Archives‎ > ‎

UN blames Syria for Gas attack, from Peter Myers (Collection)

*UN blames Syria for Gas attack, but Discrepancies noted by Robert Parry & Theodore Postol*
***(1) Theodor Postol, MIT professor, finds that recent Chemical attack in Syria was staged**(2) UN blames Syria for Gas attack**(3) Discrepancies in UN account - Robert Parry & Theodore Postol**(4) Postol: NYT Claims on Syria Attack Unsupported**(5) Bellingcat war propaganda masquerading as "citizen journalism"*

 *(1) Theodor Postol, MIT professor, finds that recent Chemical attack in Syria was staged*Iskandar Masih<>18 April 2017 at 14:23 expert claims latest chemical weapons attack in Syria was stagedTheodore Postol of MIT says there is no concrete evidence linking Assad to the attack.By Tareq HaddadUpdated April 18, 2017 14:02 BSTA leading weapons academic has claimed that the *Khan Sheikhoun nerve agent attack in Syria was stage*d, raising questions about who was responsible.*Theodore Postol, a professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology*(MIT), issued a series of three reports in response to the White House's finding that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad perpetrated the attack on 4 April.He concluded that the *US government's report does not provide any "concrete" evidence that Assad was responsible*, adding it was more likely that the attack was perpetrated by players on the ground.Postol said: "I have reviewed the [White House's] document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria at roughly 6am to 7am on 4 April, 2017."In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document point to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of 4 April."This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House."The image Postol refers to is that of a crater containing a shell inside, which is said to have contained the sarin gas.*His analysis of the shell suggests that it could not have been dropped from an airplane*as the *damage of the casing is inconsistent from an aerial explosion*. Instead, Postol said it was more likely that an*explosive charge was laid upon the shell containing sarin, before being detonated.*"The explosive acted on the pipe as a blunt crushing mallet," Postol said. "It *drove the pipe into the ground while at the same time creating the crater.*"Since the pipe was filled with sarin, which is an incompressible fluid, as the pipe was flattened, the sarin acted on the walls and ends of the pipe causing a crack along the length of the pipe and also the failure of the cap on the back end."The implication of Postol's analysis is that it was carried out by anti-government insurgents as Khan Sheikhoun is in militant-controlled territory of Syria.Postol, formerly a *scientific advisor at the Department of Defense (DoD)*, has previously outlined similar inconsistencies with US intelligence reports. Following the 2013 chemical weapons attack in eastern Ghouta, Postol again said the evidence did not suggest Assad was responsible.A later United Nations report did not find Assad responsible also, however it did not rule him out either - as it could not apportion blame based on the evidence. Reporting by Seymour Hersh in the London Review of Books documented that US officials whitewashed findings to blame Assad when their intelligence showed that anti-Assad militants were the most likely perpetrators.In his latest reports, Postol hit out at what he says is a *"politicisation" of intelligence findings.*Postol said: "No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin *canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.*"All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report, like the earlier Obama White House Report [from Ghouta in 2013], was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed."I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicisation of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times - but I know that the intelligence community has highly capable analysts in it."And if those analysts were properly consulted about the claims in the White House document they would have not approved the document going forward."Read Postol's reports in full:An earlier version of this story said the United Nations corroborated Postol's conclusions about the 2013 attack, however this has been clarified to say that the UN did not rule out Assad either.This article was first published on April 17, 2017*(2) UN blames Syria for Gas attack* govt behind sarin gas attack in April: UN probeAFP September 6, 2017United Nations war crimes investigators on Wednesday said they hadevidence that Syrian government forces were behind the chemical attackthat killed dozens of people in Khan Sheikhun in April.In the first UN report to officially blame Damascus, the UN Commissionof Inquiry (COI) on Syria said it had gathered an "extensive body ofinformation" showing the Syrian airforce was behind the horrific saringas attack on April 4."All evidence available leads the Commission to conclude that thereare reasonable grounds to believe Syrian forces dropped an aerial bombdispersing sarin in Khan Sheikhun,"the report said.At least 83 people, a third of them children, were killed and nearly300 wounded in the attack on Khan Sheikhun, a town in theopposition-held northern province of Idlib, it said. Other sourceshave given a death toll of at least 87.Syria's government has denied involvement and claims it no longerpossesses chemical weapons after a 2013 agreement under which itpledged to surrender its chemical arsenal.A fact-finding mission by the UN's chemical watchdog, the OPCW,concluded earlier this year that sarin gas was used in the attack, butdid not assign blame. A joint UN-OPCW panel is currently working todetermine whether Syrian government forces were behind the attack.But *Wednesday's report is the first from the UN to officially lay**blame for the attack on Damascus*.The report also found that the Syrian government was responsible forat least 23 other chemical attacks in the war-ravaged country sinceMarch 2013.The investigators, who have never been granted access to Syria, saidthey had based their findings on photographs of bomb remnants,satellite imagery and eyewitness testimony.They determined that a Su-22 fighter bomber, which is only operated bythe Syrian air force, conducted four airstrikes in Khan Sheikhun ataround 6:45 am on April 4. {caption1}{source1} "The Commissionidentified three of the bombs as likely OFAB-100-120 and one as achemical bomb," the report said, adding that "photographs of weaponremnants depict a chemical aerial bomb of a type manufactured in theformer Soviet Union."The investigators said they had found no evidence supporting Syrianand Russian claims that the chemicals had been released when an airstrike hit an opposition weapons depot in the area producing chemicalmunitions.Their report, which covers the period from March 1 to July 7, alsofound that Syrian governm ent forces had carried out chemical attackson at least three other occasions since March -- in Idlib, Hamah andeastern Ghouta -- using weaponised chlorine.The report is the 14th from the COI, which has been tasked withdetailing atrocities in the Syrian conflict that has killed more than330,000 people since 2011.*(3) Discrepancies in UN account - Robert Parry & Theodore Postol* New Hole in Syria-Sarin CertaintySeptember 7, 2017Special Report: A new contradiction has emerged in the West's groupthink blaming Syria for an April 4 chemical attack, with one group of U.N. investigators raising doubt about the flight of a Syrian warplane, reports Robert Parry.By Robert ParryThe U.S. mainstream media is treating a new United Nations report on the April 4 chemical weapons incident in Khan Sheikhoun as more proof of Syrian government guilt, but that ignores a major contradiction between two groups of U.N. investigators that blows a big hole in the groupthink.Though both U.N. groups seem determined to blame the Syrian government, the frontline investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that spotters of departing Syrian military aircraft from Shayrat airbase did not send out a warning of any flights until late that morning - while the *alleged dropping of a sarin bomb occurred at around dawn.*The report by the U.N.'s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic noted that "two individuals interviewed by the OPCW claimed that *on the morning of 4 April the early warning system did not issue warnings until 11 to 11:30 a.m*., and that *no aircraft were observed until that time*."If the OPCW's information is correct - that *no warplanes took off from the government's Shayrat airbase until late in the morning* - then the Trump administration's rationale for launching a retaliatory strike of 59 Tomahawk missiles at that airfield on April 6 is destroyed.But the U.N. commission's report - released on Wednesday - simply *brushes aside the OPCW's discovery* that no warplanes took off at dawn. The report instead *relies on witnesses inside jihadist-controlled Khan Sheikhoun* who claim to have heard a warning about 20 minutes before a plane arrived at around 6:45 a.m.Indeed, the report's account of the alleged attack *relies almost exclusively on "eyewitnesses"* in the town, *which was under the control of Al Qaeda's Nusra Front* and allied jihadist groups.The report also gives no attention to the possibility that the alleged sarin incident, which reportedly killed scores of people including women and children, was *a staged event by Al Qaeda* to reverse the Trump administration's announcement just days earlier that it was no longer U.S. policy to seek "regime change" in Syria.The Khan Sheikhoun incident prompted President Trump to launch the missile strike that, according to Syrian media reports, killed 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.Lost HistoryIn the U.N. commission's report,*the possibility of a staged event is not considered* even though the *OPCW had previously uncovered evidence that a chlorine-gas attack in the rebel-controlled town of Al-Tamanah*, which also was blamed on the Syrian government, *was staged *by Al Qaeda operatives and their civilian "relief workers."OPCW investigators, who like most U.N. bureaucrats have seemed eager to endorse allegations of chlorine-gas attacks by the Syrian government, ran into this obstacle when*townspeople from Al-Tamanah came forward to testify that a supposed attack on the night of April 29-30, 2014, was a fabrication*."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 OPCW report stated. "[T]hey [these witnesses] had come forward to contest the wide-spread false media reports."In addition, accounts from 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 OPCW report, which added:"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 ‚Äòsite where second barrel containing toxic chlorine gas was dropped tamanaa 30 April 14'"Some other "witnesses" who alleged a Syrian government attack offered ridiculous claims about detecting the chlorine-infused "barrel bomb" based on how the device sounded in its descent.The report said, "The eyewitness, who stated to have been on the roof, said to have heard a helicopter and the ‚Äòvery 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."Although the report didn't say so, 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 that their supporters then lied to the OPCW investigators to enrage the world against the Assad regime.The coordination of the propaganda campaign, with "witnesses" armed with data to make their stories more convincing, further suggests a premeditated and organized conspiracy to "sell" the story, not just some random act by a few individuals.The Ghouta AttackThere was a similar collapse of the more notorious sarin incident outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, which killed hundreds and was also blamed on the Assad government but now appears to have been carried out as a trick by Al Qaeda operatives to get President Obama to order the U.S. military to devastate the Syrian military and thus help Al Qaeda's Nusra Front to win the war.You might have thought that these experiences with staged chemical attacks would have given U.N. investigators more pause when another unlikely incident occurred last April 4 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which was under Al Qaeda's control.The Trump administration had just announced a U.S. policy reversal, saying that the U.S. goal was no longer "regime change" in Syria but rather to defeat terrorist groups. At the time, Al Qaeda's Nusra Front, the Islamic State and other jihadist forces were in retreat across much of Syria.In other words, the Syrian government had little or no reason to provoke U.S. and international outrage by launching a sarin gas attack on a remote town with only marginal strategic significance.Chemical attacks, especially the alleged use of chlorine but sarin gas as well, also offer minimal military effectiveness if dropped on a town. Chlorine gas in this form rarely kills anyone, and the international outrage over sarin far exceeds any military value.But the jihadists did have a powerful motive to continue staging chemical attacks as their best argument for derailing international efforts to bring the war to an end, which would have meant defeat for the jihadists and their international allies.And, we know from the Al-Tamanah case that the jihadists are not above feeding fabricated evidence to U.N. investigators who themselves have strong career motives to point the finger at the Assad regime and thus please the Western powers.In the Khan Sheikhoun case, a well-placed source told me shortly after the incident that at least some U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that it was a hastily staged event in reaction to the Trump administration's renunciation of Syrian "regime change."The source said some evidence indicated that a drone from a Saudi-Israeli special-operations base inside Jordan delivered the sarin and that the staging of the attack was completed on the ground by jihadist forces. Initial reports of the attack appeared on social media shortly after dawn on April 4.The Time ElementSyrian and Russian officials seemed to have been caught off-guard by the events, offering up a possible explanation that the Syrian government's airstrike aimed at a senior jihadist meeting in Khan Sheikhoun at around noon might have accidentally touched off a chemical chain reaction producing sarin-like gas.But U.S. mainstream media accounts and the new U.N. report cited the time discrepancy - between the dawn attack and the noontime raid - as proof of Russian and Syrian deception. Yet, it made no sense for the Russians and Syrians to lie about the time element since they were admitting to an airstrike and, indeed, matching up the timing would have added to the credibility of their hypothesis.In other words, if the airstrike had occurred at dawn, there was no motive for the Russians and Syrians not to say so. Instead, the Russian and Syrian response seems to suggest genuine confusion, not a cover-up.For the U.N. commission to join in this attack line on the timeline further suggests a lack of objectivity, an impression that is bolstered by the rejection of OPCW's finding that no take-off alert was issued early on the morning of April 4.Instead, the U.N. commission relied heavily on "eyewitnesses" from the Al Qaeda-controlled town with unnamed individuals even providing the supposed identity of the aircraft, a Syrian government Su-22, and describing the dropping of three conventional bombs and the chemical-weapons device on Khan Sheikhoun around 6:45 a.m.But there were other holes in the narrative. For instance, in a *little-noticed May 29, 2017 report,* *Theodore Postol*, professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, challenged the Syria-government-did-it 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 "N*ONE 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 Khan Sheikhoun* and thus a dependence on "evidence" from the jihadists and their "civil defense" collaborators, known as the *White Helmets.*Sophisticated PropagandaThe *jihadists* and their media teams have become very s*ophisticated 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 zeroed 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.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.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."Another DebunkingIn 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 sarin-gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.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 the atrocities would be blamed on the government and thus draw in the U.S. military on the jihadist side.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).A Dubious ReportTrump'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 ‚Äòfake news,' but this loaded term comes perilously close to actually describing what is happening."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."Now, another U.N. agency has joined that narrative, despite a key contradiction from fellow U.N. investigators.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*(4) Postol: NYT Claims on Syria Attack Unsupported***May 30, 2017Postol is professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. He just wrote the paper "The New York Times Video Analysis of the Events in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017: NONE of the Cited Forensic Evidence Supports the Claims." He is available for a limited number of interviews.Postol said today: "On April 26, 2017 the New York Times released a video titled ‚ÄòHow Syria and Russia Spun a Chemical Strike.' This video provides extensive forensic evidence that the New York Times used to develop its conclusions about an alleged nerve agent attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017. In this report, I show that NONE of the forensic evidence in the New York Times video and a follow-up Times news article supports the conclusions reported by the New York Times."The forensic evidence and analytical claims in all of these reports can be traced back to a single source, an organization called Bellingcat. This organization represents itself as ‚Äòspecializing in analyzing information posted online.' ‚Ķ"This report shows that NONE of the bomb-damage areas identified by Bellingcat and shown in the New York Times video show any indication of bomb damage from 500 to 1000 pound bombs. That is, the data from a composite panoramic view that is the foundation of the Bellingcat and New York Times analyses is clearly and unambiguously inconsistent with the claims of bomb damage from before and after satellite photographs used in the same analyses. In fact NONE of the forensic data claimed by Bellingcat and the New York Times as evidence of general-purpose bomb damage on April 4 supports the conclusions that are said to have been derived from the forensic data. In all, when these false claims about information provided in the forensic data are brought together with the claims about a sarin release site, the conclusion is inescapable that all of the evidence referred to by Bellingcat in the New York Times contains no forensic proof to support their narrative."Thus, the narratives put forward by the New York Times, and the closely related Human Rights Watch report of May 1, are all based on forensic evidence and conclusions that are unambiguously false."These findings suggests that New York Times management did not check the accuracy of the facts supporting the narrative of events on April 4, 2017 that the Times has been publishing, and continues to publish."*(5) Bellingcat war propaganda masquerading as "citizen journalism"* Bellingcat research collective: War propaganda masquerading as "citizen journalism"By Steve James13 October 2016In its report, released last month, on the 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) blamed Russia. The JIT, in which the authorities of the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine are collaborating, stated that the missile that downed the plane "was brought from the territory of the Russian Federation and, after launch, subsequently returned to the Russian Federation territory."The JIT noted, "[M]any journalists carried out their own investigations, as did *research collectives like Bellingcat*. This resulted in different scenarios and theories being raised, both in the media and on the Internet."The JIT report is cursory and based largely on Ukrainian sources. It does not provide definitive evidence to back up its conclusions, leaving unresolved the question of who shot down MH17.This *reference to Bellingcat*, however, is significant. The speculative scenario sketched out by the JIT, utilizing animation, images, un-sourced mobile phone recordings and references to unavailable satellite and radar data, is *almost identical to that advanced by Bellingcat.*The Bellingcat "research collective" is a web site established in July 2014 by Eliot Higgins. Originally from Leicester in the UK, Higgins is, as of February, a senior fellow in the *Atlantic Council*'s Digital Forensic Research Lab and Future Europe Initiative.The *Atlantic Council* is a leading US geopolitical strategy think tank, which last month published a document outlining advanced preparations underway for the United States to fight "major and deadly" wars between "great powers," which will entail "heavy casualties" and "high levels of death and destruction." The document, titled "The Future of the Army," roots the likelihood of such a war in what it calls "Russia's resurgence."Higgins is one of five authors of an *Atlantic Council* report released earlier this year, "Distract, Deceive, Destroy," on Russia's role in Syria. The report concludes by calling for US missile strikes in Syria. From 2012, Higgins maintained a blog, "Brown Moses," which became notorious for its pro-imperialist coverage of the Syria conflict. Higgins trawled social media posts--primarily Facebook, Twitter and YouTube--for images and clips that purported to reveal the many types of both homemade and industrially manufactured weaponry in use in the bloodbath provoked by US imperialism.Despite having no background in weapons analysis beyond that supposedly derived from computer gaming and, in Higgins' own words, "what I'd learned from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rambo [films]," he was quickly identified by the international media as a ready source of quotes that could be palmed off as "independent," while hewing to the anti-Russian line of the US and its NATO allies.In 2013, Brown Moses became embroiled in allegations by the main imperialist powers that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus. By "studying" social media posts of damaged rockets embedded in the ground, the angle of shadows cast and satellite images of the area, Higgins claimed to be able to show that rockets, alleged to contain sarin, had been fired by the Syrian army.Higgins' efforts were recycled by the world media. At the time, the US government and NATO were on the brink of a major military escalation in Syria, with the alleged chemical attacks meant to provide the pretext.Later that year, veteran US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh debunked the chemical attack allegations, pointing out that numerous forces in the Syrian conflict, including US-backed "rebel" groups fighting the Syrian government, such as the Al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, had "mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and [were] capable of manufacturing it in quantity."Higgins' work was rubbished by a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists, led by Professor Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology, and international security. Postol told Mint Press, "It's clear and unambiguous this munition could not have come from Syrian government-controlled areas as the White House claimed." Higgins, he added, "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."By 2014, Higgins was able to raise the finance to create Bellingcat, a more professionally produced web site backed by up to 15 staff and volunteers. Bellingcat was launched days before MH17 was shot down and quickly expanded its area of study to include Ukraine.How closely allied to the operations of the US state and intelligence network Higgins was by this time can be gauged from an article he wrote in July of this year, "New generation of digital detectives fight to keep Russia honest."In the article on MH17 published on the *Atlantic Council* web site, Higgins wrote that following the downing of the plane, "With renewed interest in the conflict in Ukraine, Bellingcat began to look at other aspects of the conflict, where claims of Russian involvement were met with blanket denials." He continued, " Together with our colleagues at the *Atlantic Council*, we explored Russia's involvement in the conflict in Ukraine in the report ‚ÄòHiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine,' which led VICE News to track down one of the Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine who had been identified in the report." [Emphasis added]The 2014 civil war in Ukraine, which included the Russian annexation of Crimea, was triggered by the far-right US- and EU-backed coup in Kiev earlier that year. It brought Russia and the US closer to a military conflict than at any time since the end of the Cold War, and served to transform Ukraine into a platform from which provocations and operations could be launched against Russia.MH17 was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists but contested by the Ukrainian government and far-right Ukrainian militias. From the first moment, prior to any investigation, the crash was seized upon by the US and its allies to denounce Russia as the world's main aggressor and isolate the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.Proving that MH17 was shot down by Russian forces was a major focus of Bellingcat's efforts. As early as July 28, 2014, Higgins wrote, "The Buk That Could--An Open Source Odyssey," which was based on poor quality videos, stills and quotes from Ukrainian counterterrorism chief Vitaly Nayda. Citing communications intercepts he would not release, Nayda claimed that the "launcher rolled into Ukraine across the Russian border aboard a flatbed truck."In contrast with Bellingcat's hack work, a 2015 report by the Dutch Safety Board into the MH17 crash is a sober piece of work. The Dutch investigators concluded that the most likely missile was a Buk of the 9M38 series with a 9N314M warhead. The investigators identified the potential launch site, based on a 320 square kilometre area, but made no attempt to further define the location or draw conclusions as to who controlled it.By 2015, Higgins' propaganda operation had become so discredited that the German news magazine Der Spiegel was forced to apologise for its uncritical recycling of Bellingcat allegations that the Russian Defense Ministry manipulated satellite image data to support its position on MH17. According to Jens Kreise, an expert in digital image forensics, Bellingcat's technique of "error correction analysis" was "subjective and not based entirely on science." He added, "This is why there is not a single scientific paper that addresses it." Kreise went on to describe Bellingcat's work as "nothing more than reading tea leaves."Immediately after the JIT's MH17 report was released, Higgins took part in an online *Atlantic Council* panel discussion. Commenting on Higgins' work, VICE journalist Simon Ostrovsky noted that Bellingcat gave "a view into the evidence that we wouldn't have understood otherwise... imagine if there hadn't been that narrative and the lies that were being produced by the Russian MoD [Ministry of Defence] had a fertile soil in which to grow, in which there wasn't this very public counterweight."In other words, Higgins/Bellingcat is useful for pumping out propaganda masquerading as "citizen journalism." The so-called "research collective" is an Internet and social media adjunct of the US government and NATO. The conclusions of its "research" are determined by Higgins' politics, which serve the interests of the imperialist powers as they gear up for war against Russia.-- Peter Myerswebsite: