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How America Tortures

How America Tortures (November 27, 2019).  95 Pages
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Abstract

Americans may find it difficult to acknowledge that top officials in the West Wing of the White House and the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice orchestrated and poorly oversaw a horrific torture program that was responsible for the detention and interrogation of countless detainees. Seventeen years ago, the White House and the Department of Justice created a torture program and, through a series of legal memoranda, attempted to immunize Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents from criminal liability. The language was formal, legalistic, antiseptic, and euphemistic. That, combined with vague definitions of the techniques, disguised the extent of abuse the memos were approving and/or permitting. For many years, virtually no attention has been paid to the specific details of the techniques that were used in America’s name and too little investigation has gone into the specific uses that the CIA made of these techniques.

This report presents the specific details of what the torture memos permitted and most importantly, how the techniques were implemented and applied. This report is based on information from many of those who were tortured under the program, including Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn (Abu Zubaydah), as well as many CIA cables, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report, and numerous other government documents.

The torture memos described the ten techniques that were designed and approved to torture one person, Abu Zubaydah. All ten techniques were used upon him and, while he has not been allowed to speak, some of his descriptions of those experiences were declassified. They have not been previously examined. The descriptions by Abu Zubaydah of some of the torture techniques is attached as an appendix. The text incorporates parts of his description and when it is included in the text it is always bolded.

As compelling as the verbal descriptions of the techniques are, this report publishes the first visual representation of how the torture techniques were performed. The graphic representations are the original works of the man for whom the torture was designed, Abu Zubaydah. Because they have never been published before and because of their historical importance, all eight graphics are presented in full at the beginning of this report. The same graphics are also included in the text where they most appropriately belong.

In addition, the CIA’s cables from the beginning of Abu Zubaydah’s torture have also become available and this report allows the reader to see the application of the techniques not only as defined, but as applied, and not only from the CIA’s perspective but also from the perspective of the tortured. This report integrates Abu Zubaydah’s descriptions from the earliest days of his torture with the CIA cables that described those days from the CIA’s perspective.

The report will first address persistent conditions which were employed broadly against detainees, followed by an in depth look at each approved torture technique. Finally, the report will address several techniques not specifically approved, but which played a key role in advancing the program. Overall, this report will illustrate how the following factors led to the gross abuse of the torture program: (1) the lack of clarity and purposeful ambiguity in defining what was allowed and what was not allowed during interrogations; (2) the failure by the government to account for the use of persistent techniques and unapproved techniques alongside those that were approved; and (3) the negligence and intentional disregard of the consequences of such a torture program.

Report Contributors:

Mark Denbeaux
Seton Hall University, School of Law

Stephanie Moreno Haire
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Tatiana Laing
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Kristofer Guldner
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Denera Pope-Ragoonanan
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Adam Casner
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Brett Lewbel
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Timothy Paulson
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Timothy Profeta
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Jade Sobh
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Niki Waters
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Bayan Zahriyah
Seton Hall University - School of Law
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How America Tortures (November 27, 2019).  95 Pages
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Also Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3494533 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3494533

SOURCE

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Related:
Pictures From an Interrogation: Drawings by Abu Zubaydah
https://www.propublica.org/article/abu-zubaydah-drawings-pictures-from-an-interrogation

What the C.I.A.’s Torture Program Looked Like to the Tortured


Drawings done in captivity by the first prisoner known to undergo “enhanced interrogation” portray his account of what happened to him in vivid and disturbing ways.


An image drawn by Abu Zubaydah, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, shows how the C.I.A. applied an approved torture technique called “cramped confinement.”
Credit...Abu Zubaydah, Courtesy Mark P. Denbeaux


By Carol Rosenberg   - Dec. 4, 2019

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — One shows the prisoner nude and strapped to a crude gurney, his entire body clenched as he is waterboarded by an unseen interrogator. Another shows him with his wrists cuffed to bars so high above his head he is forced on to his tiptoes, with a long wound stitched on his left leg and a howl emerging from his open mouth. Yet another depicts a captor smacking his head against a wall.

They are sketches drawn in captivity by the Guantánamo Bay prisoner known as Abu Zubaydah, self-portraits of the torture he was subjected to during the four years he was held in secret prisons by the C.I.A.

Published here for the first time, they are gritty and highly personal depictions that put flesh, bones and emotion on what until now had sometimes been portrayed in popular culture in sanitized or inaccurate ways: the so-called enhanced interrogations techniques used by the United States in secret overseas prisons during a feverish pursuit of Al Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In each illustration, Mr. Zubaydah — the first person to be subject to the interrogation program approved by President George W. Bush’s administration — portrays the particular techniques as he says they were used on him at a C.I.A. black site in Thailand in August 2002.

They demonstrate how, more than a decade after the Obama administration outlawed the program — and then went on to partly declassify a Senate study that found the C.I.A. lied about both its effectiveness and its brutality — the final chapter of the black sites has yet to be written.

Mr. Zubaydah, 48, drew them this year at Guantánamo for inclusion in a 61-page report, “How America Tortures,” by his lawyer, Mark P. Denbeaux, a professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, and some of Mr. Denbeaux’s students.

The report uses firsthand accounts, internal Bush administration memos, prisoners’ memories and the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report to analyze the interrogation program. The program was initially set up for Mr. Zubaydah, who was mistakenly believed to be a top Qaeda lieutenant.

He was captured in a gun battle in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in March 2002, gravely injured, including a bad wound to his left thigh, and was sent to the C.I.A.’s overseas prison network.

After an internal debate over whether Mr. Zubaydah was forthcoming to F.BI. interrogators, the agency hired two C.I.A. contract psychologists to create the now-outlawed program that would use violence, isolation and sleep deprivation on more than 100 men in secret sites, some described as dungeons, staffed by secret guards and medical officers.

Descriptions of the methods began leaking out more than a decade ago, occasionally in wrenching detail but sometimes with little more than stick-figure depictions of what prisoners went through.

But these newly released drawings depict specific C.I.A. techniques that were approved, described and categorized in memos prepared in 2002 by the Bush administration, and capture the perspective of the person being tortured, Mr. Zubaydah, a Palestinian whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn.

He was the first person known to be waterboarded by the C.I.A. — he endured it 83 times — and was the first person known to be crammed into a small confinement box as part of what the Seton Hall study called “a constantly rotating barrage” of methods meant to break what interrogators believed was his resistance.

Subsequent intelligence analysis showed that while Mr. Zubaydah was a jihadist, he had no advance knowledge about the 9/11 attacks, nor was he a member of Al Qaeda.

He has never been charged with a crime, and documents released through the courts show that military prosecutors have no plans to do so.

He is held at the base’s most secretive prison, Camp 7, where he drew these sketches not as artwork, whose release from Guantánamo is now forbidden, but as legal material that was reviewed and cleared — with one redaction — for inclusion in the study. Other drawings he has done of himself during his imprisonment were published last year by ProPublica.


Waterboarding



ImageCredit...Abu Zubaydah, Courtesy Mark P. Denbeaux


In this drawing, the prisoner portrays himself as nude on the waterboard, immobilized as water pours down on his hooded head, his right foot contorted in pain. The image contrasts with some others seen in popular culture; an exhibit at the Spy Museum in Washington, for example, shows a guard pouring water onto the face of a prisoner who is neatly clad in what looks like a prison jumpsuit.

Mr. Zubaydah’s self-portrait also shows a design detail not present in most depictions — a drop-down hinge to tilt the prisoner’s head. Restraints hold down his wounded thigh.

The Senate Intelligence Committee study of the C.I.A. program concluded that waterboarding and other techniques were “brutal and far worse than the C.I.A. represented.” Its use induced convulsions, vomiting and left Mr. Zubaydah “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

In a now declassified account he provided his lawyer in 2008, Mr. Zubaydah described the first of what would be 83 waterboarding sessions this way: “They kept pouring water and concentrating on my nose and my mouth until I really felt I was drowning and my chest was just about to explode from the lack of oxygen.”

Stress Positions



Image Credit...Abu Zubaydah, Courtesy Mark P. Denbeaux


Accounts by detainees in different black sites have differed on how this method was used. In his illustration, Mr. Zubaydah shows himself nude and shackled at the wrists to a bar above his head, forced to stand on tiptoe.

In his account, as reported by his lawyers, he was still recovering from what the C.I.A. had described as a large wound in his thigh, and he tried to balance his weight on the other leg.

“Long hours went by while I was standing in that position,” he told his lawyers. “My hands were tight to the upper bars.”

Some guards, he said, “noticed the color of my hands,” moved him to a chair “and the interrogation vertigo resumed — the cold, the hunger, the little sleep and the intense vomiting, which I didn’t know whether it was caused by the cold, the ‘Ensure’ or the noise.” (The C.I.A. put its prisoners on liquid diets in its program of so-called learned helplessness.)

Short Shackling



Image Credit...Abu Zubaydah, Courtesy Mark P. Denbeaux


Mr. Zubaydah, who is not known to have formal art training, drew himself in a hood, shackled in the fetal position and tethered by a chain to a cell bar to constrict his movement. In granting the C.I.A. approval to use a technique similar to this, Jay S. Bybee, a former assistant attorney general, noted in an 18-page memo dated Aug. 1, 2002, that “through observing Zubaydah in captivity, you have noted that he appears to be quite flexible despite his wound.”

He also noted in the authorization, addressed to the C.I.A.’s acting general counsel at the time, John A. Rizzo, that the agency asserted that “these positions are not designed to produce the pain associated with contortions or twisting of the body.”

Walling



Image Credit...Abu Zubaydah, Courtesy Mark P. Denbeaux


This image emerged from Guantánamo with a black redaction box over Mr. Zubaydah’s depiction of the face of his interrogator.


It shows the prisoner’s captor tightly winding a towel around his neck as he smashes the back of his head against what Mr. Zubaydah recalled was a wooden wall covering a cement wall.

“He kept banging me against the wall,” he said of the experience, which he described as leaving him blind “for a few instants.” With each bang, he said, he would fall to the floor, be dragged by the plastic-tape-wrapped towel “which caused bleeding in my neck,” and then receive a slap on his face.

In a 2017 deposition as part of a lawsuit that was eventually settled, James E. Mitchell, a former C.I.A. contract psychologist who devised the techniques with a colleague, John Bruce Jessen, said walling was “discombobulating” and meant to stir up a prisoner’s inner ears. “If it’s painful, you’re doing it wrong,” he said.

Large Confinement Box



Image Credit...Abu Zubaydah, Courtesy Mark P. Denbeaux


In this drawing, Mr. Zubaydah is shaved, nude, shackled in such a way he cannot stand up and, by his account, is sitting on a bucket meant to serve as a toilet.

“I found myself in total darkness,” he said. “The only spot I could sit in was on top of the bucket, for the place was very tight.”

In his account, Mr. Zubaydah describes being confined in “a large wooden box that looked like a wooden casket.” The first time he saw it, guards were turning it vertical and a man in black clothes and a military jacket announced, “From now on, this is going to be your home.”

Mr. Zubaydah portrays himself in the drawings with both eyes. A photograph of him early during his time at Guantánamo shows him wearing an eye patch after the removal of an injured eye.

Small Confinement Box



"They unchained my hands from the bars and chained them with short chains to the chains that were around my legs, which kept me in a bowing position at all times … They brutally dragged me to the cement wall … He started brutally banging my head and my back against the wall. I felt my back was breaking due to the intensity of the banging. He started slapping my face again and again, meanwhile he was yelling. He then pointed to a large black wooden box that looked like a wooden casket. He said: “from now on this is going to be your home …” He violently closed the door. I heard the sound of the lock. I found myself in total darkness."

The small box is similar to the one on display at the Spy Museum where, during a visit, children could be seen crawling inside.

In his account, included in the Seton Hall report, Mr. Zubaydah describes his time in what he called “the dog box” as “so painful.” He adds: “As soon as they locked me up inside the box, I tried my best to sit up, but in vain, for the box was too short. I tried to take a curled position but to no vain, for it was too tight.” He was immobilized and shackled in the fetal position, as he described it, for “countless hours,” experiencing muscle contractions.

“The very strong pain,” he said, “made me scream unconsciously.”

Sleep Deprivation



Image Credit...Abu Zubaydah, Courtesy Mark P. Denbeaux


Mr. Zubaydah recalled that agents used a method of “horizontal sleep deprivation” that involved shackling him flat on the ground in such a painful position that it made it impossible to sleep.

The C.I.A. justified sleep deprivation by saying it “focuses the detainee’s attention on his current situation rather than ideological goals.” In approving this and other techniques in August 2002, Mr. Bybee said the C.I.A. had said it would not deprive Mr. Zubaydah of sleep for “more than 11 days at a time.”

In the Seton Hall study, Mr. Zubaydah recounted being deprived of sleep for “maybe two or three weeks or even more.”

“It felt like an eternity,” he added, “to the point that I found myself falling asleep despite the water being thrown at me by the guard.”

In this drawing, the prisoner portrays himself as lightly clothed.


*********************************************

RELATED: 

1) How America Tortures



2) Pictures From an Interrogation: Drawings by Abu Zubaydah
https://www.propublica.org/article/abu-zubaydah-drawings-pictures-from-an-interrogation

A Second Whistle Blown on the OPCW’s Doctored Report

Dec 03, 2019  -- BY JEREMY SALT



Another whistleblower leak has exposed the fraudulent nature of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma, close to Damascus, on April 7 last year.

The first leak came from the Fact-Finding Mission’s engineering sub-group. After investigating the two sites where industrial gas cylinders were found in Douma and taking into account the possibility that the cylinders had been dropped from the air it concluded that there was a “higher probability” that both cylinders were placed at both sites by hand. This finding was entirely suppressed in the final report

The engineering sub-group prepared its draft report “for internal review” between February 1-27, 2018. By March 1 the OPCW final report had been approved, published and released, indicating that the engineers’ findings had not been properly evaluated, if evaluated at all. In its final report the OPCW, referring to the findings of independent experts in mechanical engineering, ballistics and metallurgy, claimed that the structural damage had been caused at one location by an “impacting object” (i.e. the cylinder) and that at the second location the cylinder had passed through the ceiling, fallen to the floor and somehow bounced back up on to the bed where it was found.

None of this was even suggested by the engineers. Instead, the OPCW issued a falsified report intended to keep alive the accusation that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian Air Force.


Now there is a second leak, this time an internal email sent by a member of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on June 22, 2018, to Robert Fairweather, the British career diplomat who was at the time Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, and copied to his deputy, Aamir Shouket. The writer claims to have been the only FFM member to have read the redacted report before its release. He says it misrepresents the facts: “Some crucial facts that have remained in the redacted version have morphed into something quite different from what was originally drafted.”

The email says the final version statement that the team “has sufficent evidence to determine that chlorine or another reactive chlorine-containing chemical was likely released from the cylinders is highly misleading and not supported by the facts.” The writer states that the only evidence is that some samples collected at locations 2 and 4 (where the gas cylinders were found) had been in contact with one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom.

“Such chemicals,” he continues, “could include molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride or sodium hypochlorite (the major element in household chlorine-based bleach.” Purposely singling out chlorine as one of the possibilities was disingenuous and demonstrated “partiality” that negatively affected the final report’s credibility.

The writer says the final report’s reference to “high levels of various chlorinated organic derivatives detected in environmental samples” overstates the draft report’s findings. “In most cases” these derivatives were present only in part per billion range, as low as 1-2 ppb, which is essentially trace qualitiea.” In such microscopic quantities, detected inside apartment buildings, it would seem, although the writer only hints at the likelihood, that the chlorine trace elements could have come from household bleach stored in the kitchen or bathroom.

The writer notes that the original draft discussed in detail the inconsistency between the victims’ symptoms after the alleged attack as reported by witnesses and seen on video recordings. This section of the draft, including the epidemiology, was removed from the final version in its entirety. As it was inextricably linked to the chemical agent as identified, the impact on the final report was “seriously negative.” The writer says the draft report was “modified” at the behest of the office of Director-General, a post held at the time by a Turkish diplomat, Ahmet Uzumcu.

The OPCW has made no attempt to deny the substance of these claims. After the engineers’ report made its way to Wikileaks its priority was to hunt down the leaker. Following the leaking of the recent email, the Director-General, Fernando Arias, simply defended the final report as it stood.

These two exposures are triply devastating for the OPCW. Its Douma report is completely discredited but all its findings on the use of chemical weapons in Syria must now be regarded as suspect even by those who did not regard them as suspect in the first place. The same shadow hangs over all UN agencies that have relied on the OPCW for evidence, especially the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, an arm of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).

This body is closely linked to the OPCW and while both mostly hide the sources of their information it is evident that where chemical weapons allegations have been made, the commission of inquiry has drawn on the OPCW. 

As of January 2018, the commission reported on 34 “documented incidents” of chemical weapons use by various parties in Syria. It held the Syrian government responsible for 23 of them and, remarkably, did not hold the armed groups responsible even for one, despite the weight of evidence showing their preparation and use of such weapons over a long period of time. 

The commission has made repeated accusations of chlorine barrel bombs being dropped by government forces. On the worst of the alleged chemical weapons attacks, on August 21, 2013, in the eastern Ghouta district just outside Damascus, it refers to sarin being used in a “well-planned indiscriminate attack targetting residential areas [and] causing mass casualties. The perpetrators likely had access to the Syrian military chemical weapons stockpile and expertise and equipment to manipulate large amounts of chemical weapons.”

This is such a travesty of the best evidence that no report by this body can be regarded as impartial, objective and neutral. No chemical weapons or nerve agents were moved from Syrian stocks, according to the findings of renowned journalist Seymour Hersh. The best evidence, including a report by Hersh (‘The Red Line and the Rat Line,’ London Review of Books, April 17, 2014), suggests a staged attack by terrorist groups, including Jaysh al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, who at the time were being routed in a government offensive. The military would have had no reason to use chemical weapons: furthermore, the ‘attack’ was launched just as UN chemical weapons inspectors were arriving in the Syrian capital and it is not even remotely credible that the Syrian government would have authorized a chemical weapons attack at such a time. 

Even the CIA warned Barack Obama that the Syrian government may not have been/probably was not responsible for the attack and that he was being lured into launching an air attack in Syria now that his self-declared ‘red line’ had been crossed. At the last moment, Obama backed off.

It remains possible that the victims of this ‘attack’ were killed for propaganda purposes. Certainly, no cruelty involving the takfiri groups, the most brutal people on the face of the planet, can be ruled out. Having used the occasion to blame the Syrian government, the media quickly moved on. The identities of the dead, many of them children, who they were, where they might have been buried - if in fact they had been killed and not just used as props - were immediately tossed into the memory hole. Eastern Ghouta remains one of the darkest unexplained episodes in the war on Syria. 

The UN’s Syria commission of inquiry’s modus operandi is much the same as the OPCW’s. Witnesses are not identified; there is no indication of how their claims were substantiated; the countries outside Syria where many have been interviewed are not identified, although Turkey is clearly one; and where samples have had to be tested, the chain of custody is not transparent.

It is worth stepping back a little bit to consider early responses to the OPCW report on Douma. The Syrian government raised a number of questions, all of them fobbed off by the OPCW. Russia entered the picture by arranging a press conference for alleged victims of the ‘attack’ at the OPCW headquarters in the Hague. They included an 11-year-old boy, Hassan Diab, who said he did not know why he was suddenly hosed down in the hospital clinic, as shown in the White Helmets propaganda video. 

All the witnesses dismissed claims of a chemical weapons attack. Seventeen countries (Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the US) then put out a joint statement (April 26, 2018) expressing their full support for the OPCW report and dismissing the “so-called” information session at the Hague as a Russian propaganda exercise. Their statement claimed the authenticity of the information in the OPCW report was “unassailable.”

Russia followed up with a series of questions directed at the OPCW’s technical secretariat. It noted that the OPCW report did not mention that samples taken from Douma were “split” in the OPCW’s central laboratory in the Netherlands and not in the Syrian Arab republic. Fractions of samples were handed to Syria only after six months of insistent pressure (OPCW response: its terms of reference provided for Syria to be provided with samples “to the extent possible” but do not specify when or where samples should be ‘split’).

Russia also referred to the collection of 129 samples and their transfer to OPCW-designated laboratories. 31 were selected for the first round of analysis and an additional batch of 13 sent later. Of the 129 samples 39 were obtained from individuals living outside territory controlled by the Syrian army. Of 44 samples analyzed 33 were environmental and 11 biomedical: of the 44, 11 (four environmental and seven biomedical) were obtained from alleged witnesses.

As remarked by the Russian Federation, the OPCW report does not explain the circumstances in which these samples were obtained. Neither is there any information on the individuals from whom they were taken; neither is there any evidence demonstrating compliance with the chain of custody (OPCW response: there was respect for the chain of custody, without this being explained; the “standard methodology” in collecting samples was applied, without details being given. It stressed the need for privacy and the protection of witness identities).

Russia observed that the samples were analyzed in two unnamed OPCW laboratories and on the evidence of techniques and results, it raised the question of whether the same laboratories had been used to investigate earlier ‘incidents’ involving the alleged use of chlorine. Of the 13 laboratories that had technical agreements with the OPCW, why were samples analyzed at only two, apparently the same two as used before? Russia also observed that of the 33 environmental samples tested for chlorinated products, there was a match (bornyl chloride) in only one case. 

Samples taken from location 4, where a gas cylinder was allegedly dropped from the air, showed the presence of the explosive trinitrotoluene, leading to the conclusion that the hole in the roof was made by an explosion and not by a cylinder falling through it (OPCW response: the Fact-Finding Mission did not select the labs and information about them is confidential. As there had been intense warfare for weeks around location four, the presence of explosive material in a broad range of samples was to be expected but this did not – in the OPCW view - lead to the conclusion that an explosion caused the hole in the roof). 

Russia pointed out that the FFM interviewed 39 people but did not interview the actual witnesses of the ‘incident’ inside the Douma hospital who appeared and were easily identifiable in the staged videos (OPCW response: the secretariat neither confirms nor denies whether it interviewed any of the witnesses presented by Russia at the OPCW headquarters “as any statement to that effect would be contrary to the witness protection principles applied by the secretariat”).

Russia also pointed out the contradictions in the report on the number of alleged dead. In one paragraph the FFM says it could not establish a precise figure for casualties which “some sources” said ranged between 70 and 500. Yet elsewhere “witnesses” give the number of dead as 43 (OPCW response: the specific figure of 43 was based on the evidence of “witnesses” who claimed to have seen bodies at different locations).

Russia also pointed out that no victims were found at locations 2 and 4, where the ventilation was good because of the holes in the roof/ceiling. Referring to location 2, it asked how could chlorine released in a small hole from a cylinder in a well-ventilated room on the fourth floor have had such a strong effect on people living on the first or second floors? (OPCW response: the FFM did not establish a correlation between the number of dead and the quantity of the toxic chemical. In order to establish such a correlation, factors unknown to the FFM – condition of the building, air circulation and so on – would have had to be taken into account. It does not explain why this was not attempted and how it could reach its conclusions without taking these “unknown factors” into account).

Finally, Russia raised the question of the height from which the cylinders could have been dropped. It referred to the lack of specific calculations in the OPCW report. The ‘experts’ who did the simulation did not indicate the drop height. The charts and diagrams indicated a drop height of 45-180 meters. However, Syrian Air Force helicopters do not fly at altitudes of less than 2000 meters when cruising over towns because they would come under small arms fire “at least” and would inevitably be shot down.

Furthermore, if the cylinders had been dropped from 2000 meters, both the roof and the cylinders would have been more seriously damaged (OPCW response: there were no statements or assumptions in the FFM report on the use of helicopters or the use of other aircraft “or the height of the flight. The FFM did not base its modeling on the height from which the cylinders could have been dropped. “In accordance with its mandate,” the FFM did not comment on the possible altitude of aircraft. The OPCW did not explain why these crucial factors were not taken into account).

In its conclusion, Russia said there was a “high probability” that the cylinders were placed manually at locations 2 and 4 and that the factual material in the OPCW report did not allow it to draw the conclusion that a toxic chemical had been used as a weapon. These conclusions have now been confirmed in the release of information deliberately suppressed by the OPCW secretariat.

As the leaked material proves, its report was doctored: by suppressing, ignoring or distorting the findings of its own investigators to make it appear that the Syrian government was responsible for the Douma ‘attack’ the OPCW can be justly accused of giving aid and comfort to terrorists and their White Helmet auxiliaries whom - the evidence overwhelmingly shows – set this staged ‘attack ’up.

Critical evidence ignored by the OPCW included the videoed discovery of an underground facility set up by Jaysh al Islam for the production of chemical weapons. All the OPCW said was that the FFM inspectors paid on-site visits to the warehouse and “facility” suspected of producing chemical weapons and found no evidence of their manufacture. There is no reference to the makeshift facility found underground and shown in several minutes of video evidence. 

Since the release of the report, the three senior figures in the OPCW secretariat have moved/been moved on. The Director-General at the time, Hasan Uzumlu, a Turkish career diplomat, stepped out of the office in July 2018: Sir Robert Fairweather, a British career diplomat and Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, was appointed the UK’s special representative to Sudan and South Sudan on March 11, 2019: his deputy, Aamir Shouket, left the OPCW in August 2018, to return to Pakistan as Director-General of the Foreign Ministry’s Europe division. The governments which signed the statement that the evidence in the OPCW report was “unassailable” remain in place.

President al-Assad's interview given to 'Paris Match' Magazine - Nov 2019

War against terrorism hasn’t finished yet… Presence of French forces in Syria is an occupation, French government should return to international law

28 Nov 2019


President Bashar al-Assad affirmed that the war against terrorism in Syria hasn’t finished yet in spite of the significant advance in it, and that terrorism still exists in northern areas, and the support provided to terrorists is still continued by Turkey, the U.S., Britain and France.
In an interview given to French Paris Match Magazine, President al-Assad said that the presence of French troops on the Syrian territory without the acceptance of the Syrian Government is considered an occupation, and a form of terrorism and what is required from the French Government is to return to the international law and to stop everything that could increase the bloodshed, killing and suffering in Syria.
The President pointed out that there is no cooperation between Syria and the U.S. in anything as there couldn’t be a cooperation in combating terrorism with those who support terrorism, indicating that Bush killed a million and a half Iraqis under the pretext of democracy ; Sarkozy contributed to killing hundreds of thousands of Libyans under the pretext of freedom for the Libyan people; and today, France, Britain, and America are violating international law under the pretext of supporting the Kurds, who are a part of the Syrian population, not an independent group.
President al-Assad noted that every terrorist in the areas controlled by the Syrian state will be subject to Syrian law, indicating that Erdogan is trying to blackmail Europe in the issue of extraditing terrorists or any convicted person to their states, and this this is an immoral act.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Question 1:  Good morning.  I met you five years ago, specifically in November 2014.  At that time, your government controlled only a third of the country.  Today, your army has returned to the border regions with Turkey.  Do you feel that you have won the war?
President Assad:  Let’s be precise, it is not my war to win or lose.  The narrative pushed by the West is: the war of the President who wants to remain in office; while in fact, it is a national war – the Syrians’ war against terrorism.
You are correct in your statement that we have made significant progress in this war, since we last met, but that doesn’t mean that we have won.  We will win when terrorism is eliminated.  It is still present in certain areas in the north, and what is more dangerous is that support for this terrorism still continues from Turkey, and from Western countries – whether it’s the United States, Britain, or France.  That’s why it is too early to talk about victory.
Question 2:  Do you really think that France continues to support terrorism?
President Assad:  Definitely; in previous periods, they were supplying weapons.  This may have changed in the previous months, or last year, but let’s put things into perspective: when French forces come to Syria without an invitation from the legitimate government, this is occupation.  There’s no real difference between supporting terrorism and providing military forces to occupy a country.  It is the same context, but with different titles.
Intervention:  But the French came to support the Kurds who were fighting ISIS.  That was their mission.
President Assad:  But, can we send Syrian forces to fight terrorism in France, without the request of the French government?!  Globally, states are governed by international law, not by their intentions.  It is not enough to have the desire to fight terrorism; there are international rules for fighting terrorism, and of course, here, I am presuming that there are good intentions.  However, we do not believe that there are good intentions.  The Syrian government is fighting ISIS, why wasn’t it supported?  And why does the French government fight ISIS and yet support al-Nusra, when in fact they are both terrorist organisations?!
Question 3:  Perhaps you are referring to the period when Hollande was President of the Republic.  Actually, the French Foreign Minister, Fabius, himself said at a certain point that you do not deserve to remain alive.  What is the position now with Emmanuel Macron?  Have you felt a change in the French position?
President Assad:  In form yes, in substance no.  When there is occupation, it is one form of terrorism.; we need to acknowledge this fact.  We need to talk about change in substance not in form.  We are not interested in statements, but with action on the ground.
Question 4: How do you want change to happen on the ground?
President Assad:  Simply, by going back to international law.  We do not ask the French government for anything; we do not ask for political, economic, or security assistance.  We don’t need them, and we are capable of managing our own affairs in Syria.  But we want them to return to the international order, which doesn’t exist at the moment.
Today, there is international chaos.  We don’t want them to support the President, this is of no concern to me; it doesn’t concern us if they say he is good or bad, this is also a Syrian matter.  But what we do demand is that they stop supporting everything that could cause more bloodshed, killing, and suffering in Syria.
Question 5:  France faces a real problem related to the Jihadists in Syria.  Do you have Jihadists in your prisons?
President Assad:  Regardless of nationalities, this is a matter for the competent authorities who have the statistics.  But in any case, if there are Jihadists, they are subject to Syrian laws.
Intervention:  But you should know if there are French nationals in your prisons?
President Assad:  I don’t have any statistics.  For us, terrorists are terrorists, whether they were French or Syrian.
Question 6:  If you signed an agreement with the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units,” and the army entered that region and restored all this land, you’ll find that there are prisons, and in these prisons, there are 400 French Jihadists.  What are you going to do with them?
President Assad:  Every terrorist in the areas controlled by the Syrian state will be subject to Syrian law, and Syrian law is clear concerning terrorism.  We have courts specialized in terrorism and they will be prosecuted.
Intervention:  So, you don’t intend to repatriate them to Europe as Recep Tayyip Erdogan has done, for instance?
President Assad:  Erdogan is trying to blackmail Europe.  A self-respecting man doesn’t talk like this.  There are institutions and there are laws.  Extraditing terrorists or any convicted person to another state is subject to bilateral agreements between countries; but to release people from prison knowing that they are terrorists and sending them to other countries to kill civilians – this is an immoral act.
Question 7:  Going back to the ongoing conflict, eight years of war, the country devastated, whole cities destroyed, half the population are displaced or refugees, and hundreds of thousands of deaths.  Do you acknowledge that you wouldn’t have won this conflict or this war without Russian or Iranian support?
President Assad:  War is tough and not easy, and we are not a superpower.  We have been fighting against the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world.  Logically, there is no doubt that the support of our friends has reduced losses and helped us regain our territories.
If we are to ask, whether Syria would have, without this support, gone towards partition or full defeat?  This is a hypothetical question now, because sometimes it is difficult to predict the result of a tennis match involving two players, let alone a war with tens of players and hundreds of thousands of fighters!
Question 8: Have you thought, for a single moment during this war, of leaving, going into exile, for instance?
President Assad:  In fact I haven’t, for a simple reason: the option neither existed nor was it considered, it was only suggested by Western officials.  As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t exist and it doesn’t concern me.  I would not consider this option unless it was suggested by the Syrian people, and when I say the Syrian people, I mean the majority.  I do not mean a terrorist minority, nor a minority hatched up by foreign intelligence services, nor a minority of those who demonstrated because they were paid to do so by Qatar.  This option was never suggested by the majority and that’s why I remained.
Question 9: But militarily, al-Nusra Front reached places only a few kilometers from your residence in 2013, to al-Abbasiyeen neighborhood, al-Abbasiyeen Square.
President Assad:  That’s true. Damascus remained almost besieged for years, sometimes completely, sometimes partially; shells were falling on us on a daily basis.  This in itself was a greater motive for me to remain and defend my country, not to flee.  I am doing my constitutional duty in defending the people against terrorism.
Question 10:  Now, let’s talk about reconstruction.  It is said that reconstruction will cost 300 or 400 billion Dollars.  Do you have a plan to get the people out of this conundrum, despite the embargo and the sanctions imposed on you which actually harm the people and increase their suffering?
President Assad:  This is absolutely true. Nevertheless, some of our industries have expanded, not the other way around. The pharmaceutical sector, for instance, has expanded.  As to rebuilding what has been destroyed, you can visit Aleppo, which had suffered large-scale destruction at the hands of terrorists, and year-on-year, you can see a difference and that the state is rebuilding the city together with its population.
Intervention:  But the Syrian Pound is in very bad shape, at an all-time low, and you need to find foreign investment.  Does China, for instance, and other countries want to invest?
President Assad:  Most recently, in the past six months, some companies have started to come to invest in Syria.  Of course, foreign investment remains slow in these circumstances, but there are ways to circumvent the sanctions, and we have started to engage with these companies, and they will come soon to invest.  But this doesn’t mean that the investment and reconstruction process is going to be quick, I am realistic about this.
Intervention: What are your estimates, how many years?
President Assad: This depends on how many years the embargo will continue, and the methods it will use.  It also depends on Syrians returning from other countries, which they are starting to do so gradually.  It’s difficult to give an answer to this question, but of course, it is a process that will be on-going for years.
Question 11: How many Syrians have returned to Syria?
President Assad:  Over a million Syrians in less than a year, and the process is accelerating, particularly after Damascus and the southern region and its environs were liberated.  Of course, the return of Syrians is also related to rebuilding the infrastructure and the availability of other services, like electricity, schools, and hospitals; regrettably, these three sectors have been the worst-affected by the embargo.  Furthermore, there is Western pressure for refugees not to return to Syria, for them, this is a humanitarian card which can be used to achieve political objectives.
Question 12:  A large number of immigrants left the country because they opposed you, and because they suffered from the atrocities of the army.  How can you invite them back?  How do you encourage them to come back?  Would they be covered by a general amnesty, for instance?
President Assad:  First, most of them are supporters of the state and not the opposite.  The evidence of this was the presidential elections which they took part in 2014 and voted for the President.  The largest number immigrated because of the war itself and its economic consequences, so there is no problem with their return; these people can return normally and without an amnesty.  Others are dissidents who have not committed any crimes and there is no warrant for them, the fact that they oppose me is not an issue, since we have dissidents within Syria and we are constantly engaging with them.
With regards to the amnesty, we have granted amnesties more than once, most recently a few months ago, because some people fear returning without an amnesty and believe that they will be arrested; although only those who carried weapons are arrested, and even those have been pardoned.
Question 13: Last year, when al-Ghouta returned to government control, I went there and met some young rebels who carried weapons.  The Syrian officers were asking them to hand in their weapons and that they will not be harmed.  Their response was: you want us to give up our weapons because you want us to join the army, and we don’t want to.  They left to Idleb.  What’s your take on that?
President Assad:  In actual fact, some of those who went to Idleb left their families with us (government-controlled areas) and we are taking care of them; if they were afraid, they would not leave their families. This is the first point, the second, is that there are some militants who went to Idleb but later returned to our side. They asked and we allowed them to return. They received an amnesty, because the majority of them were told that the army will kill you. This happened of course when they were isolated from the state for seven years, but when the army went into al-Ghouta, normalcy was restored, and people now live a normal life. We must realise that some of them were fighting not because they were extremists, but they had no other choice: either to fight with the terrorists or to be killed. They are returning to us gradually after the felt reassured.
Question 14:  Today, there are numerous demonstrations in Iran, and the same in Lebanon and Iraq.  And all those demonstrators are asking for dignity and for wealth not to be concentrated in the hands of the few in their country.  Wasn’t that the case of the demonstrators who went out at the beginning of the Syrian crisis?
President Assad:  If we want to talk about the banners that were being pushed – like dignity, freedom, and others, they can be beautiful masks but what lies behind them is ugly.  Let me give you some examples:  Bush killed a million and a half Iraqis under the pretext of democracy; Sarkozy contributed to killing hundreds of thousands of Libyans under the pretext of freedom for the Libyan people; and today, France, Britain, and America are violating international law under the pretext of supporting the Kurds, who are a part of the Syrian population, not an independent group.  In Syria in 2011, these very same banners – dignity and freedom – were used to kill policemen and civilians, and sabotage public property.  Therefore, we should be more concerned with the facts on the ground and what’s actually happening than with headlines.
Intervention:  But in the beginning, there was a popular uprising, and real demands.  There was no existence of Al Qaeda.  Why did you use violence at the beginning?
President Assad:  Let’s talk numbers: the largest number of demonstrators in Syria was 170,000.  For arguments sake, let’s assume this number is inaccurate and so let’s multiply it several times over to reach a million demonstrators; the Syrian population is over 23 million, so these figures are not representative of anything.  So, in terms of size it is not a popular uprising.  Second, a popular uprising does not occur when people are paid by Qatar to demonstrate.  Third, I wouldn’t have been able to remain, with the government, in power for nine years in the face of a popular uprising.  No one can withstand a popular uprising, and an example here is the Shah of Iran – despite all attempts and Western support, they could not keep him in power.  So, calling it a popular uprising is wrong or at least unrealistic.
Question 15: At the beginning of the war in 2011, you released prisoners from Sednaya.  You are accused of doing that in order to inject Jihadist poison in the ranks of the opposition.  How do you respond?
President Assad:  Every few years, we grant an amnesty to prisoners in Syria.  This was a general policy before the war.  When an amnesty is issued, there are some categories which are excluded like espionage, drug trafficking and others.  However, in the law we did not have a category called extremists and so the amnesty includes everyone.
In 2011 specifically, there were convicts who were released because they had served their sentences and not because of an amnesty.  What do we gain if we release extremists or terrorists in order to kill officers of the Syrian Army and civilians?!  The Western narrative said that we did so in order to demonize the peaceful demonstrations; but in fact, they demonized themselves because in the early weeks, they posted videos – which can be found on the internet – where they killed policemen, attacked and slaughtered civilians.  This is actually what happened concerning the release of prisoners.
Question 16:  I talked a short while ago about Sednaya, but you have other prisons and detention centers.  A colleague of mine named Manon Loizeau who made documentaries about rape cases in your prisons.  What do you say to that?
President Assad:  There is a difference between policy being implemented and individual action.  Harassment or rape are not prevalent in Syrian society; but if there are such cases, they are punished by law.  These are individual cases.
We condemn any such policy anywhere in the world because it is immoral; it also undermines stability in Syria.  You cannot talk about stability and a peaceful relationship among the population if there was killing, torture, or any other kind of abuse.
Intervention: Those documentaries were filmed with Syrian witnesses, and these incidents happened to them. They were not talking about things happening in their society because they were ashamed of them. But they were witnesses who suffered from these practices?
President Assad:  No. You are talking about a story. A story is one thing and documented proof is another.  Everything that was presented was unsubstantiated, the photos were not verified.  Who are those witnesses?  They were hidden and not named.  In most of these cases, Qatar financed these reports, and adopting them would need a professional investigation.  If we were to put morality aside, logically, we do not have an interest in such acts.
This is against our interests, so why should we do it?!  What do we achieve through torture?! What is the result – revenge?!  If you go to the areas which were under the control of the opposition and then were retaken by the state, you will see the opposite.  We are not schizophrenic: tolerant in one place and torturing people in another.  These are mere political allegations.
Intervention:  Once again, I stress, i.e. there is an emphasis on this point, but these witnesses were not funded by Qatar.  They were witnesses who were met in refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan.  And they suffered.  And the person who documented these testimonies is a very trusted journalist.
President Assad:  There is no such thing as trust in these cases.  There are mechanisms and there are verified facts, there is no room for stories.  Who verified the witnesses’ stories?  Who verified that those witnesses had actually suffered to start with?  I can discuss this story with you when I have the facts in front of me, but I can’t discuss rumors or stories.  When facts exist, those who commit any crime are prosecuted by Syrian law, this is the norm.
Question 17:  Donald Trump mentioned Syria when he extended thanks upon the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Did you give the Americans information, and did you know the whereabouts of al-Baghdadi?
President Assad:  I always laugh when this question is raised, because the more important question which should be asked is: was al-Baghdadi really killed or not? And did this “fantastic play” staged by the Americans take place in reality?
Intervention: But ISIS acknowledged that!!
President Assad:  Yes, of course.  But ISIS was created by America; ISIS is part of the play and they taught al-Baghdadi how to act when he was in American prisons in Iraq.  That’s why I’m saying did this big play actually take place?  We don’t know.  It doesn’t mean that he wasn’t killed, but if he was, it wasn’t because he was a terrorist.  They were able to strike ISIS when it was taking oil from Syria to Iraq, but they didn’t; and when ISIS attacked the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor, the Americans bombed the Syrian Army instead of ISIS.  So, no, we did not cooperate with the Americans over anything. You cannot cooperate in the fight against terrorism with those who are supporting terrorism.
Intervention:  So, why did Trump thank you?
President Assad:  It’s one of Trump’s cute jokes.  It’s a joke.
Question 18: In our meeting in 2013, you assured me that the Syrian Army never used chemical weapons in al-Ghouta.  But after that came the case of Khan Sheikhoun, and then Douma. Why is the evidence mounting up suggesting that the Syrian Army used chemical weapons?
President Assad:  To date, there isn’t a single shred of evidence; the use of these weapons would have caused the deaths of hundreds or thousands of people and this did not happen.
As to this build-up: firstly, it was because the Syrian Army was advancing in the fight against terrorism and they were looking for a pretext to strike at it, and that’s what happened.  This narrative was used in two situations: either because we had made a significant advance, and it was an attempt to threaten us in the hope we’d stop, or because we were preparing for a large operation, and so it was an attempt to threaten us before the start of the operation.
Second: we were advancing and making good progress, so why would we need chemical weapons?  That is the question.  More importantly, every place we enter, there are civilians whose lives return to normal.  How could they remain there while we were using chemical weapons?!  In fact, the lies in Western media and in Western politics have no limits on this subject.
Journalist : Thank you.
28 Nov 2019
SOURCE

Explosive leaked email claims that UN watchdog's report into alleged poison gas attack by Assad was doctored - so was it to justify British and American missile strikes on Syria?


By PETER HITCHENS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

PUBLISHED: 24 November 2019

A leaked email last night dramatically indicated that the UN’s poison gas watchdog had butchered and censored a critical report on an alleged chemical attack in Syria. If substantiated, the revelations will be severely embarrassing for Britain, France and America, which launched a massive military strike in retaliation without waiting for proof that chemical weapons had actually been used.

Unconfirmed reports and videos, showing the corpses of adults and children foaming at the mouth in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, shocked the world in April 2018 and led to a joint Western attack on the supposed culprit, Syria, in which more than 100 missiles, including nearly 70 Tomahawk cruise missiles, were fired.

Although the reports and films could not be independently verified, as the alleged events took place in a war zone then under the control of brutal Islamist militants, Western governments, and many Western media, took them at face value.

President Donald Trump tweeted at the time: ‘Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!’
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An RAF Tornado over Damascus during the coalition attack

This image released early on April 8, 2018 by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets shows a child receiving oxygen through respirators following the alleged poison gas attack. 

Britain’s then Premier, Theresa May, was equally confident of her facts, saying after the missile launch: ‘Last Saturday up to 75 people, including young children, were killed in a despicable and barbaric attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further casualties. We have worked with our allies to establish what happened.

'And all the indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack … We are also clear about who was responsible for this atrocity. A significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack.’

But a dissenting scientist, employed by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says in a leaked email that investigations on the ground at Douma have produced no hard evidence that the alleged gas attack took place.

It appears that these facts were deliberately suppressed in published OPCW reports.

The email makes no attempt to suggest what did happen in Douma. It simply points out that hard evidence, gathered and examined by non-political scientists, does not support the officially endorsed version. And it claims that this resulted in the OPCW redacting the report to the extent that its conclusions were misrepresented.

The revelation appears to be the worst instance of ‘sexing-up’ in support of war since the invasion of Iraq and Tony Blair’s doctored dossiers. A whistleblower has made public the astonishing email of protest which was sent to senior officials at the OPCW. It says that the independent scientists’ official report on the Douma incident had been slashed and censored so severely that it:
  • Misrepresented the facts – by leaving out key information;
  • Hid the fact that the traces of chlorine found on the site were merely tiny trace elements, in parts per billion, and in forms that could have been found in any household bleach;
  • Contained major deviations from the original report submitted by impartial experts, so that it had ‘morphed into something quite different’;
  • Suppressed a total mismatch between the symptoms allegedly displayed by victims at the scene, and the effects of the chemicals which were actually found. The symptoms seen on harrowing videos shown at the time of the incident simply did not match the symptoms which would have been caused by any material found at the site.
The Mail on Sunday has seen the email of protest which one scientist at the OPCW submitted to his superiors. It refers to the original expert report from Douma which the email says was savagely censored.

This original report, if it had been published as written, would not have supported widespread claims that poison gas was used at Douma on April 7, 2018. If any such gas was used, it was not a gas known to, or detected by the scientists who visited the scene, examined the buildings and soil and carefully checked the samples.

A source has told me that the OPCW report, which was eventually published on July 7, 2018, was stripped of a vital fact at the last minute: the traces of chlorinated material which were found at the site were so small, and so easily available, that they could simply not be said to show that chlorine gas was employed.

The Mail on Sunday has also been told that, in the days before the original document was due to be published, a second report shorn of many of its most important findings was prepared behind the backs of most of the OPCW scientists.

A source inside the OPCW says that this move was discovered at the last minute. It was then met with protests from scientists, including the email sent to two senior OPCW officials, which The Mail on Sunday has seen. The source says a compromise was offered in which the truth about the tiny traces of chlorine would be told, though the report would still be heavily redacted.
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Above, a baby has its face wiped following the ALLEGED chemical attack in Douma
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Western support for the Syrian rebels against the Assad government in Damascus has been politically awkward, as many of these rebels are Islamist extremists, in some cases linked to Al Qaeda. Claims that Assad has used poison gas against his own people have been important in persuading the Western public to back the policy. (Above, President Assad last week)

The scientists accepted this. But even this promise was then broken, and a third version of the document was issued which left out the vital fact. The wording of this report was so vague that news organisations around the world concluded – incorrectly – that it said that chlorine gas had been used or might have been used. If the key material had been left in, they could not have done this.

Since then, dissenting scientists have sought for months to find a way of setting the record straight, inside the OPCW. But all their efforts have failed, leading to the leak of the email.

It has been a long struggle. The original email of protest was sent to senior executives at the OPCW (whose names we know but have been asked not to publish) on June 22, 2018. The third (interim) report was published on July 6, 2018. A fourth report, even more mealy-mouthed, but still heavily censored, emerged in March this year.

The leak follows other alarming developments concerning the OPCW’s report on Douma, which suggest an organisation in severe crisis. Last May, another leak from the OPCW’s HQ in the Hague cast grave doubt on claims that gas cylinders found at the Douma site had been dropped from the air, a vital part of the Western case against Syria.

An OPCW engineering and ballistics expert called Ian Henderson (who was not the leaker) had strongly suggested that two gas cylinders found in Douma and examined by the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission had been ‘manually placed’.

This vital detail too was left out of the OPCW’s own published report, which implied strongly that they had been dropped from the air. This was crucial as Syrian government helicopters were the only aircraft in the area. On this occasion the OPCW revealed that the Henderson document was genuine, probably unintentionally, by announcing a leak inquiry on May 16.

The OPCW – whose member nations meet in The Hague for a major conference tomorrow – is also in severe turmoil after reports of further whistleblowing on the radical US website Counterpunch. Its account was written by the veteran journalist Jonathan Steele (formerly a senior foreign correspondent at The Guardian, twice named International Reporter of the Year), based on the account of a whistleblower who he codenamed ‘Alex’.

‘Alex’ said that dissenting experts, protesting against the doctoring of their work, were invited to a meeting with three American officials who were ‘cursorily introduced without making clear which US agencies they represented’. He recounted that the three ‘told them emphatically that the Syrian regime had conducted a gas attack.’

The Mail on Sunday approached the OPCW for comment on the protest email on Wednesday, November 13, more than ten days ago. We supplied them with a complete text. Despite several further requests by phone and email, the OPCW had not responded by last night.

The OPCW has been in severe disarray before, precisely because its rulings are so sensitive.

In 2002, in the lead-up to the Iraq war, the OPCW’s then director, the Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, was forced from office by intense US pressure. The US’s then ambassador to the UN was the ferocious pro-war hawk John Bolton, famed for his brusque and bullying manner to subordinates.

He is thought to have objected to Bustani’s plans to get Iraq to agree to OPCW inspectors going there to search for WMD. These inspections might have got in the way of US plans to go to war against Iraq at all costs, a decision which had already been made by the White House.

The same John Bolton was Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser at the time of the alleged outrage in Douma and the missile attacks on Syria, which took place a week later. He left the post in September after falling out with President Trump.

The OPCW is nominally independent, but its annual budget of roughly £75 million is supplied by member states, with much of the money coming from the USA and EU and NATO members, many of them heavily committed to supporting the rebels in Syria.

Western support for the Syrian rebels against the Assad regime in Damascus has been politically awkward, as many of these rebels are Islamist extremists, in some cases linked to Al Qaeda. Claims that Assad has used poison gas against his own people have been important in persuading the Western public to back the policy.

Counterpunch asked the OPCW’s media office to explain why the chlorine levels were excluded from the interim and final reports but they did not respond.
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The OPCW is nominally independent, but its annual budget of roughly £75 million is supplied by member states, with much of the money coming from the USA and EU and NATO members, many of them heavily committed to supporting the rebels in Syria. (Above, Douma on April 6, 2018) 


The leaked email in full


From: ********
Sent: 22nd June 2018 08:27
To: *********
Subject: Grave concern about the 'redacted' Douma report 
Dear ******,
I wish to express, as a member of the FFM (Fact Finding Mission) team that conducted the investigation into the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April, my gravest concern at the redacted version of the FFM report, which I understand was at the behest of the ODG. (Office of the Director General). After reading this modified report, which incidentally no other team member who deployed into Douma has had the opportunity to do, I was struck by how much it misrepresents the facts. Many of the facts and observations outlined in the full version are inextricably interconnected and, by selectively omitting certain ones, an unintended bias has been introduced into the report, undermining its credibility. In other cases, some crucial facts that have remained in the redacted version have morphed into something quite different to what was initially drafted. If I may, I will outline some specific aspects to the redacted report that are particularly worrisome.
The statement in paragraph 8.3 of the final conclusions 'The team has sufficient evidence at this time to determine that chlorine, or another reactive chlorine-containing chemical, was likely released from cylinders', is highly misleading and not supported by the facts. The only evidence available at this moment is that some samples collected at Locations 2 and 4 were in contact with one or more chemicals that contain a reactive chlorine atom. Such chemicals could include molecular chlorine, phosgene, cyanogen chloride, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride or sodium hypochlorite (the major ingredient of household chlorine-based bleach). Purposely singling out chlorine gas as one of the possibilities is disingenuous. It is also worth noting that the term 'reactive chlorine-containing chemical' used in the redacted report is, in fact, inaccurate. It actually describes a reactive chemical that contains chlorine which itself (the chlorine) is not necessarily reactive e.g. chlorophenol. The original report uses the more accurate term 'a chemical containing reactive chlorine'.
The redacted report states that the gas was likely released from the cylinders (in Locations 2 and 4). The original report purposely emphasised the fact that, although the cylinders might have been the source of the suspected chemical release, there was insufficient evidence to affirm this. It is possible the error was simply a typo. This is a major deviation from the original report.
Paragraph 8.2 states that 'based on the high levels of various chlorinated organic derivatives, [...] detected in environmental samples'. Describing the levels as 'high' likely overstates the extent of levels of chlorinated organic derivatives detected. They were, in most cases, present only in parts per billion range, as low as 1-2 ppb, which is essentially trace quantities.
The original report discusses in detail the inconsistency between the victims' symptoms, as reported by witnesses and seen in video recordings. Omitting this section of the report (including the Epidemiology which has been removed in its entirety) has a serious negative impact on the report as this section is inextricably linked to the chemical agent identified. It either supports or detracts from the confidence in the identity of any possible chemical. In this case the confidence in the identity of chlorine or any choking agent is drawn into question precisely because of the inconsistency with the reported and observed symptoms. The inconsistency was not only noted by the FFM team but strongly noted by three toxicologists with expertise in exposure to CW (Chemical Weapons) agents.
The original report has extensive sections regarding the placement of the cylinders at both locations as well as the relative damage caused to the impact points, compared to that caused to the cylinders suspected of being the sources of the toxic chemical. These sections are essentially absent from the redacted report. This information was important in assessing the likelihood of the 'presence' of toxic chemicals versus the 'use' of toxic chemicals.
A feature of this investigation and report was the robust and extensive scientific basis for sampling plans and analysing the data collected. A comprehensive bibliography of peer-reviewed scientific literature was attached to support and enhance the credibility of the work of the mission. This has unfortunately been omitted from the redacted report.
By singling out chlorine above other equally plausible substances containing reactive chlorine and presenting it as a fact in isolation creates, I believe, a level of partiality that would negatively impact on the perceived credibility of the report, and by extension that of the Organisation. I am requesting that the fact-finding report be released in its entirety as I fear that this redacted version no longer reflects the work of the team. The original report contains facts and observations that are all equally valid. The fact that inconsistencies are highlighted or observations not fully understood does not justify their omission. The inconsistencies and observations are based on the evidence and data collected. Further information in the future may help resolve them but the facts as they stand at present will not alter and need to be reported.
If the redacted version is to be released, I respectfully request to attach my differing observations, in accordance with the spirit of paragraph 62 of part II of the Verification Annex of the CWC.
Yours sincerely

(Key passages emphasised by Mail on Sunday)

SOURCE


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RELATED:

WIKILEAKS LINK to the leaked email.

https://wikileaks.org/opcw-douma/








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