Search Results for : novichok


Boris Johnson Issues Completely New Story on “Russian Novichoks”

Boris Johnson has attempted to renew the faltering case for blaming Russia ahead of the investigation into the Skripal attack, by issuing a fundamentally new story that completely changes – and very radically strengthens – the government line on what it knows. You can see the long Foreign and Commonwealth Office Statement here.

This is the sensational new claim which all the propaganda sheets are running with:

The Foreign Secretary revealed this morning that we have information indicating that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination. And part of this programme has involved producing and stockpiling quantities of novichok. This is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

This is an astonishing claim and requires close investigation. If this information comes from MI5 or MI6, there is a process of inter-departmental clearance that has to be gone through before it can be put in the public domain – even by a Minister – which is known as “Action-on”. I have been through the process personally many times when working as head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, monitoring Iraqi arms acquisitions. It is not, unless actually at war, a Saturday night process – it would have had to have been done on Friday.

So why is this essential information being released not to Parliament on Friday, but on Andrew Marr’s sofa early on a Sunday morning, backed up with a Sunday morning official statement? This is very unusual. Furthermore, it is absolutely incompatible with what I was told last week by FCO sources – they did not know this information, and one of them certainly would have if it was based on MI6 or GCHQ reporting.

I can see only two possible explanations. One – and the most likely – depends on looking yet again extremely carefully at what the statement says. It says “we have information indicating that within the last decade”. If does not say how long we have held that information. And “within the last decade” can mean any period of time between a second and ten years ago, Very tellingly it says “within the last decade”, it does not say “for the last decade”.

“Within the last decade” is in fact the exact same semantic trick as “sale price – up to 50% off”. That can mean no more than 0.1% off and its only actual meaning is “never better than half price”.

The most likely explanation of this sentence is therefore that they have – since last week when they didn’t know this – just been given this alleged information. And not from a regular ally with whom we have an intelligence sharing agreement. It could have come from another state, or from a private source of dodgy intelligence – Orbis, for example.

The FCO are again deliberately twisting words to convey the impression that we have known for a decade, whereas in fact the statement does not say this at all.

There is a second possible explanation. MI6 officers in the field get intelligence from agents who, by and large, they pay for it. In my experience of seeing thousands of MI6 intelligence reports, a fair proportion of this “Humint” is unreliable. Graham Greene, a former MI6 officer, was writing a true picture in the brilliant “our Man in Havana”, which I cannot strongly recommend enough to you.

The intelligence received arrives in Vauxhall Cross and there is a filter. A country desk officer will assess the intelligence and see if it is worth issuing as a Report; they judge accuracy against how good access the source has and how trustworthy they are deemed to be, and whether the content squares with known facts. If passed, the intelligence then becomes a Report and is given a serial number. This is not a very good filter, because it still lets through a lot of rubbish, but it does eliminate the complete dregs. One possible source of new information that has suddenly changed the government’s state of knowledge this weekend is a search of these dregs for anything that can be cobbled together. As I have written in Murder in Samarkand, it was the deliberate removal of filters which twisted the Iraqi WMD intelligence.

In short, we should be extremely sceptical of this sudden new information that Boris Johnson has produced out of a hat. If the UK was in possession of intelligence about a secret Russian chemical weapons programme, it was not under a legal obligation to tell Andrew Marr, but it was under a legal obligation to tell the OPCW. Not only did the UK fail to do that, the UK Ambassador Sir Geoffrey Adams was last year fulsomely congratulating the OPCW on the completion of the destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons stocks, without a single hint or reservation entered that Russia may have undeclared or secret stocks.

On the Andrew Marr programme, Boris Johnson appeared to say for the first time that the nerve agent in Salisbury was actually made in Russia. But this is a major divergence from the published FCO statement, which very markedly does not say this. Boris Johnson was therefore almost certainly reverting to his reflex lying. In fact the FCO statement gives an extremely strong hint the FCO is not at all confident it was made in Russia and is seeking to widen its bases. Look at this paragraph:

Russia is the official successor state to the USSR. As such, Russia legally took responsibility for ensuring the CWC applies to all former Soviet Chemical Weapons stocks and facilities.

It does not need me to point out, that if Porton Down had identified the nerve agent as made in Russia, the FCO would not have added that paragraph. Plainly they cannot say it was made in Russia.

The Soviet Chemical Weapons programme was based in Nukus in Uzbekistan. It was the Americans who dismantled and studied it and destroyed and removed the equipment. I visited it as Ambassador to Uzbekistan shortly after they had finished – I recall it as desolate, tiled and very cold, nothing to look at really. The above paragraph seeks to hold the Russians responsible for anything that came out of Nukus, when it was the Americans who actually took it.

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First Recorded Successful Novichok Synthesis was in 2016 – By Iran, in Cooperation with the OPCW

The line that novichoks can only be produced by Russia is now proven to be a complete lie. As I previously proved by referencing their publications, in 2013 the OPCW scientific advisory committee note the evidence was sparse that novichoks had ever been successfully produced, and that was still the line being published by Porton Down in 2016. You can find the hard evidence of all that here.

I have now been sent the vital information that in late 2016, Iranian scientists set out to study whether novichoks really could be produced from commercially available ingredients. Iran succeeded in synthesising a number of novichoks. Iran did this in full cooperation with the OPCW and immediately reported the results to the OPCW so they could be added to the chemical weapons database.

This makes complete nonsense of the Theresa May’s “of a type developed by Russia” line, used to parliament and the UN Security Council. This explains why Porton Down have refused to cave in to governmental pressure to say the nerve agent was Russian. If Iran can make a novichok, so can a significant number of states.

While Iran acted absolutely responsibly in cooperating with the OPCW, there are a handful of rogue states operating outwith the rule of international law, like Israel and North Korea, which refuse to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, join the OPCW or destroy their chemical weapons stocks. Russia has cooperated in the OPCW destruction of all its chemical weapons stocks, completed last year, which included regular OPCW inspection of all the sites alleged to have been in the original “novichok” programme. Why nobody is even looking at the rogue states outwith the OPCW is a genuine puzzle.

Extraordinarily, only yesterday the Guardian was still carrying an article which claimed “only the Russian state” could make a novichok. Despite the lying propaganda regurgitated by virtually every corporate and state “journalist”, in truth is it is now proven beyond dispute that “of a type developed by Russia” has zero evidential value and is a politician’s weasel phrase designed deliberately to mislead the public. The public should ask why.

ty th Che

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The Novichok Story Is Indeed Another Iraqi WMD Scam

As recently as 2016 Dr Robin Black, Head of the Detection Laboratory at the UK’s only chemical weapons facility at Porton Down, a former colleague of Dr David Kelly, published in an extremely prestigious scientific journal that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown.

In recent years, there has been much speculation that a fourth generation of nerve agents, ‘Novichoks’ (newcomer), was developed in Russia, beginning in the 1970s as part of the ‘Foliant’ programme, with the aim of finding agents that would compromise defensive countermeasures. Information on these compounds has been sparse in the public domain, mostly originating from a dissident Russian military chemist, Vil Mirzayanov. No independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds has been published. (Black, 2016)

Robin Black. (2016) Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents. Royal Society of Chemistry

Yet now, the British Government is claiming to be able instantly to identify a substance which its only biological weapons research centre has never seen before and was unsure of its existence. Worse, it claims to be able not only to identify it, but to pinpoint its origin. Given Dr Black’s publication, it is plain that claim cannot be true.

The world’s international chemical weapons experts share Dr Black’s opinion. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is a UN body based in the Hague. In 2013 this was the report of its Scientific Advisory Board, which included US, French, German and Russian government representatives and on which Dr Black was the UK representative:

[The SAB] emphasised that the definition of toxic chemicals in the Convention would cover all potential candidate chemicals that might be utilised as chemical weapons. Regarding new toxic chemicals not listed in the Annex on Chemicals but which may nevertheless pose a risk to the Convention, the SAB makes reference to “Novichoks”. The name “Novichok” is used in a publication of a former Soviet scientist who reported investigating a new class of nerve agents suitable for use as binary chemical weapons. The SAB states that it has insufficient information to comment on the existence or properties of “Novichoks”. (OPCW, 2013)

OPCW: Report of the Scientific Advisory Board on developments in science and technology for the Third Review Conference 27 March 2013

Indeed the OPCW was so sceptical of the viability of “novichoks” that it decided – with US and UK agreement – not to add them nor their alleged precursors to its banned list. In short, the scientific community broadly accepts Mirzayanov was working on “novichoks” but doubts he succeeded.

Given that the OPCW has taken the view the evidence for the existence of “Novichoks” is dubious, if the UK actually has a sample of one it is extremely important the UK presents that sample to the OPCW. Indeed the UK has a binding treaty obligation to present that sample to OPCW. Russa has – unreported by the corporate media – entered a demand at the OPCW that Britain submit a sample of the Salisbury material for international analysis.

Yet Britain refuses to submit it to the OPCW.

Why?

A second part of May’s accusation is that “Novichoks” could only be made in certain military installations. But that is also demonstrably untrue. If they exist at all, Novichoks were allegedly designed to be able to be made at bench level in any commercial chemical facility – that was a major point of them. The only real evidence for the existence of Novichoks was the testimony of the ex-Soviet scientist Mizayanov. And this is what Mirzayanov actually wrote.

One should be mindful that the chemical components or precursors of A-232 or its binary version novichok-5 are ordinary organophosphates that can be made at commercial chemical companies that manufacture such products as fertilizers and pesticides.

Vil S. Mirzayanov, “Dismantling the Soviet/Russian Chemical Weapons Complex: An Insider’s View,” in Amy E. Smithson, Dr. Vil S. Mirzayanov, Gen Roland Lajoie, and Michael Krepon, Chemical Weapons Disarmament in Russia: Problems and Prospects, Stimson Report No. 17, October 1995, p. 21.

It is a scientific impossibility for Porton Down to have been able to test for Russian novichoks if they have never possessed a Russian sample to compare them to. They can analyse a sample as conforming to a Mirzayanov formula, but as he published those to the world twenty years ago, that is no proof of Russian origin. If Porton Down can synthesise it, so can many others, not just the Russians.

And finally – Mirzayanov is an Uzbek name and the novichok programme, assuming it existed, was in the Soviet Union but far away from modern Russia, at Nukus in modern Uzbekistan. I have visited the Nukus chemical weapons site myself. It was dismantled and made safe and all the stocks destroyed and the equipment removed by the American government, as I recall finishing while I was Ambassador there. There has in fact never been any evidence that any “novichok” ever existed in Russia itself.

To summarise:

1) Porton Down has acknowledged in publications it has never seen any Russian “novichoks”. The UK government has absolutely no “fingerprint” information such as impurities that can safely attribute this substance to Russia.
2) Until now, neither Porton Down nor the world’s experts at the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were convinced “Novichoks” even exist.
3) The UK is refusing to provide a sample to the OPCW.
4) “Novichoks” were specifically designed to be able to be manufactured from common ingredients on any scientific bench. The Americans dismantled and studied the facility that allegedly developed them. It is completely untrue only the Russians could make them, if anybody can.
5) The “Novichok” programme was in Uzbekistan not in Russia. Its legacy was inherited by the Americans during their alliance with Karimov, not by the Russians.

With a great many thanks to sources who cannot be named at this moment.

Please Also Read My follow-up to this article: “Bothered by Midgies”

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No Inquest for Dawn Sturgess 320

The killing of poor Dawn Sturgess was much the most serious of the events in Salisbury and Amesbury that attracted international attention. Yet nobody has been charged, no arrest warrant issued and no inquest held.

The inquest for Dawn Sturgess has today been yet again postponed, for the fourth time, and for the first time no new prospective date has been given for it to open. Alarmingly, the coroner’s office are referring press enquiries to Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command – which ought to have no role in an inquest process supposed to be independent of the police.

Congratulations to Rob Slane and to John Helmer for their excellent work in following this.

It appears very probable that the independent coroner’s inquiry process is going to be cancelled and, as in the case of David Kelly, replaced by a politically controlled “public inquiry” with a trusty or malleable judge in charge, like Lord Hutton of Kincora. This is because the truth of Dawn Sturgess’ death in itself destroys key elements of the government’s narrative on what happened in Salisbury.

Simply put, the chemical that killed Dawn Sturgess could not have been the same that allegedly poisoned the Skripals. Charlie Rowley is adamant that he found it in a packaged and fully sealed perfume bottle, in a charity bin. Furthermore he states that it was a charity bin he combed through regularly and it had not been there earlier, in the three months between the alleged attack on the Skripals and his taking it from the bin.

The government narrative that “Boshirov and Petrov” used that perfume bottle to attack the Skripals, then somehow resealed the cellophane, and disposed of it in the bin, depends on the Russians having a tiny plastic resealing technology concealed on them (and why bother?), on their taking a long detour to dispose of the “perfume” in a charity bin – the one method that guaranteed it being found and reused – and the “perfume” then achieving a lengthy period of invisibility in the bin before appearing again three months later.

Those are only some of a number of inconvenient facts. Perfume does not come as a gel; it cannot both have been applied as a gel to the Skripals’ doorknob and sprayed on to Dawn Sturgess’ wrists. Gels do not spray. Neither Porton Down nor the OPCW was able to state it was from the same batch as the chemical allegedly used on the Skripals’ house.

Then there is the fascinating fact that it took eleven days of intensive searching for a vial of liquid in a small modern home, for the police to find the perfume bottle sitting on the kitchen counter.

Nobody has been charged with the manslaughter or murder of Dawn Sturgess. There is still an international arrest warrant out for Boshirov and Petrov for the attack on the Skripals. Very interestingly indeed, this warrant has never been changed into the names of Chepiga and Mishkin.

From the moment I heard of the attack on Dawn Sturgess I worried that she – a person down on her luck and living in a hostel – was exactly the kind of person the powerful and wealthy would view as a disposable human being if her death fitted their narrative. The denial of an inquest for her, and the complete lack of interest by the mainstream media in the obvious nonsense of the official story that ties her to the Skripal poisoning, tends to confirm these fears. What Dawn Sturgess’ death tells us, beyond doubt, is that the government narrative is fake and the Skripal and Sturgess cases are two separate incidents. Which makes a local origin of the chemical very much more likely. No wonder the government is determined to avoid the inquest.

I was struck today that the tame neo-con warmongering “Chemical weapons expert” Hamish De Bretton Gordon, former head of the British Army’s chemical weapons unit, appeared on Sky News. He was being interviewed on use of white phosphorous by Turkey in Syria and repeatedly tried to deflect the narrative on to alleged chemical weapons use by Syrian government forces, arguing that the present crisis was the moral responsibility of those who opposed western military action against Assad. But what particularly struck me was that he appeared by Skype – from Salisbury. When you look at the British government’s own chemical weapons expertise, you are continually led back to Salisbury, perhaps not surprisingly given the location of Porton Down.

I am aiming to make a full documentary film on the Salisbury events entitled “Truth and the Skripals”, based around the questions raised on this blog. I shall be looking to launch crowdfunding for the documentary shortly, probably within the week.

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The World: What is Really Happening

If you want to understand what is really happening in the world today, a mid-ranking official named Ian Henderson is vastly more important to you than Theresa May. You will not, however, find anything about Henderson in the vast majority of corporate and state media outlets.

You may recall that, one month after the Skripal incident, there was allegedly a “chemical weapons attack” in the jihadist enclave of Douma, which led to air strikes against the Syrian government in support of the jihadist forces by US, British and French bombers and missiles. At the time, I argued that the Douma jihadist enclave was on the brink of falling (as indeed it proved) and there was no military advantage – and a massive international downside – for the Syrian Army in using chemical weapons. Such evidence for the attack that existed came from the jihadist allied and NATO funded White Helmets and related sources; and the veteran and extremely respected journalist Robert Fisk, first westerner to arrive on the scene, reported that no chemical attack had taken place.

The “Douma chemical weapon attack” was linked to the “Skripal chemical weapon attack” by the western media as evidence of Russian evil. Robert Fisk was subjected to massive media abuse and I was demonised by countless mainstream media journalists on social media, of which this is just one example of a great many.

In both the Skripal and the Douma case, it fell to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to provide the technical analysis. The OPCW is a multilateral body established by treaty, and has 193 member states. The only major chemical weapons owning powers which are not members and refuse the inspections regime are the pariah rogue states Israel and North Korea.

An OPCW fact finding mission visited Douma on April 21 and 25 2018 and was able to visit the sites, collect samples and interview witnesses. No weaponised chemicals were detected but traces of chlorine were found. Chlorine is not an uncommon chemical, so molecular traces of chlorine at a bombing site are not improbable. The interim report of the OPCW following the Fact Finding Mission was markedly sober and non-committal:

The results show that no organophosphorous nerve agents or their degradation products were detected in the environmental samples or in the plasma samples taken from alleged casualties. Along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from two sites, for which there is full chain of custody.

The fact finding mission then returned to OPCW HQ, at which time the heavily politicised process took over within the secretariat and influenced by national delegations. 9 months later the final report was expressed in language of greater certainty, yet backed by no better objective evidence:

Regarding the alleged use of toxic chemicals as a weapon on 7 April 2018 in Douma, the Syrian Arab Republic, the evaluation and analysis of all the information gathered by the FFM—witnesses’ testimonies, environmental and biomedical samples analysis results, toxicological and ballistic analyses from experts, additional digital information from witnesses—provide reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place. This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.

However the report noted it was unable to determine who had used the chlorine as a weapon. Attempts to spin this as a consequence of OPCW’s remit are nonsense – the OPCW exists precisely to police chemical weapons violations, and has never operated on the basis of violator anonymity.

Needless to say, NATO funded propaganda site Bellingcat had been from the start in the lead in proclaiming to the world the “evidence” that this was a chemical weapons attack by the Assad government, dropping simple chlorine cylinders as bombs. The original longer video footage of one of the videos on the Bellingcat site gives a fuller idea of the remarkable lack of damage to one gas cylinder which had smashed through the reinforced concrete roof and landed gently on the bed.

[I am sorry that I do not know how to extract that longer video from its tweet. You need to click on the above link then click on the link in the first tweet that warns you it is sensitive material – in fact there is nothing sensitive there, so don’t worry.]

Now we come to the essential Mr Ian Henderson. Mr Henderson was in charge of the engineering sub-group of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission. The engineers assessed that the story of the cylinders being dropped from the sky was improbable, and it was much more probable that they had simply been placed there manually. There are two major reasons they came to this conclusion.

At least one of the crater holes showed damage that indicated it had been caused by an explosive, not by the alleged blunt impact. The cylinders simply did not show enough damage to have come through the reinforced concrete slabs and particularly the damage which would have been caused by the rebar. Rebar is actually thicker steel than a gas cylinder and would have caused major deformation.

Yet – and this is why Ian Henderson is more important to your understanding of the world than Theresa May – the OPCW Fact Finding Mission reflected in their final report none of the findings of their own sub-group of university based engineers from two European universities, but instead produced something that is very close to the amateur propaganda “analysis” put out by Bellingcat. The implications of this fraud are mind-blowing.

The genuine experts’ findings were completely suppressed until they were leaked last week. And still then, this leak – which has the most profound ramifications – has in itself been almost completely suppressed by the mainstream media, except for those marginalised outliers who still manage to get a platform, Robert Fisk and Peter Hitchens (a tiny platform in the case of Fisk).

Consider what this tells us. A fake chemical attack incident was used to justify military aggression against Syria by the USA, UK and France. The entire western mainstream media promoted the anti-Syrian and anti-Russian narrative to justify that attack. The supposedly neutral international watchdog, the OPCW, was manipulated by the NATO powers to produce a highly biased report that omits the findings of its own engineers. Which can only call into doubt the neutrality and reliability of the OPCW in its findings on the Skripals too.

There has been virtually no media reporting of the scandalous cover-up. This really does tell you a very great deal more about how the Western world works than the vicissitudes of the ludicrously over-promoted Theresa May and her tears of self pity.

Still more revealing is the reaction from the OPCW – which rather than acknowledge there is a major problem with the conclusions of its Douma report, has started a witch hunt for the whistleblower who leaked the Henderson report.

The Russian government claimed to have intelligence that indicated it was MI6 behind the faking of the Douma chemical attack. I have no means of knowing the truth of that, and am always sceptical of claims by all governments on intelligence matters, after a career observing government disinformation techniques from the inside. But the MI6 claim is consistent with the involvement of the MI6 originated White Helmets in this scam. and MI6 can always depend on their house journal The Guardian to push their narrative, as Guardian Middle East editor Brian Whitaker does here in an article “justifying” the omission of the Henderson report by the OPCW. Whitaker argues that Henderson’s engineers had a minority view. Interestingly Whitaker’s article is not from the Guardian itself, which prefers to keep all news of the Henderson report from the public.

But Whitaker’s thesis cannot stand. On one level, of course we know that Henderson’s expert opinion did not prevail at the OPCW. Henderson and the truth lost out in the politicking. But at the very least, it would be essential for the OPCW report to reflect and note the strong contrary view among its experts, and the suppression of this essential information cannot possibly be justified. Whitaker’s attempt to do so is a disgrace.

Which leads me on to the Skripals.

I have noted before the news management technique of the security services, leaking out key facts in a managed way over long periods so as not to shock what public belief there is in the official Skripal story. Thus nine months passed before it was admitted that the first person who “coincidentally” came across the ill Skripals on the park bench, just happened to be the Chief Nurse of the British Army.

The inquest into the unfortunate Dawn Sturgess has now been postponed four times. The security services have now admitted – once again through the Guardian – that even if “Boshirov and Petrov” poisoned the Skripals, they cannot have been also responsible for the poisoning of Dawn Sturgess. This because the charity bin in which the perfume bottle was allegedly found is emptied regularly so the bottle could not have lain there for 16 weeks undiscovered, and because the package was sealed so could not have been used on the Skripals’ doorknob.

This Guardian article is bylined by the security services’ pet outlet, Luke Harding, and one other. The admissions are packaged in a bombastic sandwich about Russian GRU agents.

Every single one of these points – that “Boshirov and Petrov” have never been charged with the manslaughter of Sturgess, that the bottle was sealed so could not have been used at the Skripals’ house, and that it cannot have been in the charity bin that long – are points that I have repeatedly made, and for which I have suffered massive abuse, including – indeed primarily – from dozens of mainstream media journalists. Making precisely these points has seen me labelled as a mentally ill conspiracy theorist or paid Russian agent. Just like the Douma fabrication, it turns out there was indeed every reason to doubt, and now, beneath a veneer of anti-Russian nonsense, these facts are quietly admitted by anonymous “sources” to Harding. No wonder poor Dawn Sturgess keeps not getting an inquest.

Which brings us back full circle to the OPCW. In neither its report on the Salisbury poisoning nor its report on the Amesbury poisoning did the OPCW ever use the word Novichok. As an FCO source explained to me, the expert scientists in OPCW were desperate to signal that the Salisbury sample had not been for days on a doorknob collecting atmospheric dust, rain and material from hands and gloves, but all the politics of the OPCW leadership would allow them to slip in was the phrase “almost complete absence of impurities” as a clue – which the British government then spun as meaning “military grade” when it actually meant “not from a doorknob”.

Now we have seen irrefutable evidence of poor Ian Henderson in exactly the same position with the OPCW of having the actual scientific analysis blocked out of the official findings. That is extremely strong added evidence that my source was indeed telling the truth about the earlier suppression of the scientific evidence in the Skripal case.

Even the biased OPCW could not give any evidence of the Amesbury and Salisbury poisons being linked, concluding:

“Due to the unknown storage conditions of the small bottle found in the house of Mr Rowley and the fact that the environmental samples analysed in relation to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Mr Nicholas Bailey were exposed to the environment and moisture, the impurity profiles of the samples available to the OPCW do not make it possible to draw conclusions as to whether the samples are from the same synthesis batch

Which is strange, as the first sample had an “almost complete absence of impurities” and the second was straight out of the bottle. In fact beneath the doublespeak the OPCW are saying there is no evidence the two attacks were from the same source. Full stop.

I suppose I should now have reached the stage where nothing will shock me, but as a textbook example of the big lie technique, this BBC article is the BBC’s take on the report I just quoted – which remember does not even use the word Novichok.

When it comes to government narrative and the mainstream media, mass purveyor of fake news, scepticism is your friend. Remembering that is much more important to your life than the question of which Tory frontman is in No. 10.

For an analysis of the Henderson Report fiasco written to the highest academic standards, where you can find all the important links to original source material, read this superb work by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.

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Finally two housekeeping points. Even among regular readers of this blog, well less than 1% make a voluntary subscription and among all readers the number is even smaller. Money is an unfortunate necessity to keep the blog going, and all help is gratefully received – though I do not wish anyone to contribute who has any difficulty to afford it.

Secondly the blog has used the same photo of me since 2005, and it is high time to change it. I have found a photo in which I look at least 80, so hopefully it might keep us going a few years. I hope my kind technical team will get that done today.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The Official Skripal Story is a Dead Duck

One of the striking things about the official Skripal story is the way its more wildly improbable aspects have been released to the mainstream media over a long period, so as to manage their impact. So, for example, police acknowledgement that the perfume bottle Charlie Rowley found was sealed and could not have been the container used on the Skripals is comparatively recent, and it took nine months for us to learn that, by a truly wonderful coincidence, the first person to find the Skripals ill on the bench was the Chief Nurse of the British Army.

I covered these points in full in my article on the ten points I do not believe in the official story – an article which nobody has sought to refute, other than to yell “conspiracy theory”, as though that was an argument.

But today we learn from the Guardian (quoting the New York Times) that Donald Trump was only convinced to back the UK government line after being shown photos of dead ducks and hospitalised children by CIA director Gina Haspel.

The problem is that, there were no hospitalised children. No children have been reported as becoming ill following their duck feeding with the Skripals. We have heard from one of the parents that they were shown by the police extremely clear CCTV footage of the duck feeding, which has never been made public. Surely if the child had been hospitalised, the parent would have been mentioned it?

Dr Stephen Davies of Salisbury Hospital’s letter of 16 March 2018 to the Times has been explained away as poorly written or edited, in relation to the cause of the Skripals’ illness. But be that as it may, one thing the doctor’s letter does without any shadow of a doubt, is rule out the possibility of hospitalised children.

There were no hospitalised children.

We also know that the duck feeding was the time that “Boshirov and Petrov” were physically closest to the Skripals. But this is the first time there has ever been any mention of any harm to the ducks. Dead ducks would have been noticed by the public.

Possibly the Guardian and New York Times are inventing utter drivel, as in the Manafort meeting Assange story. That would in itself be worrying. The other possibility is that the security services produced fake photographs of hospitalised children and slaughtered some ducks, in order to convince Donald Trump. If the latter explanation is true, then the entire Skripal saga looks more and more staged.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the articles, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Pure: Ten Points I Just Can’t Believe About the Official Skripal Narrative

I still do not know what happened in the Skripal saga, which perhaps might more respectfully be termed the Sturgess saga. I cannot believe the Russian account of Boshirov and Petrov, because if those were their real identities, those identities would have been firmly established and displayed by now. But that does not mean they attempted to kill the Skripals, and there are many key elements to the official British account which are also simply incredible.

Governments play dark games, and a dark game was played out in Salisbury which involved at least the British state, Russian agents (possibly on behalf of the state), Orbis Intelligence and the BBC. Anybody who believes it is simple to identify the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in this situation is a fool. When it comes to state actors and the intelligence services, frequently there are no “good guys”, as I personally witnessed from the inside over torture, extraordinary rendition and the illegal invasion of Iraq. But in the face of a massive media campaign to validate the British government story about the Skripals, here are ten of the things I do not believe in the official account:

1) PURE

This was the point that led me to return to the subject of the Skripals, even though it has brought me more abuse than I had received in my 15 year career as a whistleblower.

A few months ago, I was in truth demoralised by the amount of abuse I was receiving about the collapse of the Russian identity story of Boshirov and Petrov. I had never claimed the poisoning, if any, was not carried out by Russians, only that there were many other possibilities. I understood the case against the Russian state is still far from established, whoever Boshirov and Petrov really are, and I did not (and do not) accept Bellingcat’s conjectures and dodgy evidence as conclusive identification. But I did not enjoy at all the constant online taunts, and therefore was not inclined to take the subject further.

It is in this mood that I received more information from my original FCO source, who had told me, correctly, that Porton Down could not and would not attest that the “novichok” sample was made in Russia, and explained that the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was an agreed Whitehall line to cover this up.

She wanted to explain to me that the British government was pulling a similar trick over the use of the word “pure”. The OPCW report had concluded that the sample provided to them by the British government was “of high purity” with an “almost complete absence of impurities”. This had been spun by the British government as evidence that the novichok was “military grade” and could only be produced by a state.

But actually that is not what the OPCW technical experts were attempting to signal. The sample provided to the OPCW had allegedly been swabbed from the Skripals’ door handle. It had been on that door handle for several days before it was allegedly discovered there. In that time it had been contacted allegedly by the hands of the Skripals and of DC Bailey, and the gloves of numerous investigators. It had of course been exposed to whatever film of dirt or dust was on the door handle. It had been exposed to whatever pollution was in the rain and whatever dust and pollen was blowing around. In these circumstances, it is incredible that the sample provided “had an almost complete absence of impurities”.

A sample cannot have a complete absence of impurities after being on a used doorknob, outdoors, for several days. The sample provided was, on the contrary, straight out of a laboratory.

The government’s contention that “almost complete absence of impurities” meant “military grade” was complete nonsense. There is no such thing as “military grade” novichok. It has never been issued to any military, anywhere. The novichok programme was designed to produce an organo-phosphate poison which could quickly be knocked up from readily available commercial ingredients. It was not part of an actual defence industry manufacturing programme.

There is a final problem with the “of high purity” angle. First we had the Theresa May story that the “novichok” was extremely deadly, many times more deadly than VX, in minute traces. Then, when the Skripals did not die, it was explained to us that this was because it had degraded in the rain. This was famously put forward by Dan Kaszeta, formerly of US Intelligence and the White House and self-proclaimed chemical weapons expert – which expertise has been strenuously denied by real experts.

What we did not know then, but we do know now, is that Kaszeta was secretly being paid to produce this propaganda by the British government via the Integrity Initiative.

So the first thing I cannot believe is that the British government produced a sample with an “almost complete absence of impurities” from several days on the Skripals’ doorknob. Nor can I believe that if “extremely pure” the substance therefore was not fatal to the Skripals.

2) Raising the Roof

Three days ago Sky News had an outside broadcast from the front of the Skripals’ house in Salisbury, where they explained that the roof had been removed and replaced due to contamination with “novichok”.

I cannot believe that a gel, allegedly smeared or painted onto the doorknob, migrated upwards to get into the roof of a two storey house, in such a manner that the roof had to be destroyed, but the house inbetween did not. As the MSM never questions the official narrative, there has never been an official answer as to how the gel got from the doorknob to the roof. Remember that traces of the “novichok” were allegedly found in a hotel room in Poplar, which is still in use as a hotel room and did not have to be destroyed, and an entire bottle of it was allegedly found in Charlie Rowley’s house, which has not had to be destroyed. Novichok was found in Zizzi’s restaurant, which did not have to be destroyed.

So we are talking about novichok in threatening quantities – more than the traces allegedly found in the hotel in Poplar – being in the Skripals’ roof. How could this happen?

As I said in the onset, I do not know what happened, I only know what I do not believe. There are theories that Skripal and his daughter might themselves have been involved with novichok in some way. On the face of it, its presence in their roof might support that theory.

The second thing I do not believe is that the Skripals’ roof became contaminated by gel on their doorknob so that the roof had to be destroyed, whereas no other affected properties, nor the rest of the Skripals’ house, had to be destroyed.

3) Nursing Care

The very first person to discover the Skripals ill on a park bench in Salisbury just happened to be the Chief Nurse of the British Army, who chanced to be walking past them on her way back from a birthday party. How lucky was that? The odds are about the same as the chance of my vacuum cleaner breaking down just before James Dyson knocks at my door to ask for directions. There are very few people indeed in the UK trained to give nursing care to victims of chemical weapon attack, and of all the people who might have walked past, it just happened to be the most senior of them!

The government is always trying to get good publicity for its armed forces, and you would think that the heroic role of its off-duty personnel in saving random poisoned Russian double agents they just happened to chance across, would have been proclaimed as a triumph for the British military. Yet it was kept secret for ten months. We were not told about the involvement of Colonel Alison McCourt until January of this year, when it came out by accident. Swollen with maternal pride, Col. McCourt nominated her daughter for an award from the local radio station for her role in helping give first aid to the Skripals, and young Abigail revealed her mother’s identity on local radio – and the fact her mother was there “with her” administering first aid.

Even then, the compliant MSM played along, with the Guardian and Sky News both among those running stories emphasising entirely the Enid Blyton narrative of “plucky teenager saves the Skripals”, and scarcely mentioning the Army’s Chief Nurse who was looking after the Skripals “with little Abigail”.

I want to emphasise again that Col. Alison McCourt is not the chief nurse of a particular unit or hospital, she is the Chief Nurse of the entire British Army. Her presence was kept entirely quiet by the media for ten months, when all sorts of stories were run in the MSM about who the first responders were – various doctors and police officers being mentioned.

If you believe that it is coincidence that the Chief Nurse of the British Army was the first person to discover the Skripals ill, you are a credulous fool. And why was it kept quiet?

4) Remarkable Metabolisms

This has been noted many times, but no satisfactory answer has ever been given. The official story is that the Skripals were poisoned by their door handle, but then well enough to go out to a pub, feed some ducks, and have a big lunch in Zizzi’s, before being instantly stricken and disabled, both at precisely the same time.

The Skripals were of very different ages, genders and weights. That an agent which took hours to act but then kicks in with immediate disabling effect, so they could not call for help, would affect two such entirely different metabolisms at precisely the same time, has never been satisfactorily explained. Dosage would have an effect and of course the doorknob method would give an uncontrolled dosage.

But that the two different random dosages were such that they affected each of these two very different people at just the same moment, so that neither could call for help, is an extreme coincidence. It is almost as unlikely as the person who walks by next being the Chief Nurse of the British Army.

5) 11 Days

After the poisoning of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, the Police cordoned off Charlie Rowley’s home and began a search for “Novichok”, in an attitude of extreme urgency because it was believed this poison was out amidst the public. They were specifically searching for a small phial of liquid. Yet it took 11 days of the search before they allegedly discovered the “novichok” in a perfume bottle sitting in plain sight on the kitchen counter – and only after they had discovered the clue of the perfume bottle package in the bin the day before, after ten days of search.

The bottle was out of its packaging and “novichok”, of which the tiniest amount is deadly, had been squirted out of its nozzle at least twice, by both Rowley and Sturgess, and possibly more often. The exterior of the bottle/nozzle was therefore contaminated. Yet the house, unlike the Skripals’ roof space, has not had to be destroyed.

I do not believe it took the Police eleven days to find the very thing they were looking for, in plain sight as exactly the small bottle of liquid sought, on a kitchen bench. What else was happening?

6) Mark Urban/Pablo Miller

The BBC’s “Diplomatic Editor” is a regular conduit for the security services. He fronted much of the BBC’s original coverage of the Skripal story. Yet he concealed from the viewers the fact that he had been in regular contact with Sergei Skripal for months before the alleged poisoning, and had held several meetings with Skripal.

This is extraordinary behaviour. It was the biggest news story in the world, and news organisations, including the BBC, were scrambling to fill in the Skripals’ back story. Yet the journalist who had the inside info on the world’s biggest news story, and was actually reporting on it, kept that knowledge to himself. Why? Urban was not only passing up a career defining opportunity, it was unethical of him to continually report on the story without revealing to the viewers his extensive contacts with Skripal.

The British government had two immediate reactions to the Skripal incident. Within the first 48 hours, it blamed Russia, and it slapped a D(SMA) notice banning all media mention of Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller. By yet another one of those extraordinary coincidences, Miller and Urban know each other well, having both been officers together in the Royal Tank Regiment, of the same rank and joining the Regiment the same year.

I have sent the following questions to Mark Urban, repeatedly. There has been no response:

To: [email protected]

Dear Mark,

As you may know, I am a journalist working in alternative media, a member of the NUJ, as well as a former British Ambassador. I am researching the Skripal case.

I wish to ask you the following questions.

1) When the Skripals were first poisoned, it was the largest news story in the entire World and you were uniquely positioned having held several meetings with Sergei Skripal the previous year. Yet faced with what should have been a massive career break, you withheld that unique information on a major story from the public for four months. Why?
2) You were an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment together with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, who also lived in Salisbury. Have you maintained friendship with Miller over the years and how often do you communicate?
3) When you met Skripal in Salisbury, was Miller present all or part of the time, or did you meet Miller separately?
4) Was the BBC aware of your meetings with Miller and/or Skripal at the time?
5) When, four months later, you told the world about your meetings with Skripal after the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you said you had met him to research a book. Yet the only forthcoming book by you advertised is on the Skripal attack. What was the subject of your discussions with Skripal?
6) Pablo Miller worked for Orbis Intelligence. Do you know if Miller contributed to the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump/Russia?
7) Did you discuss the Trump dossier with Skripal and/or Miller?
8) Do you know whether Skripal contributed to the Trump dossier?
9) In your Newsnight piece following the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you stated that security service sources had told you that Yulia Skripal’s telephone may have been bugged. Since January 2017, how many security service briefings or discussions have you had on any of the matter above.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Craig Murray

The lack of openness of Urban in refusing to answer these questions, and the role played by the BBC and the MSM in general in marching in unquestioning lockstep with the British government narrative, plus the “coincidence” of Urban’s relationship with Pablo Miller, give further reason for scepticism of the official narrative.

7 Four Months

The official narrative insists that Boshirov and Petrov brought “novichok” into the country; that minute quantities could kill; that they disposed of the novichok that did kill Dawn Sturgess. It must therefore have been of the highest priority to inform the public of the movements of the suspects and the possible locations where deadly traces of “novichok” must be lurking.

Yet there was at least a four month gap between the police searching the Poplar hotel where Boshirov and Petrov were staying, allegedly discovering traces of novichok in the hotel room, and the police informing the hotel management, let alone the public, of the discovery. That is four months in which a cleaner might have fatally stumbled across more novichok in the hotel. Four months in which another guest in the same hotel might have had something lurking in their bag which they had picked up. Four months in which there might have been a container of novichok sitting in a hedge near the hotel. Yet for four months the police did not think any of this was urgent enough to tell anybody.

The astonishing thing is that it was a full three months after the death of Dawn Sturgess before the hotel were informed, the public were informed, or the pictures of “Boshirov” and “Petrov” in Salisbury released. There could be no clearer indication that the authorities did not actually believe that any threat from residual novichok was connected to the movements of Boshirov and Petrov.

Similarly the metadata on the famous CCTV images of Boshirov and Petrov in Salisbury, published in September by the Met Police, showed that all the stills were prepared by the Met on the morning of 9 May – a full four months before they were released to the public. But this makes no sense at all. Why wait a full four months for people’s memories to fade before issuing an appeal to the public for information? This makes no sense at all from an investigation viewpoint. It makes even less sense from a public health viewpoint.

If the authorities were genuinely worried about the possible presence of deadly novichok, and wished to track it down, why one earth would you wait for four months before you published the images showing the faces and clothing and the whereabouts of the people you believe were distributing it?

The only possible conclusion from the amazing four month delays both in informing the hotel, and in revealing the Boshirov and Petrov CCTV footage to the public, is that the Metropolitan Police did not actually believe there was a public health danger that the two had left a trail of novichok. Were the official story true, this extraordinary failure to take timely action in a public health emergency may have contributed to the death of Dawn Sturgess.

The metadat shows Police processed all the Salisbury CCTV images of Boshirov and Petrov a month before Charlie Rowley picked up the perfume. The authorities claim the CCTV images show they could have been to the charity bin to dump the novichok. Which begs the question, if the Police really believed they had CCTV of the movements of the men with the novichok, why did they not subsequently exhaustively search everywhere the CCTV shows they could have been, including that charity bin?

The far more probable conclusion appears to be that the lack of urgency is explained by the fact that the link between Boshirov and Petrov and “novichok” is a narrative those involved in the investigation do not take seriously.

8 The Bungling Spies

There are elements of the accepted narrative of Boshirov and Petrov’s movements that do not make sense. As the excellent local Salisbury blog the Blogmire points out, the CCTV footage shows Boshirov and Petrov, after they had allegedly coated the door handle with novichok, returning towards the railway station but walking straight past it, into the centre of Salisbury (and missing their first getaway train in the process). They then wander around Salisbury apparently aimlessly, famously window shopping which is caught on CCTV, and according to the official narrative disposing of the used but inexplicably still cellophane-sealed perfume/novichok in a charity donation bin, having walked past numerous potential disposal sites en route including the railway embankment and the bins at the Shell garage.

But the really interesting thing, highlighted by the blogmire, is that the closest CCTV ever caught them to the Skripals’ house is fully 500 metres, at the Shell garage, walking along the opposite side of the road from the turning to the Skripals. There is a second CCTV camera at the garage which would have caught them crossing the road and turning down towards the Skripals’ house, but no such video or still image – potentially the most important of all the CCTV footage – has ever been released.

However the 500 metres is not the closest the CCTV places the agents to the Skripals. From 13.45 to 13.48, on their saunter into town, Boshirov and Petrov were caught on CCTV at Dawaulders coinshop a maximum of 200 metres away from the Skripals, who at the same time were at Avon Playground. The bin at Avon playground became, over two days in the immediate aftermath of the Skripal “attack”, the scene of extremely intensive investigation. Yet the Boshirov and Petrov excursion – during their getaway from attempted murder – into Salisbury town centre has been treated as entirely pointless and unimportant by the official story.

Finally, the behaviour of Boshirov and Petrov in the early hours before the attack makes no sense whatsoever. On the one hand we are told these are highly trained, experienced and senior GRU agents; on the other hand, we are told they were partying in their room all night, drawing attention to themselves with loud noise, smoking weed and entertaining a prostitute in the room in which they were storing, and perhaps creating, the “novichok”.

The idea that, before an extremely delicate murder operation involving handling a poison, a tiny accident with which would kill them, professionals would stay up all night and drink heavily and take drugs is a nonsense. Apart from the obvious effect on their own metabolisms, they were risking authorities being called because of the noise and a search being instituted because of the drugs.

That they did this while in possession of the novichok and hours before they made the attack, is something I simply do not believe.

9 The Skripals’ Movements

Until the narrative changed to Boshirov and Petrov arriving in Salisbury just before lunchtime and painting the doorknob, the official story had been that the Skripals left home around 9am and had not returned. They had both switched off their mobile phones, an interesting and still unexplained point. As you would expect in a city as covered in CCTV as Salisbury, their early morning journey was easily traced and the position of their car at various times was given by the police.

Yet no evidence of their return journey has ever been offered. There is now a tiny window between Boshirov and Petrov arriving, painting the doorknob apparently with the Skripals now inexplicably back inside their home, and the Skripals leaving again by car, so quickly after the doorknob painting that they catch up with Boshirov and Petrov – or certainly being no more than 200 metres from them in Salisbury City Centre. There is undoubtedly a huge amount of CCTV video of the Skripals’ movements which has never been released. For example, the parents of one of the boys who Sergei was chatting with while feeding the ducks, was shown “clear” footage by the Police of the Skripals at the pond, yet this has never been released. This however is the moment at which the evidence puts Boshirov and Petrov at the closest to them. What does the concealed CCTV of the Skripals with the ducks show?

Why has so little detail of the Skripals’ movements that day been released? What do all the withheld CCTV images of the Skripals in Salisbury show?

10 The Sealed Bottle

Only in the last couple of days have the police finally admitted there is a real problem with the fact that Charlie Rowley insists that the perfume bottle was fully sealed, and the cellophane difficult to remove, when he discovered it. Why the charity collection bin had not been emptied for three months has never been explained either. Rowley’s recollection is supported by the fact that the entire packaging was discovered by the police in his bin – why would Boshirov and Petrov have been carrying the cellophane around with them if they had opened the package? Why – and how – would they reseal it outdoors in Salisbury before dumping it?

Furthermore, there was a gap of three months between the police finding the perfume bottle, and the police releasing details of the brand and photos of it, despite the fact the police believed there could be more out there. Again the news management agenda totally belies the official narrative of the need to protect the public in a public health emergency.

This part of the narrative is plainly nonsense.

Bonus Point – The Integrity Initiative

The Integrity Initiative specifically paid Dan Kaszeta to publish articles on the Skripal case. In the weekly collections of social media postings the Integrity Initiative sent to the FCO to show its activity, over 80% were about the Skripals.

Governments do not institute secret campaigns to put out covert propaganda in order to tell the truth. The Integrity Initiative, with secret FCO and MOD sourced subsidies to MSM figures to put out the government narrative, is very plainly a disinformation exercise. More bluntly, if the Integrity Initiative is promoting it, you know it is not true.

Most sinister of all is the Skripal Group convened by the Integrity Initiative. This group includes Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 handler, and senior representatives of Porton Down, the BBC, the CIA, the FCO and the MOD. Even if all the other ludicrously weak points in the government narrative did not exist, the Integrity Initiative activity in itself would lead me to understand the British government is concealing something important.

Conclusion

I do not know what happened in Salisbury. Plainly spy games were being played between Russia and the UK, quite likely linked to the Skripals and/or the NATO chemical weapons exercise then taking place on Salisbury Plain yet another one of those astonishing coincidences.

What I do know is that major planks of the UK government narrative simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

Plainly the Russian authorities have lied about the identity of Boshirov and Petrov. What is astonishing is the alacrity with which the MSM and the political elite have rallied around the childish logical fallacy that because the Russian Government has lied, therefore the British Government must be telling the truth. It is abundantly plain to me that both governments are lying, and the spy games being played out that day were very much more complicated than a pointless revenge attack on the Skripals.

I do not believe the British Government. I have given you the key points where the official narrative completely fails to stand up. These are by no means exhaustive, and I much look forward to reading your own views.

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Richard Dearlove Helped Blair Kill Millions. The Security Services are a Danger to Our State and Society

When Sir Richard Dearlove was Head of MI6, the Blairites adored him as he approved the lying Dossier on Iraqi WMD which led to wars, invasion, the death of millions and the destabilisation which continues to wreck the entire Middle East. Now, as he writes to Tory constituency chairman advocating the hardest of hard Brexits, had they any capacity for self-reflection the Blairites would probably be thinking it was after all not such a great move of Tony to appoint the hardest of hard right nutters to head our overseas intelligence service.

In my last post, I noted how evidence against me was actually manufactured when I opposed the policy of torture and extraordinary rendition. I have explained ad nauseam that, having been in a senior position in the FCO at the time, I know that Blair’s dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction was a tissue of deliberate lies, and not just an honest mistake; furthermore it is impossible to read the Chilcot report without coming to that conclusion.

The UK has security services which operate dishonestly and illegally. Interestingly, I cannot say that they are currently out of the control of the UK government; the evidence is rather they are willing to engage in every dirty and dishonest trick at the behest of corrupt politicians like Blair.

Dearlove regularly features in the media shilling for maximum Cold War. His letter yesterday on the dangers of intelligence and security co-operation with the EU, as undermining NATO and the UK/US/Five Eyes intelligence arrangements, is simply barking mad. There is no evidence of this whatsoever. He makes no attempt to describe the mechanism by which the dire consequences he predicts will follow. Amusingly enough, although those consequences are dire to Dearlove, to me they are extremely desirable. If I thought that May’s withdrawal agreement would undermine NATO and the CIA, I would be out on the streets campaigning for it.

But there is a very serious point. There is something very wrong indeed with the UK security services, which are most certainly not a force for freedom or justice. That MI6 can be headed by as extreme a figure as Dearlove, underlines the threat that the security services pose to any progressive movement in politics.

If Scotland becomes independent, it must not mirror the repressive UK security services. Furthermore it must be very chary indeed of employing anybody currently working for the UK security services. If Jeremy Corbyn comes to power in Westminster, he will never achieve any of his objectives in restoring a basic level of social justice and equality to society in England and Wales, without revolutionary change in major institutions including the security services.

My own view on Brexit is that the best deal for England and Wales would be EEA and customs union, essentially the Norway option. It seems that the Labour leadership have essentially got that right, but are making a complete pig’s ear of articulating it, presumably because of their desire not to antagonise their anti-immigrant voters.

Scotland demonstrably has a strong and strengthening pro-EU majority and this is the logical time for Scotland to move to Independence, with the assurance of strong international support. I trust the Scottish government is finally going to move decisively in that direction inside the next month.

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British Security Service Infiltration, the Integrity Initiative and the Institute for Statecraft

The British state can maintain its spies’ cover stories for centuries. Look up Eldred Pottinger, who for 180 years appears in scores of British history books – right up to and including William Dalrymple’s Return of the King – as a British officer who chanced to be passing Herat on holiday when it came under siege from a partly Russian-officered Persian army, and helped to organise the defences. In researching Sikunder Burnes, I discovered and published from the British Library incontrovertible and detailed documentary evidence that Pottinger’s entire journey was under the direct instructions of, and reporting to, British spymaster Alexander Burnes. The first historian to publish the untrue “holiday” cover story, Sir John Kaye, knew both Burnes and Pottinger and undoubtedly knew he was publishing lying propaganda. Every other British historian of the First Afghan War (except me and latterly Farrukh Husain) has just followed Kaye’s official propaganda.

Some things don’t change. I was irresistibly reminded of Eldred Pottinger just passing Herat on holiday, when I learnt how highly improbable left wing firebrand Simon Bracey-Lane just happened to be on holiday in the United States with available cash to fund himself, when he stumbled into the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Recent university graduate Simon Bracey-Lane took it even further. Originally from Wimbledon in London, he was inspired to rejoin the Labour party in September when Corbyn was elected leader. But by that point, he was already in the US on holiday. So he joined the Sanders campaign, and never left.
“I had two weeks left and some money left, so I thought, Fuck it, I’ll make some calls for Bernie Sanders,” he explains. “I just sort of knew Des Moines was the place, so I just turned up at their HQ, started making phone calls, and then became a fully fledged field organiser.”

It is, to say the least, very interesting indeed that just a year later the left wing, “Corbyn and Sanders supporting” Bracey-Lane is hosting a very right wing event, “Cold War Then and Now”, for the shadowy neo-con Institute for Statecraft, at which an entirely unbalanced panel of British military, NATO and Ukrainian nationalists extolled the virtues of re-arming against Russia.

Nor would it seem likely that Bracey-Lane would be involved with the Integrity Initiative. Even the mainstream media has been forced to give a few paragraphs to the outrageous Integrity Initiative, under which the MOD-sponsored Institute for Statecraft has been given millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money by the FCO to spread covert disinformation and propaganda, particularly against Russia and the anti-war movement. Activities include twitter and facebook trolling and secretly paying journalists in “clusters of influence” around Europe. Anonymous helpfully leaked the Institute’s internal documents. Some of the Integrity Initiative’s thus exposed alleged covert agents, like David Aaronovitch, have denied any involvement despite their appearance in the documents, and others like Dan Kaszeta the US “novichok expert”, have cheerfully admitted it.

The mainstream media have tracked down the HQ of the “Institute for Statecraft” to a derelict mill near Auchtermuchty. It is owned by one of the company directors, Daniel Lafayeedney, formerly of D Squadron 23rd SAS Regiment and later of Military Intelligence (and incidentally born the rather more prosaic Daniel Edney).

By sleuthing the company records of this “Scottish charity”, and a couple of phone calls, I discovered that the actual location of the Institute for Statecraft is the basement of 2 Temple Place, London. This is not just any basement – it is the basement of the former London mansion of William Waldorf Astor, an astonishing building. It is, in short, possibly the most expensive basement in London.

Which is interesting because the accounts of the Institute for Statecraft claim it has no permanent staff and show nothing for rent, utilities or office expenses. In fact, I understand the rent is paid by the Ministry of Defence.

Having been told where the Institute for Statecraft skulk, I tipped off journalist Kit Klarenberg of Sputnik Radio to go and physically check it out. Kit did so and was aggressively ejected by that well-known Corbyn and Sanders supporter, Simon Bracey-Lane. It does seem somewhat strange that our left wing hero is deeply embedded in an organisation that launches troll attacks on Jeremy Corbyn.

I have a great deal more to tell you about Mr Edney and his organisation next week, and the extraordinary covert disinformation war the British government wages online, attacking British citizens using British taxpayers’ money. Please note in the interim I am not even a smidgeon suicidal, and going to be very, very careful crossing the road and am not intending any walks in the hills.

I am not alleging Mr Bracey-Lane is an intelligence service operative who previously infiltrated the Labour Party and the Sanders campaign. He may just be a young man of unusually heterodox and vacillating political opinions. He may be an undercover reporter for the Canary infiltrating the Institute for Statecraft. All these things are possible, and I have no firm information.

But one of the activities the Integrity Initiative sponsors happens to be the use of online trolls to ridicule the idea that the British security services ever carry out any kind of infiltration, false flag or agent provocateur operations, despite the fact that we even have repeated court judgements against undercover infiltration officers getting female activists pregnant. The Integrity Initiative offers us a glimpse into the very dirty world of surveillance and official disinformation. If we actually had a free media, it would be the biggest story of the day.

As the Establishment feels its grip slipping, as people wake up to the appalling economic exploitation by the few that underlies the very foundations of modern western society, expect the methods used by the security services to become even dirtier. You can bank on continued ramping up of Russophobia to supply “the enemy”. As both Scottish Independence and Jeremy Corbyn are viewed as real threats by the British Establishment, you can anticipate every possible kind of dirty trick in the next couple of years, with increasing frequency and audacity.

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Metropolitan Police on “Chepiga” and “Mishkin”.

I have just received confirmation from the Metropolitan Police Press Bureau that both the European Arrest Warrant and Interpol Red Notice remain in the names of Boshirov and Petrov, with the caveat that both are probably aliases. Nothing has been issued in the name of Chepiga or Mishkin.

As for Bellingcat’s “conclusive and definitive evidence”, Scotland Yard repeated to me this afternoon that their earlier statement on Bellingcat’s allegations remains in force: “we are not going to comment on speculation about their identities.”

It is now a near certainty that Boshirov and Petrov are indeed fake identities. If the two were real people, it is inconceivable that by now their identities would not have been fully established with details of their history, lives, family and milieu. I do not apologise for exercising all due caution, rather than enthusiasm, about a narrative promoted to increase international tension with Russia, but am now convinced Petrov and Boshirov were not who they claimed.

But that is not to say that the information provided by NATO Photoshoppers’R’Us (Ukraine Branch) on alternative identities is genuine, either. I maintain the same rational scepticism exhibited by Scotland Yard on this, and it is a shame that the mainstream media neither does that, nor fairly reflects Scotland Yard’s position in their reporting.

Still less do I accept the British government’s narrative of the novichok poisoning, which remains full of wild surmise and apparent contradiction. No doubt further evidence will gradually emerge. The most dreadful thing about the whole saga is the death of poor Dawn Sturgess, and the most singular fact at present is that Boshirov and Petrov are only wanted in relation to the “attack on the Skripals”. There is no allegation against them by Scotland Yard or the Crown Prosecution Service over the far more serious matter of the death of Sturgess. That is a fascinating fact, massively under-reported.

I remain of the view that the best way forward would be for Putin to negotiate conditions under which Boshirov and Petrov might voluntarily come to the UK for trial. The conditions which I would suggest Russia propose are these:

1) A fully fair and open trial before a jury.
2) The entire trial to be fully public. No closed sessions nor secret evidence and no reporting restrictions.
3) No restrictions on witnesses who may be called, including the Skripals, Pablo Miller, Christopher Steele and other former and current members of the security services.
4) No restrictions on disclosure – all relevant material held by government must be given to the defence.

I strongly suspect that, if a trial would bring to public light something of the extent of the convoluted spy games that were being played out in Salisbury, we would find the British Government’s pretended thirst for justice would suddenly slam into reverse.

Sadly, it currently seems highly improbable that either justice will be served or the full truth be known.

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“Boshirov” is probably not “Chepiga”. But he is also not “Boshirov”.

UPDATE: The Kommersant Evidence
Kommersant publishes interviews with people from Chepiga’s home village. The article makes clear he has not been seen there for many years. It states that opinions differ on whether Chepiga is Boshirov. One woman says she recognised Boshirov as Chepiga when he appeared on TV, especially the dark eyes, though she had not seen him since school. Another woman states it is not Chepiga as when she last saw him ten years ago he was already pretty bald, and he has a more open face, although the eyes are similarly brown.

Naturally mainstream media journalists are tweeting and publishing the man’s evidence and leaving out the woman’s evidence.

But the Kommersant article gives them a bigger challenge. Kommersant is owned by close Putin political ally, Putin’s former student flatmate, Chariman of Gazprominvestholdings and the UK’s richest resident, Alisher Usmanov. That Russia’s most authoritative paper, with ownership very close to Putin, is printing such open and honest reporting rather belies the “Russia is a dictatorship” narrative. And unlike the Guardian and BBC websites, on Kommersant website ordinary Russians can post freely their views on the case, and are.

One thing this does stand up is that Chepiga definitely exists.

The evidence mounts that Russia is not telling the truth about “Boshirov” and “Petrov”. If those were real identities, they would have been substantiated in depth by now. As we know of Yulia Skripal’s boyfriend, cat, cousin and grandmother, real depth on the lives and milieu of “Boshirov” and “Petrov” would be got out. It is plainly in the interests of Russia’s state and its oligarchy to establish that they truly exist, and concern for the privacy of individuals would be outweighed by that. The rights of the individual are not prioritised over the state interest in Russia.

But equally the identification of “Boshirov” with “Colonel Chepiga” is a nonsense.

The problem is with Bellingcat’s methodology. They did not start with any prior intelligence that “Chepiga” is “Boshirov”. They rather allegedly searched databases of GRU operatives of about the right age, then trawled photos in yearbooks of them until they found one that looked a bit like “Boshirov”. And guess what? It looks a bit like “Boshirov”. If you ignore the substantially different skull shape and nose.

Only the picture on the left is Chepiga. The two on the right are from “Boshirov’s” Russian passport application file, and the photo of “Boshirov” issued by Scotland Yard.

Like almost the entire internet, I assumed both black and white photos were from Chepiga’s files, and was willing to admit the identification of Chepiga with “Boshirov” as valid. But once you understand is that – as Bellingcat confirm if you read it closely – only the photo on the left is Chepiga, you start to ask questions.

The two guys on the right and the centre are undoubtedly the same person. But is the guy on the left the same, but younger?

Betaface.com, which runs industry standard software, gives the faces an 83% similarity, putting the probability of them being the same person at 2.8%.

By comparison it gives me a 72% identity with Chepiga and a 2.1% chance of being him.

There is a superficial resemblance. But if you take the standard ratios used for facial recognition, you get a very different story. If you draw a line between the centre of the pupils of the two guys centre and right, and then take a perpendicular from that line to the tip of the nose, you get a key ratio. The two on the right both have a ratio of 100:75, which is unsurprising since they are the same person. The one on the left has a ratio of 100:68, which is very different.

To put that more simply, his nose is much shorter, and less certainly his eyes are further apart.

It is possible this could happen in photos but it still be the same person. The head would have to be tilted backward or forward at quite a sharp angle to alter these ratios, which does not seem to be the case. The camera could be positioned substantially above or below the subject, again not apparently the case. And the photo could be resized with height and width ratios changed. That would hard to detect.

But the three white dots across the bottom of the nose are particularly compelling (the middle one largely obscured by a red dot in the Chepiga photo). They illustrate that Chepiga has a snub nose and Boshirov something of a hook. Again, the software is reinforcing what they eye can plainly see.

However, there are also other ratios that are different. Chepiga has a narrower mouth compared to the distance between the pupils than the two photos of “Boshirov”, and that is measured on the same plane. The difference is 100-80 compared to 100-88. It is a ratio that can be changed by facial expression, but this does not seem to be the case here.

Professor Dame Sue Black of the University of Dundee is the world’s leading expert in facial forensic reconstruction. I once spent a fascinating lunch sitting next to her, while I was Rector. I shall contact her for her view on whether the guy on the left is the same person, and if she is kind enough to give me an opinion, I shall pass it on to you unadulterated.

This website is less definitive, but gives a nice clear result, and you can repeat it yourself without having to subscribe (unlike Betaface.com).

Again for comparison, I tried two photos of myself 12 years apart and got “from nearly the same person”.

It is worth repeating that the only evidence that Chepiga is Boshirov offered by Bellingcat is this photo. The rest of their article simply attempts to establish Chepiga’s career.

This is gross hypocrisy by Bellingcat, who have argued that scores of photos of White Helmets being Jihadi fighters are not valid evidence because you cannot safely recognise faces from photographs.

Yet Higgins now claims his facial identification of Chepiga as Boshirov as “definitive” and “conclusive”, despite the absence of moles, scars and blemishes. Higgins stands exposed as a quite disgusting hypocrite. Let me go further. I do not believe that Higgins did not take the elementary step of running facial recognition technology over the photos, and I believe he is hiding the results from you. Is it not also astonishing that the mainstream media have not done this simple test?

The bulk of the Bellingcat article is just trying to prove the reality of the existence of Chepiga. This is hard to evaluate, but as the evidence to link him to “Boshirov” is non-existent, is a different argument. Having set out to find a GRU officer of the same age who looks a bit like “Boshirov”, they trumpet repeatedly the fact that Chepiga is about the same age as evidence, in a crass display of circular argument.

This unofficial website does indeed name Chepiga as a Hero of the Russian Federation and recipient of 20 awards, as Bellingcat claims. But it is impossible to know if it is authentic, and by contrast there is no Chepiga on the official list of Heroes of the Russian Federation, for the stated 2014 or for any other year, which Bellingcat fail to mention. Their other documents and anonymous sources are unverifiable.

The photo of the military school honours arch, with Chepiga added right at the end and not quite in line, looks to me very suspect. My surmise so far would be that most likely Bellingcat’s source of supply is Ukrainian, and trying to tie the Skripal affair into the Ukrainian civil war via Chepiga.

My view of the most likely explanation on presently available evidence is this:

Boshirov is not Boshirov, and the Russian Government are lying.
Boshirov is not Chepiga, and Bellingcat are lying.
The whole Skripal novichok story still does not hang together, and the British government are lying.

I will continue to form my opinions as further evidence becomes available.

UPDATE Incredibly, at 13.15 on 27 September the BBC TV News ran the story showing only the two photos of “Boshirov”, which of course are the same person, and not showing the photo of Chepiga at all!

BBC News at One

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The Incredible Case of Boshirov and Petrov’s Visas

The Metropolitan Police made one statement in the Skripal case which is plainly untrue; they claimed not to know on what kind of visa Boshirov and Petrov were travelling. As they knew the passports they used, and had footage of them coming through the airport, that is impossible. The Border Force could tell them in 30 seconds flat.

To get a UK visa Boshirov and Petrov would have had to attend the UK Visa Application Centre in Moscow. There not only would their photographs be taken, but their fingerprints would have been taken and, if in the last few years, their irises scanned. The Metropolitan Police would naturally have obtained their fingerprints from the Visa Application.

One thing of which we can be certain is that their fingerprints are not on the perfume bottle or packaging found in Charlie Rowley’s home. We can be certain of that because no charges have been brought against the two in relation to the death of Dawn Sturgess, and we know the police have their fingerprints. The fact of there being no credible evidence, according to either the Metropolitan Police or the Crown Prosecution Service, to link them to the Amesbury poisoning, has profound implications.

Why the Metropolitan Police were so coy about telling us what kind of visa the pair held, points to a wider mystery. Why were they given the visas in the first place, and what story did they tell to get them? It is not easy for a Russian citizen, particularly an economically active male, to get past the UK Border Agency. The visa application process is very intrusive. They have to produce evidence of family and professional circumstances, including employment and address, evidence of funds, including at least three months of bank statements, and evidence of the purpose of the visit. These details are then actively checked out by the Visa Department.

If they had told the story to the visa section they told to Russia Today, that they were freelance traders in fitness products wanting to visit Salisbury Cathedral, they would have been refused a visa as being candidates for overstaying. They would have been judged not to have sufficiently stable employment in Russia to ensure they would return. So what story did Petrov and Boshirov give on their visa application, why were they given a visa, and what kind of visa? And why do the British authorities not want us to know the answer to these questions?

Which brings us to the claims of neo-conservative propaganda website Bellingcat. They claim together with the Russian Insider website to have obtained documentary evidence that Petrov and Boshirov’s passports were of a series issued only to Russian spies, and that their applications listed GRU headquarters as their address.

There are some problems with Bellingcat’s analysis. The first is that they also quote Russian website fontanka.ru as a source, but fontanka.ru actually say the precise opposite of what Bellingcat claim – that the passport number series is indeed a civilian one and civilians do have passports in that series.

Fontanka also state it is not unusual for the two to have close passport numbers – it merely means they applied together. On other points, fontanka.ru do confirm Bellingcat’s account of another suspected GRU officer having serial numbers close to those of Boshirov and Petrov.

But there is a bigger question of the authenticity of the documents themselves. Fontanka.ru is a blind alley – they are not the source of the documents, just commenting on them, and Bellingcat are just attempting the old trick of setting up a circular “confirmation”. Russian Insider is neither Russian nor an Insider. Its name is a false claim and it consists of a combination of western “experts” writing on Russia, and reprints from the Russian media. It has no track record of inside access to Russian government secrets or documents, and nor does Bellingcat.

What Bellingcat does have is a track record of shilling for the security services. Bellingcat claims its purpose is to clear up fake news, yet has been entirely opaque about the real source of its so-called documents.

MI6 have almost 40 officers in Russia, running hundreds of agents. The CIA has a multiple of that. They pool their information. Both the UK and US have large visa sections whose major function is the analysis of Russian passports, their types and numbers and what they tell about the individual.

We are to believe that Boshirov and Petrov were GRU agents whose identity was plainly obvious from their passports, who had no believable cover identities, but that neither the visa department nor MI6 (which two cooperate closely and all the time) knew they were giving visas to GRU agents. Yet this information was readily available to Bellingcat?

I do not know if the two are agents or just tourists. But the claimed evidence they were agents is, if genuine, so obvious that the two would have been under close surveillance throughout their stay in the UK. If the official story is true, then the failures of the UK visa department and MI6 are abject and shameful. As is the failure to take simple precautions for the Skripals’ security, like the inexplicable absence of CCTV covering the house of Sergei Skripal, an important ex-agent and defector supposedly under British protection.

A further thought. We are informed that Boshirov and Petrov left a trace of novichok in their hotel bedroom. How likely is it, really, that, the day before the professional assassination attempt, which involved handling an agent with which any contact could kill you, Boshirov and Petrov would prepare, not by resting, but by an all night drugs and sex session? Would you really not want the steadiest possible hand the next day? Would you really invite a prostitute into the room with the novichok perfume in it, and behave in a way that led to complaints and could have brought you to official notice?

Is it not astonishing that nobody in the corporate and state media has written that this behaviour is at all unlikely, while scores of “journalists” have written that visiting Salisbury as a tourist, and returning the next day because the visit was ruined by snow, would be highly unlikely?

To me, even more conclusively, we were informed by cold war propagandists like ex White House staffer Dan Kaszeta that the reason the Skripals were not killed is that novichok is degraded by water. To quote Kaszeta “Soap and water is quite good at decontaminating nerve agents”.

In which case it is extremely improbable that the agents handling the novichok, who allegedly had the novichok in their bedroom, would choose a hotel room which did not have an en suite bathroom. If I spilt some novichok on myself I would not want to be queuing in the corridor for the shower. The GRU may not be big on health and safety, but the idea that their agents chose not to have basic washing facilities available while handling the novichok is wildly improbable.

The only link of Boshirov and Petrov to the novichok is the trace in the hotel room. The identification there of a microscopic trace of novichok came from a single swab, all other swabs were negative, and the test could not be repeated even on the original positive sample. For other reasons given above, I absolutely doubt these two had novichok in that bedroom. Who they really are, and how much the security services knew about them, remain open questions.

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Lynch Mob Mentality

I was caught in a twitterstorm of hatred yesterday, much of it led by mainstream media journalists like David Aaronovitch and Dan Hodges, for daring to suggest that the basic elements of Boshirov and Petrov’s story do in fact stack up. What became very plain quite quickly was that none of these people had any grasp of the detail of the suspects’ full twenty minute interview, but had just seen the short clips or quotes as presented by British corporate and state media.

As I explained in my last post, what first gave me some sympathy for the Russians’ story and drew me to look at it closer, was the raft of social media claims that there was no snow in Salisbury that weekend and Stonehenge had not been closed. In fact, Stonehenge was indeed closed on 3 March by heavy snow, as confirmed by English Heritage. So the story that they came to Salisbury on 3 March but could not go to Stonehenge because of heavy snow did stand up, contrary to almost the entire twittersphere.

Once there was some pushback of truth about this on social media, people started triumphantly posting the CCTV images from 4 March to prove that there was no snow lying in Central Salisbury on 4 March. But nobody ever said there was snow on 4 March – in fact Borisov and Petrov specifically stated that they learnt there was a thaw so they went back. However when they got there, they encountered heavy sleet and got drenched through. That accords precisely with the photographic evidence in which they are plainly drenched through.

Another extraordinary meme that causes hilarity on twitter is that Russians might be deterred by snow or cold weather.

Well, Russians are human beings just like us. They cope with cold weather at home because they have the right clothes. Boshirov and Petrov refer continually in the interview to cold, wet feet and again this is borne out by the photographic evidence – they were wearing sneakers unsuitable to the freak weather conditions that were prevalent in Salisbury on 3 and 4 March. They are indeed soaked through in the pictures, just as they said in the interview.

Russians are no more immune to cold and wet than you are.

Twitter is replete with claims that they were strange tourists, to be visiting a housing estate. No evidence has been produced anywhere that shows them on any housing estate. They were seen on CCTV camera walking up the A36 by the Shell station, some 400 yards from the Skripals’ house, which would require three turnings to get to that – turnings nobody saw them take (and they were on the wrong side of the road for the first turning, even though it would be very close). No evidence has been mentioned which puts them at the Skripals’ House.

Finally, it is everywhere asserted that it is very strange that Russians would take a weekend break holiday, and that if they did they could not possibly be interested in architecture or history. This is a simple expression of anti-Russian racism. Plainly before their interview – about which they were understandably nervous – they prepared what they were going to say, including checking up on what it was they expected to see in Salisbury because they realised they would very obviously be asked why they went. Because their answer was prepared does not make it untrue.

That literally people thousands of people have taken to twitter to mock that it is hilariously improbable that tourists might want to visit Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge, is a plain example of the irrationality that can overtake people when gripped by mob hatred.

I am astonished by the hatred that has been unleashed. The story of Gerry Conlon might, you would hope, give us pause as to presuming the guilt of somebody who just happened to be of the “enemy” nationality, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Despite the mocking mob, there is nothing inherently improbable in the tale told by the two men. What matters is whether they can be connected to the novichok, and here the safety of the identification of the microscopic traces of novichok allegedly found in their hotel bedroom is key. I am no scientist, but I have been told by someone who is, that if the particle(s) were as the police state so small as to be harmless to humans, they would be too small for mass spectrometry analysis and almost certainly could not be firmly identified other than as an organophosphate. Perhaps someone qualified might care to comment.

The hotel room novichok is the key question in this case.

Were I Vladimir Putin, I would persuade Boshirov and Petrov voluntarily to come to the UK and stand trial, on condition that it was a genuinely fair trial before a jury in which the entire proceedings, and all of the evidence, was open and public, and the Skripals and Pablo Miller might be called as witnesses and cross-examined. I have no doubt that the British government’s desire for justice would suddenly move into rapid retreat if their bluff was called in this way.

As for me, when I see a howling mob rushing to judgement and making at least some claims which are utterly unfounded, and when I see that mob fueled and egged on by information from the security services propagated by exactly the same mainstream media journalists who propagandised the lies about Iraqi WMD, I see it as my job to stand in the way of the mob and to ask cool questions. If that makes them hate me, then I must be having some impact.

So I ask this question again – and nobody so far has attempted to give me an answer. At what time did the Skripals touch their doorknob? Boshirov and Petrov arrived in Salisbury at 11.48 and could not have painted the doorknob before noon. The Skripals had left their house at 09.15, with their mobile phones switched off so they could not be geo-located. Their car was caught on CCTV on three cameras heading out of Salisbury to the North East. At 13.15 it was again caught on camera heading back in to the town centre from the North West.

How had the Skripals managed to get back to their home, and touch the door handle, in the hour between noon and 1pm, without being caught on any of the CCTV cameras that caught them going out and caught the Russian visitors so extensively? After this remarkably invisible journey, what time did they touch the door handle?

I am not going to begin to accept the guilt of Boshirov and Petrov until somebody answers that question. Dan Hodges? David Aaronovitch? Theresa May? Anybody?

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The Strange Russian Alibi

Like many, my first thought at the interview of Boshirov and Petrov – which apparently are indeed their names – is that they were very unconvincing. The interview itself seemed to be set up around a cramped table with a poor camera and lighting, and the interviewer seemed pretty hopeless at asking probing questions that would shed any real light.

I had in fact decided that their story was highly improbable, until I started seeing the storm of twitter posting, much of it from mainstream media journalists, which stated that individual things were impossible which were, in fact, not impossible at all.

The first and most obvious regards the weather on 3 and 4 March. It is in fact absolutely true that, if the two had gone down to Salisbury on 3 March with the intention of going to Stonehenge, they would have been unable to get there because of the snow. It is therefore perfectly possible that they went back the next day to try again; and public transport out of Salisbury was still severely disrupted, and many roads closed, on 4 March. Proof of this is not at all difficult to find.

This image is from the Salisbury Journal’s liveblog on 4 March.

Those mocking the idea that the pair were blocked by snow from visiting Stonehenge have pointed to the CCTV footage of central Salisbury not showing snow on the afternoon of 4 March. Well, that is central Salisbury, it had of course been salted and cleared. Outside there were drifts.

So that part of their story in fact turns out not to be implausible as social media is making out; in fact it fits precisely with the actual facts.

The second part of their story that has brought ridicule is the notion that two Russians would fly to the UK for the weekend and try to visit Salisbury. This ridicule has been very strange to me. Weekend breaks – arrive on Friday and return on Sunday – are a standard part of the holiday industry. Why is it apparently unthinkable that Russians fly on weekend breaks as well as British people?

Even more strange is the idea that it is wildly improbable for Russian visitors to wish to visit Salisbury cathedral and Stonehenge. Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most breathtaking achievements of Norman architecture, one of the great cathedrals of Europe. It attracts a great many foreign visitors. Stonehenge is world famous and a world heritage site. I went on holiday this year and visited Wurzburg to see the Bishop’s Palace, and then the winery cooperative at Sommerach. Because somebody does not choose to spend their leisure time on a beach in Benidorm does not make them a killer. Lots of people go to Salisbury Cathedral.

There seems to be a racist motif here – Russians cannot possibly have intellectual or historical interests, or afford weekend breaks.

The final meme which has worried me is “if they went to see the cathedral, why did they visit the Skripal house?” Well, no evidence at all has been presented that they visited the Skripal house. They were captured on CCTV walking past a petrol station 500 yards away – that is the closest they have been placed to the Skripal house.

The greater mystery about these two is, if they did visit the Skripal House and paint Novichok on the doorknob, why did they afterwards walk straight past the railway station again and head into Salisbury city centre, where they were caught window shopping in a coin and souvenir shop with apparently not a care in the world, before eventually returning to the train station? It seems a very strange attitude to a getaway after an attempted murder. In truth their demeanour throughout the photographs is consistent with their tourism story.

The Russians have so far presented this pair in a very unconvincing light. But on investigation, the elements of their story which are claimed to be wildly improbable are not inconsistent with the facts.

There remains the much larger question of the timing.

The Metropolitan Police state that Boshirov and Petrov did not arrive in Salisbury until 11.48 on the day of the poisoning. That means that they could not have applied a nerve agent to the Skripals’ doorknob before noon at the earliest. But there has never been any indication that the Skripals returned to their home after noon on Sunday 4 March. If they did so, they and/or their car somehow avoided all CCTV cameras. Remember they were caught by three CCTV cameras on leaving, and Borishov and Petrov were caught frequently on CCTV on arriving.

The Skripals were next seen on CCTV at 13.30, driving down Devizes road. After that their movements were clearly witnessed or recorded until their admission to hospital.

So even if the Skripals made an “invisible” trip home before being seen on Devizes Road, that means the very latest they could have touched the doorknob is 13.15. The longest possible gap between the novichok being placed on the doorknob and the Skripals touching it would have been one hour and 15 minutes. Do you recall all those “experts” leaping in to tell us that the “ten times deadlier than VX” nerve agent was not fatal because it had degraded overnight on the doorknob? Well that cannot be true. The time between application and contact was between a minute and (at most) just over an hour on this new timeline.

In general it is worth observing that the Skripals, and poor Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, all managed to achieve almost complete CCTV invisibility in their widespread movements around Salisbury at the key times, while in contrast “Petrov and Boshirov” managed to be frequently caught in high quality all the time during their brief visit.

This is especially remarkable in the case of the Skripals’ location around noon on 4 March. The government can only maintain that they returned home at this time, as they insist they got the nerve agent from the doorknob. But why was their car so frequently caught on CCTV leaving, but not at all returning? It appears very much more probable that they came into contact with the nerve agent somewhere else, while they were out.

I shall write a further post on these timing questions shortly.

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Skripals – The Mystery Deepens

The time that “Boshirov and Petrov” were allegedly in Salisbury carrying out the attack is all entirely within the period the Skripals were universally reported to have left their home with their mobile phones switched off.

A key hole in the British government’s account of the Salisbury poisonings has been plugged – the lack of any actual suspects. And it has been plugged in a way that appears broadly convincing – these two men do appear to have traveled to Salisbury at the right time to have been involved.

But what has not been established is the men’s identity and that they are agents of the Russian state, or just what they did in Salisbury. If they are Russian agents, they are remarkably amateur assassins. Meanwhile the new evidence throws the previously reported timelines into confusion – and demolishes the theories put out by “experts” as to why the Novichok dose was not fatal.

This BBC report gives a very useful timeline summary of events.

At 09.15 on Sunday 4 March the Skripals’ car was seen on CCTV driving through three different locations in Salisbury. Both Skripals had switched off their mobile phones and they remained off for over four hours, which has baffled geo-location.

There is no CCTV footage that indicates the Skripals returning to their home. It has therefore always been assumed that they last touched the door handle around 9am.

But the Metropolitan Police state that Boshirov and Petrov did not arrive in Salisbury until 11.48 on the day of the poisoning. That means that they could not have applied a nerve agent to the Skripals’ doorknob before noon at the earliest. But there has never been any indication that the Skripals returned to their home after noon on Sunday 4 March. If they did so, they and/or their car somehow avoided all CCTV cameras. Remember they were caught by three CCTV cameras on leaving, and Borishov and Petrov were caught frequently on CCTV on arriving.

The Skripals were next seen on CCTV at 13.30, driving down Devizes road. After that their movements were clearly witnessed or recorded until their admission to hospital.

So even if the Skripals made an “invisible” trip home before being seen on Devizes Road, that means the very latest they could have touched the doorknob is 13.15. The longest possible gap between the novichok being placed on the doorknob and the Skripals touching it would have been one hour and 15 minutes. Do you recall all those “experts” leaping in to tell us that the “ten times deadlier than VX” nerve agent was not fatal because it had degraded overnight on the doorknob? Well that cannot be true. The time between application and contact was between a minute and (at most) just over an hour on this new timeline.

In general it is worth observing that the Skripals, and poor Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, all managed to achieve almost complete CCTV invisibility in their widespread movements around Salisbury at the key times, while in contrast “Petrov and Boshirov” managed to be frequently caught in high quality all the time during their brief visit.

This is especially remarkable in the case of the Skripals’ location around noon on 4 March. The government can only maintain that they returned home at this time, as they insist they got the nerve agent from the doorknob. But why was their car so frequently caught on CCTV leaving, but not at all returning? It appears very much more probable that they came into contact with the nerve agent somewhere else, while they were out.

“Boshirov and Petrov” plainly are of interest in this case. But only Theresa May stated they were Russian agents: the police did not, and stated that they expected those were not their real identities. We do not know who Boshirov and Petrov were. It appears very likely their appearance was to do with the Skripals on that day. But they may have been meeting them, outside the home. The evidence points to that, rather than doorknobs. Such a meeting might explain why the Skripals had turned off their mobile phones to attempt to avoid surveillance.

It is also telling the police have pressed no charges against them in the case of Dawn Sturgess, which would be manslaughter at least if the government version is true.

If “Boshirov and Petrov” are secret agents, their incompetence is astounding. They used public transport rather than a vehicle and left the clearest possible CCTV footprint. They failed in their assassination attempt. They left traces of novichok everywhere and could well have poisoned themselves, and left the “murder weapon” lying around to be found. Their timings in Salisbury were extremely tight – and British Sunday rail service dependent.

There are other possibilities of who “Boshirov and Petrov” really are, of which Ukrainian is the obvious one. One thing I discovered when British Ambassador to Uzbekistan was that there had been a large Ukrainian ethnic group of scientists working at the Soviet chemical weapon testing facility there at Nukus. There are many other possibilities.

Yesterday’s revelations certainly add to the amount we know about the Skripal event. But they raise as many new questions as they give answers.

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The Silence of the Whores

The mainstream media are making almost no effort today to fit Charlie Rowley’s account of his poisoning into the already ludicrous conspiracy theory being peddled by the government and intelligence agencies.

ITV News gamely inserted the phrase “poisoned by a Russian nerve agent” into their exclusive interview with Charlie Rowley, an interview in which they managed to ask no penetrating questions whatsoever, and of which they only broadcast heavily edited parts. Their own website contains this comment by their journalist Rupert Evelyn:

He said it was unopened, the box it was in was sealed, and that they had to use a knife in order to cut through it.

“That raises the question: if it wasn’t used, is this the only Novichok that exists in this city? And was it the same Novichok used to attack Sergei and Yulia Skripal?

But the information about opening the packet with a knife is not in the linked interview. What Rowley does say in the interview is that the box was still sealed in its cellophane. Presumably it was the cellophane he slit open with a knife.

So how can this fit in to the official government account? Presumably the claim is that Russian agents secretly visited the Skripal house, sprayed novichok on the door handle from this perfume bottle, and then, at an unknown location, disassembled the nozzle from the bottle (Mr Rowley said he had to insert it), then repackaged and re-cellophaned the bottle prior to simply leaving it to be discovered somewhere – presumably somewhere indoors as it still looked new – by Mr Rowley four months later. However it had not been found by anyone else in the interim four months of police, military and security service search.

Frankly, the case for this being the bottle allegedly used to coat the Skripals’ door handle looks wildly improbable. But then the entire government story already looked wildly improbable anyway – to the extent that I literally do not know a single person, even among my more right wing family and friends, who believes it. The reaction of the media, who had shamelessly been promoting the entirely evidence free “the Russians did it” narrative, to Mr Rowley’s extremely awkward piece of news has been to shove it as far as possible down the news agenda and make no real effort to reconcile it.

By his own account, Mr Rowley is not a reliable witness, his memory affected by the “Novichok”. It is not unreasonable to conjecture there may also be other reasons why he is vague about where and how he came into possession of this package of perfume.

The perfume bottle is now in the hands of the Police. Is it not rather strange that they have not published photos of it, to see if it jogs the memory of a member of the public who saw it somewhere in the last four months, or saw somebody with it? The “perpetrators” know what it looks like and already know the police have it, so that would not give away any dangerous information. You might believe the lockdown of the story and control of the narrative is more important to the authorities than solving the crime, which we should not forget is now murder.

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The Holes in the Official Skripal Story

In my last post I set out the official Government account of the events in the Skripal Case. Here I examine the credibility of this story. Next week I shall look at alternative explanations.

Russia has a decade long secret programme of producing and stockpiling novichok nerve agents. It also has been training agents in secret assassination techniques, and British intelligence has a copy of the Russian training manual, which includes instruction on painting nerve agent on doorknobs.

The only backing for this statement by Boris Johnson is alleged “intelligence”, and unfortunately the “intelligence” about Russia’s secret novichok programme comes from exactly the same people who brought you the intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s WMD programme, proven liars. Furthermore, the question arises why Britain has been sitting on this intelligence for a decade and doing nothing about it, including not telling the OPCW inspectors who certified Russia’s chemical weapons stocks as dismantled.

If Russia really has a professional novichok assassin training programme, why was the assassination so badly botched? Surely in a decade of development they would have discovered that the alleged method of gel on doorknob did not work? And where is the training manual which Boris Johnson claimed to possess? Having told the world – including Russia -the UK has it, what is stopping the UK from producing it, with marks that could identify the specific copy erased?

The Russians chose to use this assassination programme to target Sergei Skripal, a double agent who had been released from jail in Russia some eight years previously.

It seems remarkable that the chosen target of an attempt that would blow the existence of a secret weapon and end the cover of a decade long programme, should be nobody more prominent than a middle ranking double agent who the Russians let out of jail years ago. If they wanted him dead they could have killed him then. Furthermore the attack on him would undermine all future possible spy swaps. Putin therefore, on this reading, was willing to sacrifice both the secrecy of the novichok programme and the spy swap card just to attack Sergei Skripal. That seems highly improbable.

Only the Russians can make novichok and only the Russians had a motive to attack the Skripals.

The nub of the British government’s approach has been the shocking willingness of the corporate and state media to parrot repeatedly the lie that the nerve agent was Russian made, even after Porton Down said they could not tell where it was made and the OPCW confirmed that finding. In fact, while the Soviet Union did develop the “novichok” class of nerve agents, the programme involved scientists from all over the Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, Armenia and Georgia, as I myself learnt when I visited the newly decommissioned Nukus testing facility in Uzbekistan in 2002.

Furthermore, it was the USA who decommissioned the facility and removed equipment back to the United States. At least two key scientists from the programme moved to the United States. Formulae for several novichok have been published for over a decade. The USA, UK and Iran have definitely synthesised a number of novichok formulae and almost certainly others have done so too. Dozens of states have the ability to produce novichok, as do many sophisticated non-state actors.

As for motive, the Russian motive might be revenge, but whether that really outweighs the international opprobrium incurred just ahead of the World Cup, in which so much prestige has been invested, is unclear.

What is certainly untrue is that only Russia has a motive. The obvious motive is to attempt to blame and discredit Russia. Those who might wish to do this include Ukraine and Georgia, with both of which Russia is in territorial dispute, and those states and jihadist groups with which Russia is in conflict in Syria. The NATO military industrial complex also obviously has a plain motive for fueling tension with Russia.

There is of course the possibility that Skripal was attacked by a private gangster interest with which he was in conflict, or that the attack was linked to Skripal’s MI6 handler Pablo Miller’s work on the Orbis/Steele Russiagate dossier on Donald Trump.

Plainly, the British governments statements that only Russia had the means and only Russia had the motive, are massive lies on both counts.

The Russians had been tapping the phone of Yulia Skripal. They decided to attack Sergei Skripal while his daughter was visiting from Moscow.

In an effort to shore up the government narrative, at the time of the Amesbury attack the security services put out through Pablo Miller’s long term friend, the BBC’s Mark Urban, that the Russians “may have been” tapping Yulia Skripal’s phone, and the claim that this was strong evidence that the Russians had indeed been behind the attack.

But think this through. If that were true, then the Russians deliberately attacked at a time when Yulia was in the UK rather than when Sergei was alone. Yet no motive has been adduced for an attack on Yulia or why they would attack while Yulia was visiting – they could have painted his doorknob with less fear of discovery anytime he was alone. Furthermore, it is pretty natural that Russian intelligence would tap the phone of Yulia, and of Sergei if they could. The family of double agents are normal targets. I have no doubt in the least, from decades of experience as a British diplomat, that GCHQ have been tapping Yulia’s phone. Indeed, if tapping of phones is seriously put forward as evidence of intent to murder, the British government must be very murderous indeed.

Their trained assassin(s) painted a novichok on the doorknob of the Skripal house in the suburbs of Salisbury. Either before or after the attack, they entered a public place in the centre of Salisbury and left a sealed container of the novichok there.

The incompetence of the assassination beggars belief when compared to British claims of a long term production and training programme. The Russians built the heart of the International Space Station. They can kill an old bloke in Salisbury. Why did the Russians not know that the dose from the door handle was not fatal? Why would trained assassins leave crucial evidence lying around in a public place in Salisbury? Why would they be conducting any part of the operation with the novichok in a public area in central Salisbury?

Why did nobody see them painting the doorknob? This must have involved wearing protective gear, which would look out of place in a Salisbury suburb. With Skripal being resettled by MI6, and a former intelligence officer himself, it beggars belief that MI6 did not fit, as standard, some basic security including a security camera on his house.

The Skripals both touched the doorknob and both functioned perfectly normally for at least five hours, even able to eat and drink heartily. Then they were simultaneously and instantaneously struck down by the nerve agent, at a spot in the city centre coincidentally close to where the assassins left a sealed container of the novichok lying around. Even though the nerve agent was eight times more deadly than Sarin or VX, it did not kill the Skripals because it had been on the doorknob and affected by rain.

Why did they both touch the outside doorknob in exiting and closing the door? Why did the novichok act so very slowly, with evidently no feeling of ill health for at least five hours, and then how did it strike both down absolutely simultaneously, so that neither can call for help, despite their being different sexes, weights, ages, metabolisms and receiving random completely uncontrolled doses. The odds of that happening are virtually nil. And why was the nerve agent ultimately ineffective?

Detective Sergeant Bailey attended the Skripal house and was also poisoned by the doorknob, but more lightly. None of the other police who attended the house were affected.

Why was the Detective Sergeant affected and nobody else who attended the house, or the scene where the Skripals were found? Why was Bailey only lightly affected by this extremely deadly substance, of which a tiny amount can kill?

Four months later, Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were rooting about in public parks, possibly looking for cigarette butts, and accidentally came into contact with the sealed container of a novichok. They were poisoned and Dawn Sturgess subsequently died.

If the nerve agent had survived four months because it was in a sealed container, why has this sealed container now mysteriously disappeared again? If Rowley and Sturgess had direct contact straight from the container, why did they not both die quickly? Why had four months searching of Salisbury and a massive police, security service and military operation not found this container, if Rowley and Sturgess could?

I am, with a few simple questions, demolishing what is the most ludicrous conspiracy theory I have ever heard – the Salisbury conspiracy theory being put forward by the British government and its corporate lackies.

My next post will consider some more plausible explanations of this affair.

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Dawn Sturgess

The terrible death of Dawn Sturgess casts a new shadow over the Salisbury Affair. Dawn appears to have been a popular and well grounded woman with close friend and family ties, whose life had taken a downward turn before being cruelly ended.

The illogical, inconsistent and shifting government narrative over events in Salisbury and Amesbury had appeared so ludicrous as to be tragi-comic. Any sense of amusement is now abruptly dispelled. But less us take a serious and sober look at the government case.

Savid Javid stated today:

We know back in March that it was the Russians. We know it was a barbaric, inhuman act by the Russian state. Again, for this particular incident, we need to learn more and let the police do their work.

Actually, we know no such thing and, contrary to Javid’s deliberate insinuation, the police have adduced no evidence that it was the Russian state.

The media appear to have entirely excluded from the narrative that Porton Down specifically stated that they cannot determine the origin of the poison that attacked the Skripals. Nor has the OPCW. There are scores of both state and non-state actors who could have produced the nerve agent. No evidence has been produced as to the physical person who allegedly administered the poison. In short, nothing so far has been shown which would lead any reasonable person to conclude a case against the Russian state was proven.

I believe this following is the government narrative currently. I hope I am not mistating it:

Russia has a decade long secret programme of producing and stockpiling novichok nerve agents. It also has been training agents in secret assassination techniques, and British intelligence has a copy of the Russian training manual, which includes instruction on painting nerve agent on doorknobs. The Russians chose to use this assassination programme to target Sergei Skripal, a double agent who had been released from jail in Russia some eight years previously.

Only the Russians can make novichok and only the Russians had a motive to attack the Skripals.

The Russians had been tapping the phone of Yulia Skripal. They decided to attack Sergei Skripal while his daughter was visiting from Moscow. Their trained assassin(s) painted a novichok on the doorknob of the Skripal house in the suburbs of Salisbury. Either before or after the attack, they entered a public place in the centre of Salisbury and left a sealed container of the novichok there.

The Skripals both touched the doorknob and both functioned perfectly normally for at least five hours, even able to eat and drink heartily. Then they were simultaneously and instantaneously struck down by the nerve agent, at a spot in the city centre coincidentally close to where the assassins left a sealed container of the novichok lying around. Even though the nerve agent was eight times more deadly than Sarin or VX, it did not kill the Skripals because it had been on the doorknob and affected by rain.

Detective Sergeant Bailey attended the Skripal house and was also poisoned by the doorknb, but more lightly. None of the other police who attended the house were affected.

Four months later, Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were rooting about in public parks, possibly looking for cigarette butts, and accidentally came into contact with the sealed container of a novichok. They were poisoned and Dawn Sturgess subsequently died.

I am going to leave you to mull over that story yourselves for a while. I believe it is a fair statement of the British government narrative. I also believe almost (but not quite) every single sentence is very obviously untrue. I hope tomorrow to publish a detailed analysis explaining why that is, but want you to look at it yourselves first.

One final thought. I trust that Dawn Sturgess will get a proper and full public inquest in accordance with normal legal process, something which was denied to David Kelly. I suspect that is something the government will seek to delay as long as possible, even indefinitely.

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The Amesbury Mystery

We are continually presented with experts by the mainstream media who will validate whatever miraculous property of “novichok” is needed to fit in with the government’s latest wild anti-Russian story. Tonight Newsnight wheeled out a chemical weapons expert to tell us that “novichok” is “extremely persistent” and therefore that used to attack the Skripals could still be lurking potent on a bush in a park.

Yet only three months ago we had this example of scores from the MSM giving the same message which was the government line at that time:
“Professor Robert Stockman, of the University of Nottingham, said traces of nerve agents did not linger. He added: ‘These agents react with water to degrade, including moisture in the air, and so in the UK they would have a very limited lifetime. This is presumably why the street in Salisbury was being hosed down as a precaution – it would effectively destroy the agent.'”

In fact, rain affecting the “novichok” on the door handle was given as the reason that the Skripals were not killed. But now the properties of the agent have to fit a new narrative, so they transmute again.

It keeps happening. Do you remember when Novichok was the most deadly of substances, many times more powerful than VX or Sarin, and causing death in seconds? But then, when that needed to be altered to fit the government’s Skripal story, they found scientists to explain that actually no, it was pretty slow acting, absorbed gradually through the skin, and not all that deadly.

Scientists are an interesting bunch. More than willing to ascribe whatever properties fit the government’s ever more implausible stories, in exchange for an MSM appearance fee, 5 minutes of fame and the fond hope of a research grant.

According to the Daily Telegraph today, the unfortunate Charlie Rowley is a registered heroin addict, and if true Occam’s Razor would indicate that is a rather more likely reason for his present state than an inexplicably persistent weaponised nerve agent.

If it is however true that two separate attacks have been carried out with “novichok” a few miles either side of Porton Down, where “novichok” is synthesised and stored for “testing purposes”, what does Occam’s razor suggest is the source of the nerve agent? A question not one MSM journalist seems to have asked themselves tonight.

I am slightly puzzled by the picture the media are trying to paint of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess as homeless, unemployed addicts. The Guardian and Sky News both state that they were unemployed, yet Charlie was living in a very new house in Muggleton Road, Amesbury, which is pretty expensive. According to Zoopla homes range up to £430,000 and the cheapest ones are £270,000. They are all new build, on a new estate, which is still under construction.

Both Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess still have active facebook pages and one of Charlie’s handful of “Likes” is a mortgage broker, which is consistent with his brand new house. They don’t give mortgages to unemployed heroin addicts, and not many of those live in smart new “executive housing” estates. Both Charlie and Dawn appear from their facebook pages to be very well socialised, with Dawn having many friends in the teaching profession. Even if she has been homeless for a period as reported, she is plainly very much part of the community.

Naturally, there is no mention in all the reports today of MI6’s Pablo Miller, who remains the subject of a D notice. I wonder if he knows Rowley and Sturgess, living in the same community? It should be recalled that Salisbury may be a city, but its population is only 45,000.

The most important thing is of course that Charlie and Dawn recover. But tonight, even at this early stage, as with the entire Skripal saga, the message the security services are seeking to give out does not add up. Mark Urban’s piece for Newsnight tonight was simply disgusting; it did not even pretend to be more than a propaganda piece on behalf of the security services, who had told Urban (as he said) that Yulia Skripal’s phone “could have been” tapped by the Russians and they “might even” have listened to her conversations through the microphone in her telephone. That was the “new evidence” that the Russians were behind everything.

As a former British Ambassador I can tell you with certainty that indeed the Russians might have tapped Yulia, but GCHQ most definitely would have. It is, after all, their job, and billions of our taxes go into it. If tapping of phones is seriously presented as evidence of intent to murder, the British government must be very murderous indeed.

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Wheel Out the Skripal Story Again

Just as the World Cup had forced the British media to grudgingly acknowledge the obvious truth that Russia is an extremely interesting country inhabited, like everywhere else, by mostly pleasant and attractive people, we have a screaming reprise of the “Salisbury incident” dominating the British media. Two people have been taken ill in Amesbury from an unknown substance, which might yet be a contaminated recreational drug, but could conceivably be from contact with the substance allegedly used on the Skripals, presumably some of which was somewhere indoors all this time as we were told it could be washed away and neutralised by water.

Amesbury is not Salisbury – it is 10 miles away. Interestingly enough Porton Down is between Amesbury and Salisbury. Just three miles away from Muggleton Road, Amesbury. The news reports are not mentioning that much.


“I am all out of ideas Inspector. What can possibly be the source of these mysterious poisonings?”

Neither Porton Down nor the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has any idea where the substance to which the Skripals were allegedly exposed was made. Boris Johnson’s great “coup” of obtaining a majority vote at the OPCW to expand its powers to place blame for chemical attacks, has proven rather otiose as the OPCW has no evidence on which to base any blame for Salisbury. In fact, four months on, May and Johnson’s shrill blaming of Russia remains entirely, 100% evidence free.

I do however wish to congratulate the neo-con warmongers of the Guardian newspaper for verbal dexterity. They have come up with a new formulation to replace the hackneyed “Of a type developed by Russia”, to point the finger for a substance that could have been made by dozens of state or non state parties. The Guardian today came up with “Russian-created novichok”. This cleverly employs a word that can encompass “developed” while also appearing to say “made”. It also again makes out that novichok is a specific substance rather than a very broad class of substances. The Guardian’s Steven Morris, by this brilliant attempt deliberately to mislead his readers, runs away with this week’s award for lying neo-con media whore of the week. His achievement is particularly good as the rest of his report is largely a simple copy and paste from the Press Association.

I most certainly hope that the couple in Salisbury hospital recover from whatever is afflicting them. The media is, by making this the lead story on all broadcast news after last night’s football, inviting us to make the connection to the Skripals. In which case I assume the couple were perfectly well for five hours after contact, able to be very active and even to eat and drink heavily, before being mysteriously instantly disabled at the same time despite different ages, sexes, weights, and metabolisms and random uncontrolled dosages.

Replicating that would be quite a feat.

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