Back in May of 2019 it was suggested to me that Brian Whitaker had been forwarded, in advance, the talking-points used by the OPCW Director General at a “Briefing for State Parties” on Syria. At the time, I didn’t pay the claim much attention as I’d a lot of other more pressing issues to deal with.
I picked up on this claim a few weeks later and when I compared Whitaker’s notes to the Director General’s talking points it was clear there was an uncanny similarity. Soon after I had it confirmed that Whitaker’s “informed source” was one-way traffic from them, via a third party, to him. He had no ability to reply to ask further questions. It was confirmed to me also that Whitaker had indeed been forwarded “some of the DG talking points” as he was seen as “a favourable, unquestioning source friendly to the narrative.”
Whitaker’s comments are in dark green with the Director General’s remarks in pale green:
As time went on and as the information provided to me appeared more and more true, it also became clear that Whitaker was struggling trying to get the pieces of the OPCW puzzle to fit. Often being caught on the hop on Twitter as events unfolded before he knew about them he could be seen hurriedly scraping together blog posts that simply rehashed old claims made by the chemical staging denialism forum. In a nut-shell, his claims amounted to everything being the fault of “Russia”, “conspiracy theorists” and “Assad apologists”.
In this report I will look a bit closer at some of his claims, and how he fact-shifts the data to try and make it fit with his predetermined conclusions.
In preparing this report I referred to statements that Brain has made on Twitter and to the content of his blog posts.
I offered Brian a “right to reply” which, at the time of publishing, he has not accepted. So I will proceed on the grounds he has been given plenty of time to defend himself.
Coordination with Bellingcat
A source close to Bellingcat informed me that they were coordinating the release dates of the their Douma reports with Whitaker. On the face of it, it’s not a big deal as it would make sense for them both to coordinate their attacks given their shared goals and agenda.
I asked Whitaker about this and he offered me a Hillary Clinton response:
Brian didn’t recall. Yet he broke with a 7 month silence towards me on Twitter to tell me he didn’t recall! But let’s look at a timeline of this coordination and you decide if what I was told was true or whether Whitaker is not being entirely honest.
- 25 November – Whitaker publishes: The leaked OPCW email: what does it show?
- 25 November – Bellingcat Publishes: Emails and Reading Comprehension: OPCW Douma Coverage
- 11 December – Whitaker publishes: The Douma whistleblower and the long wait for leaked documents
- 12 December – Bellingcat publishes: Chlorine’s Unique Fingerprints: The April 7, 2018 Douma Incident Through A Chemistry Lens
- 17 January – Whitaker publishes: Douma investigation: a look at the leaked OPCW minutes
- 17 January – Bellingcat publishes: The OPCW Douma Leaks Part 2: We Need To Talk About Henderson
I guess they both just have a knack for synchronicity?
More seriously though, what this does show is an intentional, concerted and coordinated strategy to go after the Douma FFM ‘whistleblowers’.
The Ian Henderson – FFM Report Leak
On May 13, 2019, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media published a leaked document written by a veteran of the OPCW, Ian Henderson.
The report was described as the “findings of the engineering sub-team” and authored by Mr Henderson.
We know that Henderson was part of the FFM and was the only ballistics expert who was at the various sites in Douma. He visited both Location 2 (the balcony) and Location 4 (the bedroom) and having carried out detailed investigations he later penned the aforementioned report.
Whitaker lead the charge questioning Ian Henderson and his role within the FFM:
The commentary asserted that Henderson was a member of the FFM (despite the OPCW’s denial) and had gone to Syria as part of that work. It also asserted that an “engineering sub-group” which helped with Henderson’s assessment had been in Douma as part of the FFM.
There’s no evidence that any of that is true and the Working Group has not responded to repeated requests via Twitter for an explanation.Source
Brian explains why it’s important to ascertain if Henderson was part of the FFM and thus possibly explains why he feels compelled to continually paint Henderson as some kind of outsider who was more of a hindrance than anything else:
Whether Henderson was formally a member of the Fact-Finding Mission (or not) is an important question because it affects the status of the document he produced. If he wasn’t a recognised FFM member, this could help explain why the document’s findings were ignored in the official report.Source – [emphasis mine]
Well it could. But what Brian fails to also ask is what if, as is well known now, Henderson was part of the FFM and his “findings were ignored”? It could be argued he never addressed that question because he wasn’t, and isn’t, interested in the truth. It could easily be argued he is solely interested in shielding the ‘official narrative’.
However, whilst labelling others as “conspiracy theorists” for putting across claims he doesn’t like, Brian has no issue sharing a conspiracy theory of his own:
One story circulating in the chemical weapons community (though not confirmed) is that Henderson had wanted to join the FFM and got rebuffed but was then given permission to do some investigating on the sidelines of the FFM.Source
Another example of Whitaker distancing Henderson from the FFM. Next he tries to suggest Henderson was writing the report for himself:
On 27 February – just two days before the final FFM report was published – Henderson handed in his own report offering contrary conclusions.Source
Those of us who had read the report, with unbiased eyes, were aware that it was not ‘Henderson’s own report’ in the context Whitaker refers to it as, but the report of the FFM engineering sub team that he had authored.
Whitaker then moves to try and distance the engineering sub-team from the 3 sub-teams the FFM deployed to Douma.
Logically, one would ask themselves this; If the FFM were despatched to Douma in a 3 sub-team format and Henderson was despatched to Douma with them, and he drafted a report for an engineering sub-team who were at Douma, that the engineering sub-team was one of the FFM sub-teams. Right? For if not, then what was the engineering team a sub-team of? Only the FFM had deployed to Douma and there is no mention of any other group or team being despatched alongside them.
I attempted to explain this to Brian at the time but unfortunately the logic escaped him and he resumed his disinformation campaign:
Brian states I am making a lot of assumptions yet all I am doing is stating the facts. And he goes on to claim rather determinedly that, “We don’t know which sites Henderson visited in Douma.”
Well, we did then know and we still do now. It’s just that Brian refused to accept what he was reading in the leaked document. If you read the report not believing it, it will just appear as lines of garbled text. If you read it with an open-mind it’s easy to conclude that Henderson was part of the FFM and that they visited Locations 2 and 4 in Douma. That was then; and now we know for certain that Henderson was in Douma and that he investigated the locations in question.
With his denialism not holding up, Whitaker does what he always does in this instance. He attacks those who dare believe anything other than him.
Almost immediately after the leaked document appeared, Assad supporters and various conspiracy theorists began claiming that it disproved the FFM’s findings and exonerated the regime.Source
To disagree with the final report and to lend support to the leaked documents does not make you an “Assad supporter” and/or a “conspiracy theorist”. Brian uses these terms deliberately in an attempt to discredit the person. This is a good example of the tactics employed by the chemical staging denialist echo-chamber. They all use the same terminology and all employ the same groupthink.
One last example of Whitaker’s denialism (there are many more) is in an exchange with Professor Hayward. Brian is really struggling at this stage to put the cat back in the bag. He is perplexed at how people are concluding that Henderson was at Douma as part of the FFM:
The evidence was readily available to Whitaker, as it was to us all but, as stated, he refused to read what it said. The leaked FFM engineering sub team’s report answered all the questions he had at the time.
Brian has now accepted, what the rest of us knew from the leaked document, that Henderson was at Douma yet he still tries to distance him from the FFM and paint him as some kind of outsider.
Whitaker & the Gay Girl – Who Wasn’t
For a man that loves to label others as “conspiracy theorists” Mr Whitaker is no stranger to them himself. But when Brian does conspiracies he makes Alex Jones look like a novice.
Back in 2011 Amina Arraf was a name doing the rounds in the discussion forums on Syria and at that time Whitaker was the Middle East editor for the Guardian newspaper. He also moderated the Middle East live blog for the Guardian and it was there this name Amina Arraf began appearing along with “her story” of being a gay girl living in Damascus.
One fateful day Amina was “kidnapped”, according to Brian, and the narrative management committee convened and set into overdrive a social media campaign to try and locate the poor girl. Whitaker lead the charge. There were voices of scepticism about the “girl’s” account, and those voices also advised caution at believing “her” tale. However, Brian didn’t need any evidence to convince him the story was genuine and that Amina was a real person. The story fitted with his bias. That’s the only evidence he needed. #FreeAmina exclaimed Brian.
He took the story that seriously that he soon became one of the leading voices in support of “Amina” whilst continuing to ignore the voices of reason.
It turned out that Amina Arraf was a man from Georgia in the U.S.A whose real name was Tom MacMaster. He had set up a fake account to try and further stoke the flames of unrest in Syria. He was neither a female, lesbian nor kidnapped. No doubt much to Brian’s disappointment.
This is a prime example of how willing Brian is to believe anything that fits his narrative and also how gullible he is to a good story that is as anti-Syrian as it is a lie. If it fits his narrative, he’s in. #FreeAmina!
Bear this story in mind the next time he dares call you, or anyone else, a conspiracy theorist.
Democracy Now Calls Whitaker
Given the leaked document to the ‘Working Group’ you would imagine that they would be the best placed to discuss it. Amy Goodman’s show called Whitaker instead. Why, you may wonder? Why indeed.
Recall that I was notified by a source that Whitaker was leaked the OPCW Director-General’s talking points ahead of time? Why him? “Whitaker’s viewed as a favourable, unquestionable source friendly to the narrative”. Is that why Goodman asked him on the show? Does the show have a vested interest in this affair? Who knows. The bottom line is, it is bizarre that they chose him and never made an attempt to contact the ‘Working Group’.
I point to this example as is goes some way to showing how favourable Whitaker is as a useful idiot to unquestionably disseminate unverified stories and how he is only too happy to attack anyone who has the audacity to question the same unverified stories.
No Chemical? No Problem!
In a now infamous tweet from back in September 2018 Brian claimed that you don’t actually need to know that a chemical has been used to know that a chemical has been used:
I have often wondered how that would work. For example, let’s take the FFM team at Douma. They collect samples and take them back to a designated laboratory for testing. There are obviously tests that chemists carry out to ascertain what, if any chemical, has been used. I could never imagine a situation where they would all look at each other in bewilderment, head-scratching as a group and say:
“We’ve found something lads. It’s a chemical alright. But what is it? Anyone know? While we’re working out what it is let’s call HQ and tell them it’s definitely a chemical of some sort. It has to be.”
As illogical and implausible as that exchange sounds, that is exactly what Brian Whitaker is suggesting.
This takes conspiracy theories and fact-shifting to a whole new level. Now you don’t even need evidence of a crime to conclude a crime has been committed, according to Brian. It sounds like he’s actually trying to introduce a new argument that even if the OPCW doesn’t find chemicals, it doesn’t mean they weren’t used!
In this final section I will take a look at the fact-shifting of Brian regarding the alleged tail-fins fitted to the chlorine cylinders found at Douma.
The cylinder found at Location 4 (bed) had a harness installed with 3 tail-fins to its aft. The cylinder at Location 2 didn’t have a harness installed and showed no signs of ever having one installed but there was harness remnants tied up in general debris nearby.
If tail-fins aren’t fitted to a projectile it will fall uncontrollably to the ground impacting the surface at a random trajectory. Therefore tail-fins are fitted to stabilise the fall and orientate the projectile downwards.
As we have no evidence the balcony cylinder had a harness fitted (yet it is alleged to have impacted nose-first as would be expected with tail-fins) we will focus on the bedroom cylinder.
The narrative here is that the cylinder hit the rooftop horizontally, smashing through a steel reinforced ceiling, continuing at the same trajectory to it hit the floor below and then it bounced across the room (still at the same orientation) to it landed safely on a wooden bed that it caused no damage to.
Brian parachuted himself into an exchange I was having with another person to inform me that “The tail fins didn’t work very well because there were only three of them.”
I asked Brian to clarify this statement:
In essence he’s arguing that there was no point in having tail-fins fitted. He says that the Syrian military had no idea how these cylinders would land but fitted tail-fins anyway, just because they can.
I asked Brian for proof of his claim:
At that he left this particular exchange.
Being very aware that standard practice for “barrel bombs” in Syria was for them to be fitted with three tail-fins and as an aerial projectile they functioned effectively – I pressed him on his claim further.
The fins weren’t very effective? I thought I’d show Brian video evidence of just how effective three fins actually were:
Here is another example:
Here is a screenshot from his pals at Bellingcat showing a “barrel bomb” with three fins, orientated downwards, which is to be expected:
Thinking that by providing Whitaker with video evidence of just how effective three fins are that he’d accept he maybe got it wrong, he introduces his infamous denialism:
Whilst now accepting that three fins do work effectively at stabilising the projectile (after rejecting this idea) he shifts the argument to the height the bomb was dropped from. He does this because he suggests the chlorine cylinder was dropped that low at Douma L4 that it didn’t have time to stabilise. He doesn’t tell us why he believes that the cylinder at L2 stabilised just fine but L4 didn’t. Or on what evidence he concludes a low drop at L4. He simply creates a new argument where there really isn’t one.
Seeing that Brian was fact-shifting, and not very well, I felt this article was much needed to highlight his misinformation and denialism.
Brian feels that it is I that doesn’t understand his ramblings and refuses to acknowledge that he is literally making it up as he goes. But I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Whitaker lent support to the NATO disaster that was Libya as he argued in their defence:
Either way, though, it deserves to be recognised as an intervention based on principle and not as the “petro-imperialist” plot that Gaddafi claims it to be.Source
He also lent support to the armed opposition in Syria from the breakout of violence in 2011. He holds disdain for anyone who disagrees with his views on Syria and forever labels them as “Assad apologists” or “conspiracy theorists”. The idea here is to play the person and not the ball, so-to-speak, thus distracting from the content of their argument.
As I have shown herein, Brian fact-shifts just about every facit of an argument to mould it into something that fits with the narrative he so rigorously defends. Not once has he attempted to lend any credibility to the leaked reports from the OPCW but instead immediately comes out off the starting-blocks vehemently defending the position he holds. This does open up a lot of questions in itself and suggestions have been made to me, by informed sources, about why that is and his true role in the Syria affair. As they are unconfirmed comments I will leave them out of this report.
Brian Whitaker has an agenda. Had that agenda been to seek the truth then he would be joining us in calling for an independent hearing into the Douma FFM team’s concerns and supporting their wishes to speak freely about their findings. Instead, Whitaker deliberately sets about trying to distance “Alex” and Henderson from the FFM and paint them as some kind of mavericks. He is aided in this campaign by Bellingcat, a US State Department funded NGO dedicated to its own financial survival rather than helping expose the truth into the OPCW Douma coverup.
I don’t expect Brian to deviate from the course or role he has been set up to play in the Syrian affair but I hope more and more people will become aware of his misinformation, deceit and dishonesty.
“Alex” and Mr Henderson should be supported – not attacked. If what they and their colleagues in Douma FFM team have to say is nonsense then what is there to fear from letting them say it? Surely we should all be interested in getting to the truth? Why is that Whitaker and the staging denialist forum wish to refuse the FFM team the right to speak their truth? Is it because they don’t wish that truth to get a fair hearing?