An Open Letter to Australia’s Politicians in Opposition to the Proposed Metadata Retention Laws March 17, 2015 – Written by: Rob Marsh

An Open Letter to Australia’s Politicians in Opposition to the Proposed Metadata Retention Laws

I recently wrote a rather long article on the potential dangers of new metadata retention laws to the fabric of our society and the functioning of our democracy. There is no issue I feel more passionate about in our society today, as it affects literally every one of us. We are witnessing the creation of the greatest weapon of oppression in the history of man, to quote Edward Snowden, and as individuals, citizens of a democracy, and human beings, we owe it to ourselves and each other to do what little we can to stall and hopefully stop this legislation from passing into law.

To that end, I’ve prepared an open letter to the politicians of this country outlining the failings of the legislation and other relevant information around metadata collection and the relation thereof to human rights.

Please send this to as many members of parliament as you can, and please share this template on your social media walls and any political groups you may be a part of. The more people that know that this is happening and that recognise that they are personally implicated in it, the more chance we have of stopping this draconian imposition on the freedoms of all Australians, rich and poor, powerless and powerful, male and female, old and young.

With your help, I sincerely believe we can make a positive difference.

An Open Letter to the Politicians of Australia on the Potential Adverse Effects of Proposed Metadata Retention Legislation on Human Rights and the Functioning of Our Democracy

This letter contains many references to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, where there is a number or text enclosed in brackets like so: (5.17), refer to the appropriate section of the report.

[Politician’s name],

I am writing to you to express my deep and sincere concern with regards to the proposed Metadata Retention legislation that the government wishes to pass by the 27th of March 2015.

This legislation represents, contrary to the claims of those with vested interests in seeing the legislation pass, a grave threat to the right to privacy, freedom of speech and association that is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy.

You may not be aware of what the legislation addresses, or what the “telecommunications data” it refers to actually entails.

Nicola Roxon, in a statement to the Attorney General, describes telecommunications data as: “Telecommunications data is information about the process of communication, as distinct from its content. It includes information about the identity of the sending and receiving parties and related subscriber details, account identifying information collected by the telecommunications carrier or ISP to establish the account, and information such as the time and date of the communication, its duration, location and type of communication. (5.7)

The proposed legislation, based on the definitions above, would give the Australian government unprecedented access to nearly every aspect of the online activity of it’s citizens, and the ability to infer a disturbingly accurate “pattern of life” from the collected data.

For example, you may have your cellphone’s GPS services enabled to use Google Maps. That data, in conjunction with your phone records and timestamps on the above data could clue in a security agency as to your most likely whereabouts on any given day. This poses an enormous risk to freedom of the press, as governments could use these capabilities to track journalists and their sources to frequented meeting places, limiting concerned parties’ abilities to bring sensitive information to the public for democratic review.

“The database will contain every page they accessed – every article they’ve read on a newspaper site, any online political activity, any purchases on ebay, books bought from amazon, Facebook pages visited etc.” – Ian Quick

In the words of former NSA/CIA Director Michael Hayden:

“We kill people based on metadata.”

Fears about the above stated powers and the implications thereof have been echoed by several EU countries.

The Romanian Court, with regards to local metadata retention, held that a “continuous legal obligation” to retain all traffic data for six months was incompatible with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. (5.26)

In Germany, the Constitutional Court described metadata retention as a “serious restriction of the right to privacy” and stated that a “retention period of six months [was] at the upper limit of what should be considered proportionate”. (5.27)

The Czech Constitutional Court, in analogous statements, described misgivings about the potential abuses of these powers: “Individual citizens had insufficient guarantees against possible abuses of power by public authorities.” (5.28)

The EU Court of Justice found that the 2006 European Data Retention Directive violated citizens “fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data”.

With such strident international condemnation, it seems to go without saying that any committee responsible for review of similar legislation would be given express access to details of the proposed changes and sufficient resources to complete a sincere and detailed examination of the material. Oddly enough, these criteria were not met: “Having commenced the inquiry at the beginning of July 2012, the Committee was asked to report if at all possible by the end of the calendar year. This afforded the Committee a highly compressed and unachievable time frame of less than six months to examine what is an extensive list of potential reforms, some of which are far reaching.” (Introduction, Page 3)

It seems that the government also failed to provide the committee with the relevant draft legislation, leaving those involved to rely on speculation and inference rather than an appraisal of the raw data: “The Government sought the Committee’s views on a mandatory data retention regime. The Committee did not have access to draft legislation. Furthermore, the inadequate description of data retention in the terms of reference and discussion paper also impaired both the public discussion and the Committee’s consideration of the data retention issue.” (1.29)

The question of how efficacious metadata retention is in solving and preventing crime is a raging debate.

Electronic Freedom Australia noted that it was “highly questionable” whether data retention would aid in the investigation of terrorism, organised crime or other serious illegal activities:

“It is worth noting that determined criminals will have little difficulty disguising or anonymising their communications. There are many relatively simple and effective tools available that allow for the protection of communications from surveillance.” (5.167)

This is an excellent point. The proposed legislation is no secret. Those in the criminal world will have no doubt heard of the potential for their activities to be monitored and have likely already taken steps to anonymise their online behaviour. Even in the event that the scope of the metadata retention reforms is so broad that it includes tools for opening encrypted chats and messaging services, it is not unlikely that tech savvy individuals on the wrong side of the law will be developing tools to combat this unwanted intrusion, rendering the legislation effectively useless in dealing with its raison d’être: combating terrorism and serious crime.

An unintended consequence of the introduction of metadata retention could be the opposite of what it is designed to achieve: a progressive opacification of the internet, with more and more users turning to encrypted browsing and communication, thereby shrinking the usable pool of data.

“Why do we imagine that the criminals of the greatest concern to our security agencies will not be able to use any of numerous available means to anonymise their communications or indeed choose new services that are not captured by legislated data retention rules?”

This quote from Communications Minister Macolm Turnbull, in addition to his recently revealed use of the messaging app Wickr, which provides a platform for anyone to send and receive self-deleting encrypted messages, seems to indicate that the reforms are likely to bring about little change in the positive ability of law enforcement agencies to stop criminal activity.

Add to this comments made by Blueprints for Free Speech, indicating that “there is no evidence to suggest data retention would assist with the prevention of crime or terrorism. A 2011 study of Germany’s Data Retention Directive found it had no impact on either the effectiveness of criminal investigation or the crime rate. Further, the study specifically found that countries without data retention laws are not more vulnerable to crime.”

Make no bones about it, metadata retention is mass surveillance. It can be used to form a dataset, a pattern of life indicating your movements, interests, affiliations and beliefs. You will be paying for this intrusion of privacy through rises in service bills, a kind of “tele screen tax” if you will. You will be at a higher risk of identity theft through the creation of ‘honeypots’ of data, irresistible to organised criminals and foreign actors. Your basic rights to privacy, to freedom of speech, to live as a dignified human person, are being infringed upon in ways that do not preclude a broadening of the scope of these abuses.

Even the supporters of the legislation don’t buy into their own rhetoric, with members of the Liberal party using Wickr on a daily basis, showing the world that privacy is of the utmost importance even to those who adamantly maintain that it isn’t.

With unanimous condemnation from leading human rights groups around the world, with a public backlash on a scale almost never witnessed, with the potential for so much to go horribly wrong, we simply must put a stop to this.

Tony Abbott has made statements that he wants a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation to be scrapped. I think it’s our responsibility as members of our democracy to ask why anyone would want a piece of legislation with so many potential avenues for abuse to pass without appropriate scrutiny.

I implore you, with the utmost sincerity and urgency, to do whatever is within your power to oppose this legislation at the very least until it is put before an independent NGO and reviewed in depth, with all the aspects of the legislation made available for public review and scrutiny.

Thank you for your time and your consideration, I hope that we, together, can make history and bring our society forward into an age of social egalitarianism, where the ideals of freedom of speech and thought, freedom of association and transparency of government are enshrined as they once were, as the foundations of a working democracy.



For more information on the legislation you can refer to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, which you can find here: http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=pjcis/nsl2012/report.htm

An independent summary/opinion piece on the legislation can be found here: https://wideeyedandhopefullywild.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/metadata-and-you/


For the sender of this email: you can find the contact addresses of your parliamentarians at these links:



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Why Boris Johnson is Lying in Skripal Case – By Craig Murray craigmurray.org.uk (SOTT)

boris johnson

Evidence submitted by the British government in court today proves, beyond any doubt, that Boris Johnson has been point blank lying about the degree of certainty Porton Down scientists have about the Skripals being poisoned with a Russian “novichok” agent.

Yesterday in an interview with Deutsche Welle Boris Johnson claimed directly Porton Down had told him they positively identified the nerve agent as Russian:

You argue that the source of this nerve agent, Novichok, is Russia. How did you manage to find it out so quickly? Does Britain possess samples of it?

Let me be clear with you … When I look at the evidence, I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory …

So they have the samples …

They do. And they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, “Are you sure?” And he said there’s no doubt.

I knew and had published from my own whistleblowers that this is a lie. Until now I could not prove it. But today I can absolutely prove it, due to the judgement at the High Court case which gave permission for new blood samples to be taken from the Skripals for use by the OPCW.

Justice Williams included in his judgement a summary of the evidence which tells us, directly for the first time, what Porton Down have actually said:

The Evidence
16. The evidence in support of the application is contained within the applications
themselves (in particular the Forms COP 3) and the witness statements.
17. I consider the following to be the relevant parts of the evidence. I shall identify the
witnesses only by their role and shall summarise the essential elements of their
i) CC: Porton Down Chemical and Biological Analyst
Blood samples from Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal were analysed and the
findings indicated exposure to a nerve agent or related compound. The samples
tested positive for the presence of a Novichok class nerve agent OR CLOSELY RELATED AGENT.

The emphasis is mine. This sworn Court evidence direct from Porton Down is utterly incompatible with what Boris Johnson has been saying. The truth is that Porton Down have not even positively identified this as a “Novichok”, as opposed to “a closely related agent”. Even if it were a “Novichok” that would not prove manufacture in Russia, and a “closely related agent” could be manufactured by literally scores of state and non-state actors.

This constitutes irrefutable evidence that the government have been straight out lying – to Parliament, to the EU, to NATO, to the United Nations, and above all to the people – about their degree of certainty of the origin of the attack. It might well be an attack originating in Russia, but there are indeed other possibilities and investigation is needed. As the government has sought to whip up jingoistic hysteria in advance of forthcoming local elections, the scale of the lie has daily increased.

On a sombre note, I am very much afraid the High Court evidence seems to indicate there is very little chance the Skripals will ever recover; one of the reasons the judge gave for his decision is that samples taken now will be better for analysis than samples taken post mortem.


This website remains under a massive DOS attack which has persisted for more than 24 hours now, but so far the defences are holding. Some strange form of “ghost banning” is also affecting both my twitter and Facebook feeds. So please

a) Feel free to repost, republish, translate or spread this article anywhere and anyway you can. All copyright is waived.
b) If you came here by Twitter, please retweet but also in addition create a new tweet yourself containing a link to this post (or to any other site on which you have placed the information)
c) If you came here by Facebook, again please share but also in addition create a new post yourself which contains the information and the link.

The state and corporate media now have evidence of the vast discrepancy between what May and Johnson are saying, and the truth about the Porton Down scientists’ position. I am afraid to say I expect this to make no difference whatsoever to the propaganda output of the BBC.

Unlike US-led coalition, Russia not hitting civilian homes in Syria with incendiary bombs – MoD – by RT

Unlike US-led coalition, Russia not hitting civilian homes in Syria with incendiary bombs – MoD
Russian Air Forces are not carrying out airstrikes on residential areas in Eastern Ghouta and don’t use incendiary bombs, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, refuting reports by Syrian pro-opposition activists as “glaring falsehoods.”

“Russian aviation doesn’t strike residential areas in Eastern Ghouta and, moreover, it doesn’t use incendiary ammunition, unlike the US-led international coalition,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement. The damning reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the White Helmets group are a “glaring falsehood,” the ministry added, calling the two groups “swindlers” who are taking advantage of the sorrow of the Syrian people.

Earlier, the UK-based Observatory claimed that “Russian air strikes and incendiary weapons killed the civilians in a basement from burning or suffocation” in Arbin town in Eastern Ghouta on Thursday. The controversial “humanitarian” group White Helmets has released the footage of what it said was the aftermath of a Russian airstrike.

The civilians fleeing Eastern Ghouta through humanitarian corridors say that the White Helmets were only operating in the areas controlled by Al-Nusra terrorist group and never provided any assistance to the population, the Defense Ministry said. “The same is confirmed by the representatives of the armed opposition, who made a decision to leave Eastern Ghouta for the Idlib de-escalation zone,” it added.

“Taking these facts into account, the blind readiness of some European media to report any false information with reference to the White Helmets once again causes our bewilderment,” the ministry said.

The internationally-funded White Helmets have long been hailed as heroes by the mainstream western media, with a Netflix documentary that praised them as “unarmed and neutral civilian volunteers” even winning an Oscar. However, the group has also been plagued by allegations of having ties with terrorists and producing fake reports. The humanitarian activists were filmed carrying weapons and sporting military uniforms, with Syrians accusing them of stealing valuables from the injured, of pillaging and other criminal acts.

As for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, RT’s investigation in late 2015 revealed that, despite its convincing name, the organization is actually run by a single man in Coventry, UK, who last visited Syria nearly two decades ago.

While Russia is blamed for airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta, the militants holed up in the Damascus suburb continue daily shellings of the Syrian capital. They fired four missiles and eight mines at residential areas on Friday, killing four people and injuring 18 others, Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, the head of Russia’s Reconciliation Center, said.

According to Yevtushenko, by now “most civilians have fled the militant-controlled areas in Eastern Ghouta.” Some 104,000 people have used humanitarian corridors to leave the besieged Damascus suburb since late February.

READ MORE: More than 5,000 civilians leave Eastern Ghouta as militants begin withdrawal

The withdrawal of Ahrar al-Sham fighters from the town of Harasta continued on Friday. The militants agreed a deal with the Syrian government, under which they would be leaving Eastern Ghouta in exchange for a free passage to Idlib Province for them and their families. 4,120 militants and their families have been evacuated from Harasta to Qalaat al-Madiq, in Idlib, over the last two days, Yevtushenko said.

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In Seeing African Corruption as Landlocked, George Clooney Misses the Boat – By Jon Jeter (MINT PRESS)

  Argentina's three-masted navy training tall ship ARA Libertad, which was seized on Oct. 2 as collateral for unpaid bonds dating from Argentina's economic crisis a decade ago, sits docked at the port in Tema, outside Accra, in Ghana Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP/Gabriela Barnuevo)

George Clooney smiles as Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir walks past after casting his vote in front of a cheering crowd of hundreds of Sudanese voters in Juba, Southern Sudan, Jan. 9, 2011. (AP/Jerome Delay)

Writing in the March 14 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, the Hollywood actor George Clooney and the human-rights activist John Prendergast identified corruption as one of sub-Saharan Africa’s greatest challenges and called for stiffer financial sanctions against kleptocratic leaders. The authors began thus:

In December 2013, competing factions of South Sudan’s ruling party plunged the country into a horrific civil war as they fought over the spoils of the world’s newest state. Now in its fourth year, the conflict has ravaged the economy, resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, brought hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine, and displaced more than four million people, making this Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

And yet, amid all the suffering, a small clique of government elites and their cronies inside and outside South Sudan have benefited financially from the fighting, siphoning off the country’s oil wealth and storing the money in their private bank accounts and in luxury real estate in neighboring countries.”

They concluded:

A comprehensive strategy of using financial pressure for peace and human rights in South Sudan and other African war zones would cost very little. But it would give African mediators and their supporters in Washington, London, and elsewhere leverage in peace negotiations.

It would put new wind in the sails of African anti-corruption and human rights activists, create real accountability for the mass theft of Africa’s resources, and finally begin to dismantle the system that incentivizes those in power to hijack the government for personal enrichment.

Without taking aggressive measures to go after the spoils that drive conflict in South Sudan and other African countries, it is difficult to imagine any future other than one of deepening repression, growing famine, and spiraling warfare.”


Mistaking symptoms for causes

Port workers walk past the three-masted ARA Libertad, a symbol of Argentina's navy, as it lies docked at the port in Tema, outside Accra, Ghana, Oct. 23, 2012. (AP/Gabriela Barnuevo)

At first glance, the millionaire actor-cum-Democratic party fundraiser from Kentucky and the former National Security Council bureaucrat might seem odd choices to diagnose what ails the world’s poorest and least developed continent — particularly considering the availability of nearly a billion Africans who live south of the Sahara who might have ideas of their own. And while the co-authors’ prescription is not altogether incorrect — corruption is indeed as ubiquitous in Africa as the baobab tree — their narrative misses a couple of key points.

First, there is no mention of the political context fueling public malfeasance — which rarely occurs in isolation and typically takes the form of bribery, influence-peddling or kickbacks. What Clooney and Prendergast fail to mention is whom, exactly, are Africa’s despots corrupt with?

Second, is African corruption the result of a neo-colonial political economy that historically required nothing more than a hole in the ground and a railroad to the sea, or is it merely attributable to some extra bone in Africans’ feet?

And third, what is corruption and who gets to define it?

Read more by Jon Jeter

Ghana’s complicity with Wall Street banks to illegally seize the Libertad and hold it for what was essentially a king’s ransom trains a microscope on the molecular structure of an African leadership enthralled with global finance. To put only slightly too fine a point on it, African politicians today are more than willing to play the bagman to racketeering vulture capitalists like Singer.

Consider that Argentine authorities were quite aware that Singer’s Elliott Management was looking for an opportunity to seize the country’s assets to recoup its loans — that is why the country’s former president, Cristina Kirchner Fernandez, avoided using the presidential plane to fly to conferences and summits considered hostile. Argentina has no embassy in Ghana, and the two countries have not historically conducted much trade between them, but the Libertad had visited Ghana only at the invitation of its diplomatic officials.

As a result, Argentine officials said they had no idea that Ghana — a former British colony that staged the subcontinent’s first successful independence movement under the banner of the iconic resistance leader Kwame Nkrumah — would do Singer’s bidding. On the streets and in morning news broadcasts, Argentines commented on the irony of a country that had been brutalized by finance capital, agreeing to play ball with its torturers.

Horace G. Campbell — a professor of African studies and political science at Syracuse University, and currently on leave at the University of Ghana — told MintPress News:

Wall Street is at the heart of the illicit financial flows, and the corrupt African functionaries have to depend on reliable financial institutions outside of Africa to facilitate their corruption.”

Of Clooney, Campbell wrote: “[H]e obviously has not read the Panama Papers,” referring to the dossier that revealed a number of politicians around the world who stash ill-gotten gains in offshore bank accounts.


Western fingerprints all over African crime scenes

Zambians protest against the unfair tax system employed by multinational companies, such as Glencore, in place across Africa. (Photo: Demotix)

Indeed any forensic examination of African corruption would reveal Western fingerprints everywhere, from the financing of a ruinous civil war and exploitation of oil and diamond reserves in Angola, to the pillaging of mineral resources in Zambia.

The deepening impoverishment of South Africa’s black majority following the fall of apartheid in 1994 is a consequence of Western bankers pressuring Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress to renounce its redistributive macroeconomic plans in favor of laissez-faire policies. And NATO’s destruction of the most prosperous nation on the continent was at the behest of financiers who wanted to get their hands on Libya’s gas and oil reserves, as well as block Muammar al-Gaddafi’s plan to create a gold-backed African currency market that would have likely decreased the value of both the U.S. dollar and the Euro.

By ignoring the role that international financiers play in African corruption, Clooney is, perhaps inadvertently, repeating a dangerous trope that depicts the typical African leader as “half-devil, half-child.” Based on nothing more than collected perceptions, the NGO Transparency International continues to rank African nations at the top of its index of most corrupt nations and the U.S. near the bottom — in an era of subprime mortgages, weapons of mass destruction, enhanced interrogation techniques, and incarceration facilities at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay and Iraq’s Abu-Ghraib.

2017 Corruption Index

Established in 2002 to investigate the most serious crimes, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has to date indicted only African leaders, leading several African nations to withdraw from the tribunal. After the ICC declined to indict former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his involvement in the Iraq War, Gambia’s Information Minister Sheriff Bojang told the Guardian newspaper:

There are many Western countries, at least 30, that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC and not a single Western war criminal has been indicted.”

A 30-year-old Kenyan asylum seeker in Toronto told me recently:

Corruption is a big problem in Africa, but corruption is a byproduct of Western-styled capitalism that emphasizes the individual more than the community, as is traditional in African societies. Our leaders are responsible for their crimes against the people and should not be absolved, but it must be noted that they are merely mimicking the elites in America and London and Paris.”

Anti-corruption crusaders like Clooney, he said, might be wise to recall Oscar Wilde’s famous admonition that “all criticism is a form of autobiography.”

Watch | Stealing Africa – Why Poverty?


Top Photo | Argentina’s three-masted navy training tall ship ARA Libertad, which was seized on Oct. 2 as collateral for unpaid bonds dating from Argentina’s economic crisis a decade ago, sits docked at the port in Tema, outside Accra, in Ghana Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP/Gabriela Barnuevo)

Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”

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Skripal case: EU Council ditches Theresa May’s ultimatum to Russia – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

EU Council statement retreats from “culpable” to “highly likely”, and refers to “ongoing investigation” of Skripal case


In my previous article about the failure of Britain’s allies to give Britain the strong support it expected in the Skripal case I predicted that the EU Council meeting on 22nd March 2018 would publish a statement which appeared to be strongly supportive of Britain but which on careful examination would turn out to be less than it seemed.

So it has been proved, as shown by the statement the EU Council did put out, which has now published on the Europa website

  1. The European Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent attack in Salisbury, expresses its deepest sympathies to all whose lives have been threatened and lends its support to the ongoing investigation. It agrees with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation. We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom in the face of this grave challenge to our shared security.

  2. The use of chemical weapons, including the use of any toxic chemicals as weapons under any circumstances, is completely unacceptable, must be systematically and rigorously condemned and constitutes a security threat to us all. Member States will coordinate on the consequences to be drawn in the light of the answers provided by the Russian authorities. The European Union will remain closely focused on this issue and its implications.

  3. Against this background, the European Union must strengthen its resilience to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear-related risks, including through closer cooperation between the European Union and its Member States as well as NATO. The European Union and its Member States should also continue to bolster their capabilities to address hybrid threats, including in the areas of cyber, strategic communication and counter-intelligence. The European Council invites the European Commission and the High Representative to take this work forward and report on progress by the June European Council.

(bold italics added)

One of the great problems any person trying to make sense of the current state of international relations immediately encounters is that any news concerning Russia is immediately subjected to a vast volume of negative noise.

This is the case with this EU Council statement, which the British media – predictably enough – is presenting as a “victory” for Theresa May.

This article in The Times of London serves as a good example.

Note for example how this article misrepresents a telephone conversation on 22nd March 2018 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as a Russian “diplomatic rearguard action to avoid further punitive measures”.

In fact, as the Kremlin’s summary of the conversation shows, it was Tsipras who called Putin, doing so – as Trump and Macron have previously done, and as the Finnish and Croatian Presidents also did on the same day – in order to congratulate Putin on his re-election.

In reality what the EU Council statement does is take the position back to what it was in Theresa May’s statement to the British House of Commons on 12th March 2018 ie. before the British ultimatum, which has been effectively annulled.

In her statement of 12th March 2018 Theresa May used the following words

Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.


Mr. Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March.

Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country.

Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

The words “highly likely” and “plausible explanation” in the EU Council statement are obviously taken from Theresa May’s 12th March 2018 statement.

However on 14th March 2018 – following expiry of her ultimatum – Theresa May in a second statement to the British House of Commons said the following

Mr Speaker, there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.

This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.

What was only “highly likely” on 12th March 2018 had on 14th March 2018 become fact, so that based on Russia’s supposed failure to answer Britain’s questions by the deadline Theresa May set in her ultimatum of 12th March 2018 there was “no alternative conclusion” than that Russia “was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter” and had committed “an unlawful use of force….against the United Kingdom”.

This definite conclusion of Russian culpability in Theresa May’s 14th March 2018 statement has now been set aside.

We are now once again back in the EU Council statement – which note Theresa May has signed – to the position of Russian responsibility being no more than “highly likely” as it was in Theresa May’s statement of 12th March 2018.

Needless to say the words “highly likely” leave open the possibility that the murder attempt on Skripal was the work of someone else other than Russia.  Theresa May after all admitted as much in her statement of 12th March 2018 when she said she would only conclude the Russians were guilty if they failed within the deadline set by her ultimatum to answer her questions.

Even the words “no plausible alternative explanation” – also clearly borrowed from Theresa May’s 12th March 2018 – are qualified words.  They leave open the possibility of other “alternative explanations” which may for the moment appear “implausible” but which could turn out to be true.

Needless to say the words “highly likely” – which imply no more than suspicion – come nowhere close to meeting the test applied by British courts to determine guilt or innocence in criminal cases, which is “beyond reasonable doubt”.

As a matter of fact the EU Council statement pointedly refers to an “ongoing investigation” – something which implicitly admits that questions of guilt or innocence in the case have still not been decided – and over the course of which the Russians are expected to answer questions (“the answers provided by the Russian authorities”).

Of course the fact that the Russian authorities are once again being asked to provide answers to questions – without moreover any deadline being set for their answers – further confirms that Theresa May’s ultimatum of 12th March 2018 – which demanded Russia’s answers by midnight on 13th March 2018 – has been set aside.

Unsurprisingly, since the question of Russian involvement in the Skripal attack has now once again been downgraded from certainty to mere suspicion, the “unlawful use of force” in Theresa May’s statement of 14th March 2018 has also been downgraded to a “grave challenge”.

Needless to say, the EU Council statement also says that the EU gives Britain its “unqualified solidarity”, and in a joint press conference Merkel and Macron have said that they treat the British claim that the nerve agent which was used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal is a Novichok to be as “well founded”.


However Merkel and Macron also spoke of the investigation being still ongoing, whilst the “unqualified solidarity” the EU is giving is with Theresa May’s position of 12th March 2018, not with her position of 14th March 2018.

The EU Council statement is in fact a typical product of a compromise.

Media reports suggest that the original draft was – no doubt intentionally – much weaker.

That allowed scope for negotiations with the British over the wording of the draft in which the British were forced to respond to the objections of counties like Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece, which have all made their doubts about the British rush to judgement perfectly clear.

That set the scene for Merkel to do what she always does in these situations, which is broker an apparent compromise, which is in reality to the position she has had all along.

In this case that is to put the position back to where it was in Theresa May’s statement of 12th March 2018, minus Theresa May’s ultimatum of that date, which has now been cancelled.

Meanwhile the prospect of further significant EU action against Russia has been kicked into the long grass, with any further action being apparently postponed until the conclusion of the investigation, which the British police are saying may be months away.

By that time of course Brexit will be even closer, and Britain’s diplomatic traction within the EU will be even weaker than it is now.

Of course if the investigation has not been concluded before Brexit takes place – which as of the time of writing is starting to look increasingly likely – then British diplomatic traction within the EU by the time the investigation is finally concluded will be weaker still.

In the meantime the only thing the EU for the moment is collectively prepared to do is make the token gesture of withdrawing the EU’s ambassador from Moscow for four days for consultations.

Some EU member states are supposedly considering expelling Russian diplomats.  Should that happen then the Russians will of course respond in kind.

However significant further sanctions against Russia are according to one of the EU’s Commissioners apparently being ruled out.

As the US recently concluded, further sanctions against Russia would be ineffective and counter-productive anyway.

Whilst the Skripal affair is not over, I suspect that the peak of the international aspect of this “crisis” is now passing.

If one compares what the British appeared to be threatening at the start of the crisis two weeks ago with what has actually happened, it is questionable whether there has even been a “crisis” at all.

No major Western state apart from Britain has cut off high level contacts with Russia.  No sanctions of any sort have been imposed.

Proposals to break off diplomatic relations with Russia, cut Russian banks off from SWIFT, launch cyber attacks against Russia, declare Russia a terrorist state, ban Russians from buying property in London, and for a boycott the 2018 World Cup, appear to have been abandoned

If the British plan was to get NATO support by invoking Article 5 – as I strongly suspect – then that plan has failed.

Even talk of cancelling RT’s broadcasting licence in Britain seems to be abating.

There have been reciprocal expulsions of diplomats from London and Moscow.  As I have said previously that will hurt the British more than it will hurt the Russians.  If more tit-for-tat expulsions of Russian diplomats involving other European countries happen, that will hurt the Russians more.  However it will hardly help those countries either.

In fact the only significant step any party has so far taken during this “crisis” which will cause any other party actual injury is the Russian decision to close down the British Council in Russia.

Whilst that is hardly a major blow, for a country like Britain which relies so heavily on soft power it is a blow nonetheless.

The crisis may have damaged further Russia’s already terrible image in Britain and – though I suspect to a much lesser degree – in northern Europe (in the US this crisis appears to have barely registered, whilst perception of Russia – and of the Skripal crisis – is completely different in southern Europe).

However my impression is that the British reaction to the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal was so over the top, and so obviously violated due process, that in the long run it will be Britain whose image will have been damaged across Europe more than Russia’s.  Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s recently retired former Foreign Minister, has recently described the Skripal affair as a “bad James Bond film” and that I suspect is what many Europeans – including many European governments – privately think.

Even in Britain I am starting to sense that a reaction is starting to set in, with even some of Theresa May’s new found fans noticing that the hysteria over the Skripal case has coincided with a further cave-in by Theresa May in the Brexit talks, and some of her fans perhaps even noticing that the actual position of Britain’s Western allies in the Skripal case is essentially the same as the much despised position taken by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom some sections of the British media have come close to branding a traitor.

As for the Skripal case itself, the prospect of an impartial inquiry has been almost certainly fatally compromised by Theresa May’s disastrous decision to pre-empt the investigation’s findings by making a declaration of Russia’s guilt just days after the investigation had begun and whilst it was still underway.

Inevitably that is going to put enormous pressure on the investigators to support her conclusions, making it less likely that important clues will be followed up.

I no longer expect ever to learn the truth about this affair

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Syrian Army to Take Second East Ghouta Pocket as Militants Agree Transfer Deal – By Sputnik

A picture taken on March 13, 2018 shows buses waiting to evacuate civilians on the government side of the Wafideen checkpoint on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus neighbouring the Eastern Ghouta enclave

© AFP 2018/ Louai Beshara

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Islamist militants in a number of towns and settlements in Damascus’ East Ghouta region have agreed to be transferred to the northwestern province of Idlib, which shares a border with Turkey, and is one of the last remaining militant bastions in Syria.

Combatants from the towns of Zamalka, Jobar, Arbin and Ein Tarma have agreed to evacuate, according to reports by Syrian State media on Friday. The militants will be transferred to Idlib province along with their family members.

Specific details about the transfer are yet to be released.

​Troops from the Syrian Army will subsequently begin securing the areas and are likely to deploy sappers to conduct demining operations, probably with assistance from Russia. 

This latest transfer agreement comes just off the back of an earlier deal where militants in the Damascus suburb of Harasta also agreed to be bused off to Idlib.

Once they were evacuated from Harasta, the militants detonated an ammunition depot, injuring four volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA.) 

READ MORE: Two Killed, Nine Injured in ‘Cluster Bomb’ Terror Attack on Syria’s Damascus

Once the Syrian Army takes control of the aforementioned towns, it will be in control of over 80 percent of the East Ghouta region, and are poised to liberate the remaining areas over the coming weeks, or potentially sooner if surrender, reconciliation or transfer deals are swiftly negotiated. Militants have used East Ghouta as a launchpad to fire mortars and improvised rockets to government-held parts of Damascus, killing and injuring hundreds of civilians in recent weeks. 

Boris Johnson’s Putin-Hitler comparison is a provocation too far – By John Wight (RT)

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
Boris Johnson’s Putin-Hitler comparison is a provocation too far
Boris Johnson’s latest outburst, comparing the upcoming World Cup in Russia to the 1936 Berlin Olympics under Hitler, is a provocation too far.

Appearing in front of a Commons Foreign Affairs Committee meeting, the UK foreign secretary enthusiastically took up the outrageous assertion made by Labour backbench MP Ian Austin that “Putin is going to use it [the World Cup] the way Hitler used the 1936 Olympics.” In response, Johnson said, “I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right and frankly, I think it is an emetic prospect to think of Putin glorifying in this sporting event.”

Britain’s Eton-educated foreign secretary now appears intent on singlehandedly fracturing relations between Russia and the UK beyond hope of repair, to the point where unless he is reined in, and soon, the damage he does may well live on long after his tenure in frontline British politics comes to an end.

In ordinary times, such a deranged outburst, tantamount to an insult directed not only at the Russian government but the Russian people in its entirety, would see the foreign secretary sacked. However, these are not ordinary times, and given the rolling thunder of Russophobia that has been unleashed across the UK’s political and media landscape of late, open season on Russia has been declared up to and including the willful and unconscionable distortion of history.

Russia’s role in defeating Hitler in World War II, the role of the Russian people in liberating Europe from the scourge of fascism, is an objective and unalterable fact. It is a role acknowledged by none other than Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Boris Johnson’s supposed political hero.

During a statement to the House of Commons on August 2 1944, the very same House of Commons in which Boris Johnson now sits, Churchill said: “It is the Russian armies who have done the main work in tearing the guts out of the German army. In the air and on the oceans we could maintain our place, but there was no force in the world which could have been called into being… that would have been able to maul and break the German army unless it had been subjected to the terrible slaughter and manhandling that has fallen to it through the strength of the Russian Soviet armies.”

Twenty-seven million dead tells its own story when it comes to Russia’s sacrifice in the struggle to defeat Hitler. It is a sacrifice that renders Johnson’s studied insult in comparing the upcoming World Cup in Russia to the Berlin Olympics of 1936 well-nigh unforgivable. Moreover, Johnson’s statement was made as part of a campaign to sabotage the upcoming World Cup – a campaign that is now well underway in the UK – thus making it all the more contemptible.

Though he and they may not succeed in sabotaging the World Cup, the foreign secretary may well have succeeded in making it difficult for England fans to attend, what with his invective guaranteed to whip up anti-English sentiment in Russia.

From the moment Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury, England on March 4, Johnson has embraced the rolling thunder of open and unending anti-Russia invective unleashed in response, in process of which we have borne witness to nineteenth century Russophobic tropes being peddled by the country’s establishment press, dredged from a swamp of British jingoism and racism. This is despite the fact that as yet not one shred of concrete evidence has been adduced in support of the accusation that culpability for the attack lies at the door of the Kremlin.

Indeed, with the investigation into this crime still ongoing, the only people who are certain of Russian state involvement is a political class in Britain that is acting not in the interests the British public but instead the interests of the country’s aforementioned establishment press, combined and in cooperation with a murky and evermore influential network of neocon think tanks. They have, it is clear, bounced a pusillanimous British government mired in crisis over Brexit, and therefore susceptible to the malign influence of the most extreme anti-Russia elements within the media, into making a grievously premature claim of Russian state culpability in the Skripal case.

Finally, indulging Boris Johnson’s foray into the sporting history of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, we direct the foreign secretary to 1938, two years after the Berlin Olympics – a Berlin Olympics which en passant Moscow boycotted unlike Great Britain – at a time when the British government and ruling class, with few exceptions, were mired in the appeasement of Hitler’s fascist regime.

It was a shameful period in the country’s history, culminating in Britain colluding in the fascist dictator’s expansionist ambitions in Europe with regard to his desire to annex Czechoslovakia. This collusion was enshrined in the Munich Agreement, reached in conjunction with France and fascist Italy on 30 September 1938.

In May of the same year, England’s national soccer team had travelled to Berlin to play a friendly against Germany. As both teams lined up for the usual pre-match rituals, the England players, under instruction from the UK Foreign Office, gave a Nazi salute. England won the match, but Hitler won something far more important: cultural and sporting recognition of the barbarous master race ideology that was to lead to the death of tens of millions across Europe and beyond over the succeeding decade.

That Putin is not Hitler and Russia is not Nazi Germany goes without saying. What remains in doubt is whether Boris Johnson and his ilk are dangerous clowns or fanatical ideologues in whose eyes Russia can only exist as a vanquished enemy or a deadly enemy that needs to be vanquished.

While such people may have prospered in British political life in 1818, in 2018 they have no business occupying positions of responsibility and leadership in frontline politics within a country that wishes to be taken seriously.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

After new Novichok revelations, it’s time for UK to come clean: They’re lying – By Moon of Alabama (SOTT)

theresa may skripal

A week ago we asked if ‘Novichok’ poisons are real. The answer is now in: It is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Several Russian scientist now say that they once researched and developed lethal poisons but they assert that other countries can and have copied these. ‘Novichok’, they say, is a just western propaganda invention. They see the British accusations as a cynical plot against Russia. The people who push the ‘Novichok’ accusations have political and commercial interests.


Maria Zakharova, spokeswomen of the Russian Foreign Ministry: “‘Novichok’ has never been used
in the USSR or in Russia as something related to the chemical weapon research”

The British Prime Minister Theresa May insinuated that the British-Russian double agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who collapsed on March 4 on a public bench in Salisbury, were affected by a ‘Russian’ nerve agent:

It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. It is part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok.

Theresa May’s claims are highly questionable.

A highly potent nerve agent would hurt anyone who comes in contact with it. But the BBC reported that a doctor who administered first aid to the collapsed Yulia Skripal for 30 minutes was not affected at all. Another doctor, Steven Davies who heads the emergence room of the Salisbury District Hospital, wrote in a letter the London Times:

“… no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only been ever been three patients with significant poisoning.”

Comment: Not only were several no affected by the alleged poison; the police officer has now been released from hospital

Policeman Nick Bailey has been discharged from hospital after being exposed to the same military-grade nerve agent used in the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury earlier this month.

The Detective Sergeant had been treated at the Salisbury District Hospital since the attack took place on March 4. The Wiltshire police officer was initially in a critical condition, but was able to sit up within days and talk to his family and nursing staff.

Earlier on Thursday a judge gave the green light for doctors to take blood samples of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia so they can be tested by chemical weapons experts. He added it is unknown whether the duo will “regain mental capacity.”

The court heard the mental capacity of the duo may be compromised to “an unknown and unascertained” degree, and that is it is not possible to know the extent to which they will recover.

It comes as it emerged that a second police officer investigating the Salisbury nerve agent attack was treated in hospital over suspected poisoning. He is said to have come into contact with an object that possibly had “secondary contamination”. The PC reported minor symptoms such as skin irritation.

A source told the Daily Mail: “He is receiving treatment at Salisbury General Hospital as an outpatient as his symptoms are not serious enough to warrant him being kept in.”

The name ‘Novichok’ comes from a book written by Vil Mirzanyanov, a 1990s immigrant to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union. It describes his work at Soviet chemical weapon laboratories and lists the chemical formulas of a new group of lethal substances.

AFP interviewed the author of the ‘Novichok’ book about the Salisbury incident:

Mirzayanov, speaking at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, said he is convinced Russia carried it out as a way of intimidating opponents of President Vladimir Putin.

The only other possibility, he said, would be that someone used the formulas in his book to make such a weapon.

“Russia did it”, says Mirzanyanov, “OR SOMEONE WHO READ MY BOOK”.

A ‘Novichok’ nerve agent plays a role in the current season of the British-American spy drama Strike Back which broadcasts on British TV. Theresa May might have watched this clip (vid) from the series. Is it a source of her allegations?

The Russian government rejects the British allegations and demands evidence which Britain has not provided. Russia joined the Chemical Weapon Convention in 1997. By 2017 it had destroyed all its chemical weapons and chemical weapon production facilities. Under the convention only very limited amounts of chemical weapon agents are allowed to be held in certified laboratories for defense research and testing purposes. The U.S. has such laboratories at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, the British lab is in Porton Down, a few miles from Salisbury. The Russian lab is in Shikhany in the southern Saratov Oblast. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) audits these laboratories and their declared stocks “down to the milligram level”.

The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry and famous high heels folk dancer (vid) Maria Zakharova explains in a TV interview (vid, English subtitles) that ‘Novichok’ was not and is not the name of any Soviet or Russian program. The word was introduced in the “west” simply because it sounded Russian.

Western media claimed that Vil Miranzayanov is the developer of the ‘Novichok’ chemicals. It turns out that this is not the case. Interviews with two retired Russian chemists, both published only yesterday, tell the real story. The Russia news agency RIA Novostni talked with Professor Leonid Rink (machine translation):

Did you have anything to do with creating what the British authorities call the “Novice”?

– Yes. This was the basis of my doctoral dissertation.

At that time I worked in Shikhany, in the branch of GosNIIOKhT (State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, during Soviet times was engaged in the development of chemical weapons), was a leading researcher and head of the laboratory.

Professor Rink says that:

  • ‘Novichok’ or ‘novice’ was never used as a program name. New Soviet formulas had alphanumeric codes.
  • Several new nerve agents were developed in Shikhany in the 1970s and 80s.
  • These new substances can cause immediate deadly reactions when applied to humans.
  • Vil Mirzayanov was head of the chromatographer group, chemists who deals with the separation and analysis of various mixtures of substances. He was responsible for environmental control and not a developer of any new substances.

The Associated Press summarizes other parts of the interview with Professor Rink:

Rink told Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency Tuesday that Britain and other western nations easily could have synthesized the nerve agent after chemical expert Vil Mirzayanov emigrated to the United States and revealed the formula.

Echoing Russian government statements, Rink says it wouldn’t make sense for Moscow to poison Sergei Skripal, a military intelligence officer who spied for Britain, because he was a used asset “drained” by both Russia and Britain.

He claims Britain’s use of the name Novichok for the nerve agent is intended to convince the public that Russia is to blame.

The English-Russian magazine The Bell interviews another Russian scientist involved in the issue:

The Bell was able to find and speak with Vladimir Uglev, one of the scientists who was involved in developing the nerve agent referred to as “Novichok”. […] Vladimir Uglev, formerly a scientist with Volsk branch of GOSNIIOKHT (“State Scientific-Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology”), which developed and tested production of new lethal substances since 1972, spoke for the first time about his work as early as the 1990s. He left the institute in 1994 and is now retired.

– The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists that there was no research nor development of any substance called “Novichok”, not in Russia, nor in the USSR. Is that true?

– In order to make it easier to understand the subject matter, I will not use the name “Novichok” which has is now commonly used by everyone to describe those four substances which were conditionally assigned to me to develop over a period of several years. Three of these substances are part of the “Foliant” program, which was led by Pyotr Kirpichev, a scientist with GOSNIIOKHT (State Scientific-Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology). The first substance of a new class of organophosphorous chemical agents, I will call it “A-1972”, was developed by Kirpichev in 1972. In 1976, I developed two substances: “B-1976” and “C-1976”. The fourth substance, “D-1980”, was developed by Kirpichev in the early 1980s. All of these substances fall under the group referred to as “Novichkov”, but that name wasn’t given to the substances by GOSNIIOKHT.

All four chemical agents are “FOS” or organophosphorous compounds which have a nerve paralyzing effect, but they differ in their precursors, how they were discovered and in their usage as agents of chemical warfare.

The four substances were developed by Pyotr Kirpichev and Vladimir Uglev. These substances were not readily usable by the military as they could not be safely transported and used in the field like binary chemical weapons can. Once synthesized they were extremely dangerous. Professor Leonid Rink, working later in a different group, tackled the problem but did not succeed. Uglev confirms that Vil Miranzayanov was not involved in the development at all. His group was responsible for chemical analysis and for environmental control around the laboratory.

Vladimir Uglev

© The Bell
Vladimir Uglev

Vladimir Uglev, like Renk and Miranzayanov, notes that these agents “of a type developed by Russia” can now be produced by any sufficiently equipped laboratory, including private ones.

Uglev mentions a criminal use of one of the agents in the 1990s:

One of these substances was used to poison the banker, Ivan Kivelidi and his secretary in 1995. A cotton ball, soaked in this agent, was rubbed over the microphone in the handset of Kivelidi’s telephone. That specific dose was developed by my group, where we produced all of the chemical agents, and each dose which we developed was given its own complete physical-chemical passport. It was therefore not difficult to determine who had prepared that dose and when it was developed. Naturally, the investigators also suspected me. I was questioned several times about this incident.

Journalist Mark Ames, who worked in Moscow at that time, remarks:

This muddles the narrative a bit – “novichok” used in 1995 Moscow mafia poison hit on top mobster Ivan Kivelidi. So:
1) novichok [is] in mob hands too
2) used during reign of #1 Mobfather Boris Yeltsin, Washington’s vassal

Uglev further notes that blood samples from the Salisbury victims, which Moscow demands but Britain has not handed over, can show what agent (if any) were involved and “where the specific dose was produced and by whom.”

A new article in the New Scientists confirms the claims by the Russian scientists that the ‘Novichok’ agents which may have affected the Skripals may have been produced elsewhere:

Weapons experts have told New Scientist that a number of countries legally created small amounts of Novichok after it was revealed in 1992 and a production method was later published.

In 2016 Iranian scientists, in cooperation with the OPCW, published production and detection methods for such agents. It is likely that the various government labs secretly re-developed and produced these chemicals for their own purposes even prior to the Iranian publication.

[UPDATE] In an interview with Deutsche Welle British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson admits that Porton Down had (illegal?) ‘Novichok’ agents when the incident in Salisbury happened:

DW: You argue that the source of this nerve agent, Novichok, is Russia. How did you manage to find it out so quickly? Does Britain possess samples of it?

Boris Johnson: Let me be clear with you … When I look at the evidence, I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory …

DW: So they have the samples …

Boris Johnson: They do. And they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, “Are you sure?” And he said there’s no doubt.

But Porton Down did not agree with the British government to claim that the supposed nerve agent was “made by Russia.” It only agreed to the compromise formulation “of a type developed by Russia” i.e. it could have been made anywhere. [End Update]

The claims by the British government that a. the Skripals were affected by a nerve agent and that b. Russia was involved in the Skripal incident because it has some exclusive access to these agents seem both baseless. Unless there is significant further evidence the British incrimination of Russia looks like a cynical plot invented for political and/or commercial purposes.

As usual in the military-industrial complex the people who push such scares, are the ones who profit from them.

The British Morning Star points to one former British military intelligence officer, Colonel (rtd) Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, as a common protagonist in the Skripal case, in the claims of Syrian chemical weapon use and in commercial interests around chemical weapon defense:

Quoted daily by multiple media outlets on the Skripal case, de Bretton-Gordon has become a very public expert, relied upon for unbiased comment and analysis by the British and foreign media on chemical weapon threats from Salisbury to Syria.

He is a former assistant director of Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Land Forces with the Ministry of Defence. Before that de Bretton-Gordon was commanding officer of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment and Nato’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion.

While his CBRN background is often mentioned, his military intelligence links are rarely referred to publicly.

Long before the Salisbury event, de Bretton-Gordon was urging greater government expenditure on chemical protection counter-measures and equipment.

de Bretton-Gordon is managing director CBRN of Avon Protection Systems, based in Melksham, Wiltshire.

In 2017, the company made £50m from its US military contracts and a further £63.3m from other “protection and defence” revenue.

The former(?) army intelligence officer is also deeply involved in the “moderate rebels” chemical weapon scams in Syria:

On April 29 2014, the [Daily Telegraph] reported that it “obtained soil samples collected from sites of chemical attacks inside Syria by Dr Ahmad – a medic whose real identity cannot be revealed for his own protection – who had previously received training in sample collection by western chemical weapons experts.

“Mr de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert and director of Secure Bio, a private company, was one of the trainers.”

And who carried out the tests? None other than de Bretton-Gordon himself.

The “White Helmets” propaganda group in Syria was founded and is run by the former(?) British army intelligence officer James Le Mesurier with British and U.S. government money. His former(?) colleague de Bretton-Gordon is running the parallel Syria chemical weapon scam. Both profit from their government financed operations.

Other British agents involved in the Skripal case are Pablo Miller who recruited Skripal for the MI6. He was a friend of Skripal, also lived in Salisbury and worked for Christopher Steele, the former(?) MI6 agent who produced the ‘dirty dossier’ about Donald Trump for the Clinton campaign. Both are involved with Russian mafia emigres in Britain like Boris Berezovski and the deceased Alexander Litvinenko whose father says that he was killed by an MI6 or CIA guy.

While the British government blamed the Russians just a week after the incident in Salisbury happened it now seems interested in delaying any further investigations. It took more than two weeks after the incident for the British government to invite the OPCW to help with the case. The head of the OPCW says it will take another three weeks for the organization to analyze the samples the British laboratory now handed over. The British police requires several months to find out what happened to the Skripals.

How could the British government be sure of “Russian” involvement within a week and even expel Russian diplomats when the primary chemical experts on the issue will need three weeks for their first analyses and the British police predicts a several months long investigation?

The Russian scientist and their government have explained their history and position in relation to ‘Novichoks’ and the Skripal incident. It is high time now for the British government, its scientists at Porton Down and its greedy mafia of former(?) British intelligence officer and their criminal Russian emigres to come clean about their own roles in it.

Previous Moon of Alabama reports on the Skripal case:

Comment: The Russian Foreign Ministry’s official statement on the case is well worth reading. Here’s an extract:

We would like to ascertain the following issues.

Where, how, and by whom were the samples collected from Sergei and Yulia Skripal? How was it all documented? Who can certify that the data is credible? Was the chain of custody up to all the OPCW requirements when evidence was collected?

Which methods (spectral analysis and others) were used by the British side to identify, within such a remarkably short period of time, the type of the substance used (“Novichok” according to the western classification)? As far as we know, to do that, they must have had a standard sample of such agent at their disposal.

And how do these hasty actions correlate with Scotland Yard’s official statements that “the investigation is highly likely to take weeks or even months” to arrive at conclusions?

What information and medical effects led to a hasty decision to administer antidotes to the aggrieved Skripals and the British policeman? Could that hastiness lead to grave complications and further deterioration of their health status?

Which antidotes exactly were administered? What tests had been conducted to make the decision to use these drugs?

How can the delayed action of the nerve agent be explained, given that it is a fast-acting substance by nature? The victims were allegedly poisoned in a pizzeria (in a car, at the airport, at home, according to other accounts). So what really happened? How come they were found in some unidentified time on a bench in the street?

We need an explanation why it is Russia who was accused on the ‘Skripal case’ without any grounds whatsoever, while works to develop the agent codenamed “Novichok” in the West had been carried out by the United Kingdom, the USA, Sweden and the Czech Republic. There are more than 200 open sources publications in the NATO countries, highlighting the results that those countries achieved in the development of new toxic agents of this type.

Moscow has turned the tables on the UK with their own “heads I win tails you lose” option of impossible choices:

Logic suggests two possible variants. Either the British authorities are unable to ensure protection against such terrorist attacks on their territory, or they were directly or indirectly involved in the preparation of this attack on a Russian citizen. There is no other alternative.


Syrian War Report – March 21, 2018: Three Chemical Weapons Attacks Are Prevented – THE SAKER


Three attempts by militants to use chemical weapons in Syria were prevented last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on March 20.

“Despite attempts by militants to disrupt peace initiatives in East Ghouta, we are negotiating with the leaders of the armed groups in order to stop fighting and prevent a humanitarian disaster,“ Shoigu said adding that a humanitarian operation in the area is ongoing.

The Defense Minister also drew attention to the increased activity of the US-led coalition and attempts by militants to stage provocations.

On the same day, the notorious pro-militant PR organization, the White Helmets, claimed that 59 civilians had been killed in Syrian airstrikes on the militant-held areas of Harasta and Douma in East Ghouta. According to the organization, at least 150 civilians have been killed in East Ghouta over the last five days.

Over the past month, the White Helmets have repeatedly claimed that government forces have conducted chemical attacks on the militant-held area. However, no reliable evidence has been provided to confirm these claims.

According to the Russian military, about 6,000 civilians left the militant-held part of East Ghouta on March 20. In total, since the introduction of the daily humanitarian pause, up to 80,000 people have been evacuated.

Government forces had been conducting a slow build-up east of the Euphrates River, near the area where US troops were deployed, US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, told CNN on March 20. He claimed that the coalition is keeping a close eye on the development and is ready to defend itself.

Over the past few weeks, mainstream media outlets have released multiple speculations that Syrian government forces, assisted by alleged Russia-linked private military contractors, are preparing to attack positions of the US-led coalition’s forces.

These reports echo the US PR campaign in February 2018 when the MSM was claiming that “hundreds” of alleged Russia-linked private military contractors were killed in the US strikes on government forces positions in the province of Deir Ezzor. Since then, the MSM has been methodically fueling rumors about a possible open confrontation in the Euphrates Valley.

More than 5,000 civilians leave Eastern Ghouta as militants begin withdrawal – By RT

More than 5,000 civilians leave Eastern Ghouta as militants begin withdrawal
Over 5,000 civilians have left Eastern Ghouta through humanitarian corridors on Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. The militants also reportedly began withdrawing from the area, as part of a deal with the Syrian government.

“Starting from the early hours of March 22, more than 5000 civilians have come out through the checkpoints in Eastern Ghouta,” Russia’s Reconciliation Center in Syria said, adding that the evacuation of the population from the terrorist-held areas continues. Those fleeing the Damascus suburb, which recently became the new hotspot of the Syrian conflict, were provided with hot food, water and sleeping accessories by the Russian troops, it added. 

Earlier, the Reconciliation Center head, Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko, said that a total of 86,000 people have used the Russia-brokered humanitarian corridors to leave the besieged Eastern Ghouta since late February. 

A withdrawal deal has been reached between the Syrian government and the Ahrar al-Sham group on Wednsday, SANA news agency reported. The militants agreed to abandon the town of Harasta in Eastern Ghouta in exchange for unhindered passage to the northern province of Idlib.

The deal also included Ahrar al-Sham sharing the map of their underground tunnels, and the burial sites of Syrian troops, with the government. It’s planned that a total of 1,500 fighters and 6,000 civilians will be evacuated as part of the accord.

SANA also said that 13 people, who were held captive by the militants, have been freed early on Thursday. Reports in other media claimed that those released were Syrian troops that were swapped for five Ahrar al-Sham fighters. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) says some 1,300 people, among them militants, have already left the city.

READ MORE: ‘They know that we know they are liars, they keep lying’: West’s war propaganda on Ghouta crescendos

Ahrar al-Sham remains one of the largest armed groups fighting the Syrian government as it controls a vast area in the Idlib Province and has more than 16,000 fighters among its ranks. Despite the capitulation of Ahrar al-Sham in the face of the advancing Syrian forces, the two other major groups in Eastern Ghouta – Jaysh al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman – have turned down the withdrawal deals and vowed to continue fighting till the end.

However, Faylaq al-Rahman said late on Thursday that the UN has mediated a ceasefire for the area under the group’s control, starting from midnight (2200 GMT).

READ MORE: 37 killed, dozens injured in militant shelling of Eastern Ghouta market (VIDEO)

The militants shelled Damascus again on Thursday, firing 16 rockets at residential areas of the Syrian capital, killing four people and injuring 13 others.

On Tuesday, at least 37 people were killed and dozens wounded after terrorists carried out a missile strike on Jaramana town in Eastern Ghouta, in violation of the humanitarian pause, and hit a crowded market.

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Saudi Arabia is conducting a “charm offensive” in the United States through its princeps principii, Muhammad bin Salmaan, the Saudi king’s upstart son.  Like Kim Jong Un, he is spreading the smiles and firm handshakes in an effort to win over the people of the U.S. who are, frankly, despondent over their government’s continued alliance with a country that still practices the most virulent forms of sexism, racism, homophobia and religious intolerance. But, thanks to MBS, as he is conveniently known, all that is coming to an end.  Yeah, sure.

MBS has declared women to be equal under the law to men!  He has ordered the establishment of driving schools to prepare women for the privilege of handling a moving car.  He has defied the best advice of his Council of Clerics who reject his willingness to permit women to go where they please, even though when seen on trips to Europe or North America, they conduct themselves like unapologetic hussies.  MBS has managed, however, to assuage any hurt feelings by assuring the Council that with the advent of driver-less cars, women will still not be able to actually drive themselves anywhere since the cars will be programmed to take them only to their mothers’ homes or to a PTA meeting.  (It is evident MBS did not learn about the woman who was run over and killed by a driver-less automobile a few days ago in Arizona – an event that only proves the technology is still 10 years away.)

Dr. Assad, who is not on any charm offensive, visited Syrian Army units inside the East Ghouta where Muhammad ‘Alloosh is, reportedly, planning to abandon the Jaysh Al-Islam, which was founded by his very dead brother, Zahraan ‘Alloosh, and to move to Saudi Arabia and link up with his Wahhaabist father.  Based on information gleaned from sources inside the Jaysh Al-Islam, the Saudis rejected his offer to return to the holy sands of Arabia in the same way they rejected ‘Abdullah Al-Muhaysini’s urgent request for repatriation.  The Saudis, it is suspected, wanted their main barbarians to remain as a fixture of the Syrian conflict so as not to dilute its effectiveness with desertions.  It was bad enough that the Syrian Army killed over 3,300 terrorist rodents during the East Ghouta campaign.  To lose a upper-tier commander as incompetent as ‘Alloosh would be disaster.

This is why ‘Alloosh declared his intent to remain in place defying the Syrian government’s efforts to relocate him to Idlib where he could lock horns with the obese ogre from Saudi Arabia.  According to Monzer, ‘Alloosh made his declaration through his spokes-rodent only after he got the message the Saudis did not want him back.  Monzer suspects that ‘Alloosh might try his luck in Jordan.

The East Ghouta is now almost completely in the hands of the Syrian government.  Make-shift camps are going up all over the perimeter of the area where escaping citizens, mostly peasants involved in agriculture, are receiving the care and concern they were denied all throughout the reign of terror imposed on them by the Saudi-financed savages who once dominated them.  Horror stories about the excesses of Wahhaabist terrorists are going to become the fodder of Vanessa Bealey who has made a brilliant case, time after time, against the so-called White Helmets who terrorized the population in the Ghouta by participating in executions and deliberate mass deprivations.

While all this is going on, Ziad’s predictions that the Syrian government would not sit idly by as American troops continued their illegal occupation of Syrian land using the canard of fighting ISIS are becoming very true.  The fact of the matter is the U.S. is trying to fracture Syria according to a plan designed by the Zionist squatters in Tel Aviv.  By empowering the Kurds in the northeast, it is Washington’s intent to give the envisioned new Kurdish state the economic ability to survive by seizing the oil fields of Dayr El-Zor.  Needless to say, Damascus is aware of all these maneuverings, and is sending in reinforcements to the East side of the Euphrates along with anti-aircraft missiles to challenge the doomed American plans.

Just in, the Russian delegation to the Syrian deescalation program and the Reconciliation Committee headed by Dr. Ali Haydar, have arrive at a modus vivendi with Ahraar Al-Shaam which will see them leave all Harastaa to the government.  Many have chosen to relocate to Idlib while others have successfully negotiated an Amnesty program.  Whatever the case, it appears that Harastaa is now louse-free.  Jaysh Al-Islam will probably follow suit now that one of its main allies is abandoning the sinking ship which is East Ghoutaa.








Chris sent me this pungent discussion by Father Nathanaiel of Megan Kelly’s notoriously ridiculous interview with Vlad:

Brandon Turbeville sends this article about the CW lab discovered by the SAA in the East Ghouta:


Another one from Brandon about terrorists preventing civilians from leaving:


Paul Antonopoulos sends this FortRuss tape from Syria’s Ikhbaariyya about the liberation of Kafr Batna:


Sharmine Narwani for RT puts an end to the mythology of CW in the hands of terrorist cannibals with her discovery:


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