MIT professor exposes ‘egregious error’ & evidence tampering in US report on Syria sarin incident
A closer look at photos from the town of Khan Shaykhun shows that the chemical attack site was tampered with and that the US report blaming the Syrian government can’t be true, says the MIT professor skeptical of the White House narrative.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Theodore Postol, who wrote a preliminary review of the US government claims earlier this week and shared his findings with RT, examined photographs of the attack site and concluded that the report endorsed by the White House “could not be true.”
Senior US administration officials who briefed the media on Tuesday admitted the White House intelligence was partly “based on the pro-opposition social media reporting,” which “tells a very clear and consistent story about what we think happened.”
Postol’s six-page addendum, made public on Thursday evening, “unambiguously shows that the assumption in the [White House report] that there was no tampering with the alleged site of the sarin release is not correct.”
That assumption was “totally unjustified,” wrote Postol, “and no competent intelligence analyst would have agreed that this assumption was valid.”
By implication, the report was not reviewed and released by competent intelligence experts – “unless they were motivated by factors other than concerns about the accuracy of the report,” the professor added.
Postol’s key argument is a series of photographs of the crater where the container holding sarin was supposedly air-dropped. He pointed to a photograph of several men inspecting the site, wearing loose clothing and medical gloves.
“If there were any sarin present at this location when this photograph was taken everybody in the photograph would have received a lethal or debilitating dose of sarin,” he wrote. “The fact that these people were dressed so inadequately either suggests a complete ignorance of the basic measures needed to protect an individual from sarin poisoning, or that they knew that the site was not seriously contaminated.”
Another photo shows the crushed contained half-buried in the crater, while in other photos is has been dug up and repositioned.
On Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo confirmed that it was his agency which concluded that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, which persuaded Trump to fire 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase last week.
“We were good, and fast,” Pompeo said at an event in Washington, DC, “and we got it right.”
The US missile attack caused tensions between Washington and Moscow, leading to a suspension of a military hotline intended to “deconflict” operations over Syria and the US-led coalition scaling back its strikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL.)
The Syrian government has denied using or even possessing chemical weapons. Syria’s compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention was certified by international observers in 2013, the Russian General Staff said, noting that this did not include two sites on territory controlled by the rebels.
Trump Withholds Syria-Sarin Evidence
Exclusive: Despite President Trump’s well-known trouble with the truth, his White House now says “trust us” on its Syrian-sarin charges while withholding the proof that it claims to have, reports Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
After making the provocative and dangerous charge that Russia is covering up Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the Trump administration withheld key evidence to support its core charge that a Syrian warplane dropped sarin on a northern Syrian town on April 4.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman to the Pentagon, March 16, 2017. (DoD photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
A four-page white paper, prepared by President Trump’s National Security Council staff and released by the White House on Tuesday, claimed that U.S. intelligence has proof that the plane carrying the sarin gas left from the Syrian military airfield that Trump ordered hit by Tomahawk missiles on April 6.
The paper asserted that “we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence,” but then added that “we cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this attack due to the need to protect sources and methods.”
I’m told that the key evidence was satellite surveillance of the area, a body of material that U.S. intelligence analysts were reviewing late last week even after the Trump-ordered bombardment of 59 Tomahawk missiles that, according to Syrian media reports, killed seven or eight Syrian soldiers and nine civilians, including four children.
Yet, it is unclear why releasing these overhead videos would be so detrimental to “sources and methods” since everyone knows the U.S. has this capability and the issue at hand – if it gets further out of hand – could lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia.
In similarly tense situations in the past, U.S. Presidents have released sensitive intelligence to buttress U.S. government assertions, including John F. Kennedy’s disclosure of U-2 spy flights in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan revealing electronic intercepts after the Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983.
Yet, in this current case, as U.S.-Russian relations spiral downward into what is potentially an extermination event for the human species, Trump’s White House insists that the world must trust it despite its record of consistently misstating facts.
In the case of the April 4 chemical-weapons incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which reportedly killed scores of people including young children, I was told that initially the U.S. analysts couldn’t see any warplanes over the area in Idlib province at the suspected time of the poison gas attack but later they detected a drone that they thought might have delivered the bomb.
A Drone Mystery
According to a source, the analysts struggled to identify whose drone it was and where it originated. Despite some technical difficulties in tracing its flight path, analysts eventually came to believe that the flight was launched in Jordan from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base for supporting Syrian rebels, the source said, adding that the suspected reason for the poison gas was to create an incident that would reverse the Trump administration’s announcement in late March that it was no longer seeking the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.
President Trump at a news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on April 5, 2017, at which the President commented on the crisis in Syria. (Screen shot from whitehouse.gov)
If indeed that was the motive — and if the source’s information is correct — the operation would have been successful, since the Trump administration has now reversed itself and is pressing Russia to join in ousting Assad who is getting blamed for the latest chemical-weapons incident.
Presumably, however, the “geospatial intelligence” cited in the four-page dossier could disprove this and other contentions if the Trump administration would only make its evidence publicly available.
The dossier stated, “Our information indicates that the chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft that took off from the regime-controlled Shayrat Airfield. These aircraft were in the vicinity of Khan Shaykhun approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began and vacated the area shortly after the attack.”
So, that would mean – assuming that the dossier is correct – that U.S. intelligence analysts were able to trace the delivery of the poison gas to Assad’s aircraft and to the airfield that Trump ordered attacked on April 6.
Still, it remains a mystery why this intelligence assessment is not coming directly from President Trump’s intelligence chiefs as is normally the case, either with an official Intelligence Estimate or a report issued by the Director of National Intelligence.
The photograph released by the White House of President Trump meeting with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017, regarding his decision to launch missile strikes against Syria.
The White House photo released late last week showing the President and a dozen senior advisers monitoring the April 6 missile strike from a room at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida was noteworthy in that neither CIA Director Mike Pompeo nor Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was in the frame.
Now, it is the White House that has released the four-page dossier supposedly summing up the assessment of the “intelligence community.”
An Argumentative Dossier
The dossier also seems argumentative in that it assumes that Russian officials – and presumably others – who have suggested different possible explanations for the incident at Khan Sheikdoun did so in a willful cover-up, when any normal investigation seeks to evaluate different scenarios before settling on one.
It is common amid the “fog of war” for people outside the line of command – and even sometimes inside the line of command – to not understand what happened and to struggle for an explanation.
On April 6, before Trump’s missile strike, I and others received word from U.S. military intelligence officials in the Middle East that they, too, shared the belief that the poison gas may have resulted from a conventional bombing raid that ruptured containers stored by the rebels, who – in Idlib province – are dominated by Al Qaeda’s affiliate and its allies.
Those reports were cited by former U.S. intelligence officials, including more than two dozen who produced a memo to President Trump urging him to undertake a careful investigation of the incident before letting this crisis exacerbate U.S.-Russia relations.
The memo said “our U.S. Army contacts in the area” were disputing the official story of a chemical weapons attack. “Instead, a Syrian aircraft bombed an al-Qaeda-in-Syria ammunition depot that turned out to be full of noxious chemicals and a strong wind blew the chemical-laden cloud over a nearby village where many consequently died,” the memo said.
In other words, to suggest possible alternative scenarios is not evidence of a “cover-up,” even if the theories are later shown to be erroneous. It is the normal process of sorting through often conflicting initial reports.
Even in the four-page dossier, Trump’s NSC officials contradicted what other U.S. government sources have told The New York Times and other mainstream news outlets about the Syrian government’s supposed motive for launching the chemical-weapons attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
According to the earlier accounts, the Syrian government either was trying to terrorize the population in a remote rebel-controlled area or was celebrating its impunity after the Trump administration had announced that it was no longer seeking Assad’s removal.
But the dossier said, “We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in northern Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure.” Although Khan Sheikhoun was not near the fighting, the dossier presented the town as an area of support for the offensive.
Assuming this assessment is correct, does that mean that the earlier explanations were part of a cover-up or a propaganda operation? The reality is that in such complex situations, the analyses should continue to be refined as more information becomes available. It should not be assumed that every false lead or discarded theory is proof of a “cover-up,” yet that is what we see here.
“The Syrian regime and its primary backer, Russia, have sought to confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks,” the dossier declared.
But the larger point is that – given President Trump’s spotty record for getting facts straight – he and his administration should go the extra mile in presenting irrefutable evidence to support its assessments, not simply insisting that the world must “trust us.”
[In a separate analysis of the four-page dossier, Theodore Postol, a national security specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concluded that the White House claims were clearly bogus, writing:
“I have reviewed the 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 Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.
“In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4. 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.”]
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 believe?ReplyDelete
There are two irrefutable facts:
1. Sarin gas was used
2. However, this is the Middle East
No proof has shown this was delivered by the Syrian or Russian Air Force. We know there was a bombing. We do not know if the bombing was the source of the sarin. If the MIT professor's analysis is correct, it was not.
The event is illogical on a common sense level. (Stated here previously)
Previous claims made during the lead-up to the Iraq war, by the British "Dodgy Dossier", were riddled with fabrications, distortions, unsubstantiated conjecture and out-right lies.
To date, I remain unconvinced about the facts.
Trump has made so many adjustments, twists, turns, backflips, somersaults, convolutions, be makes the old Slinky look like a laser beam.ReplyDelete
He is playing with explosives like a drunk with m80s and Budweiser on a 4th of July picnic at 9:00 PM.
Military actions are notoriously FUBAR in execution.
This will not end well.
I hope I'm very wrong.ReplyDelete
We are beginning to understand who Donald Trump is. What about Professor Pistol?ReplyDelete
He received his undergraduate degree in physics and his PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT. Postol worked at Argonne National Laboratory, where he studied the microscopic dynamics and structure of liquids and disordered solids using neutron, X-ray and light scattering techniques, along with molecular dynamics simulations . He also worked at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, where he studied methods of basing the MX missile, and later worked as a scientific adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations.
After leaving the Pentagon, Postol helped build a program at Stanford University to train mid-career scientists to study weapons technology in relation to defense and arms control policy. In 1990, Postol received the Leo Szilard Prize from the American Physical Society. In 1995, he received the Hilliard Roderick Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in 2001, he received the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility for "uncovering numerous and important false claims about missile defenses." On September 28, 2016 the Federation of American Scientists awarded Professor Theodore Postol from MIT their annual Richard L. Garwin Award for his work in assessing and critiquing the government's claims about missile defense.
This guy is no dope.
The professor has an interesting and accurate track record:ReplyDelete
PATRIOT MISSILES IN OPERATION DESERT STORM
Main article: Patriot missile success rate
The Patriot Missile was used in Operation Desert Storm to intercept descent-phase SCUD missiles fired by Iraq. The U.S. Army claimed a success rate of 80% in Saudi Arabia and 50% in Israel, claims that were later reduced to 70% and 40%. But President George H. W. Bush claimed a success rate of more than 97 percent during a speech at Raytheon's Patriot manufacturing plant in Andover, Massachusetts during the Gulf War, declaring, the "Patriot is 41 for 42: 42 Scuds engaged, 41 intercepted!"
In April 1992, Postol told a House committee that "the Patriot's intercept rate during the Gulf War was very low. The evidence from these preliminary studies indicates that Patriot's intercept rate could be much lower than 10 percent, possibly even zero."
The House Government Operations Subcommittee on Legislation and National Security later reported,
The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements. The public and the Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by administration and Raytheon representatives during and after the war.
Postol later went on to criticize the Army's "independent" Analysis of Video Tapes to Assess Patriot Effectiveness as being "seriously compromised" by the "selective" and "arbitrary" use of data. The Army ultimately downgraded its assessment of the systems' effectiveness.
I worked for Raytheon Co Burlington Mass Spencer Lab, in the late 60's. 90 % of my time was spent in Europe and I was frequently requested to gather technical analysis on various "events" that were used to justify and defend future military contracts and funding. I doubt the corporate defense contractor culture has changed much over the years.
I had to smile at this ..."The public and the Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by administration and Raytheon representatives during and after the war.
Just how far are we in the "fucked department"? By this statement, I would judge pretty far:ReplyDelete
Trump on MOAB: I've Given Military "Total Authorization," "That's Why They've Been So Successful"
Remember the adage, "dead men tell no tales"? Evaporated men tell less:
The blast detonated at 7.32pm local time in the Achin district of the eastern province of Nangarhar, according to the US military.
Sarab, a local resident from Asadkhel in Achin, close to the mountain where the bomb targeted Isis tunnels, said he saw a giant flame before the blast made the ground shake. “It was the biggest blast I have ever heard,” he said. Sarab added that the targeted area had recently been completely occupied by Isis fighters.
“There is no way that civilians were still living there,” he said.
However, a parliamentarian from Nangarhar, Esmatullah Shinwari, said locals had told him one teacher and his young son had been killed. One man, the MP recounted, had told him before the phone lines went down: “I have grown up in the war, and I have heard different kinds of explosions through 30 years: suicide attacks, earthquakes different kinds of blasts. I have never heard anything like this.” Phone connections are regularly interrupted in Achin and there were no immediate indication of casualties.
Reports claimed 36 killed. How could they know? Probably less so than the sarin bomb in Syria.
Those ISIS met Allah before their suicide rests could go off.Delete
If anyone decodes what Trump is doing in Syria, please share.ReplyDelete
Patriots are small potatoes when compared to the megabucks spent on anti-ICBM junk with equally invalid claims of success.ReplyDelete
How bad is this? It's so bad that an independent review panel commissioned by the government once recommended reducing GMD flight tests—because the inevitable failures would undermine its deterrent value against foreign attacks.
And those GMD interceptor missiles already deployed in California and Alaska? They don't work, but the National Academy of Sciences has a spiffy idea on how to recycle them: remove them from their silos and use them as practice targets when the Missile Defense Agency finally figures out a better system.
How Did This Happen?
If the GMD system were suddenly endowed with the power of speech, its first words would likely be those of Admiral James Stockdale: "Who am I? Why am I here?"
The answer is President George W. Bush, who made construction of a national antimissile system a priority after taking office. Beginning in 2001, his administration spent billions per year to develop various missile defense technologies. The White House envisioned a scaled-down version of President Ronald Reagan's "Strategic Defense Initiative," which had sought to create a shield against a massive Soviet attack. The Bush administration favored a limited system, whose main purpose would be thwarting a small number of ballistic missiles that might be fired at the United States by adversaries such as North Korea or Iran.
If you want your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you gotta watch this videoReplyDelete
(VIDEO) Why your ex will NEVER get back...