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Shape-Shifting Analysis on Alleged Russian Poisoning

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[5]COMMENT: With charges of Russian chemical warfare atrocities filling the air, more measured analysis [6] on the Consortium News [7] site highlights deep flaws in the alleged Russian poisoning of retired spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter. 

Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray notes [6]:

  1. ” . . . . I find it remarkable that the very day this happened the British government was announcing that it was the Russian state that was behind this. They couldn’t possibly have had time to analyze any of the evidence. It is as though this is being used as a trigger to put prearranged anti-Russian measures into place and to “up” the Cold War rhetoric.  You can’t help get the feeling that they are rather pleased this has happened and were even expecting it to happen. . . .”
  2. ” . . . .The claim is that this is one of a group of nerve agents known as a Novichok.  The Novichok program was being run in the 1980’s by the Soviets. The idea was to develop chemical weapons which could be quickly put together from commercial pesticides and fertilizers.  They came up with a number of theoretical designs for such weapons. Until now, the official position of the British government and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was that there was doubt as to whether they actually produced any of these.  As of now, they haven’t been put on the banned list, precisely because the scientific community has doubted their existence. So the British government’s ability on day-one to identify this was quite remarkable. . . .”
  3. “ . . . . In order to take blood samples from the Skripals, who were both in a coma, doctors had to get court approval.  And in giving evidence to the High Court, two scientists stated that the Skripals had been poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent or a ‘closely related agent.’  It looks to many people like this may just be a silly amateur mixture of different insecticides. . . . . The British government has been telling us that this is ten times more powerful than a standard nerve agent.  Thankfully, so far, nobody has been killed. Why isn’t this deadly agent more effective? Why is it that the doctor who administered first aid to Yulia Skripal was completely unaffected, even though he had extensive physical contact with her? . . .”
  4. “ . . . . Our foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has gone on record as saying that the Russians have been secretly stockpiling this chemical weapon for a decade and have had a secret program of assassination techniques.  But if you were Vladimir Putin and you had this secret nerve agent, why would you blow your cover by using it on this retired spy who you released from prison years ago? The whole scenario is utterly implausible. Why would Russia wish to ruin its international reputation with this entirely gratuitous violence against an old spy?  Skripal was exchanged as part of a spy swap. If people are going to swap spies and then kill them, there won’t be any spy swaps in the future.  A KGB person like Putin is the last person who is going to destroy the system of spy swaps. . . .”
  5. “ . . . . It adds fuel to the new Cold War.  The armaments industry are the primary people who benefit.  This kind of thing is very good for defense budgets. It is very good news for the spies and security services.  Here in the UK the industry employs over 100,000 people. In a country of 60 million, this is a strong and very highly paid interest group.  All of these people are seeing a major ramping up of their budgets. When the people feeding-in the intelligence are the same people who are benefiting financially from that story, then you have to worry.  And particularly for right-wing politicians this is a cheap way of getting support. . . .”
  6. “ . . . . The other thing about the Skripal case, of course, is the connection to Orbis Intelligence and Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller.  The person who wrote the dossier on Donald Trump for the Clinton campaign was Christopher Steele of Orbis Intelligence. He was in MI6 in the Russian Embassy in Moscow at the time when Skripal was a key double agent.  The guy who was responsible for handling Skripal on a day-to-day basis was Pablo Miller. Pablo Miller also worked for Orbis Intelligence. The MI6 has never had the close-up access to Putin that that dossier claims to have.  Plainly, a great deal of it is fabrication. . . .”
  7. “ . . . . I strongly suspect that Mr. Skripal was involved in the production of that dossier about Donald Trump.  I admit that this is circumstantial, but that dossier was produced while Pablo Miller was working for Orbis Intelligence.  Like Mr. Steele, Pablo Miller was a former MI6 agent in Russia. And Pablo Miller was also living in Salisbury, within a short distance of Skripal.  If you are going to produce a dossier which invents a lot of stuff about Donald Trump and his connections to the circle around Putin, you need a Russian source who can give you names and lend the dossier a degree of authenticity.  I believe that that kind of detail is what Skripal provided to the Steele dossier. . . . .”
  8. “ . . . . the BBC reported the fact that Skripal’s handler in Russia was now working for Steele and that Skripal and Pablo Miller lived in the same town. . . .”

In addition to the “Russia-did-it,” same day analysis and the contradictions noted above, we are being treated to journalistic/analytical shape-shifting about the method of delivery of the alleged agent. We are being told that:

  1. The poison was “planted in [Skirpal’s] daughter’s suitcase” [8]:  ” . . . . Russian assassins planted the nerve agent that poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in his daughter’s suitcase before she left Moscow, British investigators now believe. . . .”
  2. No, the poison was administered through the vents of Skirpal’s car [9]”  . . . . Russian assassins planted the nerve agent that poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in his daughter’s suitcase before she left Moscow, British investigators now believe. . . . “
  3. No, the poison was administered by a Russian MINI DRONE [10]”  . . . . The MI5’s agents fear a Russian hit-team targeted Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, using a gadget specially designed for assassinations. Intelligence sources believe Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter could have been sprayed with the nerve agent from a remote-controlled drone hovering above them as they sat on a bench in Salisbury. . . .”
  4. No, the poison was smeared on the door handle of Skirpal’s car [11]” . . . . Whitehall sources have suggested on theory under close examination is that Mr Skripal was poisoned when he touched the door handle of his car, which had been smeared with the nerve agent. . . .”

We also note that Porton Down–the UK’s top CBW research facility, is roughly 12 miles from Salisbury. Although not conclusive, it is an interesting, and possibly significant, coincidence.

We also note that technicians at Porton Down have not been able to identify [12] the country of origin of the “Novichok.” ” . . . . ‘We have not identified the precise source, but we have provided the scientific info to Government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions you have come to.’ . . . .”

1.  “Nerve Toxin Used on Ex-Spy ‘Was Planted in Daughter’s Suitcase” by Nick Miller; Sydney Morning Herald; 3/16/2018. [8]

London: Russian assassins planted the nerve agent that poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in his daughter’s suitcase before she left Moscow, British investigators now believe.

Intelligence agency sources told London’s Telegraph they strongly suspect the 66-year-old’s daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, unknowingly carried a piece of clothing, cosmetics or a gift impregnated with the toxin into his house in Salisbury, where it poisoned both of them. . . .

2. “Sergei Skirpal Possibly Poisoned Through Car’s Air Vents, Say US Media” [ABC News]; The Guardian [UK]; 3/18/2018.  [9]

The former double agent Sergei Skripal [13] and his daughter, Yulia, could have been exposed to a deadly nerve agent through his car’s ventilation system, US media have reported.

The pair remain critically ill in hospital after being exposed to the nerve agent novichok in Salisbury, in the UK, two weeks ago.

The US organisation ABC News reported that intelligence officials had said the nature of the substance used, described as “dusty”, was now clear and that UK officials had a better picture of how the attack was carried out, saying that the Skripals could have been exposed to the substance through the BMW’s ventilation system. . . .

3. “MI5 Fears Assassins Used MINI DRONE to Poison Spy Sergei Skirpal and His Daughter” by Patrick Williams; Daily Star; 3/18/2018. [10]

The MI5’s agents fear a Russian hit-team targeted Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, using a gadget specially designed for assassinations.

Intelligence sources believe Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter could have been sprayed with the nerve agent from a remote-controlled drone hovering above them as they sat on a bench in Salisbury.

The use of a drone would also explain why there were no eye-witnesses to the attack and no CCTV footage of the couple being poisoned.

A source said: “Every single possible scenario is being looked at. We know the Russians have been experimenting with weaponised miniature drones.

We believe they may have been used in Syria and the Ukraine and on other assassination operations. . . .

4. “Russia Attack: Shock Claims Nerve Agent Was Smeared on Sergei Skirpal’s Door Handle” by Simon Osborne; Daily Express [UK]; 3/14/2018. [11]

. . . . Mr Basu said finding out how the nerve agent was administered was now the main focus of the investigation but warned the inquiry will take many weeks.

Whitehall sources have suggested on theory under close examination is that Mr Skripal was poisoned when he touched the door handle of his car, which had been smeared with the nerve agent.

Experts said the nerve agent could also have been put in the car’s ventilation system or dusted on the inside. Only a tiny amount would be needed. . . .

5. “Porton Down Experts Unable to Identify ‘Precise Source’ of Novichok that Poisoned Spy” by Paul Kelso; Sky News; 4/4/2018. [12]

Scientists from Porton Down have not been able to establish where the novichok nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal was made. 

Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, told Sky News they were not yet able to prove it was made in Russia.

He said: “We were able to identify it as novichok, to identify that it was military-grade nerve agent.

“We have not identified the precise source, but we have provided the scientific info to Government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions you have come to.” . . . .