Bellingcat is an amateur run, supposedly independent, source of image analyses on controversial images. Its operator, Eliot Higgins has been praised by The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian. However, Robert Parry termed Bellingcat's analysis of satellite photos related to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 an "amateurish [and] anti-Russian... fraud". Another commentator claimed that Higgins "has constantly been a source of dis/misinformation on Syria and Ukraine."
- 1 Background of founder
- 2 Funding
- 3 Mystery MH17 Buk in Torez
- 4 Mystery MH17 Buk in transit
- 5 James Foley execution location
- 6 Related Document
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Background of founder
In Oct 2012, Eliot Higgins was laid off from his job as an administrator at a nonprofit organisation which provided housing for asylum seekers. In Aug 2013, he noticed Twitter reports of a possible chemical-weapons attack in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. In Nov 2013, Eliot Higgins "confirmed" that Syria had used chemical weapons, without noticing that it was not the Syrian government that carried out the attacks.
On 15 Jul 2014, Eliot Higgins started Bellingcat for citizen journalism to investigate current events using open source information such as videos, maps and pictures. It was funded by a KickStarter campaign (£50,891 at 13 Sep 2014 from 1,701 contributions). The Kickstarter funding model is based on a cash-for gifts/favours model: backers "get to choose from a variety of unique rewards offered by the project creator. Rewards vary from project to project ..."
Also of possible note: Kickstarter "Projects can’t mislead people or misrepresent facts, and creators should be candid about what they plan to accomplish". From the project home page: "bellingcat.com will unite citizen investigative journalists to use open source information to report on issues that are being ignored . . . Bellingcat will be an extension of Eliot’s work on the Brown Moses blog. ."
Until the creation of Bellingcat, the Brown Moses blog had not been concerned with events in Ukraine. Another difference is that whereas the Brown Moses blog was non-commercial, Bellingcat is now obviously a commercial venture.
Higgins had stumbled into a potentially profitable (in terms of media exposure and possibly pledged funding) publishing venture. If it clearly wasn't primed to be a mega-publishing opportunity, it nonetheless held the promise of some tempting liaisons with the Spooks for one so young. And so it has turned out, with Higgins very well knowing the expectations of those whose support he depends on. His output has been nothing if not consistent, viz: Consistent with what one would expect from promoters of the Anglo-US-NATO Official Narratives of geo-politics and the War on Terror, but done in a slipshod and blatantly partisan fashion that those who quote him (the Commercially-controlled media) are wary of claiming their own; which is to say in a way which is quotable but can not be made attributable to those who ultimately control the narrative - ie the Spooks.
The Syrian observatory of Human rights serves an analgous purpose.
Mystery MH17 Buk in Torez
On 18 Jul 2014, Bellingcat "Found The Buk Missile Launcher That Downed Flight MH17" - though the photograph, widely claimed to have been taken in the town of Snizhne, was actually taken in the town of Torez and under weather conditions significantly different to those on the day of the MH17 crash.  Eliot Higgins (proprietor of Bellingcat: known for investigative social media and weapons analysis) didn't consider when the photograph was taken to be important. The photo used by Bellingcat in the "investigation" as to the location of the BUK was uploaded on 18 July 2014 at 18:26:41. This "investigation" as to the location of the BUK" is an unusual way to go about things. Why not simply ask the person who took it or whoever supplied it? And why not ask when it was taken?
2014 Jul 18, 8:36 PM: Within a minute or so of Brown Moses tweeting that the Buk had been geolocated to Torez, James Miller (managing editor of Interpretermag) commented: "cool. Where?". James Miller, coincidentally, had been asked to geolocate the image (which appears to have originated from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry) only the day before.
Mystery MH17 Buks that did NOT get geolocated by Bellingcat
Ukrainian Forces BUK column
Still from a video taken in March 2014, when Ukrainian media reported the country’s military was concentrating air defenses closer to the Russian border to repel an “invasion”. Includes Kiev air-defense system no. 312.
Captioned by TheDaily Mail as: "Is this the smoking gun? This picture has emerged of a pro-Russian rebel posing in front of the same type of BUK missile launcher that is believed to have shot down MH17" Though, actually, it is a Ukrainian Army conscript guarding Ukrainian Army Buks.
Buks on Ukraine Military TV
Broadcast the evening prior to MH 17: a Buk-system in training/preparation - complete with radar.
321 at night
On July 19 Kiev’s Security Service (SBU) published photos online it claimed showed ‘Russia’ secretly withdrawing a BUK-M (NATO designation SA-11) surface-to-air missile system from the Ukraine civil war zone. Shortly after publishing this article, the photo in question was deleted. The photo was actually a still from video of a Kiev air-defense system no. 312, filmed in March this year at Yasinovataya, north of Donetsk. Buk #312 is mounted on a civilian transporter.
Torez BUK article conclusions
With the Kiev government having 27 BUK systems and the dissidents having (allegedly) one Russian-supplied and crewed system, it is statistically more likely to have been a Kiev BUK fired at MH17, especially considering Ukraine Air Defense expertise.
Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 (a commercial flight) was shot down by the Ukrainian military over the Black Sea on 4 October 2001. Ukraine banned the testing of Buk, S-300 and similar missile systems for a period of 7 years following this incident. Ukraine’s acting Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh described the combat readiness of the country’s armed forces as “unsatisfactory” in his 12 March 2014 report to the acting president. Tenyukh said recent exercises demonstrated a “dismal degree of preparedness among servicemen and lack of military specialists, equipment and weapons” in the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the Navy. The country’s air defense troops had received little training because of the 2001 ban on missile launches imposed after the crash of a Russian Tu-154 passenger jet. The ban was lifted in 2008, but so far only 10 percent of Air Defense Forces servicemen “have mastered the required level of theory and practice,” the report said. . The Ukrainian military had several batteries of Buk surface-to-air missile systems with at least 27 launchers, capable of bringing down high-flying jets, in the Donetsk region where the Malaysian passenger plane crashed, Russian Defense Ministry said .
The only thing that the Bellingcat investigation shows is that a particular photograph they were supplied with is of an area in Torez. Without knowing when this photo was taken, it proves nothing about Bellingcat's claim that it "Found The Buk Missile Launcher That Downed Flight MH17". Bellingcat accepted, without question, the line it was fed from Kiev that it was taken on the morning of 17 July. Bellingcat did not consider any other possible sightings of BUKs in the area. It is a straightforward case of cherry-picking "One Photograph" (Bellingcat's own words) to justify a story.
Mystery MH17 Buk in transit
On 08 Sep 204, Bellingcat claimed "New evidence has been found that shows the Buk missile system that was used to shoot down MH17 on the 17th of July came from Russia, and was most likely operated by Russian soldiers.".
The first source quoted for there being a Russian BUK in Ukraine is a Paris-Match photo in the suburbs of Donetsk in the morning of 17 July. Russian satellite images show several BUK systems in the Donetsk area prior to MH17 but Bellingcat does not appear to have geolocated these or the Paris-Match video-frame.
Full article here via GoogleTranslate published July 25, 2014 | Updated July 29, 2014
Transporter-loaded BUK on the H21 main road from Donetsk to Torez. From YouTube Published on Jul 17, 2014, supposedly filmed at 11:40am on July 17th, geolocated to 48.017050, 38.301678 by Bellingcat (about 25km and 50 minutes from the next photo-op in Torez at 48.02448, 38.61451):
Note that it is on what appears to be the same civilian transporter, on a sunny day and headed away from the alleged launch site.
A photograph, allegedly "made at the time of launching rockets in the vicinity. Between Torez and Snizhne, which should be clearly visible inversion missiles, which shot down "Boeing-777" ... (interpreted from none-too clear GoogleTranslate Ukrainian-to-English translation) was released by the Ukraine Security Service. Note the clear conditions compared to the actual conditions at the time MH17 was shot down.
A BBC film crew went to locate this location and had the following to say:
- "To find the place from which the smoke was allegedly coming from, we adopted as markers these three poplars and the group of trees. Presumably, this is the place that can be seen on the photograph published by the SBU. And here are our markers: the three solitary poplars and the small group of trees in the distance. The smoke that can be seen on the photograph came from somewhere over there [pointing behind her], behind my back. The SBU believes that this is a trace coming from the launch of a “BUK” missile. However, it must be noted that there are here, approximately in the same place, the Saur-Mogila memorial, near which the fighting continues almost unabated, and a coalmine. It turns out that the smoke with the same degree of probability could have been coming from any of these locations."
This BBC report was deleted shortly afterwards but later reinstated in edited format. See: BBC Russia MH17 report
Early the following morning, it is alleged to have been in Luhansk (by The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine/Bellingcat) and heading towards the Russian border, which is not the ideal route for getting from Torez to Russia. The Paris-Match caption for this photo says "The same truck photographed at dawn on Friday, July 18, 2014 by a surveillance camera in the city of Krasnodon, close to the Russian border, according to this image circulated by the Ukrainian intelligence." Krasnodon is in the Oblast of Luhansk, about 40km SE of Luhansk city. The civilian transporter is just passing a Bogdan Auto billboard. It appears to be the same truck.
On July 22, Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, gave the exact coordinates of the video’s location: separatist-held Luhansk, about a 45-minute drive from Krasnodon. as 48.545760°, 39.264622°map (about 70 metres from where this photo was taken) 1.5km off the nearest M04 junction and heading towards Kiev-controlled areas: 7km from Roskoshnoye (which was "Claimed by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence to be liberated from separatist forces as of July 14") and 21 km from Luhansk Airport (which was not abandoned by Ukrainian forces until September 1).
It is shown on a civilian transporter, whereas those shown in Russia are on military transporters. The BUK has a white patch on its right-hand side and no railings - like one seen in Russia in June: basically, that's it.
On July 19 Kiev’s Security Service (SBU) published photos online that it claimed showed ‘Russia’ secretly withdrawing a BUK-M (NATO designation SA-11) surface-to-air missile system from the Ukraine civil war zone. At the time SBU Chief Vitaly Naida declared to a mute press“The SBU has taken measures within the investigation and is getting clear evidence of Russian citizens’ involvement in the terrorist attack (on the Malaysian Airlines Boeing)”.
However, bloggers immediately spotted the photos were of a Kiev air-defense system no. 312, previously pictured in March this year, when several BUK-M systems were filmed at Yasinovataya, north of Donetsk. The Ukrainian "evidence" photos show a single missile launch vehicle, whereas a Buk-M complex consists of at least three vehicles: missile launcher, radar and command vehicle. Ideally, a transporter loader vehicle would also form part of the system. This Ukraine SBU "evidence" shows two different transporters (with and without a blue flash on the cab. With one of the two photos (obviously faked and later removed) being submitted by the Ukraine SBU as "evidence", Bellingcat would reasonably have been expected to question the first one.
James Foley execution location
On 23 Aug 2014, Bellingcat made an estimate of the exact location where the James Foley execution video was made (outside Raqqa, a reported Islamic State stronghold in north-central Syria), yet failed to notice that the video itself was a fake . See also: Turkish_Trailer.
|Staged ISIS Videos are the Plot of Iron Man 3||article||14 September 2014||Jay Dyer||Predictive programming and fake news - an analysis of the ISIS 'beheading' videos and 'Iron Man 3'|
- Rocket Man: How an unemployed blogger confirmed that Syria had used chemical weapons
- NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis
- KickStarter: Bellingcat, for and by citizen investigative journalists
- What do backers get in return?
- Kickstarter:Our Rules
- Bellingcat project home page on Kickstarter
- Google search for ukraine in the Brown Moses blog
- How Open Source Investigation Found The Buk Missile Launcher That Downed Flight MH17
- Identifying the Location of the MH17 Linked Missile Launcher From One Photograph
- Bellingcat <> Interpretermag tweets
- wake up kid! From Snitzhe this morning: Maybe u can geolocate it its a BUK sa-17
- Bogus photos of ‘Russian’ air-defense systems in Ukraine debunked by bloggers
- "All about Buk 9k37, missile 'blamed for' Malaysia jet MH17 crash". http://www.hindustantimes.com. Hindustan Times. 18 July 2014. External link in
- "Ukraine Defense Chief's Report Paints Bleak Picture of Armed Forces".
- "Ukraine's Defense Minister describes the combat readiness of the country's armed forces as unsatisfactory". http://www.globalsecurity.org. External link in
- "Kiev deployed powerful anti-air systems to E. Ukraine ahead of the Malaysian plane crash". rt.com.
- Images Show the Buk that Downed Flight MH17, Inside Russia, Controlled by Russian Troops
- Ukrainian Su-25 fighter detected in close approach to MH17 before crash - Moscow
- Arsen Avakov Facebook
- The Hills of Raqqa – Geolocating the James Foley Video
- James Foley FAKE Execution - Video Analysis Reveals the Truth
- Staged ISIS Videos Exemplify Fake News
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