Date of Report: February 14, 2020
The OPCW: An Institution in Crisis – is certainly an understatement. It seems that everyone and their dog is being leaked some form of information from within, and around, the organisation. From the deep state propagandist Brian Whitaker to US State Department funded Bellingcat, to the Council of Foreign Relations’ Gregory Koblentz, who was leaked information which he passed on to Forensic Architecture. There is also the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, having been the first group to have been leaked suppressed OPCW information, followed by Peter Hitchens of The Mail on Sunday Online, who met with one the Douma FFM team inspectors, to The Grayzone, a collective of independent journalists, who were recently leaked the written submission of Ian Henderson to the UNSC and an email from a third OPCW whistleblower. Lastly, I too have been in receipt of information from sources close to the OPCW and the various mission teams.
It really does seem everyone is being leaked some kind of information from an otherwise tight-lipped and private organisation. For an entity that prides itself on data security and anonymity of “partners” it certainly appears there’s a lot of concern and unhappiness going on behind the scenes and staffers want this to be made known.
This report is split into two parts, given its detail and areas covered.
In Part 1, I lay out a timeline of the changing faces of the OPCW Director General and his varying narratives. I’ll also share with you some information that I have received from various, and unconnected, sources into the plethora of leaks and what you’re not being told about them.
I cannot name the sources, for obvious reasons, and this, again, is when I must deviate from the principles of OSINT. I ask that don’t take the word of these sources at face-value, rather, that you take what they say along with all the other available information and make an informed decision.
In Part 2, I take a closer look at the various ‘counter-leakers’ and offer up information I have been provided on the identity of the main source of this information from within the OPCW.
In this report I rely on information provided by sources close to the OPCW, and the various Fact-Finding Missions. I have cross-referenced the information from any single source with the others for validity and confirmation. Where there is any doubt, I refer to the claims as ‘alleged’.
I also carried out extensive searching of social media and internet writings to gather as much as background I could on the people named in this report as “authorised leakers” at the OPCW.
The Changing Narrative of the Director General
On June 6, 2019, the Director General of the OPCW, Fernando Arias, took part in a discussion in which he addressed questions on the Ian Henderson FFM engineering report that had been leaked to the “Working Group” prior to his talk. Therein he said of the Henderson report that it was;
..part of the investigation.
..it has already been given to the Investigation and Identification Team in charge of attribution and responsibility.
I have transcribed the question asked of, and the response given from, the Director General.
This brings me on to a very specific thing, and I know this is very uncomfortable for you Directer General, but there was an article in the Independent, which I’m sure you now about, written by someone called Robert Fisk which was claiming the OPCW had buried, had hidden, a version of news about Syria that it didn’t agree with. Was that an example, in your mind, of fake news -that article- or was he right?
To this question Arias responds:
Not exactly, this article refers to a report [document] produced by a staff member of the organisation.
Note that he, himself, uses the term “report” at this stage. He goes on..
When we have an investigation, in connection, for example, to an alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, a team of investigators go there. It’s called a fact-finding-mission. And they get samples, they interview witnesses, they have conversations with doctors, and everybody cooperates, they come back with all the information, they analyse the samples, in the labs we have, but in other labs in the world recognised by the organisation.
And there are debates. And all the information given by all the inspectors is considered. (Emphasis mine)
Now let’s compare the emphasised comments above to the comments made by Ian Henderson at the UNSC:
I was a team member for the visit to the hospital in Douma, and took part in taking chemical samples, interviewing medical staff, and the walk throughout the tunnels and medical rooms in the facility
It looks like Henderson was carrying out the exact tasks that the Director-General deemed to be requested of the “fact-finding’mission”.
But sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. This information was considered, and it was analysed, it was part of the investigation..
OK, so a staff member of the OPCW goes to Douma with the FFM team, writes a report, for the FFM team, and submits it to the DG for appraisal. The DG concludes “it was part of the investigation” and submits it to the IIT. This all tallies up with Henderson being a member of the FFM. Had he not been then Arias had a great opportunity to distance him at this stage by saying his report was that of a ‘disgruntled’ employee’. He didn’t say that though. Instead he said:
..and this information is going to be given, it has already been given, to the Investigation and Identification Team in charge of attribution and responsibility. Because this information, that you referred to, is more focusing, is more targeted, to establish responsibilities that is focused to the facts.
That makes sense in-so-far as Arias speaking about what happened to the otherwise suppressed report. It doesn’t actually address why no mention of it was ever made until it was leaked and why it wasn’t added to the appendix of the final report as a conflicting analysis that had been past on to the IIT. From the Arias talk it would leave one believing that Henderson was part of the FFM team at Douma. Well, that’s because he was.
Then he changed his mind..
So that was Arias’ opinion of Henderson and his FFM engineering report in June 2019. That all changed in February 2020. It didn’t simply change in tone, but went a full 180º in the opposite direction in words.
The reason that Ian Henderson accepted the Chinese offer to give a presentation at the UNSC was due to the issue of confidentiality agreements he signed with the OPCW. He had tried to have all his concerns resolved internally but, as we know, he was stonewalled and sidelined at every turn. Given the United Nations is ultimately his authority he is allowed to address them. However, he chose to keep a lot of information private thus he submitted it in writing for the UNSC to decide what to do with it.
The report he penned for the Douma FFM “Engineering sub-team” was leaked, but not by him. He requested an opportunity to speak at the OPCW annual conference of state parties to clear his name and his request was rejected by DG Arias. The rest of the Douma FFM made similar requests and they were all rejected. The Chinese and Russians convened a UNSC meeting and this was his first, and only, opportunity to explain his position without breaching the aforementioned confidentiality agreements. I wrote about this here.
I tweeted about how Ian Henderson had become aware the Director General was “going after him” with a decision to “throw him to the wolves.”
..and because of this he decided to speak out at the UNSC meeting to offer a defense for himself. A request the Director-General had refused to afford him within the OPCW.
To verify what my source claimed in January, regarding the issue of “confidentiality” and Ian Henderson, here is what the DG spoke of in his February 6, speech:
Following a preliminary inquiry, I initiated in July 2019 an investigation into possible breaches of confidentiality related to the investigation by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) into allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Douma on 7 April 2018. (Emphasis mine)Source
I ask that you note the bolded text above before reading the next sentence.
The breach concerned the publication, on or about 13 May 2019, of a document entitled “Engineering Assessment of Two Cylinders Observed at the Douma Incident – Executive Summary”. (Emphasis mine)
So the DG refers to a breach of confidentiality in terms of Henderson’s penned report and the “investigation by the Fact-Finding-Mission (FFM)” in the same sentence. Again, this all fits with Ian Henderson being a part of the FFM.
That soon changes:
Let me first turn to the findings of the investigation with respect to Inspector A. Inspector A first worked for the OPCW from June 1997 to December 2005, eventually being promoted to Team Leader.
He was rehired at a lower level in June 2016 and worked at the OPCW until May 2019. Inspector A was not a member of the FFM.DG Arias 2020
When Henderson gave his talk to the UNSC, I am told, he was fully aware of the pending OPCW-DG investigation report and he had been made aware he was being “thrown to the wolves”. Henderson received a tip-off that he was having his ‘rehiring’ role in 2016 devalued. That proved to be true. But I showed how that was purposeful misinformation with the intent to diminish his roll within the OPCW entirely.
I note in the aforementioned report that Ian Henderson held Team Leader roles in 2017 and 2018 – after his rehiring in 2016;
Ian Henderson was Inspections Team Leader for the OPCW visits to Barzah SSRC concluding on the following dates:
1. March 5, 2017
2. November 22, 2017
3. November 11, 2018Source
The DG goes on…
His name is not included in the mandates issued for FFM deployments signed by my predecessor.
I am reliably told that Arias is either lying or has been misinformed and that Henderson’s name was supplied to the Syrians as part of the FFM in advance of his arrival back in Damascus as part of the FFM. I have requested confirmation of this and at the time of writing I have not received it. Thus this falls under the “alleged” criteria I spoke of in the “Methodology” section.
A source tells me that the Syrians are also held by confidentiality agreements to the OPCW and any names provided to the state parties, for visa requirements, of named FFM team members would be done so “under the strictest of confidences”.
However, Ian Henderson made reference to this very issue in his January UNSC (United Nations Security Council) address:
I deployed to the Syrian Arab Republic in April 2018, under a F038 notification to the government of the Syrian Arab Republic that advised I was joining the mission as a FFM team member. (Emphasis mine)
Arias then proceeds to further denigrate Henderson to a supporting role:
The mission warning order signed by my predecessor appointed Inspector A as team leader at the command post in Damascus. This mission warning order also established that he was the sole OPCW team member in this mission. As such he provided, as is customary, support to the FFM team investigating the Douma incident. (Emphasis mine)
According to my source, and to Ian Henderson, he was on official FFM business in Douma from April to May 2018. As the role of Command Post (CP) Team Leader is rotational, Henderson was due to take over in May. Which he did. In his own words:
During the Douma FFM deployments the Command Post team leader (the so-called “liaison” function) was inspector XXXX. At the end of the FFM deployments to Douma, and after the other team members had returned to HQ, I received a handover from XXXX and thus took over the Command Post function. This handover was conducted on May 6, 2018.
Given that the CP rotations are 5 weeks in duration, Henderson completed his ‘shift’ early in June when he returned back to The Hague.
Upon my return from the FFM missions deployment to Douma (and my subsequent manning of the Command Post in Syria for an additional 5 weeks), I was assigned the task of analysis and assessment of the ballistics of the two cylinders.Source – Henderson’s-Memo
During his stint as CP-TL he assisted the FFM:
Note however that the last [FFM] deployment to inspect and tag/seal the two cylinders, was delayed and occurred at a later time, during the period of my assignment to the Command Post (CP) function.
So when Arias claims that Henderson:
As such he provided, as is customary, support to the FFM team investigating the Douma incident.
He isn’t lying, he’s just not being totally honest. As Henderson was despatched with an “F038” to Syria as part of the FFM in April 2018. The CP role began May 6, 2018.
Firstly, Inspectors A and B are not whistle-blowers. They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence.
Again recall that Arias claimed:
Inspector A was not a member of the FFM.
Now let’s refer back to what he said in June of last year:
This information was considered, and it was analysed, it was part of the investigation..
…this information is going to be given, it has already been given, to the Investigation and Identification Team in charge of attribution and responsibility. Because this information, that you referred to, is more focusing, is more targeted, to establish responsibilities that is focused to the facts.
So the OPCW Director General stated unambiguously, in June 2019, that Henderson’s report was “considered..and..analysed [and] it was part of the investigation..” and therefore was passed to the IIT. Yet in February this year he says, for the sake of repetition but clarity;
Firstly, Inspectors A and B are not whistle-blowers. They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence. When their view could not gain traction, they took matters into their own hands and committed a breach of their obligations to the Organisation. (Emphasis mine)
Well if A’s (Henderson‘s) view was not backed by evidence why did Arias claim that it was “considered” in May of last year? But not just considered, that it was then “analysed” and that it was “part of the [FFM] investigation” but as it “is more focusing, is more targeted, to establish responsibilities..” he forwarded it to the IIT? Are we to conclude that his ability to “analysis” information is skewed to such a degree he ended up disagreeing with himself? As a director-general of the OPCW that doesn’t set the rest of his organisation in good standing.
Arias goes on…
In accordance with the FFM’s mandate, the report of the FFM does not draw conclusions about possible perpetrators. (Emphasis mine)
Did he not say that Henderson’s “document” was that of ‘his own view’? If it was his own view, then why does Arias give as a reason that it wasn’t part of the final FFM report was because it pointed at attribution?
Arias and Confidentiality
Earlier this month I wrote about how someone in the OPCW was leaking information, with the intention it reached fringe UKFCO propagandist Brian Whitaker, who always writes favourably of the UK deep state and FCO. I asked why, given Fernando Arias’ seemingly great desire to keep OPCW information “confidential”, he doesn’t seem that bothered that his very own talking points were leaked ahead of time to Brian Whitaker? Isn’t that astounding? The Director General prepares a speech (if you watch the interview the question appears random and innocent yet it obviously was anything but. Why else would you prepare talking points to questions you didn’t know were going to be asked?) and his talking points are distributed to Brian Whitaker and only Brain Whitaker – a man who has lead the charge in trying to discredit Ian Henderson, and he isn’t the least bit concerned?
I was informed of the leak back in May of last year and tweeted about it in June, as at first it was ignored by myself until the DG gave his talk;
This year Whitaker confirmed my source;
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)
This “someone who clearly has access to sensitive OPCW information” that Whitaker refers to then allegedly went on to tell him that “Inspector B” (Alex) was a person by the name of Brendan Whelan:
Now why would a man (Whitaker) – that has long been, seemingly, supportive of whistleblowers – be trying to oust a whistleblower?
Why was this ‘whistleblower using “journalist”‘ trying to oust a whistleblower from the OPCW whilst, at the same time, turning his back on Wikileaks, a group he has long, and evidently, relied upon as a source?
Here is Whitaker tweeting his support of Wikileaks, prior to his OPCW brief:
Now his new position on whistleblowers is rolled out:
It seems his remit had changed and new orders handed down, right at the same time he received leaks from inside the OPCW and right before the Director-General’s “Confidentiality” report findings. But that’s the stuff of conspiracy theorists, right?
On January 30, Whitaker tweeted:
This was followed on January 31 with the following tweet:
The Director General gave his conclusions on February 6. Whitaker tweeted to me on January 30, 7 days before the DG notified the member states of his internal investigation:
So, again, ahead of an OPCW Director General’s talk Brian Whitaker is fed information. Let it be no secret that Brian Whitaker is a mouthpiece for the UK FCO with links to the UK intelligence services and that specific information is siphoned to him. This has been stated to me from various, and unconnected, sources. Reputable sources at that.
His role here was to pave the way for what was to come next (DG Report) and whether Whelan is “Alex” is not to be discerned from this report but what is to be discerned is that an attempt from high up in the OPCW was made to try and oust a whistleblower and 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..
So who was feeding Brian the information from within the OPCW?
Well, I’ve been tweeting cryptic clues for a while. Not many would have picked up on them. However, that was the point.
The Trail of the OPCW Leakers
In July of 2019, as I completed my report showing how Bellingcat had reported on an alleged chlorine attack in Aleppo that used the same cylinder as reported in another attack in Aleppo, I received an anonymous email congratulating me on my work and alerting me to the name of a person, around the OPCW, that was working with Eliot Higgins. Again here I paid this claim little attention. Then, some time later, I received a second email from the same source informing me that Higgins worked with “Alpha Team” of the FFM on their final report of March 2019 into Douma. I was also informed that his contact was initially Len Phillips, who, prior to 2018 was Team Leader of Alpha Team in Turkey. From 2017 onwards, continuing today, Len Phillips is a prized “consultant” to the OPCW “with more security clearance than FFM team members” at times.
The source advised that Len Phillips was “briefing Higgins, Whitaker and Koblentz” during 2018.
They went on to tell me that when Phillips’ role as FFM Team leader came to an end in 2017 he kept the contact going with Higgins and that he (Phillips) held “a peculiar strong bond with the organisation [OPCW].” The source sent me a series of tweets with the byline, “Don’t take my word for it, that Higgins was aware of what was going on, take his own word for. His ego is his downfall.”
The source said Higgins was commissioned by, and worked for, the OPCW-FFM Alpha-Team on the Douma affair.
They also alerted me to Gregory Koblentz and an OPCW “connection”. As mentioned before, this was in July of 2019. The following month, August 2019, I would enter into an email exchange with Bob Trafford of Forensic Architecture, via his official work email, when he would state the following;
Our video ‘Chemical Attacks in al-Lataminah’ describes the evidence for that conclusion [that the MYM6000 and M4000 are used by the SyAAF], based on our own research, research by Bellingcat, and available open source information. Additional closed source information contributed to our conclusion; Gregory Koblentz of George Mason University shared with us information that was provided to him by a source. That information connected the M4000 and MYM6000 munitions to declarations made by Syria about its chemical munition stockpile. (Emphasis mine)
That “closed source information” Trafford refers to was Len Phillips’ communication with Gregory Koblentz – however – Phillips himself is not the originator of the information..
Conclusion To Part 1
In the first part of this two-part report into the OPCW leaks I focused on the changing narratives of the OPCW Director-General, Fernando Arias, on his position of Ian Henderson, the veteran ex-OPCW weapons inspector.
I chart his contradictory positions and statements, which do more to show he is deliberately misrepresenting the roles of both Henderson and “Alex”, than they do to the contrary.
I took a look at how Arias doesn’t seem concerned that his own talking points are being leaked, ahead of time, and that his concerns surrounding confidentiality don’t extend to such leaks. He seems to more concerned about leaks that show the 1st floor management of the OPCW deliberately blocked information from the Douma FFM reaching any further up the chain of command. He’s annoyed that suppressed information got out. His venomous, contradictory, rhetoric is testament to this fact.
I looked, again, at the role of Brian Whitaker in this affair and his own changing face over whistleblowers. I questioned why he, and he alone, was chosen to be the recipient of leaked information direct from the Director-General’s office. Whether the information on “Alex’s” identity is true or not, the purpose of this report is not to try and ascertain the identity of a whistleblower. It it to ascertain the identity of those spreading disinformation and attempting to place lives of brave scientists in danger for exposing fraudulent behaviours at the world’s chemical weapons watchdog.
In Part 2, I go more in-depth into looking at:
- Koblentz’s Role
- Who is “Sherlock Holmes”?
- The Leaked Info
- Len Phillips
- Bellingcat’s OPCW Commissioning