basic):
* Courage Foundation: OPCW panel statement/

* Wikileaks.org page on the subject
** Courage Foundation report Associated summary report (PDF)
**"A critical analysis of the final report of the Douma investigation left the panel in little doubt that conclusions drawn from each of the key evidentiary pillars of the investigation (chemical analysis, toxicology, ballistics and witness testimonies,) are flawed and bear little relation to the facts."

* Sputnik evil Russian news coverage

* Karin Leukefeld attended, wrote a German-language report for Nachdenkseiten
** translated to English by Michael Kobs

* Richard Falk's thoughtful dispatch, and more can be found at Tim Hayward's sources collection

Toxicology, and the limits of its relevance to this case
Doubting chlorine as the killer: Again, the important aspect about levels of chlorinated compounds is covered elsewhere, with the remaining points considered here. As background, the release of chlorine gas is somewhat disputed, and it doesn't matter much except where it does. So let's start with the Courage Foundation (CF) report, section 3. Toxicology:
"Consultations with toxicologists are reported to have taken place in September and October 2018 (para 8.87 and Annex 3), but no mention is made of what those same experts opined or concluded. Whilst the final toxicological assessment of the authors states “it is not possible to precisely link the cause of the signs and symptoms to a specific chemical” (para 9.6) the report nonetheless concludes there were reasonable grounds to believe chlorine gas was the chemical (used as a weapon)."

"More worrying is the fact that the panel viewed documented evidence that showed other toxicologists had been consulted in June 2018 prior to the release of the interim report. Expert opinions on that occasion were that the signs and symptoms observed in videos and from witness accounts were not consistent with exposure to molecular chlorine or any reactive- chlorine-containing chemical. Why no mention of this critical assessment, which contradicts that implied in the final report, was made is unclear and of concern."
We knew about the vagueness in the final report, but those earlier findings are new to me. Consulted experts reported back that the symptoms - seen and described - did not match with those expected from chlorine. Indeed. Depending on what clinical signs they focused on, the questions left unanswered range to the huge and horrifying.

Described symptoms were often tailored to the running sarin claims, full of instant blackouts and long on sudden death. Observed signs include too many dead by far for simple chlorine, with strangely white eyes, and strange other signs I link and broadly dubbed "Douma's mask of death." (extract from the clearest example at right). Those come from no chemical in itself and constitute another class of murder clues that investigators weren't even looking for.

For people trapped in a gas chamber, as I suspect these poor souls were, the suddenness of death is not such an issue. They don't need to drop dead instantly at home, and can take however long is needed to die in the before their bodies are placed in that home to complete the staged scene.

Some moments on foam: Leukefeld writes: "The dead who were seen in various mobile phone pictures in one of the two houses on 7 and 8 April 2018 could not have died of chlorine gas, according to the source "Alex". All corpses had foam (from) the mouth, chlorine however gets into the lungs and destroys the tissue from the inside, foam is not produced."

This is not a crucial point, maybe not even worth this nitpicking, but … at first I did more than that, calling this "a moot point in support of a confusing and questioned point suggesting no chlorine," but scaled it back on some helpful advice. Rather than delete it, I'll clarify. Foaming from the mouth doesn't seem to be a regular symptom with pulmonary irritants; as I've said before foam is "not really a chlorine indicator." But it does seem at least possible, and so for what it's worth, I don't think it's the solid anti-sign "Alex" takes it for.

It's known that chlorine causes pulmonary edema, or fluid in the airways, which is exactly what kills the victim, by suffocation. They'll have to breath through the fluid, causing bubbles that can become dense enough to be called foam, and the body will try to expel this so breathing can improve. I have never seen it mentioned in the several accounts of real-world chlorine exposure I've reviewed, but it could be an occasional feature glossed over. And importantly, those events didn't involve prolonged exposure in captivity, which might be the case here.

So just by the massive foam in so many cases, chlorine is not suggested, but might be possible, depending on conditions. And that being said, more specific signs point another direction anyway; chlorine is not known to cause the slowly deepening yellow-brown discoloration of the skin we see. But there is at least one good candidate for that that's easily available, and is a pulmonary irritant, so similar in effect to chlorine. And it appears the victims here died by suffocating on the fluids we see, which were foamed up during the struggle to breathe prior to that. I could see chlorine possibly doing the same, but that's a moot point, right?

Many have questioned this foam, finding it suspect in character and in volume. I've always urged caution on that point, as we don't know the conditions they were in (were they made to breathe plaster dust as well?). And even under normal conditions, foam can often dry in place in about the same way seen here - it's not as unusual as it looks. But after much review, some of the seen foam may well be fake stuff added for effect, judging by its properties (even white color, extra-fine bubbles, extra-viscous base material that dries much like commercial imitation whipped cream does). But even that could be genuine and just unusual, as far as I know; bizarre conditions might exist in Islamist dungeons and gas chambers, and I'm no expert.

And either way, there is other foam that seems genuine, judging by its characteristics (uneven bubbles, mixed with blood or mucous and/or the toxic agent, collapsing into a gross yellow-brown fluid, etc.). In fact it seems the fluid it's based on has special properties that cause the discoloration and some sort of irritation to the skin causing that strange "mask" pattern (partly explained in this tweet with images). So this isn't a subject to just be laughed away as fake - these folks died with a terrible sort of fluid in their lungs. It caused bubbles packed inside their chests, much of which oozed out over time, sometimes in shifts, though the later shift do get more questionable.

Also, it seems it somehow flowed "up" their faces after oozing from their noses and mouths, marring their upper faces except for those strange exclusions over their eyes and sometimes in narrow strips up the cheeks … just a reminder: no chemical causes that.

The high fatality issue: The key inconsistency as I see it is that people don't just sit there and die from chlorine, or any simple irritant, under most circumstances. They don't pass out or get paralyzed or die suddenly. The burning in their eyes and airways and unimpeded responses compel the victim to escape this tainted air. They will almost always they do just that and nearly everyone survives, with varying levels of tissue damage and varying recovery times. (full explanation here.)

Here with 35 dead in one spot, simple chlorine cannot be the explanation. It could be they died suddenly from something else - instantly lethal or paralytic - that never did turn up in chemical tests (or was perhaps suppressed?). Or perhaps they were dead - maybe from poisons - in another place never checked, before being dragged into the seen positions. Of course the bodies were removed and buried in a secret location, and thus never sampled by the OPCW, nor I think by anyone, so it could be both the bodies and the murder scene were left un-investigated, and only the scenes staged to help cover-up that murder were ever looked at.

Note the people moving the bodies might wear gloves, goggles, a paper breathing mask, or even a respirator mask to protect from secondary fumes (probably just unpleasant, not very dangerous). As they washed the victims' faces and hair one last time before the videos begin, they might leave the dingy rags laying there along with one of their masks, and let the victims be seen before their hair has even re-dried. If they were being lazy, they might leave all these clues...

Leukefeld: "In a deviating statement to the official interim report it says: “Symptoms were observed which do not agree with the effect of chlorine”. There are also “no other obvious candidates among chemicals that produce such symptoms”. According to the source "Alex", the Douma team's investigation revealed that these people died
a) from highly toxic chemicals or
b) from non-chemical substances."

It's not clear which signs they refer to, but it should include the "periorbital discoloration" the FFM noted as having no known chemical cause. But it has no known cause at all, so it can't be narrowed down yet to "non-chemical." This is a central part of what I call the "mask of death," as mentioned above. It has a cause that's simply unknown, and in a world where so much is known, this should be raising more red flags than it has. It needs to be noted and explained eventually.

I propose the answer lies in an excluded option c) chemical substances under non-chemical conditions killed them. Someone had them tied up and unable to escape, and no chemical from a bomb does that. Militant groups with big enemy lists do that. Ones about to surrender and flee Douma, as the local "Army of Islam" militants were, might liquidate any property they couldn't take and didn't want to leave either - chemical weapons and hostages, for example. Such "people" might exterminate any number of their hostages at this time rather than set them free (some 3,000 people were believed held and were promised to be freed in prisoner exchanges, but only about 200 ever walked out after that final deal).

Anything toxic could kill in those conditions, given enough time, so it needn't be "highly toxic" or swiftly killing, as you would think if you assumed they had dropped dead at the site of exposure in their home. (More work on this is in slow progress)

Ballistic studies still point to staging
The ballistic analysis aspect is crucial and luckily is well-established by now, with a good reading shared by many vs. a lame one the FFM leadership had to concoct at a late hour for their special operation. This was brought to the fore in May with the leak of a dissenting report from the FFM's own engineering sub-team that concluded the two chlorine cylinder were likely planted by hand, not dropped from an aircraft. It seems this unwanted finding was erased and then replaced with the belated ballistic analysis the FFM only had done in the fall of 2018. A Russian military analysis presented to OPCW and several independent analysts including myself had already made several of the points raised and rejected earlier in this rather amazing report (my limited post on it, with starter links for the uninitiated).

From the Courage Foundation report:

"One alternative ascribing the origin of the crater to an explosive device was considered briefly but, despite an almost identical crater (understood to have resulted from a mortar penetrating the roof) being observed on an adjacent rooftop, was dismissed because of “the absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristics”. In contrast, explosive fragmentation characteristics were noted in the leaked study." 

"Ian Henderson, member of the Douma investigation team, had technically examined the position, condition and possible trajectory of the cylinders and had come to a different conclusion than the official report. His dissenting opinion was not taken into account."

If I may play Mr. Know-it-all yet again … the similar craters and frag marks disagreement are just two of several points the Henderson-EST report raised to support an explosive impact. But it's one of just two the FFM even tried to rebut, wrongly in this case. "Explosive fragmentation characteristics were noted in the leaked study," accurately, and well enough, But it could have been done better. The noted "possible fragmentation" seems to be real but of the secondary sort - hurled bits of concrete, not bomb shell fragments or pre-packed "shrapnel" from the bomb itself (see images below). That plus the massive damage, rebar bend past 90 degrees, etc. does  all-but prove a radially-expanding and powerful blast wave over a simple gas tank "going thunk."

However, that EST report somehow missed the primary fragmentation marks linked to this attack. Those are seen above impact - sharp, uniform marks like bullet holes - across all four walls of the balcony area, seeming linked to the corner pre-impact there, where the shell would have detonated (see images below). This is left out of but would fit right in the EST report, and helps clarify its refreshingly logical assessment of that misrepresented scene. All together, it puts the lie to the claim by the FFM and their preferred experts there was no fragmentation damage, primary or secondary. In fact, there are both kinds plainly visible. All this is explained here, along with the few attempts made to refute me that all just wound up underlining my point that there is nothing but explosive fragmentation that CAN reasonably explain that damage to the balcony walls. Therefore, considering all the other blast wave signs visible from below, that's what just what this is.

Below is my oft-re-posted set of images to show above and below damage (with minor improvements just added to the top one to show upper west wall marks + note: minor scorching there; the fireball mostly rose over the balcony, leaving little sign.).
And note: SW corner vent-area smoke is probably unrelated, also from the fire below, if that's a small round vent visible in the next image (above the orange lettering) - but the hole it comes out of onto the balcony, with great energy it seems, was probably punched earlier by this same shrapnel, perforating and removing a whole large panel of that weaker material.)

In review, with the EST report's point's bolded: The extreme rebar bending noted in the Henderson/EST report is hard to get around, and is simply not gotten around by the FFM, as they assume that's from the gas cylinder that also stopped right there and tipped over just outside the hole it just violently punched. They don't say anything about the noted spalling that suggests a blast wave vibrating through the ceiling's rebar grid. They ignore the admitted similarity to app. weapon craters very nearby, as just noted, based on a baseless rejection of all fragmentation mark clues. They seem to ignore the marks above and below entirely, except where they seem to briefly claim the primary marks as somehow from the gas cylinder's impact; "there was a large impact on the roof and walls above the balcony" caused by the pre-impact, which they were happy to report would slow its velocity and perhaps explain its violently punching that hole but THEN stopping suddenly. Of course it couldn't explain that, nor the sudden pieces of metal shot deep into the surrounding concrete. Noting they provided and nothing reasonable at all can truly explain all this.

The FFM leadership dismiss the EST report's mention of scorching by noting that was caused by a fire set in the room after the impact (for disputable reasons), and not from an explosives detonation. That's probably true, but they don't explain WHY they mention a fire amongst points relating to the impact damage. They do mention a "hypothesis" the damage was caused by an explosive device, which they considered for whatever reason. Scorching can be a sign for that, of course, but they didn't explain that, nor why they opted to consider and refute this sign. So it comes across as a non-sequitur, until you realize that and the related points are raised as stray refutations of the EST report's explosives argument, which they otherwise don't even acknowledge, maybe kept in just for good measure in case the issue came up again (see here). It happens to be a fair refutation, but scorching was apparently the only point they could refute well, and that's part of why the entire first engineering report was basically erased as a massive inconvenience.

The final decision to reject the EST report and pursue new findings apparently happened prior to early July, but not much prior to that. The leaked report is called "the result" of what signing author Ian Henderson refers to as the "FFM engineering sub-team" (here EST) - not "FFM lone, disgruntled interlocutor" or anything. And it seems the FFM held the engineering study's slot open from April to June … either because Henderson's EST was on it, or because no one was, except him, in that weird volunteer way the Rusians might have faked … But the FFM's interim report in early July said work was ongoing to reach a "competent" engineering assessment on issues including trajectory, metallurgy, structural engineering, etc. They were apparently just deciding that in early July, and it wasn't until October to December that they commissioned and received these findings, from parties that sound external to the FFM, were not specified, and were not even called a "sub-team."

That's a notable delay before what I hope is an unusual resolution of - maybe a problem occupying that time span? The first months were probably spent first waiting for the EST's assessment, received perhaps in May, then considering it, debating and finally rejecting it, and then agreeing on a new course, all prior to the July repot. That could mean Henderson and any actual team to fit the name EST was in fact the portion of the FFM originally tasked with these engineering questions; the delay was caused by an awkward switch from plan A to plan B. Otherwise, it's some kind of unexplained coincidence. These do exist, and lucky thing for some "coincidence theorists" out there who just re-configure all these maybes to help refute those pesky "conspiracy theorists," and to fill any gaps left by their trusted authorities.

By way of background, some research suggests the FFM's murky "mandate" to 'avoid blame' wound up requiring they could only consider and suggest an air-drop, which could only be blamed on the Syrian government. Because anything else would just be really biased, right? Even if it's the best available engineering assessment saying that, relating the bias that science and reality itself has. This turns out to be not within their "mandate."

"Witness testimonies" still clash, some with logic and each other

It would be interesting to see more of the claims lodged by those NOT making the opposition case. All witness testimonies are limited in value, sometimes not by much, and sometimes the limits get revised downward sharply by strong supporting evidence. But even among those whose stories "sound good" to skeptics of the opposition's claims, re:Douma there is a proven presence of some witnesses who suggest the attack was staged by "Army of Islam" and the local "White Helmets" might be involved, etc., yet the possible baiting doesn't change how their stories are unlikely, clashing with established facts, so that accepting such a story leads one to cut off more valuable lines of inquiry - and that might be the plan.

Such nuance is not usually to be expected from Islamist massacre managers, in my experience. But on special occasions such as this, or anytime really, even they can be multi-leveled or otherwise clever in just this way. Similar subtle misdirection, besides other bias and error, might even play into some of these witnesses interviewed by Russian researchers, who claim no gas attack and/or opposition staging of the scene. Their accounts vary in relevance and detail, and should be considered but not taken as gospel or fact.

Of course the same goes for those on the other side, to at least the same degree and I'd say to a much higher degree. Sadly, it seems few people apply due and balanced skepticism as they accept one story and brand the other a lie just by reflex.

Leukefeld's article relates how "In May 2018, 39 eyewitnesses were interviewed, 13 in Damascus, 26 in a country "X" to which a separate interview team travelled. 13 declared that there had been no attack with chemical weapons, the other 26 claimed the opposite." It's not clear if the 13 who stayed in Douma-Damascus are the same exact 13 who denied the CW attack, while the 26 in Turkey all affirmed it, but that's probably the case or at least very close to the case. Obviously, such geography-related variance is "truth" is a matter of concern. One entire set almost has to be engaged in a coordinated lie. That would also suggest the Douma-based "survivors" we'll hear from below spoke only to the media, not the OPCW's investigators...

Continuing: "Some claimed to have been victims of the attack themselves. The minority opinion that there had been no attack with chemical weapons was not equally appreciated in the final report." And that would make sense if reality were democratic so the majority view wins. Did the OPCW just take the 2:1 story on that basis? Would they do the same if there were more people denying the opposition claims? That's very unlikely. The FFM seems hard-wired to credit allegations against the government, regardless of their logic or consistency. And it's probably the flip-side of that same bias that has them casting more doubt on conflicting witnesses, regardless of their number and of the reliability of their claims.

And so to the extent someone is lying, the FFM decided it would be those who stayed behind in Douma (and it was said that everyone there was under the regime's control by various threats, when they used to be free to speak under "Army of Islam"). Perhaps the freedom afforded by being in "country X" made the majority of heard voices seem more credible. Whatever the reason, we know their choice. An important corollary of that choice is the FFM would wind up accepting illogical and contradictory claims similar to and perhaps including the following:

- Self-described relentless rescuer Khaled Abu Jaafar (he says he carried passed-out people up or down the stairs three times before he finally blacked out) reported a "green gas emanating from the canisters" as they fell from the helicopters, with their valves already opened.
- Location 2 "survivor" Nasr Hanan says everyone in the basement shelter heard the pop of the valve first opening after it impacted the roof, three stories above them.
- Fellow "survivor" Khaled Nuseir says he and others in the same basement "felt" the valve opening just before he passed out from the chlorine.
- Masa (Mohamed?) and her family, who say some clothing CNN's Arwa Damon sniffed got that chlorine smell from Assad's attack in Douma. Masa's mother Amani explains they were at a shelter next door to what must be the fateful location 2, when a cylinder hit the roof of their building at 7pm (the same time one is said to hit at loc. 2) and the valve opened with a "feesh sound" audible from down in the basement.

We hear the Mohamed family of 4-5 ran upstairs into the descending gas cloud, clear through it to the 4th floor, and then back down to escape. Two of them did "collapse" but no one blacked out for more than a moment and they all survived, as did 72 of the 75 people in their shelter. But "everyone" among the "dozens" in the basement shelter next door died. That's because, Amani reasons, they "didn't hear the gas" nor her frantic phone calls. ("Amani phoned neighbours and friends to warn of the gas attack. But for many, it was too late." She did this while running up and down the stairs through the gas with Masa?)

But "survivors" Hanan and Nuseir claim to be at location 2 and both heard or felt it fine. Hanan says he escaped easily enough, while Nuseir has himself escaping then passing out ~6 hours in one version, passing out ~10 hours and then escaping in another, and in never passing out at all in his first story (he felt funny for a moment but some water set things right). An "Abu Walid" says he passed out for 5 hours and never escaped the basement; people just woke him up later. But as told, most people who aren't fighting-age males seem to pass out and just die. Hanan ran away leaving behind a wife, mother, and at least 2 brothers, he says, after they all briefly made it to fresh air but most opted to run back inside. "Abu Walid" says he lost a pregnant wife and his young, only son. Khaled Nuseir claims he lost a 9-months pregnant wife and their 2 young daughters, in BOTH of his later versions (but not in the one where he only felt funny - at that time it seems no one he knew died.)

Both shelters are in different buildings, with a reported 75 mostly-surviving people in one, and 52 mostly-killed people in the other. Alleged survivors from both claim or imply a gas bomb hit their roof, sending a cloud of chlorine gas down the stairwell inside, so 2 bombs are needed for both stories to be true. Yet only one rooftop impact is alleged in this area; the second chlorine tank staged scene at "location 4" is almost half a kilometer to the southwest, and even the unconfirmed 3rd chlorine bomb was said to land in the street much closer to loc. 2, not on a roof, and too far away to be "next door." (see here for a fuller explanation of the basement shelters confusion)

So one of these two shelter-stories - it would have to be Masa's - can't even fit in the narrative accepted by OPCW et al., and would have to be deemed erred or confused, then perhaps selectively believed anyway. It's not clear just what stories the FFM heard and accepted, but if it's anything like what the public was handed to prove another crime of the "Assad regime," they took the pile of bovine excrement that was twice as tall as the other pile of accounts, and bought it right up.

Exclusion of inspectors and attempts to obfuscate ensured the 'politically correct' results
Karin Leukefeld write (again, per Kobs translation):
"Particularly irritating were the events described by the source "Alex" for the period after the return of the Douma investigation team from Syria. The team had been ostracized from investigations, apparently another interim report had been worked on in parallel. When this report was made available to the team shortly before publication, a discussion about it was first postponed, then prevented."

An internal e-mail is said to show how findings were ignored, and "joint discussions of the Douma investigation team were promised" but these never materialized. "Finally, massive pressure from an - unnamed - contracting state became apparent, which presented the original Douma investigation team with its own "reconstruction of the chlorine attack in Douma". Internally it was said that the report had to satisfy the politicians."

This accusation of a controlling member state and its "reconstruction" is new and interesting. You might presume this refers to the United States, but there are many hands at work. It sounds like they did their own investigation of the incident somehow, and suggested (perhaps - details being unclear) that the FFM might use that as a part of their investigation, or maybe even as a template for how it should come out looking. It's not clear if "the politicians" who needed to be pleased were the same ones submitting these detailed suggestions, but that's how it sounds here.

I'm in no position to verify any of this, but it does sound like just how post-coup managers of the OPCW might run things. They can keep the John Boltons of the world from coming around and threatening their kids, etc. if they just voluntarily follow "the script" before anyone has to ask. They know the basic script, and can be given ample signals as to any changes in it. And on the flip-side of that … if things get tricky with the OPCW's actual science people, there are plenty of helpful, in-script people around in the political sphere to scrape up some "experts" of their own and help "sort things out."

The leadership at the OPCW's Technical Secretariat wouldn't want to be too direct in communicating this arrangement internally, but the message would have to come across to some people, and would likely seep down enough that even the rank-and-file workers could taste the poison. Creating a more-controlled parallel report, stalling discussions to death, stonewalling the outside views during the stall, etc. sounds like what I'd expect and what I've heard so far.

Expanding on this aspect, some new details on the Ian Henderson saga come via the CF report:
"(Henderson) wrote a 15-page report which he circulated - contrary to regulations - within the OPCW. By distributing his report internally, Henderson had violated internal OPCW rules. It was ordered to delete all relevant e-mails, the source reported at the meeting in Brussels. Nevertheless, the report was made public and Henderson was investigated."

This adds compelling detail to an emerging picture of a frustrated renegade. The final circulation is known, and may be just what's referred to here; the leaked report was marked as being an "expanded revision (1)" of an unseen earlier-yet draft. It was apparently freshly-compiled, dated February 27, 2019, and marked for delivery "by hand to TM" (FFM investigation team members), just a few days before the shameful final report s-1731-2019 (my partial review) was set to come out. That reads to me like a possible warning that some people still stood by these facts and that final report should be re-considered. But it was pushed through anyway, and within short order that revised EST report was also leaked to the public.

There's certainly no rule allowing a leak to the public, nor for personally issuing warnings like that in advance. Logically, he was never allowed to circulate it generally (it's marked on each page "do not circulate"). But then of course, there are also rules for including and considering evidence like that in the EST report in the FFM's investigation. But these were systematically overridden, forcing this situation: let the post-coup OPCW management break the rules exclusively to help suppress the truth, or break some yourself in defense of it. 

P.S. There's been some great work on the behind-the-scenes, the who's who, and who might be who, over at WGSPM that I haven't covered here, which might be worth re-considering in light of these latest revelations.  


  1. Do you know (via WG) if the whistleblowers were also involved in or can reveal anything about the sarin-related Fact Finding Missions?

    1. "because of the tension and anxiety involved when evidence doesn’t match what it is thought that management wants to hear"


      So this "tension and anxiety" due to something management won't want to hear has also happened before (before Douma)

    2. Ok finally I reply - I don't know what past work they've done, and don't know if any of us knows or can find out. There seem to be shenanigans there, of course - likely planting, terrorist-fired weapons also involved, probably voluntary token doses in the living human subjects, select poisoning with actual sarin for the dead ones, and all enabled by procedures the OPCW/FFM chose to adopt. Or so it seems, and I'll put in a request for more info.

  2. And as for "fact-finding missions" - plural - you might be confused like I was, maybe because of me. I guess there's just one long-running FFM first established in 2014. JIM + IIT arrangements link to FFM to UN, etc. for added powers like blaming. And before in 2013 was some other UN-OPCW joint thing. I'm still a bit hazy, but the FFM has had at least two heads (Sami Barreck + ?), maybe three, this whole time. At least, that's how I read it now...

    1. I meant related FFM *reports. Or even the Fact Finding Mission's fact finding missions.

      Any theory on the Douma fire would be interesting too -if discounting any chlorine release. Hopefully the IIT doesn't simply conclude without continuing to try and verify the victim identities and what *actually* happened to them.


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