Brian Whitaker vs Inconvenient Facts: Douma

Brian Whitaker suffers from selective journalistic dementia – it’s an illness that effects the writer’s ability to comprehend inconvenient facts. I take a look at examples of this selectiveness.
hiddensyria

Date of Report: February 3, 2020

Introduction

On January 22 I wrote an article on efforts by fringe journalist Brian Whitaker to frustrate and hinder attempts at getting to the bottom of what happened in Douma, Syria on April 7, 2018.

The allegation is that the Syrian military flew ≈500m above ground in two helicopters and dropped chlorine cylinders on two separate buildings. One cylinder is alleged to have landed nose first, hitting the side of an adjoining building before falling on to some wire grill, when it then travelled on to puncture a hole in the ceiling of a room, breaking the filling valve and releasing its contents.

The second cylinder is alleged to have hit the roof of another building horizontally, smashing through reinforced concrete horizontally, before continuing on at the same trajectory, when it hit the floor horizontally, and jumped onto a bed causing no damage, horizontally.

In my previous article I show how Whitaker shapes-facts, bends logic and makes stuff up to suit his narrative.

In this article I address Whitaker’s selective journalistic dementia that has lead him to developing a knack of only reporting half the story – and in some cases – none of the story at all!

Whitaker’s Disdain For The “Working Group”

The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media question the use of chemical weapons in Syria with an eye on the Douma incident. In turn, they were entrusted to receive the leaked Douma FFM Team’s engineering assessment, penned by Ian Henderson.

Prior to the leaking, Whitaker had already been on a rampage going after the Working Group. After the leaked document, this sent him into overdrive. Here are just a few of the many articles he penned on the group:

To give you an idea of the distain Whitaker holds for this group:

Bristol University professor David Miller – a member of the “propaganda professors” group which defends the Assad regime against accusations of chemical weapons use in Syria and disputes Russia’s use of a nerve agent against the Skripals in Britain – is behind a new campaign to sue the British Labour Party.

Source

Brian very often charges those that question the British Foreign Office’s (FCO) position on Syria as ‘defending Assad’s regime’. He would much rather you just believe what British Intelligence tells you to believe and go about your business. But that logic can quite easily be reversed. If questioning the “official narrative”, as espoused by the FCO, makes one an ‘Assad apologist’ then defending the narrative has to make one a Jiyash al-Islam apologist, given this radical Jihadist group was in charge of the area at that time and it is their claim that Assad dropped chlorine cylinders on Douma.

Incidentally, a senior member of this group was arrested in France just a few days ago. These are not the type of guys you’d want living next door to you.

The arrest follows the filing of a criminal complaint last year by human rights groups against members of Jaish al-Islam, accusing them of war crimes including torture and kidnapping.

Source
Image Credit: Middle East Eye – Islam Alloush

Brian, and the staging denialist forum, asks that you believe the words and claims of a radical Jihadist group of terrorists and if you don’t, it is you that is a ‘apologist for war-crimes’.

Whitaker & Half The Story

For those that read any of Whitaker’s work, observationally, you will note he is very selective in the parts of a story he writes about – obviously forgetting about the parts that don’t fit with his narrative. This isn’t by accident, obviously.

In his latest article he takes aim at Professor McKeigue, of the Working Group, after a presentation he gave at “The House Of Commons” into the Douma affair.

Whitaker’s take-away from the minutes of the meeting was the following:

However, McKeigue now says the victims’ bodies were brought to the building from elsewhere, after they had been “killed in a gas chamber”.

Brian took McKeigue’s words out of context, in what can only be interpreted as an attempt to misrepresent what the professor said. Here is what he actually said:

Hypothesis 3. Victims were captives killed in a gas chamber, whose bodies were brought to Location 2

That term “Hypothesis” is of utmost contextual importance in this instance and of course Whitaker just happened to leave it out.

Here are the three hypotheses as put forward by McKeigue;

How did the victims die?

Hypothesis 1. Victims were killed by a chlorine cylinder dropped from the air.

Hypothesis 2. Bodies of victims asphyxiated while sheltering from bombardment were repurposed to stage a chemical attack.

Hypothesis 3. Victims were captives killed in a gas chamber, whose bodies were brought to Location 2 [* Note: the original slide had a typographical error saying Location 4 instead of Location 2]

He goes on to rule out Hypothesis 1:

H1 is ruled out by the incompatibility with the epidemiological features of chlorine incidents, the toxicology assessment of how the victims died, and by Ian Henderson’s engineering study of the cylinders and the craters.

Whilst not concluding on either “H2” or “H3”, McKeigue correctly says:

You cannot evaluate evidence without considering competing hypotheses.

The professor ends his presentation by asking:

If the Douma incident was staged what does this imply?

Whitaker stated that McKeigue claimed the victims were:

killed in a gas chamber

He didn’t. Whitaker lied.

In fact McKeigue hadn’t reached a conclusion and felt it necessary to investigate further:

Now that the summary of the toxicology consultation has been published, I plan to convene a panel of experts, including forensic pathologists, to review the findings and to report on what the images tell us about the cause of death. (Emphasis mine)

Brian also forgot to mention the conclusions of the experts consulted by the OPCW into the possible causes of deaths of those poor people.

The conclusions of 3 toxicologists/Clinical pharmacologists & 1 bioanalytical & toxicological chemist (all Chemical Weapons experts):

  • “the experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure.”
  • “The experts were also of the opinion that it was highly unlikely that victims would have gathered in piles at the centre of the respective apartments at such a short distance from an escape from any toxic chlorine gas to cleaner air.”
  • “The #OPCW team gathered after the meeting and reviewed the salient points discussed. It was agreed among all present that the key “take-away message” from the meeting was that the symptoms observed were inconsistent with exposure to chlorine..

All easy stuff to forget to mention in a story about how the victims died, I guess (sarcasm).

Interestingly, Whitaker also forgot to mention the bombshell claim in the minutes of the Portcullis House Meeting. He was, seemingly, too focused on making up a lie he forget to report what one of the Douma FFM Team allegedly said to Professor McKeigue:

One of them has told us that it took him only an hour on site to see that the scene had been staged, and crudely staged at that.

How could you possibly write an article on this meeting and not mention such a claim? It isn’t like Whitaker to miss something inconvenient like that now is it? IS IT?

Selective Journalistic Dementia

On January 20, 2020 the author of the leaked engineering report that was sent to the Working Group, Ian Henderson, made his first appearance since the controversy unravelled. What should have been headline news globally received little to no attention and the attention it did receive failed to repeat the damning claims made by Henderson.

I have transcribed Henderson’s main quotes in a Twitter thread for your convenience:

There are serval take-aways from his presentation and one is that Ian Henderson was a member of the Douma FFM Team. The staging denialists, lead by Whitaker, have long denied this claim and went as far as to attack the man before he was given an opportunity to defend himself.

Brian Whitaker does write an article on the UN Session, the focus of which should have been on Ian Henderson’s testimony. Instead Whitaker pens the headline:

Russia steps up its campaign to discredit OPCW investigations

Of the 6+ minutes of Ian Henderson’s testimony here is the extent of Whitaker’s commentary on it:

…and a guest appearance by former OPCW inspector Ian Henderson speaking by video from an unknown location, it amounted to a box-set compilation of various leaks and allegations that have been swirling around on the internet over the last few months.

That’s it! Whitaker forgets to mention claims such as:

“There were 2 teams deployed, 1 team, which I joined shortly after the start of field deployments, was to #Douma in Syria, the other team deployed to Country X.”

A statement that places Henderson bang in the middle of the Douma FFM Team. Now why would Brian forget to mention that?

Or the likes of:

During and after the Douma deployments and by the time of release of the interim report in July 2018 our understanding was that we had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred.

Ian Henderson

Brian forgets to mention any of the alarming claims made by a man he spends a considerable amount his time and effort trying to discredit.

Watch Ian Henderson and listen to what he says:

Henderson’s supporters say he was a member of the FFM who has later excluded because of his dissenting views. The OPCW says he was not officially a member of the FFM and, judging by the leaked documents, his bosses regarded him as a loose cannon, meddling where he was not wanted.

There’s no evidence in the leaked documents that he was ever formally recognised as a member of the FFM though he did become quite heavily involved in its activities during the deployment to Douma.

Source: Brian Whitaker

Those whom Whitaker refers to as “Henderson’s supporters” are, effectively, the people who read the leaked engineering report with an open mind and no agenda. Given that we now know that Ian Henderson was part of the Douma FFM Team, Whitaker and the staging denialist forum have not offered a single apology between them to a man who they actively set to try and destroy. His crime? He was simply doing his job. Investigating a crime-scene and drafting a report of the team’s findings. But instead of Whitaker contacting the OPCW and asking them why they lied about Henderson’s role in the FFM, he instead prefers to forget he ever tried to suggest that Henderson was an ‘outsider’ who was viewed as a “loose cannon” and continue on attacking those that took Henderson at his word.

Whitaker says confidently:

There’s no evidence in the leaked documents that he was ever formally recognised as a member of the FFM

And therein is a prime example of cognitive dissonance. A man pens an engineering report for a team of FFM experts; he visits the sites along with the FFM experts and and he has played previous roles as Inspections Team Leader for the FFM and Whitaker reckons there’s no evidence he worked with Douma FFM team and that he’s a “loose cannon”. Because it would just be like a professional organisation such as the OPCW to employ senior investigators who are “loose-cannons”

Or was he leaked this “loose-cannon” claim?

Whitaker & His Informed Source

In May 2019 I was contacted by a source that informed me that Whitaker had been forwarded talking points from a pending OPCW Director General talk. As I explained elsewhere I had lots of other stuff going on and I ignored the information at the time. After the Director General gave his speech I was contacted again by the same source. I agreed they got it right and apologised for ignoring the tip-off. In my defence, I receive a lot of stuff regularly and most of it is nonsense. I got this one wrong.

The source gave me quite a few other details of how the communication took place, why it took place and the delivery mechanism involved. I asked the source why was Whitaker chosen; they responded:

he’s a favourable, unquestioning source friendly to the narrative.

I asked them to expand on this and was informed this would happen in time.

This source contacted me again recently with further information saying that Whitaker was ‘going after “Alex”‘. The following day Whitaker published in an article entitled:

In search of ‘Alex’, the elusive OPCW whistleblower

OK, so now the source had my attention. In the article Whitaker confirmed what I had been saying publicly since June 2019:

What made it interesting, though, was the source – someone who clearly has access to sensitive OPCW information. Last May, for example, the same source revealed advance details of a speech that Director-General Fernando Arias gave a few days later. The source also provided other information around the same time which al-bab was able to confirm as accurate. (Emphasis mine)

I tweeted this in June last year:

I asked the source was Whitaker aware of the name of the person and was informed they don’t believe so but cannot be sure. All they can be sure of is that it’s one way communication.

I asked; “For him to have been leaked the talking points from the Director General surely implies intent from high up?”

Be sure of it! Whitaker was chosen for his compliance and because he’s a favourable, unquestioning source friendly to the narrative. His role in this is to distort and distract, the sort of thing Brit intel requires…..

What’s the purpose of this disinformation campaign then? Is it being lead from the OPCW?

Source:

…internally the OPCW is in a shambles over the leaked Douma engineering report. It knocked them for 6 so much they still haven’t gotten it under control — they know Wikileaks is sitting on more. But they don’t know what.”

Why is he taking aim at “Alex”?

Source:

The person whose leaking the information is taking aim at “Alex” – that comes right from the DG office. They are fuming this information has been leaked. The Henderson report was never meant to see the light of day like previous reports that have disappeared from Khan Sheikhoun to name but one.

The name of Whitaker’s source was given to me. The man doing the leaking is not doing so of his own accord but on behalf of the DG office all with an attempt to further discredit the Douma FFM Team and to distract from the leaked information.

More To Come From Douma FFM Team?

In short, yes. I asked someone close to the Chinese delegation that invited Ian Henderson to the UN:

Me: Will the written submission from Ian Henderson be made public?

Source: Ian Henderson specifically requested that it wouldn’t be made public because he believes in the OPCW as an organisation…. and it was never his desire to speak outside of the organisation. His name has become known because a document he wrote as part of the FFM team was leaked….. He didn’t leak it and had nothing to do with [it] being leaked.

Several times the source spoke of Henderson’s concern surrounding “violation of confidentiality” with the OPCW. They told me this is why the Douma team requested permission to speak freely but the DG refused their request “at the behest of the US & friends”. This is what I was told:

These men are professionals of [the] highest order and they believe in [the] OPCW and what it stands for. This [for them] is not about undermining the organisation but strengthening it and addressing its failings.

What I can confirm is that the Russian and Chinese delegations, as members of the UNSC, are in possession of detailed reports from the Douma FFM team and their findings. However the Douma team, like all OPCW staff members, are bound by a confidentiality agreement. More want to come out and speak freely, but cannot do so. This is why they asked the DG for the freedom to do so. This matter will not go away and in time more information will be leaked into the public domain.

Whitaker Seeks To Name “Alex” – But Why?

Whitaker, having already done his best to destroy the character and reputation of Ian Henderson is now being used as a conduit in an attempt to dox “Alex”.

A person who was brave enough to come forward, in fear for their own safety, who spoke the truth of what was gong on within the OPCW and how the entire Douma FFM team had been cut-off from their own investigation and report. Why would Whitaker wish to do this? As a “journalist” one’s role should be to support whistleblowers, protect their identities and investigate their claims. What Whitaker did was attack the whistleblowers, tarnish their characters and try to uncover their names. What would be the motive in doing so?

If someone is hiding behind a pseudonym to launch attacks on others they otherwise wouldn’t have the courage to do under their own names, then I agree that doxxing is appropriate in these circumstances. An example is @bobfrombrockley, the pseudonym of Professor Ben Gidley of Birbeck University. He hides behind the “Bob” account so that he can attack the academics mentioned in this report. Doxxing cowards is not the same as trying to dox whistleblowers who we should be protected, rather than placed into danger. Whistleblowers are brave people. Hiding behind a pseudonym to harm and slander is cowardly.

Professor Ben Gidley and Brian Whitaker share a lot in common in terms of their worldview. One of those shared hatreds is of Wikileaks.

This may help explain why Brian loathes the OPCW whistleblowers – it seems he carries distain for anyone who dares to speak out on suppressed information; suppressed information that is damaging to the “State”. This was also claimed to be the case by my source.

But Brian didn’t always show distain for Wikileaks. In fact, it seems it’s a new-found hatred from as early as last week, when he tweeted:

Now those are some strong words! You would assume this person doesn’t trust Wikileaks, wouldn’t you?

Seems that Wikileaks were good enough for Brian in 2011. Indeed from 2010 and 2011 Brian used Wikileaks continuously as a source and regularly linked to their work:

Brian’s trust for Wikileaks didn’t stop in 2011. It continued on into 2015:

Even in 2019 he was pointing to Wikileaks as an information source he appears to be approving of:

The tonality of his words towards them changes dramatically as soon as Brian feels he’s cracked the enigma code of “Alex”. Isn’t that strange?

The Mask Slips

Brian always made a point of qualifying the Douma chlorine debacle by use of the term “alleged”:

At the same time, close Syria watchers, were aware that Brian, whether he believed the event took place or not, was a staunch defender of the official narrative. But he liked to at least pay lip-service to impartiality and balanced reporting on the story. But much like his previous support of Wikileaks turned sour over the “Alex” affair so did his desire to remain impartial:

Brian is no longer referring to an “alleged” attack but labelling those that still have doubts as “deniers”. His position is now clear, his agenda has become overt in defence of the official narrative. Wikileaks is now not to be trusted and impartiality on Douma has been consigned to history. Strange the sudden change of heart developed by Whitaker on both issues at the same time.

I thought I’d check Twitter to see if that’s a term he uses regularly.

Only 3 times in the past has he used the word on Twitter. All threes times in relation to Syria. So it’s not something he uses often and therefore we can only assume he saves it for special occasions. Bear that in mind the next time Whitaker hypocritically speaks of an “alleged” chlorine attack in Douma.

Conclusion

Brian Whitaker’s role in the Syrian affair is not that of an impartial journalist interested in the truth. That isn’t a wild accusation but a verified fact, as this report shows. Instead of seeking to find the truth in the various claims made he instead tries to invalidate the leaks, the leakers, the whistleblowers and the entire Douma FFM team. Why would someone do that? Unless of course they have an agenda.

Since “Witty’s” days at the Guardian, he earned a name for himself as staunch defender of the British Foreign Office’s position on Syria. He played the role of a stenographer for their diktat, defending their claims and allegations unquestioningly. He also did his best to try and silence those who tried to ask justified questions and who held a desire to have allegations and claims investigated.

Those traits he took with him from the Guardian to his Al Bab blog. He has attacked the work of journalists such as Jenan Moussa for her investigative journalism on how, it is alleged, that Syrian rebels managed to obtain Sarin from “Regiment 111” in Northern Syria in 2012.

Whitaker penned a long and drawn-out piece on what Jenan uncovered to ultimately conclude:

Whatever chemicals the “barrels” contained, it’s almost certain that sarin was not one of them

Throughout the entire article he played the role of someone whose intention was, not assess the claims for merits but, to rubbish the claims and witness testimony.

It is for these reasons that he was leaked ‘soft’ information on the OPCW in 2019 and again in 2020. They knew he would run with it, and they knew his position as a staunch defender of the FCO position.

Brian Whitaker is no friend to the truth. He is no friend to the brave, professional men of the Douma FFM team who risked their lives to go to a war zone to investigate an alleged chemical attack. The team even came under fire whilst trying to do their job in Syria. Whitaker, sitting thousands of miles away from any harm, has determinedly and deliberately attacked the characters of these brave men whilst trying to reveal their identities thus putting them in harms way. Their crime was to have done their job to the best of their abilities. But that was their downfall. Whitaker’s job is to help shape the truth. The Douma FFM’s job was to find the truth.

Before we heard of Ian Henderson or the FFM engineering report Whitaker and his staging denialist friends were all dictating to us that we must believe the FFM or else we are “war-crimes deniers” who are covering-up for a “dictator”. When Henderson and “Alex” came forward the same deniers insisted that we don’t believe the Douma FFM team but just the FFM based in Turkey – the ones that didn’t visit Douma (bar one who briefly made a visit.)

Whitaker is not a friend of the truth. He’s an enemy of it.

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