A Crisis in Intelligence: Unthinkable Consequences of Outsourcing U.S. Intel (Part 3)

Privatized intelligence operations have become a favored practice of the U.S. and other Western governments, but the tactics of so-called spies for hire are often unethical and possibly illegal, explains George Eliason. (Read part one here. Part two here.)

By George Eliason

Decades ago, philosopher Marshall McLuhan predicted a future world war fought using information. While World War I and World War II were waged using armies and mobilized economies, “World War III [will be] a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation,” McLuhan said, a prophecy included in his 1970 book of reflections, Culture Is Our Business.

We are now seeing this information war play out in real time. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s indictment on Friday of 13 Russian nationals who allegedly attempted to “sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election” can be seen as the culmination of the intelligence community’s efforts to ferret out trolls engaging in “Information Operations” against the United States. But in some cases, this may be the product of the West’s own Information Operations – often utilizing private “intelligence” companies, or “spies for hire.”

In parts one and two of this series, we looked at the private companies serving the deep state. We have seen how the top levels of the deep state interact with smaller companies and individual actors.

Now let’s look at the unimaginable.

This is the world the predators that the government helped create and sustains through contract work thrive in.

Unlawful Combatants in the Hybrid War

Unmasking the shadowy PropOrNot outfit was a small part of showing how immoral people are using gray areas in the law to harass law-abiding citizens and strip them of their rights, income, and right to a free press through McCarthyite smear tactics. Because they haven’t been challenged, they have no problem crossing the line into criminality.

What alternative media outlets that have been attacked by criminal groups like PropOrNot don’t know is there are laws and policies in place that protect civilians, journalists, and publications.

What is needed to stop the criminal actions of the Russian troll hunters is to demand current laws are enforced and that Congress closes up the remaining gray areas of law and policy spies for hire are exploiting to destroy lives.

As you read this, understand there are no caveats. What’s needed is for people who are willing to stand up for themselves and each other to do so. Legal action is what’s needed. If Congress won’t provide more protections or the laws that are in place won’t be upheld, lawsuits are the first line of defense against this onslaught. Violence will only insulate the criminals from responsibility for their crimes.

When spies for hire attack civilians or suppress their free speech rights by mounting Information Operations against civilians, they are crossing the line into illegality.

In part two, inherently governmental actions were defined as governing, policing, policy, military activity, and intelligence work. This was further defined as activities requiring government personnel to be legitimate. When any of these activities are done extra-legally, the protections given civilians and government authorities under the law are stripped too.

According to the Federal Register, “[i]t is the responsibility of the combatant commander to ensure that the private security contract mission statements do not authorize the performance of any inherently Governmental military functions, such as preemptive attacks, or any other types of attacks. Otherwise, civilians who accompany the U.S. Armed Forces lose their law of war protections from direct attack if and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.”

In terms of international law, guidelines in this area are set out by the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, which was prepared by an international group of experts on behalf of NATO. This document spells out:

  • Cyber and online operations responsibility
  • Cyber and online authority
  • Cyber and online restrictions
  • Legalities, legal limits, and defines terrorist operations by laying the groundwork for legal action

According to Rule 26.9 of the Tallinn Manual, “Virtual Online communities and people expressing opinions do not qualify as combatants.”

It is important to note that cyber and online operations are both parts of this in the definitions of legal and illegal target choices. The manual defines lawful and unlawful combatants by what they are doing or attempting to do as well as their official authority to do so.

Tallinn Manual rules that are applicable to the spies for hire attacking civilians were designed to set rules for official military actions. The reason for their applicability in this situation is simple. When unlawful combatants attack civilians, civilians have the right to defend themselves and their properties. Civilians also have a right to restitution for damages.

Rule 30 of the Tallinn Manual defines a cyber attack as a non-kinetic attack reasonably expected to cause damage or death to persons resulting from the attack. If the attacker mistakenly calls civilians lawful targets, the attack on civilians still occurred. It is a crime. This is an important consideration considering how interconnected the internet has made people.

The only part that requires further definition is the word damage. People’s ability to make income can be damaged. Reputations can be irrevocably damaged.

Tallinn Manual Rule 33 states: “If there is doubt to the status of a person, that person is to be considered a civilian and not targetable.”

This is very important going forward. It shifts the burden of responsibility to the attacker for any damages done to people. If the attacker cannot meet the legal definition of status and show governmental authorization, then it is unlawful.

According to Rule 35.5, “Gathering information for the military makes you a combatant. Journalists are prohibited targets. Once an attack is made, the retribution is legal and does not necessarily need to be in kind. A cyber attack can be met with conventional weapons.”

Rule 35.5 means that all the corporations, companies, and “one man intel operations” working outside the direct oversight of Blue Badge ODNI agency supervisors against civilians are acting as terrorists.

Rule 41 describes cyber weapons broadly as the means to carry out cyber war by use, or intended use of cyber “munitions” designed to cause damage, destruction, or death to its targets. The breadth of the rule is required because of the wide array of possible attacks through cyber means.

Spies for hire can use the software legally on U.S. citizens that may have to be labeled munitions when they export it to client states that also use it on U.S. citizens labeled “Russian trolls.” Pentagon contractors are developing lethal cyber weapons. Do you think only the military will have access to it under the current laws?

Thinking the Unthinkable

First, let’s establish that it’s common for spies for hire to assume they can take on inherently government authority and powers. Andrew Weisburd started working with the Ukrainian government publicly in January 2015, just as they announced their IO army and Myrotvorets (PeaceKeeper) which bore his signature Russian troll hunter methodology early on. Myrotvorets will become important later in the article.

According to Weisburd‘s February 26, 2015 definition of what he is doing: “I‘m just trying to do my part to help make bad things happen to bad people who are in the service of the Kremlin. And for the record, I’m not an army of one. I’m more like a one-man intelligence service.”

Weisburd’s statement and his actions over the last two decades put him squarely in the realm of unlawful combatant. But does he know what he is doing is illegal?

How about Bellingcat’s principal, Eliot Higgins, or Joel Harding?

Joel Harding developed Ukraine’s official Information Policy in 2015. He developed a cyber containment strategy for Russian media that has to be the most effective ever mounted. Crowd the Russian media out of the world’s mainstream and keep them talking amongst themselves while social media, internet, and TV news barriers were being erected to control the news and information Ukrainians see and think about.

Because of this Russians have been kept from influencing Ukrainian media, news, or people through social media this entire time.

What do people like Joel Harding, Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, or Eliot Higgins think about your rights? Your worth?

As Harding once wrote in regards to a question about the world’s billion-plus Muslims who do not condone violence, “The vast majority of peaceful people are irrelevant because they did not influence or stop those who committed those acts of atrocity.”

It is this type of absolutist, black-and-white thinking, which dismisses the “the vast majority of peaceful people” as “irrelevant,” that we are dealing with in the spies-for-hire community.

Spies for hire assume authority that falls under inherently government responsibilities. They consider most of the population to be insignificant, which is why they have no problems turning Americans into “Russian agents” and line items on their invoice.

Once you’ve made it on to their radar, you might find yourself receiving threatening messages such as this one that I received from Joel Harding:

“It’s been fun following you!” he wrote. “I hope you’re having fun in Donbas. So sorry NovoRossiya is being dissolved. http://toinformistoinfluence.com/2014/10/12/novorossiya-fail/
I’ve been looking forward to you publishing some more articles. But I’m curious, two months and nothing? Did you change names?”

He continued: “I know your bandwidth there is limited, this is probably costing you many Russian rubles. Oh yeah, I hear they don’t take Ukrainian Hryvnia. The good news is that Luhansk and Donetsk will both remain with Ukraine, Russia can’t afford it.”

“By the time you return to the West, I should be in Kyiv, waiting for you,” he concluded. “You have a date with the SBU.”

The SBU is the Security Service of Ukraine, the main law-enforcement agency in the area of counterintelligence activity, which has been implicated in torture.

Harding, like every other person working for the Ukrainian government that is attacking U.S. and Western journalists, websites, and readers who leave comments on social media are not the volunteers or “concerned citizens” they claim to be.

This is important to establish because according to the Tallinn Manual, being volunteers excludes you from responsibility for some aspects of an illegal combatant activity.

If Harding never received a penny from the Ukrainian government directly (he was hired), he was still paid through the company he advertises on his website. He used to have a contact form that bragged about how they would destroy your corporate competition using these means and that they were state to state capable.

Harding helped NATO STRATCOM Centres of Excellence (COE) Latvia off the ground at the same time he was helping set up the Ukrainian Information Ministry. He wrote Ukraine’s Information Policy in 2015-2016. Harding’s IOTA Global, which offers services in “PsyOps, Media Operations, Key Leader Engagement and CIMIC as well as Operational Planning, Target Audience Analysis and Measurement of Effect” according to its LinkedIn profile, announced they were working with both STRATCOM COE and the Ukrainian government. If you look at the comments, the COE leadership appear to be gushing with emotion.

“We are delighted to have been working with the NATO Centre of Excellence for Strategic Communication, Latvia, (2015) in delivering capacity building training, in Kiev, to representatives from the Ukrainian government. Ukraine is faced with a number of challenging issues, not least the ongoing territorial dispute with Russia,” according to one comment. “IOTA Global and its partner company, SCL Ltd, were contracted by the Canadian Government earlier this year to assist the NATO COE in its vital work. This included the delivery of a 9-week intensive Target Audience Analysis course, using the Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDi) advanced TAA methodology (TAA), to train 20 students from 11 NATO nations.”

This is important because, for the last three years, Harding has been working to destroy news and websites that disturb his narrative building and information operations. GlobalResearch.ca has been an ongoing focus for him and the other unlawful combatants named here the entire time.

Joel Harding harnessed practitioners, companies, countries, and NATO in his fight to take down GlobalResearch.ca

“GlobalResearch.ca,” Harding wrote on his blog. “Remember that name, put it on your ‘bad’ list and spread the word. They are despicable, vile, the opposite of journalists.”

According to the Globe and Mail, NATO Center of Excellence for Strategic Communication, Latvia is going after GlobalResearch.ca and their reasoning parrots Joel Harding’s.

“At its headquarters in Riga, StratCom researchers consider globalresearch.ca to be a link in a network that reposts such stories,” according to the Globe and Mail article. Donara Barojan, who does digital forensic research for the NATO COE claimed that Global Research uses techniques to boost stories’ Google ranking “and create the illusion of multisource verification.” She admitted though that they do not have proof that Global Research is connected to any government.

This focus and constant barrage have taken its toll on www.globalresearch.ca because the same people who are attacking them are trusted fact check sources for Google, which affects the site’s ranking.

This is a clear-cut case of unlawful combatants steering the ship at NATO to settle imagined grievances. Spies for hire committing illegal actions are also teaching NATO, DOD, ODNI agencies, and foreign counterparts how to go about their business. They are giving them the criteria to find enemies and engage them.

On its own, or with other websites, Global Research has the ability to counter this with a lawsuit. The apparent attack by NATO COE, Latvia is at the instigation of Joel Harding. A lawsuit could include him, Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, Hamilton 68 Dashboard, Bellingcat, the Canadian government, as well as others involved including NATO and every country with a part in the NATO Center of Excellence.

Spies for Hire Attack Teenagers

Are terrorists allowed to put American kids on their kill lists? If they are, watch out! Are your kids are next?

Joel Harding wrote the information policy for Ukraine. Myrotvorets is what it led to right away. This is the first product of the information policy, Ukraine’s infamous kill site. Ukraine maintains the right to kill anyone on listed on it, anywhere in the world, any time they choose to. And the Ukrainians use this to find and murder people who talk, post article links in social media, or write articles they don’t like.

Andrew Weisburd started his kremlintrolls.com website at the same time Myrotvorets came online. He taught the Ukrainians how to catch entire networks so they could be put on the list.

Eliot Higgins and Aric Toler of Bellingcat taught the Ukrainians to find the people in the networks that are on the kill list at Myrotvorets.

Ronnie Miller was 17 years old when he was put on this list. He’s never been to Ukraine before. Three out of four of these unlawful combatants are Americans working for a foreign country that is attacking Americans in United States!

Miller was interviewed by a couple websites about this. Curiously, it never reached mainstream news. One question out of Ronnie Miller’s interview with Donbass News Agency particularly stands out:

DONi: Do you feel safe in your own nation expressing your views about Donbass?

Ronnie Miller: This nation of mine preaches for freedom of the press, information, and the ability to formulate an opinion. What I support isn’t a threat to National Security. What Islamic extremists preach, is. I don’t feel safe, nor threatened. It is most definite that I am being watched or on a list of some sort. However, I am in no threat of being taken away or bribed to stay quiet.

It sounds like Ronnie Miller didn’t skip civics class and is expecting his government to honor Constitutional protections.

Instead of protecting its citizens, the U.S. government is sending weapons and instructors to the government that is putting American citizens on kill lists.

Ron Miller should consider a lawsuit against the illegal spies for hire who put him – whether directly or indirectly – on a kill list with a foreign government.

Here’s a fun fact. If you are out driving a car without insurance in a state that requires it and you get hit- it is still your fault. You weren’t supposed to be there. The spies for hire are not supposed to be able to call American kids “terrorists.” Since the UWC and UCCA both fund Myrotvorets through donations and supplied the nationalist ideology that wants to kill 17-year-old Americans, they could be sued too.

Previously, we discussed the method of operation that is used, which is staying within the developed narrative of “Russia will attack! Russia is attacking! Russia has attacked!”

What happens when spies for hire fall out of the narrative or need to get rid of each other? There is only so much of the pie to go around.

The images above and below are proof that the methodology behind the Hamilton 68 Dashboard – which purports to track Kremlin propaganda online – is severely flawed. The decidedly anti-Kremlin Bellingcat was flagged by Hamilton 68 as pro-Kremlin, indicating amusing levels of information fratricide among Bellingcat principals and Andrew Weisburd, Clint Watts, J.M. Berger, and Michael Chertoff.

Weisburd knows he needs to clear it up, try to get the egg off his face now that he’s been exposed publicly, and get the story back on point.

Eliot Higgins’ claim to fame was pronouncing Syria’s president Assad guilty of gassing his own people. The U.S. government that wants to oust Assad can’t use his story, however, because it has no facts to back it up. The U.S. government’s official position is that there is no proof.

The screenshot above is mindblowing to me. Andrew Weisburd once again admitting that his Russians aren’t Russian at all. He’s trying to cover up for his Hamilton 68 Dashboard only set on catching tweets from a few accounts that aren’t even trolls.

Both Weisburd and Higgins (British national) agree that award-winning journalist Vannessa Beeley, who reports from Syria for 21st Century Wire must be stopped before:

  • She destroys their narrative. They cannot prove Assad used gas on the Syrian people. But if she is allowed to continue, the proofs from Syria that she is providing might go mainstream soon. Beeley has been at the forefront of the story showing the ties between the White Hats and ISIS.
  • She might influence policy people around American president Donald Trump and change Syria policy.

What is clear is Andrew Weisburd will try to bring this up to congressional representatives who listen to him and further destroy civil rights and the First Amendment. Eliot Higgins cannot survive being wrong about the on the ground realities in regions he is supposed to be an expert on for too much longer.

The spies for hire are purposing an Information Operation to rope in U.S. policy at the executive level and rescue Donald Trump and the State Department from any facts that might get in the way of their narrative. Left to their own, they may succeed.

Vannessa Beeley’s reputation as a journalist and ability to gain access to do her work and disseminate the reports she does depends on her credibility. People who are trying to usurp the authority of government are declaring her to be an Information Operations agent. This is beyond slander.

The U.S. federal government could not get away with doing this – literally working to get a journalist censored.

However, spies for hire like Clint Watts, Andrew Weisburd, Jonathon Morgan, JM Berger, the Hamilton 68 Dashboard, the German Marshall Fund of the USA, The Alliance for Securing Democracy, Michael Chertoff, Eliot Higgins, Aric Toler, Bellingcat, The DFR Lab, Atlantic Council, UWC, and the UCCA can be enlisted to brand Vanessa Beeley as a traitor to the United Kingdom and a foreign agent.

Yet, these are all in violation of Tallinn Rule 33 and 35A which prohibit targeting people you can’t identify clearly and attacking journalists. Targeting Beeley is a criminal act on their part.

Once again the spies for hire have usurped government powers illegally.

Unconventional Warfare

If you look at Weisburd’s @webradius Russian Influence Spy Ring, it is populated by tens of thousands of people living in the United States who voted against Hillary Clinton.

This is what spies for hire do for partisan politics, money, or the company they work for. For some, nothing more than their own warped sense of satisfaction watching another human beings life twist in the wind. Many are ultra-nationalist and if you don’t agree with them, you will be made an enemy of the state.  Malignant parts of the deep state getting out of hand.

I’ve given people that play in the private sector, government, and policy a lot of exposure because they attack innocent people, journalists, and news and opinion websites.

From 2015, “Peppy Escobar and Steven Lendman are both “active measures” agents for writing about John Kerry, the State Department, RT bashing, and of course Ukraine. Blog Talk Radio host Dr. Rick Staggenborg both a veteran an d peace activist is labeled a Russian propagandist.

Professor Michel Chossudovsky and every journalist and activist who publishes at GlobalResearch.ca is on the the list including Paul Craig Roberts and Robert Parry, who are considered Russian active measures agents in the Ukraine war and every “agendized news event” they write on. Tyler Durden, connected writers and journalists are Russian propagandists. Deena Stryker, an editor at OpEdNews is noted because of her PressTV interview for saying the US is engaged in a propaganda war.

All conspiracies aside it wouldn’t feel right without adding Alex Jones and Michael Rivero. Harding developed what seems to be a fixation about Jones and company a few years back. It’s not that he hates Jones’ news sites any more than the others, but it is personal. Joel Harding’s favorite nephew rates Jones take on international events as more credible than what Harding has to say.

After writing my 5th or 6th article about what Weisburd, Watts, and Harding were doing, Harding and his growing work group were considering what to do about me. The friend he mentions is Andrew Weisburd who I had just exposed planning to attack a major opinion site.

“I still engage with Pro-Russian Trolls on a daily basis,” Harding wrote on his blog in November 2015.  “I’ve had reporters write bad stories about me on Russian Proxy ‘News’ sites. I currently have a vehemently rabid anti-Western, especially anti-American, troll trying to smear a group of Russian troll chasers I work with. He also published several stories blaming us for all his woes.”

He continued: “The difference is I have been professionally trained on how to mess up somebody’s life, permanently and forever.  Yeah, we were trained in Special Forces more on weapons, explosives, communications, intelligence, operations, tactics, and medicine, but being trained in Unconventional Warfare does give one an advantage when one desires to get nasty.”

Imagine being so brazen you could publish that threat on a public website. Andreas Umland, who is supposed to be a leading academic, didn’t think it was wrong to republish that threat on my life on his own blog.

The intelligence community cannot police itself anymore. It is out of control. If you don’t see a clear and present danger it’s because you are part of the problem that needs to be cleaned up.

My goal as a journalist is and has always been to ensure that the facts get out from Donbass. I think I’ve done that and will continue to do so. I am a firm believer that only the facts and realities of a situation can help. If you know the facts about what is going on in Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) you won’t support the deviant and murderous Ukrainian Nationalist politic that Andreas Umland does. Unless of course you think it’s okay to murder 17 year old Americans, destroy freedom, justice, and the free press. And perhaps like Umland, you think it’s okay to murder me.

My goal is to do my part and help America reestablish her commitment to justice for all the people, law, and civility.  I hope I’m doing that. But don’t get up and react for me. If you don’t do it for you, there is no future left to worry about.

George Eliason is an American journalist who lives and works in the Donbass region of Ukraine.




Unpacking the Shadowy Outfit Behind 2017’s Biggest Fake News Story

In late 2016, about 200 websites – including Consortiumnews.com – were identified as “Russian propaganda outlets” by the dubious website PropOrNot, hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. Now, journalist George Eliason peels back some of that anonymity in this article originally posted at Washington’s Blog.

Editor’s note: In November 2016, Consortiumnews.com was listed with about 200 other websites at the shadowy “PropOrNot” website, which was claiming to serve as a watchdog against undue “Russian influence” in the United States. The PropOrNot blacklist was elevated by the Washington Post as a credible source, despite the fact that the neo-McCarthyites who compiled the list hid behind a cloak of anonymity. As an article at Consortiumnews explained at the time, the Post granted PropOrNot anonymity “to smear journalists who don’t march in lockstep with official pronouncements from the State Department or some other impeccable fount of never-to-be-questioned truth.”

Now, George Eliason, an American journalist living in Ukraine, has published an article at Washington’s Blog – one of the other 200 blacklisted websites – examining the cast of characters who may be behind the PropOrNot endeavor. As explained in a disclaimer at the original article at Washington’s Blog: “A leading cybersecurity expert has publicly said that Mr. Eliason’s research as presented in this article does not violate the law. Washington’s Blog does not express an opinion about whether or not the claims set forth in this article are accurate or not. Make up your own mind.”

By George Eliason

A little over a year ago, the deep state graced the world with PropOrNot. Thanks to them, 2017 became the year of fake news. Every news website and opinion column now had the potential to be linked to the Steele dossier and Trump collusion with Russia. Every journalist was either “with us or against us.” Anyone who challenged the Russiagate narrative became Russia’s trolls.

Fortunately for the free world, the anonymous group known as PropOrNot that tried to “out” every website as a potential Russian colluder, in the end only implicated themselves. Turnabout is fair play and that’s always the fun part, isn’t it? With that in mind, I know the dogs are going to howl this evening over this one.

The damage PropOrNot did to scores of news and opinions websites in late 2016-2017 provides the basis of a massive civil suit. I mean huge, as in the potential is there for a tobacco company-sized class-action sized lawsuit. I can say that because I know a lot about a number of entities that are involved and the enormous amount of money behind them.

How serious is this? In 2016, a $10,000 reward was put out for the identities of PropOrNot players. No one has claimed it yet, and now, I guess no one will. There are times in your life that taking a stand has a cost. To make sure the story gets out and is taken seriously, this is one of those times.

In this article, you’ll meet some of the people staffing PropOrNot. You’ll meet the people and publications that provide their expenses and cover the logistics. You’ll meet a few of the deep state players. We’ll deal with them very soon. They need to see this as the warning shot over the bow and start playing nice with regular people. After that, you’ll meet the NGOs that are funding and orchestrating all of it. How am I doing so far?

The image above is the clincher or game winner that supplies the necessary proof up front and the direct path to PropOrNot. This was a passive scan of Propornot.com showing the administrative dashboard belongs to the InterpreterMag.com as shown on the left of the image. On the right, it shows that uploads to Propornot.com come from InterpreterMag.com and is a product of that publication.

Now we have the first layer of PropOrNot and our first four contestants. We have a slew of new media organizations that are influenced by, or feeding PropOrNot. Remember, fake news got off the ground and got its wings because of the attention this website received from the Washington Post in Dec. 2016.

At the Interpreter Mag level, here are the people:

  • Michael Weiss is the Editor-in-Chief at the InterpreterMag.com. According to his Linkd profile, he is also a National Security Analyst for CNN since July 2017 as well as an Investigative Reporter for International Affairs for CNN since April 2017. He has been a contributor there since 2015. He has been a Senior Editor at The Daily Beast since June 2015.
  • Catherine A. Fitzpatrick is a Russian translator and analyst for the Interpreter. She has worked as an editor for EurasiaNet.org and the former Cold War project funded by the CIA, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
  • Pierre Vaux is an analyst and translator for the Interpreter. He’s also an intern. He is a contributor to the Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, RFE/RL and Left Foot Forward and works at Dataminr Inc.
  • James Miller’s bio at the InterpreterMag.com includes Managing Editor of The Interpreter where he reports on Russia, Ukraine, and Syria. James runs the “Under The Black Flag” column at RFE/RL which provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. He is a contributor at Reuters, The Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, and other publications. He is an expert on verifying citizen journalism and has been covering developments in the Middle East, specifically Syria and Iran, since 2009. Miller also works for the U.S. Embassy in Kiev “diplo-page” the Kiev Post.

The Interpreter is a product of the Atlantic Council. The Digital Forensics Research Lab has been carrying the weight in Ukrainian-Russian affairs for the Atlantic Council. Fellows working with the Atlantic Council in this area include:

The strand that ties this crew together is they all work for Ukrainian Intelligence. If you hit the links, the ties are documented very clearly. We’ll get to that point again shortly, but let’s go further:

PropOrNot -> Atlantic Council -> Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)

Who are the BBG? The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) is an independent agency of the United States government. According to its website, its mission is to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.” Its projects include Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio y Television Marti, Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.

The BBG’s bipartisan board was eliminated and replaced with a single appointed chief executive officer as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which was passed in December 2016.

On January 1, 2016, the Interpreter became a special project of RFE/RL and under the oversight of the BBG. The Secretary of State had a seat on the board of the BBG until December 2016. Why the change?

During the 2016 election, the BBG developed a major conflict of interest. At least two BBG board members worked actively for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. These government officials were working against the president-elect after the election. It looks like it didn’t go unnoticed. In the following linked article, it shows that they should be investigated for their part in an attempted coup.

From a Nov 7, 2016, article– “Karen Kornbluh is helping refine and to get Hillary Clinton’s message out.” All of them are names to watch if Clinton wins — and key jobs at the FCC and other federal agencies are up for grabs.”

According to her bio: Karen founded the New America Foundation’s Work and Family Program and is a senior fellow for Digital Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Karen has written extensively about technology policy, women, and family policy for The Atlantic, The New York Times and The Washington Post. New York Times columnist David Brooks cited her Democracy article “Families Valued,” focused on “juggler families” as one of the best magazine articles of 2006.

Michael Kempner is the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of MWW Group, a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter, and may get a greater role if she is elected. Kempner is a member of the Public Relations Hall of Fame. Michael Kempner hired Anthony Weiner after the sexting scandal broke in 2011.

Jeff Shell, chairman of the BBG and Universal Filmed Entertainment is supporting a secondary role by being an honor roll donor to the Atlantic Council. While the BBG is supposed to be neutral it has continuously helped increase tensions in Eastern Europe. While giving to the Atlantic Council may not be illegal while in his position, currently, the Atlantic Council’s main effort is to ignite a war with Russia. This may set up a major conflict of interest.

As journalist Robert Parry wrote in October 2016, the propaganda campaign in favor of military confrontation with Russia was driven by “a consensus among the major think tanks of Official Washington, where there is near universal support for Hillary Clinton, not because they all particularly like her, but because she has signaled a return to neocon/liberal-hawk strategies.”

The people who were lining up to take senior positions in a Clinton White House believed that President Obama had been too timid in stressing the dangers of overreach and the need for restraint, especially in the Middle East, and it was time for a more hawkish approach, as embodied by Clinton.

Parry goes on to say that at the forefront of this propaganda campaign was the Atlantic Council, a think tank associated with NATO. Their main goal was “a major confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia,” Parry warned.

So, to make sense of all this, most of the people listed would have held cabinet positions in a Hillary Clinton presidency. If the Interpreter is a project of RFE/RL then the decision to go ahead with PropOrNot would have to go across their desk. That would include, possibly, then Secretary of State, John Kerry.

The unasked question of why would a U.S. Government Agency do this needs to be addressed. All the people listed above were actively working for Clinton to get her elected and throw Donald Trump’s campaign off the rails.

After the election, they were going to take care of Clinton’s “deplorables” by dissecting alternative media. I wrote about this before the election and I warned several major new sites what they could expect. I was right on the money. After she lost, it was already in motion. The deplorable media didn’t fall into a particular political pattern other than they did not promote Hillary Clinton.

The purpose of PropOrNot has been to trick people into demanding that freedom of speech be rolled back. This was/is to be done by destroying fact-based media. If you read further, the entire plan is laid out starting from 2015 when it started coming together.

These people want reality shaped on what the perceived majority (louder) group believes to be true, regardless of what the facts are. Perception based reality is only a Facebook like away from killing one person or elevating another to hero status regardless of what they have done.

That little statement about the free speech rally says it all. It’s something that would hardly be noticed unless you were looking for it because it is part of the metadata.

Now you can say it’s only a sentence and who cares? Nobody communicates through metadata do they? Wasn’t that what PropOrNot was all about? Yes, they do communicate through metadata. That’s why I look at it.

Do you see it? No? Look again. There in the metadata, at the bottom of the image is an ad for a job. Go for it and remember to mention the header. It could just as easily be hacking instructions, or a do not disturb sign. That’s why it pays to really research carefully.

The Boston ‘Free Speech’ Rally was billed by the social networks and MSM as a fascist rally. It was actually a Free Speech Rally. What they learned is that with just a little nudge, they can make you demand nationalist repression. Nice going Boston!

Hey, is this starting to sound a little conspiratorial? If it is, we need Russkie hackers with Guy Fawkes masks to make this work. They have to admit to changing international politics through hacking in 2016, belong to a foreign country, code in Russian, and use spear phishing techniques to lure people in. Let’s not forget that they also have to work for some form of Intelligence.

Most importantly, they have to work with and influence all of the people above. They will definitely impact U.S. foreign policy toward Russia. Let’s raise the stakes even more. The hackers have to answer to whoever is funding a lot of the illegal and immoral activities.

They are not even savvy enough to stay clear of outing each other. This is the Pravy Sektor hacker RUH8.  The common thread for these hackers is clear if you read the linked material on the profiles that make up these organizations. They work for Bellingcat, Informnapalm, the Atlantic Council, Ukrainian Intel, and the Diaspora.

In a follow-up article, I have reason to ask if they were given access to United States Government Top-Secret Secure Servers. I’m not kidding.

In a Euromaidan Press article dated Nov. 2, 2016, the hackers state enthusiastically “Ukrainian hackers have a rather high level of work. So the help of the USA… I don’t know, why would we need it? We have all the talent and special means for this. And I don’t think that the USA or any NATO country would make such sharp movements in international politics.”

And we have a winner. In 2016 the sharp movement in international politics was caused by…survey says….hacking!!!!

According to Donna Brazille, the Democratic Party servers were hacked multiple times and the hacking didn’t stop until December 2016. At this juncture, we should be able to agree that Seth Rich leaked the information to Wikileaks. But, now we are talking about other hacks. In the above-linked article, these hacker specifically say their favorite route is spear phishing email accounts.

In the article, you’ll also see they work directly for Ukrainian Intel. Bellingcat works directly for Ukrainian Intel and works with them and the Atlantic Council. Stopfake.org is a product of Irena Chalupa who works for RFE/RL, the Atlantic Council and the Ukrainian government. Stopfake.org works directly with them and is a product of the Ukrainian government. Crowdstrike has an ongoing relationship with Ukrainian Intel and these particular hackers. Is it possible that Crowdstrike conjured up Fancy Bear, the “hacker(s)” responsible for divulging internal Democratic Party emails that supposedly tipped the 2016 election in Trump’s favor? (“Fancy Bear,” by the way, is technically a set of tools, not a person.)

If so, this would mean that approval was given at the highest levels – presumably former Secretary of State John Kerry – for Ukrainian intelligence hackers to have access to servers inside a U.S. Government Agency because of PropOrNot and the Atlantic Council’s reliance on the hackers.

How are the Ukrainian hackers tied into PropOrNot at any level? James Miller isn’t shy about using their work. PropOrNot relies on the work of the Atlantic Council, Aric Toler, Aaron Weisburd, Clint Watts, and Joel Harding. The Ukrainian hackers work directly with InformNapalm and are the go-to resource for most of the people involved and all of the people just named.

As James Miller wrote at the Interpreter, “Below we have assessed the details of the reports from InformNapalm, and have expanded on their investigation.

Who does the Atlantic Council work for? It’s the same people who staff RFE/RL and works closely with the Ukrainian World Congress, as explained here:

“On 29 January 2016 in Washington, U.S.A., Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) President Eugene Czolij and Atlantic Council President and CEO Frederick Kempe officially signed a Memorandum of Agreement to renew the cooperation between the UWC and the Atlantic Council, which began in September 2014.

“In accordance with this Memorandum, the UWC will continue its cooperation with the Atlantic Council on implementing the “Ukraine in Europe Initiative”, which aims to galvanize international support for an independent, sovereign and territorially integral Ukraine, including Crimea. This initiative is also intended to support reforms in Ukraine and its EuroAtlantic integration, and to counter Russian disinformation.”

The Ukrainian World Congress is represented in the U.S. Congress by the Ukrainian Caucus headed up by ISIS supporter and Nazi cheerleader Marcy Kaptur. Her Ukrainian Caucus represents people with political positions that scared Adolf Hitler in WWII.

The obvious takeaway is that a lawsuit is a bare minimum that needs to happen. People need to be investigated for crimes against the state. When we take a closer look at who had potential access to top-secret servers, which will become painfully clear.

Through their efforts to quash free speech and paint anyone who questions government propaganda as Kremlin stooges, these people are trying to tear the fabric of society into pieces. At the very least, they have earned a good tarring and feathering. When you look at the financial end of this a lawsuit in the billions would barely touch it.

Just one company the Ukrainian Diaspora started for this is valued over 100 million dollars. This will need to be a class action suit with a cease and desist to the BBG.

In early 2015, almost two years before most people took the idea of censorship seriously, I documented its inception. As often happens with many of the biggest stories of our times, I stumbled onto it by accident.

In early March 2015, Ukrainian Information Policy designer Joel Harding laid out what to expect going forward in the following statements: “In military IIO [Inform and Influence Operations] center on the ability to influence foreign audiences, US, and global audiences, and adversely affect enemy decision making through an integrated approach. Even current event news is released in this fashion. Each portal is given messages that follow the same themes because it is an across the board mainstream effort that fills the information space entirely when it is working correctly.”

The purpose of “Inform and Influence Operations” is not to provide a perspective, opinion, or lay out a policy. It is defined as the ability to make audiences “think and act” in a manner favorable to the mission objectives. This is done through applying perception management techniques which target the audience’s emotions, motives, and reasoning.

These techniques are not geared for debate. It is to overwhelm and change the target psyche.

Using these techniques information sources can be manipulated and those that write, speak, or think counter to the objective are relegated as propaganda, ill-informed, or irrelevant.

While the above sounds gloriously overoptimistic, Harding, along with his little band of Kremlin Troll hunters personally started developing the idea of organizations capable of blackballing journalists and publications in a way that could not be construed as censorship.

From another March 2015 articleA “Disinformation Charter” for Media and Bloggers: “Top-down censorship should be avoided. But rival media, from Al-Jazeera to the BBC, Fox and beyond, need to get together to create a charter of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Vigorous debate and disagreement are, of course, to be encouraged – but media organizations that practice conscious deception should be excluded from the community. A similar code can be accepted by bloggers and other online influencers.”

This “Disinformation Charter” for responsible behavior (Ministry of Truth?) he describes is to fight “conscious deception” can only be weighed against how he describes Propaganda. “The word is frequently used to describe any news emerging one’s opponent,” according to Harding.

Journalists who need to be excluded are those “our side” label as propagandists or active measure agents.”

Harding’s connections in media are huge. Through his friend Matthew Armstrong, Harding had access to and the ear of the board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, staffed by a who’s who of network and radio broadcast, print media and shortwave CEOs and heavy hitters. They are the ones behind RFE/RL.

On the other end of this in 2015, Joel Harding was assembling a group of miscreants to attack the social networks of different journalist and publications. The crude logic behind a direct assault was that by developing, training, and overseeing vast troll networks they could speak over their opposition (people that their employers wanted to be silenced) and subdue dissident online conversation and control the information.

Where this wasn’t feasible, they set up hack and harass attacks at various publications to get them to stop publishing hard-hitting journalists. This still hasn’t been entirely effective because it caused publishers to dig in and harden their internet properties instead.

The softer more indirect approach Harding pushed in March 2015 quickly developed into the unified media strategy he wanted for the U.S. and Europe. Control the information and don’t allow contradicting information or news into the media stream. When it does get in, call it propaganda.

Enter PropOrNot.




Pursuing Hard Truths in Syria

A U.N. agency says it found sarin in victims of an April 4 attack in Syria, but lack of a plausible weapon and unreliability of pro-rebel witnesses make the pursuit of truth difficult, says WMD expert Scott Ritter at The American Conservative.

By Scott Ritter

On the night of June 26, the White House Press Secretary released a statement, via Twitter, that, “the United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

The tweet went on to declare that, “the activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4 chemical weapons attack,” before warning that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

A Pentagon spokesman backed up the White House tweet, stating that U.S. intelligence had observed “activity” at a Syrian air base that indicated “active preparation for chemical weapons use” was underway.  The air base in question, Shayrat, had been implicated by the United States as the origin of aircraft and munitions used in an alleged chemical weapons attack on the village of Khan Sheikhun on April 4.  The observed activity was at an aircraft hangar that had been struck by cruise missiles fired by U.S. Navy destroyers during a retaliatory strike on April 6.

The White House statement came on the heels of the publication of an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in a German publication, Die Welt, which questions, among many things, the validity of the intelligence underpinning the allegations leveled at Syria regarding the events of April 4 in and around Khan Sheikhun. (In the interests of full disclosure, I had assisted Mr. Hersh in fact-checking certain aspects of his article; I was not a source of any information used in his piece.)

Not surprisingly, Mr. Hersh’s article has come under attack from many circles, the most vociferous of these being a U.K.-based citizen activist named Eliot Higgins who, through his Bellingcat blog, has been widely cited by media outlets in the U.S. and U.K. as a source of information implicating the Syrian government in that alleged April chemical attack on Khan Sheikhun.

Neither Hersh nor Higgins possesses definitive proof to bolster their respective positions; the latter draws upon assertions made by supposed eyewitnesses backed up with forensic testing of materials alleged to be sourced to the scene of the attack that indicate the presence of Sarin, a deadly nerve agent, while the former relies upon anonymous sources within the U.S. military and intelligence establishments who provide a counter narrative to the official U.S. government position. What is clear, however, is that both cannot be right — either the Syrian government conducted a chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhun, or it didn’t. There is no middle ground.

Search for Truth

The search for truth is as old as civilization. Philosophers throughout the ages have struggled with the difficulties of rationalizing the beginning of existence, and the relationships between the one and the many.

Aristotle approached this challenge through what he called the development of potentiality to actuality, which examined truth in terms of the causes that act on things. This approach is as relevant today as it was two millennia prior, and its application to the problem of ascertaining fact from fiction regarding Khan Sheikhun goes far in helping unpack the White House statements regarding Syrian chemical preparations and the Hersh-Higgins debate.

According to Aristotle, there were four causes that needed to be examined in the search for truth — material, efficient, formal and final. The material cause represents the element out of which an object is created. In terms of the present discussion, one could speak of the material cause in terms of the actual chemical weapon alleged to have been used at Khan Sheikhun.

The odd thing about both the Khan Sheikhun attack and the current White House statements, however, is that no one has produced any physical evidence of there actually having been a chemical weapon, let alone what kind of weapon was allegedly employed. Like a prosecutor trying a murder case without producing the actual murder weapon, Syria’s accusers have assembled a case that is purely circumstantial — plenty of dead and dying victims, but nothing that links these victims to an actual physical object.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), drawing upon analysis of images brought to them by the volunteer rescue organization White Helmets, of fragments allegedly recovered from the scene of the attack, has claimed that the material cause of the Khan Sheikhun event is a Soviet-made KhAB-250 chemical bomb, purpose-built to deliver Sarin nerve agent. There are several issues with the HRW assessment.

First and foremost, there is no independent verification that the objects in question are what HRW claims, or that they were even physically present at Khan Sheikhun, let alone deposited there as a result of an air attack by the Syrian government.  Moreover, the KhAB-250 bomb was never exported by either the Soviet or Russian governments, thereby making the provenance of any such ordinance in the Syrian inventory highly suspect.

Sarin is a non-persistent chemical agent whose military function is to inflict casualties through direct exposure. Any ordnance intended to deliver Sarin would, like the KhAB-250, be designed to disseminate the agent in aerosol form, fine droplets that would be breathed in by the victim, or coat the victim’s skin.

Deployment and Evidence

In combat, the aircraft delivering Sarin munitions would be expected to minimize its exposure to hostile fire, flying low to the target at high speed. In order to have any semblance of military utility, weapons delivered in this fashion would require an inherent braking mechanism, such as deployable fins or a parachute, which would retard the speed of the weapon, allowing for a more concentrated application of the nerve agent on the intended target.

Chemical ordnance is not intended for precise strikes against point targets, but rather delivery of the agent to an area. For this reason, they are not dropped singly, but rather in large numbers. (The ab-250, for instance was designed to be delivered by a TU-22 bomber dropping 24 weapons on the same target.)

The weapon itself is not complex — a steel bomb casing with a small high explosive tube — the burster charge — running down its middle, equipped with a nose fuse designed to detonate on contact with the ground or at a pre-determined altitude. Once detonated, the burster charge causes the casing to break apart, disseminating fine droplets of agent over the target. The resulting explosion is very low order, a pop more than a bang — virtually none of the actual weapon would be destroyed as a result, and its component parts, readily identifiable as such, would be deposited in the immediate environs.

In short, if a KhAB-250, or any other air delivered chemical bomb, had been used at Khan Sheikhun, there would be significant physical evidence of that fact, including the totality of the bomb casing, the burster tube, the tail fin assembly, and parachute. The fact that none of this exists belies the notion that an air-delivered chemical bomb was employed by the Syrian government against Khan Sheikhun.

Continuing along the lines of Aristotle’s exploration of the relationship between the potential and actual, the efficient cause represents the means by which the object is created. In the context of Khan Shiekhun, the issue (i.e., object) isn’t the physical weapon itself, but rather its manifestation on the ground in terms of cause and effect. Nothing symbolized this more than the disturbing images that emerged in the aftermath of the alleged chemical attack of civilian victims, many of them women and children. (It was these images that spurred President Trump into ordering the cruise missile attack on Shayrat air base.)

The White Helmet Role

These images were produced by the White Helmet organization as a byproduct of the emergency response that transpired in and around Khan Sheikhun on April 4. It is this response, therefore, than can be said to constitute the efficient cause in any examination of potential to actuality regarding the allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government there.

The White Helmets came into existence in the aftermath of the unrest that erupted in Syria after the Arab Spring in 2012. They say they are neutral, but they have used their now-global platform as a humanitarian rescue unit to promote anti-regime themes and to encourage outside intervention to remove the regime of Bashar al-Assad. By White Helmet’s own admission, it is well-resourced, trained and funded by western NGOs and governments, including USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), which funded the group $23 million as of 2016.

A U.K.-based company with strong links to the British Foreign Office, May Day Rescue, has largely managed the actual rescue aspects of the White Helmet’s work. Drawing on a budget of tens of millions of dollars donated by foreign governments, including the U.S. and U.K., May Day Rescue oversees a comprehensive training program designed to bring graduates to the lowest standard — ”light,” or Level One — for Urban Search and Rescue (USAR).

Personnel and units trained to the “light” standard are able to conduct surface search and rescue operations — they are neither trained nor equipped to rescue entrapped victims. Teams trained to this standard are not qualified to perform operations in a hazardous environment (such as would exist in the presence of a nerve agent like Sarin).

The White Helmets have made their reputation through the dissemination of self-made videos ostensibly showing them in action inside Syria, rescuing civilians from bombed-out structures, and providing life-saving emergency medical care. (It should be noted that the eponymously named Oscar-nominated documentary showing the White Helmets in action was filmed entirely by the White Helmets themselves, which raises a genuine question of journalistic ethics.)

Doubts About Videos

To the untrained eye, these videos are a dramatic representation of heroism in action. To the trained professional (I can offer my own experience as a Hazardous Materials Specialist with New York Task Force 2 USAR team), these videos represent de facto evidence of dangerous incompetence or, worse, fraud.

The bread and butter of the White Helmet’s self-made reputation is the rescue of a victim — usually a small child — from beneath a pile of rubble, usually heavy reinforced concrete. First and foremost, as a “light” USAR team, the White Helmets are not trained or equipped to conduct rescues of entrapped victims. And yet the White Helmet videos depict their rescue workers using excavation equipment and tools, such as pneumatic drills, to gain access to victims supposedly pinned under the weight of a collapsed building.

The techniques used by the White Helmets are not only technically wrong, but dangerous to anyone who might actually be trapped — the introduction of excavators to move debris, or the haphazard drilling and hammering into concrete in the immediate vicinity of a trapped victim, would invariably lead to a shifting if the rubble pile, crushing the trapped victim to death. In my opinion, the videos are pure theater, either staged to impress an unwitting audience, or actually conducted with total disregard for the wellbeing of any real victims.

Likewise, the rescue of victims from a hazardous materials incident, especially one as dangerous as one involving a nerve agent as lethal as Sarin, is solely the purview of personnel and teams specifically equipped and trained for the task. “Light” USAR teams receive no hazardous materials training as part of their certification, and there is no evidence or even claim on the part of the White Helmets that they have undergone the kind of specialist training needed to effect a rescue in the case of an actual chemical weapons attack.

Greater Harm

This reality comes through on the images provided by the White Helmets of their actions in and around Khan Sheikhun on April 4. From the haphazard use of personal protective equipment (either non-existent or employed in a manner that negates protection from potential exposure) to the handling of victims and so-called decontamination efforts, everything the White Helmets did was operationally wrong and would expose themselves and the victims they were ostensibly treating to even greater harm.

As was the case with their “rescues” of victims in collapsed structures, I believe the rescue efforts of the White Helmets at Khan Sheikhun were a theatrical performance designed to impress the ignorant and ill-informed.

I’m not saying that nothing happened at Khan Sheikhun — obviously something did. But the White Helmets exploited whatever occurred, over-dramatizing “rescues” and “decontamination” in staged theatrics that were captured on film and rapidly disseminated using social media in a manner designed to influence public opinion in the West.

We don’t see the actual rescue at the scene of the event — bodies pulled from their homes, lying in the streets. What we get is grand theater as bodies arrive at the field hospital, with lots of running to and fro and meaningless activity that would actually worsen the condition of the victims and contaminate the rescuers.

Through their actions, however, the White Helmets were able to breathe life into the overall narrative of a chemical weapons attack, distracting from the fact that no actual weapon existed and thus furthering the efficient cause by which the object — the non-existent chemical weapon — was created.

Having defined the creation of the object (the non-existent chemical weapon) and the means by which it was created (the flawed theatrics of the White Helmets), we move on to the third, or formal cause, which constitutes the expression of what the object is. In the case of Khan Sheikhun, this is best expressed by the results of forensic testing of samples allegedly taken from victims of the chemical attack, and from the scene of the attack itself. The organization responsible for overseeing this forensic testing was the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW.

The Missing Bomb

Through its work, the OPCW has determined that the nerve agent Sarin, or a “Sarin-like substance,” was used at Khan Sheikhun, a result that would seemingly compensate for both the lack of a bomb and the amateurish theatrics of the rescuers.

The problem, however, is that the OPCW is in no position to make the claim it did.

One of the essential aspects of the kind of forensic investigation carried out by organizations such as the OPCW — namely the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of a crime — is the concept of “chain of custody” of any samples that are being evaluated.

This requires a seamless transition from the collection of the samples in question, the process of which must be recorded and witnessed, the sealing of the samples, the documentation of the samples, the escorted transportation of the samples to the laboratory, the confirmation and breaking of the seals under supervision, and the subsequent processing of the samples, all under supervision of the OPCW. Anything less than this means the integrity of the sample has been compromised — in short, there is no sample.

The OPCW acknowledges that its personnel did not gain access to Khan Sheikhun at any time. However, the investigating team states that it used connections with “parties with knowledge of and connections to the area in question,” to gain access to samples that were collected by “non governmental organizations (NGOs)” which also provided representatives to be interviewed, and videos and images for the investigating team to review. The NGO used by the OPCW was none other than the White Helmets.

The process of taking samples from a contaminated area takes into consideration a number of factors designed to help create as broad and accurate a picture of the scene of the incident itself as well as protect the safety of the person taking the sample as well as the integrity of the crime scene itself (i.e., reduce contamination).

There is no evidence that the White Helmets have received this kind of specialized training required for the taking of such samples. Moreover, the White Helmets are not an extension of the OPCW — under no circumstances could any samples taken by White Helmet personnel and subsequently turned over to the OPCW be considered viable in terms of chain of custody. This likewise holds true for any biomedical samples evaluated by the OPCW — all such samples were either taken from victims who had been transported to Turkish hospitals, or provided by non-OPCW personnel in violation of chain of custody.

The Dubious Motive

Lastly, there is Aristotle’s final cause, which represents the end for which the object is — namely, what was the ultimate purpose of the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhun. To answer this question, one must remain consistent with the framework of examination of potential to actuality applied herein. In this, we find a commonality between the four causes whose linkage cannot be ignored when assessing the truth of what happened at Khan Sheikhun, namely the presence of a single entity — the White Helmets.

There are two distinct narratives at play when it comes to what happened in Khan Sheikhun. One, put forward by the governments of the United States, Great Britain, France, and supported by the likes of Bellingcat and the White Helmets, is that the Syrian government conducted a chemical weapons attack using a single air-delivered bomb on a civilian target.

The other, put forward by the governments of Russia and Syria, and sustained by the reporting of Seymour Hersh, is that the Syrian air force used conventional bombs to strike a military target, inadvertently releasing a toxic cloud from substances stored at that facility and killing or injuring civilians in Khan Sheikhun.

There can be no doubt that the very survival of the White Helmets as an organization, and the cause they support (i.e., regime change in Syria), has been furthered by the narrative they have helped craft and sell about the events of April 4 in and around Khan Sheikhun. This is the living manifestation of Aristotle’s final cause, the end for which this entire lie has been constructed.

The lack of any meaningful fact-based information to back up the claims of the White Helmets and those who sustain them, like the U.S. government and Bellingcat, raises serious questions about the viability of the White House’s latest pronouncements on Syria and allegations that it was preparing for a second round of chemical attacks.

If America has learned anything from its painful history with Iraq and the false allegations of continued possession of weapons of mass destruction on the part of the regime of Saddam Hussein, it is that to rush into military conflict in the Middle East based upon the unsustained allegations of an interested regional party (i.e., Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress) is a fool’s errand.

It is up to the discerning public to determine which narrative about the events in Syria today they will seek to embrace — one supported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who has made a career out of exposing inconvenient truths, from My Lai to Abu Ghraib and beyond, or one that collapses under Aristotle’s development of potentiality to actuality analysis, as the manufactured story line promoted by the White Helmets demonstratively does.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.  He is the author of “Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War” (Clarity Press, 2017). [This article originally appeared in The American Conservative at http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/ex-weapons-inspector-trumps-sarin-claims-built-on-lie/]




NYT’s New Syria-Sarin Report Challenged

Special Report: An MIT national security scientist says the New York Times pushed a “fraudulent” analysis of last April’s “sarin” incident in Syria, part of a troubling pattern of “groupthink” and “confirmation bias,” writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

For U.S. mainstream journalists and government analysts, their erroneous “groupthinks” often have a shady accomplice called “confirmation bias,” that is, the expectation that some “enemy” must be guilty and thus the tendency to twist any fact in that direction.

We have seen this pair contribute to fallacious reasoning more and more in recent years as the mainstream U.S. media and the U.S. government approach international conflicts as if the “pro-U.S. side” is surely innocent and the “anti-U.S. side” is presumed guilty.

That was the case in assessing whether Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003; it was repeated regarding alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria during that six-year conflict; and it surfaces as well in the New Cold War in which Russia is always the villain.

The trend also requires insulting any Western journalist or analyst who deviates from the groupthinks or questions the confirmation bias. The dissidents are called “stooges”; “apologists”; “conspiracy theorists”; or “purveyors of fake news.” It doesn’t really matter how reasonable the doubts are. The mocking insults carry the day.

In addition, there is almost no accountability in those rare cases when the mainstream media and government propagandists must admit that they were demonstrably wrong. For every Iraq WMD confession – which resulted in almost no punishments for the “groupthinkers” – there are dozens of cases when the Big Boys just hunker down, admit nothing and count on their privileged status to protect them.

It doesn’t even seem to matter how well-credentialed the skeptic is or how obvious the failings of the mainstream analysis are. So, you even have weapons experts, such as Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who are ignored when their judgments conflict with the conventional wisdom.

The Syrian Case

For instance, in a little-noticed May 29, 2017 report on the April 4, 2017 chemical weapons incident at Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria, Postol takes apart the blame-the-Syrian-government conclusions of The New York Times, Human Rights Watch and the Establishment’s favorite Internet site, Bellingcat.

Postol’s analysis focused on a New York Times video report, entitled “How Syria And Russia Spun A Chemical Strike,” which followed Bellingcat research that was derived from social media. Postol concluded that “NONE of the forensic evidence in the New York Times video and a follow-on Times news article supports the conclusions reported by the New York Times.” [Emphasis in original.]

The basic weakness of the NYT/Bellingcat analysis was a reliance on social media from the Al Qaeda-controlled area of Idlib province and thus a dependence on “evidence” from the jihadists and their “civil defense” collaborators, known as the White Helmets.

The jihadists and their media teams have become very sophisticated in the production of propaganda videos that are distributed through social media and credulously picked up by major Western news outlets. (A Netflix infomercial for the White Helmets even won an Academy Award earlier this year.)

Postol zeroes in on the Times report’s use of a video taken by anti-government photographer Mohamad Salom Alabd, purporting to show three conventional bombs striking Khan Sheikhoun early in the morning of April 4.

The Times report extrapolated from that video where the bombs would have struck and then accepted that a fourth bomb – not seen in the video – delivered a sarin canister that struck a road and released sarin gas that blew westward into a heavily populated area supposedly killing dozens.

The incident led President Trump, on April 6, to order a major retaliatory strike with 59 Tomahawk missiles hitting a Syrian government airfield and, according to Syrian media reports, killing several soldiers at the base and nine civilians, including four children, in nearby neighborhoods. It also risked inflicting death on Russians stationed at the base.

A Wind Problem

But the Times video analysis – uploaded on April 26 – contained serious forensic problems, Postol said, including showing the wind carrying the smoke from the three bombs in an easterly direction whereas the weather reports from that day – and the presumed direction of the sarin gas – had the wind going to the west.

Indeed, if the wind were blowing toward the east – and if the alleged location of the sarin release was correct – the wind would have carried the sarin away from the nearby populated area and likely would have caused few if any casualties, Postol wrote.

Postol also pointed out that the Times’ location of the three bombing strikes didn’t match up with the supposed damage that the Times claimed to have detected from satellite photos of where the bombs purportedly struck. Rather than buildings being leveled by powerful bombs, the photos showed little or no apparent damage.

The Times also relied on before-and-after satellite photos that had a gap of 44 days, from Feb. 21, 2017, to April 6, 2017, so whatever damage might have occurred couldn’t be tied to whatever might have happened on April 4.

Nor could the hole in the road where the crushed “sarin” canister was found be attributed to an April 4 bombing raid. Al Qaeda jihadists could have excavated the hole the night before as part of a staged provocation. Other images of activists climbing into the supposedly sarin-saturated hole with minimal protective gear should have raised other doubts, Postol noted in earlier reports.

There’s also the question of motive. The April 4 incident immediately followed the Trump administration’s announcement that it was no longer seeking “regime change” in Syria, giving the jihadists and their regional allies a motive to create a chemical-weapons incident to reverse the new U.S. stand. By contrast, the Syrian government seemed to have no logical motive to provoke U.S. outrage.

In other words, Al Qaeda and its propagandists could have posted video from an earlier bombing raid and used it to provide “proof” of an early-morning airstrike that corresponded to the staged release of sarin or some similar poison gas on April 4. Though that is just one possible alternative, it’s certainly true that Al Qaeda does not show very much humanitarian concern about the lives of civilians.

Critics of the White Helmets have identified the photographer of the airstrike, Mohamad Salom Alabd, as a jihadist who appears to have claimed responsibility for killing a Syrian military officer. But the Times described him in a companion article to the video report only as “a journalist or activist who lived in the town.”

Mocking the Russian/Syrian Account

For their part, the Syrian government and the Russians said Syrian planes conducted no airstrike early in the morning but did attack the area around noon. They speculated that the noontime attack may have struck chemical weapons stored by the jihadists, causing an accidental release of poisonous gas.

The Times jumped on the discrepancy between the reports of an early-morning attack and the Syrian-Russian account of a noontime strike to show that the Syrians and Russians were lying.

In response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asking, “How can you verify the video?” the Times narration by Malachy Browne smugly says: “Well, here’s how. Let’s take a look at videos, satellite photos and open source material of that day. They show that Assad and Russia are telling a story that contradicts the facts.”

Yet, the Times’ point about the Syrians and Russians lying about the time element makes little sense because the Syrians and Russians aren’t denying that an airstrike occurred. They acknowledged that there was an airstrike, albeit later in the day, and they speculate that the attack might have accidentally released chemicals stored by Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front. In other words, they gained no advantage by putting the time at noon instead of early in the morning.

There could have been honest confusion on the part of the Syrians and Russians as they struggled to understand what had occurred and how – or the noontime airstrike and the morning chemical release could have been unrelated, i.e., the jihadists and/or their foreign allies could have staged the early-morning poison-gas “attack” and the Syrian bombing raid could have followed several hours later but could have been unrelated to the poison-gas release.

However, for the Times and others to pounce on a seemingly meaningless time discrepancy, further shows how “confirmation bias” works. The “enemy” must be shown to be guilty, so any comment – no matter how innocent or irrelevant – can be cited to “prove” a point.

Double Standard on Trust

The Times also has displayed a bizarre bias when Syrians speak from government-controlled areas. Then, the Times always inserts language suggesting that the interviewees may be under coercion. Yet the Times assumes that “witnesses” inside Al Qaeda-controlled territory are commenting honestly, freely and without fear of contradicting the jihadists.

The Times’ double standard is particularly curious because United Nations investigators don’t even dare enter these jihadist zones because the jihadists have a history of beheading journalists and other civilians who get in the way.

An example of this bias was on display in Wednesday’s Times in an article about the family of Omran, the boy made famous by a photo of him in an ambulance. The article discussed the family’s ordeal and mentioned the father’s vocal support for the Assad government.

However, because the family backed Assad, the Times inserted this caveat: “Syrians appearing on state television or on channels associated with the Assad government are not able to speak freely. The government exerts tight control over all information broadcast about the war, including interviews with civilians, who can be coerced and threatened with arrest if they criticize the government.”

Yet, the Times treats interviews with people inside jihadist-controlled territory as inherently truthful with the interview subjects described in favorable or neutral terms, such as “rescue workers,” “journalists,” “eyewitnesses” or sometimes “activists.” There is rarely any suggestion that Al Qaeda might either be controlling these messages or intimidating the interviewees, who are usually denouncing Assad, what the Times and other mainstream news outlets want to hear.

False-Flag Evidence

This gullibility has continued despite evidence that the jihadists do generate sophisticated propaganda to promote their cause, including staging “false-flag” chemical weapons attacks. For instance, U.N. investigators who examined one alleged chlorine-gas attack by the Syrian government against Al-Tamanah on the night of April 29-30, 2014, heard multiple testimonies from townspeople that the event had been staged by rebels and played up by activists on social media.

“Seven witnesses stated that frequent alerts [about an imminent chlorine weapons attack by the government] had been issued, but in fact no incidents with chemicals took place,” the U.N. report stated. “While people sought safety after the warnings, their homes were looted and rumours spread that the events were being staged. … [T]hey [these witnesses] had come forward to contest the wide-spread false media reports.”

Accounts from other people, who did allege that there had been a government chemical attack on Al-Tamanah, provided suspect evidence, including data from questionable sources, according to the U.N. report.

The report said, “Three witnesses, who did not give any description of the incident on 29-30 April 2014, provided material of unknown source. One witness had second-hand knowledge of two of the five incidents in Al-Tamanah, but did not remember the exact dates. Later that witness provided a USB-stick with information of unknown origin, which was saved in separate folders according to the dates of all the five incidents mentioned by the FFM [the U.N.’s Fact-Finding Mission].

“Another witness provided the dates of all five incidents reading it from a piece of paper, but did not provide any testimony on the incident on 29-30 April 2014. The latter also provided a video titled ‘site where second barrel containing toxic chlorine gas was dropped tamanaa 30 April 14’”

Some other “witnesses” alleging a Syrian government attack offered curious claims about detecting the chlorine-infused “barrel bombs” based on how the device sounded in its descent.

The U.N. report said, “The eyewitness, who stated to have been on the roof, said to have heard a helicopter and the ‘very loud’ sound of a falling barrel. Some interviewees had referred to a distinct whistling sound of barrels that contain chlorine as they fall. The witness statement could not be corroborated with any further information.”

The U.N. report might have added that there was no plausible explanation for someone detecting a chlorine canister in a “barrel bomb” based on its “distinct whistling sound.” The only logical conclusion is that the chlorine attack had been staged by the jihadists, and their supporters then lied to the U.N. team to enrage the world public against the Assad regime.

Another Dubious Case

In 2013, the work of Postol and his late partner, Richard M. Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories, debunked claims from the same trio — Bellingcat, the Times and Human Rights Watch — blaming the Syrian government for the even more notorious sarin-gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, which killed hundreds.

Postol and Lloyd showed that the rocket carrying the sarin had only a fraction of the range that the trio had assumed in tracing its path back to a government base.

Since the much shorter range placed the likely launch point inside rebel-controlled territory, the incident appeared to have been another false-flag provocation, one that almost led President Obama to launch a major retaliatory strike against the Syrian military.

Although the Times grudgingly acknowledged the scientific problems with its analysis, it continued to blame the 2013 incident on the Syrian government. Similarly, Official Washington’s “groupthink” still holds that the Syrian government launched that sarin attack and that Obama chickened out on enforcing his “red line” against chemical weapons use.

Obama’s announcement of that “red line,” in effect, created a powerful incentive for Al Qaeda and other jihadists to stage chemical attacks assuming that they would be blamed on the government and thus draw in the U.S. military on the jihadist side. If Obama’s expected “retaliation” had devastated the Syrian military in 2013, Al Qaeda or its spinoff Islamic State might well have taken Damascus.

Yet, the 2013 “groupthink” of Syrian government guilt survives. After the April 4, 2017 incident, President Trump took some pleasure in mocking Obama’s weakness in contrast to his supposed toughness in quickly launching a “retaliatory” strike on April 6 (Washington time, although April 7 in Syria).

White House Claims

Trump’s attack came even before the White House released a supportive – though unconvincing – intelligence report on April 11. Regarding that report, Postol wrote, “The White House produced a false intelligence report on April 11, 2017 in order to justify an attack on the Syrian airbase at Sheyrat, Syria on April 7, 2017. That attack risked an unintended collision with Russia and a possible breakdown in cooperation between Russia and United States in the war to defeat the Islamic State. The collision also had some potential to escalate into a military conflict with Russia of greater extent and consequence.

“The New York Times and other mainstream media immediately and without proper review of the evidence adopted the false narrative produced by the White House even though that narrative was totally unjustified based on the forensic evidence. The New York Times used an organization, Bellingcat, for its source of analysis even though Bellingcat has a long history of making false claims based on distorted assertions about forensic evidence that either does not exist, or is absolutely without any evidence of valid sources.”

Postol continued, “This history of New York Times publishing of inaccurate information and then sticking by it when solid science-based forensic evidence disproves the original narrative cannot be explained in terms of simple error. The facts overwhelmingly point to a New York Times management that is unconcerned about the accuracy of its reporting.

“The problems exposed in this particular review of a New York Times analysis of critically important events related to the US national security is not unique to this particular story. This author could easily point to other serious errors in New York Times reporting on important technical issues associated with our national security.

“In these cases, like in this case, the New York Times management has not only allowed the reporting of false information without reviewing the facts for accuracy, but it has repeatedly continued to report the same wrong information in follow-on articles. It may be inappropriate to call this ‘fake news,’ but this loaded term comes perilously close to actually describing what is happening.”

No Admissions

When I interviewed Postol on Wednesday, he said he had received no responses from either the Times or Bellingcat, adding: “It seems to me that the analysts were ignorant beyond plausibility or they rigged the analysis. … To me, this is malpractice on a large scale.”

Referring to some of the photographed scenes in Khan Sheikhoun, including a dead goat that appeared to have been dragged into location near the “sarin crater,” Postol called the operation “a rather amateurish attempt to create a false narrative.”

But the problem of the Times and Bellingcat presenting dubious – or in Postol’s view, “fraudulent” – information about sensitive geopolitical and national security issues has another potentially even darker side. These two entities are part of Google’s First Draft Coalition of news organizations that are expected to serve as gatekeepers separating “truth” from “fake news.”

The emerging idea is to take their judgments and enter them into algorithms to scrub the Internet of information that doesn’t comport with what the Times, Bellingcat and other approved news outlets deem true.

That these two organizations would operate with a pattern of “confirmation bias” on sensitive war-and-peace issues is thus doubly troubling in that their future “groupthinks” could not only mislead their readers but could ensure that contrary evidence is whisked away from everyone else, too.

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).




NYT Cheers the Rise of Censorship Algorithms

Exclusive: The New York Times is cheering on the Orwellian future for Western “democracy” in which algorithms quickly hunt down and eliminate information that the Times and other mainstream outlets don’t like, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Just days after sporting First Amendment pins at the White House Correspondents Dinner – to celebrate freedom of the press – the mainstream U.S. media is back to celebrating a very different idea: how to use algorithms to purge the Internet of what is deemed “fake news,” i.e. what the mainstream judges to be “misinformation.”

The New York Times, one of the top promoters of this new Orwellian model for censorship, devoted two-thirds of a page in its Tuesday editions to a laudatory piece about high-tech entrepreneurs refining artificial intelligence that can hunt down and eradicate supposedly “fake news.”

To justify this draconian strategy, the Times cited only a “fake news” report claiming that the French establishment’s preferred presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron had received funding from Saudi Arabia, a bogus story published by a Web site that mimicked the appearance of the newspaper Le Soir and was traced back to a Delaware phone number.

Yet, while such intentionally fabricated articles as well as baseless conspiracy theories are a bane of the Internet – and do deserve hearty condemnation – the Times gives no thought to the potential downside of having a select group of mainstream journalistic entities feeding their judgment about what is true and what is not into some algorithms that would then scrub the Internet of contrary items.

Since the Times is a member of the Google-funded First Draft Coalition – along with other mainstream outlets such as The Washington Post and the pro-NATO propaganda site Bellingcat – this idea of eliminating information that counters what the group asserts is true may seem quite appealing to the Times and the other insiders. After all, it might seem cool to have some high-tech tool that silences your critics automatically.

But you don’t need a huge amount of imagination to see how this combination of mainstream groupthink and artificial intelligence could create an Orwellian future in which only one side of a story gets told and the other side simply disappears from view.

As much as the Times, the Post, Bellingcat and the others see themselves as the fount of all wisdom, the reality is that they have all made significant journalistic errors, sometimes contributing to horrific international crises.

For instance, in 2002, the Times reported that Iraq’s purchase of aluminum tubes revealed a secret nuclear weapons program (when the tubes were really for artillery); the Post wrote as flat-fact that Saddam Hussein was hiding stockpiles of WMD (which in reality didn’t exist); Bellingcat misrepresented the range of a Syrian rocket that delivered sarin on a neighborhood near Damascus in 2013 (creating the impression that the Syrian government was at fault when the rocket apparently came from rebel-controlled territory).

These false accounts – and many others from the mainstream media – were countered in real time by experts who published contrary information on the Internet. But if the First Draft Coalition and these algorithms were in control, the information scrubbers might have purged the dissident assessments as “fake news” or “misinformation.”

Totalitarian Risks

There also should be the fear – even among these self-appointed guardians of “truth” – that their algorithms might someday be put to use by a totalitarian regime to stomp out the last embers of real democracy. However, if you’re looking for such thoughtfulness, you won’t find it in the Times article by Mark Scott. Instead, the Times glorifies the creators of this Brave New World.

“In the battle against fake news, Andreas Vlachos — a Greek computer scientist living in a northern English town — is on the front lines,” the article reads. “Armed with a decade of machine learning expertise, he is part of a British start-up that will soon release an automated fact-checking tool ahead of the country’s election in early June. He also is advising a global competition that pits computer wizards from the United States to China against each other to use artificial intelligence to combat fake news. …

“As Europe readies for several elections this year after President Trump’s victory in the United States, Mr. Vlachos, 36, is one of a growing number of technology experts worldwide who are harnessing their skills to tackle misinformation online. … Computer scientists, tech giants and start-ups are using sophisticated algorithms and reams of online data to quickly — and automatically — spot fake news faster than traditional fact-checking groups can.”

The Times quotes the promoters of this high-tech censorship effort without any skepticism:

“‘Algorithms will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to fighting misinformation,’ said Claire Wardle, head of strategy and research at First Draft News, a nonprofit organization that has teamed up with tech companies and newsrooms to debunk fake reports about elections in the United States and Europe. ‘It’s impossible to do all of this by hand.’”

The article continues: “So far, outright fake news stories have been relatively rare [in Europe]. Instead, false reports have more often come from Europeans on social media taking real news out of context, as well as from fake claims spread by state-backed groups like Sputnik, the Russian news organization.”

Little Evidence Needed

Though providing no details about Sputnik’s alleged guilt, the Times article links to another Times article from April 17 by Andrew Higgins that accuses Russia’s RT network of “fake news” because it detected a surge in opinion polls for Francois Fillon, who stands accused in the mainstream media of having a positive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Oddly, however, further down in the story, Higgins acknowledges that “lately, Mr. Fillon has seen a bump in real opinion polls.”

(Ultimately, Fillon finished a strong third with 20 percent of the vote, one percentage point behind National Front’s Marine Le Pen and four points behind Emmanuel Macron, the two finalists. It’s also curious that the Times would fault RT for getting poll results wrong when the Times published predictions, with 90 percent or more certainty – and 85 percent on Nov. 8 – that Hillary Clinton would win the U.S. presidential election.)

Beyond failing to offer any evidence of Russian guilt in these “fake news” operations, Tuesday’s Times story turns to the NATO propaganda and psychological warfare operation in Latvia, the Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, with its director Janis Sarts warning about “an increased amount of misinformation out there.”

The Stratcom center, which oversees information warfare against NATO’s perceived adversaries, is conducting “a hackathon” this month in search of coders who can develop technology to hunt down news that NATO considers “fake.”

Sarts, however, makes clear that Stratcom’s goal is not only to expunge contradictory information but to eliminate deviant viewpoints before too many people can get to see and hear them. “State-based actors have been trying to amplify specific views to bring them into the mainstream,” Sarts told the Times.

As the Times reports, much of the pressure for shutting down “fake news” has fallen on American tech giants such as Facebook and Google – and they are responding:

“After criticism of its role in spreading false reports during the United States elections, Facebook introduced a fact-checking tool ahead of the Dutch elections in March and the first round of the French presidential election on April 23. It also removed 30,000 accounts in France that had shared fake news, a small fraction of the approximately 33 million Facebook users in the country.”

A Growing Movement

And, according to the Times, this censorship movement is spreading:

“German lawmakers are mulling potential hefty fines against tech companies if they do not clamp down on fake news and online hate speech. Since last year, Google also has funded almost 20 European projects aimed at fact-checking potentially false reports. That includes its support for two British groups looking to use artificial intelligence to automatically fact-check online claims ahead of the country’s June 8 parliamentary election. …

“David Chavalarias, a French academic, has created a digital tool that has analyzed more than 80 million Twitter messages about the French election, helping journalists and fact-checkers to quickly review claims that are spread on the social network.

“After the presidential election in the United States last year, Dean Pomerleau, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, also challenged his followers on Twitter to come up with an algorithm that could distinguish fake claims from real news.

“Working with Delip Rao, a former Google researcher, he offered a $2,000 prize to anyone who could meet his requirements. By early this year, more than 100 teams from around the world had signed on to Mr. Pomerleau’s Fake News Challenge. Using a database of verified articles and their artificial intelligence expertise, rival groups — a combination of college teams, independent programmers and groups from existing tech companies — already have been able to accurately predict the veracity of certain claims almost 90 percent of the time, Mr. Pomerleau said. He hopes that figure will rise to the mid-90s before his challenge ends in June.”

So, presumably based on what the Times, the Post, Bellingcat and the other esteemed oracles of truth say is true, 90 percent or more of contrary information could soon be vulnerable to the censorship algorithms that can quickly detect and stamp out divergent points of view. Such is the Orwellian future mapped out for Western “democracy,” and The New York Times can’t wait for this tightly regulated – one might say, rigged – “marketplace of ideas” to take over.

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).




What to Do About ‘Fake News’

Exclusive: A pushback is coming to the Internet’s success in giving the world access to diverse opinions and dissenting information. Politicians, mainstream media and technology giants are taking aim at what they call “fake news,” reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, a hot new issue – raised by President Obama in an international setting on Thursday and touted on The New York Times’ front page on Friday – is the problem of “fake news” being disseminated on the Internet.

Major Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, are being urged to censor such articles and to punish alleged violators. Also, teams of supposedly “responsible” news providers and technology giants are being assembled to police this alleged problem and decide what is true and what is not.

But therein lies the more serious problem: who gets to decide what is real and what is not real? And – in an age when all sides propagate propaganda – when does conformity in support of a mainstream “truth” become censorship of reasonable skepticism?

As a journalist for more than four decades, I take seriously the profession’s responsibility to verify information as much as possible before publishing it – and as editor of Consortiumnews.com, I insist that our writers (and to the extent possible, outside commenters) back up what they say.

I personally hate “conspiracy theories” in which people speculate about a topic without real evidence and often in defiance of actual evidence. I believe in traditional journalistic standards of cross-checking data and applying common sense.

So, I am surely no fan of Internet hoaxes and baseless accusations. Yet, I also recognize that mainstream U.S. news outlets have made horrendous and wholesale factual errors, too, such as reporting in 2002-03 that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program (The New York Times) and was hiding stockpiles of WMD (many TV and print outlets, including The Washington Post).

And, mainstream outlets getting such life-and-death stories wrong was not just a one-off affair around the Iraq invasion. At least since the 1980s, The New York Times has misreported or glossed over many international issues that put the United States and its allies in a negative light.

For instance, the Times not only missed the Nicaraguan Contra cocaine scandal, but actively covered up the Reagan administration’s role in the wrongdoing through the 1980s and much of the 1990s.

The Times lagged badly, too, on investigating the secret operations that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. The Times’ gullibility in the face of official denials was an obstacle for those of us digging into that constitutional crisis and other abuses by the Reagan administration. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “New York Times: Apologist for Power.”]

In that same era, The Washington Post performed no better. Leonard Downie, its executive editor at the time of the Contra-cocaine scandal, has continued to reject the reality of Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras trafficking in cocaine despite the 1998 findings of CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz that, in fact, many Contras were neck-deep in the cocaine trade and the Reagan administration covered up their criminality for geopolitical reasons.

More recently, during the mad dash to invade Iraq in 2002-03, the Post’s editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt wrote repeatedly as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD and mocked the few dissenting voices that challenged the “group think.”

Yet, Hiatt suffered no accountability for his falsehoods and is still the Post’s editorial-page editor, still peddling dubious examples of Washington’s conventional wisdom.

Ministry of Truth

So, who are the “responsible” journalists who should be anointed to regulate what the world’s public gets to see and hear? For that Orwellian task, a kind of Ministry of Truth has been set up by Google, called the First Draft Coalition, which touts itself as a collection of 30 major news and technology companies, including the Times and Post, tackling “fake news” and creating a platform to decide which stories are questionable and which ones aren’t.

Formed in June 2015 and funded by Google News Lab, the First Draft Coalition’s founding members included Bellingcat, an online “citizen journalism” site that has gotten many of its highest profile stories wrong and is now associated with NATO’s favorite think tank, the Atlantic Council.

Despite Bellingcat’s checkered record and its conflicts of interest through the Atlantic Council, major Western news outlets, including the Times and Post, have embraced Bellingcat, apparently because its articles always seem to mesh neatly with U.S. and European propaganda on Syria and Ukraine.

Two of Bellingcat’s (or its founder Eliot Higgins’s) biggest errors were misplacing the firing location of the suspected Syrian rocket carrying sarin gas on Aug. 21, 2013, and directing an Australian news crew to the wrong site for the so-called getaway Buk video after the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

But like many news outlets that support establishment “group thinks,” Bellingcat wins widespread praise and official endorsements, such as from the international MH-17 investigation that was largely controlled by Ukraine’s unsavory intelligence agency, the SBU and that accepted Bellingcat’s dubious MH-17 evidence blaming the Russians.

If such a Ministry of Truth had existed in the mid-1980s, it might well have denounced the investigative reporting on the Contra-cocaine scandal since that was initially deemed untrue. And if “Minitrue” were around in 2002-03, it almost surely would have decried the handful of people who were warning against the “group think” on Iraq’s WMD.

Power and Reality

While it’s undeniable that some false or dubious stories get pushed during the heat of a political campaign and in wartime – and journalists have a role in fact-checking as best they can – there is potentially a greater danger when media insiders arrogate to themselves the power to dismiss contrary evidence as unacceptable, especially given their own history of publishing stories that turned out to be dubious if not entirely false.

It’s even more dangerous when these self-appointed arbiters of truth combine forces with powerful Internet search engines and social media companies to essentially silence dissenting opinions and contrary facts by making them very difficult for the public to locate.

Arguably even worse is when politicians – whether President-elect Donald Trump or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or President Obama – get into the business of judging what is true and what is false.

On Thursday, an impassioned President Obama voiced his annoyance with “fake news” twice in his joint news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — “because in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it’s packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television. … If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect.”

Let that phrase sink in for a moment: “We won’t know what to protect”? Is President Obama suggesting that it is the U.S. government’s role to “protect” certain information and, by implication, leave contrary information “unprotected,” i.e. open to censorship?

On Friday, a New York Times front-page article took Facebook to task, in particular, writing: “for years, the social network did little to clamp down on the false news.”

The Times added, in a complimentary way, “Now Facebook, Google and others have begun to take steps to curb the trend, but some outside the United States say the move is too late.”

Info-War

This new alarm about “fake news” comes amid the U.S. government’s “information war” against Russia regarding the Syrian and Ukraine conflicts. Obama’s State Department insists that it is presenting the truth about these conflicts while Russia’s RT channel is a fount of disinformation. Yet, the State Department’s propaganda officials have frequently made false or unsupported claims themselves.

On Wednesday, there was the unseemly scene of State Department spokesman John Kirby refusing to answer reasonable questions from a Russian journalist affiliated with RT.

The RT journalist asked Kirby to identify the hospitals and clinics in Syria that he was claiming had been hit by Russian and Syrian airstrikes. You might assume that a truth-teller would have welcomed the opportunity to provide more details that could then be checked and verified.

But instead Kirby berated the RT journalist and tried to turn the rest of the State Department press corps against her.

QUESTION: Don’t you think it is important to give a specific list of hospitals that you’re accusing Russia of hitting? Those are grave accusations.

KIRBY: I’m not making those accusations. I’m telling you we’ve seen reports from credible aid organizations that five hospitals and a clinic —

QUESTION: Which hospital —

KIRBY: At least one clinic —

QUESTION: In what cities at least?

KIRBY: You can go look at the information that many of the Syrian relief agencies are putting out there publicly. We’re getting our information from them too. These reports —

QUESTION: But you are citing those reports without giving any specifics.

KIRBY: Because we believe these agencies are credible and because we have other sources of information that back up what we’re seeing from some of these reports. And you know what? Why don’t [you] ask … Here’s a good question. Why don’t you ask your defense ministry … what they’re doing and see if you can get…”

QUESTION: If you give a specific list —

KIRBY: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

QUESTION: If you give a specific list of hospitals —

KIRBY: No, no, no.

QUESTION: My colleagues who are listening hopefully would be able to go and ask Russian officials about a specific list of hospitals that you’re accusing Russia of …”

KIRBY: You work for Russia Today, right? Isn’t that your agency?

QUESTION: That is correct. Yes.

KIRBY: And so why shouldn’t you ask your government the same kinds of questions that you’re standing here asking me? Ask them about their military activities. Get them to tell you what they’re – or to deny what they’re doing.

QUESTION: When I ask for specifics, it seems your response is why are you here? Well, you are leveling that accusation.

KIRBY: No, ma’am.

QUESTION: And if you give specifics, my colleagues would be able to ask Russian officials.

As Kirby continued to berate the RT journalist and stonewall her request for specifics, an American reporter intervened and objected to Kirby’s use of the phrase “‘your defense minister’ and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of are, so it’s – she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not …”

Kirby then insisted that since RT was “a state-owned” outlet that its journalists should not be put “on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.” (But the reality is that Voice of America, BBC and many other Western outlets are financed by governments or have ideological benefactors.)

Public Diplomacy

Kirby’s hostility toward legitimate questions being raised about U.S. or U.S.-allied assertions has become typical of Obama’s State Department, which doesn’t seem to want any challenges to its presentation of reality.

For instance, during the early phase of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry called RT a “propaganda bullhorn” and Richard Stengel, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, issued a “DipNote” saying RT should be ostracized as a source of disinformation.

But Stengel’s complaint revealed a stunning ignorance about the circumstances surrounding the February 2014 putsch that overthrew Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

For instance, Stengel cited RT’s “ludicrous assertion” about the U.S. investing $5 billion to promote “regime change” in Ukraine. Stengel apparently wasn’t aware that Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland had cited the $5 billion figure in support of Ukraine’s “European aspirations” during a public speech to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013.

At the time, Nuland was a leading proponent of “regime change” in Ukraine, personally cheering on the Maidan demonstrators and even passing out cookies. In an intercepted, obscenity-laced phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland said her choice to lead Ukraine was Arseniy “Yats is the guy” Yatsenyuk, who ended up as Prime Minister after the coup.

So, was Stengel a purveyor of “fake news” when he was accusing RT of disseminating fake news or was he just assembling some propaganda points for his underlings to repeat to a gullible Western news media? Or was he just ill-informed?

Both democracy and journalism can be messy businesses – and credibility is something that must be earned over time by building a reputation for reliability. There is no “gold seal” from the Establishment that makes you trustworthy.

It’s simply important to do one’s best to inform the American people and the world’s public as accurately as possible. Awarding trust is best left to individual readers who must be the ultimate judges of what’s real and what’s fake.

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).




Will NYT Retract Latest Anti-Russian ‘Fraud’?

Exclusive: In covering the new Cold War, The New York Times has lost its journalistic bearings, serving as a crude propaganda outlet publishing outlandish anti-Russian claims that may cross the line into fraud, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In a fresh embarrassment for The New York Times, a photographic forensic expert has debunked a new amateurish, anti-Russian analysis of satellite photos related to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, labeling the work “a fraud.”

Last Saturday, on the eve of the second anniversary of the tragedy that claimed 298 lives, the Times touted the amateur analysis asserting that the Russian government had manipulated two satellite photos that revealed Ukrainian anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine at the time of the shoot-down.

The clear implication of the article by Andrew E. Kramer was that the Russians were covering up their complicity in shooting down the civilian airliner by allegedly doctoring photos to shift the blame to the Ukrainian military. Beyond citing this analysis by armscontrolwonk.com, Kramer noted that the “citizen journalists” at Bellingcat had reached the same conclusion earlier.

But Kramer and the Times left out that the earlier Bellingcat analysis was thoroughly torn apart by photo-forensic experts including Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of the FotoForensics digital image analytical tool that Bellingcat had used. Over the past week, Bellingcat has been aggressively pushing the new analysis by armscontrolwonk.com, with which Bellingcat has close relationships.

This past week, Krawetz and other forensic specialists began weighing in on the new analysis and concluding that it suffered the same fundamental errors as the previous analysis, albeit using a different analytical tool. Given Bellingcat’s promotion of this second analysis by a group with links to Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgins, Krawetz viewed the two analyses as essentially coming from the same place, Bellingcat.

“Jumping to the wrong conclusion one time can be due to ignorance,” Krawetz explained in a blog post. “However, using a different tool on the same data that yields similar results, and still jumping to the same wrong conclusion is intentional misrepresentation and deception. It is fraud.”

A Pattern of Error

Krawetz and other experts found that innocuous changes to the photos, such as adding a word box and saving the images into different formats, would explain the anomalies that Bellingcat and its pals at armscontrolwonk.com detected. That was the key mistake that Krawetz spotted last year in dissecting Bellingcat’s faulty analysis.

Krawetz wrote: “Last year, a group called ‘Bellingcat’ came out with a report about flight MH17, which was shot down near the Ukraine/Russia border. In their report, they used FotoForensics to justify their claims. However, as I pointed out in my blog entry, they used it wrong. The big problems in their report:

“–Ignoring quality. They evaluated pictures from questionable sources. These were low quality pictures that had undergone scaling, cropping, and annotations.

“–Seeing things. Even with the output from the analysis tools, they jumped to conclusions that were not supported by the data.

“–Bait and switch. Their report claimed one thing, then tried to justify it with analysis that showed something different.

“Bellingcat recently came out with a second report. The image analysis portion of their report heavily relied on a program called ‘Tungstène’. … With the scientific approach, it does not matter who’s tool you use. A conclusion should be repeatable though multiple tools and multiple algorithms.

“One of the pictures that they ran though Tungstène was the same cloud picture that they used with ELA [error level analysis]. And unsurprisingly, it generated similar results — results that should be interpreted as low quality and multiple resaves. … These results denote a low quality picture and multiple resaves, and not an intentional alteration as Bellingcat concluded.

“Just like last year, Bellingcat claimed that Tungstène highlighted indications of alterations in the same places that they claimed to see alterations in the ELA result. Bellingcat used the same low quality data on different tools and jumped to the same incorrect conclusion.”

Although Krawetz posted his dissection of the new analysis on Thursday, he began expressing his concerns shortly after the Times article appeared. That prompted Higgins and the Bellingcat crew to begin a Twitter campaign to discredit Krawetz and me (for also citing problems with the Times article and the analysis).

When one of Higgins’s allies mentioned my initial story on the problematic photo analysis, Krawetz noted that my observations supported his position that Bellingcat had mishandled the analysis (although at the time I was unaware of Krawetz’s criticism).

Higgins responded to Krawetz, “he [Parry] doesn’t recognize you’re a hack. Probably because he’s a hack too.”

Further insulting Krawetz, Higgins mocked his review of the photo analyses by writing: “all he has is ‘because I say so’, all mouth no trousers.”

Spoiled by Praise

Apparently, Higgins, who operates out of Leicester, England, has grown spoiled by all the praise lavished on him by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and other mainstream publications despite the fact that Bellingcat’s record for accuracy is a poor one.

For instance, in his first big splash, Higgins echoed U.S. propaganda in Syria about the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack — blaming it on President Bashar al-Assad — but was forced to back down from his assessment when aeronautical experts revealed that the sarin-carrying missile had a range of only about two kilometers, much shorter than Higgins had surmised in blaming the attack on Syrian government forces. (Despite that key error, Higgins continued claiming the Syrian government was guilty.)

Higgins also gave the Australian “60 Minutes” program a location in eastern Ukraine where a “getaway” Buk missile battery was supposedly videoed en route back to Russia, except that when the news crew got there the landmarks didn’t match up, causing the program to have to rely on sleight-of-hand editing to deceive its viewers.

When I noted the discrepancies and posted screenshots from the “60 Minutes” program to demonstrate the falsehoods, “60 Minutes” launched a campaign of insults against me and resorted to more video tricks and outright journalistic fraud in defense of Higgins’s faulty information.

This pattern of false claims and even fraud to promote these stories has not stopped the mainstream Western press from showering Higgins and Bellingcat with acclaim. It probably doesn’t hurt that Bellingcat’s “disclosures” always dovetail with the propaganda themes emanating from Western governments.

It also turns out that both Higgins and “armscontrolwonk.com” have crossover in personnel, such as Melissa Hanham, a co-author of the MH-17 report who also writes for Bellingcat, as does Aaron Stein, who joined in promoting Higgins’s work at “armscontrolwonk.com.”

The two groups also have links to the pro-NATO think tank, Atlantic Council, which has been at the forefront of pushing 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 Stein as a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Armscontrolwonk.com is run by nuclear proliferation specialists from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, but they appear to have no special expertise in photographic forensics.

A Deeper Problem

But the problem goes much deeper than a couple of Web sites and bloggers who find it professionally uplifting to reinforce propaganda themes from NATO and other Western interests. The bigger danger is the role played by the mainstream media in creating an echo chamber to amplify the disinformation coming from these amateurs.

Just as The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major outlets swallowed the bogus stories about Iraq’s WMD in 2002-2003, they have happily dined on similarly dubious fare about Syria, Ukraine and Russia.

And just as with the Iraq disaster, when those of us who challenged the WMD “group think” were dismissed as “Saddam apologists,” now we’re called “Assad apologists” or “Putin apologists” or simply “hacks” who are “all mouth, no trousers” – whatever that means.

For instance, in 2013 regarding Syria, the Times ran a front-page story using a “vector analysis” to trace the sarin attack back to a Syrian military base about nine kilometers away, but the discovery of the sarin missile’s much shorter range forced the Times to recant its story, which had paralleled what Higgins was writing.

Then, in its eagerness to convey anti-Russian propaganda regarding Ukraine in 2014, the Times even returned to a reporter from its Iraq-falsehood days. Michael R. Gordon, who co-authored the infamous “aluminum tubes” article in 2002 that pushed the bogus claim that Iraq was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program, accepted some new disinformation from the State Department that cited photos supposedly showing Russian soldiers in Russia and then reappearing in Ukraine.

Any serious journalist would have recognized the holes in the story since it wasn’t clear where the photos were taken or whether the blurry images were even the same people, but that didn’t give the Times pause. The article led the front page.

However, only two days later, the scoop blew up when it turned out that a key photo supposedly showing a group of soldiers in Russia, who then reappeared in eastern Ukraine, was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the entire story.

But these embarrassments have not dampened the Times’ enthusiasm for dishing out anti-Russian propaganda whenever possible. Yet, one new twist is that the Times doesn’t just take false claims directly from the U.S. government; it also draws from hip “citizen journalism” Web sites like Bellingcat.

In a world where no one believes what governments say the smart new way to disseminate propaganda is through such “outsiders.”

So, the Times’ Kramer was surely thrilled to get fed a new story off the Web that claimed the Russians had doctored satellite photographs of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine just before the MH-17 shoot-down.

Instead of questioning the photo-forensic expertise of these nuclear proliferation specialists at armscontrolwonk.com, Kramer simply laid out their findings as further corroboration of Bellingcat’s earlier claims. Kramer also mocked the Russians for trying to cover their tracks with “conspiracy theories.”

Ignoring Official Evidence

But there was another key piece of evidence that the Times was hiding from its readers: documentary evidence from Western intelligence that the Ukrainian military did have powerful anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, and that the ethnic Russian rebels didn’t.

In a report  released last October, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (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.”

Since Dutch intelligence is part of the NATO intelligence apparatus, this report means that NATO and presumably U.S. intelligence share the same viewpoint. Thus, the Russians would have little reason to fake their satellite photos showing Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine if the West’s satellite photos were showing the same thing.

But there is a reason why the Times and other major mainstream publications have ignored this official Dutch government document – because if it’s correct, then it means that the only people who could have shot down MH-17 belong to the Ukrainian military. That would turn upside-down the desired propaganda narrative blaming the Russians.

Yet, that blackout of the Dutch report means that the Times and other Western outlets have abandoned their journalistic responsibilities to present all relevant evidence on an issue of grave importance – bringing to justice the killers of 298 innocent people. Rather than “all the news that’s fit to print,” the Times is stacking the case by leaving out evidence that goes in the “wrong direction.”

Of course, there may be some explanation for how both NATO and Russian intelligence could come to the same “mistaken” conclusion that only the Ukrainian military could have shot down MH-17, but the Times and the rest of the Western mainstream media can’t ethically just pretend the evidence doesn’t exist.

Unless, of course, your real purpose is to disseminate propaganda, not produce journalism. Then, I suppose the behavior of the Times, other MSM publications and, yes, Bellingcat makes a lot of sense.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “MH-17: Two Years of Anti-Russian Propaganda” and “NYT Is Lost in Its Ukraine Propaganda.”]

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).




MH-17: Two Years of Anti-Russian Propaganda

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.”

Lacking Motive

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.

Double Standards

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.

Lacking Balance

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).




MH-17’s Unnecessary Mystery

Exclusive: Nearly 18 months after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, one of the troubling mysteries is why the U.S. government after rushing to blame Russia and ethnic Russian rebels then went silent, effectively obstructing the investigation into 298 deaths, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

As the whodunit mystery surrounding the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 nears the 1½-year mark, the Obama administration could open U.S. intelligence files and help bring justice for the 298 people killed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Instead, a separate mystery has emerged: why has the U.S. government clammed up since five days after the tragedy?

Immediately after the crash, senior Obama administration officials showed no hesitancy in pointing fingers at the ethnic Russian rebels who were then resisting a military offensive by the U.S.-backed Kiev regime. On July, 20, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on TV talk shows claiming there was a strong circumstantial case implicating the rebels and their Russian backers in the shoot-down.

After mentioning some information gleaned from “social media,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “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 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 2002-03.

Demonizing Putin

Yet, despite the flimsiness of the “blame-Russia-for-MH-17” case in July 2014, the Obama administration’s rush to judgment proved critical in whipping up the European press to demonize President Vladimir Putin, who became the Continent’s bete noire accused of killing 298 innocent people. That set the stage for the European Union to accede to U.S. demands for economic sanctions on Russia.

The MH-17 case was deployed like a classic piece of “strategic communication” or “Stratcom,” mixing propaganda with psychological operations to put an adversary at a disadvantage. Apparently satisfied with that result, the Obama administration stopped talking publicly, leaving the impression of Russian guilt to corrode Moscow’s image in the public mind.

But the intelligence source who spoke to me several times after he received additional briefings about advances in the investigation said that as the U.S. analysts gained more insights into the MH-17 shoot-down from technical and other sources, they came to believe the attack was carried out by a rogue element of the Ukrainian military with ties to a hard-line Ukrainian oligarch. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’s “Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts” and “The Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case.”]

But that conclusion if made public would have dealt another blow to America’s already shaky credibility, which has never recovered from the false Iraq-WMD claims in 2002-03. A reversal also would embarrass Kerry, other senior U.S. officials and major Western news outlets, which had bought into the Russia-did-it narrative. Plus, the European Union might reconsider its decision to sanction Russia, a key part of U.S. policy in support of the Kiev regime.

Still, as the MH-17 mystery dragged on into 2015, I inquired about the possibility of an update from the DNI’s office. But a spokeswoman told me that no update would be provided because the U.S. government did not want to say anything to prejudice the ongoing investigation. In response, I noted that Kerry and the DNI had already done that by immediately pointing the inquiry in the direction of blaming Russia and the rebels.

But there was another purpose in staying mum. By refusing to say anything to contradict the initial rush to judgment, the Obama administration could let Western mainstream journalists and “citizen investigators” on the Internet keep Russia pinned down with more speculation about its guilt in the MH-17 shoot-down.

So, silence became the better part of candor. After all, pretty much everyone in the West had judged Russia and Putin guilty. So, why shake that up?

The Ukrainian Buks

Yet, what has become clear after the initial splurge of U.S. blame-casting is that U.S. intelligence lacked key evidence to support Kerry’s hasty judgments. Despite intensive overhead surveillance of eastern Ukraine in summer 2014, U.S. and other Western intelligence services could find no evidence that Russia had ever given a Buk system to the rebels or introduced one into the area.

Satellite intelligence reviewed both before and after the shoot-down only detected Ukrainian Buk missile systems in the conflict zone. One could infer this finding from the fact that the DNI on July 22, 2014, did not allege that Buks were among the weapons systems that Russia had provided. If Russian-supplied Buks had been spotted and the batteries of four 16-foot-long missiles hauled around by trucks are hard to miss their presence surely would have been noted.

But one doesn’t need to infer this lack of evidence. It was spelled out in a little-noticed report by the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) that was made public last October when the Dutch Safety Board issued its findings on the causes of the doomed MH-17 flight. (Since the flight had originated in Amsterdam and carried many Dutch passengers, Netherlands took a lead role in the investigation.)

Dutch intelligence, which as part of NATO would have access to sensitive overhead surveillance and other relevant data, reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government.

MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. 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.”

But the intelligence agency 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.”

MIVD noted that on June 29, 2014, “the Separatists captured a Ukrainian armed forces military base in Donetsk [where] there were Buk missile systems,” a fact that was reported in the press before the crash and attracted MIVD’s attention.

“During the course of July, several reliable sources indicated that the systems that were at the military base were not operational,” MIVD said. “Therefore, they could not be used by the Separatists.”

In other words, it is fair to say based on the affirmative comments from MIVD and the omissions from the U.S. DNI’s “Government Assessment” that the Western powers had no evidence that the ethnic Russian rebels or their Russian allies had operational Buk missiles in eastern Ukraine, but Ukraine did.

It also would have made sense that Ukraine would be moving additional anti-aircraft systems close to the border because of a feared Russian invasion as the Ukrainian military pressed its “anti-terrorism operation” against ethnic Russians fighters. They were resisting the U.S.-backed coup of Feb. 22, 2014, which had ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was in the east.

According to the Dutch Safety Board report, issued last October, a Ukrainian warplane had been shot down by a suspected air-to-air missile (presumably from a Russian fighter) on July 16, 2014, meaning that Ukrainian defenses were probably on high alert. The Russian military also claimed that Ukraine had activated a radar system that is used to guide Buk missiles.

Gunning for Putin?

I was told by the intelligence source that U.S. analysts looked seriously at the possibility that the intended target was President Putin’s official plane returning from a state visit to South America. His aircraft and MH-17 had similar red-white-and-blue markings, but Putin took a more northerly route and arrived safely in Moscow.

Other possible scenarios were that a poorly trained and undisciplined Ukrainian squad mistook MH-17 for a Russian plane that had penetrated Ukrainian airspace or that the attack was willful provocation designed to be blamed on the Russians.

Whoever the culprits and whatever their motive, one point that should not have remained in doubt was where the missile launch occurred. Remember that just three days after the crash, Secretary Kerry had said U.S. intelligence detected the launch and “We know where it came from.”

But last October, the Dutch Safety Board still hadn’t pinned down anything like a precise location. The report could only place the launch site within a 320-square-kilometer area in eastern Ukraine, covering territory then controlled by both Ukrainian and rebel forces. (The safety board did not seek to identify which side fired the fateful missile).

By contrast, Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms manufacturer of the Buk systems, conducted its own experiments to determine the likely firing location and placed it in a much smaller area near the village of Zaroshchenskoye, about 20 kilometers west of the Dutch Safety Board’s zone and in an area under Ukrainian government control.

So, with the firing location a key point in dispute, why would the U.S. government withhold from a NATO ally (and investigators into a major airline disaster) the launch point for the missile? Presumably, if the Obama administration had solid evidence showing that the launch came from rebel territory, which was Kerry’s insinuation, U.S. officials would have been only too happy to provide the data.

A reasonable conclusion from the failure to share this information with the Dutch investigators is that the data does not support the preferred U.S. government narrative. If there’s a different explanation for the silence, the Obama administration has failed to provide it.

Amid the curious U.S. silence, the most significant public finding by Western intelligence is that the only powerful and operational anti-aircraft-missile systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, belonged to the Ukrainian military.

Nevertheless, the mainstream “conventional wisdom” remains that either the ethnic Russian rebels or the Russians themselves shot down MH-17 and have sought to cover up their guilt.

Some of this certainty comes from the simpleminded game of repeating that Buk missiles are “Russian-made,” which is true but irrelevant to the issue of who fired the missiles, since the Ukrainian military possesses Russian-made Buks.

But much of this “group think” can be credited to the speed with which the Obama administration got its narrative out immediately citing dubious “social media” and exploiting the West’s disdain toward Russian President Putin. He was a ready-made villain for the story.

Lying First

A similar case occurred in 1983 when Korean Airlines Flight 007 penetrated deeply into Soviet territory and was pursued by a Soviet fighter that after issuing warnings that were ignored  shot the plane down believing it was an enemy military aircraft. Though the Soviets quickly realized they had made a terrible mistake, the Reagan administration wanted to use the incident to paint the “evil empire” in the evilest of tones.

So, Reagan’s propagandists edited the ground-control intercepts to make it appear that the Soviets had committed willful murder, a theme that was presented to the United Nations and was gullibly lapped up by the mainstream U.S. news media.

The fuller story only came out in 1995 with a book entitled Warriors of Disinformation by Alvin A. Snyder, who had been director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division. He described how the tapes were edited “to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible.”

In a boastful but frank description of the successful disinformation campaign, Snyder noted that “the American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation. Said the venerable Ted Koppel on the ABC News ‘Nightline’ program: ‘This has been one of those occasions when there is very little difference between what is churned out by the U.S. government propaganda organs and by the commercial broadcasting networks.'”

Snyder concluded, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.”

In the case of MH-17, however, the falsehoods and deceptions are not simply some spy-vs.-spy propaganda game of gotcha, but rather obstruction of justice in a mass murder investigation. Whatever evidence the Obama administration has, it should have long since been made available to the investigators, but so far the official Dutch reports have indicated no such assistance.

While the U.S. government maintains its official silence, the Russian manufacturer has tried to provide details about the functioning of various generations of Buks and challenged the conclusion from the Dutch Safety Board of precisely which model likely brought down MH-17. The Dutch Safety Board cited a 9M38M1 missile using a 9N314M warhead that dispersed “butterfly or bow-tie” fragments that ripped through MH-17’s fuselage.

But Almaz-Antey reported that only older warheads and missiles of the 9M38 type have that signature. “The 9M38M1 missile has no H-shaped striking elements,” Almaz-Antey executive Yan Novikov said. According to the manufacturer, the Russian army had phased 9M38 missiles out years ago, but they remained part of Ukraine’s arsenal.

On Jan. 14, the Russian aviation agency issued its own report critical of the Dutch Safety Board’s understanding of the Buk models, saying that “the strike elements” in the 9N314M warhead did not match the composition of what was recovered from MH-17. Yet, the Dutch-led criminal investigation, which is being partly run by the Ukrainian government, has shown little interest in the Russian information.

‘Citizen Journalists’

The inquiry has been much more welcoming of leads from Bellingcat, a group of “citizen journalists” led by British blogger Eliot Higgins.

Despite having made significant mistakes in an earlier investigation of the Syria-sarin case in 2013 including misstating the range of suspect missiles Higgins has been treated as something of a savant on the MH-17 case, basing his analysis on photographs that popped up the Internet purportedly showing a Buk missile system heading eastward from Donetsk shortly before MH-17 was shot down.

Although one of the first lessons anyone learns about the Internet is to be cautious about what you find there, Higgins and Bellingcat relied on the images to conclude that this battery was dispatched from Russia under the command of Russian forces. The bloggers went so far as to send a list of Russian soldiers’ names as suspects to the MH-17 criminal investigators.

There are, of course, problems with this sort of theorizing. First, it assumes that the photos on the Internet are genuine and not cleverly photo-shopped fakes. The Internet can be a devil’s playground for both amateur and professional disinformationists.

But even assuming that the photos are real, there is the question of why if this cumbersome weapons system was lumbering around eastern Ukraine apparently for weeks did Western intelligence services not detect it from overhead surveillance either before or after the shoot-down? From Bellingcat’s Internet photos, it appears there was no effort to conceal the Buk system, which curiously was headed eastward toward Russia, not westward from Russia.

Higgins also directed an Australian TV film crew to the supposed site in Luhansk where the Buk battery, minus one missile, supposedly made its getaway back into Russia. However, the location that the Australian crew filmed clearly was the wrong place. None of the landmarks matched up, but this journalistic fraud did nothing to diminish Bellingcat’s sterling reputation with mainstream Western news outlets which routinely repeat the group’s allegations. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]

It turns out that it is an excellent business model for “citizen” bloggers to find “evidence” on the Internet to reinforce whatever the U.S. government’s propagandists are claiming. Since the U.S. government’s credibility is shaky at best, young hip Internet readers are more inclined to trust what they hear from bloggers and when the bloggers echo what Washington claims, the mainstream media and well-funded think tanks will join in the applause.

Latest Speculation

Earlier this month, Bellingcat’s speculation identifying Russian soldiers as MH-17 suspects based on their assignment to a Buk battery was splashed across the international press, including Dutch television, London’s Telegraph and the British Guardian. The U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty headlined its story, “Russian Soldiers Said Involved in Downing of MH17 Airliner,” complete with photos of Russian soldiers with their eyes blacked out, courtesy of Bellingcat.

“The Britain-based Bellingcat group said it had identified up to 100 Russian soldiers who may have knowledge of the movements of the Buk missile launcher that destroyed the Boeing 777 on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 on board,” RFE/RL reported, citing a quote that Higgins gave to the Telegraph: “We have the names and photos of the soldiers in the June convoy who traveled with the MH17 Buk, their commanders, their commanders’ commanders, etc.”

Higgins told Dutch TV channel NOS that Belligcat believed that at least 20 soldiers in an air-defense unit based in Kursk “probably” either fired the missile or know who fired it.

The Dutch-led prosecution team, which collaborates with the Ukrainian government and nations that suffered large numbers of deaths from the crash including Australia and Malaysia, welcomed the Bellingcat information and promised to “seriously study it.”

Not that the prosecution team has asked or appears interested, but one could also give the sleuths a list of Americans who almost certainly have knowledge about who fired the missile and from exactly where: CIA Director John Brennan, DNI James Clapper, Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama.

Any one of those officials could end the strange silence that has enveloped the U.S. government’s knowledge about the MH-17 shoot-down since five days after the tragedy and by doing so perhaps they could finally bring some clarity and justice to this mystery.

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).




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

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

By Robert Parry

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

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

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

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

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

New Recruits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The MH-17 Mystery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Different Account

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Credibility

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Enduring Aura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Skepticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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