Of A Type Developed By Liars 746

I have now received confirmation from a well placed FCO source that Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve agent as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so. Porton Down would only sign up to the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” after a rather difficult meeting where this was agreed as a compromise formulation. The Russians were allegedly researching, in the “Novichok” programme a generation of nerve agents which could be produced from commercially available precursors such as insecticides and fertilisers. This substance is a “novichok” in that sense. It is of that type. Just as I am typing on a laptop of a type developed by the United States, though this one was made in China.

To anybody with a Whitehall background this has been obvious for several days. The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia. The exact formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was used by Theresa May in parliament, used by the UK at the UN Security Council, used by Boris Johnson on the BBC yesterday and, most tellingly of all, “of a type developed by Russia” is the precise phrase used in the joint communique issued by the UK, USA, France and Germany yesterday:

This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.

When the same extremely careful phrasing is never deviated from, you know it is the result of a very delicate Whitehall compromise. My FCO source, like me, remembers the extreme pressure put on FCO staff and other civil servants to sign off the dirty dossier on Iraqi WMD, some of which pressure I recount in my memoir Murder in Samarkand. She volunteered the comparison to what is happening now, particularly at Porton Down, with no prompting from me.

Separately I have written to the media office at OPCW to ask them to confirm that there has never been any physical evidence of the existence of Russian Novichoks, and the programme of inspection and destruction of Russian chemical weapons was completed last year.

Did you know these interesting facts?

OPCW inspectors have had full access to all known Russian chemical weapons facilities for over a decade – including those identified by the “Novichok” alleged whistleblower Mirzayanov – and last year OPCW inspectors completed the destruction of the last of 40,000 tonnes of Russian chemical weapons

By contrast the programme of destruction of US chemical weapons stocks still has five years to run

Israel has extensive stocks of chemical weapons but has always refused to declare any of them to the OPCW. Israel is not a state party to the Chemical Weapons Convention nor a member of the OPCW. Israel signed in 1993 but refused to ratify as this would mean inspection and destruction of its chemical weapons. Israel undoubtedly has as much technical capacity as any state to synthesise “Novichoks”.

Until this week, the near universal belief among chemical weapons experts, and the official position of the OPCW, was that “Novichoks” were at most a theoretical research programme which the Russians had never succeeded in actually synthesising and manufacturing. That is why they are not on the OPCW list of banned chemical weapons.

Porton Down is still not certain it is the Russians who have apparently synthesised a “Novichok”. Hence “Of a type developed by Russia”. Note developed, not made, produced or manufactured.

It is very carefully worded propaganda. Of a type developed by liars.


This post prompted another old colleague to get in touch. On the bright side, the FCO have persuaded Boris he has to let the OPCW investigate a sample. But not just yet. The expectation is the inquiry committee will be chaired by a Chinese delegate. The Boris plan is to get the OPCW also to sign up to the “as developed by Russia” formula, and diplomacy to this end is being undertaken in Beijing right now.

I don’t suppose there is any sign of the BBC doing any actual journalism on this?

Erratum – I originally typed “nerve gas” and not “nerve agent” in the first line – purely my error.

746 thoughts on “Of A Type Developed By Liars

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  • Alex

    Could You comment the latest info that the chemical weapon was, probably, brought to UK in a suitcase?

    • Pol

      but what does it change? wasn no one more could not have thrown a in suitcase poison, if he brought from Russia (and the not fact. maybe it was planted on the plane)?

  • RP

    Hi Craig,

    It seems to me that Clyde Davies – arsey though he came across in his tweets – was, fairly, responding to this sentence in your original post:

    “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.”

    Later in that post (and in your responses to Davies) you focus on the fact that the British government would not be able to identify the sample as having been produced in Russia, without a Russian sample to check it against, but the sentence quoted above suggests that you also thought the government should not be able to identify it as Novichok at all, without a sample of Novichok. Davies point seems to be that it would be able to do so, checking them against the published Mizrayanov formulae (as you acknowledge later in the post would be a possibility). That seems to be where the disagreement lies.

    I do agree with you that there needs to be some caution in attributing this particular attack to Russia. Above all, I don’t understand why Russia would go through the process of internationally verifying the dismantlement of its chemicals weapons programme, only to use a chemical weapon as a deliberate “calling card” in an attack just a couple of years later. The two actions seem to be mutually contradictory. Either it wants the world to think that it doesn’t have a chemical weapons programme or it wants the world to think that it does have a chemical weapons programme – it can’t want both.

    • Adrian Kent.

      If I may be so bold as to respond on Craig’s behalf – Craign pointed out that the origin of samples can be determined from impurities (it’s there in his concluding remarks). The analysis of such samples is not just a matter of identifying the chemical structure, there are all sorts of markers that may be introduced in the production process – including impurities in the precursors and remnants of the particular solvents used in the production
      process. The absence of these too would also offer valuable information as to the source (the ‘cleanliness’ of the sample would tend to correlate with the technical ability of those who made it).

      This has recently been demonstrated in the JIM/OPCW report on the alleged Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack – where the specific profile of one of the pre-cursos of the alleged sarin was used to finger the Assad government.

      That’s also why Prof Alastair Hay, an advisor on the UK Government’s CW committee said last week that it would take many weeks to properly analyse the samples – and why it was much, much too soon to pass judgement:


      Davis chose to ignore this plain fact with a series of quite pompously patronising tweets about the scienfic process.

      Davis’ tweets were pig-ignorant in this respect and anyone who gleefully tweeted their endorsement of his thread are just demonstrating their ignorance too.

      When I pointed this out to him on twitter, he just blocked me.

      • RP

        “If I may be so bold as to respond on Craig’s behalf – Craign pointed out that the origin of samples can be determined from impurities (it’s there in his concluding remarks).”

        I get all that. But the sentence I quoted reads as if he is not only talking about identifying the manufacturing origin of the sample (which is what he focuses on elsewhere in the post), but also saying that the government shouldn’t be able to identify the sample as Novichok at all.

    • craig Post author

      RP Yes it is probably my bad writing. I meant identify in the sense of identify its origin, not just identify what its chemical composition was. I thought that was obvious from the context. In fact I still think it is obvious from the context but it is indeed a weak point which someone interested in nit-picking could seize upon.

      • RP

        Cheers for the response Craig.

        I think it is probably worth correcting/clarifying that sentence given that, as you’re no doubt aware of more than anyone, there are a lot of people out there who are interested in discrediting you and your arguments – so to have a statement that at best can be nit-picked and at worst seems to be incorrect early on in a post on a highly controversial topic doesn’t do you any favours. Even as a fan of this blog, I read it to mean something other than what you actually meant by it. Furthermore CD seems to have built his whole response based on that sentence, and in doing so successfully managed to divert attention away from the wider argument you make about origins etc, and persuaded a lot of people that he has discredited your entire argument.

        Sorry, I realise the tone of this is coming off as very patronising, which I don’t mean it to. I just think that sentence is asking for trouble.

    • Made By Dom

      Its just semantics, isn’t it?
      ‘As Novichok’ and ‘a sample of Novichok’ imply the chemical is something specific. But the definition used by the Brit Gov is a general term for a ‘type’ .
      It reminds me of arguments about the word ‘art’. You could say juggling is an art but it is not art….that is to say, some might consider it to be an artistic form but it doesn’t really stand up to painting and sculpture in a gallery setting.

      For the record, Mr Davies is an ex-research chemist on twitter which, in my book, is just a bloke on Twitter. From what I’ve seen so far, he’s clearly not a fan of empirical evidence, peer reviewed journals and the ideas of Karl Popper.

    • wendyM

      not impressed with CD .. read the full exchanges especially the ones with @whywouldyou_uk which undermine his ranty rant.

    • Bill B

      It can have both, that maybe the point. If you look at Russias actions in the USA where they created protest groups on social issues, and then counter protesters set against them, then this would fit with their existing MO – set people in this country against one another. Make them believe that the establishment are making it up again and that we should habitually disregard anything they say.

      Its like the boy who cried wolf, except in this case Russia is a wolf that learned to imitate a boy.

  • Made By Dom

    ‘As developed by Russia’ sounds like a good hashtag meme for Twitter. Unfortunately, I don’t use it. For example:

    I’ve just witnessed someone torture a cat with a theremin… as developed by Russia.

    I just smashed a nun over the head with a bottle of vodka… as developed by Russia.

  • dunwich

    In fairness quite a good piece, probably because it draws on real Whitehall experience and sources that are still there, rather than internet searches and speculation. It is head and shoulders above his earlier pieces, which to my mind were so bad that I almost wondered if CM was in the pay not (as he recently joked) of the Kremlin, but the UKgov.

    It was only a speculation of course. But there was a theory among nine-eleven troofers that govs put out really duff conspiracy theories as misinformation in order to discredit (so they would say) theories with rather better foundations. It almost seemed that CM was doing something of the same here – putting out manifestly duff theories, so to discredit any questioning of May’s policy.

    Of course I don’t really believe this. But over the last week or so we’d had the following:

    Novichoks may not exist. Novichoks exist, and can be easily made.

    The proximity of Salisbury to Porton Down puts the UKGov in the frame – as if it would be within the UKGov’s wit to get Novichoks 7 miles down the road, but no more than this.

    That the Clinton family and a small organisation that wrote a dossier about Trump are just as likely culprits as the Russians. This theory rested on the claim that Novichoks were developed in Uzbekistan (other reports say Russia), that at the Americans took some of it away, and presumably that the Clintons or that small organisation were then given the Novichok, or were able to avoid all security to steal it.

    That the Israelis did it to discredit Russia. He offered no evidence for this at all, only a supposed motive which was wholly tortuous, but the idea involved a false flag operation, where the obvious culprit is the Russians.

    As to the last point, one can only say “Quite so”. The obvious culprit is the Russians.

    It is quite possible to worry that May has put two and two together and got to five, without buying into any of this nonsense.

    • Dennis Revell

      Yes, but Craig Murray was offering up those, in your mind ‘ridiculous’ motives to demonstrate just how ridiculous, actually even more so, the motives ascribed to Russia are.

      You’re a bit dull and literal, aren’t you.

      • dunwich

        You don’t demonstrate something is ridiculous, but offering up something even more ridiculous yourself.

        The suggestions were made in earnest. CM hasn’t rowed back from any of them, and still seems to be actively promoting the Israeli one. If he actually thought the Clinton one, for example, was nonsense when he wrote it, then it was just a nasty little smear.

    • Bill B

      Or Russia did it to make it look like everyone was blaming Russia – It fits exactly with their track record of spreading social discord in the west and undermining our own trust in our government and security services.

      • Dom

        Sounds like you’re simply parroting the latest establishment meme.

        How is the undermining of public trust in our government and security services Russia’s doing? The cause is the catastrophic dishonesty of the British establishment over the past decade or so – Iraq, Libya, spending on public services as cause of deficit – necessitating that the poorest pay for the bankers’ bailout, etc, etc. Russia had nothing to do with that.

        • Bill B

          Sounds like you are simply parroting the latest anti-establishment meme.

          Engaging in whataboutery isn’t an argument against what I said. Russia have a track record here and in the US of driving social division through social media. If you don’t believe any of the evidence from Facebook, twitter, and the various independent investigations into their use of social media then on what grounds do you believe anything at all …?

          • Dom

            Have a look at the activities of the 13 Russian internet trolls the Mueller inquiry found. They were posting as much anti-Trump stuff as anti-Clinton, and something like 60% of it was posted after the presidential election. More significantly, no link has been established between any of these 13 and the Russian government.

  • CapnAndy.

    One of the things that is annoying me is the obviously scripted line that’s being peddled, “Military Grade Nerve Agent”. Really?
    Do they think we’re all stupid? If it was a military grade nerve agent, given the levels of supposed contamination in Salisbury, The Skripals would be dead, the police officer would be dead and a large proportion of the Salisbury population would be dead.

    • N_

      Nerve agents can be used in small amounts. But you raise an excellent point. Many people now, when they hear “chemical weapons”, will think of Markov or Skripal-type jobs, by a man in dark glasses carrying an umbrella on a bridge, or a fast-walking woman carrying a red bag in a shopping centre. That’s even if they’ve heard the same day about an attack in Syria injuring hundreds – people aren’t logical. They won’t think of half a town getting wiped out.

      Not yet anyway. Perhaps soon.

      Certainly one objective of the propaganda is to alter perceptions of chemical weapons. We could be being prepared for a British chemical attack on Russia soon, once the overt physical stage of the war has started.

      There could also be terrorist attacks in both countries at any time. We are well past the point of no return now.

  • drygrange bull

    I see you are tagged on Zero Hedge, They have got a great article on this mess. I love the internet, I am no longer a sheeple and as they say everyone should wake the flock up. Have a good weekend.

  • Matt

    I don’t think this is just hair splitting, and I may be confused over the dates, but would it be more accurate to say “of a type developed in the Soviet Union”?

  • Kolin Thumbadoo

    Much credit to you for your dogged persistence and analysis. You will no doubt smeared by either the BBC or the, Guardian who have sunk to the level of cheap, unsubstantiated propaganda this time being the guardian of the British government narrative where usually they follow the USState department cue.Can’t wai5 for Brexit

    • Bill B

      There is an article in the guardian about this, it doesn’t appear to smear anyone.

  • typical russian

    British PM and Co developed awfully toxic nerve agent called “Brexitchoc” , tested it on the whole British population and used this Scipal
    affair in order to cover their actions and to raise their ratings.

    Don’t lose courage, Craig! We’re with you!

  • Paulo

    There are more coincidences that point in the direction of a coordinated propaganda campaign. On 14 March, BBC Panorama aired a so-called documentary on Russia-Putin. It was a rather scurrilous attack; if something of that nature had aired on RT about the UK, RT would have been bumped off the air. Coincidence or part of the mass propaganda campaign?

  • Simon

    Jesus Craig, I hope your sources are extremely prudent in choosing their means of communication. I think often about your post on David Kelly, killing himself some weeks before his daughters marriage.

    • craig Post author

      Yes – luckily covert communication is one of the few things an FCO training is really helpful for, not least in giving knowledge of surveillance levels and capabilities.

  • Emmanuel

    Investigative journalism is indeed dead. What we have are highly paid propagandists who are accomplices in crimes against the interests of their own compatriots.
    With respect to provoking Russia, I only need to quote the title of an article by The Saker which reads:
    ” When Dealing with a Bear, Hubris is Suicidal”.

    • typical russian

      ” When Dealing with a Bear, Hubris is Suicidal”. LOL! The really good piece of advice.

  • Annoyed FCO source

    Was it wise to identify the gender of your alleged FCO source? You may want to remove that.

  • Bill B

    You said in one piece that you coundn’t see a clear motive, but I think you are missing the obvious here – Russia’s motive is exactly what it has been for the last decade: Create social unrest and distrust in everything.

    The game they may be playing here, with you as a pawn, is to point the finger sufficiently at themselves for Government to know it was them, but point other fingers sufficiently elsewhere so that the general public are given cause to doubt their own government – something Russia already has a long track record of doing in western democracies. Assassinating someone who betrayed them was a happy by-product, the motive was to continue to sow distrust and turn people against their own countries.

    • typical russian

      “Create social unrest and distrust in everything” just before presidential elections and World Football Championship? Wow! Are you sane, man?

      • Dom

        It’s the line the guardian decided to push in its editorial yesterday. Lapped up by the unthinking herd.

        • Bill B

          Accusing anyone who doesn’t repeat what you believe ‘unthinking’ is an example of a refusal to think about any other opinions – Ironic!

      • Bill B

        If you want to destroy or dominate another country then using guns and war planes is very expensive. If you encourage the country to tear its self apart then all you have to do to defeat your supposed enemy is to sit back and wait.

        • morag

          Believe me the Brits are past masters in partition as we know very well!

          BTW. Your name isn’t Browder by any chance…

          • Henry North

            Ireland, India, Cyprus, Rhodesia ( northern and Southern) Somalia, Italian and English, Yemen, ( Aden) All suffering… currently.

            Partition has been a firm government policy….

    • MJ

      “the general public are given cause to doubt their own government”

      No sign of that yet. The general public appear to be ingesting May’s toxicity more readily than a former spy and his daughter ever could. More sober voices like Craig’s are few and far between.

    • Neil Anderson

      “Assassinating someone who betrayed them..” No-one has died, unless you know otherwise?

    • The Watcher

      Heaven forefend we should doubt our own government. They always have our best interests at heart.

  • Brian

    Why would the UK government not provide Russia with a sample as requested? It is not usual to accuse somebody of a crime and withhold the evidence.

    Without reference samples it would be impossible for analysis to prove the origin of the nerve agent.

    There are several countries of the former Soviet Union who would have a motive to create enmity between us and Russia for example.

    • Kiza

      Poor British Government, being fooled by those pesky former Soviet Republics. Just like the CIA was fooled by Curveball about Iraqi WMDs.

  • Harry Brown

    This is the right time to recall CMs “Trodos” debunking of the Ghouta 2013 sarin (false flag) attack, rifkind (grenfell ex-MP) had stood up first in the commons wanting us to go by YT staged clips and a concocted 8200 “live” intercept, that led to the historic vote that thankfully stopped billions from being spent on bombing Syria, instead of boosting the NHS and our poor.

    This attack on British sovereignty is clearly of a type developed in 1947 by menachem begin when he bombed the King David Hotel in British Palestine leaving 91 dead. Its time such perpetrators were brought to account.

  • Kiza

    Yes, of a type developed by liars, because even this agreed formulation “of a type developed by Russia” is a pure lie because it was not Russia then Soviet Union. Here is a section from my comparison between MH17 and Novichok:
    3) Soviet Union = Russia when convenient – the Soviet designed and made BUK becomes the exclusively Russian made BUK vs. the Soviet Designed CW becomes the exclusively Russian produced CW, with a touch of the good old British propaganda – maybe Russia lost control over it! => well, maybe US “lost control” over it when it was helping it’s client Uzbekistan destroy it and the labs which supposedly produced it

  • Manuel Vega

    If This was Binary reagent meaning if it was Novichok , and not something you carry premixed, Then it was administered in 2 steps like North Korea allegedly did. You cannot carry it premixed is a pray bottle w/o getting some on yourself..ie..you need two people to give them each opportunity of flight w/o harming themselves and a simple matter of changing clothes and showering….as binary broken down in two components would be harmless..I doubt one person..in civies could pull it off and survive..just my thoughts.
    On a speculative note..Rumor..and I say Rumor underscored that the victim may have wanted to return home..making him not only an important link to m16 in tampering with an American election via the Dossier whose details are growing…but a security risk to the UK..if he gave Putin proof the dossier was fabricated..the entire house of cards falls apart..

  • Durak

    So it was brought in via his daughter now allegedly.

    Oh dear… no suspects to “find”…

    How convenient.

    • N_

      If it was brought in by Yulia Skripal, what was she going to do with it?
      Was she going to visit Nikolai Glushkov with it, maybe?
      Or we are seriously supposed to believe that someone put it in her makeup so that when she gave her dad a peck on the cheek he’d be a goner?

      Litvinenko visited Berezovsky, and polonium was found in Berezovsky’s office.
      Glushkov was found dead in his house in New Malden on Monday.
      I wouldn’t discount the possibility that whatever weapon was used in Salisbury was supposed to go somewhere else, and that one or both of the Skripals were doing some couriering, Queen’s Messenger-style.

      Deaths in Salisbury may be announced, probably one by one, according to Britgov popaganda needs.

      • N_

        Funny – I just mentioned Nikolai Glushkov.

        Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Britain failed in its obligations

        1) to inform them of Glushkov’s death, and
        2) to inform them of Yulia Skripal’s condition.

        Hopefully a habeas corpus application will be forthcoming in respect of YS.

  • Big Deal

    Humbert Wolfe’s observation seems appropriate here:

    You cannot hope
    to bribe or twist,
    thank God! The
    British journalist.

    But, seeing what
    this man will do
    unbribed, there’s
    no occasion to.

    The Uncelestial City Bk I ii.2. Over the Fire (1930).

  • SeaGreen

    Well done Craig. The manipulation gets more & more obvious. Ashamed of The Guardian. BBC is hilarious.

  • Hieroglyph

    Meh, let them have their Iraq war. In Russia. In the winter.

    Putin would just fuck our tech, and down the lights. Would take about 72 hours to defeat us, and have the sick psychopath clowns in parliament begging to the US to rescue us. And given the way we’ve treated Trump – dossier anyone – he’d tell us to fuck off, as he should.

    Putin isn’t the enemy of the UK people. Theresa May is. The sooner we all realise this, the better. May is a very, very bad person, and her BoJo clown may think that by clown dancing he’ll take her job – but he’s terribly, terribly wrong. To beat May, you have to have the guts to take on her on, and her blackmail op. Corbyn is doing so. Can her cabinet? Doubt it.

  • R Whittaker

    Your pernicious connections to/accusations of Israel reveal more about your obsessions with the Jewish state over realistic analysis. There’s certainly less evidence that Israel has been involved in anything than Russia, which is in a state of severe competition with the UK, US and Israel. You show extreme skepticism to any claims toward the state where dissidents keep turning up dead while you go out of your way, on zero evidential basis, to accuse the Jewish one of evil machinations against the west, who it’s not even competing with on the world stage. I find your approach awful and certainly at least a fellow traveller to antisemitic attitudes and beliefs.

    • craig Post author

      So I invented Israel’s refusal to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, refusal to declare or destroy its chemical weapons stocks and failure to join the OPCW did I? Unlike 96% of nation states but like North Korea?

      Actually I want Israel to join the OPCW and ratify the Convention and join the civilised world, and destroy its chemical weapons stocks. That’s the opposite of BDS – I want Israel in.

      To say that criticism of Israel’s truly shocking position on the OPCW is antisemitism is very stupid. What is your view on Israel not ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention?

  • rwendland

    re “persuaded Boris he has to let the OPCW investigate a sample. But not just yet.” Did you notice the words used in the OPCW ambassador’s update statement on 14 March 2018 that legal obligations delay matters, which rather supports your information:

    “we are working with the police to enable the OPCW to independently verify our analysis. This horrendous incident is now the subject of a UK criminal investigation, and we have legal obligations as a result to ensure that we share our information only in accordance with the law.”

    • N_

      we are working with the police to enable the OPCW to independently verify our analysis. This horrendous incident is now the subject of a UK criminal investigation, and we have legal obligations as a result to ensure that we share our information only in accordance with the law.

      Haha! Is the patent-holder making demands?”

  • Republicofscotland

    I’m just wondering if Russia will get a fair hearing with the OPCW. Who have a very close relationship with the UN, the inspectors even travel using UN passers, which gives them special privileges and immunities.

    • N_

      Nothing’s ever fair. It’s all about money, including money from death. Russia, Britain, the United Nations, “scientific experts”.

  • Robert Graham

    This recent fashion of manipulating and twisting the truth is fooling no one , indeed i believe it draws attention to the perpetrator as being sly shifty and not to be trusted rather than being smart and clever , A prime example is the way Fluffy always replies to direct questions he is unable to answer a simple question , so leaves the questioner with the impression he always has something to hide ,
    This type of weasel words have been used to construct the Sewel Convention where one word ” Normally ” has caused all sorts of problems not normally in this case can mean anything the government want it to mean , and the bill presently going through Holyrood is probably full of these weasel words thats why its causing so much consternation because we know how this lot operate and the scottish government won’t be fooled again by this Philadelphia Lawyer speak .

  • Dave Lawton

    They say three people ill with nerve gas poisoning and we get a constant stream of blame the Russians.Well the British state
    should have a good hard look in its mirror before pointing the finger at others.
    “The MoD’s decision follows a vigorous campaign by local activists to get the case looked at again and a series of articles in the Independent on Sunday which highlighted 41 deaths and a high incidence of serious illness among workers at Nancekuke, which produced deadly Sarin B nerve gas.
    The MoD is also carrying out an environmental survey of the site after it admitted for the first time earlier this year that equipment used to manufacture Sarin B had been dumped in mine shafts and a quarry. ” https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/deaths-inquiry-at-nerve-gas-plant-278506.html

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