Free Intelligence: notes for a manifesto

Faced today with so much disinformation as we are today, how can citizens be mutually supportive in developing intelligence – intelligence being understood in all its senses, including as a capacity of individual inquirers, as a quality of publicly available understandings of the world, and as a source of insight into potentially disruptive aspects of social life?

Is there any reason not to be committed to:

the development and exercise of inquiring minds as an essential aspect of human life;

recognition of the value of social cooperation in developing intelligence;

maximal openness in the sharing of knowledge and understanding;

respect for the principles of freedom of thought and expression;

defence of those whose lawful rights of free expression are curtailed by government;

promotion of education that supports the development of intellectual autonomy and social understanding at all ages;

defence of a political order that respects constitutional principles for the governance of intelligence gathering and sharing, including provision for democratic oversight of intelligence agencies, state and corporate?

Are there other related commitments that should be regarded as similarly important?

Personally, I perceive disturbing trends in society today that tend to undermine the possibility of fulfilling those commitments. Of particular concern is the spread of disinformation in public communications arising not merely from negligence or incompetence. Agencies with resources to pursue particular agendas can engage in various strategic communications aimed at influencing the public into accepting beliefs that would, with the exercise of free intelligence, be more critically scrutinised.

A further concern is that the education system is being adversely influenced, with a particular risk being that universities, whose social role is to be custodians of the highest standards of research and instruction, are drawn into ventures that dilute and even undermine those standards. In fulfilling a commitment to raising the level of public debate about significant matters of political or scientific controversy, universities have a vital role to play, on behalf of – and answerably to – the whole of society.

What do you think? Please feel free to comment below…

Posted in free intelligence, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The Unfolding Revelations Concerning the OPCW – by Piers Robinson

The following is an edited reproduction of an extended thread of tweets recently posted by Piers Robinson, founding member and spokesperson for the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.

New leaks published today by The Grayzone News and Aaron Maté confirm that the OPCW deceived in order to smear two of its most experienced scientists:-

Bed cylinder1) Back in 2018 there was an alleged chemical weapon attack in Syria, and the US, UK and France bombed Syria within days of the event. Two cylinders containing chlorine gas had been dropped, supposedly causing the death of approximately 50 civilians.

2) Even at the time notable figures (former senior UK military) questioned the likelihood of the attack having been carried out by the Syrian government, for example see:-

3) A BBC producer, Riam Dalati, even stated he had found out that hospital scenes associated with the attack had been staged: Even though he has this critical information he has not handed it to investigators or elected officials.

4) In early 2019, the OPCW published the results of its investigations into the alleged attack at Douma and stated that there were ‘reasonable grounds’ to conclude an attack had occurred at Douma. At the time we detailed multiple flaws in the OPCW report:- Briefing note on the final report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission on the alleged chemical attack in Douma in April 2018

5) In May, 2019, an engineering report was leaked to academics which detailed how the cylinders used in the alleged attacks had been more likely placed by hand, thus indicating the alleged attack had in fact been staged:-

Screenshot 2019-12-24 07.19.48

6) In October 2019, the Courage Foundation convened a panel which included the first Director General of the OPCW, José Bustani, along with other eminent individuals. They heard detailed testimony from an OPCW official:-

7) This was followed up with an open letter addressed to the OPCW, asking that they listen to the concerns of their inspectors who had actually been to Douma. Signatories included Noam Chomsky and whistleblower Katharine Gun.

8) Multiple leaked documents have since been published by and journalists such as Peter Hitchens have been publishing reports detailing what really happened during the OPCW investigation:-

9) There have been reports in the Mail on Sunday detailing how the OPCW suppressed key information and sidelined the inspectors who had actually been to Douma:-

10) Articles by Stefania Maurizi in La Repubblica (here and here) and by Robert Fisk in The Independent:- The Syrian conflict is awash with propaganda – chemical warfare bodies should not be caught up in it

11) In Stundin, Gunnar Hrafn Jónsson writes:- OPCW management accused of doctoring Syrian chemical weapons report

12) And Tucker Carlson interviewed Courage Foundation attendee Jonathan Steele:-

13) Jonathan Steele described how a US delegation had been allowed by UK diplomat Robert Fairweather to ‘brief’ the Douma inspectors regarding what happened in Syria. This is a corruption of OPCW independence and violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention:-

14) We have learned many important truths from all of the leaks and testimonies and the major scientific anomalies are summarized here:-

15) Of Particular importance, however, are the revelations regarding the ballistics of the two yellow cylinders and toxicological evidence regarding the deceased at Douma.

16) We now know that the first draft interim report, written by the inspectors who actually deployed to Douma but which was suppressed by OPW management, raised questions about the cylinders:-

Screenshot 2019-12-23 19.33.44

17) One critical aspect here concerned the (completely) implausible idea that the cylinder at location 2 had broken through a roof to then bounce sideways across the bedroom, landing on the bed:-

18) Another aspect concerned how the cylinder at location 2, found balanced over a hole in the roof, could ever have caused the damage observed:-

19) Detailed assessments contained in the subsequently leaked engineering report, assessing these anomalies and concluding the cylinders were hand placed, was suppressed and blocked from the OPCW final report.

20) Far more alarming is the information concerning how approx. 50 civilians died at location 2. Although supposedly killed by chlorine gas leaking from the cylinder on the rook, the first draft interim report suppressed by OPCW management raised multiple concerns:-

Screenshot 2019-12-22 18.00.27

21) Consultations with 4 NATO chemical warfare toxicologists confirmed that the deceased were not killed by chlorine poisoning at location :-

22) Just as with the engineering report, this evidence was suppressed come the final OPCW report which obfuscated the clear assessments provided by the NATO CW toxicologists.

23) Full factual and accurate details regarding the flaws in the final OPCW report on Douma are detailed in this briefing note:-

24) And the assessment by Professor Paul McKeigue that the deceased were likely to have been murdered elsewhere is contained in this House of Commons briefing:-

25) Unfortunately, attempts to conceal the truth about the OPCW and what happened in Douma have involved multiple attempts to smear and intimidate academics, researchers and whistleblowers.

dasib_kwkaeefyi26) The Times and Huffington Post have published approximately 20 articles smearing academics and researchers as ‘conspiracy theorists’ whilst ignoring the OPCW whistleblowers and the leaked documents. These attacks started the day the UK & US bombed Syria following the alleged attack at Douma!

27) Meanwhile the US government-funded Bellingcat organisation has repeatedly attempted to smear and discredit the OPCW whistleblowers and UK journalist Peter Hitchens:-

28) Remarkably, Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins was caught deleting a tweet that confirmed the cylinder at location 2 had been manipulated by hand. As @MichaKobs explains:-

29) We can see clearly in these images how the cylinder has been rotated to line up a dent with the metal bar and tip the cylinder so that its nozzle is pointing into the hole: this is a manipulation of a crime scene and corroborates the suppressed engineering report.

30) But the worst case of smearing and deception came with the OPCW’s investigation into the leaking of the engineering report. This represented a crude attempt to discredit two of the OPCW’s most experienced and qualified scientists

31) As Aaron Maté and The GrayZone show, the OPCW Director General made demonstrably false statements including the bogus claim that Ian Henderson was not part of the fact finding mission in Douma 

32) Despite the relentless smear campaigns, the truth continues to be told. Professor Paul McKeigue recently presented research findings to the Harvard Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons:-

33) OPCW inspector Ian Henderson has presented, via video link, the failures of the OPCW Douma investigation to the UN Security Council:-

34) And new documents and statements continue to surface and which highlight the ways in which the OPCW has been corrupted by the US, France and the UK. This message from a senior OPCW official reveals a culture of threats and intimidation at the OPCW:-


35) This whistleblower documents dismay at the actions of OPCW management


36) Whilst this statement reveals that dissent within the OPCW’s ranks now extends to other investigations into alleged attacks in Syria which include the new IIT investigations which are tasked with attributing blame.

Screen Shot 2020-05-09 at 05.51.15

Douma victims

37) An OPCW corrupted by the US, UK and France is a clear threat to international peace and security. This corruption is also currently denying justice for these murdered civilians, covering up the truth behind their deaths.


38) There is, in view of all the evidence now in the public domain, a legal and ethical responsibility on the part of journalists, academics and politicians to address the OPCW scandal. The organisation is corrupted, and it now needs to be radically reformed.


For further media coverage of the leaks and whistleblowers’ testimony see the links here.

Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, international institutions, journalism, media, OPCW, propaganda, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 7 Comments

Peer Review Vs Trial By Twitter

This past week has seen some unedifying academic-on-academic hostility on Twitter, with a storm of haughty criticism being whipped up in response to publication in the journal Alternatives of a paper by Dr David A. Hughes. Perhaps because I know first hand what it feels like to be publicly smeared for touching on inconvenient questions, I have felt impelled to speak out against this intimidatory conduct.

Hughes’ paper tackles a taboo subject, one which has been at the centre of a great deal of conspiracy theorizing, much of it preposterous. What he nevertheless aims to show is that there are also reasonable questions to be asked about the subject; and he wants to understand why these have been lumped together with the foolish ones in a blanket dismissal by other scholars in the field of International Relations (IR).

The paper having undergone peer review and been published, it is now encountering public condemnation from a number of academics via their Twitter accounts. We see the makings here of a campaign to have the paper retracted or the editorial team censured.

Such conduct from professional colleagues requires an exceptional justification. For them to seek to overturn the result of peer review is tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the professionalism of colleagues who were involved in it. Very good reasons ought to be provided for such serious censure.

Scientists and scholars rely on the system of peer review – whose functioning itself depends on the good will and good faith of colleagues – to ensure that publications in their fields of expertise reach certain standards of methodological rigour and substantive significance. They do not assume that publication following peer review is an unequivocal endorsement of everything the paper claims. Once any article is published, it is quite likely to be subject to criticism, if it is of any interest at all, since the advance of learning inherently involves debate. 

So peer review is a valuable process, but it is not an infallible guide to the quality of a publication above a certain threshold, and it does not provide the last word on the worth of a publication. I doubt there is any academic who could not point to some paper or other that, in their view, does not meet the threshold and so ought not to have been published. It is another matter, however, for a case to be made for seeking retraction of a published paper. Such a case would normally be grounded in provable claims of academic fraud of some kind.

It is normal, then, for academics to live with the existence of publications they disagree with or disapprove of. This is not an unalloyed burden, either, since such publications also provide convenient opportunities for academics to exhibit their own superior learning through their critical responses.

What has been more unusual until now is for outcomes of peer review to be challenged in public fora. Of course, before the advent of social media, there would have been little opportunity to do so. But now, papers that strike a nerve with disapproving readers can encounter public challenge via instantaneous reactions on platforms like Twitter.

Some of the responses to Hughes’s paper have expressed dissatisfaction at the publication in relatively measured terms.  For instance, Dr Nicholas Kitchen, a lecturer in International Relations at Surrey University posted several tweets, which included these:


Disagreeing with editors’ decisions is not uncommon, I think, but to go on to publicly denounce a colleague’s work in this way is quite another matter. Although Kitchen adds such a damning comment, he has not pointed to any specifics in the paper that warrant such opprobrium.

This lack of specificity, in fact, is a common feature of the attack tweets. An influential example is this Tweet from Professor Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College:

Brendan Nyhan

Other academics challenged the editorial board to retract or resign. See, for instance, this thread from Dr Emmett Macfarlane, associate professor in Political Science at the University of Waterloo.

upset IR peeps

The response by Dr Jennifer Mustapha, an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Huron University College, illustrates Hughes’s point that “critical” IR scholars have no time for the kind of uncomfortable questions he highlights.

Indeed, a further tweet from Macfarlane went so far as to call Hughes’s article the ‘antithesis of academic scholarship’. Thinking myself that this was a harsh judgement to make of any professional colleague, particularly when no grounds for it had been demonstrated, I intervened with a request that Macfarlane suggest better readings. In response he simply blocked me!

Academic debate with Macfarlane!

In the meantime, the journal’s editor had been alerted to the Twitter discussions and had issued a response, which Kitchen cites:

Kitchen and Bellamy

The quip added by Professor Alex Bellamy of the University of Queensland captures the tenor of many of the comments inserted by others into these twitter conversations.

A more aggressive intervention came from Dr Nour Halabi, a Lecturer in Media and Communication at the University of Leeds, with her proposal to boycott the publisher unless it bowed to the pressure of the complainants about this ‘truther’ and ‘conspiracy theorist’:

Halabi and others

My view is that the approach of these academics on Twitter is indefensible. They smear the author and the paper while seeking to intimidate the publisher and send a public message that this topic ought to remain off-limits to any critical inquiry. The fact that the paper is seeking to reflect on how that taboo comes to be maintained is scarcely commented on by the critics. Those few who do mention it make a general complaint about this not being the right way to go about it – but without indicating what would be the right way. (A helpful recommendation is offered, though, by Roland Bleiker of a piece he co-authored with Tim Aistrope on Conspiracy and Foreign Policy, as a more subtle treatment.) I am not suggesting Hughes’ paper could not have been improved in any way, but I am concerned that none of the attacks on it has identified any specific scholarly defect, let alone anything close to the kind of fraudulence that would warrant retraction.

Certainly, raising questions about the circumstances of the destruction of the three World Trade Centre buildings in 2001 leads into very uncomfortable and disturbing areas of speculation, and reasons to avoid doing so are compelling – certainly pragmatically and psychologically. Such influential dissenters as Noam Chomsky have supported the position that such questions are better not asked, with even Julian Assange apparently saying “I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11, when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud.” This is surely an efficacious salve for the critical conscience of many of us. I wonder, indeed, what cognitive condition the vitriolic responses to a humble journal article by so many critical thinkers might betoken.

More humdrum questions about whether Hughes’s paper should have been published exactly as is are open to reasonable disagreement. But since it has now been peer reviewed and published, criticism should be made in appropriately academic terms, and not those of the playground bully, which some academics seem to feel themselves licensed to do on Twitter.

Regarding the substance of the paper, since I have not researched the topic myself, my comments will be limited to a few very general points.

  1. The terrible events of 11 September 2001 had not been pre-announced publicly and were not carried out by one person alone: by definition, therefore, they involved a conspiracy.
  2. The authorized version of events accordingly, and unavoidably, includes a theory of a conspiracy as a core part of its explanation.
  3. The authorized conspiracy theory has been questioned in a variety of ways, as Hughes’s literature review indicates.
  4. Many of those questions are not foolish or trivial, but quite reasonably posed in the light of evidence assembled.
  5. Therefore, while the authorized account might be true, to question it is not irrational or shameful. Indeed, following John Stuart Mill, one might emphasise how constantly reviewing the grounds of accepted truths can help keep them vivid.
  6. Furthermore, a theory can be true in parts and still be improved upon, especially when it relates to a complex event, and a fuller account of the truth can be attained by continuing rational research into questions that can sensibly be posed.
  7. Therefore to pursue those questions is not only justified but can be seen to be part of the scholarly community’s collective obligation.

If the IR community has not given much scholarly attention to those questions, then it seems to me that Hughes is right to suggest that they, and the reasons for the silence, are worth devoting a few journal pages to. Accordingly, in my view, the editor of Alternatives was right to put the submission out for review and then to accept the advice of the reviewers. Since their recommendation was to publish the article, any criticism of it now should be made in the way that academic criticisms normally and properly are.

Trying to shame the publisher into retracting the paper is not the way to uphold academic standards.

As for trying to shame a scholar who has the courage to engage in what the “critical” scholars seem merely to pay lip service to – namely, an attempt to speak truth to power – the academics in question ought, in my view, to be offering apologies. Hughes is well aware why it is that those relatively few ‘academics who have spoken out have tended to be emeritus or retired professors with little to lose career-wise’. It is because in virtue of doing so they can ‘expect to find themselves subjected to a media smear campaign as part of a coordinated effort to discredit them.’ Such attacks on a scholar’s reputation can be very damaging for younger academics with future prospects to put in jeopardy. So in standing firm in full awareness of all this, Hughes has responded with integrity to the pull of an intellectual obligation he feels to undertake academic due diligence regarding assumptions about a defining historical event of our epoch.

I would like to invite readers to share below their comments on either this post or Hughes’s paper. Naturally, I expect them to be respectful. (Any anonymous smears or abusiveness will be excluded during moderation.)

Posted in bullying, conspiracy, conspiracy theory, disinformation, Uncategorized | 119 Comments

House of Commons Presentation: OPCW Leaks Reveal International Community Was Misled About Alleged Douma Chemical Incident in 2018



Wednesday 22nd January 2020, 3-5 pm

The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Westminster, London, UK)


CHAIR: John Holmes (Major General, rtd.)


Paul McKeigue (Professor of Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh)

David Miller (Professor of Political Sociology, University of Bristol, @Tracking_Power)

Piers Robinson (Doctor, Co-Director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies and Convenor of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media [WGSPM], former Chair/Professor University of Sheffield and former Senior Lecturer University of Manchester, @PiersRobinson1)

Jonathan Steele (Independent journalist, formerly chief foreign correspondent for The Guardian, @SteeleJourno)


Sheila Coombes (Founder of Independent Anti-War Group Frome Stop War)

This report, by Dr. Catherine Brown (@neolawrencian), who attended the event, is based on her transcription (as near to verbatim as possible) of the presentations, questions, and answers as they were given. Speakers and questioners were then given the opportunity to clarify their statements post facto. It should be noted that Professor Paul McKeigue’s presentation has been expanded to reproduce the full text of the Powerpoint presentation from which he was speaking. The hyperlinks have been largely sourced by the report-compiler, whose editorial text insertions are indicated by square brackets.

Download the report


Sedwill and May

Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, international institutions, journalism, media, OPCW, Russia, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 12 Comments

The Douma incident of 7 April 2018: how did the intelligence services get it wrong?

Presentation to a meeting at the House of Commons hosted by Fabian Hamilton MP, 22 January 2020.

By Paul McKeigue

I’ll start by introducing myself. I trained as a doctor, and then as an epidemiologist and public health specialist. My expertise includes the investigation of scientific fraud, and the investigation of mass casualty incidents. I first started studying the alleged chemical attacks in Syria around 2015. That led to me discovering colleagues like Professor Tim Hayward at my own university, who shared my interest in investigating the stories that we were hearing from Syria. People sometimes ask me why I am doing this, in the face of flak directed at us. One reason is that I was brought up to believe in parliamentary government. As children each of us, at the age of eleven or twelve, was taken to a debate at the House of Commons. We were told that this was something special about our system of government. One of my concerns in relation to the alleged chemical attacks in Syria has been that Parliament has been misled. On the 14th April 2018, the UK had joined the US and France in a missile attack, without recalling Parliament for a vote. Two days later, Theresa May in the House of Commons responded to Sir Edward Leigh MP, who had apparently expressed doubts.

Portcullis House Meeting on 22 Jan 2020 OPCW Douma transcript [Final for Release]

Sedwill and May

Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, international institutions, media, OPCW, Russia, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | Leave a comment

Wikileaks Reveals Further Evidence of “Sexed-Up Dossier”: OPCW faces growing call for answers

As representatives of almost every state in the world gather this week in The Hague, all eyes should be on them. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – whose conference they are attending – was mandated by the people of the world to play a vital part in reducing the evils of war.

Instead, it seems, the OPCW has been manipulated to serve the ends of warmongers.

Critics and non-Western nations arrived at this understanding some time ago. Key investigators at the OPCW have known it for a fact. Their knowledge was brought to light first by the leak of a suppressed report, then by firsthand testimony heard by an international panel, and now by Wikileaks’ release of an email in which an OPCW inspector expresses the gravest concern about intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored. Crucial facts about the 2018 Douma chemical claims, he writes, “have morphed into something quite different to what was originally drafted.”

The Western media has concealed the problem because – bluntly – it is part of the problem. Journalists in established news outlets do not have the investigative autonomy that they would need to fulfil their calling.

But the news is out. In the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens writes that what’s been uncovered “appears to be the worst instance of ‘sexing-up’ in support of war since the invasion of Iraq and Tony Blair’s doctored dossiers.” In Italy’s leading broadsheet La Repubblica, Stefania Maurizi puts the critical question: “Will the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize winning organization shed light on the whistleblower’s serious charges after this email?”

Hopefully, the questions will now be firmly pressed, and this post will carry updates as and when they are covered in the media.

Further coverage and updates [most recent first]

Continue reading

Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, international institutions, journalism, media, OPCW, propaganda, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 7 Comments

OPCW Must Come Clean: Open Letter To States’ Representatives

Following revelations of grave flaws in its Syria reporting, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons must allow whistleblowers’ evidence to be heard at the coming OPCW Conference of States Parties. That’s the message from the following public figures who have signed an Open Letter to OPCW permanent representatives.

José Bustani, Ambassador of Brazil, first Director General of the OPCW and former Ambassador to the United Kingdom and France.

William Binney, a former technical director at NSA

George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Noam Chomsky, Emeritus Professor, MIT

Alain Chouet, former chief of the Security Intelligence Service within the French external intelligence service (DGSE)

Marcello Ferrada de Noli, Professor Emeritus, former head Research group Cross-cultural Injury Epidemiology, Karolinska Institute. Chair Swedish Doctors for Human Rights – SWEDHR

Anne Gazeau-Secret, former French Ambassador, The Hague

Katharine Gun, former GCHQ (UKGOV), Whistleblower

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Officer and Former Senior Investigator, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Annie Machon, former MI5 Officer, UK Security Services

Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and presidential briefer; co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence; former Army Infantry/Intelligence officer.

John Pilger, Journalist and documentary film maker

Theodore Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and National Security, MIT

Scott Ritter, UNSCOM Weapons Inspector 1991-1998

Coleen Rowley, retired FBI agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel, 9-11 whistleblower and a 2002 Time Magazine Person of the Year

Hans von Sponeck, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator (Iraq)

Oliver Stone, Film Director, Producer and Writer.

Courage Foundation Panel Members:-

Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University; Visiting Professor, Istinye University, Istanbul

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief, Wikileaks

John Holmes, Maj Gen (retd) DSO OBE MC, former director of Special Forces, British Army

Dr. Helmut Lohrer, MD, Board member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and International Councilor of its German affiliate

Prof. Dr. Günter Meyer, Centre for Research on the Arab World (CERAW) at the University of Mainz

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence; member, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence

And with support of members of the OPCW Douma Fact-Finding Mission

Continue reading

Posted in chemical weapons, guest blog, OPCW, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 8 Comments

“Major Revelation” from OPCW whistleblower: Jonathan Steele speaking to the BBC

The following is a transcription of an interview given by Jonathan Steele (former Senior Middle East Correspondent for the Guardian) to Paul Henley, on the BBC World Service programme, Weekend, on 27 October 2019 Continue reading

Posted in BBC, chemical weapons, disinformation, Guardian, guest blog, international institutions, media, OPCW, propaganda, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 31 Comments

Media Coverage of OPCW Whistleblower Revelations

(For full links to sources scroll down past update notices)

Update 10 July 2020 As OPCW’s Executive Council voted this week on whether to take action on the first IIT report, Frank Myers publishes a useful overview reminding the public of the ‘Western media’s Syrian shame’ concerning ‘chemical weapons and cover-ups’. OPCW’s management itself appears to be ashamed too, as on Twitter it hides replies to its tweeted announcement when these mention the whistleblowers and their testimony.

Update 28 April 2020 Following publication of the first report of OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), a withering critique of it from OPCW insiders is posted by The Grayzone. In light of such unequivocal implications of fraudulence, a glaring question that journalists ought to be asking is whether there is *any* serious scientist with a reputation to match the OPCW whistleblowers who would put their name to an endorsement of the organisation’s scientific and technical work as published.

Update 13 March 2020 This week a fourth whistleblower came forward to testify of a toxic climate of fear within OPCW, while at the 93rd session of its Executive Council, Western states parties doubled down on their position regarding Syria. By contrast, China stressed the requirement of OPCW to work in an objective, impartial and professional manner, and India emphasised the need for a consensual approach to reporting and for the integrity and credibility of the OPCW and its mechanisms to be preserved. The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media issued a briefing note with an ‘Update on the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident‘.

Update 1 March 2020 This week Presidential Candidate and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard confirmed that she has sent several letters to OPCW about the whistleblowers’ allegations and will continue to follow up on the questions, having had no satisfactory response thus far. Meanwhile, Peter Hitchens published a detailed account (c15,000 words) of the OPCW whistleblowers’ point-by-point responses to the Director General’s recent statement about them.

Update 21 February 2020 Criticism of OPCW’s handling of whistleblowers continues to be heard from various quarters, including in articles from US, UK, Australia, Denmark, and Germany – (scroll down for links) – with Caitlin Johnstone’s critique of Huffington Post’s extended smear campaign against the Working Group being republished in Brazil. Also this week, OPCW’s Twitter account was found to be hiding critical replies to its tweets, compounding public perceptions of the organisation’s lack of candour. The wider Western campaign of perception management about Syria was further revealed with more disclosures from Ian Cobain and Alice Ross on The British government’s covert propaganda campaign in Syria.

Update 11 February 2020 The full text of Ian Henderson’s report to UN Security Council was published via Aaron Maté at Grayzone News, with their exposé including also a redacted email from a ‘Senior OPCW Official’ speaking of a climate of fear at the organisation.

Update 7 February 2020 This week saw the release of OPCW Director General’s response to the leaks. Unlike the leaks themselves, his message was instantly transmitted in the mainstream media, including via The Guardian and New York Times – which covered it twice in a day. Meanwhile, The National Interest published an article by Ted Galen Carpenter arguing that ‘The Media’s Coverage of the Syria April 2018 Chemical Weapons Attack is a Disgrace‘. This latter view is prevalent in independent media, such as OffGuardian. Also this week The Grayzone wrote a stinging response to HuffPost UK for its complicity in government censorship.

Update 31 January 2020 This week saw mainstream media apparently attempt to squash the story: following an earlier such item in The Times, Huffington Post published what Caitlin Johnstone counts as Chris York’s twelfth smear piece on dissident voices. The Daily Mail reproduces part of that piece but also includes salient information lower down the page. Meanwhile, The Canary follows other independent progressive outlets like The Grayzone in emphasising the story’s significance.

Update 27 January 2020 Former SAS chief John Holmes recounts his meeting with OPCW whistleblower on RT, while Peter Hitchens offers detailed response to Bellingcat’s attempt to discredit OPCW engineering/ballistics expert Ian Henderson.

Update 23 January 2020 UN briefing by Henderson was followed by House of Commons briefing by Major General John Holmes, journalist Jonathan Steele, and members of Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media. Peter Hitchens writes about the UN meeting in the Mail Online.

Update 20 January 2020 OPCW’s Douma investigator Ian Henderson addresses United Nations Security Council via videolink.

Update 8 January 2020 Tulsi Gabbard draws connection between OPCW report interference and Iraq WMD disinformation, thereby also counselling caution now regarding US intelligence claims relating to Iran. Meanwhile, pointed questions about integrity of OPCW report have been put in Dutch parliament.

Update 1 January 2020 Robert Fisk writing in The Independent mentions that NATO knew “OPCW are not going to admit all they know”. Meanwhile Tulsi Gabbard indicates she has been pressing OPCW to respond on the matter.

Update 27 December 2019 Wikileaks’ fourth release of leaked documents reveals more evidence of OPCW cover-up of its inspectors’ real findings.

Update 15 December 2019. Wikileaks’ third release of documents details malpractice in OPCW Douma reporting.

Update 10 December 2019. The most recent coverage has been rather indirect: first there was the tweeted announcement by Newsweek journalist, Tareq Haddad, of his resigning because his report on the scandal was spiked (a story in itself covered by Fox News and Consortium News). Then there was the mention of it in Monica Maggioni’s interview with the Syrian president for the Italian state broadcaster RAI that then did not get shown in Italy and was broadcast on Syrian TV instead (and these facts were reported by Associated Press and Al Jazeera).

Update 1 December 2019, OPCW Conference closes with consensus on other issues but with Syria reporting regarded as unfinished business by Non-Aligned States along with Russia and China. Meanwhile, Peter Hitchens meets whistleblower and intimates that there is much more is to come.

Update 26 November 2019. On the eve of the OPCW’s 24th Conference of States Parties, Wikileaks released an email revealing claims of what Peter Hitchens, writing in the Mail on Sunday, called a ‘sexed up dossier’. On the first day of the conference, the whistleblower revelations were referred to by the OPCW director general only to downplay their significance, a line uncritically followed by Reuters, AFP, CBS News, The Guardian, etc. In the evening, however, the story received prominent coverage from American TV on Tucker Carlson Tonight.  [The new leak reinforced the message of the earlier whistleblower revelations that this post began by noting, below.]

Original post: On 23 October 2019, the Courage Foundation and Wikileaks released a statement arising from a panel meeting with the OPCW whistleblower on irregular practices in the OPCW’s investigation of alleged chemical attack in Douma, on 7 April 2018. This was signed by seven figures of international standing, including the OPCW’s first director general, José Bustani.

Within hours of its release, this statement was reported in La Repubblica (Italy) and NachDenkSeiten (Germany), but no mainstream outlet in English-speaking countries mentioned it on the day. Meanwhile, though, alternative and non-Western outlets have been alive with discussion of the statement and its implications, as have social media.

This post will keep a note of significant media comment on the revelations and the issues they give rise to, being updated as and when items appear.

Links to coverage (most recent first)

Ceyda Karan (27 July 2020) OPCW, White Helmets and Syria’s ‘scams’, Birgun [in Turkish]

Aaron Mate (24 July 2020) Did Trump bomb Syria on false grounds? The Nation

Fraser Myers (10 July 2020) Chemical weapons and cover-ups: the Western media’s Syrian shame, Spiked

MJ (8 May 2020) Are the OPCW’s reports on Syria reliable?, Tehran Times

Aaron Mate (6 May 2020) OPCW chief made false claims to denigrate Douma whistleblower, documents reveal, The Grayzone

OPCW Insiders (28 April 2020) OPCW Insiders slam ‘compromised’ new Syria chemical weapons probe, The Grayzone

Paul McKeigue, David Miller and Piers Robinson (12 March 2020) Update on the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident, Working Group on Syrian, Propaganda and Media

Aaron Mate (12 March 2020) Exclusive: New OPCW whistleblower slams ‘abhorrent mistreatment’ of Douma investigators, The Grayzone

Piers Robinson (8 March 2020) “Journalists are humiliating themselves” over Douma, interviewed by Gordon Dimmack, Youtube

Marc Thörner (3 March 2020) Berichte über Giftgasangriff in Syrien: “Es gibt immer nur Freund und Feind in dieser Berichterstattung”, in conversation with Bettina Schmieding, DeutschlandFunk (text summary and audio of full interview, in German)

Piers Robinson (3 March 2020) OPCW & Peter Hitchens’ Influence, Stranahan (podcast)

Kurt Rohmert (2 March 2020) Was geschah wirlich in Syrien: Der undurchsichtige Krieg, StadtSpiegel

Peter Hitchens (1 March 2020) Today, I’m publishing the document that could save us from war, Mail On Sunday

Peter Hitchens (29 February 2020) Time to Hear Both Sides. A and B respond to the OPCW’s attacks on them – the Full Rebuttal, Mail Online

Dave DeCamp (26 February 2020) On the OPCW’s Efforts to Discredit Douma Whistleblowers, Scott Horton Show

Karin Leukefeld (25 February 2020) Syrien und Giftgas: Verleumdung statt Aufklärung, NachDenkSeiten

Dan Mygind (20 February 2020) Were chemical weapons actually used in Syria in 2018? Whistleblowers question OPCW report, RÆSON

(20 February 2020) Poison gas in Syria: Why the OPCW continues to make itself unbelievable, Telepolis

Piers Robinson (20 February 2020) The Truth on the Lies in the OPCW Story, Stranahan (podcast)

Tulsi Gabbard (18 February 2020) Will continue to seek answers from OPCW, speaking at Town Hall, Fairfax VA, Youtube

Caitlin Johnstone (18 February 2020) Scandal-Ridden OPCW Now Using Twitter’s “Hide Replies” Function, Medium

Jim W. Dean (19 February 2020) Should OPCW be criminally investigated for Douma fake gassing coverup? Veterans Today

Karin Leukefeld (18 February 2020) There is silence: Chemical Weapons Organization (OPCW) responds to whistleblower reports on Duma investigation, Junge Welt

Peter Hitchens (15 February 2020) Kafka comes to The Hague: The Show Trial of A and B – Why you should be worried, Mail on Sunday

Slava Zilber (14 February 2020) A journalist resigned from an establishment outlet, and we all need to hear his reasons for doing so, The Canary

Aaron Maté (11 February 2020) Exclusive: new leaks shatter OPCW’s attacks on Douma whistleblowers, The Grayzone, featuring also two previously unpublished documents:

Ian Henderson (written 18 Jan 2020; leaked 11 February 2020) Statement to a Meeting during the OPCW Conference of States Parties or to an Arriaformula Meeting of the UNSC

‘Senior OPCW Official’ (written 28 June 2019; leaked 11 Feburary 2020) Redacted email speaking of climate of fear at OPCW

Piers Robinson and Tareq Haddad (11 February 2020) When The Truth Bombs, Renegade Inc (video interview)

Peter Hitchens (9 February 2020) Two heroes they cannot silence, in his weekly column for Mail on Sunday [scroll down]

Florian Rötzer (9 February 2020) Der OPCW-Abschlussbericht und der angebliche Giftgasangriff in Duma, Telepolis

Steve Sweeney (7 February 2020) Chemical-weapons watchdog denies ‘sexing up’ dossier, Morning Star Online

Nebojsa Malic (7 February 2020) OPCW attack on whistleblowers only proves its own credibility is shot, RT

Patrick Wintour and Bethan McKernan (7 February 2020) Inquiry strikes blow to Russian denials of Syria chemical attack: UN watchdog’s investigation rebuts claims it manipulated evidence of Douma incident, The Guardian

Karin Leukefeld (6 February 2020) Wahrheit unterdrückt, Junge Welt

Anthony Deutsch (6 February 2020) Chemical weapons agency employees leaked information, inquiry finds, Reuters

Associated Press (6 February 2020) Chemical Weapons Watchdog Report Criticizes Leaks, New York Times

Reuters (6 February 2020) Chemical Weapons Agency Employees Leaked Information, New York Times

Ted Galen Carpenter (6 February 2020) ‘The Media’s Coverage of the Syria April 2018 Chemical Weapons Attack is a Disgrace‘, The National Interest

OPCW Director-General (6 February 2020) Independent Investigation into Possible Breaches of Confidentiality Report Released

Middle East Monitor (28 January 2020) Chemical weapons expert at the UN: Douma attack didn’t happen, Middle East Monitor

John Holmes (27 January 2020) Interview: Ex-British Special Forces director: OPCW could lose all credibility over Douma leaks! RT with video

Peter Hitchens (24 January 2020) A Response to Bellingcat from Sources Close to the veteran OPCW Chemical Weapons Inspector Ian Henderson, Mail Online

Peter Hitchens (23 January 2020) What governments learned from the Iraq War – to prevent independent media from questioning the pretexts for war, Mail Online

Ulrich Teusch (22 January 2020) The OPCW and the Silence Cartel (or automated translation from German), Multipolar

Ian Henderson (20 January 2020) Address to United Nations Security Council concerning OPCW report on Douma, Youtube

Tulsi Gabbard (8 January 2020) On the Wikileaks/OPCW release, Youtube

Dutch Parliament (3 January 2020) Written questions about Wikileaks’ OPCW Douma Docs, Tweede Kamer NL

Robert Fisk (1 January 2020) The Syrian conflict is awash with propaganda – chemical warfare bodies should not be caught up in it, The Independent

Wikileaks (27 December 2019) OPCW-DOUMA – Release Part 4, Wikileaks.

Tulsi Gabbard (20 December 2019) speaking about Syria and Afghanistan wars, on Jimmy Dore Show.

Wikileaks (15 December 2019) Wikileaks’ third release of documents details malpractice in OPCW Douma reporting, Wikileaks.

Peter Hitchens (15 December 2019) Fresh evidence that UN watchdog suppressed report casting doubt on Assad gas attack, Mail on Sunday

Tareq Haddad (14 December 2019) Lies, Newsweek and control of the media narrative first-hand account

Peter Hitchens (13 December 2019) In Praise of Telling The Truth, First Things

Sam Dorman (7 December 2019) Newsweek reporter quits, claiming outlet ‘suppressed’ story on global chemical weapons watchdog, Fox News

Peter Hitchens (1 December 2019) My secret meeting with mole at the heart of The Great Poison Gas Scandal, Mail on Sunday

Xinhua (30 November 2019) Dispute mars conclusion of OPCW conference, XinhuaNet

Peter Hitchens (29 November 2019) In Defense of Journalism, Spectator USA

Peter Hitchens (28 November 2019) Bellingcat or Guard Dog for the Establishment?, Mail on Sunday

Peter Hitchens (26 November 2019) Trump’s Syria missile strike was a scandal. But almost nobody dares say so, Spectator USA

Karin Leukefeld (25 November 2019) The OPCW board is accused of manipulating the investigative report on an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, NachDenkSeiten (in German)

Tucker Carlson with Jonathan Steele (25 November 2019) Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News (video)

Greg Norman (25 November 2019) Syria watchdog accused of making misleading edits in report on chemical weapons attack, Fox News (video & text report)

Peter Hitchens (24 November 2019) Sexed Up to Make War – an astonishing leak from the Poison Gas Watchdog the OPCW, Mail on Sunday

Stefania Maurizi (24 November 2019) Wikileaks: nuove rivelazioni sull’attacco chimico a Douma, in Siria, La Repubblica

Richard Falk (1 November 2019) Independent Panel Challenges OPCW Findings on 2018 Attack in Douma, Syria, Foreign Policy Journal

Jonathan Steele (27 October 2019) speaking on Weekend, BBC World Service

Peter Hitchens (27 October 2019) Mail on Sunday column

(scroll further down for more)

Karin Leukefeld (24 October 2019) Giftgas in Duma: über mutmaßlich manipulierten OPCW Bericht (RT video, 14 minutes, German)

Pro-Syria & non-MSM (23 October 2019) AMN, RT, TASS, Kit Klarenberg, Caitlin Johnstone, Morning Star

La Repubblica (23 October 2019) Whistleblower denuncia che l’OPAC, l’Organizzazione per la proibizione delle armi chimiche, ha manipolato le indagini sull’attacco chimico a Douma, in Siria, By Stefania Maurizi

Nachdenkseiten 23 October 2019) Whistleblower – der OPCW-Bericht zum angeblichen Giftgasangriff in Duma entspricht nicht der Wahrheit, by Karin Leukefeld

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) (23 October 2019) OPCW-Inspektoren widersprechen offiziellem Abschlussbericht

Wikileaks (23 October 2019) OPCW Whistleblower Panel on the Douma attack of April 2018

Courage Foundation (23 October 2019) Panel Criticizes ‘Unacceptable Practices’ in the OPCW’s investigation of the Alleged Chemical Attack in Douma, Syria on April 7th 2018 


Posted in journalism, media, OPCW, propaganda, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 7 Comments

“Unacceptable Practices at OPCW” – by José Bustani and international panel

“The convincing evidence of irregular behaviour in the OPCW investigation of the alleged Douma chemical attack confirms doubts and suspicions I already had. I could make no sense of what I was reading in the international press. Even official reports of investigations seemed incoherent at best. The picture is certainly clearer now, although very disturbing” 

“I have always expected the OPCW to be a true paradigm of multilateralism. My hope is that the concerns expressed publicly by the Panel, in its joint consensus statement, will catalyse a process by which the Organisation can be resurrected to become the independent and non-discriminatory body it used to be.”

José Bustani, First Director General OPCW and former Ambassador to the United Kingdom and France

Panel Criticizes ‘Unacceptable Practices’ in the OPCW’s investigation of the the Alleged Chemical Attack in Douma, Syria on April 7th 2018

The Courage Foundation convened a panel of concerned individuals from the fields of disarmament, international law, journalism, military operations, medicine and intelligence in Brussels on October 15th. The panel met with a member of the investigation team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international chemical watchdog. On this basis the panel issued the following statement: Continue reading

Posted in chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, international institutions, journalism, media, OPCW, propaganda, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 15 Comments