The Skripal case & the perils of a rush to judgment

by James O’Neill

amended to remove reference to the Spiez laboratory, which is not mentioned directly in the OPCW summary

The perils of coming to premature conclusions before all the facts are available has been starkly demonstrated by the latest developments in the alleged nerve gas attack upon the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury on 4 March 2018.
Followers of this particular saga will be aware that British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have made a series of statements to the United Kingdom House of Commons and to the media. They alleged, without qualification, that the Skripals were poisoned with a nerve agent of the “Novichok” class, of a type “developed by Russia.”
That these statements were made before it was possible for the British chemical and biological research facility at Porton Down to have made an analysis and reached a scientifically valid conclusion did not matter. The object of the exercise was to demonize Russia in general and its President Mr Putin in particular.
As serious questions about the United Kingdom’s version of events were increasingly raised, the government’s explanations changed, along with increasingly bizarre allegations. The one common denominator to all of these “explanations” was that they were devoid of that troublesome substance known as “evidence.”
Very belatedly, and contrary to their obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the United Kingdom made a request to the OPCW to conduct an independent investigation. While this investigation was ongoing, the propaganda continued unabated. One aspect of that was the United Kingdom persuading a number of its NATO and EU allies, plus Australia to expel Russian diplomats.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued a media release on 27 March that blamed the Skripal attack upon Russia, relying on

advice from the United Kingdom government that the substance used on 4 March was a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia……….. The attack is part of a pattern of reckless and deliberate conduct by the Russian state that constitutes a growing threat to international security, global non-proliferation rules against the use of chemical weapons, the rights of other sovereign nations and the international rules based order that underpins them.

Russia’s denials of culpability were disregarded.
The OPCW has now issued its report dated 12th April 2018. At the time of writing (15 April) there has been no mention of this report, much less its implications, in the Australian mainstream media. The report is in two versions. The first part, headed Note by the Technical Secretariat was released for public use. The second and more detailed version was released to all nations who were parties to the CWC, which includes Australia.
Even the two page summary report contains valuable information. The first revelation is that the samples collected by the OPCW technical team that went to the United Kingdom on 21 March 2018 (17 days after the attack on the Skripals) were of a “high purity.”
The alleged significance of this is that it could only have been produced in a very sophisticated laboratory, which almost certainly rules out any resources other than those of an advanced nation state.
The second point is that a “pure toxin” is not a “military grade nerve agent.” This latter phrase is one used by the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary and repeated in Foreign Minister Bishop’s media release. The suggestion to the contrary by Gary Aitkenhead, the CEO of Porton Down, was therefore misleading. Mr Aitkenhead is not a scientist and may not have known better, but he was relying on a statement prepared for him. The Porton Down scientists certainly knew better.
Thirdly, the OPCW summary notes that there were no additives to the substance, which would have been necessary had the substance been applied to the Skripal’s front door handle. That particular version was seriously advanced by Boris Johnson who also claimed to have evidence that Russia had been training its agents for several years in how to apply nerve agents to door handles!
Perhaps needless to add, like most of Mr Johnson’s pronouncements on this topic, this was bereft of evidence and logic, let alone scientific validity.
One of the two most important points in the OPCW summary is that the environmental samples collected by the OPCW technical team were of “high purity” and demonstrated “the almost complete absence of the impurities.” This is literally impossible if the samples related to the time when the OPCW technical team was in the United Kingdom for that purpose. Of the various nerve agents in existence, the most durable is VX, which has a durability of 2 to 3 days, not the three weeks between the attack and the collection of the samples.
The irresistible conclusion is that the places where the samples were taken had evidence planted immediately (within a few hours at most) prior to the OPCW technical team’s arrival at the locations from where the samples were collected. It defies common sense and logic to suggest that the Russians were responsible for the planting of such fake evidence. The most logical candidate is the United Kingdom government or someone acting on their behalf.
That finding alone destroys the argument of the United Kingdom government and its acolytes in the Australian government and media. There was however, a further fatal blow to the UK government’s claims. As noted, the full OPCW report was made available to all governments who were signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
There is no prohibition on any of those governments from publishing the full report or parts thereof. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has released what he claims is another key finding of the report. That is, that the agent used on the Skripals was in fact a substance known as BZ (3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate). BZ is an hallucinogenic incapacitating chemical warfare agent. It afflicts both the peripheral and central nervous systems.
The signs of its use are disorientation, tremors, ataxia, stupor and coma. It is administered by and aerosol spray. These symptoms accord with the descriptions given by eyewitnesses and Salisbury Hospital as to the Skripal’s medical conditions. BZ is not produced in Russia. It is an agent that is used by the United Kingdom and the United States.
When one puts together the now known nature of the substance, its means of delivery and the symptoms that its victims exhibit, it is a further compelling inference that they were “sprayed” at some point between leaving Zizzi’s restaurant and moving to the park bench.
Given the ubiquitousness of CCTV cameras in the vicinity it should be possible to identify the actual perpetrator. One might draw further negative inferences about the UK government and the Police investigation from the fact that no details of the Skripal’s movements at this time have been released.
The British, Australian and other governments who rushed to judgement have a dilemma. Do they attempt to rebut the information that Mr Lavrov released? To try and do so would serve to highlight the revelations and any denials would be easily rebutted by the release of the full report.
On the other hand, ignoring this new evidence inevitably raises further questions about the veracity of the government’s version of events. The details outlined briefly above have already been widely disseminated on the alternative media and at least some British mainstream outlets.
The option that appears to have been taken thus far by the Australian media is to ignore Mr Lavrov’s revelations. Bishop and Turnbull, so recently and frequently condemnatory of alleged chemical warfare misbehaviour by Russia are now completely silent.
Their rush to judgement has now been exposed for the empty propaganda that it was. It is probably too much to expect an apology and a withdrawal of their false claims. Such an apology seems the very least they can do in the light of the actual evidence revealed by the investigation which stands in such stark contrast to the hyperbole and falsehoods perpetrated by the British government and their acolytes.

James O’Neill is a Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted it joneill@qldbar.asn.au

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jazthings656986293
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he isn’t a “russian double agent”, he’s a russian who was an english double agent! and this in the time when they were all (apparently!) pals!

John Marks
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John Marks

Where is Julia?

David Macilwain
Reader

There is a vital development today. The head of the laboratory – Spiez presumably, but they can’t say.. – says that BZ – they call it 3Q – was present in the sample because it was the control for the test. This is such a preposterous lie that it reveals both the extreme pressure the OPCW is under as well as its endemic corruption. Because BZ is quite distantly related to A234/novichock, the idea that it could be used as a control in mass spectroscopy tests is nonsense. Neither the substance itself nor its breakdown products could possibly be used… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
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Mulga Mumblebrain

James, it must have made you proud to be an Austfailian to see our Foreign Minister, that scrawny monument to self-denial and anorexia, joining the most lunatic Imperial boot-lickers, and arguing for a change to the UNSC to remove Russia’s veto. The hag has NO problems with US vetoes to protect Israeli mass murder of unarmed civilians, of course, and probably sees China’s veto as redundant, too. Have we ever had a more malign, socially vicious and deranged regime than that of Abbott and his ventriloquist dummy, Turnbull? They just keeping getting worse, generation after generation.

IanC
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IanC

I am entirely sold on this argument, but it’s not me that has to be convinced. The summary contains several paragraphs, which, if read together suggest the following: This statement The team was briefed on the identity of the toxic chemical identified by the United Kingdom and was able to review analytical results and data from chemical analysis of biomedical [and] environmental samples means the labs knew what to look for (results and data from Porton Down), because they were told (look at the task allocated to the technical secretariat – they were to confirm, not identify from scratch). This… Read more »

Tish Farrell
Reader

Yet despite the doubts raised, Boris Johnson still claimed on the 12th that OPCW reports confirms the use of Novichok – and it’s the big Guardian headline saying as much that people believe: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/12/novichok-used-in-spy-poisoning-chemical-weapons-watchdog-confirms-salisbury Now we have the mass media mouthing off about Russia hacking. Frankly, as a rational person, I am finding the almost seamless, relentless onslaught of this neocon propaganda terrifying. People trust newspapers like the Guardian. Proffer any doubts as to their content, and you’re labelled a conspiracy theorist and worse. We’ve been dropped into an appalling regime change scenario for every nation that doesn’t suit US/UK… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
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Mulga Mumblebrain

Yet, I see that the hysterians are to close off parts of Salisbury, for NINE MONTHS, this toxin is so deadly. Why there is even a ‘trail’ of ‘poison’ from the door-knob to the park bench. Shades of the Litvinenko frame-up. Yet NO-ONE has sicked or been affected in any way, yet-NINE MONTHS. Anyone with an IQ over room temperature (Celsius) must be not just outraged at such histrionic balderdash, but sickened. These psychopaths have gone raving mad. I wonder if Putin is spiking the water at Westminster.

Tish Farrell
Reader

You get a good view of the lunatic view versus the polite responses of Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov, who as one point in his interview with Stephen Sakur describes it as an Alice in Wonderland scenario – final scene: the Queen of Hearts screaming punishment first, jury verdict later

rtj1211
Reader
rtj1211

If you read BTL comment at the Guardian pre moderation, you will see they have completely lost trust of those readers bothered enough to comment. It was the same at the DT and the Spectator. The bullshit line is failing to hold…..
People are increasingly seeking alternatives sources and many are springing up. There is not a one-stop-shop yet, but that will come.
With blogs not corporate in nature, news can remain news.

Tish Farrell
Reader

Thanks for that thought. I suppose I fear that the dissenters are too few compared with the go-alongers.

John Gilberts
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John Gilberts

G7 Backs UK on Skripal – This is most likely an initiative by Canada’s Russia-hating FM Chrystia Freeland:
G7 Foreign Ministers Statement
https://www.canada.ca/en/global-affairs/news/2018/04/g7-foreign-ministers-statement.html
“The G7 is committed to protecting and promoting the rules-based international system. We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom…

Mulga Mumblebrain
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Mulga Mumblebrain

Western moral values at their finest-an hereditary Ukrainian Nazi and FANATIC Russophobe leading moggy-whipped Fidelito Trudeau by his appurtenances.

rtj1211
Reader
rtj1211

This should: ‘we the Ministers’…..I am sure they do stand in solidarity. That does mean their opinion is widely held….

rtj1211
Reader
rtj1211

This should read: ‘we the Ministers’…..I am sure they do stand in solidarity. That does NOT mean their opinion is widely held….

FobosDeos
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FobosDeos

I don’t understand why Mr O’Neill is amending his article and deleting any references to the Spiez lab. The Swiss laboratory has just issued a statement saying that they cannot confirm or deny any of Mr. Lavrov’s statements last Saturday. Spiez says that everything about its relationship with the OPCW is hush hush ultra-secret, but: (a) we must assume that the Russian Foreign Minister would not be so dumb as to blatantly lie abut something like this; that out of the blue he would just happen to invent that Spiez is indeed one of the labs to which the OPCW… Read more »

FobosDeos
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FobosDeos

This is the link to the “non denial” by Spiez
https://www.rt.com/news/424278-opcw-spiez-lab-сomment/

Change corrupt Government and end war
Reader
Change corrupt Government and end war

It is laughable to talk about the veracity of information given accusations have been thrown about and attacks have been launched on a sovereign nation without evidence or the UN and there is a desire to create some never ending cold war. The media has been complicit in publishing material without evidence despite the farce and terrible consequences of the lies about the Iraq war. The Government has proven to be wholly unreliable and their actions to bomb a sovereign nation without the UN is not only reasonable but criminal. There should be a full independent investigation on who is… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

In a crumbling state like the UK, where poverty, inequality and elite wealth are all growing like topsy, where regime social savagery is unprecedented and merciless, where political ‘legitimacy’ is virtually zero given the corruption of the courts, the villainous perfidy, hypocrisy and mendacity of the media brainwashing apparatus, and the habitual lying and immoral plotting of the ruling Tories and their allies, including the Jewish elites and their filthy campaign of false accusations of ‘antisemitism’, the rulers need external enemies. The enemy is always at the gate, even if it is the gate to HIS house. The enemy has… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

In accordance with the house rules, could you insert ‘Zionist’ in place of ‘Jewish’ in the above diatribe. While you may.

archie1954
Reader

The UK and US mainstream news sources are completely untrustworthy. They are just mouthpieces for complicit and disreputable governments. Nothing either the MSM or the governments say is believable. Everyone has to do a little internet surfing to figure out for themselves which version of an story is the closest to the truth. So far no one believes government propaganda for very good reason.

Kaiama
Reader
Kaiama

Lavrov claims to have an original of the Spiez lab report sent to the OPCW. The lab report mentions both BZ and high purity novichok which were detected in samples taken 2-3 weeks after the event. The OPCW left out the BZ from its own OPCW report. Given that novichok doesn’t survive that length of time without degrading the inference is that it was planted just before the samples were taken. BZ incapacitates, acts quickly, is temporary and is not intended to kill, and was degraded so we are told, then that would make BZ the weapon and therefore not… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

The OPCW has been controlled, like ALL International organs, by the US and the West, for many years. Relying on the OPCW for the truth is madness. They will EVER embarrass The Empire-their families’ lives depend on it, as John Bolton emphasised years ago, when the OPCW threatened to derail the rush to war against Iraq in 2002.

Jon Liddle
Reader
Jon Liddle

Lying by omission. The OPCW were only asked if a Novickok type agent had been found. Why, yes, of course, the nice fresh stuff.
Thank you OPCW – no further questions m’lud!
Guilty!

Harry Law
Reader
Harry Law

Kaiama. In a court of law, the defence need to see all the evidence, in this case exculpatory evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt. If Lavrov has this evidence it will be very revealing.

Kaiama
Reader
Kaiama

How many trials have we seen collapse because such evidence was with-held? A lot. I uderstand your point, but the reality is somewhat different. People lie if they think they can get away with it.

Harry Law
Reader
Harry Law

How did Lavrov get the data from the Swiss laboratory? Can the data and person providing/leaking it be proven? “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said citing data from the Swiss laboratory that the BZ toxin was used in the poisoning of the Skripals, adding that the chemical has been in the possession of the US and the UK, but has never been produced in Russia. Specialists from the laboratory finished examining the samples on March 27. “Based on the results of the examination, traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursors, related to chemical weapons of the second category… Read more »

Kaiama
Reader
Kaiama

This is now a matter for the OPCW to say why their report omits any mention of BZ. The credibility of the OPCW is under pressure. Spiez are responsible to the OPCW not Russia or the UK. The OPCW is responsible to its members – this is how Lavrov will attack first. The real target is now the OPCW, and only then the UK. Of course they are shitting bricks right now but they will hold on and try to delay everything until after the May local elections.

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

After allowing jihadist butchers in Syria to control the chain of evidence, the OPCW, headed by a Turkish ex-NATO flunkey, has ZERO credibility, but that has been true at least since John Bolton threatened them into compliance in 2002 when they dared assert the truth-that Iraq had destroyed all its chemical weapons.

PHILIP JAMES GRATWICK
Reader
PHILIP JAMES GRATWICK

Didn’t the UK court judgement for the taking of samples stipulate that nothing could be revealed other than what was already in the public domain ? That may be the reason.

jazza
Reader
jazza

Please let me fix something Theresa May stated in HoC today following her illegal bombing of a sovereign nature. She claimed she did the deed ‘in the interests of Britain’ when actually she meant she did the deed ‘in the best interests of herself’
Democracy in Britain is a sham and a nation with NO co-ordinated opposition will fall even further into the mire – Britain is a dictatorship – so all the ‘fuss’ about Skirpal and the chemical weapons theatreshow is just that, a sham

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

She did it in the interests of Israel, to be precise.

AntonyI
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AntonyI

Many Israelis won’t agree with the present anti Assad actions; It is Nethanyahoo and the Orthodox Jews inside Israel that do, apart from the main Saudi royals and Wahhabi clergy. Assad, the non Sunni running a secular government in their backyard, how dare he?

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

Of course not all Jews are bloodthirsty savages, like the Israeli and Diaspora elites are. However, the Israeli elites and the stand-over thugs of the hard Right Zionist ‘antisemitism’ industry do, explicitly, assert that all Jews think and act alike in total support for Israel, so ANY criticism of Israel is an attack on ALL Jews, everywhere, so is ‘antisemitism’. It’s a transparent and dirty lie, but anyone who dares point that out, will be assailed as an ‘antisemite’. There is an almost beautiful circularity to the narrative.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

Of course not all Jews are bloodthirsty savages I keep hearing about these fabled non-racist Jews. One occasionally encounters a few isolated individuals who seem to fit that description, at anti-war or anti-zio-apartheid demonstrations, or similar events. The impression you might gather from speaking to them is that they are highly non-representative of that community, and in fact quite marginalized and alienated from it, as tends to happen to people who are routinely slandered as “self-hating”. One wonders why they still bother to identify themselves as “Jewish”. The question is, then, if non-racist Jews actually exist in significant numbers (as… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

The preferred usage is ‘philo-semite’ as in ‘Lerve’. Many anti-Zionist Jews exist, many anti-racist Jews exist, and organisations like B’tselem and Gush Shalom do good work exposing Zionist perfidy. But the Zionist controlled Western fakestream media downplays their existence, pretending that all Jews are mini-Bibis, and inside Jewish communities speaking out against Israel’s crimes brings a heavy price of abuse, ostracism and even, as Norman Finkelstein has asserted was the case with Goldstone’s ghastly ‘recantation’ of his Report into Zionist butchery in Gaza (the other commissioners vociferously refused to endorse his recantation, but, being mere goyim, were ignored), straight blackmail… Read more »

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

Many anti-Zionist Jews exist, many anti-racist Jews exist, and organisations like B’tselem and Gush Shalom do good work exposing Zionist perfidy. It appears to me that all these people and organizations constitute less than a 5% minority, and probably less than a 1% minority, among self-identified “Jews”. If evidence to the contrary exists, I’d be interested to see it. inside Jewish communities speaking out against Israel’s crimes brings a heavy price of abuse, ostracism and even straight blackmail and threats. If the racists were only a 2/3 or 3/4 majority, they would be unable to exert this degree of coercion… Read more »

Admin
Reader

This is becoming frankly racist at this point. An irony that appears lost on you

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

Until somebody suggests a serious answer to this question — Among people who self-identify as ‘Jewish’, what proportion are supporters of the fascist terror state of Israel and its vile policies? — all such slurs are really quite idle, since they don’t address the real issues. But as I said above, the reason this question can never be answered, and those who even propose it routinely dismissed as “racists”, is because everybody pretty well knows what the range of plausible answers would be. And that would be the end of that game. Many people dislike scientologists, for their abusive and… Read more »

Captain Kemlo
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Captain Kemlo

That place has to be near the top of the list.

tomiejones
Reader

Reblogged this on circusbuoy.

Harry Law
Reader
Harry Law

I thought the Russian Government were going to release the full report. If it has such damning evidence in it, then it should be released and scientifically torn apart. or not.

grandstand
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grandstand

As you are aware HL (I see your comments on a number of sites and always find them intelligent and interesting), as a signatory to OPCW, Russia is bound to keep the full report confidential. And they don’t want to upset OPCW in advance of the Syrian investigation. Even now that investigation is, according to Australian ABC, being undermined (not their words) by the US delegate claiming that the Russians might have tampered with the site. Unlike the British who never touched the doorknob (‘onest, your ‘onour) and only took two weeks to get around to asking OPCW to investigate.

rtj1211
Reader
rtj1211

One of the most interesting questions to be answered here is this: ‘Was BZ the ‘toxic chemical’ that OPCW asked its accredited laboratories to confirm existed?’ The point here is that if the answer to that is ‘No, it was A-234 Novichok’, then the question arises as to how Spiez knew to look for it or was able to deduce its presence without knowing to look for it? I guess one could also ask if the other OPCW labs could confirm the BZ finding using whatever methodology was used in Spiez? The three obvious ultimate sources of such guidance might… Read more »

stevehayes13
Reader
stevehayes13

The corporate media’s coverage of the Skripal case has become more and more absurd, as they continually need to tell new lies to try to explain away previous lies. As the official narrative has fallen apart, they have resorted to “intelligence” and anonymous sources, which everyone is supposed to take on trust, and anyone who doesn’t is obviously a propagandist for Putin.
http://viewsandstories.blogspot.co.uk/2018/04/an-attack-on-international-law.html

mohandeer
Reader

Reblogged this on Worldtruth.

WJ
Reader
WJ

The U.K. is not going to admit to a criminal conspiracy perpetrated at the highest levels of its government. To do so would only undermine the public’s confidence in Our Democratic Institutions. This is just what Putin wants!
Mind the Knob everybody!

Mulga Mumblebrain
Reader
Mulga Mumblebrain

‘Never mind the width-feel the knob!’

Betrayed planet.
Reader
Betrayed planet.

What democratic institutions ?

summitflyer
Reader
summitflyer

The UK,US and all it’s Western counterparts don’t do apologies .They are proving themselves to be snakes .