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Thursday, February 13, 2020

On OPCW-Bellingcat "Collaboration"

Adam Larson (aka Caustic Logic)
February 13-16, 2020

Feb. 16 note: This needed split-up into parts in order to get even part of it up ASAP - I've been super-tired lately and sleeping a lot (getting better now). But the pieces seem too small for three blog posts, so I assembled them here over a few days. I suppose this needs to be it, aside from typos, etc. and any possible updates.
19 February: a similar line of inquiry can be seen here by Philip Watson, involving an allegedly informed source who claims Bellingcat's Eliot Higgins was commissioned - if indirectly via former team leader Len Phillips - to inform the FFM Alpha team in Turkey X (that is, perhaps, to submit findings like that grid pattern, rather than just letting them take it from public airings as I had presumed). I'm very skeptical of Watson's works at large and we do not get along. I'm skeptical but undecided about his source and claims. But it's worth considering, and the article raises good points I miss here, like apparent leaks of an acceptable kind to Brian Whitaker (definitely to publicize one of the OPCW's conflicting reasons to dismiss the Henderson/EST engineering report, and possibly even to reveal the name of their former inspectors suspected of involvement in the leaks they don't like)

Part 1: A Simple Error?
It was recently noticed the Bellingcat research collective's "policy plan" document for 2019-2020 bragged (or blagged?) of past or ongoing "collaboration" with the OPCW, which in the last year has been embroiled in ongoing controversy over its handling of the 2018 Douma incident in Syria. Several influential bodies (mostly private but promoted, like Human Rights Watch and "Mayday Rescue in support of the White Helmets") are listed as collaborators of Bellingcat. But this highly partisan group of error-prone pseudo-experts also claimed such work with two important international bodies; the list of specified entities ends with "International Criminal Court, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and many more." The paragraph in question, screen-grab:
A search I did about two days ago shows the document had said this:

I was looking into it after noticing a discussion between Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins and Norwegian researcher Eirik Rømcke @Vaalandspibaa on February 7- 9. Rømcke had to ask repeatedly to no answer. On the 7th he asked "You have asserted a collaboration with the OPCW on page 7 in your "policy plan" (link for pdf-download below) Wouldn't that be in breach of their independence? Please clarify" Higgins asked "specifically what assertions are you referring to?" He was reminded, but didn't reply. Rather, he deleted that question before I could see it. (screen grab showing what it had said and note he refers to another tweet deletion before that).

By the time I caught the discussion on the 12th and checked to file in question (Bellingcat policy plan 2019-2021), the collaboration list no longer included the OPCW, stopping at "International Criminal Court, and many more."

Such "collaboration" may have a specific legal definition that has to apply here, or not. I don't know.  The collaboration with ICC is still proudly listed, apparently presenting no problems even after the recent review. Their work for the OPCW could be fairly innocent, but apparently it looked bad in a way ICC did not, so it's been changed.

As I saw that: "NOT that there's anything to hide about #Bellingcat's "collaboration" with #OPCW, but they did just hide it." https://twitter.com/CL4Syr/status/1227560932366114816

But Higgins soon offered an explanation: that wasn't an admission hidden, just an error he corrected; OPCW was never meant to be there: "That was on there in error, copy and pasted the list of names from another document and didn't mean to leave it in, then didn't read it since it was uploaded, so I've fixed that now. We've not collaborated with the OPCW, apologies for the confusion, totally my fault."

Implicitly, he only noticed it in the course of the discussion cited above, during the pause there. He never did acknowledge the tip with a thanks, or with any reply - aside from deleting yet another line from that discussion. Implicitly, Higgins had edited that document himself, so he could personally vouch for the copy-paste error as soon as he saw it. That seems unlikely, but is possible. And what was the error? Maybe he copied that from a list he had whipped up of groups they've collaborated with or would like to?

More likely they - as a group - were actually bragging about some kind of collaboration with the OPCW - real or invented, exaggerated or maybe just described carelessly That would be back before the leaks and controversy began, not anticipating such deep questions would be raised about the organization's process. I was thinking he/they would argue what "collaborate" means, but the removal suggests that was (or would be) kind of cooperation they aren't supposed to do. (Or perhaps it was alright, and Higgins was just worried that he shouldn't have mentioned it?).

Possibly related: the Bellingcat foundation was in the same days "currently going through a detailed audit" for financial transparency, as Higgins mentioned, as pat of their achieving charity status in the Netherlands. And an update: 15 Feb. he says "We even got charity status in the Netherlands, which involves lengthy external audits with the results published at the end of the process, so I'm obviously very terrible at cover ups." So this is a registered "charity" we're examining.

What kind of collaboration might exist, despite this denial? There are two broad classes where their activities play in, or have at least been suspected. The following two parts explore their possible role in shaping the findings of OPCW investigations, and their curious efforts to promote some aspects of the body's work while launching deceptive attacks on other aspects.

Part 2: Shaping OPCW Findings?
First I'll re-consider a few possible or suspected cases of the Bellingcat network having an undue hand in shaping investigations by the OPCW. Nothing I've found makes for a ground-breaking proof of such, but there are cases to be made. We'll stat with the Douma probe and this recent Higgins tweet: "I just want to nip this silly claim the chemical weapon truthers are spreading in the bud, Bellingcat had nothing to do with the OPCW FFM report on Douma, and we certainly weren't one of the ballistic experts cited in the report. Stop making up stories to impress your followers."

Nobody claimed the Bellingcat TEAM was one of the three individual cited experts. There's been speculation one or more of them might be PART OF Bellingcat, but Higgins will be denying that as well. That still appears sadly possible from my end, but I suspect the FFM would have called on other, more "grown-up" people, probably with formal qualifications.

There was a FFM engineering sub-team whose findings were never called on (whether it was even requested is a matter of dispute). And there was an early-June consultation with toxicologists that was simply ignored. And there was the formula change to core team only in July, excluding all but one of those who'd been to Douma (one of whom was Ian Henderson with his EST report they didn't want). So from July-August 2018 and forward, they'd be pursuing a plan B in both toxicology and engineering-ballistics, and probably keen to avoid the need for any plan C; they'd want extra-sure cooperation. The replacement experts would have some expertise but it needn't impress outsiders, who'd never know such details. Mainly they would need the right combination of political views and suggestibility, and just enough tools to produce a few plausible-seeming supports. I wouldn't be surprised if it was someone we've heard of who works with Bellingcat, like Dan Kaszeta for toxicology and Hamish de Breton-Gordon for engineering (for example). But it would be more logical to use someone we've never heard of, who was suggested by such contacts as someone who could deliver the right answers.

And even aside from the possibility of such direct involvement, it's quite possible Bellingcat had something to do with the FFM report, now that their greasy fingerprints are over so many things. The relevance of that would be hard to say without a bit of review, to which we now turn.

Douma cylinder grid pattern 
The question I've raised recently is whether one of their findings in particular wound up in the FFM's final report when it doesn't belong, being a preposterous notion clearly not based in science. It's hard to imagine - but still possible - that one of their engineering experts proposed this idea on his or her own, but more logically, they took it one way or another from the Bellingcat network. Most logically, it was copied from a widely-seen New York Times video report, citing wok by Forensic Architecture, who credited Bellingcat - and it was a member of their network who first publicly proposed the idea, just one month after the event, inverting an idea first offered by Michael Kobs as vey unlikely.

This fascinating point was worth its own detailed post to explain in full (see The Illogical Douma Airdrop Clue that Might Show How it Was Faked). What follows is a short summary taking advantage of that prior work and skipping the "how it was faked" part to save space.

At right is the sequence required for this observation to mean what's claimed. I've asked everyone involved if they can model or animate the sequence (no one having done so already), or even explain it any better than my illustration does. Higgins seems to have me on universal ignore since about 2014, so it's no surprise he never answered. But Bellingcat at large, Mr. Vandenberg, Forensic Architecture, its founder Eyal Weizman, and NYT's Malachy Browne all ignored the question (queries listed with the above article). Apparently none of them is confident enough to revisit this issue. They're just glad it snuck to the top like that without anyone who matters calling it out. That was the hit, and what follows is the run.

Douma cylinder movements
Much attention has been paid recently to initial cylinder movements at the same site (location 2, the one with 35 fatalities). Higgins was had an exclusive video sent by White Helmets contacts the day after, with a screen-grab he briefly showed and then deleted. In its place he got a likely custom-made video showing the surroundings (allowing a geolocation), the date and time, and no people (just the screen of someone's personal phone). But since the other video, the cylinder has also been rotated some 180 degrees and moved a bit.

Higgins swore then and swears now the first video was removed only for showing a man with his face covered by a paper mask, by which he could be identified and killed. That is possible (he was identified based on what's seen, and on review Bellingcat does tend to exclude people from photos showing weapon remnants). Still it seems unconvincing in context.

On the other hand, I don't see much reason to rotate it; that does leave the side that's mildly  dented lining up against some intact rebar (right, from Swedish TV4). But that didn't convince anyone, and the soot-coated area and runoff pattern down the sides would prove its being rolled even without a prior image. Significance to FFM findings: "the cylinder was moved a number of times prior to the FFM visit," with this being one time.

Higgins offers a guess as to why it was moved: "there's a good chance it was covered by the various metal debris and it was likely cleared out the way to get a good look at the cylinder." I added "You could also narrow down the chances with reference to an image of the pre-movement scene. "

I've considered this point overrated, so I reflexively didn't consider it 'til the last minute. It does belong here, not so much for influencing any OPCW findings as for showing Bellingcat's involvement at the other end, where the evidence and actors on the ground meet; they might work with the evidence managers allied with the perpetrators AND with the official agency that winds up effectively laundering their claims.

As for the significance of this one; I didn't review the one question I'll pose to readers/myself for a possible follow-up - did Higgins possibly have both views in front of him before the deletion of the one? If so, he would seem to be covering for evidence manipulation - though not very well, and not a very significant alteration, as I just explained. But if the next-day video postdates the deleted image, the reason he gave would be as plausible as anything.

Before Douma
Even if the FFM's engineering experts and their submitted findings had nothing to do with Bellingcat or that silly gid notion, that could easily be inserted by, say, FFM team leader Sami Barreck at his own discretion. Other possible reflections could come in the same way, might be in there in finer points or ones I'd noted somewhere, but these two could suffice to illustrate possible shaping of the Douma findings.

"Collaboration" could also go further back to Bellingcat's founding in 2014, and the work of its members might have played in even earlier, like Higgins' 2013 work on the "volcano" rockets linked to the 2013 Ghouta incident. They did a lot of video collation and considering different kinds of chlorine bombs allegedly dropped from helicopters over the years. That's likely to include some incorrect calls that made it into  repots of the FFM and JIM reports. But without more review, there's just one prominent case that comes to mind.

2017 Bomb ID: HRW
Then there was the suspected role of Bellingcat in identifying a certain Soviet-designed sarin bomb as used in the Khan Sheikhoun incident of 4 April, 2017. This idea first appeared (widely) less than a month afterwards, in a 1 May report by Human Rights Watch. As their CEO Ken Roth tweeted May 1: "Remnants of Syria's Apr 4 chemical attack match Soviet-era air-dropped bomb designed to deliver sarin" Of course the Soviet Union was likely to have provided weapons to Syria in the past, perhaps including the weapon they just identified, that might implicate Syria and enable accountability, in the interest of Human Rights.

The report cites how it seemed to be "a factory-made sarin bomb," taking some faint greenish coloration as a painted stripe like on the KhAB-250 (it isn't), and decides "the circular object in these photos appears similar to the cap for the filler hole on the body of a KhAB-250 bomb," if one looks at it inside-out like they did, and takes "similar" as close enough to "match" in this specific a sense.

A source is cited, and it's not Bellingcat by name. "The similarities between the remnants in the crater and the KhAB-250 bomb were first identified by the twitter accounts @elemcee69 and @Mortis_Banned. See e.g., tweet from @elemcee69 on April 14, 2017, https://twitter.com/elemcee69/status/852809433570615296."

But I can't, because "Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter Rules" and this was one of them.  However, Mortis_Banned is alive and not banned - aka "​Children of Soros #NotOurTsar" Researcher at@citeam_en, seems obsessed with demonizing Putin + Assad, eagerly pushed this discovery. April 9, 2017, a Ricardo Peldito seems to be the first with photos of the bomb in a museum. Some possible different models or translations are bounced around in the following days; M-B added "According to that CW disarmament specialist, ОБАС-250-235П is one and only Sov/Rus aviation bomb to spread Sarin. That looks like filler cap" (museum pieces, b/w photo). "I do agree that currently OBAS-250 is a hypothesis at best" he said, in response to Bellingcat's Dan Kaszeta (whose tweet is invisible on my end), in a discussion also including founder Higgins, the named elemcee69, and others including professor Jeffrey Lewis and Military-specializing Dutch journalist Hans de Vreij, who warned "In the absence (so far) of ÁNY evidence of the alleged chemical ordnance used, I'm not going to speculate about 'a 250 kg bomb'"

HRW ran with an ID at least inspired by that discussion, aired in their report at the start of May. It was quickly supported by Mortis_banned and others. The Bellingcat team's Timi Allen snapped out a 3-D model on the 3rd, but that was quickly refuted by Michael Kobs, showing clearly how HRW had taken it inside-out.

The Russian MoD had already alerted us the KhAb-250 was never exported and all active copies were destroyed decades ago, aside from museum pieces like the one used for these false claim. Mortis-banned resisted: 9 May: "If @mod_russia were so kind as to declassify docs on the OBAS-250-235P, we'd know if this looks like an internal part of the bomb."

Bellingcat role in this find: they're directly cited in the HRW report with 4 things: geolocation for sarin crater, and of a video view from the north (both fine), for Dan Kaszeta's article on sarin they published, for another weapon ID (Iranian rockets blamed in chlorine attacks in Ghouta). But they're not cited by name with the KhAB-250 identification. Higgins or someone at Bellincat worked with HRW, while the cited sources probably did not. - they were in that discussion, likely brought it up, but if so maybe asked to not be credited directly, fearing it was the bad lead it was. Soon they were in agreement with that track's undeniable failure and on the lookout for a different bomb, eventually deciding (with decent if questionable basis) it was the little-known Syrian M4000 that had some scraps appear at the site.

2017 bomb ID: UN and OPCW
Regardless, the same point would be included by the UN Human Right's Council's Commission of Inquiry in a September 2017 report; they would note "what appears to have been a Soviet-era chemical bomb" - not any specific model they could name, including KhAB250 but "the parts are consistent with sarin bombs produced by the former Soviet Union in the 250kg-class of bombs." The source for this isn't entirely clear, but it sounds like HRW's findings adjusted for being proven wrong (presuming they were only wrong on the exact model of 250kg Soviet sarin bomb?)

And the 7th and final report of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism, released in late October/November, would include a different version of the same idea aimed at blaming Damascus: "According to information obtained by the Mechanism, the filler cap, with two closure plugs, is uniquely consistent with Syrian chemical aerial bombs. ... Information was also received that additional metal fragments collected from the crater might correspond to parts of Syrian aerial chemical munitions."

From whom this information was "obtained by the Mechanism" is not specified. The two-hole closure is quite generic - all we've learned is it's not that one Soviet bomb, so it's unclear what further deduction was involved to make it "uniquely" Syrian. And there's clearly no way the other featureless scrap could be linked to some nation's sarin bomb - that was one scrape too many across the bottom of the barrel.

But in between these weak points was an "assessment" they were given that the sarin's manufacture involved hexamine and "very high heat" - clearly to suggest the Syrian state made the stuff, not any jihadists. Those points are dubious, source unclear. The general view I tend to accept is it's the same basic material recovered after Khan al-Assal 19/3/13, Saraqeb 29/4/13, Ghouta 21/8/13, Jobar 24/8/13 (in soldiers' blood, a mortar shell, a weapons workshop, all at about the firing spot for the rockets blamed for 21/8), Daraya 25/8/13, Daraya 15/2/15, etc. Sometimes 40% impure, kitchen-grade sarin with lesser potency, a yellow color, caustic properties, foul and strange odor. If that's what they head, I wouldn't dispute it.

Chances are close to 100% the prior track advocated by Bellingcat and allies at least shaped this unexplained turn. There's a lower possibility the collective's members directly informed the commission on these findings. Again, there is a world of dubious experts out there to help dubious investigations like this fill in their dubious blanks with politicized disinformation to fit the pre-ordained conclusions.

Was this finding of the UN-OPCW JIM based on the eventual M4000 ID in an early phase? Not by what we know. The report was "leaked" in late October, formally released soon after. The Russian MoD first shows an M4000 diagram only in response to that, on the 2nd of November, and was noted prior to this Bellingcat article on the 13th. And no one has given a reason other than seeing that slide to know about the M4000's design. So this earlier decision is mysterious and strangely predictive.

It's as if HRW's claim had driven everyone halfway across a desert towards the oasis of "blaming Syria with a specific bomb ID." That road quickly came to a stop, but they wouldn't turn back. The CoI and the JIM in turn seem to be bumping across the fields 'til they find two road-like flat patches that run a bit further toward the oasis (unknown but uniquely Soviet, unknown but uniquely Syrian). Then quickly outrunning that, the whole convoy was bumping for just a few days before they hit the clear, paved M-4000 highway running straight to that oasis. Damascus admitted it had that bomb, had converted them to hold explosives, and dropped them all over for people to find pieces of. Was that highway paved by impostors unauthorized by reality, who planted some old M4000 scraps at the site? They don't care.

Bellingcat got to take the lead driving here, with ally Greg Koblentz in the cab with Eliot Higgins. And this is where the OPCW's Investigation and Identification Team will pick it up...

But back in 2017, that unexplained finding appearing in a JIM report gave it a stamp of authority, allowing for later comments like this from Higgins: "The March 30th 2017 Al Lataminah Sarin attack is significant because filling caps with the same design and green paint as the one recovered from Khan Sheikhoun was recovered, one the OPCW described as being unique consistent with a Syrian Chemical bomb." As far as we know, he or a close ally is the one who first told them that, based on absolutely nothing.

Part 3: Attack Dogs
or promotion and backup information security
So it seems like the broader Bellingcat network does enjoy an undue role in shaping the OPCW and FFM's findings. But so far that role seems mostly indirect or unproven, and their main uses are on the output end.

Their promotion of findings over the years has been helpful, re-explaining the overt and covert findings in the FFM's reports (eg. filling in the blanks on how falling = helicopters = Assad). They'll gloss over egregious omissions to pose the official science as clear, and sideline any doubts (attacking the reader's skepticism, you could say). They emphasize doubts emanating from Russian-linked sources, and any similarity of those to anyone else's doubts, and use that to dismiss them (both adding to and drawing from that ongoing information war).

In recent months they've taken up what could be called backup information security - they sideline doubts from within the OPCW itself - and leaks that bear them out - by attacking its inspectors who claim to be blowing the whistle on unethical practices. It seems the OPCW's scientific aspect is in partial revolt against its political aspect. Damage to trust has been caused (and/or deepened) by a good hard look, over the last ten months, at the organization's corrupt state of operations. The Bellingcat team comes down squarely with management, using their open-source sleuthing skills with exceptional ineptitude here, trying hard to invent and then combat all kinds of flaws in the leaked information and/or the people leaking it. It works about as well as a pencil eraser on ink - it cannot make it go away, but maybe it can make things vey muddled and a bit more faint.

I'm not claiming Bellingcat as a whole or any members take orders directly from the OPCW, as if they were employees or even formal consultants. It seems possible - if not likely by track record - that they simply follow the truth into their constant agreement with the FFM's findings. They're tasked with this I suppose in a general implied sense by the same people who...
a) provide some of their funds (UN taxpayer-funded NED at least)
b) lead all brute-force financial and military efforts to impose "accountability" for the crimes Bellingcat helps expose in Syria (except those pinned on ISIS - others do more in that area)
c) steer the actions of the OPCW, by threats and oustings if needed (2002) or by more subtle means and working with more allies towards more consensual ends, including illegal wars and aggression against Ba'ath party governments in the Middle East
d) by general dint of running the world, as it were, they also shape what's seen as a wise investment, and what kind of people get wealthy enough off of the current reality to re-subsidize it with a donation to Bellingcat, for example.

I suppose it's similar to how we have a "free" media because it's not state-run, but corporate-run instead. But then of couse it winds up agreeing with the corporate-run state, making it more like a sibling relationship than a parent-child one. It might be similar here, with the OPCW as the adult sibling with a good necktie job and reputation, and Bellingcat a semi-acceptable little sister with punker friends who can get "other" jobs done. With Mom and Dad fully in the loop - actually running the loop - big brother doesn't even need to talk directly to little sis or her friends. Things could just happen fortuitously without you ever seeing her in the room. But then you might see one of her distinctive artifacts left behind from time to time, as we may have in part 2.

Different kinds of leaks: promoting the political ones...
On 26 October, 2017, there was a "leak" at the OPCW and it caused no alarms. The UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) in effect at the time had wrapped up its investigation of the April incident in Khan Sheikhoun and its final report on the incident. An advance draft was released days early (no ID number assigned yet, etc.), uploaded here on Google Drive by Nabil Abi Saab, an Alaraby TV correspondent based at UN headquarters in New York. This allowed some public buzz and commentary to precede and amplify the effect of its formal release as S/2017/904 on 7 November.

So the file was not shared directly with Higgins or Bellingcat, as some of us had wondered. They did eagerly share the "leaked" report, saying it "shows that, despite Russian and Syrian protests, there’s now clear evidence that Syria was responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun Sarin attack, and alternative versions of events presented by Russia and Syria are fabrications." (Of course it did so based partly on dubious points like the "uniquely" Syrian bomb yet to be identified, and partly on the unfortunate fact that the specific theories posited by Syria and Russia were just bad guesses.)

That was clearly an authorized release intended to maximize the political implications of what would the final report of the JIM (it worked so well the Russians refused to extend the mandate of the weaponized mechanism). In fact it was only called a "leak" by Bellingcat and their ilk, perhaps to make it sound edgy and relevant, besides politically useful.

In contrast, the unauthorized releases of 2019 reveal a very fragile process that cannot bear scrutiny by the public. Uninitiated into the special magic involved in getting to that Assad-blame, we might get "confused." And we widely did; to the outsider, it looked as if the OPCW's FFM was suppressing valid findings to protect the politically desired ones. It took some special explaining by Bellingcat and allies like Brian Whitaker to set some people "straight." This awkward episode serves to remind us all why unauthorized release is strictly disallowed, as the OPCW's Director-General Fernando Arias has recently reminded us, and those who break the rules they had agreed to and knew full well should be held to account.

… and neutralizing the legitimate ones.
An example by punishment could deter future instances, but it won't be able to recall the exposed information of past ones. Unstopped leaks that threaten confidence in the organization would need to be neutralized as possible, re-branded in the public mind. And as things turn out, Bellingcat and allied signal amplifiers like Whitaker (who only seems to me outside that network due to his seniority and fading past of journalistic credibility) labor to cast the leaked evidence as something wrong, irrelevant, and helpful to the Russian cause, leaving no legitimate reason to accept or spread it.

A typical comment in recent days is this by Higgins: "the leaked claims aren't credible because they made assumptions which turned out to be wrong, made errors in their work, and lets not forget they're making claims based on the work of the OPCW before months more of investigation by the OPCW." The supposed errors have been discussed elsewhere, but in brief: working with Forensic Architecture again, Bellingcat did make a show of addressing the evidence and they raised a few minor points, but wrongly alleged measuring errors and missed the point(s) about presumed drop altitudes, just for the leading two among a very few points they considered unevenly, yielding results that don't hold up under scrutiny (see for example my review comment at the article claiming to show Hendeson wrong). As for that "many months" of improvements they missed after "Alex" quite the OPCW and Henderson was excluded from active work - this is where the special magic happened, after all but one of the investigators who was in Douma had been excluded, the previous toxicology findings and various other complications were removed, and illogical proposals were weaseled in, one of them at least likely copied from Bellingcat. as part 2 explained. Being kept out of that process sounds like a recommendation to me.

On this faulty basis, Higgins has declared the engineering report's "content is actually inaccurate, so [Henderson]'s a liar who got things wrong, then a bunch of people promoted that to attack the OPCW." Other tweets just from Higgins expand on this: "Alex lied about Ian Henderson's status at the OPCW" and Henderson is "someone who lied repeatedly, so not exactly the most trustworthy source of opinions on the final report." ... "both leakers were involved with deceit, and violated the protocols of the OPCW which they would have both been fully aware of." ... "violating multiple internal protocols, deceiving staff and external organisations and individuals" ... And finally (Henderson's report) "ends up getting leaked to the Syria Propaganda Superfriends and he's pleased about it, despite the multiple violations of his obligations to the OPCW."

The motive behind his disputed actions couldn't be certain, but it's easy to pick a direction and paint some arrows that way. Bellingcat's part 2 article notes "the Russian Federation appears to have had access to [Hendeson's report] well before" its leaking to the WGSPM last May. Basis: "On April 26, 2019, the permanent representative of the Russian Federation to the OPCW sent a critique of the final FFM report to the OPCW, sections of which were remarkably similar to Henderson’s report." Brian Whitaker tried to help them spin this issue with an article at Al-Bab, which can be seen to fail after its best efforts. There is the kind of similar wording you'd expect from people reaching the same conclusions and using proper technical terminology. In one case the original words would be in Russian, and based on their own on-site investigation, with no need to copy anyone. It also fails to note non-copied points like the Russian report (PDF) but not the Henderson one noting primary fragmentation marks to support their decision a mortar shell or similar, not an impacting gas cylinder, caused the associated damage.

Now, if one were intent on seeing Henderson and his report as wrong, its agreement with the presumed Russian lies would seem extremely suspicious. In that light, the Bellingcat side almost seems to underplay this issue as just one among several lines of attack. It's not teased out in deeper detail, perhaps because they can already see the other side of the problem; if Russia's accepted engineers and the OPCW's sidelined ones independently reached such similar conclusions … isn't possible they're both talking truth?

the FFM's disagreement on the fragmentation marks, for example, is to simply deny they exist, or perhaps to link them illogically to the cylinder impact. See at right: they want you to note the damage in the red circle, never try to explain the bullet-like marks radiating out from that spot, unless it was with this: "It can be seen that there was a large impact on the roof and walls above the balcony," causing the cylinder to slow down and fail to punch through fully. But no one has or can propose another plausible explanation but the marks of explosive primary fragments. A Bellingcat-allied weapons expert tried, in a less-than-lucid moment, suggesting "prior or subsequent battle damage" instead of what I proposed. But it clearly couldn't be very "subsequent" so that's basically what I had proposed. Professor Scott Lucas likewise suggested "months of bombardment" had caused the marks, also confusingly posed as disagreement. Neither could say how this would cause such marks other than by explosive fragmentation, both having tried but come up with the same thing. (the best try would be bullets, but that requires a bizarre scenario of someone on the balcony shooting the walls in a circle, and some other strange damage and scorching coincidences on the east and west walls, besides the strange cylinder impact to follow.)

If you have to flatly deny the visual record like this without any explanation, in order to make your point, your point might be wrong. Right?

But Bellingcat's open-source analysis came to the rescue to support the FFM's rejection of this clue. How? They cite the open-source FFM report itself on this point, adding nothing futher. Douma leaks part 2: "The final FFM report directly disagrees with these findings. They also considered the possibility that the crater was a result of an explosive device, but concluded that it was “unlikely given the absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion.” They did so with NO BASIS - thee is no such "absence." "We also know that the scorching under the crater was likely not from an explosion," Bellingcat adds, citing the FFM. Linking that to the blast was an error on Henderson's part (a hot fire was intentionally lit atop the rubble, reason unclear/disputed. The smoke from this coated the ceiling, the cylinder's underside at the crater, and apparently vented through the damaged vent on the balcony so that smoke is also unrelated).

BUT we also know that there are three more crucial details Henderson and/or the FFM's "engineering sub-team" had cited (the app. SECONDARY fragmentation marks, extreme rebar bend, and widespread spalling visible inside the room below impact). These still support the blast version, and do not have plausible work-arounds. And that's besides the clear primary fragmentation marks he somehow missed (but the Russians duly noted), and other things like the strange variance in rebar damage, and scorching with no other explanation on the upper balcony edge (middle of the west wall), closer to where the detonation fireball would be - just above the balcony, leaving little to no sign.

But on the plus side: management said there was no explosion here, and people trust the management. Bellingcat loves to add to the OPCW's credibility account, but on this point they could only make a withdrawal.

Talking and yet not talking about Putin collusion ...
But they had more besides the supposed errors and their similarity to Russian lies. Higgins infamously mused "appearing on behalf of the Russians seems to tell us something" about Henderson. I'd say it tells us how no other great power - aside from the Chinese, who actually invited him - would invite him to address the UN Security Council about the problems at OPCW. The US would probably block his visa to prevent his appearance, as it seems they did. That too might tell us something, eh?

It's disputed just what Higgins meant here, but he firmly denied the obvious reading when Max Blumenthal called him out: "Suggesting Ian Henderson is a Russian asset is indeed a vicious attack, and is in keeping with the tendency of Bellingcat and its troll farm." Higgins replied: "I didn't suggest he was a Russian asset, you're just so blinkered in your worldview and your perception of me that you projected that onto my words and drew a faulty conclusion, as usual. Maybe pull your head out of your arse and look around for once." But of course he didn't explain what his true meaning, because that was clearly it. It's deniable, but the denial rings flat.

(this follow-up tweet might clarify? Speaking at that session "demonstrates a lack of judgement if he's attempting to establish his credibility. Although, seeing who his report was originally leaked to, that's no surprise." We learned that the veteran inspector with OPCW from the start, re-hired to be a repeated team leader and innovator of Challenge Inspection techniques, and seemingly the most qualified person in the Douma FFM team (core or shed portions) to make the calls he made ... is not very good at "establishing his credibility" and this "tells us something" real? No, he meant the other thing.)

Bellingcat also titled their first three parts on "the Douma leaks" series "We need to talk about [x]" where the [x] was: whistleblower "Alex" (part 1), whistleblower Ian Henderson (part 2), and a false flag theory (the best and most dangerous answer to the raised question of what DID happen - part 3). This was almost certainly done in reference to Russia expert Mark Galeotti's recent book "We Need to Talk About Putin," the Russian dictator hacking our reality. The suggestion is that same crucial discussion should extend to dissenting views within and without the OPCW, as possible extensions of Russia's global disinformation campaign.

(Credit to "Malinka" for noticing this)

… and not about what matters here.
But when it comes time to consider the OPCW's shameful witch-hunt against its own investigators, it's just "The OPCW Douma Leaks Part 4: The OPCW Investigation." When it's other powers that might be pulling the strings, we don't NEED to talk ABOUT the OPCW reaction; little sis just repeats big brother's factually deranged damage control, linking to her own prior "analysis" to show how grounded it is. In fact "it is fitting" to let Director-General Arias have the last word, as they did, about the OPCW's former “Inspectors A and B" suspiciously insisting on views "not backed by evidence," yet still trying to "gain traction" in areas where they had no business. These two meddlers breached their obligations in an "egregious" manner, worsened by their exclusion from the latter investigation where the special magic was applied, the apparent Bellingcat findings worked in, etc. and so "their conclusions are erroneous, uninformed, and wrong.”

Again and again, DG Arias has answered the serious questions with vague platitudes and shows of confidence. He still stands by the FFM's Douma findings as all those before, even if they're careening and bound to collapse on him and the once-lauded OPCW he will have helped destroy. He's probably no villain by nature, just under pressure. It might be worse than the threats to his children and forcing from office suffered in 2002 by the first DG of the OPCW, José Bustani, when he insisted doing his job, even if it frustrated an illegal war on Iraq. Bustani has already called the suppression of findings and investigators in the Douma probe "unacceptable behavior" for the OPCW and its leadership. How much worse now to see his own successor playing the part of John Bolton against his own in defense of that corrupt situation?

Bellingcat describes itself as "independent" - which is debatable and deserves clarification - but wisely doesn't even claim political neutrality. In fact it brags of being "particularly significant for advancing narratives of conflict, crime, and human rights abuses," and generally the same narratives pushed by the US and UK governments in Syria and beyond (if not exclusively). We note their role in shaping the UK's investigation of the Skripal poisoning - the who if not the how. Despite a weak show of "openly" addressing the evidence of the Douma incident in particular, Bellingcat's argument relies mainly on blind (or vision-impaired) faith in findings that are sometimes pure nonsense; appeal to authority is far easier when it's someone else's you appeal to, and that someone else is the still-trusted OPCW.

This is the same stance taken by US and UK governments and their allied states at a UNSC aria-formula meeting of 20 January, 2020 (my analysis). The ambassadors of the US, UK, France, and several allied states pointed to the fact that the OPCW is widely trusted, or extremely trusted by them, is reason enough for everyone to maintain that. Along the way they ignored the words of Mr. Henderson, eyewitness and visual evidence that was presented, the views of the host state - the People's Republic of China - and concurring states including at least the Russian Federation, Iran and Egypt, besides softer doubts aired from Niger, South Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other states. Their criticism of the OPCW's current process was grounded, and mainly no harsher than that of its first Director-General, but it was all implicitly dismissed as "Russian disinformation."

The Western powers will find the OPCW in its current state very useful; it can be relied upon to churn out politicized findings to "justify" various forms of "accountability" against enemy states, regardless of the physical reality. If this were ever changed, they'd lose a weapon on the world stage. So they insist on keeping the faith - the consensus the OPCW rely on - attached to its current form, not its ideal one. But now that the dishonesty of their investigative process has been exposed - long after being suspected in some quarters - it's lead to a serious loss of faith by everyone else. One camp's favorite features are the same that would destroy the needed consensus.

So depending how one looks at it, the OPCW - and the Chemical Weapons Convention it's the enforcer of - faces either:
- an undeserved crisis to resist and ride out, or
- an opportunity to solve an existing crisis that's been sharpened to the point of undeniability.

Awareness of the problem allows for a solution, which denial would just forestall. The western powers benefiting from the current slant would deny it for as long as possible. Current OPCW leadership follows that lead. And "independently," Bellingcat is there to help squander this rare chance at a more honest world. After all, their proven talents make them "truth" leaders only in what supporters call a "post-truth world."

Looking to the Future
So to their former employers at a politicized OPCW and to these (self-appointed?) attack dogs, veteran CW inspector Ian Henderson and this "Alex" - and any others who have voiced or might voice agreement - are knowing liars who used fake science to try and get Bashar Assad off the hook for a hideous war crime. There can be no legitimate reason for this. Henderson was glad to see his bogus report leaked, in this view, knowing it would be used to attack the OPCW's honest work; clearly a villain. Higgins especially grows ever more specific on this, recently stating the core problem was always "a couple of disgruntled OPCW employees personal crusades to attack the work of an organisation investigating horrific war crimes." They were the enemy within. How could such reckless or compromised people get past the screening to ever be hired? And what if there are more?

As I've read in several places, the OPCW is openly not a "career agency," observing a general 7-year maximum tenure. This is why even Ian Henderson had to be hired back after a break in order to have that impressive 12 years experience. (and according to Peter Hitchens, "Alex" managed to get 17 years in before he quit in disgust amid the Douma investigation - is that 2x hired back?) I don't know the official and real reasons for the 7-year rule, but high turnover might help prevent nesting, the confidence of tenure, and willingness to oppose management. The Henderson and Alex cases could be seen as showing how long service and broad knowledge just makes for problematic employees likely to meddle where they don't belong.

One partial solution they might propose is shorter tenures. But if the manipulation piles up too quickly, people could catch on and rebel within weeks. Maybe it's more a question of who's involved than for how long.

Next up in the short future of the OPCW, I wouldn't be surprised to read about what they might dub "Veri-Science" for example. Bellingcat could partner with a well-funded European outfit linked to universities in a joint venture to improve the scientific input at the OPCW, among other trusted institutions like the ICC. They could either provide their scientific analysis directly or, more likely run a database of screened and green-tick "VS-checked" scientists better suited for "today's hostile information environment." Increasingly the Russians and other villains will seem to have bought off reality itself. "The old science is not enough," they could explain. "Its practitioners - good folks though most of them are - are bound to fail you. There are dictators violating the laws of physics to kill babies. There are nerve agents with bizarre, mutable properties being spritzed around European cities. And it's likely to get even weirder. This is why you need to stay VS-checked!"


  1. Either blagging, can't resist bragging, flat out lying or maybe copied and pasted that non-alphabetical list from the other document to the policy plan that no-one with any OPCW interest has ever read and Higgins couldn't be bothered to proof-read.

    When OPCW staff seem to think Bellingcat and the White Helmets are wonderful for some reason, they don't need to be directly involved. Just big in Country X. They obviously do not have the influence to turn the FFM report into an auto-refrigeration-fest but I think have an affiliate 'imprint' fan.

    Exactly what BC could offer to the OPCW in an expert capacity anyway.. E.g. here is Higgins' bizarre theory on why a cylinder clearly not "covered" in metal debris in the first picture would then be rolled into the hole in the next.

    1. Thanks. Len P. is just the kind of guy - proud of being "Flexible and adaptable" - led FFM team alpha inspections from Sarmin, 2015 to Khan Sheihkoun and Lataminah in 2017.
      from April 2018 a self-employed “Chemical investigations Consultant, with particular focus on use of chemicals as weapons”.
      "On 8 April 2019 Phillips registered a UK company named PhBG Consultants Ltd," where a plural is implied. Ph = Philips, BG = a two-part name? like Breton-Gordon perhaps? And how many people could they be consulting? Under that name and registry date, NOT the OPCW prior to its final Douma report. But it could be kept informal for that long. But then why make it formal at all? Maybe in case of future allegations that could be investigated in a more "flexible and adaptable" way right from the start? Just thinking out loud here.

      And I added the 'moved for a good look' idea. thanks.

  2. 'Covering' metal debris aside, rolling the cylinder into the hole wouldn't be helpful if wanting to inspect it. It would be rolled away -just as the FFM did.

    Although.. the Highly Protected confidential OPCW info Henderson used would surely have been obtainable by anyone with a tape measure, balcony access and ability to find the cylinder's manufacturer stamp.

    I couldn't find any mention of dBG connected with the company, not a director. Plural = company sounds more impressive, BG could stand for something else (Biochemistry? Group) unless there is other insider information showing the link?

    1. Stamps do exist by the way- #4 of leaked engineering assessment says they were used to obtain data for the studies. Perhaps country and manufacturer could be considered sensitive but many others had access to the cylinders before FFM.

      Can't see any indication that Bellingcat had this info (see original wrong dimensions in FA's model).

    2. "BG" speculation based just on the letters and the few names I know. Could be another 2-part name or other, or even a false lead to tick us into thinking its M16 agent and CW disinfo specialist par excellence Hamish. I mean if it's shady, why include it? Because it's not shady to them? Yeah...

    3. stamp existence - you saw that just come up. I'll look into that. But wherever the stamp is, its less obvious than others. I don't see what difference it would make that different makes have been used, but it might be interesting in a few ways.

    4. On review I gotta still ask: didn't anyone take a tape measure to the things AND write that down? But yes, EST report refers to a stamp and official dimension, both unspecified. FFM cites observation, witnesses to specify a few measures. That's sort of interesting, how they left it flexible, and Bcat/FA types get to use that freely.

      As for rolled into the hole, I guess so, a bit. That adds to that idea not making sense.

    5. Maybe sensitive to the manufacturer, "there are also other very important facts that we decided not to release in this interim report" may have referred to that. And perhaps they didn't want anyone else doing any independent engineering simulations...

      This is the suppressed Khan Sheikhoun info Russia referred to in their presentation?

      "On 4 October 2017 Director of UN Security Department informed UN Security Council that there were no obstacles for #OPCW investigators to visit Khan-Sheykhun and that he had informed OPCW about that. OPCW Secretariat concealed this fact and intentially misled Member States."

      The locals had helpfully filled the crater in at that point though.

      Also not sure what Mr Watson thinks Higgins was commissioned by the FFM to actually do.

    6. October invite, hm. That goes with a thing I'm working on, thanks.

      Could you quote Watson for me?

    7. "Higgins was commissioned by, and worked for, the #OPCW-FFM Alpha-Team on the #Douma affair."

      Due to be in part 2 of this https://www.hiddensyria.com/2020/02/16/the-opcw-an-institution-in-crisis-part-1/

      As it stands, seems doubtful to me.

    8. But surely someone as astute as that wouldn't push something doubtful, that might play right into Higgins' hands.

  3. More on this (fwiw):

    "Eliot Higgins confirmed that Bellingcat was a "partner" with the #OPCW before being informed he had breached the confidentiality agreement with them and was told to correct the issue."

    ""Len Phillips leaked the [JIM] report to Koblentz who, with advance notice this was to be the case, forwarded it to Higgins. The Idea was that Bellingcat be promoted as, and becomes, an information clearing-house." - Source"

    did tell me he received info on the #M4000 from @gregkoblentz
    who himself received it from a "closed source". That source was @LenP91535865
    . Nothing "fictitious" about those claims."

    "Eliot would not have been aware that he was working with the "Alpha Team" at the time, as his commission was to provide information to the @OPCW
    on #Douma. My source was able to add specifics to that commission."

    FA did actually change the frame from the Douma models I downloaded Feb 8. There were 2 Latamneh 'M4000' files in there too

    I was going to point out how the FA frame is now even less like reality.. https://youtu.be/GY-1vaY85fA?t=92
    But then all the FA frames have 2 sets of suspension lugs so their 'forensic' model changing like the breeze in a make-it-up-as-we-go sort of way maybe expected

    1. https://www.hiddensyria.com/2020/02/16/the-opcw-an-institution-in-crisis-part-1/#Whitakers_Role
      Went over that. Whitaker leaks undeniable. All the source says is harder to say. No EH quotes prove inside knowledge. The closed source on M4000 is interesting. But "commission was to provide information to the @OPCW" Alpha or not sound like the thing I still doubt. More like not commissioned just asked, not by OPCW but by Phillips.

      And all this FA model-checking -I may not catch up at all, but it's worth putting together somewhere people can learn more about the methods used and re-adjust their credulity. I'll think about that.

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  5. I couldn't see any evidence of leaked information in FA's 'M4000' models anyway. As cringe-worthy as Len Phillips' timeline is, I'm not sure it is evidence of leaking information or hiring Eliot Higgins to make the tea. Past leaks seem to have been down to the state party diplomats.

    "I am told the reason for the late introduction of fragments from Lataminah was due to 'lessons learned' from Khan Sheikhoun and further info garnered from the DAT on #M4000."

    "this cap" [07SDS] "doesn't bear the hallmarks of the 'uniquely consistent' claim. So another cap was introduced literally out of nowhere on the 18/7/17" [supposedly via Hamish de Bretton-Gordon].

    "Cylindrical object with lifting lug attached" actually has the same date as the rest "20170717152003" but receives 3 sample codes ending in "(B)" and "date of receipt" 18 July rather than 17. Technical reasons?

    That claim was obviously made to the JIM about KS too (the JIM also had public contact details whereas the FFM does not, seems a possible way in for anyone wanting to send them a Bellingcat-esque assessment). "Two closure plugs" would also apply to 07SDS so all sounds like just a theory that doesn't stack up to me.

  6. The technical reason for above could be down to some of the evidence references being used twice e.g.20170717152003. Looks to be 4 duplicates corresponding to the 4 things with "(B)" sample codes.

    Like the label for the crater, it seems very possible that the FFM have just botched the references.

    1. I didn't even try to follow that, but if Watson thinks it's a big lead, especially involving the M4000, when it could be some sloppy error (possibly a clue for something else if read right, etc.) - going by precedent, I would guess it's the latter.

  7. https://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2020/02/a-and-b-respond-to-the-opcws-attacks-on-them-the-full-rebuttal.html

    "at this stage, none of the material used by Inspector A had any classification level applied, nor any markings."

    "The elevated classification should perhaps be seen in the context of the subsequent lockdown by a manager"

    Also noting Bellingcat's attempts are not even deemed worthy of a response and, with 'Alpha' team and external experts' contribution apparently minimal, there seems even less scope for Higgins to have been involved in any way.

  8. Here is an interesting thing, part of BC's 'evidence' so semi-related

    "Russia and the Assad regime have not dispatched jets over Idlib for the past 5 hours. See timeline of @Sentry_Syria"

    It is true, there is a gap between these 2 tweets


    "Turkish drones continue buzzing overhead and striking regime positions"

    So Sentry Syria doesn't track and warn of "looming strikes" for civilians at all as it isn't even tracking the (attacking) Turkish drones. It is all a lie?

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Watson's DAT leak theory thread


    I can't see anything to show it wasn't just Koblentz belatedly looking at the Russian presentation, BC then only looking at the pictures


    + BC's little mention in the latest documents:

    "There have been attempts from internet bloggers engaging with chemists to provide justification for the conclusions in the final FFM report (i.e. the chemistry relating to chlorides, chlorophenols, chloroacetic acid and bornyl chloride) but they continue to make errors in interpretation. It is not known to what extent known TS insiders have been part of this initiative"

  11. Mr Tea "more familiar with this case than you":


    Anyone following the Douma events can deduce a few things from that one.

    They do now have the latest slam-dunk chlorine accusation, unavoidably filmed by all those Turkish drones over Saraqib (or not. Whoops).

  12. http://archive.is/UhI0p

    "the UN, US and Turkey consider [HTS] a group associated with al-Qaeda and list it as a terrorist organisation."

    Bellingcat's opinions seem popular with people who give the impression they should be on terror watchlists and BC's own writers appear overly sympathetic to designated terrorist groups.

  13. I have tried to ask Mr Watson if there was any proof BC and FA have anything beyond the publicly available M4000 information and whether the "closed source" Trafford mentioned could simply be the leaked DAT report via Colum Lynch (Koblentz info is that report mentions the same M4000 name?).

    But Watson hasn't approved the comment..?

    I just can't see any evidence they have any extra 'insider info'- they never bragged about it, didn't even mention the M4000 until Koblentz belatedly pointed BC to the Russian presentation.

  14. March 2020 Saraqib chlorine

    Deleted FranceNews24 tweet:

    Alleged HTS-gas-themselves failed provocation basement finds:

    1. Thanks, good resources. I wasn't sure about those reports, or anything, and didn't feel up yet to looking at it. Interesting though to start. I don't know of another case of HC shell used for chemical weapons, but that doesn't look like standard HE fill, which doesn't usually require a gas mask, or a hasty retreat when it spills. As for what it is, it's black and sludgy, with yellow aspects, and might be slightly corrosive? The one says it was chlorine, but that doesn't look like it to me. You'd think they'd know right off or report by now if it was sarin, but maybe not. Of course they could gas anyone at this point, including SAA, Russian or Turkish troops, and when the same known markers come up, that "fingerprint" is attributed to SyGov, so it would be ruled their desperate gambit or false-flag or whatever. I should + might look at this closer pretty soon. If not, then eventually.

    2. Philip Watson has responded on his site if you want to read (as your Working Group are now linking to Watson's work) but he seems to be making a great misstep imo - especially if accusing inspectors of doing things like leaking DAT details. All has the potential to undermine other good points.

      He has 'confirmed' (with.. someone?) the purpose of showing the M4000 in the Russian presentation was to show it was not a binary weapon
      (something not actually *said* during the presentation and the schematic was of course part of the crater analysis as Micha Kobs' helpful translation shows -https://twitter.com/MichaKobs/status/1180445031703941120 )

      Watson also says details of M4000 were known before Latamneh and Khan Sheikhoun which, as White Helmets didn't provide the filler cap from Khan Sheikhoun to the FFM (plus the rest of the parts were missing) and didn't provide any of the parts from Latamneh until the FFM had first selected them, wouldn't make much sense to me.

    3. That is a weird presentation, and agreed, nothing in there says or implies a specifically non-binary design. They say chemical bomb and show the two, then talk about a TNT payload that's not alleged, then about non-explosive impact or burrowing, and metal strength. Nothing about what kind of chemicals they would hold in the alleged use, aside from the binary-consistent details in the schematics themselves. And in the process, they showed the one view allowing for a supposed ID of the binary sarin weapon.

      I saw the latest WGSPM update linking to Watson for the wrong-pace sarin (or wrong terminology) issue, and lodged a complaint (likely sloppy labeling in a table - sarin impact point written as "crater"). I didn't see other promotions or the point about leaking DAT details.

      Details of the M4000 would be known to people w/access to the declaration, but there's no clear reason for JIM-types to care until it was identified or at least used. I did note the unexplained leap to calling a Syrian sarin bomb shortly before this reason appeared, so that might show the prior knowledge alleged, but it's only after both alleged uses. I don't feel up to calling that "confirmed" by what Watson says.

    4. No details on what Bellingcat was actually consulted to do from Mr Watson, just that it was the Douma report (so, ironically, just like the FFM's expert assessments.. I can see no good reason to hold back the rest).

      According to the inspectors:

      "The bulk of the analytical work was in fact already done by the time the Interim Report was released."

      "The only new information purported in the final FFM report is the statement that engineering and ballistic studies had been done"

      So BC's 'services' (such as they are) would (still) be completely superfluous to the FFM (behind closed doors, looking for actual expertise and with direct access to evidence). The BC and NYT pieces were out there before both FFM reports, no need to even consult for their opinion or bad science. I recall Russia saying that only the one expert was known even to them.

  15. For the record:


    "So you're claiming Henderson wasn't at the command post when the inspection took place?"

    Higgins doesn't even know what Mr Henderson has said. Despite putting all those articles on Bellingcat, Higgins doesn't know *anything* about it at all.

    1. All things considered and with a lack of evidence for any actual consultation, it seems they are just trying to brown-nose Arias in the hope the OPCW will make Bellingcat their official OSINT partner/trainers/etc. (as per their document).

      It is so cringeworthy to read their frankly stupid attempts to smear the honest and genuine Mr Henderson. I just hope that nobody in the world thinks they represent the UK in any way: we do have many intelligent, qualified and capable people.

    2. Higgins' opinion (as it were) appears to parrot the fool Hilsman:


      "This document exactly confirms what the OPCW said in their report"


      "All this leak does is confirm what the OPCW already wrote in their report on Henderson"

      Higgins doesn't understand that length of meeting does not equal expertise and that no exhumations or new video means toxicologists in subsequent meetings had no more information than the German experts. Maybe he refuses any doctor who is expert enough to correctly diagnose a patient in just a few minutes.


      Hilsman joins in and, unsurprisingly, doesn't understand that either.

      Or that Douma was not being "bombed constantly" when the White Helmets removed the bodies:


      Or understand that a gunship is irrelevant:


      Or other moronic ideas about 'being unable to see where the gas was coming from' (but still make it to "water sources" of course -pitch darkness and lack of lights contradicted by witness testimony, Hanan said he was dizzy not blind and knew exactly where he sat down, they can also still smell and feel chlorine regardless etc. etc.).

    3. They're so full of maybes there's no room for anything else. Lucky, as they can't have anything else.

    4. https://twitter.com/CL4Syr/status/1261225084577964032
      They said it's "customary" (IIRC) to have whoever's at command post to do a few things for the FFM, and Henderson was there, and so was casually involved. BUT now it seems he was in Nepal until called in FOR this investigation, due to his skills. You prefer the later story why?

      Seems he really didn't get that this is a serious contradiction, or else he wouldn't draw attention to it in detail. He'd say everything new is consistent with (some convenient reading of) the official stance (if we allow for this-and-that, as convenient) so he wins or something.

    5. A good question but he would have to accept that the OPCW 'investigation' (and by extension Mr Arias) misled everyone.

      But if honest universities had to be tricked into doing studies that are then somehow not genuine, 1:10 means "unscaled", measurements are wrong but used for third party engineering assessments that are then magically right, those assessments can't be conducted without knowledge of later irrelevant witness interviews in Turkey, "FFM" isn't "FFM" even on a document where non-FFM have a different designation.. maybe Nepal is not Nepal to BC.

      The twitter thread with Hilsman is golden:


      The ground floor apartment "isn't at ground level"


      "People at the hospital were not exposed to Chlorine" - Nearly a breakthrough!

      He is just too dopey to ask why activists would jump through hoops and 'manufacture' things for "maximum effect", film and hose people *not* involved, ask where the 500 real victims went- not to the nearest, large hospital, ask why then most of the Western press are directed to *that* 'basement-next-door' family in the hospital video..

      "There has been a gas attack.. but we can make a better one" is a completely convincing reaction apparently. If activists think that their manufactured evidence is better than reality, surely there is a point where they don't need an actual attack at all.


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