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Sunday, August 5, 2018

Swept Under the Rug part 2

Swept Under the Rug
The Plot to Delay the OPCW Douma Probe and Manipulate the Evidence

Part 2: Scrub Marks?
August 5, 2018

In Swept Under the Rug part 1 we looked at the minor delays in the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) investigation of the Douma chemical incident of April 7. That delay was unfairly blamed on Damascus and Moscow, allegedly used to buy time and scrub the crime scenes of clues. Now we turn to what was and wasn't found once they got to Douma and, as best I can, to what it actually means.

No Sarin: That's A Problem

With the release of the OPCW's interim report in July (PDF link), we have some information from the scene that might contain clues of any meddling. We finally learn that all the environmental and biological samples so far tested (not all of them, but about one in three) suggest chlorine exposure - Dichloroacetic acid, trichloroacetic acid, etc.

There are some questions raised by other researchers and activists about these "chlorinated compounds," which I'll make a separate space to consider. Not knowing for sure, it seems their findings confirm a chlorine release, despite the lack of specificity. If so, headlines declaring chlorine found are premature - as the BBC acknowledged changing one - but the gist is probably accurate anyway. They likely have confirmed it or will in time.

But the tests come up negative for the expected sarin nerve agent, its breakdown products, or anything similar.
2.5 The results of the analysis of the prioritised samples submitted to OPCW designated laboratories were received by the FFM team on 22 May 2018. No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties. … Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is ongoing. 
Technically, one organophosphorus nerve agent surfaced; the commercial pesticide malathion. This likely means nothing as it's so common, but in context, it could be extremely relevant… a dedicated post to explore that is forthcoming (comments best saved for there, after I make my case).

Anyway, the report explains how 31 samples were selected for first analysis - those deemed most important and/or fragile (see point 8.6). By the report's annex 3, these are 11 biological samples (blood and plasma) and 20 environmental samples. The latter showed chlorine-related compounds, unexplained explosives residue, and other things of no clear consequence (including a flame retardant found in some fabric). But over and over it says for all 31 samples "No chemicals relevant to CWC have been found" or "No nerve agent related chemicals detected."

As I explain here, that's a big problem for the opposition's claims, because chlorine alone can hardly explain 35 people dropping dead on site. Sarin or similar very well could, if it even makes sense to deploy it along with chlorine (which is an open question of some importance). But it now seems there wasn't any sarin. Not everyone acknowledges it, but this doesn't add up.

MediaLens ran a good analysis of the problem. "It is worth reiterating again – as media responses to the OPCW's latest report, conspicuously, have not - that chlorine was not a sufficiently deadly agent to cause either the claimed level of carnage or the claimed level of Western moral outrage. " Activists reported symptoms of nerve agent, the death toll and appearance of sudden death highly suggested it, and in fact U.S. government officials claimed they had blood samples showing an unnamed nerve agent.

NBC News, April 12: "The U.S. now has blood and urine samples from last Saturday's deadly attack ...The samples suggested the presence of both chlorine gas and an unnamed nerve agent, two officials said." It's unlikely tests could detect chlorine exposure (see below), so they can't likely show this plus sarin. "The officials said they were "confident" in the intelligence, though not 100 percent sure." With this confidence aired, on April 14 president Trump ordered the launch of missiles at Assad's alleged nerve agent factories (recently cleared by the OPCW, however) and, less mentioned, Syria's well-defended airfields. Soon U.S. officials were specifying sarin was the nerve agent, but not citing blood or urine tests - just "information" suggesting it (DoS briefing, 4-17), and deduction from reported symptoms (DoD report, 4-18). Was the talk of samples just a confident prediction? If so, the confidence seems ill-placed. The OPCW tested several people who claimed to be exposed in the same incident, and none showed that alleged nerve agent result.

No Sarin Traces Rally Means No Sarin

Some people - if they acknowledge the evidence is broken at all - will decide the Russians or Syrians broke it, by removing the traces of the necessary poison. But one CW expert didn't think that was likely, when he spoke to the Guardian for an April 17 report: "Jerry Smith, who helped supervise the OPCW-led withdrawal of much of Syria’s sarin stockpile in 2013 … said it was likely that residual samples of nerve agent would remain for at least another week, even after an attempted clean-up." Read literally, that would be at least until April 24 - 17 days after the incident. Investigators arrived April 21 at one site, and on the 25th at the other. By Smith's assessment, they would be likely to turn up such clues then, if they ever existed. But as far as we know, he's no expert in regime-blaming, where different standards of science seem to apply.

In contrast, British CRBN expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is a stalwart regime-blamer, and tells Josie Ensor at the Telegraph (July 23): "He believes a nerve agent was likely used alongside chlorine ... but that the material had badly degraded in the two weeks it took inspectors to get to the site." A lack of "timely access from the (Syrian) government" was the problem that led to this suspected erasure of the evidence. But as we've seen, if it was simple delay to blame, it wasn't Syria or Russia behind that. (snippets via Malika on Twitter).

So experts disagree - all sarin traces are either likely to vanish from the site within 14 days, or likely to persist for at least 17 days. This isn't possible to call with certainty. My prior research has little or nothing on delayed environmental samples, but there is this: My list of impure sarin incidents includes two attacks against Syrian soldiers in the days after the 2013 Ghouta attack, and in the same basic area (Damascus Suburbs). 8-24-2013 Jobar, and 8-25-2013 Ashrafiah Sahnaya. In fact, the Jobar attack was just meters from the apparent firing area for the Ghouta attack's rockets. It was rebel-held, just then being contested and hence the attack by cornered Islamists. At right is the firing spot (approximate - explained) compared to the 8-24 incident location, per UN report, p. 62. (Yes, I'm suggesting rebels there fired the sarin-linked rockets blamed for the absurd Assad attack as reported)

No one died in either attack, but some soldiers were seriously affected. Plasma samples were taken by the Syrian Government on the day of each attack, and at least 4 from Jobar and 5 from the other attack tested positive for Sarin signatures. Those nine samples from the two cases were re-tested by UN-OPCW investigators on September 26 and 28, about a month later (as explained in the UN report linked above). These were DNA matched to the same soldiers earlier tested, and found mostly to be negative. But one sample from the August 24 incident still tested positive, and that's enough to suggest they all did, like the Syrian tests had said, but the signs had mostly faded by then.

So by this, about a month out, signs will sometimes appear in the body (probably a high-exposure case), but usually will not. Three weeks seems like a rough but fair outer limit for detection in most cases.

That's inside the body, with metabolic activity breaking it down, and only byproducts (if telling ones) actually found. Just laying in the environment the decay should be slower and simpler. I had picked that up somewhere... but it could be about the same, or even faster, depending. I can't get more specific at the moment, but it seems likely both of these estimates above are short, one out of caution and one out political expediency.

Furthermore, if a time delay cast any serious doubt over the findings, so there may have been sarin at the site at one point, the OPCW should have mentioned this. They don't mention this, so implicitly, all samples were gathered within what they consider the time frame of detection.

Just two weeks out, the chlorine signs turn up uniformly, but not the sarin ones. So what, if anything, was scrubbed? The methods and details of any cleanup being unclear, we can't say for sure, but probably nothing. It could be the crime scene was found just as nonsensical as the Islamists left it; some non-lethal chlorine was released, 35 people with non-red eyes allegedly dropped dead in piles, and Assad is to blame.

The Incomplete Site Search
The OPCW report mentions how during their visit to location 2 (the crucial 35-bodies site), Syrian authorities "did not provide the access requested by the FFM team to some apartments within the building, which were closed at the time. The Syrian Arab Republic representatives stated that they did not have the authority to force entry into the locked apartments." (point 8.10)

In fact their access may have been quite incomplete. "8.11 The FFM had full access to other areas of interest within the same building, namely the balcony where the cylinder had allegedly impacted, the apartment directly below this, and the basement of the same apartment block." All listed samples are from levels 3 (balcony), level 2 (apartment beneath that) and level -1 (the basement). None are from the floors in between (levels 0 and 1 as they'd say, or floors 1 and 2 as we do here). These were perhaps entirely un-accessed. Two samples were collected at level 0: both concrete found in the street outside the building. Inside on the ground floor, and on the level above, is where all but 7 of the 35 bodies were found on the night of the attack. Chlorine supposedly made people drop dead on the spot in those spots. Did it mix with something here? Perhaps no clues were gathered at all to help shed light on that.

There's also no mention of samples taken from the stairwell. That would be the gas' spread route down to the victims, and 3 bodies were found there that night. It was surely accessible to the FFM, used to go from the basement to the top. Heavier traffic there is more likely to disrupt the clues, but the corners might have been worth testing.

Whatever the doors to whatever areas, the OPCW says the Syrians claimed someone locked them and they had no authority to force entry. Considering the gravity of the situation, with chemical "inspectors" flying into a war zone and Syrian officers getting wounded trying to get them to the site, with acts of war already carried out based on someone's impression of this crime, and with the mileage made of any possible sign of obfuscation from Damascus ... it might have been wiser to suspend that rule. They could be forgiven for breaking down enough doors in an abandoned building to get a clear scientific picture, and leave as little as possible to speculate over. They'd be denounced for brutally kicking-in doors, but that's life.

Because valid or not, this will be reason enough for some to write-off the whole investigation. It could be concluded the scrubbed up sarin traces were piled and swept under a rug in one of these rooms, and they've probably been moved since, now hidden Raiders of the Lost Ark style along with Iraq's vanished WMDs.

But then, any inconvenient scientific findings can be ignored with no reason at all. We'll come back to the locked doors.

Now who has ever accused Russia and Syria of holding inspectors up so they could finish removing sarin traces from the blood of the victims? No one. That sounds pretty stupid. Such talk always refered to the attack sites. But what else can explain the absence of that required sarin even in the bodily fluids of people who swear they were gassed just the same way?

According to the OPCW report's annexes, plasma and blood samples were collected from April 17 to 30, directly by their Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), or mostly handed in by coded sources of unknown reliability - probably Islamist activists in league with the former administrators. Apparently, none of these tested for sarin either: "No organophosphorus nerve agents or their degradation products were detected, either in the environmental samples or in plasma samples from the alleged casualties."

The definition of "casualties" isn't clear except that, as the report explains, none of those actually killed is included. Apparently none of those was sampled - at least not reliably enough for their standards - prior to burial. At report time, the OPCW still hadn't exhumed any decaying bodies, but hoped to in time. Perhaps they alone also show (showed) signs of sarin? Not likely, but we're left wondering.

There is precedent - Moadamiya, Aug. 21 2013. UN-OPCW investigators found no reliable sign of sarin in the environment, but an almost total positive for people allegedly exposed there (see WhoGhouta). And this was just a couple of days after the incident, not two weeks. That's a suspected false-flag fail due to poor coordination. The same could have happened in Douma, potentially, especially under the losing conditions.

Also recall in the 2013 Ghouta attack, from all the alleged 1,429, 1,700 fatalities, or whatever it really was (hundreds are for sure), none of them at all was tested by the UN-OPCW, who chose to rely on the alleged survivors with dubious patterns like that mess-up in Moadamiya. (see here) Again in Douma, 2018, so far the pivotal people are left out of the science part of things. The bodies of all chemical victims ("some 50" to the reported total of 43) were said, by alleged CW program defector Zaher Sakat, to be buried in a secret location in or near Douma. (EA Worldview). This is reportedly a singular mass grave, as the Islamists usually do for useful massacre victims with really busy families, I guess. The OPCW was reportedly informed of the location, but the regime apparently didn't know it. Mohammed Alloush, a senior official of Jaish al-Islam (the former occupying force in Douma), "claimed on Tuesday night that Assad forces are digging up graves in a search for the bodies of victims, hoping to remove them before the OPCW inspectors can test for chemical exposure." (EA Worldview, same link)

So the tested "casualties" are not any of the dead, and could be people who claim to have been in one of the gassed buildings, or to have encountered the gas in the streets or elsewhere. We're not sure even what's alleged about their exposure, except that implicitly, it's to the gas Assad dropped that day, the stuff in question.

A table A 3.2 shows 11 samples set aside (for testing?). Nine are taken on April 21, with two taken on the 18th, but not tested by lab DL02 for some reason (both were "handed over by 1757" - see table A 4). The nine others have results saying: "No relevant chemicals found" from lab 2, with lab 3 offering a more specific blanket list of what wasn't found, apparently for all 11: any of 3 major signs of nerve agent exposure to G type agents (including sarin, or GB) and V-type agents (like VX).
Note this all says nothing for or against chlorine exposure, which doesn't leaves any lasting traces you can test for. Physicians for Human Rights (supports the Syrian opposition, seems credible on this point) has a PDF that explains "Diagnosis of acute chlorine gas toxicity is primarily clinical, based on respiratory difficulties and irritation." Many things can cause these symptoms, however. It says you can also look for signs of stress and damage to the lungs or heart consistent with CL, or anything else that causes such damage (same problem). So the presence of the chlorine smell is one of the best methods to diagnose it. Otherwise, the environment can be tested for CL release by air monitoring right after, or testing soil, etc. later on, and if it's found, one can presume that the patient was exposed there. But from this and all else I've seen, there's no direct medical test  for exposure, even very soon after the fact. (adding: CDC document says "There are no medical tests to determine whether you have been exposed specifically to chlorine."

These results do clearly  rule out sarin or anything similar, at least in the cases of those alleged casualties. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon thinks the clues had all degraded. But for that to apply to biological samples as well, it's not likely to fade that much in 11 of 11 selected blood samples, collected between 10 and 23 days after the incident. As explained above, it turns up in previous OPCW tests on blood drawn for up to a month after exposure, at least in the one case out of nine.

Furthermore, the table above shows that lab DL03 ran tests for peptide/nerve agent adducts (nonapeptide). As I hear this paper explains, these tests aren't affected by aging
of the adduct, so such a short delay is well-nigh impossible to cause a false-negative. 
"These OP-adducted enzymes remain in circulation for times that are dependent on their half-lives, which are generally much longer than the half-lives of the parent OP compound or its metabolites, providing a longer window for detection than the analysis of urinary metabolites or free OPs in blood or urine. Further, it is possible to learn something about the OP of exposure due to the mass differences between different adducts."

And finally, the same point raised above; the OPCW should have mentioned it if there was any serious chance the time delay alone caused the false negative in blood or plasma samples. 

As noted, the opposition story makes little sense with no nerve agent. Its failure to appear in people claiming to be affected by that attack is something the Russians and Syrians cannot have messed up. It's most likely to have persisted until sampling time, but none was found. The clear conclusion: none of those people was ever exposed to sarin, and no sarin was released at either attack site, and so ... the opposition story makes little sense.

And there are some other really weird things about these crime scenes anyway.

Unexplained Fire Evidence, Missing Valve Evidence
The burned wall just beneath the cylinder hole at site 2 is a real mystery. It also has two cleaned spots on it (along the left edge of the black area - see below). Did the Russians or Syrians try washing this off and stop early? Or did someone fleeing, someone in a bigger rush, abandon this project? Ahmed or Boris scrubs a spot with soap and water to depressing effect. Then Hafiz or Ivan tries with this oxygen stuff or a solvent higher up the wall and it works great. But both agree that either way, it would take too long to clean that all up. Hopefully it would just go ignored.

Let's keep both kinds of possible site-scrubbers in mind, but for this bit of work, neither is probably to blame. The OPCW interim report lists samples 21 and 22 as wipes taken "from the burnt wall in the room located under the cylinder" on level 2 (where ground floor is level 0). Entry 21 (bottom smudge, I presume) was taken with water, and 22 with DCM (Dichloromethane - a standard solvent). These samples are not tested yet, or testing results were not published in the July report. It will likely show what kind of accelerant was used to start the fire, at least.

So no one cleaned that up or tried, because it doesn't seem very possible, and maybe not worth it. But that fire in the corner in fact may be a telltale clue; someone might eventually regret being unable to erase it. It was lit, apparently on purpose, on top of the concrete rubble, but sometime before the first video around 10pm on April 7. This I explain here for the benefit of some folks at or working with the New York Times, who seem to have no idea there was an unexplained fire involved, as they called its soot on the gas cylinder some kind of "corrosion" from chlorine contacting the metal.

If one accepts that rubble is from the cylinder's impact around 7:30 that same night, as most do, and release started then … why on Earth would someone be sitting in the gas cloud to light a fire as a first order of business? Why would they also drag a curtain, a package of blankets (?) and so on on top of that rubble? As fuel for the fire, perhaps, not knowing how much was needed for … that unclear purpose.

The black material over (and rinsing off of) the gas cylinder's yellow paint looks like the same soot the OPCW sampled, from the mostly unmentioned fire - so it was set in that hole at the time, and the black part is the underside in that position, the part set over the hole. As seen at 10pm, the fire is done, soot will be deposited as it is around the upper walls and ceiling. But on the cylinder we can't see it, because now it's releasing its gas slowly, causing auto-refrigeration and the frosted underside in that same area, which also has the lowest elevation. (thanks to the folks at Bellingcat for helping us figure this out).

My theory: the fire was set beneath the staged cylinder to melt the fusible plug in its valve assembly. It's a little-known but fairly safe and easy way to release the chlorine. (see above link) The purpose would be just for staging and "realism." The smell doesn't help with video, but the frost comes through. Chlorine color stains appear at the other site, and it seems chlorinated compounds resulted and were found in both spots. Mission accomplished?

It's noteworthy the visible part of the valve assembly is missing the whole time. It could be broken off on impact and lost, or unscrewed manually and hidden from view. Its twin found on the bedrest cylinder didn't vanish (see below, left), but most others we've seen over the years do, at least by video time if not on impact. In that case, the gas would pour uncontrollably out of the broken stem. So it's plausible that happened here, despite the less-than-usual damage seen with both Douma cylinders.

Below right is the first known view of the gas cylinder after the attack, during a time of complete Islamist control, mid-day on April 8. (compare: the intact valve on the bedrest cylinder at left). From a side-view, broken off cleanly or already unscrewed and gone is impossible to say. And those oddly-placed slats of metal prevent a good view of the valve area from below in every view I've seen. It's possible this is why they were placed, to block our view of this point of evidence.

The OPCW's samples 3 and 4 are swabs taken on the 21st from "inside the cylinder orifice (level 3)," meaning this one (the other cylinder has no level associated, just a bed, and they were gathered a different day). This suggests the valve was removed by then anyway, and they wiped from the exposed threads in there. The chlorine traces were found on it, but very faint; a dry sawb revealed nothing, one with water yielded "chloride" and dichloracetic acid - which is caused when chlorine mixes with water. Only a trace amount (that appears more readily when activated by water?) came in contact later, as most of the chlorine poured out through the valve assembly, which was in place then and only removed later. 

So it seems quite likely someone removed this key piece of evidence from the scene. It's impossible so far to be sure when this happened other than before the OPCW's FFM had their look. But if they were trying to hide the extra hole melted in its side, they were covering for evidence manipulations carried out when the Islamists were still firmly in control.

Other Signs of Cover-up and False-Flag (select)

- minimal/illogical damage - as seen above, the extreme ceiling damage compared to minimal cylinder damage and its stopping next to the hole is illogical - if it just stops after sustaining a minor dent, then what force flung some of the concrete's reinforcing bar so far out of place? At the other site, we see limited bed damage after severe roof damage, a cylinder with a very slight overall bend and its harness still on, and an extremely non-vertical angle suggested between the hole and the bed. That's not likely dropped from 2km up, but either hurled in on a catapult or, more likely, planted.

- the explosives residue the OPCW found at each site could prove there was a prior attack in each spot with a mortar or some such (anything that employs TNT), causing the holes and the rubble blamed on the cylinders. Or they could be meaningless background traces. This is a point I'll be addressing in another post...

- scrape marks on cylinder and minimal/illogical damage suggest manual planting at the site of prior damage, much better than they support an aerial drop. Noting these repeated double-scratches are the same distance apart as some loose bars of the damaged lattice:

- Frost on the cylinder underside at 10:06 pm might suggest gas release began well after the alleged impact time around 7:30. This deserves more scrutiny by experts. New York Times investigators heard that, depending on conditions, a full cylinder can take "hours" to empty. The implication is it usually takes a time better described as "minutes." It better take more than 2.5 hours in these conditions. (and be sure to use reliable local weather records, from METARS, Damascus airport, and the right day - not from sources that use predictive models, like the OPCW does). 

- Unexplained vapor device: seen in the stairwell in the 10pm video, as rescuers rush about in gas mask, just now rescuing people, this canister with tube is seen emitting a mystery smoke or gas (whitish, unclear weight, consistent with many things, poorly seen). It's partly hidden under some black material, possibly a shoulder bag, but shuffled to be almost fully visible, in the middle of the stairs from floor 2 down to the landing. On the next flight of stairs from the landing down to ground floor is a similar size piece of fabric or bag off to the side halfway down, possibly concealing a second canister like this. There's been no mention of or explanation yet for this. (see Human Rights Investigations analysis )

- Bleached clothing vs. white eyes: Some bodies in or near the stairwell display wet spots on their clothes as if splashed with bleach and/or laid in it, or more likely by the variety, had still-wet clothes contact chlorine gas. It their clothes were exposed, their eyes must have been. But they never did turn red, so the chlorine exposure happened only after they were already dead (no moving blood to get them bloodshot). And since they remain white, we can be fairly sure their eyes weren't exposed to chlorine before death either. But they died, then chlorine rolled over their bodies. 

- The victims who were dead before any chlorine exposure also appear planted, clustered and even piled fairly near the exit/entrance, up to water sources, where they apparently had their hair and faces washed, well after death but before the first images of the scene. A post coming to explain some details better. The strange washing is explained already here.

- Very unusual clinical signs suggest the victims were controlled captives of the retreating Islamists, killed in a deliberate and strange chemical extermination. The mask-like stains on their faces have never been seen before, and are best explained by the victims hanging upside down, with swimmer's goggles protecting their eyes, left coughing a yellow-brown fluid up their faces until dead, staining the area all around but not in their eyes (pooling up under the goggles before rolling around and dripping away). See Douma's mask of death

Stranger than fiction, truth can be, and I wouldn't just decide to make up something so strange. I'm looking for anything less crazy but adequate. So far this is the best I or anyone. I've asked can think of to explain those bizarre mask-like stains all around, but not in, the victims' non-irritated eyes, and sometimes not along lines like tight straps (right: artistic extract of the pattern as seen in an extra-vivid but icky case). Aside from the weirdness of it, this explanation fits what we see perfectly. The same clues would explain extra face and hair washing so widely suggested - these ugly signs were probably worse on first delivery.

Bondage and googles could even explain how chlorine actually could kill 35 people without causing any red eyes. But then, a killing done with impure sarin would look roughly the same, or with just the impurities, or with many things, so lets' wait for the science if possible. But whatever the poison, this manner of delivery clearly would place the crime on local terrorists tying people up, not on some passing helicopter. 
- less forensically, we have the usual package of circumstantial clues - the adult male all-seeing miracle survivors who labor to explain their alleged share of the dead - the complete lack of a rational motive for the infidels selected for blame by the deceitful Islamists probably behind the whole thing, etc.

- VDC reports April 9 on Russian police visit to the sites, wondering if they tampered with anything as they kept locals away from. But they note "Simultaneously, Jaish Al-Islam also made it difficult to hold independent investigation and documentation of the site yesterday and tried to bar witnesses from documenting and photographing any evidence." (thanks Qoppa999)


  1. You make an interesting point about the burial and apartment: some of the Hanans are still alive and living in that apartment, presumably one of the locked ones? The Hanan relatives have to go into a mass grave? Not much sense in 'hiding' all the bodies in the exact same place either..

    A few minor points I disagree with-
    They would surely hide anything incriminating within 2 hours and this is what I see:

    All the frost:
    But a moot point as if I am wrong and that *is* the cylinder at 10pm, given the conditions the chlorine released when the people are already dead (as your theory)

    Doumani first/more frost:
    One of the very few things I disagree with Michael Kobs on

    If you look at the pillow in the second half of the Salah video, it is underneath the cylinder before the dark substance gets smeared onto it as the pillow is pulled to the left.


    As #45 in the OPCW list is "Pillow from bed under the cylinder", it appears 20180425178810 is the smeared pillow

    By the time of the Russian videos it does appear something has come off the cylinder onto the bed and the dark smear has turned to a yellow stain. A similar substance to the valve end seems to be on the fins part (could account for the results on "Blanket under cylinder"? - the control sample result would be useful here)


    It doesn't help that the bed is a green/brown colour that seems to change when the cameraman shines a light onto it. The colours are probably off in this photo too but the 'frost' is clearly dust and still on the end of the bed, end of the bits of wood etc.


    Looking at it.. whether the Russians have also cleaned the cylinder off with water I'm not sure.

    But details of the 'bed cylinder' are maybe not important enough to be worth a great deal of argument.

    I see the logic behind your theory there was some kind of release of chlorine in the victim house.. but I'm not sure people who would put a cylinder on a bed are as logical as you! So I'm interested to see if the OPCW determines that these results are significant evidence of a chlorine attack.

  2. The yellow-brown issues and order of things remain confusing to me at the bed site. I don't even feel like talking about it. But I hear chlorine comes out as liquid first and quickly evaporates to gas. The gas is that color we know, but the liquid - is it brown at first? Some brown might be chlorinated rust stains.

    As for the canister, your yellow markings show what? As I've been seeing it, that's the tube and the shape of the smoke/vapor coming out of it. I'm open to It not being a clue, but so far it looks like a probable big one.

    As for the frost, it is - the white shape is just the cylinder's, and the black around is the shape of the hole seen later. Cylinder in same relative position (basic if not exact), light change cons. with curved end (front is better lit by the guy's light)- curve to frost shape suggests cylinder shape, and that it's running low (frost will correspond to liquid inside, and we see the whole frosted area)

    Bed scene frosting: no. You disagree with that. good. That happens to the underside, where fluid is, and only on the metal canister (not even on its base rim except by contact). The bed won't frost. All the white there is dust, either from impact or from being sifted on top to look like that. The dust appears gone later - possibly the breeze could do that, or some washing by whoever.

    Will be covering the chlorine issues (clues for release, chem issues) in a post soon.

    1. Yellow markings are a zipper and I think the smoke is actually the zipper teeth

      Like this but couldn't find an exact match

      I thought it was a bit of an optical illusion, the light grey is the step, darker the shadow from the zipper. This is the same thing seen going down the stairs, the metal zipper shines, the zipper teeth the light line going straight down from that (matches the angle of the smoke seen on the way up)


      Frosted cylinder like I say, moot point we can just disagree - but consider they were in the room below, not all have gasmasks. Would be an unusual thing to do if they had just recently released enough chlorine to prep the whole building as a chemical attack scene. All depends how long you think the chlorine and frost would last?

    2. Also no chlorine gas is seen on the video so needs to have enough time to disperse. Frost was never part of the activist story- or important to it as they were going into the house 2.5 hours later. Entirely BC/FA/NYT as far as I can tell: FA/NYT are completely wrong about frost on the bedroom cylinder (I'm not sure if BC has agreed with that theory to be fair) and I don't trust their judgement here either.

    3. It looked a bit like you were drawing a zipper, but I hoped not. Ok, looking again then more seriously … I could see a zipper handle, if that could be a zipper. Mixed resolution unlikely - it wouldn't be that blurry. And it would be uncanny to lined up w/exact middle of unexplained round canister, even touching/resting on it, by the cast shadow. That would all be pretty odd, and there's some smoke floating where the zipper teeth would be...

      Thanks for the best-yet alternate to explore, dismiss, and strengthen the standing call.

    4. Round canister is actually the step below you see (see picture going down the stairs), it is sort of a strap with a zipper on it.

      For the record


      if you move the cylinder out of the way, from the doorway you would be looking up at the wall above (on the FA Blender model). There is a moment before the light goes off where you can see either a shadow that I think is on the wall above or possibly the overhang at the top of the wall. I assume there is also a dust cloud. I think the cylinder could still be there but over to the left of the hole.

      But I guess who cares at this point, they really just need to exhume victims and see if any of this is even relevant to how they died.

    5. Just lost a long comment. Loving keyboard shortcuts, thanks.

      FA/NYT called that frost? Morons. Some sugg. it was turned over, but that would swap frosty sides in about 2 minutes, I guess.

      Dispersion: might be done by then and dispersed. Might still be coming out. Frost line suggests it's near that line, done or close. We can say if there's still chlorine here, it's too thin to see. It might be. I don't know.

      That middle image shows of the wall seen through the hole is one of the many things we don't see in that weird white ovoid shape. It takes a lot of added maybes to have it morph to something looking just like a frosted cylinder bottom would. Only CGI fakery could do that, and that could start looking like anything. (and it's something I never call, for good reason)

      The zipper from above - the line may be an artifact, or a line of thicker smoke - more reliably I see the bright spot (interior of tube?), the gray canister, and a bit gray all across that half the bag, like a thin layer of smoke.

      Next flight down, same basic position (off to the outside), same size black material, cons. faint light spot in the same area (tucked against upper stair, close to the middle) No shiny spot visible here, little if any gray across the area visible, but might be the same smoke, near emission point, looked down through, would be fairly visible.

      Nothing can prove what killed those people. You can get it is X, consistent with y, not x, etc., but x and y can happen other places too. What needs explained is how they got upside-down and stuff. That's central, and been ignored too long.

    6. Yes well Malachy Browne and FA at least

      Do you think it is likely they would leave nefarious objects on the stairs for their video?

      Couple of other claims:

      Apart from trying to paint the doors as a massive obstruction (and distorting the anonymous volunteer for KS), "chlorine near explosives".. wasn't aware of alleged explosive charges on the cylinder 'bombs'?

      Cylinders are too heavy to carry up stairs: maybe interesting to address, what would these things weigh- 80 or 90kg? What do you make of this claim?

      Smaller cylinders are certainly carried around without any problem:

    7. "Do you think it is likely they would leave nefarious objects on the stairs for their video?" Probably not, but maybe so, esp. if it's passing, not likely to be noticed, or just not recognized as a problem - did the people setting it coordinate with the video editors? Maybe, maybe not.

      explosives, will be posting - may correlate to damage area, everything there but the cylinders. Poss. noise, poss. clue.

      The Russians' yellow stairs look unrelated to me, FWIW. But they could be lugged by 2 guys, a dolly, etc. no problem. Some argument there.

    8. I reviewed the possibility the canister is the stair. The line I drew made me wonder, but the shadows in there make no sense cast against the rise of the next step. Light on the tube is from the left, matches the shadow starting at its bottom, cast on an elevated horizontal surface. Posted here, but mainly just for this convo: https://twitter.com/CL4Syr/status/1027558078353354752

    9. It could be part shadow and part dark mark on the step as on the step below:


      The problem with video at this quality and those lights is that it is easy for everything to look misleading - or like indistinct white round blobs, even some legs!

      I don't mind if everyone disagrees- I'm not going to start making twitter charts to try and attack anyone who does- just my 2 cents that I think this detail is a red herring.

      And I'm certainly not suggesting that after a fierce bombardment that the NYT is keen to point out flattened many buildings in Douma, the SyAAF then co-ordinated with the Syrian news channel to not accidentally film two helicopters dropping comparatively small gas cylinders as a method of swaying negotiations. On roofs no less.. because after a days heavy bombardment, naturally people rush to the upper floors of apartment buildings.

    10. Just for reference (someone could probably do more exact), I think this was the angle of the live broadcast of Douma that day


    11. I think this is al-Shuhada Square with the hospital on the left when they zoom in on it at 5:30pm


    12. There doesn't seem to be anything specific in the place we are interested in but good to put in context:


      The bottom picture is the time NYT tells us the helicopters took off (7:16-7:23 pm)

      All of Douma was basically a giant dust cloud at that point. It is hard to believe anyone after watching that could claim with a straight face that it was decided the bombing somehow 'wasn't working' and they needed to send out a helicopter to drop 2 yellow gas cylinders instead.

  3. Agree on the scrapes on the stairs though perhaps they can compare the paint. Possible reason for no harness: easier to carry up to the balcony. If they are actually very difficult to move, someone went to great effort to put one on the bed.

    I've been trying to find a video but have been unable, a man visiting what was his apartment but I forget who he was with- he states that people steal the doors. They're seen in the Douma tunnels too of course. Not sure how locking the apartments would help the Syrian gov unless there is meant to be some particular evidence that would only appear a few floors down from the cylinder... more likely evidence that the apartment doesn't belong to the Hanans or that possible chlorine released upstairs never made it down to that apartment.

    Strange that Hanan junior waited there for journalists but locked up and left instead of meeting OPCW inspectors. Camo wearing (supposed) Hanan senior wasn't even there for the journalists.. I did spot Syria Charity there again who are very good at finding chemical victims- always some involvement in these things it seems.

  4. Reading their other tweets perhaps the 'explosives and chlorine' claim isn't worth addressing. Just checked and this is still in the FFM report:

    5.103 samples relating to the alleged incident in Khan Shaykhun were provided to them by an unnamed volunteer from Khan Shaykhun. Why 'pro-revolution' people have such a hard time understanding the concept of the Syrian gov being given samples to test and a collection video as proof... the more the claim the samples are "Assad's" gets repeated, the more it convinces me someone has tricked the Syrian gov into accepting them.

    Off topic, but if possible I would be interested in reading a chemist's objective take on the sarin from 24th March 2017 -e.g. can they determine scientifically exactly when that sarin was added to the soil. Whatever you think of Bellingcat and the various NGOs, I'm certain they would have reported any suggestion of an attack had there been any.

    1. Or blog post on it? BC are stuck on the 24th being a 'false flag'- another question you might ask is why months later with virtually no witnesses, no dead and only reported minor injuries, no apparent photo/video evidence and no corroborating medical records did the OPCW send the White Helmets out to dig up soil samples? Would be so interesting to see how this came about in the interview (someone trying to prove to the OPCW they are credible?).

    2. I wonder why Higgins won't respond when the things that are wrong in the NYT report are actually presented to him? He agrees with it all?

    3. If you do decide to do anything on it (or if anyone happens to read), the attack on Lataminah 24th March (that no-one bothered to mention) so far:

      4.12 "environmental samples and remnants of alleged munition parts were received by the FFM team on 19 February 2018"
      4.11 "first interview on 10 April 2017" but only conducted interviews about the 24th months later-
      5.8 "Between 28 July 2017 and 8 March 2018, inclusive, the FFM interviewed six people in person"
      6.4 "sample analysis results showed the presence of sarin" [nearly a year later, sarin is still present? Shouldn't it degrade?] ... "results were consistent with those from the incident in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017" ... "and the incident in Ltamenah on 30 March 2017"

      5.9, 5.25 3 of 3 witnesses were sleeping but someone witnesses first impact "generating no smoke" [no yellow cloud]
      5.10. 5.26 the victims develop symptoms and decides to leave the area within minutes of impact 1, impact 2 10 minutes later (5.9) still has 2 separate witnesses
      5.27 "there was no odour or colour" [no yellow cloud]

      5.20 having developed symptoms such as visual impairment and dizziness, they drove vehicles to the hospital (or were driven meaning there are even more witnesses!). They "self-reported" (5.10) - what happened to White Helmets and locals rushing to see if anyone was hurt? People were working in the fields that day (5.16)!
      Figure 4 shows that driving to the hospital involves going back through the affected area and into the valley currently being bombed by a plane albeit one with a pilot who consistently misses any kind of target.

      5.21 victims have developed a "nonspecific irritating smell" since 5.27
      5.11 hospital phones physician specifically about treatment "for exposure to an organophosphorus chemical" [a 6 am phonecall they never mentioned to anyone else?]
      5.23 as there are no records from the hospital (5.20), it would make sense that these 2 victims were identified through the hospital they were transferred to but 5.29 only mentions later outpatient treatment

      5.31 "damage sustained to the medical facility on 25 March 2017" means they can't provide any records but a video shot later makes the hospital look intact apart from the entrance. The OPCW FFM report for the 30th describes the hospital as only having a "decreased capacity to treat patients" and seems to have records for that event?

      Then it is all never mentioned. The allegation isn't listed in France's April 2017 National Evaluation annex listing possible chemical attacks.

      I think the Bellingcat $100 is safe. Maybe related, Abdel Manaf Saleh went on record to tell Bellingcat that the 'rebel HQ' was more than 500m from the attack site and the attack was just on farmland. The OPCW FFM later contradicted this by saying the area was "predominantly occupied by combatants" but I never saw why Saleh would be lying to Bellingcat about this detail. Maybe he wasn't?

    4. Thanks - I had a look, started a post, got sidetracked. The dates and results seem strange, but it's down to storage, notdelayed sampling. Not sure if it makes sense or not. Will look at other points soon.

    5. Sampling was delayed though? Perhaps some critical detail I am missing but:

      1.7 "Once the impact locations of the incident on 24 March 2017 were determined during the interviews, the FFM coordinated the sample collection from these locations with
      an NGO."

      The OPCW didn't receive anything related to the 24th before 2018. Surely the White Helmets rush these requested samples to the OPCW after collection?

      There are the 30th March witnesses too who quite literally say a plane never attacked with "poisonous gases" before the 30th https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huhn-4Zbe1c.

    6. Delat before sampling is unclear, so to be reasonable, I presume maybe it was gathered right away, not reported, stored. Dunno why. Shajul Islam was hinting at the event then, but no one reported it. Waiting to tell even OPCW would be in line with that.

      But still, shenanigans are quite likely.

      The report of no color and no smell sounds more like half the witnesses for the Dec. 2016 uqrabiyat attacks - describing what sarin is supposed to be like, rather than what it is like, over there, these days, usually. same goes for 3-30 latamnah event.

      Oddities here too in deaths - 3 or 4, only on the chlorine day? No one dies from the sarin event? Shajul laments the people are dying so much quicker now, sugg. sarin, but OPCW seems to disagree. Goes under "OPCW leading a scientific revolution," which I never quite finished anyway... chlorine is now deadlier than sarin.

    7. You don't think the OPCW were telling the truth about determining the impact points during interviews ("Between 28 July 2017 and 8 March 2018") and then co-ordinating the collection with White Helmets?

      I'm not sure why they would claim this if WHs had pre-emptively collected soil from every crater in the valley or already knew the location.

      The sarin vs chlorine deaths do seem strange (there is something strange about the whole valley imo), I wonder if Dr Darwish was on duty at the hospital on the 24th?

    8. I'm not sure what you mean here, just not sure what the presence of sarin means. Quite possibly a sign of fakery, but maybe not.

    9. Just that OPCW say samples weren't gathered right away and stored but taken on request after the interviews (that only started 4 months later) identified the location.

      A bit different to the White Helmets selecting the location themselves and sampling then storing.

      It is the lack of any mention during coverage of events in the following days that convinces me that the 24th did not happen (or at least without a reason for witnesses to not mention it). That plus no records of any kind, virtually no witnesses and sarin that hasn't degraded nearly a year later. The match to the KS samples makes me think the sarin there was added or arranged somehow in the same way.

      Mad conspiracy theory I know but I have no horse in this race people can agree or not. I would try and determine scientifically whether the sarin was added to the soil after the 24th (if there is a way, maybe comparing degradation with the site from the 30th)

    10. Again, I'm behind here so … samples collected 4 months+ later clearly should not yield fresh sarin. That's ridiculous.

      The no mention cuts both ways - they did mention it by way of hints (Shajul Islam at least). But it was studiously not publicized directly, by anyone. A place was held, at least, for such evidence. That takes a fake event some know is going to be faked, or a staged event they got everyone to not talk about, or whatever else might explain it.

      Weird story/lack of story issues, sarin added to samples later, at least. Those are some problems.

      Well worth a post, but the post would take some work, and now I feel like I have addressed it some, I may not rush that...

  5. https://apnews.com/ab3868ab92f84b009e4b6d9bc8bdfbb3
    Interesting + "three hooded women being held in an apartment near Douma’s main Martyrs Square", "the man who lived in the apartment was found dead"

    Black hands?: "Near the Martyrs Square in Douma, Jamal emerged from a severely-destroyed building, all covered in soot" .. "His son followed him, and he was covered in soot from head to toe."

    1. That is interesting. I was aware of the case, but ever one who followed it. All new to me. Might make one wonder about all the other non-violent VDC-type activists that allegedly vanished into ASSAD's jails.

  6. Just for reference, JaI say they really cared about those people

    "our choice was to resist the Russian campaign until the targeting of civilians with chemical weapons which claimed the lives and wounded hundreds, so we decided to go to the north of Syria"

  7. Minor point on obstruction by locked apartment, I think it has already been noted for gas implications but even with a locked door the Nasr Hanan apartment at the very least would be accessible by ladder. There is no glass in the windows, possibly no glass in all windows of the building.


    1. Maybe better shown in the videos:


      They may have put a metal grill over the window since then of course but apparently hadn't done so at the time of the press visit.

    2. Not very clear but looks like no metal bars over the window at the time too


  8. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/A_HRC_39_65_EN.docx

    CoI report on Douma:

    "92. Throughout 7 April, numerous aerial attacks were carried out in Douma, striking various residential areas. A vast body of evidence collected by the Commission suggests that, at approximately 7.30 p.m., a gas cylinder containing a chlorine payload delivered by helicopter struck a multi-storey residential apartment building located approximately 100 metres south-west of Shohada square. The Commission received information on the death of at least 49 individuals, and the wounding of up to 650 others.

    93. While the Commission cannot make yet any conclusions concerning the exact causes of death, in particular on whether another agent was used in addition to chlorine that may have caused or contributed to deaths and injuries"

    Again, if any indication of what the FFM will decide then it seems a forgone conclusion to justify the airstrikes against Syria.

    1. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session38/Documents/A_HRC_38_CRP_3_EN.docx

      For reference, it was almost a repeat of what they said in their June 20th report:

      "52. Following the collapse of ceasefire negotiations between Jaysh al-Islam and the Russian Federation to evacuate Douma in early April, pro-Government forces launched a series of attacks on the last remaining opposition redoubt on 5 April, and continued launching a series of attacks on Douma into 6 and 7 April. Over the course of the day on 7 April, numerous aerial attacks were carried out in Douma, striking various residential areas. In one residential building, the Commission received information on the deaths of at least 49 individuals, and the injuries of up to 650 others following aerial bombardments. The Commission of Inquiry has been investigating this incident. The available evidence is largely consistent with the use of chlorine, but this in and of itself does not explain other reported symptoms, which are more consistent with the use of another chemical agent, most likely a nerve gas. The Commission’s investigations are on-going."

      They said symptoms were not consistent - if *something else* killed those people how can they tell what proportion or even if *any* are chlorine victims.

    2. thanks! Zoning out here, ready to sleep - 49 in one building? That's new. Prev. it was 35 here, exact count, and 8 somewhere else, for 48 total, and there was a second chlorine bomb site … with 0 or negative 1 dead to have 49 at the other and just 48 total …

      their "other reported symptoms" and not even death toll, is a weak reasons, and in context of OPCW report, that option only raises troubling questions. But they hope the trouble can be made Syria's, and they got paid to keep dropping hints the regime got sarin in there or something red-liney, if possible, and nevermind the logic of it… or so I surmise.

    3. bad math above. The death toll was 43, now risen by 6, unless they're mixed up in that summary.

    4. On Khan Sheikhoun of course the CoI said "Photographs of weapon remnants depict a chemical aerial bomb of a type manufactured in the former Soviet Union" so not impossible that some of their info here could be just as wrong.

      Not sure what you make of the alleged Idlib false flag but locations shown here:


      Kafr Zayta


      Khan Sheikhoun


      The location inside Khan Sheikhoun seems doubtful to me, looks like a school next to KS' most recognizable landmark. But if still a school and the schools do things like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBFY1GLAEQ0 it is understandable how witnesses may think they are actually filming a provocation.

    5. Hm! That school, small shack at SE corner, is just about exactly where I suspect the white cloud of allegedly toxic fog over KS had originated. Schools also get taken over as militant bases and barracks, etc.

    6. So thanks for the tip, and sorry for the delay. Can't verify WHY they point here (AFAIK to match my spot), but it matches my spot no one else (?) seemed interested in.

  9. Douma: SAA destroy cemetery "from mid-June until July 20, 2018"


    SNHR had already published a non-cemetery burial location on May 11. (Is the STJ photo the same location?)


    The alleged many hundreds of other victims would surely still provide evidence


    1. it was formerly "a small battalion headquarters of regime forces to be an alternative burial, by the beginning of 2013,”. Hm. many soldiers buried there? Or their alleged victims I guess? Maybe both ... lots of defectors.

      Anyway, I didn't see where a locale was given. "in the outskirts of Al-Sindiyana neighborhood inside Douma" It looks outskirtsy. Said to ne "well-known."
      “Al-Sindiyana Cemetery =?= مقبرة السنديانة
      Wikimapia - not authoritative or guaranteed complete - lists no such place. Just the Sindiyana part gives no local matches (as a neighborhood might). the only cemetery listed is Saad Al-Din (poss. match?)

      So reasonably, good chance this is the same place - not the regular cemetery, outskirtsy, alleged body removals, and a shown pit that might be consistent with some of those here (another appears larger, more like a tunnel entrance really).

      So no Wikimapia shortcut, but image comparison remains, FWIW.

    2. Some good landmarks (minaret, tower etc.) on the video they link to perhaps the exact place can be found if needed.

      Maybe more importantly, can we deduce from this that no bodies had been exhumed and handed over by July?

  10. https://www.opcw.org/sites/default/files/documents/2018/10/s-1677-2018%28e%29.pdf

    Douma analysis still going...

    Interestingly, in their annex of "open source" chemical weapons allegations the mild bubbling sarin attack in Latamneh March 24 is not included.

    1. Thanks for the tips. I may skip it altogether now. One thing we can tell about their final conclusion: they're in no rush to get to it. As for open-source resurces, I imagine they didn't even look close at our pages before including them first time. Later they got embarrassed to seem promotional of that, saw little real value if it's just Bellingcat (for compiled and analytical sources anyway), and scrapped it.

    2. Higgins says even the White Helmets didn't know which I find strange considering they're (supposedly) intimately connected to the hospital. That the OPCW found it credible for investigation and lab testing time with so little info I find intriguing.

      On topic- Douma: looking for examples to help me understand how the NYT metals expert can tell the difference between this black corrosion and smoke damage. I can only find similar smoke damage pictures - perhaps I'm just looking in the wrong place for corrosion examples?

    3. I've toyed with figuring this out. maybe look in your sink under a steel can lid left for many days underneath some plates? I think people mean FeO, which happens with wet corrosion lacking oxygen, like rebar inside concrete on bridges. It turns black until you see it (when it's exposed), then turns to oxide because of oxygen, becomes actual rust. Nothing else really comes up for 'black rust,' except high-heat processes causing some blackness, acidic staining of actual metal, etc. I didn't look for visual cases per se, rather looking for a plausible explanation of how and why it would form. Conditions totally unlike these.

      Nothing I've seen or read or can visualize suggests the metal neck would rust black and orange, and the black parts would all slide uphill to be on top of the paint, just so it can be not-soot. Simpler explanation, clearly; it's fucking soot, you numbskulls.

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