Johnson and May Hide as their Lies Dissolve 302


The government has attempted to control the narrative by finally admitting, as they have known for three weeks and just ahead of the OPCW experts coming out and saying so, that there is no evidence the substance used in the Salisbury attack was made in Russia. You can see the interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Porton Down only in this tweet from Sky here.

If anyone can make a copy and send me, or make a safe permanent posting I can link to, I should be grateful (contact button top right). Only a very short clip is on Sky’s website and I am anxious to preserve it for reasons I shall explain.

In modern Tory Britain, it should be no surprise to anybody that, to be the Chief Executive of Britain’s chemical weapons establishment, they recruited a radio salesman:

Aitkenhead’s PR skills were clearly thought sufficient to get across the government’s key propaganda points, and his struggle to do this throughout the Sky interview is telling. Aitkenhead has been in an extremely difficult position for the past three weeks, standing between his scientists who are adamant they will not say the substance was made in Russia, and the government who have been pushing extremely hard for them to do so.

At 5 mins 30 sec into this interview Boris Johnson directly lies about what Porton Down had told him:

It is very plain that what Aitkenhead is saying to Sky is “the scientists cannot establish it is from Russia. But the government claims to have intelligence sources that show that it is.” His struggle to fit the formulations he has been given to parrot this sense as more effective propaganda, into answers to the pretty good questions he is being asked, is almost comic: “ummm” and “errr” come into it a lot. You have to remember that the precise forms of words to be used in official parlance had been the subject of tense negotiation between the scientists and the Porton Down bureaucrats, and then between the Porton Down bureaucrats and MOD Whitehall officials, and then between MOD officials and FCO and security service officials in the Joint Intelligence Committee, before being signed off by ministers. It is a process I know intimately from the inside. This reconciliation of conflicting interests is why at the start Aitkenhead says it is “Novichok” confidently, but at 1 min 30 sec in he says the more truthful “Novichok or from that family”, which accords with the evidence Porton Down gave to the High Court.

But the key moment comes at 3 min 27 secs in. Aitkenhead’s government minders were evidently unhappy with the interview, and the last passage is a statement, not in answer to any question, of the government’s propaganda position which is a very bad edit and clearly tacked on after the interview had finished. They get the continuity wrong – it is not only a wider shot, the camera and tripod have clearly been moved. It is in this final statement that, in a desperate last minute attempt to implicate Russia, Aitkenhead states that making this nerve agent required

“extremely sophisticated methods to create , something probably only within the capabilities of a state actor.”

Very strangely, Sky News only give the briefest clip of the interview on this article on their website reporting it. And the report is highly tendentious: for example it states

However, he confirmed the substance required “extremely sophisticated methods to create, something only in the capabilities of a state actor”.

Deleting the “probably” is a piece of utterly tendentious journalism by Sky’s Paul Kelso. Interestingly, I have never seen such large scale and coordinated social media activity by the Tories as kicked into action immediately following Aitkenhead’s interview. Hundreds of openly identified Tory activists sprang into action using the “state actor” line – omitting the probably – and “government has other sources” line. The BBC contribution was completely to ignore the Porton Down statement and pretend nothing had happened. As part of what was clearly a coordinated PR strategy to pre-empt the OPCW and get over the hurdle of government lies while still blaming Russia, Boris Johnson and Theresa May simply lay low, unavailable to the media.

I shall post shortly a considered assessment of the wider analysis of what could have happened in Salibury. Here is my immediate reaction to Aitkenhead’s statement on Russia Today. Strangely the BBC did not invite me.


302 thoughts on “Johnson and May Hide as their Lies Dissolve

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  • Martin Hawes

    Bojo: ‘And they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself’.

    The guy? The most vital piece of information in the UK’s recent diplomatic history, and he couldn’t remember the guy’s name or job description?

    • Kiza

      Lucky guy (LOL). Just imagine his fate if BoJo could remember his name, face etc. He would have had to avoid all forests in UK.

  • G C GEBBIE

    Your courage in keeping this disgraceful episode from being overlooked and massaged away by the British Government and the MSM has been well and truly vindicated. I look forward to reading your analysis of the fall out and consequences of this sorry episode. Thank you for doing this.

  • Christopher Dale Rogers

    Well Craig, I hope you get your deserved 15 minutes of fame and a total rehabilitation of your character, that has been assassinated in orchestrated attacks by the UK elite since your fallout with that snake known as Jack Straw – vindicated at last.

  • Ben

    We recently heard about the bots & paid trolls the gov is using on social media, sounds like this sudden drive to push the butchered version of his statement could be an example of these bots in action.

    • MightyDrunken

      “It was an honest error made with the best interests of the UK in mind
      Unlike that nasty Corbyn…”

  • joel

    No matter how implausible this establishment narrative becomes, how lacking in credibility its main propagators are, or how recently the same political/media class has lied us into disastrous wars, the bewildered herd still credulously laps up the propaganda all over again. Orwellian times.

  • Capella

    Theresa May and Boris Johnston should resign. You have been completely vindicated and demonstrated to the servile British MSM that real journalism exists to challenge the rich and powerful. Truth is still important. Thankfully you are uniquely placed to understand the weasel words the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary use.

    The BBC this morning invited Frank Gardener – a MI6 stooge? – to place Gary Aitkenhead’s comments in a favourable context. The panic attack will reach new heights as the OPCW statement approaches.

    Look forward to your further analysis of the context. Who knows, perhaps the BBC will get round to inviting you to comment.

    • Peter C

      Indeed and just prior to that Justin Webb had a Russian chappy on. Webb spent that segment asking, in amazed, disbelieving voice number three, how could anyone seriously believe that the UK or US intelligence services could be involved in any kind of false flag or disinformation event, and how it must be Russia given that it is only Russia out of the whole world that does such things and is the only country known to stage foreign assassinations. I don’t know if Webb is a complete idiot hoping people like myself would just swallow such patent bilge or if he is a genius intending his comments to be taken as the satire they are. Didn’t stop me shouting at the radio anyway.

      At least Frank Gardener ended his piece when asked if, when the OPCW presumably agrees no attribution of manufacturer can be made, how the Government can make their argument he replied that after the Iraqi WMD gaff they would find it very difficult.

      • Herbie

        ” I don’t know if Webb is a complete idiot hoping people like myself would just swallow such patent bilge or if he is a genius intending his comments to be taken as the satire they are.”

        Used to waffle on about what he called anti-Americanism, as if it were some sort of crime to criticize their depraved state.

        He certainly does have a rare genius.

  • joe

    “probably” is essential in the sentence to be able to say, afterwards, that he was not lying. Any competent organic chemist (a few thousand in the UK alone) with access to a research grade lab (a few hundred in the UK alone) would be able to make it, safely, in 2 to 4 weeks from scratch.

        • Old Microbiologist

          You don’t need sophisticated facilities to do this kind of work at all. You only need the right understanding of the requirements for safety and a healthy respect for the agents you handle. I was involved in an effort to develop mobile BSL-3/4 labs using off the shelf materials purchased in the US at WalMart and Home Depot for use in a combat field detection lab in the Middle East. This was after the first Gulf War during the time of “Monica’s War” which was supposed to divert attention away from the impeachment. In fact one of my comrades was part of the Iraqi WMD inspection team and they did all their analysis in a hotel room in Baghdad. They were operating a GC/MS as well as PCR instrumentation and processed literally thousands of samples.

          We were set up in a different country but we successfully operated a HEPA and negative pressure labs with SCBA and tyvek suits. All the materials were available and we assembled an excellent field BSL-4 laboratory which was used for pre-processing of field collected samples. The processed samples were then analyzed in mobile labs or shipped back to the US for confirmation.

          My point is you can do this stuff anywhere under any circumstances if you have the required expertise..

          • joe

            again, the stuff is a poison, not a biological agent. Very dangerous but much less that any pathogen. Pathogens reproduce themselves and can cause outbreaks. Nerve agents decompose after a while. The point is that Biosafety is NOT necessary to do this kind of work safely. In fact, it will be counterproductive to get a Biological Safe lab to produce it as they are not designed for organic chemistry work.

      • joe

        no need of cat 1 containment lab. Those are for pathogens. Poisons, including nerve agents, can be handled safely in any organic synthesis lab

        • Old Microbiologist

          I agree more or less, but the same lab we set up handled both chemical and biological sample processing simultaneously. You are right though, the normal chemical protective suit made from butyl rubber and activated charcoal air filtration is sufficient for routine use.

    • N_

      Serious question: what materials would they need and where would they get them from?

        • Herbie

          It’s relatively easy to buy pesticides, and with all those English gardens to be tending I doubt anyone would give you a second look.

          • Old Microbiologist

            In fact, there is very little difference between commercial pesticides such as dyrsban and nerve agents. Both kill using the same mode of action.

  • Agneta Staite

    We all knew the government was telling lies. Why do politicians always underestimate peoples intelligens?

    • BarrieJ

      They underestimate us because they have absolute contempt for us and know that a complicit and corrupt media will protect them from exposure and criticism.

      • Agent Green

        They have near total control of the mainstream media and follow the tried and tested idea that if you are going to tell a lie, make sure you keep on telling it.

  • Barden Gridge

    The Chairperson of the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board, Dr Chris Timperley, is one of Porton Down’s top scientists.
    https://www.opcw.org/about-opcw/subsidiary-bodies/scientific-advisory-board/current-composition/

    I would think the UK govt. knew yesterday (or even several weeks ago) exactly what the OPCW is going to say, hence the interview with Aitkenhead.

    R4 Today more disgraceful than ever:
    36:50:
    “…the Foreign Secretary had made it clear that he thought he’d been told by Porton Down…”

    1:52:40:
    Hamish de Bretton_Gordon
    “Well, I think what he probably meant to say was…”
    “…I think it is probably time that the goverment needs to throw some more evidence in…”

    2:34:30:
    Justin Webb, talking to Sergey Karaganov, former foreign policy advisor to Putin, refers to the Russian suggestion that the attack was in the interests of the British government.
    Webb says:
    “…what a lot of people listening to that think is, it just feels as if Russia uses language in a way that is, well, to put it mildly, incautious and makes allegations itself that are just off the normal scale…”

    Yes, Webb really said that.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09xcshb

  • BigDave

    Your “immediate reaction” video at youtube gives me a message:

    “This video is restricted. Try signing in with a Google Apps account.”

    • Matthew

      Do you have a link for this leaked presentation?

      I would be keen to have a look. One of the narratives is now that the Government “must” have shared additional evidence with allies to convince them of Russia guilt, but this does not appear to be the case (article from Der Spiegel below).

      —–

      From Russia with Death
      A Soviet Nerve Agent Triggers a New Cold War

      http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nerve-agent-attack-in-england-escalates-tensions-with-russia-a-1198451-2.html
      > The key to the Skripal case is to be found in the toxin that was used. When the British briefed their German colleagues this week, they didn’t go into great detail, according to sources in German security circles.
      […]
      there is no definitive proof that the Russian state was behind the attack, according to a senior German official on Thursday evening.

      • N_

        I reckon they invoked Article 5 of the NATO treaty. There’s no clause that says it has to be done openly.

        • Herbie

          If they’d invoked Art 5 then why would important NATO members be publicly talking the whole story down.

          For the plan to have worked they needed a false flag in east Ghouta to complete the play.

          Didn’t happen.

    • N_

      For the record, Theresa May told the House of Commons that

      1) DSTL says it’s Novichok
      2) Russia produced that substance in the past and “would still be capable” of producing it
      3) Russia has a record of “state-sponsored” assassinations
      4) Russia views some defectors as legitimate assassination targets.

      therefore 5) it’s “highly likely” Russia “was responsible” for the act against the Skripals.

      That is indeed logical bullshit.

      * They’ve rowed back and said it might not be Novichok.
      * They haven’t addressed how the OPCW was happy that Russia destroyed its CW stocks.
      * That a country “would” be capable of producing something doesn’t mean they did. Nor does it mean that dozens of other countries and parties “wouldn’t” also be capable.
      * Sergei Skripal is NOT a “defector”. He spied for MI6 for money, got caught, served time, and got swapped. A defector is somebody who walks out.

      As for the word “would”, it’s a favourite of the disgusting Waitrose-shopping castes that Theresa May belongs to. It’s used snobbishly to indicate “I’m damned well not going to use the indicative mood when I’m talking to a turd like you”. The word marks a consequence clause. What’s the condition clause?

      • N_

        And of course several other countries including Britain have a record of state assassinations.

  • Yonatan

    Don’t forget to look at the dog that didn’t bark – the third victim. If he hadn’t been contaminated, most of the post-facto changes in story would not have been needed.

  • Dave

    It was noticeable how little attention this received – nothing(?) on the BBC, seconds buried well into Channel 4 News – and all the talking heads on the paper reviews were swallowing the government line that they have other information that DOES blame Russia (information we know nothing about) or the simplistic narrative, Russian spy: Russian chemical. The concepts of circumstantial evidence, false flag operations and being sold a pup like the Iraqi WMD dossier seemed to have passed clean over their heads.

    Only the Times asked the blindingly obvious question: where does this leave British diplomacy with our allies who expelled Russians? They in turn have not helped their case by smug indifference and positing a variety of fanciful stories rather than simply offering to help uncover the truth. Admittedly an offer that would almost certainly not be accepted but better than their disinformation campaign to sew confusion and doubt but which has only served to make them look more guilty: she doth protest too much.

    We now have another reason for the OTT Labour anti-semitic campaign besides the upcoming local elections: to discredit him and make work for the party ahead of this story coming out when Corbyn’s more measured approach has proven to be right.

    As before I very much appreciate what you are doing on this and other stories, though to be perfectly blunt I would have more sympathy for your rather nasty personal attacks if you had not called people like me ignorant racists.

    • JakeMorris

      “They in turn have not helped their case by smug indifference and positing a variety of fanciful stories rather than simply offering to help uncover the truth. Admittedly an offer that would almost certainly not be accepted but better than their disinformation campaign to sew confusion and doubt but which has only served to make them look more guilty: she doth protest too much.”

      Russian reaction was anything but indifference, smug or otherwise. Russians protested vehemently from the outset, denied any involvement, called for an impartial investigation, demanded consular access to their citizens, demanded samples, and have now convened an extraordinary OPCW session. All very logical and reasonable steps, though understandably underscored by complete bafflement of this unprecedented level of buffoonery from the West.

      As to disinformation campaign, the only one being waged is the one in British (and some of its “allies”) mainstream media, which engaged in outrageous fingerpointing and shameful smear campaigns against any dissenters. In contrast, Russian media (RT) seems to be much more level-headed and constructive in presenting their alternative viewpoint (which is now being vindicated before our very eyes).

      • Agent Green

        Yes, British government propaganda and intelligence teams are now in overdrive at present.

  • BrianFujisan

    Craig

    Do Not fall Back….. and sit on that beach rock.. Or do so…THEN RISE.. And Do Not DARE Think you..and the Wife n Kids wont make it to Doune ..Don’t

  • Rhys Jaggar

    That RT interview could almost be filed under ‘whispering death’ – a clinical and surgical dismembering of the official Uk propaganda. The only frustrating thing about it for normal folks is the lack of anger, outrage, frustration etc.

    But apparently truth is disregarded if you tell the truth expressing anger, frustration etc. Quite why, I have never understood. After all, Tony Blair is still alive and kicking 12 years after I described him in a football song as a ‘f***ing c**t from a north east hole’, 48-72 hours after which Michael Heseltine stated on Question Time that he was ‘a dead man walking’, whereas 1 million Iraqis lie in the ground courtesy of quiet analytical purveyors of mass murder….

    Tony Blair was a fully grown man in senior office, not exactly a vulnerable 14 year old whose emotional development might be badly affected by gratuitously insulting aggression.

  • Mary Paul

    Well I still do not believe May and Johnson thought this up themselves. Too busy with the day jobs for a start. They have been put up to it, or manoeuvred into it. Why and by whom and as part of what larger plan? And why now? we need a fight with Russia like a hole in the head. And even if you believe Putin is capable, the timing, right before the World Cup is all wrong. Could it be rogue elements from within Russia?

    • JakeMorris

      How would any “rogue elements from within Russia” (assuming such even exist) be able to “maneuver” not only May and Johnson, but also Trump, Macron, Merkel and all the others who bought the anti-Russia narrative hook, line and sinker? These “elements” would need to be more authoritative than Putin himself, which is frankly unbelievable. As is their capacity to “swindle” not only Western world leaders themselves, but the Western secret services as well.

      The only reasonable explanation would be that Western leaders and secret services were “in” on the plan, and therefore highly likely to have organised it themselves. No need for any “rogue Russian elements” at all, says Occam’s Razor.

      • N_

        What is a “rogue element”? Does someone who gets recruited by a foreign intelligence agency count? Who might put a contract out on either of the Skripals and why? Who whacked Nikolai Glushkov? It seems likely he was connected with this affair.

  • Billy Bostickson

    Porton Down mouthpiece, Mr Achinghead, on behalf of the British Regime insisted there is:

    “no known antidote to novichok.”

    “Daughter of Sergei Skripal said to be improving rapidly after nerve agent poisoning”

    “Nerve agent attack: Detective exposed to novichok discharged from hospital”

    no known antidote to novichok….no known antidote to novichok…..no known antidote to novichok….no known antidote to novichok.

    • john young

      Why no howls of protest/derision from our elected”honourable members” I include the SNP not a word that I can see,they are all as bad as one and other.

    • N_

      Did he ask I__ael? When they used a nerve agent in an assassination attempt on Khaled Meshaal in Jordan and got caught, they were forced to hand over an antidote.

    • James Charles

      No one was affected by a ‘nerve agent poison’?
      ‘ . . .   he began his letter to the Times . . . with;“may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury” ‘
      “ The Times published a letter from Stephen Davies (Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust) on the 16th March. ‘Sir, further to your report (‘Poison Exposure Leaves Nearly 40 needing Treatment’), may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning. Several people have attended the emergency department concerned that they may have been exposed. None has had symptoms of poisoning and none has needed treatment. Any blood tests performed have shown no abnormality. No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved.’ ”

  • Vladivar

    It is an insult to all scientists in this country that a guy who never published a paper in a scientific journal, does not hold a PhD and is completely unknown within the scientific community, is proclaimed by mainstream media as a “chief scientist” of the top-level government lab.

    • Herbie

      They’re not very accurate, these msm types.

      Mostly low grade morons and high grade liars.

      Amusing that Craig has to teach them how to do journalism.

  • Madeira

    How times change. The story is already being “walked back”. From today’s Guardian:

    “Britain’s chemical weapons experts will try to persuade international colleagues at an emergency meeting of the global chemical weapons watchdog in The Hague that they have followed the right procedures over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury.”

    “Britain sent the OPCW samples of the nerve agent within days of the attack, and results of the organisation’s tests are expected within days. Alexander Shulgin, Russia’s permanent representative to the OPCW, has complained that Russian scientists have been barred from being involved in the tests after British objections.” [“within days” — is this correct?]

    “The OPCW is not able to ascribe responsibility for the attack, but identification of the nerve agent as novichok by the OPCW, the premier relevant multilateral body, would shore up the UK’s position – backed by an international diplomatic alliance – that Russian state forces were involved in the attack. Russia insists it destroyed its entire chemical weapons stock.”

    And this — the 1st confirmed sign that Yulia Skripal won’t be going home after all:

    “The Russian embassy in London claims the UK is in breach of article 36 of the Vienna convention by refusing Russia consular access to a Russian national. The UK has said the views of the national must be taken into account.”

    • JakeMorris

      [“within days” — is this correct?]

      The London Court issued its decision to allow OPCW to take samples from Skripals on March 22, eighteen days after the attack (March 4). That’s quite a long margin for “within days” – “within weeks” would be more appropriate (2,5 weeks in fact). And of course any samples unilaterally sent by Britain without independent verification of the chain of evidence would be highly suspect.

      “identification of the nerve agent as novichok by the OPCW, the premier relevant multilateral body, would shore up the UK’s position – backed by an international diplomatic alliance – that Russian state forces were involved in the attack”

      How would that shore up anything, considering that by Porton Down’s own testimony any number of countries could have the capacity to produce Novichok, and Porton Down all but admitted it too has Novichok in stock?

      “Russia insists it destroyed its entire chemical weapons stock.”

      Which at the time was fully accepted by OPCW and all parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, including Britain. Was London withholding evidence from the international watchdog concerning novichok production?

      “The Russian embassy in London claims the UK is in breach of article 36 of the Vienna convention by refusing Russia consular access to a Russian national. The UK has said the views of the national must be taken into account.”

      The bilateral Consular Convention between Russia and Great Britain, which was also invoked by Russians, imposes an unqualified obligation on the receiving state to allow access to the sending state’s nationals – expressly including dual nationals – regardless of what the person him/herself might say.

  • Clark

    If our “government has other sources”, why did they not presented this from the start, instead concentrating on the “of a type developed by Russia” line? This has been going on for weeks now.

  • N_

    Aitkenhead does look pressured and awkward, for a guy with a sales background.

    Contrary to what has been reported, what he says it that manufacturing the substance is PROBABLY only within the capabilities of a “state actor”. In other words, he’s saying a private party may have made it.

    No questions about Toxic Dagger then.

  • Capella

    Boris Johnston also alleged that Russia has been producing and stockpiling nerve agents for 10 years. The OPCW must explain why it announced last year that Russia had destroyed its chemical weapons capacity. Who is telling the truth? The British Foreign Secretary or the UN Chemical Weapons inspectors.? I hope no dodgy dossiers emerge.

  • Mark Doran

    Did you hear that?
    BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’, 6.31 am (4/4/18):

    “… Russia requested the meeting to address the UK government’s *suggestion* that it was behind the poisoning…”

    — Has there ever been a programe more sheerly disgusting than @BBCr4today…?

    • Mochyn69

      Yes, BBC Radio 4 World at One.

      This crock of horseshit needs to be taken down and taken apart and shown to the world for the appalling blatant propaganda it really is.

      .

  • Republicofscotland

    Jeez oh, listening to LBC, and Tom Swarbrick, agreeing with every single word of Hamish De Bretton, that Russia did it, tells me the establishment are running scared.

    De Bretton even claimed on Swarbrick’s show, that the security services actually knew exactly where the Novichok arose from, it began with a S, I can’t recall the name for now, and that it was definitely Russian.

    De Bretton hinted that the PM will today at PMQ’s reinforce her position that it was the Russian’s that did it, and, tell us all not to listen to Russian propaganda.

    Finally De Bretton claimed on the LBC radio show that the security service has other evidence that points the finger at Russia, however implicating sources means this evidence is unavailable.

    • JakeMorris

      He probably means “Shikhany”, where Novichok was first developed in 1970’s, according to Mirzayanov’s book. So technically, that would be where Novichok “arose from” – over 40 years ago. No need for any “intelligence sources” – this information is posted on Wikipedia, and Mirzayanov’s book is still available for purchase.

      I presume De Bretton failed to mention Nukus, in Uzbekistan, where the weapon was tested in the 80-s (again according to Mirzayanov), and which was “dismantled” by USA in 1990’s. He also wouldn’t mention Iran, which synthesised Novichoks and derivatives in 2016 under OPCW supervision. Nor Gary Aitkenhead’s statement that basically any state with sufficient chemical prowess – and possibly even non-state actors – could produce the thing.

      The frames of this narrative are about to burst, it seems.

      • Agent Green

        The point is that it could have been made anywhere. The fact that the formula may have originated in the Soviet Union is neither here nor there.

      • Republicofscotland

        Yes Jake that’s the place, De Bretton Gordon, was adamant on the LBC slot that the Novichok was Russian and that it was produced in the Shikhany lab.

        Of coure his credibility is now questionable, after the Porton Down statement on Sky news.

    • Kiza

      Very interesting comparison between Netherlands and UK. In which country can a politician blatantly lie and remain in public trust, that is in his position.

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