Exclusive: Two years ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine killing 298 people and opening an inviting path for a propaganda campaign toward a new Cold War with Russia, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
Perhaps it’s only fitting that as we reach the second anniversary of the horrific shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flights 17, The New York Times would mark the occasion by once more using the tragedy as a propaganda club to advance the neocon goal of a new, costly and very dangerous Cold War with Russia.
On Saturday, the Times again demonstrated its disdain for normal journalistic practices as it picked up an amateur assertion that the Russians had faked satellite imagery showing Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile systems in eastern Ukraine before the civilian airliner was blown out of the sky on July 17, 2014.
Since that moment, the Times and other mainstream Western publications have been determined to pin the blame for the deaths of 298 people on Russian President Vladimir Putin so the world could plunge ahead into the latest neocon scheme of destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia with the eventual aim of “regime change” in Moscow.
As revolting as it has been to watch the deaths of innocents exploited in the name of big-power geopolitics, what has been most troubling from a journalistic perspective is that the Times has cast aside any pretense of professional objectivity, much as it did during the deception of the American public over Iraq’s fictitious weapons of mass destruction in 2002-2003.
In this latest burst of anti-Russian propaganda, the Times gives great weight to some bloggers who applied a computer program supposedly to show that two Russian government satellite images were manipulated. The point is to cast doubt on whether the Ukrainian military had missiles in place in eastern Ukraine that could have shot down MH-17.
What the Times leaves out is the fact that Western intelligence has already confirmed that Ukraine’s military did have powerful anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Last October, a Dutch intelligence report stated that fact based on NATO intelligence gathering, i.e., the West’s own satellite and other data collection.
Indeed, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) concluded that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government, not the ethnic Russian rebels.
MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. (The MH-17 flight had originated in Amsterdam and carried many Dutch citizens, explaining why the Netherlands took the lead in the investigation.)
MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.” MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:
“Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”
In other words, the Russians would have no clear motive to doctor satellite photos since accurate ones would have shown the presence of Ukrainian Buk missile batteries in the area. You might have thought that the Times would have considered this fact relevant in evaluating claims from some amateur analysts about whether photos were manipulated or not.Instead, reporter Andrew E. Kramer, who has been a regular contributor to the Times’ anti-Russian propaganda campaign, treats the findings by some nuclear arms control researchers at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies as definitive though there’s no reason to believe that these folks have any special expertise in applying this software whose creator says requires careful analysis.
Roger Cozien, designer of the filtering software Tungstene, has warned against rushing to judge “anomalies” in photographs as intentional falsifications when they may result from the normal process of saving an image or making innocent adjustments.
In an interview in Time magazine, Cozien said, “These filters aim at detecting anomalies. They give you any and all specific and particular information which can be found in the photograph file. And these particularities, called ‘singularities’, are sometimes only accidental: this is because the image was not well re-saved or that the camera had specific features, for example.
“The software in itself is neutral: it does not know what is an alteration or a manipulation. So, when it notices an error, the operator needs to consider whether it is an image manipulation, or just an accident.”
As Cozien described the process, it becomes clear that the trick of detecting an intentional manipulation rather than some normal or innocuous anomaly — that might occur in transferring an image from one format to another or making contrast adjustments or adding a word box — is more art than science.
And, there is no reason to believe that the Middlebury Institute’s arms control researchers have some special expertise in photographic forensics beyond having purchased the Tungstene suite of software upon which they based their report at the “armscontrolwonk.com” Web site.
The report’s authors also take the Russians to task for the lack of precision of the two images. “The image files are very poor quality,” they write. “We are very disappointed that the Russian Federation, in such an important matter, would release such low quality images as evidence. … Russian officials must know that releasing images in such a format makes it more difficult to verify the integrity of the images…”
Nevertheless, these researchers make sweeping judgments about the presence of a cloud in one photo and the allegedly sharper image of two Ukrainian Buk missile launchers in the other. Yet, why the Russians would add a cloud makes little sense. (July 17, 2014, was a partly cloudy day in eastern Ukraine, so perhaps the cloud is in the image just because the area was under a partial cloud cover.)
The researchers archly note that “UN Security Council Resolution 2166 calls on states to ‘provide any requested assistance to civil and criminal investigations.’ … We believe Russia should provide the original, underlying images in an unaltered form to the Joint Investigative Team [which is conducting the criminal investigation into the MH-17 crash] to allow independent experts to verify their claims.”
Sure, of course, but the arms control bloggers don’t call on the U.S. government to release its satellite and other intelligence data relating to the MH-17 shoot-down.
The real filter that needs to be applied when dealing with either The New York Times or some of the “citizen journalists” who pop up to reinforce the U.S. government’s propaganda themes is their unrelenting anti-Russian bias. Can anyone recall the last time The New York Times or any mainstream U.S. news outlet has presented a favorable or even neutral story about Russia?
The U.S. ‘Dog Not Barking’
Along those lines, neither the researchers’ report nor the Times’ article offers any criticism of the U.S. government, which has claimed to have satellite intelligence showing where the anti-aircraft missile was fired but has refused to release that important information to the public or apparently even to official MH-17 investigators.
On July 20, 2014, just three days after the disaster, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on all five Sunday talk shows including NBC’s “Meet the Press” where he cited some “social media” to implicate the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and added: “But even more importantly, 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.”
Two days later, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a “Government Assessment,” also citing “social media” seeming to implicate the rebels. Then, this white paper listed military equipment allegedly supplied by Russia to the rebels. But the list did not include a Buk missile battery or other high-powered anti-aircraft missiles capable of striking MH-17, which had been flying at around 33,000 feet.
The DNI also had U.S. intelligence analysts brief a few select mainstream reporters, but the analysts conveyed much less conviction than their superiors may have wished, indicating that there was still great uncertainty about who was responsible.
The Los Angeles Times article said: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [the designation for a Russian-made anti-aircraft Buk missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”
That uncertainty meshed somewhat with what I had been told by a source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts shortly after the shoot-down about what they had seen in U.S. high-resolution satellite photos, which they said showed what looked like Ukrainian military personnel manning the battery which was believed to have fired the missile.
There is also an important distinction to make between the traditional “Intelligence Assessment,” which is the U.S. intelligence community’s gold standard for evaluating an issue, complete with any disagreements among the 16 intelligence agencies, and a “Government Assessment,” like the one produced in the MH-17 case.
As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern wrote: “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.”
In other words, a “Government Assessment” is an invitation for political hacks to manufacture what was called a “dodgy dossier” when the British government used similar tactics to sell the phony case for war with Iraq in 2002-2003.
However, more relevant to the recent Times article is the fact that the U.S. government has withheld from the public – and even from official investigators – important information for determining the guilty parties and holding them accountable. For instance, neither the Dutch Safety Board, which headed up the initial investigation, nor the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has been able to pinpoint the site of the missile firing.
Though Kerry insisted that the U.S. government knew that fact three days after the incident, the Dutch Safety Board said last October that it had narrowed the likely firing location only to an area of 320-square kilometers covering territory used by both the rebels and the government. The JIT has promised the families of Dutch victims that it would determine that detail later this year (now more than two years after the shoot-down).
If one wants to apply Sherlock Holmes logic to this “dog not barking” problem, you would probably conclude that the U.S. government clammed up after Kerry’s statements and the DNI’s sketchy white paper because – as more evidence was uncovered and analyzed – it was not pointing in the direction that U.S. propagandists wanted.
Yet, it is Russia, not the United States, that is taken to task for not providing its data in the most pristine fashion, even as the U.S. government provides nothing at all. And whenever the MH-17 issue is raised in the major Western news media, this strange official U.S. silence is ignored or excused while other inconvenient facts are also left out, such as a report by Der Spiegel that the German intelligence service, BND, had found that MH-17 photos supplied by the Ukrainian government “have been manipulated.”
Even more egregious is the blackout that the Times and other news organizations have applied to the Dutch intelligence report regarding the presence of Ukrainian military anti-aircraft batteries in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down a commercial airliner at 33,000 feet and the rebels lack of such a powerful weapon.
Plus, there have been official disclosures that raise serious doubts about the integrity of the JIT, which has investigators from the Netherlands, Australia, Ukraine, Belgium and Malaysia, but has fallen increasingly under the control of Ukraine’s SBU, a security and intelligence agency that is responsible for protecting Ukrainian government secrets and that has been implicated in torture and other war crimes against the ethnic Russian rebels.
Earlier this year, an interim JIT report revealed how cozy the relationship had grown between the SBU and especially the Dutch and Australian investigators who have had long stints in Kiev, getting fed “evidence” by the SBU, and depending on the Ukrainian host’s hospitality.
Though this JIT report was released publicly, its contents were ignored by the Times and other publications even amid formal complaints from the United Nations about the SBU blocking human rights investigations into alleged Ukrainian government torture centers.
The SBU’s dominance over the JIT would seem to bear on the integrity of the MH-17 investigation, but this fact also doesn’t fit the propaganda goal of pinning the deaths of 298 people on Russia. Indeed, it would put whatever the JIT does eventually conclude under the suspicion of bias and possible SBU manipulation.
An Obligatory Hat Tip
And, it seems no Times article on MH-17 would be complete without a tip of the cap to the “citizen journalism” site, Bellingcat, which has made a cottage industry out of reinforcing the West’s propaganda themes whether against the Syrian or Russian governments. Bellingcat has remained the beloved Internet site of the mainstream Western media despite a history of getting stories wrong.
In Saturday’s article, Times reporter Kramer cited Bellingcat as a way to bolster the findings of the folks at “armscontrolwonk.com” without mentioning that Bellingcat’s earlier analysis of the “cloud” photo had been criticized by forensics experts for misusing computer software to reach anti-Russian conclusions, or as Der Spiegel reported:
“The research group Bellingcat has accused Russia of manipulating satellite images from the MH17 disaster. But German image forensics expert Jens Kriese has criticized the analysis. He says it is impossible to say with any certainty whether Moscow is lying.”
It also turns out that both Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins and “armscontrolwonk.com” have links to the pro-NATO think tank, Atlantic Council, which has been at the forefront of promoting NATO’s new Cold War with Russia.
Higgins is now listed as a “nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative” and armscontrolwonk.com describes one of its writers, Aaron Stein, as a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Stein’s work on the Syrian conflict would intersect with Higgins’s attempts to reinforce Western propaganda blaming the Syrian government for the devastating sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, which proved to be one of Bellingcat’s reporting errors.
On the second anniversary of the MH-17 atrocity, it is sadly not surprising that the Times would continue to grab onto any dubious claim – and present it without meaningful context – as long as the material helps agitate the newspaper’s readers into wanting war with Russia.
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 barnesandnoble.com).
I am very suspicious that Bellingcat is funded by US intelligence as part of the new and expanded (but not improved!) US propaganda campaign against Russia that the USG so stupidly announced in a press campaign. Here is the pith of the subject: the lawyers are zeroing in on Kiev for suits for allowing the civilian aircraft into a known war zone where sam were in use. That says it all. As for “poor quality photography” — where is the US intelligence that is never seen, but always serves to “prove” a US contention? The entire investigation stunk from the first — we knew that Kiev was guilty for sending in the flight, we had rumors of a Kievan jet or two shadowing the flight, an air traffic controller who saw what was happening “disappears,” and many months later we get a mushy report that doesn’t blame anybody in particular (as it was determined not to name Kiev).
Norma Brown… This is a quote from Mr. Robert Parry about how people, or bloggers, like Bellingcat are funded:
USAID has estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries.” USAID, working with billionaire George Soros’s Open Society, also funds the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.
Great reporting and analysis by Robert Parry. Many thanks!
Of course, when I saw that NY Times article on the alleged photo doctoring by Russia, I was dubious on general principles, but this thorough demolition is very welcome.
I’d also like to point out that even if the article’s allegation is true, and Russia did phony up some satellite images, we would still be without any affirmative evidence to support the version of the shootdown favored by the West, i.e. that Russia or Donbas fighters did it, even though the Times treats that like a self-evident truth.
Evidence as to who was behind the shoot-down (and I remember this and wrote about it at the time): In the immediate aftermath of the incident, not one Western news source — not one — mentioned the possibility that a bomb (on board) had blown up the aircraft. Keep in mind that for at least 48 hours all that was known was that MH17 had exploded in mid air. An aircraft exploding at cruising altitude is most likely a result of a bomb (consider Pan Am Flight Lockerbie and others), not a missile.
A bomb on board would have been counterproductive to the motive for the shoot-down, i.e., the vilification of Russia, since even mentioning the possibility would have meant a complex forensic analysis of the wreckage, rather than immediate finger pointing.
For those who are slow-witted: Western Intel was behind the shoot-down, with the usual help from the U.S. media.
Go back and check, see if you can find ANY mention of a bomb during the (at least) two days when nothing was officially known about what happened. If all the (supposedly) independent media outlets ‘forgot’ to mention the most likely cause, they had to have been under orders.
while i am glad that so many people have devoted energy to this particular one-among-tens-of-thousands-of -incidents in trying to find out what really happened, i do think we risk missing the forest for the trees, repeatedly, when focused on one or another event or personality that neglects the system being protected by the event/personality and the horrendous damage being inflicted on more people every day by that system..the pursuit of private profit in a market dominated by a tiny percentage of people commanding wealth and power beyond past feudal rulers – when there might have been a better excuse for ignorance and powerlessness – should be our greater concern than what blips on screens tell us about flights, drones, targets or victims..in fact, more than fifty years after the fact of an american president’s assassination, there are still photo analysts and angle measurer -mathematicians revealing one or another truth (?) about the event that neglects confronting the fact that people have the power to kill a president -who may have supported policies of private profit not in keeping with their wishes – and get away with it. unless we deal with that power and those political economics, we’ll have a war with russia and very possibly a war within the the nation worse than at present, before that.
Thanks Abe. Will check it out.
I’m really glad to see there are more people out there who refuse to let this slide, and I’m glad with all the info sharing that’s going on here. A gut feeling (well, having a suspect investigate the crime is obvious enough of course – it’s more than a gut feeling) is one thing, but without all that stuff I’d probably think I’m going insane
Last May, computer forensics expert Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of Hacker Factor and originator of the FotoForensics digital image analysis tool, strongly criticized Eliot Higgins’ and Bellingcat’s misuse of Error Level Analysis (ELA).
On 31 May 2015, immediately after the bogus report by Bellingcat appeared, Krawetz stated on Twitter: “chalk this up as a ‘how to not do image analysis’.
The latest bogus report by Bellingcat relies on misuse of the more elaborate Tungstene imagery analysis software.
On 17 July 2016, immediately after Higgins’ latest propaganda exercise appeared, Krawetz stated on Twitter:
“Bad analysis” is an understatement. This ‘report’ is outright fraud.
Be sure to read the full Twitter exchange with Higgins’ responses.
Higgins flails when his fakery is exposed by a real expert in image analysis.
Non-expert Higgins insists that expert Krawetz has “got a big mouth and no trousers in this case, not the first time he’s been wrong too” https://twitter.com/hackerfactor/status/754690014139731969
What’s next from those intrepid “citizen investigative journalists” and Arms Control Rent-A-Wonk “experts” (Melissa Hanham & Co) at Bellingcat?
How about “Live Coverage of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland”?
Speaking of understatement, this is not the first time Higgins and Bellingcat have been wrong:
Over a year ago, on the Hacker Factor blog, Krawetz detailed how Bellingcat misapplied error level analysis (ELA) technology.
On 8 June 2015, Krawetz wrote unequivocally that “the Bellingcat report is bogus.”
However, Krawetz cautioned that it would be incorrect to “blame the problem on ELA.”
“It’s not the tool that is in error” noted Krawetz, “it’s the authors of the Bellingcat report.”
Sadly we have another propaganda site. http://www.whathappenedtoflight17.com. The admin of the site insists that the people from control wonk blog are experts at satellite photo analysis and bans anyone who questions this from his site.
The “Dutch guy” who runs the site has to tell us that he is “unbiased and not stupid”.
You get the picture.
Marcel van den Berg, the Dutch guy who stupidly broadcasts his bias for Bellingcat, sallies forth to defend Eliot’s honor:
The Dutch guy does such a lousy job that Higgins has to mount up.
“Obviously Bellingcat is not alone. There are many people” like the Dutch guy and some researchers in Monterey who are “willing to help” give Higgins a reach around.
Moscow-based journalist John Helmer has reported on plans by Obama and his advisors to send up to 9,000 combat troops into eastern Ukraine after the July 2014 crash of MH-17.
Helmer states that the military plan “was to have involved Dutch and Australian army units, with German ground and US air support, plus NATO direction” according to information leaked from a report by former Australian Army Captain James Brown, research head at the US Studies Centre of the University of Sydney.
According to Helmer, Brown claimed in his report that the scheme “‘would have consumed the bulk of the Australian Army.’ Captain Brown also claims ‘planning for these military options consumed Australia’s intelligence agencies. The National Security Committee of [the Australian ministerial] Cabinet met every day for more than three weeks , and staff and agencies produced a frenzied stream of briefings on Ukraine, Russia and the intentions of [President] Vladimir Putin.’
“According to Dutch sources” reports Helmer, “the military plan of attack was aborted when Germany refused to participate directly, or allow its bases and airspace to be used. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the Dutch were pulling their troops out of the plan on July 27. He said at the time: ‘Getting the military upper hand for an international mission in this area is, according to our conclusion, not realistic.’ That was ten days after the MH17 crash. But Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his cabinet continued, Brown and his sources reveal, to plan the operation with the US for another 10 days.”
The Obama Shoe-Banging Moment:
Dutch and Australian Troops Were Planning to Start War With Russia After MH17 Was Shot Down
By John Helmer
You are right that Russia did not shoot down flight MH17. But it’s wrong to assume the Dutch investigation proved a BUK missile shot down the Boeing. In fact, the Dutch team fell far short of actually proving BUK missile involvement. A more likely scenario, supported by eye-witnesses, is that one or more Ukrainian fighter jets downed the passenger plane. The analysis below picks apart paragraph by paragraph the Dutch Safety Board investigation report:
One thing that gave me a chuckle, though it is a serious situation, was when Matt Lee from the Associated Press was asking questions to the US State Department, whom gave zero evidence for what was occurring in Ukraine about MH-17, and instead he said something to the fact “in lieu of evidence could you then point me to a YouTube video” – that was classic and pretty much summed up everything.
After two years, the “historical analogy” is more than “tempting”.
The infamous 21 July 2014 Daily Press Briefing
See video minutes 1:25-11:10
Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department stated 3 times that the US had a “very strong assessment” on MH-17.
Matthew Lee, State Department correspondent at Associated Press, asked in vain for evidence.
Harf began her career at the Directorate of Intelligence at the CIA as an analyst and later became the media spokesperson of the CIA. During the 2012 presidential election, Harf helped craft U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security and communications strategy, and also served as campaign spokesperson on national security issues.
Abe… Yeah, it truly shows what a gong show these briefings by the US Government are. I am glad that Matt Lee does call the US State Department representatives on their BS. To me, if the US had the smoking gun to point the finger at Russia then it would have moved heaven and earth to declassify photos or whatever to indict the Russians. The very fact that country with the largest spy apparatus on this planet instead shifts evidence to social media is not only insulting but also devious in my mind. When it comes to Ukraine it is really hard to know exactly what is happening and I believe that there is propaganda coming from all sides. Ultimately, though, I do believe that the United States pulled off a coup in Ukraine and I don’t think that it should take 50, 60 years or so for the US to admit to the coup as it did with the Iranian coup of 1953 where the CIA ran propaganda campaigns in Iran along with domestic media in the US, paid protesters, paid opposing government officials, and also paid some dubious parties to help pull off the coup. What happened in Ukraine seems so blatant to me especially looking at the US history of coups in so many countries that it is hard to count and how the CIA pulled them off.
Mr Parry, as a Dutchman, this case haunts me. The hysterical fingerpointing has not gone over well with me, the way our media (as yours) refuses to give the day of light to anything other than Bellingcat or any chum willing to go off on Putin or Russia frustrates me beyond words.
When I have the time I will be setting up a website (nothing fancy probably) in Dutch, and although I have collected some interesting stuff from a variety of sources, none have managed to give as much insight as your site has. This specific article takes the cake so far. Thank you for that.
I will not claim to know what exactly went down, but I’ll be damned if the stench that comes from this case and the way it has been handled by officials and media is a figment of my imagination. And that’s why I simply cannot get this out of my head. I refuse to be taken for a sucker by anyone, let alone my own government.
Have you by any chance heard the story of Josef Resch, private detective? I haven’t really followed up on that, but the story was that he had been hired to dig a little deeper into things, paid handsomely to do so. His house has supposedly been raided by German and Swiss police, as he claims that he has evidence that would bring several governments in big trouble. I have no idea what to make of that story yet.
Two years of “government assessment” fiction from the U.S. State Department.
A terse 16 July 2016 press statement by the State Department, “Marking the Second Anniversary of the Shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17” http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/07/260137.htm emphasizes that “Our own assessment has not changed – the missile was fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.”
The statement elaborates that “The United States continues to work with the Joint Investigation Team and law enforcement authorities. We have full confidence that these professionals are conducting an impartial, credible, and comprehensive investigation that will form the basis of an independent prosecution to bring the perpetrators of this tragedy to justice.”
The State Department’s “full confidence” presumably extends to the lawsuit lodged last month at the European Court of Human Rights by “friendly-faced lawyer” Jerry Skinner.
A dramatic 17 July 2016 article by UK Telegraph online informs us that the American lawyer Skinner “speaks selectively to the media, only talking to The Sunday Telegraph after a recommendation from his friend Eliot Higgins. The Leicester-born Mr Higgins, founder of investigative journalism site Bellingcat, is famous for his use of open source intelligence to expose war crimes around the world. With his help, the American lawyer has been able to piece together the path of a launcher from Russia’s 53rd Missile Brigade into Ukraine before MH17 was shot down and then back to Russia.”
Higgins’ renowned “impartial, credible, and comprehensive investigation” apparently makes it an open and shut case for Skinner.
With Higgins’ “help”, Skinner was able to “piece together” the story that Higgins pieced together. Lawyers are really smart that way.
The Telegraph informs us that “this evidence that will form the backbone of [Skinner’s] legal assault on the Kremlin – demanding $10 million from Moscow for each victim. President Putin is named as personally responsible.”
The Telegraph additionally informs us that “the Kremlin’s most high-profile adversary” is “a deeply religious man”. Mr. Skinner himself informs us that “My wife prays for me”.
Higgins’ eagerness to “help” transform Skinner into the new face of “Putin’s MH17 nemesis” http://www.newsweek.com/2015/07/03/meet-eliot-higgins-putins-mh17-nemesis-345485.html may be driven by the Englishman’s desire to be free to devour more french fries in Brussels hotel rooms.
There are no reports as to whether Putin feels more threatened by the “friendly-faced” American or Higgins’ “baby face, slumped shoulders and a soft Midlands accent”.
Should someone comment on the book by Cahill about the shoot down of TWA Flight 800 in July of 1996, twenty years ago and the court cases that have been gradually getting at the truth of that event? This was the first investigation that the US government deliberately covered up. The Clintons were in charge of that effort.
Here is the website to buy that book which was just published two weeks ago.
There is also a documentary video that was made in 2013. Here is the website where it can be obtained:
What immediately stands out for me is not the mediocre, middle school version of photos from people just learning Photoshop and their thrill encouraged by their falsehoods, but rather the very, and timely social media images from our own Geoffrey Pyatt during the days after the tragedy. His schoolyard attempts at documentation are indeed laughable and should have made a few paragraphs in your piece. The Russians, to their credit, had some very funny renditions and clown examples of Pyatts’ data.
Maybe the aspect of false images stirs up the loins of the anti Russian contingent and their tribal drum beats, but what stands out in your article to me is the direct false misrepresentation on social media from our own Diplomat Geoffrey Pyatt. First of all it seemed very odd to have his images on social media, especially after Sec of State Kerry being so definite in his conclusions. Social Media used to show the tragedy of a downed airline? That in itself puts Pyatt not far from MIddle school intelligence and schoolyard bully images. He even posted radar data that was as false as beginning crayon art.
Secondly, although I have studied Photoshop for years, it didn’t take me long to notice the changing in the shadows of the trees and that the image from Pyatt was a composite from different times of day. Even the use of photoshops’ stamped images were false in their use of the tree shadows and even buildings. He seems to be a diplomat as novice and clueless as our own Ms. Nuland when it come to technology. The Peter principle in State and our military is alive and well.
It would have been a help to show how false, and in fact the lies produced by the USA Ukrainian Embassy during such a tragedy, not just the expert want-to-bes seeking TV time before their make-up runs under the warm lights. Our State Dept and our Ukrainian children playing diplomats is as much at fault as any Higgins “Hanger-ons” in their mockery of real data and real photo images. This should be realized and reported over and over again.
Let’s put the Russian radar out for the world. The US has only 5% of the worlds population, so I’m sure at least 75% are interested in the facts. The US radar has had 2 years to be manipulated, so the early Russian data to the Dutch would probably seem more raw and vital than the ‘corrected’ US version, or cartoons that they have probably become.
As you mentioned before Mr Parry, if the USB is running the show, we have no chance at the truth.
With the 2nd anniversary in sight I also drew up some 12 cases of disinformation Ukrainian secret service SBU and people and astroturf organizations affiliated to it, spread on the net within the first days after MH17 crashed. (So this is not even a list of ALL lies and disinformation the Ukrainians issued).
Excellent reporting and analysis, as always.
The 17 July 2106 New York Times article certainly isn’t the first time the Grey Lady has had Eliot Higgins’ junk in its mouth.
The NYT has loudly hailed Eliot Higgins as an “expert” since the 2013 chemical attack in Syria, even though Higgins assertions Syria and Ukraine have repeatedly been debunked.
Last May 2015, an NYT article by professional stenographer Michael R. Gordon breathlessly claimed that “independent experts have operated like digital Sherlock Holmeses”, and he praised the Atlantic Council propaganda document co-authored by Higgins and former American ambassador to Ukraine John E. Herbst as an “independent report”.
In reality, there is nothing “independent” about either the Atlantic Council or Higgins and Bellingcat.
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’s May 2015 “”report” claiming that Russia supplied a Buk missile that shot down MH-17 is based on a single reference to a November 2014 “report” by Higgins titled “MH-17: Source of the Separatist’s Buk”.
Higgins’ 2014 claim of “undeniable evidence” became the Atlantic Council’s 2015 claim that “pieces of evidence create an undeniable and publicly accessible record”.
The Atlantic Council used video of Higgins and Michael Usher from the Australian “60 Minutes” program “MH-17: An Investigation” to promote the report.
This is the way anti-Russian propaganda works, especially at the New York Times.
In addition to numerous articles highlighting the faux “independent citizen journalists” at Bellingcat, editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal has turned the NYT op-ed pages into a megaphone for Atlantic Council propaganda on Ukraine.
A March 15, 2015 op-ed piece on Ukraine was authored by Herbst and Hans Binnendijk, former Senior Director for Defense Policy at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, and member on the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Advisors Group.
A June 9, 2015 op-ed decrying “Putin’s warlords” in eastern Ukraine was written by Adrian Karatnycky, a Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Relations Program, and former President and Executive Director of Freedom House (1993-2004) focused on instigating regime change in Belarus, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia.
George Soros has worked closely with the Freedom House, USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy (now doing work formerly assigned to the CIA), the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and the Albert Einstein Institute to initiate a series of color revolutions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia following the engineered collapse of the Soviet Union.
Karatnycky advertises himself as a “leading authority on Ukraine who has worked on-the-ground with the country’s leading policy reformers since the late 1980s”. He manages the Myrmidon Group, “a consultancy with a representation in Kyiv that works with investors and corporations seeking entry into the complex but lucrative emerging markets of Ukraine and Eastern Europe”.
In addition, Karatnycky is on the Board of Directors of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Initiative, an organization that works in partnership with the Mohyla Academy in Kyiv. The Chairman of the Board of Ukrainian Jewish Encounter, James C. Temerty, a member of the Advisory Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. A Chairman of Northland Power, a major Canadian power company, Temerty also serves as Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Business School at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
Mohyla Academy, an all-too-eager recipients of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) cash that poured into Ukraine in March 2014 after the coup d’etat in Kiev, operates the Stopfake propaganda website. Registered in Ukraine on March 2, 2014 and allied with Bellingcat, Stopfake uses the same faux fact-check disinformation strategy that Eliot Higgins employs.
In June 2015, an Atlantic Council / Ukrainian Jewish Encounter joint delegation headed by headed by Herbst, Karatnycky, and Temerty met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. According to the Ukrainian government website, the parties discussed “cooperation in countering Russian propaganda, which is particularly dangerous part of the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine, as well as the entire free world and civilized relations between states.” It is not known whether the group discussed their New York Times op-ed bona fides, but pretty much everybody still has Higgins’ junk in their mouths.
What still seems lacking in the analysis in this tragedy is if the missile was fired intentionally or a really bad mistake. Since no one seems to be claiming responsibility, then firing it was intentional to invoke some response from some state for some goal. Knowing this exact knowledge, of who fired it, would certainly seem to help with the investigation. You can bet the US govt knows and most likely Putin too, so it becomes propaganda to spawn all kinds of reaction by people everywhere. If this was indeed the intent then all those lives lost need some sort of justice instead of a lot of ill advised speculation. Time for the govt to come forward, all of them!
As usual, Mr. Parry anticipated my own observation. If those “wonks” are so interested in getting to the truth, why didn’t they ask about Kerry’s tight lip-glue? But of course that name didn’t even show up in the article.
Back in 2014 the RT website said the exact same thing – Ukraine’s pictures had been altered. Again, it’s quite curious that the Wonks who are so urgent to get at the truth didn’t put those pictures though their magic software.
Even I, here in Nowhere, Indiana can imagine why part of the Russian picture could have been sharper. It’s routine for Big Powers to degrade the satellite images they publish so as to keep secure the real capabilities of their spy satellites. So it’s easy for me to imagine the picture the Russians eventually gave out was a compromise between the politicians and the military – the BUK images were not blurred or only partially so, but the rest of the photograph got the full treatment. In my very limited work with pictures, I’ve found it’s really easy to fuzz images. I’ve never been able to do the reverse – to get something from an image which simply isn’t there.
Google Earth imagery dated 16 July 2014 showed a large military vehicle parked exactly at the place marked on the dog leg of the road in the right side of the first image.
The coordinates were 47°58’59.20″N 38°27’7.65″E. This location is on the northern edge of the area that Alamz Antey, the makers of the Buk system, identified as a probable launch area based on the distribution pattern of shrapnel on the right side of the nose of MH17 and the charactertistics of the Buk missile.
Google have since removed this image from their archive. The images dated immediately before and after are still present.
Did anyone save the image somewhere whilst it was up?
The 16.7.2014 imagery of that site is still there on Google Earth showing some not large but small darkish colored thing standing there at the same site as a military vehicle was supposedy standing on the 17.7 Russian satellite image.
Also there is something small in the field. Reconnaissance? ;-)
I have watched this imagery for some months, but never saw that large vehicle…
Newsweek is competing with the New York Times for status as the Bellingcat-Atlantic Council propaganda press office.
On 17 July Newsweek published verbatim a self-congratulatory screed by Eliot Higgins that had first appeared on 13 July on the Atlantic Council website
Self-proclaimed “digital detective” Higgins effusively praised his “colleagues” at the Atlantic Council.
The feeling appears to be mutual. The Atlantic Council just can’t stop flogging its “partner” Higgins.
It’s one big circle jerk.
In fact, Higgins was listed as a Reseach Associate of the Department of War Studies at King’s College, and was principal co-author of the May 2015 Atlantic Council “report” on Ukraine.
Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of Programs and Strategy at the Atlantic Council, a co-author with Higgins of the report, effusively praised Higgins’ effort to bolster anti-Russian propaganda:
Wilson stated, “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 Atlantic Council video presentation 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” are a video depicting a Buk missile launcher and a set of geolocation coordinates that 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.
Higgins and the Atlantic Council are working in support of the Pentagon and Western intelligence’s “hybrid war” against Russia.
The laudatory bio of Higgins on the Kings College website specifically acknowledges his service to the Atlantic Council:
“an award winning investigative journalist and publishes the work of an international alliance of fellow investigators using freely available online information. He has helped inaugurate open-source and social media investigations by trawling through vast amounts of data uploaded constantly on to the web and social media sites. His inquiries have revealed extraordinary findings, including linking the Buk used to down flight MH17 to Russia, uncovering details about the August 21st 2013 Sarin attacks in Damascus, and evidencing the involvement of the Russian military in the Ukrainian conflict. Recently he has worked with the Atlantic Council on the report “Hiding in Plain Sight”, which used open source information to detail Russia’s military involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.”
While it honors Higgins’ enthusiastic “trawling”, King’s College curiously neglects to mention that Higgins’ “findings” on the Syian sarin attacks were thoroughly debunked.
King’s College also curiously neglects to mention the fact that Higgins, now listed as a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s “Future Europe Initiative”, was principal co-author of the April 2016 Atlantic Council “report” on Syria.
The report’s other key author was John E. Herbst, United States Ambassador to Ukraine from September 2003 to May 2006 (the period that became known as the Orange Revolution) and Director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.
Other report authors include Frederic C. Hof, who served as Special Adviser on Syrian political transition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012. Hof was previously the Special Coordinator for Regional Affairs in the US Department of State’s Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, where he advised Special Envoy George Mitchel. Hof had been a Resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East since November 2012, and assumed the position as Director in May 2016.
There is no daylight between the Atlantic Council’s “regime change” initiatives and the efforts of Higgins and Bellingcat.
It’s a pretty nice gig for faux “citizen investigative journalist” Higgins. And “fun” as hell.
The digital newsfeeds are all abuzz!
Google “New Generation of Digital Detectives” and you’ll get lots of hits for Eliot Higgins’ paean to Bellingcat’s use of user generated content and online tools.
On 13 July 2016, the Atlantic Council published first published the piece.
On 15 July 2016, StopFake in Kiev published the piece.
On 17 July 2016, Newsweek published the piece.
By then, everybody was posting and Tweeting and whatever else it is that they do when they’re not playing Pokemon, generating lots and lots and lots of new hits for Higgins, because he’s really good at using user generated content.
However, one of these things was not like the others.
One of these things was not the same.
Turns out that the phrase “new generation of digital detectives” was a little piece of user generated content generated by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) back in Fall 2008 https://www.uab.edu/uabmagazine/fall2010/features/digital
Heck, it even turns out that UAB has an actual Computer Forensics Lab with real experts.
As usual, Higgins was just “using” their content.
Perhaps to their credit, Newsweek did not publish the piece with Higgins’ self-pleasuring “digital detectives” title. Maybe the “journalists” at Newsweek aren’t quite as “independent” as the Sherlocks at Bellingcat. Maybe they also know how to use that Google thingy to find user generated content. Maybe they simply wanted to “help” keep Higgins “honest”.
One of the so called experts and co-author of the Armscontrolwonk “report”, Melissa Hanham is also a contributing writer at the Bellingcat blog.
Another reason this so called report can hardly be taken seriously is the fact that the so called “experts” as Higgins described them is the fact that they were trained on using the highly sophisticated software Tungstene less than three months ago.
“Earlier this year, an interim JIT report revealed how cozy the relationship had grown between the SBU and especially the Dutch and Australian investigators who have had long stints in Kiev, getting fed “evidence” by the SBU, and depending on the Ukrainian host’s hospitality.”
It’s not that cozy as it seems.
After testifying for the first time in an international court, Detective Superintendent Andrew Donoghoe, the senior Australian policeman in the international MH17 investigation, said a “tougher standard than the DSB report” is required before the criminal investigation can identify the weapon which brought the aircraft down, or pinpoint the perpetrators. Their criminal investigation will continue into 2016, Donoghoe told the Victorian Coroners Court (lead image) on Tuesday morning. He and other international investigators are unconvinced by reports from the US and Ukrainian governments, and by the DSB, of a Buk missile firing. “Dutch prosecutors require conclusive evidence on other types of missile,” Donoghoe said, intimating that “initial information that the aircraft was shot down by a [Buk] surface to air missile” did not meet the Australian or international standard of evidence.
Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat are joined by Jeffrey Lewis in continuing collusion with the Atlantic Council while having lots of “fun” with digital images.
Back on 31 May 2015, Eliot Higgins blogged on “How to Find Historical Imagery of Russia’s Faked Satellite Photos”. The Bellingcat report the Bellingcat report made frequent reference to FotoForensics, a tool for analyzing digital data.
The Bellingcat report prompted an immediate critical response from computer forensics expert Dr. Neal Krawetz, the founder of FotoForensics. Krawetz founded Hacker Factor Solutions in 2002, specializing in non-traditional computer forensics, online profiling, networking, and computer security. In 2012, he started FotoForensics, an online service for digital photo analysis.
Rejecting Bellingcat’s misuse of Error Level Analysis (ELA) using the FotoForensics tool, Krawetz tersely commented on his Hacker Factor account on Twitter: “chalk this up as a ‘how to not do image analysis'” https://twitter.com/hackerfactor/status/605227247482470400
On 04 June 2015, German paper Spiegel Online published an interview Jens Kriese, a researcher and professional image forensics expert. Kriese refuted Higgins and his “Bellingcat research group’s” accusations. Agreeing with Krawetz, Kriese criticized Higgins’ misuse of ELA: “What Bellingcat is doing is nothing more than reading tea leaves. Error Level Analysis is a method used by hobbyists.”
These criticisms from real digital forensic experts were ignored by Higgins, Bellingcat, and most mainstream media.
A year later, on May 29 2016, Higgins announced on Twitter that he was “running various #MH17 images through the Tungstene imagery analysis software to detect signs of fakery”.
Tungstène, a digital analysis tool that incorporates a range of filters and functions, was developed by French computer scientist Roger Cozien in 2012. Tungstène has been used by the Ministry of Defence (Ministère de la Défense), an active member of NATO and European Defence Community, as well as the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency headquartered in Paris. Image analysis with Tungstène tool again requires considerable technical expertise.
Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey (MIIM) in California, best buddy of Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Aaron Stein, is no more expert in image analysis than the faux “citizen investigative journalists” at Bellingcat.
In an earlier Twitter exchange on 22 April 2016, Bellingcat contributor Veli-Pekka Kivimäki asked if Lewis was “using Tungstene now”. Lewis exclaimed in response that it was “really fun running photos through it”.
Exposed in 2015 for Higgins’ amateurish misuse of the FotoForensics image analysis tool and Bellingcat’s utter lack of expertise in digital forensics, the team at Bellingcat made a slight tactical shift for 2016.
Now Bellingcat misuses the more elaborate Tungstène tool and employs “expert” pimps like Lewis to pump the propaganda for the pleasure of the Atlantic Council. What could be more “fun”?
Also interesting is the fact that Higgins is calling “us”, an international group of dissident citizen-investigators, liars because we – especially Michael Kobs – calculated his launch site away.
After pressure from citizen-investigator Marcel from whathappenedtoflightmh17.com on Bellingcat and from them on the launch plume photographer, last month this man released the metadata of photos he had made from the burning remains of the wreckage. With this smoke plume the windspeed at the site could be established, and with this windspeed the distance traveled by the alleged launch plume on the photos could be calculated.
It appeared the provisory calculations done by Michael Kobs last year (issued on my blog) proved right: the white plume had an origin far more to the east than the black smoke AND originated from the back yardens of people living at the west of Pervomais’ke village.
Exit launchplume with straight forward calculations. Exit the story of the burnt field.
Only two months ago some coworker of Bcat name @Lena_from_Kiev let go some remarks about a story they were working on regarding the plume picture, which they would publish in July. Higgins said experts would verify these photos and the ones from Paris Match (again). I haven’t seen it in their latest report.
I am anxious to know what specific launch site JIT is gonna reveal now. As we know they suddenly had delay. The expectation was they would come up with the Bellingcat/Ukraine-at-war/Oliphant burnt field, as they performed some soil sampling there. But the new results are putting this on shaky grounds.
However, the DSB report disregarded the plume pics to establish a launch site, for as they calculated an entire area instead of mentioning a specific spot. Big question is: Will JIT use the Bellingcat field anyway, without mentioning the plume photos – as DSB did – and against physics and mathematics?