The ‘Credibility’ Illusion

Exclusive: The Obama administration protects its “credibility” by refusing to budge on its claims about the 2013 Syria-sarin case or the 2014 plane shoot-down in eastern Ukraine even as the evidence shifts, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

What surprised me most about the Iraq War wasn’t how wrong the expectation of happy Iraqis showering American troops with flowers was or even how badly the war would turn out – all that was predictable and indeed was predicted. But what I didn’t expect was that the U.S. government would ever admit that there were no WMD stockpiles.

I assumed that the U.S. government would do what it usually does: continue the lie to protect its “credibility.” Because that is what “credibility” has become, powerful institutions and people maintaining the aura of being right even when they’re completely wrong.

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

There is even a national security argument to be made: If the U.S. government must justify its actions to the American people and the world with propaganda themes, it can’t simply admit that previous ones were lies because then it would lose all “credibility.” The next time, the public might not be as open to the propaganda. The people might catch on.

And that would present a problem to the U.S. government, which feels it needs the approval or at least the confused acquiescence of the American people and to a lesser extent the world before charging off to war or starting some expensive confrontation with a foreign power.

So, in a sick kind of way, it makes more sense to stick with the lie and rely on a corrupted mainstream media to hold the line. Anyone who dares challenge the falsehoods then can be discredited or marginalized.

That’s why I was surprised when the U.S. government admitted that there were no WMD stockpiles in Iraq and no active nuclear-weapons program, either. I was expecting that President George W. Bush’s team would assemble some buckets of chemicals found at Baghdad swimming pools – pile them up in front of a credulous media – and announce, “we got here just in time!”

After all, the U.S. government rarely corrects its misstatements and outright lies, no matter how significant they may be. For instance, there’s never been a formal admission that the Gulf of Tonkin claims, which launched the Vietnam War, were false.

On a smaller scale, I encountered something similar when I was covering the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983. The Reagan administration massively exaggerated the discovery of some useless World War I era rifles in a musty-smelling warehouse to claim that the little Caribbean island was about to be transformed into the hub of terrorism for the Western Hemisphere.

As absurd as the claim was, it worked well enough amid a well-staged propaganda campaign complete with American students kissing the tarmac when they returned to the United States and members of Congress waving around some Grenada government contracts — in Russian.

Dig in the Heels

We are now seeing similar dig-in-the-heels strategies regarding Syria and Ukraine. Though I’m told that U.S. intelligence knows that the Obama administration’s propaganda is no longer operative on the 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus and the 2014 shoot-down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, the storylines won’t be retracted or corrected.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo credit: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo credit: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom / ABr)

To do so – to say that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces weren’t responsible for the sarin attack and that the Russians weren’t behind the MH-17 catastrophe – would destroy the propaganda narratives that have been useful in justifying the shipment of arms to Syrian rebels and the launching of a new Cold War against Moscow.

If the American people and the world public were informed that they had been misled on such sensitive topics – and that the real guilty parties might include people getting American support – that could devastate U.S. government “credibility” and disrupt future plans.

Therefore, mounting evidence that Assad didn’t cross President Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons on Aug. 21, 2013, must be brushed aside or forgotten.

In a classic show of cognitive dissonance, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg recently reported that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Obama that U.S. intelligence had no “slam dunk” evidence of Assad’s guilt. But Goldberg then continued his long article on Obama’s foreign policy as if Clapper’s warning never happened and as if Assad were indeed guilty.

Since then, major American columnists writing about Goldberg’s article have simply ignored the Clapper revelation, which tended to confirm earlier reporting at some independent Web sites, including, and by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who traced the sarin to a likely operation by Islamic radicals aided by Turkish intelligence. But those Assad-didn’t-do-it reports were almost universally ignored, except for the occasional ridicule.

The problem for the columnists – and for the rest of Official Washington’s insider community – was that Everyone Who Mattered had already declared as flat fact that Assad crossed Obama’s “red line” with the sarin attack. So what would happen to their “credibility” if they admitted that they were wrong again, since many also had been famously wrong about Iraq’s WMD?

Plus, who could force these Important People to face up to their own misfeasance and malfeasance? Does anyone expect that Secretary of State John Kerry, who sought war against Syria in retaliation for the sarin attack, will retract what he claimed repeatedly that “we know” about Assad’s guilt? What would that do to Kerry’s “credibility”?

Kerry also was on the front lines pointing the finger of blame at Russia for the MH-17 shoot-down on July 17, 2014. He rushed off to the Sunday TV shows just three days after the tragedy over eastern Ukraine that killed 298 people and made the case that Moscow and the ethnic Russian rebels were to blame.

A source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts in that same time frame was telling me that it was already clear to them that an element of the Ukrainian military was responsible. But hanging the slaughter of all those innocents around Russian President Vladimir Putin’s neck was just too tempting – and served U.S. propaganda needs to get Europe to join in economic sanctions against Russia and to let the U.S. government rev up a new and costly Cold War.

Going Dutch

But those U.S. propaganda desires have put the Dutch in a difficult spot, since they are leading the investigation into the crash which departed from Amsterdam and carried many Dutch citizens en route to Kuala Lumpur. Part of the Dutch problem is that Dutch intelligence has confirmed that the only Buk or other anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine capable of hitting a commercial airliner at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian military.

Quinn Schansman, a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Photo from Facebook)

Quinn Schansman, a dual U.S.-Dutch citizen killed aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Photo from Facebook)

Recently, the Obama administration also had to decide how to respond to a letter from Thomas Schansman, the father of the only U.S. citizen killed in the crash, Quinn Schansman. In a letter dated Jan. 5, 2016, Schansman asked Secretary Kerry to release the radar and other evidence that he claimed to have in summer 2014 that supposedly showed where the missile was fired, a basic fact that the Dutch investigation has yet to nail down.

One of the many anomalies of the MH-17 case was Kerry’s assertion within three days of the crash that the U.S. government had precise information about the launch but then has left Dutch investigators struggling to figure out that detail for nearly two years.

On July 20, 2014, Kerry appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and declared, “we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

At a news conference on Aug. 12, 2014, Kerry made similar claims: “We saw the take-off. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this airplane disappear from the radar screens. So there is really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

As the months wore on – passing the first anniversary of the crash and then after last October’s inconclusive report by the Dutch Safety Board – Thomas Schansman finally reached out to Kerry directly with his Jan. 5 letter. More weeks and months passed before Schansman received Kerry’s reply on March 24, although the letter was curiously dated March 7.

The letter offered no new information as Kerry stuck to the old story. Recently, I was told that a possible explanation for the delay in the letter’s delivery was that a discussion was underway inside the Obama administration about whether to finally come clean about MH-17 even if that would clear Russia and the ethnic Russian rebels and shift the blame onto a rogue or poorly disciplined unit of the Ukrainian military.

But the decision was made to stand pat, the source said, explaining that otherwise “the narrative would be reversed,” throwing the U.S.-backed Ukrainian government on the defensive and negating some of the propaganda advantages gained against Russia.

Plus, if the U.S. government admitted that it had played such a cynical propaganda game, which also smacks of obstruction of justice by giving the actual culprits nearly two years to make their escape and cover their tracks, there would be a loss of “credibility” in Washington.

Apparently, it made more geopolitical sense to keep the heat on Russia and then to lean on the Dutch authorities to fit their investigative findings around the needs of the NATO alliance. That is, after all, how the U.S. government usually operates. It’s also why I was so surprised that the truth finally was told about Iraq not possessing the WMD.

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

31 comments for “The ‘Credibility’ Illusion

  1. April 20, 2016 at 22:35

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  2. April 16, 2016 at 05:07

    We can all be found sticking to a narrative that is deemed necessary to maintain so as to avert a more feared outcome.
    Words are often – if not mostly used for war on one level or another. Controlling and subverting the narrative is a kind of mind-control or perception-management in which ‘reality’ is dictated by masked but recognized power and alignment with that power is generally adopted as protection and as cover under which to pursue one’s own power agenda. The power to lie and remain effectively unchallenged in any way that reduces the capacity to continue in the assertion and demeanour of power – is a sense of god-like power – for the self-concept in image and role, functions as a god to which all else is sacrificed, conformed, disregarded or denied.
    Thus the asserted identity (and its asserted narrative) is at war with what life is in relation – and with the source of its own life – for the idea of what you are is never what you are.
    War of identity reflects as a war of identities; a communication breakdown in which a fragment of a conflicted self is ‘saved’ from chaos through which to reunify under a strategy of survival in terms of power over communication.

    Power to disrupt and deny communication is the first weapon or technology of war – for communication and relationship must be invalidated to make war meaningful.

    Dissociated thinking splits off from relationship and communication (aka ‘life) in distrust and fear that is associated with past-conditionings of psycho-emotional imprintings that operate identities of hate, rage and terror – that are masked by appeal to a mythic narrative identity of justified self-righteousness. We are all expert at immediately ‘seeing’ the wrong, the false, the ugly and the justification for distrust in the ‘other’. We all operate identities that can easily be triggered to fear-reactive blindness and we all have developed some degree of ability to manipulate others whilst also being manipulated by them. Such intrigue and one-up-man-ship becoming almost the fabric of our society.

    Hierarchies of rules are developed by which to maintain the primary power of a society of dissociated mind, defining and asserting human being in the image and likeness of separation-trauma or conflicted self upon which is imprinted the survival urge as the persona or mask of strategic adaptation to a world of masked conflict in which much is reversed in order to maintain such an identity in such a world.

    Breakdown of the personality structure may be brought on by disturbance that cracks or fades the assertive identity narrative in roleplay and here is the nub of a choice I see. For there is no real choice within the dictate of a fearfully defined self and world that is already predicated to distort, deny and exploit the communication channel it depends on to make a choice. The illusion of choice is always framed in “which kind of fear-framed option do you want?”.

    Honesty depends on trust – which depends on love of – or at least some willingness for – true witness. Not in order to advance an agenda of superiority or sacrificial entitlement. Trusting fear and therefore hate as the power to make and keep us safe or at least temporarily secure – is giving true power to false – unless there is no willingness to embrace life on Earth and your true choice is to end it. For false sense of power over others and over life is a kind of reversal of power in which death, war and pain seem more real and more powerful than open (hearted) communication and relationship – that is honest as to what is in fact present even if it is being experienced as fearful, conflicted, painful or frustrating – for the denial of unpleasant, uncomfortable or hateful feelings, is the first lie from which the others must surely follow.
    Self-hatred is very difficult to abide – and so it is almost immediately ‘escaped’ or dissociated from by a fragmenting mind that calls upon justification to hate the ‘other’ – and even life itself – for ‘failing’ to meet or match the requirements that a secret heart is set on – and could never in fact be met or fulfilled.
    However, no one can change the choice that he first does not own – and one cannot own or know as an abstracted notion of a self in rehearsal – one has to be present with what is moving here and learn or grow fresh perspective within what is.
    This is not popular. Diversion and distraction from awakened responsibility is popular because it is the primary power dictate of a sense of protection for an unloving light of mind or self-dissociation. We generally demand and contrive to maintain such diversion before a thought occurs by the interlocking shadow play of tacitly shared agreements and definitions.
    I write as an invitation to look at what is reflected in our world with different eyes, and to discern within rather than ‘think about’ the surface without actually making an intimate connection.
    Seeing people making and having to live their choices as if this is their will – yet with a sense that if they knew what they do they would know their purpose truly and choose likewise.
    Finding words to reflect humanity rather than moralize a narrative for some stance or another amidst the action and reaction of aggrieved vendetta, is perhaps impossible – but some willingness invites Life rather than presumes to be its spokesperson.
    If people are not objecting to being lied to, it is for reasons that are actively discernible.
    The complexity of fragmentation of purpose is beyond all the kings horses and men to repair – but regaining a unified purpose is a matter of willingness, relationship and communication – within ourselves and without. For the primary split of mind from true willing is in denying the felt within so as to assert power without.
    It can be said that all illusions are ‘true’ in that they are experienced as their unique perspective within the possibilities of all experience – but that we each have a core signature quality or vibration in which we recognize and respond as our self. So rather than phrase ‘my truth’ I phrase true of me or for me and stay listening – because stepping stones are not final destinations.
    Breakdown of ‘reality’ has to be an opportunity of realizing a truer perspective by living it. Anyway.

    Don’t just do something, stand there! In a true willingness to stand in an uncovered integrity of being, all that you then do will carry that quality of your presence. Just because you are. Without such uncovered integrity the mind will manufacture its own private version and stick it to you. “Ouch!” …is a sign of health – it means you are alive enough to feel the hurt of being out of true with yourself. Many believe they have succeeded in eradicating feelings – so as to assert and impose ‘will’ without inhibition of any idea or force counter to it. Without encumbrance of relational willingness. There is a choice here – but it can only be made free willing.

  3. Abe
    April 15, 2016 at 12:04

    With no credible evidence of Syrian government responsibility for the 2013 Ghouta attack or Russian government responsibility for the 2014 MH-17 incident, and faced with the prevailing distrust of the Pentagon or Western intelligence agencies, Obama enthusiastically seized the opportunity provided by deception operative Eliot Higgins.

    Higgins and the Bellingcat site are at the center of a Propaganda 3.0 disinformation campaign using so-called “open journalism”, “social media journalism”, “open-source intelligence” as conduits for deception.

    Bellingcat is working with major corporations like Google and Youtube in support of the US/NATO “hybrid war” against Russia and Syria.


    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, released a 2015 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” 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 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.


    Corporate giant Google, seed funded by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 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.

    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’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.


    Alphabet, Inc. (parent company of Google and several other companies previously owned by or tied to Google) is all in with Bellingcat. In October 2015, Google for Media announced that it was providing direct funding for Bellingcat.

    In addition, YouTube is getting in on the game of promoting Higgins and Bellingcat. On July 18, 2015, the first anniversary of the MH-17 crash), YouTube announced the launch of three new initiatives, namely the YouTube Newswire, the First Draft Coalition and the WITNESS Media Lab.

    YouTube partnered with Storyful, a so-called “social news agency”, to produce YouTube Newswire, described as a “curated feed of the most newsworthy eyewitness videos of the day”.

    The First Draft Coalition is described as an “educational resource created by experts such as Bellingcat (a site founded by Eliot Higgins, a British citizen journalist) which will teach people how to verify eyewitness footage”, videos purportedly taken by individuals at the scene of an incident.

    The WITNESS Media Lab homepage highlights “Bellingcat’s Ukraine Conflict Vehicle Tracking Project” as a prime example of what it calls “citizen video curation projects”. Promoting “videos created and shared by eyewitnesses”, WITNESS Media Lab funds projects that “find, verify, and contextualize” eyewitness video to “tell a story”.

    Higgins and and Bellingcat have a long history of telling stories using video.


    As Ray McGovern pointed out in “Propaganda, Intelligence and MH-17” on Consortium News (August 17, 2015):

    “The key difference between the traditional ‘Intelligence Assessment’ and this relatively new creation, a ‘Government Assessment’ is that the latter genre is put together by senior White House bureaucrats or other political appointees, not senior intelligence analysts. Another significant difference is that an ‘Intelligence Assessment’ often includes alternative views, either in the text or in footnotes, detailing disagreements among intelligence analysts, thus revealing where the case may be weak or in dispute.

    “The absence of an ‘Intelligence Assessment’ suggested that honest intelligence analysts were resisting a knee-jerk indictment of Russia, just as they did after the first time Kerry pulled this ‘Government Assessment’ arrow out of his quiver trying to stick the blame for an Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus on the Syrian government.”

    The primary source in both “Government Assessment” episodes, both the 2013 chemical attack in Syria and the 2014 crash of MH-17 in Ukraine, the one person in common who generated the “pseudo-intelligence product, which contained not a single verifiable fact”, was British blogger and media darling Eliot Higgins.

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

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

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

    With no credible evidence of direct Russian 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, including “investigations” conducted by fake “citizen journalist” Higgins and the Bellingcat site.

    The actual purpose of these fake “citizen journalist” deception operatives is to provide a channel for Western propaganda 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”, and entirely sidestepped the countless opportunities for deceptive information to be planted in these media from not-so-open sources.

    The “overarching point” concluded 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.”

    President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other US policymakers definitely have seized the opportunities provided by Higgins.

    • Joe L.
      April 15, 2016 at 23:45

      Abe… I was actually thinking about Bellingcat and it is looking more and more that he is 0 for 2 on both Syria and Ukraine. On Syria I believe he tried to take on Pulitzer Prize Winning Seymour Hersh and then 2 MIT professors, actual rocket scientists stepped up to confirm Hersh’s findings. Then I believe on MH-17 his claims were, I believe, that Russia provided the BUK system which came from Russia into Ukraine and then back to Russia missing a BUK missile but now we have both the Dutch and the German BND pointing to the BUK Missile System coming from a Ukrainian Military base. I think that is most certainly why the US government will not share its satellite images and if they did have the smoking gun then I am sure that the US government most certainly would have shown us those images. For me, as well, especially after the lies told about Iraq, I find it suspicious that anyone would go out of their way to try to prove the US government right – hence where George Soros, USAID, OCCRP, and the Open Society come in!

  4. Bob Van Noy
    April 15, 2016 at 10:15

    President Obama’s State Department is under the microscope right now because of the election pressure being asserted by Bernie Sanders on Hillary Clinton. The more we find out about her complicity in failed policy, the more that is revealed about John Kerry’s neocon leanings, the more apparent it becomes that President Obama is isolated in office. (A disclaimer here, I’m not apologizing for his administration, I really don’t get it, but it certainly has been a disaster). At any rate, should the total incompetence of the Obama/Clinton/Kerry State department be exposed right now, it seems likely that the whole house of cards could fall, creating uncertain outcomes electorally… I think, as well, that state complicity in bringing down an airliner (no matter what state that may be) would cause a public outcry like we have never seen before…

  5. alexander
    April 15, 2016 at 06:56

    Dear Mr Parry,

    Thanks for another fine article.

    On its face, the Sarin gas attack seemed highly improbable to have been generated by the Assad government.

    At the time, the Syrian army was having success in rolling back ISIS…they were winning and the terrorists were losing.

    Why , if you are winning the fight, risk the wrath of the worlds mightiest military, by deliberately crossing over its “red” line ?

    It makes no sense, whatsoever.

    Was Assad so eager to have tons of US Ordnance dropped on his head ?

    I don’t think so.

    There are many reasons, however, for our government to stick to the story even though clear evidence was obtained the Sarin attack was initiated by the terror groups.

    The most important reason is our government would have to explain why the “monstrous, evil use of poison gas” is not a red line for us, in both directions…. ?

    If the use of Poison gas is such a “heinous” act that it demands US entry into the fray against Assad, how can it not be equally “heinous” when coming from the terrorist groups ?

    If the horror of it’s use is a “casus belli” to respond in force…how can it be less so, or even doubly so, to respond in force to the terror groups ,if they were the perpetrators ?

    In maintaining the “Assad did it” narrative, even with strong evidence to the contrary, the administration kept itself from having to answer some tough questions as to who the “monsters” truly are, in the conflict.

    All in all, the tragic destruction of the Syrian nation we have been witnessing over the past five years, seemed to have germinated in the Neocon playbook ( a “clean break “strategy…) dating as far back as 1996.

    It is certainly crystal clear to me, that the dissolution of Syria would ensure Israel’s permanent annexation of the Syrian Golan heights.

    The idea of destroying an entire country,( through the use of proxy terror forces) to keep the land you stole from it, is certainly as “monstrous”an idea as any smeared on Assad.

    But heaven forbid that rationale would come to the fore, then the “heroic” rebel forces we have been underwriting to overthrow the “evil” dictator, might be exposed for what they are, “phony tools” in another attempt at a criminal “land grab”.

  6. Tom Welsh
    April 15, 2016 at 06:46

    Thanks for yet another excellent, factual, honest article. We need sources like Mr Parry to keep telling the truth, just so that it stays out there. The great majority unfortunately prefer uncritically to swallow the fantasies churned out by government, just as they are quite happy watching fictional TV programs like “NCIS” and absurd movies such as “Zero Dark Thirty”.

    Unfortunately I think most of the discussion here has rather missed the most important point. What government cares about is not really preserving credibility; the populace is so unbelievably credulous that it unthinkingly swallows each new dollop of propaganda, even if it directly contradicts yesterday’s serving. As Jacques Ellul remarked long ago in his superb book, “Propaganda”, all successful propaganda must “go with the grain” of public opinion. Since the American public is already strongly inclined to hate, distrust and fear Russia, successful propaganda must surf that wave. If the government were to start telling the truth (regardless of the possible medical consequences to themselves from such an unaccustomed activity) they would hardly be believed. So I would maintain that, by libelling the Russians, Syrians, and others, the government is actually minimizing risk and taking the path of least resistance. The people need foreign enemies to hate (“Emmanuel Goldstein”), and they also love to feel superior to all foreigners. Current propaganda rides on and reinforces those powerful prejudices, which is why it is so successful. To put it bluntly, you can fool most of the people all of the time – but only provided they want to be fooled in that particular way.

  7. Kiza
    April 15, 2016 at 02:08

    Dear Mr Parry,

    Firstly, regarding Iraqi imaginary WMD, I recall the news that some US Army unit was caught by another US Army unit bringing in containers/barrels which looked like chemical weapon containers. Thus the operation was aborted. I believe that it turned out to be too difficult to falsify WMDs because everyone knew that there were none and expected this falsification. After the failure of the WMD evidence plant, a brand new propaganda narrative was developed that Iraq and the whole World are better off without the vile dictator who gassed his own people (with WMD supplied by NATO countries, who used to be on the CIA payroll and a US friend during the Iraq-Iran war). Now, this new narrative is what the pliant US MSM jumped into headlong and the WMDs were easily wiped off from the minds of the consumers of propaganda. Therefore, the alternative narrative was a good, low cost replacement.

    Secondly, regarding MH17, there is too high a cost to pay for admitting the truth. Because the USG initiated coup installed the criminals who shot-down a passenger plane, there is really no good story to cover for this. The USG becomes criminally culpable – “an out of control Ukrainian Air-Defense unit” gives about zero excuse the USG in front of the World. This is why there is zero chance that the USG will ever admit the truth about MH17, there is simply too much information in the public domain linking USG and Ukrainian Coup Government (for example, $5B US investment). The only way the truth about MH17 could ever come out is through whistle-blowing, which is now virtually impossible.

    Thirdly, Sarin attack on Ghouta can still be milked for its value because the war is not over yet. In addition, if it was not Assad then implicating Turkish intelligence MIT would be a shot in the foot for USG because Erdogan is a key ally. The truth on this one could come out only if Erdogan becomes expendable, which is possible considering how out-of-control this tinpot dictator is. Ghouta is a nice ally blackmailing material, why dispose of it?

    In conclusion, Mr Parry, with respect you were comparing apples and pears in this article.

    • Rob Roy
      April 16, 2016 at 23:32

      Actually, the earlier sarin attack in May was investigated by a group from the UN. After a thorough investigation the leader of the group, Carla del Ponte when relating the findings said that Assad was not the culprit but rather a rebel group was to blame. I heard her say this myself! As soon as she said it, I said, “We will never hear from her again; she will be gone from public view because she’s reported what the US doesn’t want to hear.” I was right. And, of course, the August accusation was ridiculous, though some people still spout it as if it were truth.

  8. April 15, 2016 at 01:29

    The best place to hide the truth is among a tissue of lies.

  9. Regina Schulte
    April 14, 2016 at 23:39

    Thank you, Mr. Parry. We depend on you and Consortium to give us the truth.

    • rhys
      April 15, 2016 at 04:00

      Regina, couldn’t agree with you more. First class in every way

  10. Randal Marlin
    April 14, 2016 at 23:21

    It took over 30 years to hear about the false flag operation plans that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chaired by Admiral Lyman Lemnitzer, submitted for consideration to Defense Secretary Robert MacNamara on March 13, 1962. The documents show that lying and other deceptions were apparently quite acceptable to the proponents of these pretexts for war. Anyone can Google “Operation Northwoods” and download the documents. Curiously, when I sought authentication of the documents from National Security Archives at George Washington University it took some months before I got the confirmation.
    All this is to say that we may have to wait 30 years to get the truth about MH-17 and the Syrian sarin gas attack. In the meantime, no one should be embarrassed to suggest the possibility of deliberate deception by those in authority.

  11. jacobo
    April 14, 2016 at 22:17

    Our government’s credibility should have been shattered a century ago when what became known as yellow journalism exploited the sinking of the Maine, thereby rousing the public into such a war fervor that barely two months passed between the loss of the Maine and the Spanish-American War. While at the time there also were strong anti-war sentiments, nothing could prevent this war once an official U.S. naval inquiry concluded that most likely a submarine mine sunk the Maine. Subsequent (postwar) investigations, however, pointed towards a spontaneous explosion originating inside the ship. Yet the U.S. government has yet to officially clarify the real reasons for getting America into a war that led to its taking over most of what was left of the Spanish empire. Can fear of loss of credibility be so strong that it becomes too risky today for our government to own up to having tricked the public into a war that took place century ago? Some sort of domino effect, whereby once the truth gets out about any one of Empire-USA’s conquests, there goes empire?

  12. Erik
    April 14, 2016 at 21:13

    It is good to push for the evidence and spotlight the statements that evidence was definite, showing that almost certainly Kerry did not know any such MH17 detail as “We saw.” If he had, it appears that even a protected source or technology could have been covered up or protected by now.

    If the source was undercover, he could have been brought out of danger or covered by an alternative source story by now. If the source was an eyewitness how would he be sure of the missile origin and do the Buks really leave a contrail? If a radar operator why do we have no radar data? If a deep cover operator in the Russian military they could claim a communications intercept or accidental leak. If it was a deep cover source paid per statement, as seems the only explanation other than a lie, then he probably is discredited already, like the informants on Iraq “Yellowcake” Uranium purchases. And why trust a single deep cover defector who must have desired to do some damage? So the protected source excuse doesn’t seem plausible.

    • Kiza
      April 15, 2016 at 02:18

      Was it not this super-secret, I-would-have-to-kill-you-if-I-show-you technology which enabled the US Government to come out with the information and images that the Russian Metrojet exploded rather than it was shot-down over Egypt? This info came out a few days after the terrorist act, but for MH17 almost two years later there is nothing, it is still “super-secret”.

      • Erik
        April 16, 2016 at 09:01

        True: if an imaging technology was secret, the images would not be secret. They might suggest the position of a satellite, but that could be discovered otherwise. The capabilities of a new imaging technology would not likely be very surprising or important to conceal. So there seems to be no reason to conceal images made by a new technology.

        If images were intercepted private photos, it would be no secret that the US does that, and those photos would not likely remain concealed by the private sources, nor would the sources be compromised. So I don’t see real security value in concealing such images. It would be difficult to establish the image location so the interpretation would be speculation based upon “social media evidence” anyway, and could never be conclusive.

        If private images or testimony was sent by local sources, the sources would be suspect as partisans. Also ground images or testimony would not likely reveal the exact source or nature of the missile or other cause. And there would be no reason to conceal such evidence as names of sources could be concealed.

        So the only legitimate excuse for secrecy would be deep cover source(s) in the Russian military, not discredited, whose identity might be suspected from disclosures, and too important to be removed from duty and protected. Such a source would likely be unique and of uncertain reliability, too risky to use as the sole source of important information. If their military knew the evidence was true, they would already suspect those who might have it anyway, and would likely have either found the source or would find the source from any further communications. Either way, the source would have no further value to the US, and could have been protected already if not already accused. So the only honorable US concealment would be to protect a deep cover source in Russia known to have been already accused. But after two years, a trial should have occurred already, and the source would be either convicted or exonerated and escaped. So there would be no point in concealment unless there was a multi-year secret trial still in progress, or the sentence might be increased. Even then the US could reveal information so as to exonerate the accused, or find a way to notify the world that secret trials in progress in Russia might affect persons accused, without admitting their identity.

        So after two years, there is probably no honorable reason for suppressing the evidence.

  13. ltr
    April 14, 2016 at 21:10

    These essays are just brilliant and completely necessary. I deeply value this writing.

  14. Erik
    April 14, 2016 at 20:47

    LOL – really cautious impartial comment there.

    • Fred
      April 14, 2016 at 21:36

      I think he means Kerry.

      • dahoit
        April 15, 2016 at 12:00

        hee hee.Commies?What are they?Extinct,like the dinosaurs.

  15. Bill Bodden
    April 14, 2016 at 19:55

    – that could devastate U.S. government “credibility” and disrupt future plans.

    What credibility?

    • Jerry D Riley
      April 14, 2016 at 22:51

      My thoughts exactly Bill.

    • Joe L.
      April 15, 2016 at 23:28

      My thoughts also! I mean you can go all the way back to WW2 and see the US government, along with the NewYork Times, try to cover-up the fact that radiation was also killing the Japanese and at that time anything that said otherwise was deemed “Japanese Propaganda” (sound familiar?). The US Government even went as far as confiscating film from Japanese hospitals which documented the effects of radiation and classified them, for I believe, 30 years. Then when you work your way forward through all of the coups (Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954 etc.), again with the propaganda from the New York Times to justify US actions, and work your way up through the Gulf of Tonkin, Iraq War etc. – then the only sane conclusion is that anything the US Government says cannot be trusted. It actually amazes me that the US Government can continue to get away with its’ lies.

  16. Curious
    April 14, 2016 at 19:53

    Thank you Mr. Parry for your help in keeping these stories alive and updated.

    I was looking once again at Kerrys’ wording about the plane disappearing from the radar. Which radar? An AWAC perhaps? Didn’t the Ukrainians try to say their radar was shut down for repair, or was not working, or some other phony story?

    I also think that part of the US governments’ problem, as you pointed out (along with the loss of credibility) is the fact that to submit the data, or the raw satellite data to the public could also point to an element of pre-planning. This would not only blow up their credibility, but open up an entirely new discussion which they don’t want to have. As I have mentioned before, a Buk, or an air-to-air missile, requires a technical expertise and even its own radar.

    If the Russians are correct and they confirmed a Buk radar activated on that day, I’m sure the US would also have that information and could confirm it’s position quite easily. If a US satellite can read the details on a postage stamp, how can they distract the attention of the world by saying they don’t know? There are ads from the Pentagon bragging about how sophisticated and smart their systems are so would this not be the time to prove that theory?

    I think I know the answer to those questions but I wish these elites, like John Kerry, could simply bring out an expert on what it takes to fire a Buk-1. And personally, I’m glad to see Almaz-Antey suing the EU for the cost of the testing to show the damage of a Buk-1 missile hitting a fuselage and the bowtie pattern it makes vs. later models and their distinct patterns. As much as the government wants to clamp down on the information stream, they have another problem to deal with as well, and it’s called “expertise”.

    Mr. Kerry does owe the families of the MH-17 an explanation. But to have the tale of “Russian aggression” as fake would rat out a lot of complicity by the media, and probably cut into the media elites’ corporate fuel budget for their personal planes. We can’t have that of course, there’s golf to be played!

  17. rexw
    April 14, 2016 at 19:46

    If any organisation deserves continued credit in their pursuit of the truth about the shooting down on Malaysian Airlines MH 17, in 2014, it is Consortium News.

    All other news sources seem to have been told to drop the matter. After all, according to John Kerry, he has known all the answers three days after the shooting and in the normal way things are done in the USA, that’s absolute gospel. He is the Secretary of State. He wouldn’t lie, would he?

    I mean, Bush lied, Cheney Lied, Rumsfeld lied, Clinton lied and on and on….. but John Kerry? He looks so honest.
    So much for appearances.

    Well the effort taken by Thomas Schansman on behalf of his dead son (the only American passenger on the aircraft) got the runaround, yet again.
    No one in Australia seems to be pursuing the matter either perhaps now knowing the real truth. I mean, Australia may be downunder and all that reflects in its name, but the families of the 38 Australians killed on the same flight can read things like the Dutch reports which have determined that ONLY the Ukainian BUK missile had the capability to shoot down MH 17 at that height.

    Is that Q.E.D? I would think so.

    But on it will go until the voters in Kerry’s electorate, wherever that might be, see him for what he is and give him the shove. A cruel, deceitful Secretary of State, able to put the matter to rest but purposely choosing not to give comfort to all the families who are, to this day, still grieving.

    You are weak, Kerry, but that’s par for the course in your role. Your predecessor, a fanciful candidate for the #1 job, set the standards very low, but by your actions in this matter, you have matched her record.

    The Foreign Minister in Australia, a Ms Bishop, was the constant mouthpiece for the US viewpoint since MH 17 was destroyed. Her tirades, daily, against Mr. Putin are now in the history books no doubt having had John Kerry writing her scripts. She was the one who trumpeted the “shirt fronting” Australian Prime Minister Abbott as he made an absolute ass of himself by confronting Vladimir Putin, a Russian leader, who as a popular President, enjoys an amazing approval level in his own country. The “shirfronter” as the now PREVIOUS Prime Minister Abbott has been named, lost his job a year or so later having been seen by his own people as something of a feckless fool. And that’s being generous.

    This same Foreign Minister, by the way, has been asked on numerous occasions to really pursue the matter as the 38 Australians who died in that flight also deserve to know what Kerry is not telling anyone. Old news for her as she swans around China trying to impress.

    So such are the devious ways of feckless politicians, everywhere, so it seems, from one side of the Pacific to the other, all birds of a feather, all deserving of our contempt.

    • Rob Roy
      April 16, 2016 at 23:19

      Thank you, rexw, for your comment. There’s one thing I think you have in error…that is that the Ukranians took down the plane with a Buk when it’s been proven by a German aeronautical engineer that the plane was shot down by another (Ukranian) plane in the sky at the same time. I, too, am grateful everyday for the writings of Robert Parry. There are other truth tellers and we must seek them out on a daily basis. MSM are disgusting these days, are they not? BTW, we should do everything we can to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House….she’s a thorough neocon who simply cannot learn a thing from the results of the disastrous decisions she’s made. If you think she was a terrible Sec. of State, imagine her as commander in chief….she loves regime change and wants pull that in Russia!

  18. Joe Wallace
    April 14, 2016 at 19:06

    Now I see how this game is played. Once you’ve lied, you have to keep on lying, ’cause if you retract the lie, you lose your credibility.

    • Issar
      April 15, 2016 at 21:10

      Right Joe. You have to keep on lying. So parry this Robert– to demonstrate without a doubt that your article best expresses the most universal of truths, one need only replace John Kerry with you, Robert Parry, and MH 17 with 911.

      • rosemerry
        April 16, 2016 at 14:45

        Not this again. PLEASE PLEASE stop acting as if the “9/11 incident” is the only important event in history and that the USA, which has for decades, even centuries attacked countries and people all over the planet, should NEVER have any possible blowback (even if the whole episode was a false flag). Give this a rest and wake up to the present and future.

        • Issar
          April 18, 2016 at 13:19

          In San Bernardino the so called terrorist couple was kidnapped. The wife Malik was found dead in the back of a completely different vehicle while her husband, Farook, was handcuffed, shot in the back of the head and his body thrown in the street. But PLEASE PLEASE let’s instead talk about attacks on countries or people. O wait– they are people.

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