MH-17 Case: ‘Old’ Journalism vs. ‘New’

Exclusive: For skilled intelligence operatives, the Internet can be a devil’s playground, a place to circulate doctored photos, audio and documents, making investigations based on “social media” and such sources particularly risky, a point worth recalling in the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The first thing any thinking person learns about the Internet is not to trust everything you see there. While you can find much well-researched and reliable material, you’ll also encounter disinformation, spoofs, doctored photographs and crazy conspiracy theories. That would seem to be a basic rule of the Web caveat emptor and be careful what you do with the information unless you’re following a preferred neocon narrative. Then, nothing to worry about.

A devil-may-care approach to Internet-sourced material has been particularly striking when it comes to the case of the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. It has now become de rigueur on the part of the West’s mainstream news outlets to tout the dubious work of a British Internet outlet called Bellingcat, which bases its research on photographs and other stuff pulled off the Internet.

President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Ukraine, on the South Lawn of the White House, July 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Ukraine, on the South Lawn of the White House, July 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins also has made journalistic errors that would have ended the careers of many true professionals, yet he continues to be cited and hailed by the likes of The New York Times and The Washington Post, which have historically turned up their noses about Internet-based journalism.

The secret to Higgins’s success seems to be that he reinforces what the U.S. government’s propagandists want people to believe but lack the credibility to sell. It’s a great business model, marketing yourself as a hip “citizen journalist” who just happens to advance Official Washington’s “group thinks.”

We saw similar opportunism among many wannabe media stars in 2002-03 when U.S. commentators across the political spectrum expressed certitude about Iraq’s hidden stockpiles of WMD. Even the catastrophic consequences of that falsehood did little to dent the career advancements of the Iraq-WMD promoters. There was almost no accountability, proving that there truly is safety in numbers. [See’s “Through the US Media Lens Darkly.”]

New Recruits

But there’s always room for new recruits. Blogger Higgins made his first splash by purporting to prove the accuracy of U.S. government claims about the Syrian government firing rockets carrying sarin gas that killed hundreds of civilians on Aug. 21, 2013, outside Damascus, an incident that came close to precipitating a major U.S. bombing campaign against the Syrian military.

Those of us who noted the startling lack of evidence in the Syria-sarin case much as we had questioned the Iraq-WMD claims in 2002-03 were brushed aside by Big Media which rushed to embrace Higgins who claimed to have proved the U.S. government’s charges. Even The New York Times clambered onboard the Higgins bandwagon.

Higgins and others mocked legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh when he cited intelligence sources indicating that the attack appeared to be a provocation staged by Sunni extremists to draw the U.S. military into the war, not an attack by the Syrian military.

Despite Hersh’s long record for breaking major stories including the My Lai massacre from the Vietnam War, the “Family Jewels” secrets of the CIA in the 1970s, and the Abu Ghraib torture during the Iraq War The New Yorker and The Washington Post refused to run his articles, forcing Hersh to publish in the London Review of Books.

Hersh was then treated like the crazy uncle in the attic, while Higgins an unemployed British bureaucrat operating from his home in Leicester, England was the new golden boy. While Higgins was applauded, Hersh was shunned.

But Hersh’s work was buttressed by the findings of top aeronautical scientists who studied the one rocket that carried sarin into the Damascus suburb of Ghouta and concluded that it could have traveled only about two kilometers, far less distance than was assumed by Official Washington’s “group think,” which had traced the firing position to about nine kilometers away at a Syrian military base near the presidential palace of Bashar al-Assad.

“It’s clear and unambiguous this munition could not have come from Syrian government-controlled areas as the White House claimed,” Theodore Postol, a professor in the Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told MintPress News.

Postol published “Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21st, 2013” in January 2014 along with Richard Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories who was a United Nations weapons inspector and has to his credit two books, 40 patents and more than 75 academic papers on weapons technology.

Postol added in the MintPress interview that Higgins “has done a very nice job collecting information on a website. As far as his analysis, it’s so lacking any analytical foundation it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about.”

In the wake of the Postol-Lloyd report, The New York Times ran what amounted to a grudging retraction of its earlier claims. Yet, to this day, the Obama administration has failed to withdraw  its rush-to-judgment charges against the Syrian government or present any verifiable evidence to support them.

This unwillingness of the Obama administration to fess up has served Higgins well, in that there is still uncertainty regarding the facts of the case. After all, once a good propaganda club is forged for bludgeoning an adversary, it’s not something Official Washington lays down easily. [See’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.“]

The MH-17 Mystery

So, Higgins and Bellingcat moved on to the mystery surrounding MH-17, where again the Obama administration rushed to a judgment, pinning the blame on the Russians and ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine who were fighting the U.S.-backed regime in Kiev.

Though again hard evidence was lacking at least publicly Official Washington and its many minions around the world formed a new “group think” Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was responsible for the 298 deaths.

On July 20, 2014, just three days after the MH-17 shoot-down in an article with the definitive title “U.S. official: Russia gave systems,” The Washington Post reported that an anonymous U.S. official said the U.S. government had “confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border.”

This official told the Post that there wasn’t just one Buk battery, but three. The supposed existence of these Buk systems in the rebels’ hands was central to the case blaming Putin, who indeed would have been highly irresponsible if he had delivered such powerful weapons capable of hitting a commercial airliner flying at 33,000 feet as MH-17 was to a ragtag rebel force of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

But there were problems with this version, including the fact that as reflected in a “government assessment” from the Director of National Intelligence released on July 22, 2014, (or five days after the crash) U.S. intelligence listed other weapons allegedly provided by the Russians to the ethnic Russian rebels but not a Buk anti-aircraft missile system.

In other words, two days after the Post cited a U.S. official claiming that the Russians had given the rebels the Buks, the DNI’s “government assessment” made no reference to a delivery of one, let alone three powerful Buk batteries.

And that absence of evidence came in the context of the DNI larding the report with every possible innuendo to implicate the Russians, including references to “social media” entries. But there was no mention of a Buk delivery.

The significance of this missing link is hard to overstate. At the time eastern Ukraine was the focus of extraordinary U.S. intelligence collection because of the potential for the crisis to spin out of control and start World War III. Plus, a Buk missile battery is large and difficult to conceal. The missiles themselves are 16-feet-long and are usually pulled around by truck.

U.S. spy satellites, which supposedly can let you read a license plate in Moscow, surely would have picked up these images. And, if for some inexplicable reason a Buk battery was missed before July 17, 2014, it would surely have been spotted on an after-action review of the satellite imagery. But the U.S. government has released nothing of the kind not three, not two, not one.

Different Account

Instead, in the days after the MH-17 crash, I was told by a source that U.S. intelligence had spotted Buk systems in the area but they appeared to be under Ukrainian government control. The source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts said the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile was manned by troops dressed in what looked like Ukrainian uniforms.

At that point in time, the source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said. [See’s “What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine?”]

Subsequently, the source said, these analysts reviewed other intelligence data, including recorded phone intercepts, and concluded that the shoot-down was carried out by a rogue element of the Ukrainian government, working with a rabidly anti-Russian oligarch, but that senior Ukrainian leaders, such as President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, were not implicated. However, I have not been able to determine if this assessment was a dissident opinion or a consensus within U.S. intelligence circles.

Another intelligence source told me that CIA analysts did brief Dutch authorities during the preparation of the Dutch Safety Board’s report but that the U.S. information remained classified and unavailable for public release. In the Dutch report, there is no reference to U.S.-supplied information although the report reflects sensitive details about Russian-made weapons systems, secrets declassified by Moscow for the investigation.

Into this propaganda-laced controversy stepped Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat with their “citizen journalism” and Internet-based investigation. The core of their project was to scour the Internet for images purportedly of a Buk missile system rumbling through the eastern Ukrainian countryside in the days before the MH-17 crash. After finding several such images, Bellingcat insistently linked the Buk missiles to the Russians and the rebels.

Supposedly, this investigative approach is better than what we traditional journalists do in such cases, which is to find sources with vetted intelligence information and get them to share it with us, while also testing it out against verifiable facts and the views of outside experts. Our approach is far from perfect and often requires some gutsy whistle-blowing by honest officials but it is how many important secrets have been revealed.

A central flaw in the Internet-based approach is that it is very easy for a skilled propagandist in a government dirty-tricks office or just some clever jerk with Photoshop software to manufacture realistic-looking images or documents and palm them off either directly to gullible people or through propaganda fronts that appear as non-governmental entities but are really bought-and-paid-for conduits of disinformation.

This idea of filtering propaganda through supposedly disinterested and thus more credible outlets has been part of the intelligence community’s playbook for many years. I was once told by Gen. Edward Lansdale, one of the pioneers of CIA psychological operations, that his preference always was to plant propaganda in news agencies that were perceived as objective, that way people were more believing.

Lost Credibility

After the Pentagon Papers and Watergate scandals of the 1970s, when the American people were suspicious of whatever they heard from the U.S. government, the Reagan administration in the 1980s organized inter-agency task forces to apply CIA-style techniques to manage the perceptions of the U.S. public about foreign events. The architect was the CIA’s top propaganda specialist, Walter Raymond Jr., who was transferred to the National Security Council staff to skirt legal prohibitions against the CIA manipulating Americans.

Raymond, who counseled his subordinates in the art of gluing black hats on U.S. adversaries and white hats on U.S. friends, recommended that U.S. propaganda be funneled through organizations that had “credibility in the political center.” Among his favorite outlets were Freedom House, a non-governmental “human rights” group that was discreetly funded by the U.S. government, and the Atlantic Council, a think tank led by former senior U.S. government officials and promoting strong NATO ties. [For more background, see “How Reagan’s Propaganda Succeeded.”]

The same process continues to this day with some of the same trusted outlets, such as Freedom House and Atlantic Council, but requiring some new fronts that have yet to be identified as propaganda conduits. Many receive discreet or backdoor funding from the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy or other U.S. entities.

For instance, the U.S. Agency for International Development (along with billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Institute) funds the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which targets governments that have fallen into U.S. disfavor and which are then undermined by reporting that hypes alleged ties to organized crime and corruption. The USAID/Soros-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat.

Higgins has become a favorite, too, of the Atlantic Council, which has partnered with him for a report about Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict, and he wins praise from the Soros-financed Human Rights Watch, which has lobbied for U.S. military intervention against the Assad government in Syria. (Like Higgins, Human Rights Watch pushed discredited theories about where Syrian sarin-gas attack originated.)

Yet, because Higgins’s claims dovetail so neatly with U.S. government propaganda and neoconservative narratives, he is treated like an oracle by credulous journalists, the Oracle of Leicester. For instance, Australia’s “60 Minutes” dispatched a crew to Higgins’s house to get the supposed coordinates for where the so-called “Buk getaway video” was filmed another curious scene that appeared mysteriously on the Internet.

When “60 Minutes” got to the spot near Luhansk in eastern Ukraine where Higgins sent them, the location did not match up with the video. Although there were some billboards in the video and at the site in Luhansk, they were different shapes and all the other landmarks were off, too. Still, the Australian news crew pretended that it was at the right place, using some video sleight-of-hand to snooker the viewers.

However, when I published screen grabs of the getaway video and the Luhansk location, it was clear to anyone that the scenes didn’t match up.

A screen shot of the roadway where the suspected BUK missile battery supposedly passed after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Image from Australian “60 Minutes” program)

A screen shot of the roadway where the suspected BUK missile battery supposedly passed after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Image from Australian “60 Minutes” program)

Correspondent Michael Unsher of Australia’s “60 Minutes” claims to have found the billboard visible in a video of a BUK missile launcher after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes”)

Correspondent Michael Usher of Australia’s “60 Minutes” claims to have found the billboard visible in a video of a BUK missile launcher after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes”)

Yet, instead of simply admitting that they were in error, the “60 Minutes” host did a follow-up insulting me, asserting that he had gone to the place identified by Higgins and claiming that there was a utility pole in the video that looked something like a utility pole in Luhansk.

A screen shot from the so-called “getaway” video supposedly taken shortly after MH-17 was shot down showing the road that the suspected BUK anti-aircraft missile battery was taking.

A screen shot from the so-called “getaway” video supposedly taken shortly after MH-17 was shot down showing the road that the suspected BUK anti-aircraft missile battery was taking.

A screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes” update supposedly showing a utility pole in the “getaway” video and matching it up with a poll in an intersection of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. However, note that the inset obscures the spot where a house appeared on the original video.

A screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes” update supposedly showing a utility pole in the “getaway” video and matching it up with a poll in an intersection of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. However, note that the inset obscures the spot where a house appeared on the original video.

At this point, the Australian program went from committing an embarrassing error to engaging in journalistic fraud. Beyond the fact that utility poles tend to look alike, nothing else matched up and, indeed, the landmarks around the utility poles were markedly different, too. A house next to the pole in the video didn’t appear in the scene filmed by the Australian crew. [For details, see’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]

An Enduring Aura

But Higgins’s aura was such that objective reality and logic no longer seemed to matter. That two utility poles looked somewhat alike when nothing else in a video matched up at all somehow proved you were at the right location simply because the Oracle of Leicester had sent you there.

I’ve known many excellent journalists who saw their careers ended because they were accused of minor slip-ups on difficult stories when they were clearly correct on the big picture. Think, for instance, of the harsh treatment meted out to Gary Webb on Nicaraguan Contra drug trafficking and Mary Mapes on George W. Bush’s shirking his National Guard duty. But different rules clearly apply if you make serious errors in line with U.S. propaganda. For example, think of virtually the entire mainstream news media buying into the false Iraq-WMD claims and facing almost no accountability at all.

The second set of rules apparently applies to Higgins and Bellingcat, who have the mainstream U.S. media on bended knee despite a record of journalistic misfeasance or malfeasance. In editorials about the Dutch Safety Board report last week, both The New York Times and The Washington Post hailed Bellingcat as if they were recognizing that the old mainstream media had to rub shoulders with supposedly “new media” to have any credibility. It was a moment that would have made the CIA’s Lansdale and Raymond smile.

The Post’s neocon editorial writers, who have backed “regime change” in Iraq, Syria and other targeted countries, viewed the Dutch Safety Board report as vindicating the initial rush to judgment blaming the Russians and praised the work of Bellingcat although the Dutch report pointedly did not say who was responsible or even where the fatal missile was launched.

“More forensic investigation will be necessary to identify precisely where the missile came from, but the safety board identified a 123-square-mile area mostly held by the separatists,” the Post wrote, although a different way of saying the same thing would be to note that the launch area identified by the report could suggest the firing by either Ukrainian forces or the rebels.

The Post did observe what has been one of my repeated complaints — that the Obama administration is withholding the U.S. intelligence evidence that Secretary of State John Kerry claimed three days after the shoot-down had identified the precise location of the launch.

Yet, the subsequent U.S. silence on that point has been the dog not barking. Why would the U.S. government, which has been trying to pin the shoot-down on the Russians, hide such crucial evidence unless perhaps it doesn’t corroborate the desired anti-Putin propaganda theme?

Yet, the Post sought to turn this otherwise inexplicable U.S. silence into further condemnation of Putin, writing: “A Dutch criminal investigation is underway that may identify the individuals who ordered and carried out the shootdown. We hope the prosecutors will have access to precise data scooped up by U.S. technical means at the time of the shootdown, which made clear the responsibility of Russian-backed forces.”

So, the Post sees nothing suspicious about the U.S. government’s sudden reticence after its initial loud rush-to-judgment. Note also the Post’s lack of skepticism about what these “technical means” had scooped up. Though the U.S. government has refused to release this evidence in effect, giving those responsible for the shoot-down a 15-month head start to get away and cover their tracks the Post simply takes the official word that the Russians are responsible.

Then comes the praise for Bellingcat: “Already, outside investigations based on open sources and social media, such as by the citizen journalist group Bellingcat, have shown the Buk launcher was probably wheeled into Ukraine in June from the Russian 53rd Air Defense Brigade, based outside Kursk. The criminal probe should aim to determine whether Russian servicemen were operating the unit when it was fired or helping the separatists fire it.”

No Skepticism

Again, the Post shows little skepticism about this version of events, leaving only the question of whether Russian soldiers fired the missile themselves or helped the rebels fire it. But there are obvious problems with this narrative. If, indeed, the one, two or three Russian Buk batteries were rumbling around eastern Ukraine the month before the shoot-down, why did neither U.S. intelligence nor Ukrainian intelligence notice this?

And, we know from the Dutch report that the Ukrainians were insisting up until the shoot-down that the rebels had no surface-to-air missiles that could threaten commercial airliners at 33,000 feet. However, the Ukrainians did have Buk systems that they were positioning toward the east, presumably to defend against possible Russian air incursions.

On July 16, 2014, one day before MH-17 was hit, a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter-jet was shot down by what Ukrainian authorities said was an air-to-air missile, according to the Dutch report. Presumably the missile was fired by a Russian fighter patrolling the nearby border.

So, if the Ukrainians already believed that Russian warplanes were attacking along the border, it would make sense that Ukrainian air defense units would be on a hair-trigger about shooting down Russian jets entering or leaving Ukrainian airspace.

Even if you don’t want to believe what I was told about U.S. intelligence analysts suspecting that a rogue Ukrainian military operation targeted MH-17, doesn’t it make sense that an undisciplined Ukrainian anti-aircraft battery might have mistakenly identified MH-17 as a Russian military aircraft leaving Ukrainian airspace? The Ukrainians had the means and the opportunity and possibly a motive after the shoot-down of the SU-25 just one day earlier.

The Dutch Safety Board report is silent, too, on the question raised by Russian officials as to why the Ukrainians had turned on their radar used to guide Buk missiles in the days before MH-17 was shot down. That allegation is neither confirmed nor denied.

Regarding Bellingcat’s reliance on Internet-based photos to support its theories, there is the additional problem of Der Spiegel’s report last October revealing that the German intelligence agency, the BND, challenged some of the images provided by the Ukrainian government as “manipulated.” According to Der Spiegel, the BND blamed the rebels for firing the fateful Buk but said the missile battery came not from the Russians but from Ukrainian government stockpiles. [See’s “Germans Clear Russia in MH-17 Case.”]

However, a European source told me that the BND’s information was not as categorical as Der Spiegel reported. And, according to the Dutch report, the Ukrainian government reported that a Buk system that the rebels captured from a Ukrainian air base was not operational, a point where the rebels are in agreement. They also say they had no working Buks.

Yet, even without the BND’s warning, great caution should be shown when using evidence deposited often anonymously on the Internet. The idea of “crowd-sourcing” these investigations also raises the possibility that a skillful disinformationist could phony up a photograph and then direct an unwitting or collaborating reporter to the image.

Though I am no expert in the art of doctoring photographs, my journalism training has taught me to approach every possible flaw in the evidence skeptically. That’s especially true when some anonymous blogger directs you to an image or article whose bona fides cannot be established.

One of the strengths of old-fashioned journalism was that you could generally count on the professional integrity of the news agencies distributing photographs. Even then, however, there have been infamous cases of misrepresentations and hoaxes. Those possibilities multiply when images of dubious provenance pop up on the Internet.

In the case of MH-17, some photo analysts have raised specific questions about the authenticity of images used by Bellingcat and others among the “Russia-did-it” true-believers. We have already seen in the case of the “Buk-getaway video” how Higgins sent a reporting team from Australia’s “60 Minutes” halfway around the world to end up at the wrong spot (but then to use video fakery to deceive the viewers).

So, the chances of getting duped must be taken into account when dealing with unverifiable sources of information, a risk that rises exponentially when there’s also the possibility of clever intelligence operatives salting the Internet with disinformation. For the likes of psy-ops innovator Lansdale and propaganda specialist Raymond, the Internet would have been a devil’s playground.

Which is one more reason why President Barack Obama should release as much of the intelligence evidence as he can that pinpoints where the fateful MH-17 missile was fired and who fired it. [For more on this topic, see’s “NYT Plays Games with MH-17 Tragedy.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

41 comments for “MH-17 Case: ‘Old’ Journalism vs. ‘New’

  1. Kiza
    October 28, 2015 at 08:17

    Regarding Bellingcat, I remind everyone of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, operated by a Syrian with a dry cleaning business in another London suburb. If you deliver information consistent with the Government’s propaganda, then you automatically gain complete credibility. A lesson for any future Western attack on a country – a business opportunity.

  2. Brad Smith
    October 24, 2015 at 17:09

    I think we can all agree that information is power and when power is concerned many people will stop at nothing to grab it and hold on tight.

    What was really great about this article is how it shows the ways in which mis-information is being fed to the public via the internet. This is something that can’t be ignored and all the more reason why critical thinking skills should be employed whenever possible. Although if you are lacking in critical thinking skills, don’t have access to the information or just being lazy, it’s probably best to simply ignore anything that proven liars say. It’s not foolproof. The liar may be telling the truth, but the odds are in favor of them telling lies. So if you must make an assumption, it’s safer to assume that the liars are once again lying.

  3. Carroll Price
    October 24, 2015 at 10:58

    “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American people believe is false.” CIA director William Casey (CIA director, 1981-1987)

  4. george Archers
    October 24, 2015 at 09:47

    Example: Topic was brought up–Why Malaysia was targeted to lose to air lines? My answer was– Malaysia conducted a hearing and proved that Sept 11 2001 was USA operation. The Listener rebuked-where did you get that info-the internet? He sneered at me as if all internet info is tinted

    Notice: Keep reading many articles to be suspicious of topics on the internet but rarely–major USA media
    Sad–world news reported on Major USA/Canada outlets are 100% lies

  5. Evangelista
    October 22, 2015 at 22:32

    Since Bob Parry’s MH-17 Journalism review references back to the Ghouta, Syria Sarin release incident and includes mentions of official abuses of credibility, it might be appropriate to note here that additional example of misinformation, and of the bald- and bare-faced deployment of adulteration was provided the UN inspection team in that incident, and found its way into the UN Report of the matter. See pages 19 and 20 of and notice that in drawings presented on the same pages with photographs of tanks and tubes with solid-fuel feed-control (not guidance) fins, purported to be ‘sarin-carrier rockets’, cute little “rocket-nozzles” are added in the drawings, on the tube-ends. The “nozzles” are not visible in the photographs of the purported ‘rockets’ that the drawings were purportedly made from. They were, apparently, added, to make the tubes look more like ‘rockets’ (like larges Estes Hobby Rockets, but with alleged “warhead” tanks on their tops).

    The cute little nozzles drawn on would not work for rocket nozzles, even on Estes Hobby Rockets, but no one poring over the UN Report was supposed to know enough physics to recognize that, or enough rocket-science to recognize that the rocket-fuel would have been packed around the tube, between it and an outer shell, to be fed through the flow-control fins to a real combustion-chamber with nozzle below, where oxidizer (probably sulphuric acid -H2SO4, whose four oxygens would speed the oxidation, as burning is called in science), from the purported “warhead” tank would increase the burn-rate. Nor was anyone reading the Report apparently supposed to know that whatever burnt the rocket-motor parts, including the purported “payload tanks” would have incinerated the sarin, which is an officially recognized way to rapidly decompose, and so neutralize and dispose of the stuff. If the UN inspectors were selected/elected for bureaucratic seniority or some such, instead of for rocket and sarin field expertise, they would, as the probably did in the Report, simply vector the gas they were given. The media, of course, just scooped and shoveled and cranked up their spreaders, the same way they do the doo with which Bellingcat fills his cat-box.

  6. Liam
    October 22, 2015 at 12:01

    It is also worth noting that the Bellingcat website came to be officially online on July 13, 2014, just 4 days before Mh-17 was shot down. By July 22 Higgins had already began disseminating his Russian BUk theory and discarding other material that was provided by the Ukrainian authorities, including the video images of BUK #312 as shown here.

    In the post above he also cites Justin Bronk, a Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Military Sciences research analyst. This shows an immediate connection between RUSI and Higgins when it comes to disseminating information. This is very similar to how Dr. Igor Sutyagin of RUSI also worked alongside Brown Moses “Higgins” in the 2013 Syrian False Flag chemical weapons attack. Note that he also cites Stop Fake which is based out of Kiev and is Soros funded and The Interpreter which is run by Russian oligarch Pavel Khodorkovsky. Links here:

    Also in the following Bellincat ‘report’ the comment section has some interesting questions which Higgins seems unable to answer regarding the location of his cited BUK being under Ukrainian military control. He says he will get an answer for the poster who asks the question and provide a map of the conflict, but he never does.

  7. Liam
    October 22, 2015 at 11:05

    One thing that stands out in regards to Mr. Higgins ‘reporting’ is his selective subject matter. He only chooses to ‘analyze’ events that fit his partisan cause. He has obviously and intentionally overlooked doing any geo-location research on the Ukrainian Maidan Snipers in the Hotel Ukraine, the Odessa Massacre, the Mariupol Massacre, the bombing of Lugansk and Slavyansk and the yearlong shelling of civilian homes in East Ukraine.

    All these warcrimes were committed by the Ukrainian military, yet there has been no attempt by Bellingcat to ‘look’ into any of them even though there is a great amount of video and photographic evidence that could prove who conducted them. This is proof of his obvious one-sided bias and the fact that he has an agenda and should not be considered as a legitimate reporter or source in any way, shape or form. It is also notable that he changed his original story about MH-17 from it being shot down by BUK missile launcher #312 after it was revealed that BUK #312 was a Ukrainian army BUK. Link here to extensive gathered information of BUK #312.

    Bellingcats BUK 312 Caught on Video With The Ukrainian Armed Forces

    His relationship with Dr. Igor Sutyagin of the the British Royal United Services Institute For Defense And Securities Studies (RUSI) is also exposed at the following link. The two of them were misinformation disseminators for both the Syrian false flag chemical weapons attack in 2013 and the shootdown of MH-17.

  8. October 22, 2015 at 02:41

    Video from government media showing the Ukrainian BUK in the ATO zone mid-July:

  9. bfearn
    October 21, 2015 at 14:55

    Interesting RT video. Watch for the part where the sister of the MH-17 captain’s wife says that the body had no missing pieces and was not damaged whereas the DSB report said 100’s of metal shards where found in the pilots bodies.

  10. October 21, 2015 at 06:21

    This impressive article and equally impressive comments with huge amounts of interesting material prove that “information overload” is not restricted to propaganda.

    The conclusion of the DSB, that it was a Buk, rests on three metal fragments found in the bodies of the pilots, which “although heavily deformed and damaged, had distinctive shapes; cubic and in the form of a bow-tie.” From the published pictures of these metal pieces it is hard to make out any distinctive shape and it is up to ones imagination what form they initially could have had.

    Also, the punctuation pattern of the wreckage parts could come from other kinds of missiles, because missile payloads have a very similar structure. How many tests were made to compare the penetration pattern of a Buk with that of a R-60? Well, the R-60 is tiny and technical experts claim it is incapable of bringing down a Boing 777.

    Ukrainian Buk systems were evidently near the crash area:

    The claims and counter claims make one’s head spin and I’m still not convinced about anything. A criminal court would likely consider the record of accused parties.

    In 2001 Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 was shot over the Black Sea. 78 people died, the Ukraine paid 15,6 million US$ compensation. Experts then claimed that the suspected S-200 missile was incapable of hitting the target and court proceedings about additional compensation are still ongoing.

    Off topic:

    Since my personal epiphany four years ago, when I had to breathlessly watch how NATO planes destroyed Libya in a merciless air war, I double and triple check all information, searching for inconsistencies and contradictions, correlating new information with everything what is in my memory and in the external memory on my hard drives. Using logical thinking and common sense helps, life experience is a factor, but most important is intuition, based on pattern recognition (the most potent feature of our brain).

    Despite all efforts, the 86 billion neurons in our head are often not enough to reassemble a congruent picture from the countless small puzzle pieces.

  11. Arnold Greidanus
    October 21, 2015 at 05:07

    In addition to NedKelly: my article ‘Re-examining the Luhansk video’ describes a press conference on July 17th, 17.00 EEST, in which army spokesman Andrei Lysenko mentions a video made in Luhansk showing BUK launchers in a convoy. The article also addresses many inconcistenties among statements from Lysenko, Arsen Avakov (minister of Internal Affairs), Anton Gerashchenko (advisor to minister of Internal Affairs), Vitaly Naida (head of Secret Service) and Oleg Zakarchuk (deputy chief of Ukrainian Airforce). Outcome of the analysis of these statements is that the video cannot have been made on July 18th at 04:50 am. The article was published here:

    Also, I published an extensive study on the route of the BUK as presented by Bellingcat. In that report I have not only presented newly discovered tweets of July 17th, but also meticulously depicted all the photos and videos central to the Bellingcat story. The outcome is that, again, there is a lot of contradicting information and Bellingcat made a lot of mistakes in their November report. The conclusion is that most likely there was no BUK travelling from Donetsk to Torez on July 17th, since there is no convincing evidence for that. The BUK must have already been moved to the Torez area before. Also, the BUK convoy was never accompanied by Vostok tanks as was suggested by Bellingcat on the basis of the Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) narrative. Furthermore, the Zuhres video can not be from the 17th. Also the identity of the Associated Press journalists reporting on the BUK at Snizhne, which has been held concealed since, is revealed. For more details and conclusions, check the report at:

  12. Jon Ford
    October 21, 2015 at 04:06

    Excellent article – thanks. It is a great regret to me, and many others, that Robert Parry doesn’t use his experience, journalistic and forensic skills on examining the conflicting versions of the 9/11 tragedy. Is he also fearful of the counterblast from the establishment if he publishes conclusions that are contrary to the official version of the events of that day?

  13. October 21, 2015 at 02:48

    An avid follower of your excellent work, Mr Parry, I feel you miss the point here somewhat. Much of the idea is to sow distrust of the alternative media by flooding it with information that is not reliable. The fact it can be questioned and often rubbished is precisely the point. And that is the problem. With more and more sites presented biased, badly-researched, prejudiced or just plain wrong information, however well-intended some of it might be, confusion is created among readers who don´t have enough time to check everything they read. This has led to an increasing polarisation of opinion on both sides of the debate, both equally misinformed to a greater or lesser extent. The main aim of the producers of this growing mountain of garbage is trying to make the truth even harder to find.

    I take issue with one particular sentence in this piece, where I feel the writer falls into the same trap he accuses others of:

    “Even if you don’t want to believe what I was told about U.S. intelligence analysts suspecting that a rogue Ukrainian military operation targeted MH-17, doesn’t it make sense that an undisciplined Ukrainian anti-aircraft battery might have mistakenly identified MH-17 as a Russian military aircraft leaving Ukrainian airspace?”

    To go from stating to what a source tells you – however reliable – to stating the the Ukrianian anti-aircraft battery crew were ‘undisciplined’ as a fact, is a step too far. All the information I have read regarding the firing of Buk missiles suggests a highly-trained, highly-disciplined crew would have been needed to track, aim and fire a missile in the short time-frame window available in order to score a successful hit. To suggest otherwise certainly does not make sense.

  14. F. G. Sanford
    October 21, 2015 at 00:28

    “U.S. spy satellites, which supposedly can let you read a license plate in Moscow, surely would have picked up these images.”

    Yep, and they would also likely pick up swastikas on Ukrainian armbands. So thinking persons should not expect the release of any definitive U.S. intelligence.

  15. NedKelly
    October 21, 2015 at 00:11

    I think that Bellingcat had the location right but the 60 minutes reporter stood in the wrong place.
    But the video is not from the 18th July 2014 because the Ukrainians told us on the 17th that it already existed. I can’t post a link but google “re examining the Luhansk video”

    • Abe
      October 21, 2015 at 01:29

      Robert Parry, in a series of articles on the Australian “60 Minutes” television broadcast, “MH-17: Special Investigation”, has shown that the Australians did NO investigation, but merely performed a “stand-upper” to merely present the claims of Eliot Higgins.

      The Australian “60 Minutes” broadcast began with Michael Usher’s unequivocal announcement, “I’ve just traveled deep into Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine to conduct our own investigation. We’ve painstakingly piecing together the proof that leads to the very spot from where the missile was fired, and tonight we can tell you who shot down MH-17.”

      Robert Parry accurately assessed that the program was a “willful fraud”.

      On May 29, 2015, Eliot Higgins published “On Who’s Lying? An In-depth Analysis of the Luhansk Buk Video” on the Bellingcat site.

      Higgins claimed that “it is clear thorough analysis the “60 Minutes” Australia visited the correct location, and that Robert Parry is wrong in his assessment.”

      However, whether or not the “60 Minutes” Australia visited the correct location was not the object of Parry’s assessment.

      Parry accurately assessed that the Australian “60 Minutes” crew conducted no investigation of their own, but merely presented Higgins’ claims as “evidence”.

      • gsgs
        October 23, 2015 at 09:47

        OK, I convinced myself that the position is right.
        The getaway video was shot from 48.54600,3926274 looking East.
        The Usher-grass-video was shot from 48.54592,3926391 looking East.
        The house must be the one seen on google maps at 48.54525,39.26683.
        The “pole” (streep lamp) is at 48.54560,39.26565 .

        So, what is this Parry vs. Usher thing all about ? My summary, how I see it :

        Usher was at the right place in the first video but didn’t make it clear enough
        or easily verifyable. He could have given the coordinates of the camera or shown
        the street lamp from the getaway-video (which I think was exactly covered by
        the other street lamp on the right) or the house (behind the tiny hill, but seen
        from the 4th floor in the getaway video).
        With some effort Parry could have figured it out, the screen shot which he showed
        had only one of the advertisement signs and has not the church – deliberate ?
        At least after the debate started with Usher,Bellingcat,metabunk , he should have
        figured it out and clarified or if this video-matching is not his area of expertise
        he could have asked others.
        Basically Parry was/is just critisizing Usher for bad journalism, not making
        it easy enough to verify the position. Then Usher,Bellingcat took it for him
        accusing Usher of not being at the correct place, crying foul, then Parry
        felt provoked and repeats the accusation until now without admitting
        the position was right. Or could it be, that he still thinks the position was wrong ??

        on 2015/10/20 Parry writes:
        > However, when I published screen grabs of the getaway video and the Luhansk location,
        > it was clear to anyone that the scenes didn’t match up.
        > Yet, instead of simply admitting that they were in error, the “60 Minutes” host did a follow-up
        > insulting me, asserting that he had gone to the place identified by Higgins and claiming that
        > there was a utility pole in the video that looked something like a utility pole in Luhansk.
        > At this point, the Australian program went from committing an embarrassing error to
        > engaging in journalistic fraud. Beyond the fact that utility poles tend to look alike, nothing
        > else matched up and, indeed, the landmarks around the utility poles were markedly different,
        > too. A house next to the pole in the video didn’t appear in the scene filmed by the Australian
        > crew. [For details, see’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]

        Does the DSB mention the video ? Is it a Buk ?

    • thomas wood
      October 21, 2015 at 02:49

      Wow, that video of Lysenko is interesting. They claim they had a video of the buk in that town already by the 17th. So the claim is is from the morning of the 18th is a lie!

  16. NedKelly
    October 21, 2015 at 00:08

    I think Bellingcat had the right place but the 60 minutes reporter stood in the wrong place.
    But the video seems to be from earlier than the morning of the 18th July 2014.
    The Ukrainian Lysenko told us on the 17th that the video already existed.

  17. NedKelly
    October 21, 2015 at 00:02


  18. Abe
    October 20, 2015 at 22:17

    In the 279 pages of the DSB [Dutch Safety Board report] just 3 pages provide the autopsy evidence on which the conclusiveness of the fresh identification of the missile model and warhead type depends. The crucial autopsy evidence, according to the Dutch agency, comes from the bodies of the three cockpit crew – the Captain, the First Officer, and the Purser. They, the DSB has concluded, “sustained multiple fatal injuries associated with the impact of metal fragments moving at high velocity”. The DSB report says there were “hundreds of metal fragments” in the Captain’s body; “over 120 objects (mostly metal fragments)” in the First Officer’s body; and “more than 100 objects” in the Purser’s body.

    This is new evidence. Earlier reporting of what Lailatul Masturah, sister of MH17 flight captain Wan Amran, said she saw of his body, and was told at the Hilversum Army base when his body was released to her, suggests nothing of the sort. Read her testimony here.

    The DSB report now concludes there were no shrapnel wounds or metal fragment impacts in the “majority of the occupants of the cabin”. They died from decompression and related effects of the break-up of the aircraft, after the cockpit had been severed from the cabin fuselage. Although the DSB doesn’t say so, its report corroborates findings published in November and December of last year by the Victorian State Coroner Ian Gray and Australian pathologists working in The Netherlands. Read their testimony, before it was recently classified.

    Eight pages of the DSB report – pages 88 to 95 — focus on the metal fragments. The number of these starts at “over 500 recovered from the wreckage of the aeroplane, the remains of the crew members and passengers.” Many, apparently most, of these fragments turned out to be “personal belongings, aeroplane parts or objects that originated from the ground after impact.” According to the DSB, “many were metal fragments that were suspected to be high-energy objects.” Of these just 72 were investigated further because they were “similar in size, mass and shape.” 43 of this 72 were “found to be made of unalloyed steel”. The term “shrapnel” may be a synonym for “unalloyed steel fragments”, but the word doesn’t appear at all in the DSB report. According to the DSB, “no unalloyed steel fragments were found in the remains of the passengers”.

    Of the 43 steel fragments investigated thoroughly — all of them recovered from the bodies of the cockpit crew or in the wreckage of the cockpit — 20 were found on analysis to include layers of aluminium or glass. The DSB’s explanation is that the external explosion of a missile warhead had propelled these fragments through the cockpit windows and aluminium panels of the fuselage, fusing with the glass and aluminium before striking the three crew members in the cockpit at the time.

    The DSB conclusion is that these fragments came from a missile warhead, but not conclusively from a Buk missile warhead type 9N314M. The evidence for this Buk warhead comes, the DSB reports, from 4 – repeat four – fragments. These, “although heavily deformed and damaged, had distinctive shapes; cubic and in the form of a bow-tie”. The DSB’s exact count is two cubic shapes, two bow-ties. One bow-tie was recovered from the cockpit wreckage; one from the body of a cockpit crew member. Both cubic fragments were found in the bodies of the crew members.

    Because Buk shrapnel is understood to have such cubic and bow-tie shapes, there are just four fragments to substantiate it. If the autopsy evidence is regarded as the only source that could not have been contaminated on the ground, or in the interval between the crash and the forensic testing in The Netherlands, there are just three fragments which fit the Buk bill.

    Ongoing problems with the official narrative on MH17
    By John Hellmer

    • Evangelista
      October 22, 2015 at 22:48

      I suspect that the Dutch Forensickers decided to include clothing in their definition for “bodies”, as in the bodies as found… Doing that they could ‘forens’ everything caught in the clothing, dust, debris, glass-chips, paint-flakes aluminium fragments etc. Give themselves more to work with.

      I am not sure how anything of steel, tempered or untempered, would become massively deformed from pasing through predominantly aluminium skin and structuring materials. Or being blown out from a warhead, which would give them only acceleration stressing.

      These and other questions are, of course, only fun questions: The actual facts were admitted right away, way back at the beginning, when complicated and chicaned “investigation” procedures, instead of a straightforward and normal ones, were emplaced. The doing of that in itself was admission by the doers that they recognized they needed to shovel cover to obscure realities.

    • Evangelista
      October 26, 2015 at 21:41

      It is probably burying this information to put it here, this comment thread being over a week old, but I will place it for continuity.

      Checking in with my ballilstics amd materials experts in regard to the the high fragment count noted by the Dutch investigators in the MH-17 cockpit area, and caught by the bodies of the crew, and the high degree of fragment deformation, I was told that both evidences support cannon-fire, because both local fragmentation and serious deformation are results of ‘contact detonation’, explosive rounds such as cannon-shells are, which can be fragmenting as well as exploding. For exploding on contact, or, if fused to penetrate, after entry, but while still in the structure, explosive shells fragment the structure around them where their charges explode, sending the shell body, if ‘cut to fragment’ and the surrounding material, aluminium, glass, steel, titanium, etc., flying around in the area. Missile warheads can be ‘cluster munitions’, which blow out charges that, like cannon-shells, themselves explode, but most military aircraft being fuel-tanks with hot engines, with a cockpit, wings and ordinance stuck on, they only need to be ripped and gouged to bring the engine heat and fuel together to do the work.

      In an airliner, which is, essentially a pressure-vessel at altitude, weakening the structure will cause the pressure inside to rip the structure apart. Except for shear-shot bolts and rivets, which go the directions they are stress-break launched, the contents of the pressurized structure go out and away. The result is what the Dutch report ascribes to the passenger-cabin area. The ‘shrapnel-storm’ indicated by the cockpit material-spray and material-deformation indicates primary explosions in the cockpit environment before the sturctural rupturing that ripped the aircraft apart.

      A note on “unalloyed steel”: All steel is alloy, the primary ingredients being iron and carbon, with additional alloying elements, sulfur, boron, oxygen, manganeze, etc., which occur as either impurities not removed, or as removed and then added back specifically, in specific proportions. So “unalloyed steel” means “high-quality steel not purposely alloyed”, which is also known as “carbon-steel” and “standard grade(s)”. So ‘unalloyed steel would be what would be expected to be found in non-special steel construction elements in aircraft manufacture and in missile and cannon-shell manufacture.

      The consensus of my experts is that another aircraft equipped with cannon shot up MH-17’s cokpit area.

  19. Abe
    October 20, 2015 at 21:24

    If there ever was doubt:

    Alphabet, Inc. (parent company of Google and several other companies previously owned by or tied to Google) is evil.

  20. Evangelista
    October 20, 2015 at 21:15

    I have to admit I have been enjoying the media-madness unleashed by the MH-17 tragedy. The incident, itself, is not funny, and the media mis-coverage is also not funny, nor is the demonization purpose of the propaganda effort, or the effort and intent to deceive and manipulate the public. Which leaves only the maneuverings by the manipulators to provide the amusement. The ‘trick’ all seem to be attempting appears to be to say things that will push the narrative in the direction they want, but not say too definitely, so they may back-track without too much personal embarassment if, or when, incontrovertible contradictions to points of their narrative appear.

    There is, of course, the possible United States ‘intelligence’, the sat-photos, for example, which may or may not exist, which, if they do, may or may not be released to the public, probably not via official U.S. sources (unless the narrative changes), but possibly by allies who maybe had access, or maybe, or maybe not by a leaker, or a hacker (or a sat-data-feed monitor, none of which anyone official can be sure won’t or can’t release; and then there is Russian data, at least some of which we have been shown, which no one can be sure is all, and a balance of which may be being held by the Russians for -security?- or -the-right-moment?- or may not be at all. The narrators just can’t tell, and can’t know…

    So they have to tip-toe and dance, very carefully, never leaning too far, always keeping enough balance to shy today from what they said yesterday. The Maybe Official Dutch Report is fun reading for this, for nothing being said exactly, or positively, except seemingly positively, with caveats here, caveats there, caveats everywhere, just in case…

    At this point I am finding myself suspecting, the one definite the official line is attempting to define and plant on quasi-solid enough ground to maybe, hopefully, firmly, kind of, establish it is, or will be, if they succeed, that a BUK missile, or at least some kind of ground-based missile, was the ordmance used to deflate the pressurized airliner (not shoot it down, in case it turns out necessary to admint it fired by a friendly, just to, you know, shoo the airliner out of the warzone…who knew such a little puff would deflate the whole MH-17 airplane…?

    Why is that pont so important? Because establishing the ordnance ground-based, even if no more than a home-made and jury-rigged three-stage MANPAD whacked together by experimenting drunks, is the only way to keep the possibility, however remote, that it was the ‘rebels’ who dunnit in the game. Lose this point and the finger-pointing has to start going around in the circle, instead of ‘over there’.

  21. Antidyatel
    October 20, 2015 at 20:54

    Mr. Perry, please pay attention to the animation presented by DSB and distributed by MSMS.

    The engine of the rocket works and leaves visible plume behind up to the point of hitting the plane. But if Snezhnoe is the launch site, the fuel rocket would be finished well before the hit and should be going on ballistic trajectory from top. How can a supposedly expert technical team from DSB make such a silly mistake that discredits their own conclusion.

  22. Abe
    October 20, 2015 at 20:12

    Eliot Higgins and the Bellingcat site are at the center of a Propaganda 3.0 disinformation campaign, working with major corporations like Google in support of the US/NATO “hybrid war” against Russia.


    In March 2012, using the pseudonym “Brown Moses,” British citizen Higgins purportedly began “investigative” blogging on the armed conflict taking place in Syria, claiming this to be a “hobby” in his “spare time”.

    A mainstream media darling, Higgins “arm chair analytics” were promoted by the UK Guardian and New York Times, as well as corporate sponsors like Google.

    Higgins’ “analyses” of Syrian weapons were frequently cited by MSM and online media, human rights groups, and Western governments seeking “regime change” in Syria.

    Higgins’ accusations that the Syrian government was responsible for the August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack were proven false, but almost led to war.

    Richard Lloyd and Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology observed that “although he has been widely quoted as an expert in the American mainstream media, [he] has changed his facts every time new technical information has challenged his conclusion that the Syrian government must have been responsible for the sarin attack. In addition, the claims that Higgins makes that are correct are all derived from our findings, which have been transmitted to him in numerous exchanges.”

    Despite the fact that Higgins’ accusations have repeatedly been disproven, he continues to be frequently cited, often without proper source attribution, by media, organizations and governments.


    On July 15, 2014, the day of the airstrike on the separatist-held town of Snizhne in eastern Ukraine, and three days before the MH-17 crash, Higgins launched the Bellingcat website.

    Vice News, Rupert Murdoch’s 70 million dollar Gen Y-targeted media channel, crowed about how “Citizen Journalists Are Banding Together to Fact-Check Online News”.

    Higgins repeatedly claimed to have “indisputable” open source “evidence” that MH-17 was destroyed by a Buk missile supplied by Russia.

    Higgins’ primary “pieces of evidence” — a video depicting a Buk missile launcher and a set of geolocation coordinates — were supplied by the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) and the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior via the Facebook page of senior-level Ukrainian government official Arsen Avakov, the Minister of Internal Affairs.


    The Atlantic Council, a “regime change” think tank, recently released a report titled, “Hiding In Plain Sight: Putin’s War in Ukraine”.

    A key author of the Atlantic Council report, Higgins is listed as a Visiting Research Associate at the Department of War Studies at the King’s College in London, UK.

    On page 1 of the report, the Atlantic Council praises “the ingenuity of our key partner in this endeavor, Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat. The information documented in this report draws on open source data using innovative socialmedia forensics and geolocation”.

    The Atlantic Council claim that “Russia is at war with Ukraine” and is summarized in the following key statement on page 8 of the report:

    “Separatist forces have been relying on a steady flow of Russian supplies, including heavy weapons such as tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and advanced anti-aircraft systems, including the Buk surface-to-air missile system (NATO designator SA-11/17) that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014. 26″

    The Atlantic Council’s claim that Russia supplied a Buk missile that shot down MH-17 has a single footnote. Footnote 26 directs the reader to the Bellingcat website and a pdf report by Higgins titled “MH-17: Source of the Separatist’s Buk”.

    On page 3 of the November 2014 Bellingcat report, Higgins claims:

    “It is the opinion of the Bellingcat MH17 investigation team that there is undeniable evidence that separatists in Ukraine were in control of a Buk missile launcher on July 17th and transported it from Donetsk to Snizhne on a transporter. The Buk missile launcher was unloaded in Snizhne approximately three hours before the downing of MH17 and was later filmed minus one missile driving through separatist-controlled Luhansk.

    “The Bellingcat MH17 investigation team also believes the same Buk was part of a convoy travelling from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade in Kursk to near the Ukrainian border as part of a training exercise between June 22nd and July 25th, with elements of the convoy separating from the main convoy at some point during that period, including the Buk missile launcher filmed in Ukraine on July 17th. There is strong evidence indicating that the Russian military provided separatists in eastern Ukraine with the Buk missile launcher filmed and photographed in eastern Ukraine on July 17th.”


    Higgins’ November 2014 claim of “undeniable evidence” has become the Atlantic Council’s May 2015 claim that “pieces of evidence create an undeniable—and publicly accessible—record”.

    Higgins “fact checks” the disinformation produced by the Pentagon and Western intelligence regime, rubber stamps it with the Bellingcat “digital forensics” seal of approval.

    The Atlantic Council is managed by Western “policy makers”, military leaders, and senior intelligence officials, including four heads of the Central Intelligence Agency.

    The Atlantic Council used video of Higgins and Michael Usher from the Australian “60 Minutes” program “MH-17: An Investigation”(see video minutes 36:00-36:55) to promote the report.

    Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of Programs and Strategy at the Atlantic Council, is a co-author with Higgins of the Atlantic Council report, highlighted Higgins’ effort to bolster Western accusations against Russia:

    “We make this case using only open source, all unclassified material. And none of it provided by government sources.

    “And it’s thanks to works, the work that’s been pioneered by human rights defenders and our partner Eliot Higgins, uh, we’ve been able to use social media forensics and geolocation to back this up.” (see video minutes 35:10-36:30)

    However, the Atlantic Council claim that “none” of Higgins’ material was provided by government sources is an obvious lie.

    Higgins’ primary “pieces of evidence” — a video depicting a Buk missile launcher and a set of geolocation coordinates — were supplied by the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) and the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior via the Facebook page of senior-level Ukrainian government official Arsen Avakov, the Minister of Internal Affairs.


    The Atlantic Council, founded in 1961 at the height of Cold War, is managed by a Who’s Who of Pentagon and Western intelligence, including four former Directors of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

    In February 2009, James L. Jones, then-chairman of the Atlantic Council, stepped down in order to serve as President Obama’s new National Security Advisor and was succeeded by Senator Chuck Hagel.

    In addition, Atlantic Council members Susan Rice left to serve as the administration’s ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke became the Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, General Eric K. Shinseki became the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Anne-Marie Slaughter became Director of Policy Planning at the State Department.

    Senator Chuck Hagel stepped down in 2013 to serve as US Secretary of Defense. Gen. Brent Scowcroft served as interim chairman of the organization’s Board of Directors until January 2014.

    The Atlantic Council hosts events with US policymakers such as Secretary of State John Kerry, and sitting heads of state and government such as former Georgian President (and newly appointed Governor of Odessa in Ukraine) Mikheil Saakashvili in 2008, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in 2014.

    The Atlantic Council has influential supporters such as former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh (Fogh of War”) Rasmussen, who called the Council a “pre-eminent think tank” with a “longstanding reputation”. In 2009, the Atlantic Council hosted Rasmussen’s first major US speech.


    In an interview with the Kiev-based Ukrainian Independent Information Agency (Ukrayins’ke Nezalezhne Informatsiyne Ahentstvo) or UNIAN, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated:

    “evidence published by the media, NGOs and from Russian soldiers themselves that Russia is supporting the separatists” in eastern Ukraine. Think tanks have also published reports, most recently the Atlantic Council, which gathered proof from various open sources, including satellite imagery.”

    Stoltenberg cited the Atlantic Council report based almost entirely on Higgins and Bellingcat’s dubious “open source” disinformation and discredited “forensic analysis” of satellite imagery.

    Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of FotoForensics, has decried Bellingcat’s “faulty analysis”. Krawetz called Higgins’ Bellingcat report, “Forensic Analysis of Satellite Images”, a “how to not do image analysis”.

    The Bellingcat site provides a guide for accessing imagery in Google Earth, claiming that “the findings of Bellingcat regarding the July 21 Russian MoD satellite images will be reaffirmed, along with a walk-through for anyone to verify Google Earth imagery via free and precisely dated image previews on Digital Globe”.


    Google has been promoting Higgins “arm chair analytics” since 2013. Indeed, a very cozy cross-promotion is happening between Higgins/Bellingcat and Google.

    In November 2014, Google Ideas and Google For Media, partnered the George Soros-funded Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) to host an “Investigathon” in New York City. Google Ideas promotes Higgins’ “War and Pieces – Social Media Investigations” on their YouTube page.

    Google was seed funded by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

    In addition, Google Earth, originally called EarthViewer 3D, was created by Keyhole, Inc, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) funded company acquired by Google in 2004.

    Google Earth maps the Earth by the superimposition of multiple images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and geographic information system (GIS) 3D globe.

    Google Earth satellite images are provided by Digital Globe, a supplier of the US Department of Defense (DoD) with direct connections to US defense and intelligence communities.

    The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is both a combat support agency under the United States Department of Defense, and an intelligence agency of the United States Intelligence Community.

    Robert T. Cardillo, director of the NGA, lavishly praised Digital Globe as “a true mission partner in every sense of the word”. Examination of the Board of Directors of Digital Globe reveals intimate connections to DoD and CIA.
    Google’s partnerships with military contractors like SAIC, Northrop Grumman and Blackbird is just more more evidence of how snugly the company is in bed with the US military-surveillance complex.

    Google also is a recent joint venture partner with the CIA. In 2009, Google Ventures and In-Q-Tel each invested “under $10 million each” into Recorded Future shortly after the company was founded. Recorded Future is described as “a company that strips out from web pages the sort of who, what, when, where, why — sort of who’s involved,[…] where are they going, what kind of events are they going to,” even monitors blogs and Twitter accounts.

    • Ray McGovern
      October 21, 2015 at 09:40


  23. Zachary Smith
    October 20, 2015 at 19:43

    After reading the first few paragraphs of this essay by Mr. Parry, I did something I’d never done before – I googled “bellingcat” and went to the site.

    Well, it’s been a while since I’ve wasted my time in such a fashion. That place was chock-full of the dumbest blathering I’ve seen in ages. It immediately struck me as a poor-man’s Debka clone. In my opinion a bigwig in some Western intelligence agency decided to make his own copy of that Israeli BS disseminator.

    As for why anybody with half a brain would use this silly stuff, I think about the news stories about cutbacks in mainstream news sites. Why pay a guy a wage when you can scoop up a juicy story for free? And come to think of it, the notion of a genius sitting in his living room in his pajamas cleverly “geolocating” great secrets might sell better with Joe Sixpack. After all, even ol’ Joe may be getting leery about “unnamed sources in the Pentagon/White House/State Department”. This baloney has the virtue of being new and fresh. And did I mention free?

  24. Joe L.
    October 20, 2015 at 19:42

    Mr. Parry… great article as usual and I think is a grand demonstration of your professionalism. It makes me think of an episode of “The Untold History of the United States” where seemingly the US showed satellite photos of the Iraqis preparing to invade Saudi Arabia and then a Japanese journalist double checked the satellite photos and there was nothing – which was noted that most likely the US government doctored the satellite images. Then I believe that ABC News ran a story “Where are the troops?”. Also in the same episode they point out the 15 year old girl who testified that I believe it was Iraqi soldiers that were tossing babies from incubators in Kuwait to incense anger at Iraq where it turned out that the 15 year old girl was never in the hospitals but rather was the daughter of Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US and lied. People definitely need to be more skeptical of everything they see and read especially when the US government instead of pointing to actual intelligence and seasoned professional journalists points to “bloggers” and “social media”.

    • Joe L.
      October 20, 2015 at 19:58

      Another thing that I find somewhat encouraging was the words of European Commission Chief who stated “The EU must restore a practical relationship with Russia and not let the US dictate that policy”, that “Russia must be treated decently”, and that “We must make efforts towards a practical relationship with Russia. It is not sexy but that must be the case, we can’t go on like this”. Though, I also believe that the MH-17 case is being brought vigorously back up in the news partially, if not fully, because EU sanctions against Russia automatically expire at the end of the year (this might be in an effort to try to get the EU to extend them). Sanctions based on MH-17 seem quite silly in my mind especially when there is no concrete case of “whodunit” but simply speculation based on “social media” and “bloggers”. It is also disturbing, as someone points out above, where was all the outrage at the US for shooting down an Iranian airliner, I believe in Iranian airspace, when the US killed almost 300 people? Were sanctions levelled against the US by the rest of the world or the UN itself?

      • Erwin
        October 22, 2015 at 01:33

        The sanctions are not based on MH17, from the EU website:
        EU sanctions against Russia over Ukraine crisis. In response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and deliberate destabilisation of a neighbouring sovereign country, the EU has imposed restrictive measures against the Russian Federation.
        When/if the ones responsible for the shooting down are known, I expect more than these limited sanctions.

  25. Abe
    October 20, 2015 at 18:59

    Eliot Higgins and the Bellingcat site serve as deception “conduits” as defined by the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Joint Publication 1-02), a compendium of approved terminology used by the U.S. military.

    Within military deception, “conduits” are information or intelligence gateways to the “deception target.”

    A “deception target” is defined as the “adversary decision maker with the authority to make the decision that will achieve the deception objective.”

    The primary “deception targets” of MH-17 propaganda are key “policy makers” and the civilian populations of the United States and Europe Union.

    The Internet offers a ubiquitous, inexpensive and anonymous “open source” method for rapid propaganda dissemination.

    With no credible evidence of the Kremlin’s direct military involvement in eastern Ukraine, and faced with the prevailing distrust of the Pentagon or Western intelligence agencies, Washington advanced the Propaganda 3.0 strategy that had proven so effective in instigating the February 2014 coup d’etat in Kiev.

    The Pentagon and Western intelligence agencies now disseminate propaganda by making it “publicly available” via numerous channels, for example:

    – Russian anti-Putin oligarch-owned mainstream and social media
    – fake “reporters on the ground” in Ukraine
    – Ukrainian state media and privately-owned media
    – information released through US/NATO allies like Poland
    – most importantly, “analysis” of satellite imagery by fake “citizen journalists”

    These sources are infiltrated to “deny, disrupt, degrade, deceive”, taking advantage of “information overload”.

    A person can have difficulty understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much “publicly available” information.

    Information overload arises from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.

    Information overload can lead to “information anxiety,” which is the gap between the information we understand and the information that we think that we must understand.

    Pentagon and Western intelligence deception operatives such as Higgins and Bellingcat position themselves as “citizen journalists” helping to organize information to facilitate clear thinking.

    The actual purpose of these fake “citizen journalist” deception operatives is to provide a channel for deceptive Western intelligence information to more effectively reach the public and be perceived as truthful.

    Higgins promoted this deception strategy in his article, “Social media and conflict zones: the new evidence base for policymaking”

    Citing “Bellingcat’s MH17 investigation”, Higgins declared that “a relatively small team of analysts is able to derive a rich picture of a conflict zone” using online information and social media.

    Higgins extolled the virtues of this “new evidence base” of “open source” information — side-stepping the obvious opportunities for deceptive information being planted in these media from not-so-open sources.

    The “overarching point” concludes Higgins, is that “there is a real opportunity for open source intelligence analysis to provide the kind of evidence base that can underpin effective and successful foreign and security policymaking. It is an opportunity that policymakers should seize.”

    The Pentagon and Western intelligence have enthusiastically seized the opportunity to use deception operatives like Higgins to disseminate propaganda.

  26. Geoffrey Skoll
    October 20, 2015 at 18:26

    There is nothing new about propaganda masquerading as journalism, and no one needed instant global electronic communications to perpetrate frauds in the past either. Just one small example that instantly came to mind when I first saw the headline of this article, but had not yet read the text. I offer this rhetorical question as an example: How many reporters wrote about the attempted military coup against the US government to depose FDR, and how many stories were run on the testimony before an open hearing of the US Congress? Two clues: George Seldes and Smedley Darlington Butler.

  27. Tom Welsh
    October 20, 2015 at 17:39

    Certainly low-grade rumours and images found on the Web should be treated with the greatest suspicion – as I am sure all professional intelligence experts do.

    After all, who has forgotten this charming episode?

    It should be pretty obvious from that story alone that (1) Western governments will pretend to accept any obviously faked “evidence” that supports their fairy tales; (2) Anyone associated with the Kiev regime, even members of the Ukrainian parliament, lie more or less continuously; (3) the mainstream media can be duped completely and with the greatest ease by even the clumsiest of fakes.

  28. Tom Welsh
    October 20, 2015 at 17:34

    ‘Yet, the Post sought to turn this otherwise inexplicable U.S. silence into further condemnation of Putin, writing: “A Dutch criminal investigation is underway that may identify the individuals who ordered and carried out the shootdown. We hope the prosecutors will have access to precise data scooped up by U.S. technical means at the time of the shootdown, which made clear the responsibility of Russian-backed forces.”’

    If a criminal investigation is to be carried out to establish who shot down MH17 – and presumably to punish the guilty parties – will there first be a criminal investigation of the deliberate shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 by the USS Vincennes (on 3rd July 1988)? After all, there is not the slightest doubt who was responsible for that crime, which killed 290 men, women and children.

    Why should those who shot down MH17 be punished, if those who shot down Iran Air 655 are not?

    • Fernando de Sousa Falcão
      October 21, 2015 at 11:19

      Very good question indeed: in a just world “Why should those who shot down MH17 be punished, if those who shot down Iran Air 655 are not?”

    • Marto Gorbakez
      October 24, 2015 at 05:43

      Well if you want to punish those who shot down Iran Air 655, then you should also punish those who deliberately shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 on September 1, 1983. There is also not the slightest doubt who was responsible for that crime, which killed all 269 men, women and children on board. The country responsible for shooting down that flight actually admitted responsibility for that incident.

    • William Rood
      October 25, 2015 at 13:59

      The commanding officer of the Vincennes, Captian Will C. Rogers, later received Legion of Merit decoration “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer … from April 1987 to May 1989,” a time frame that included the Flight 655 destruction.

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