Intelligence Veterans (VIPS) Voice Doubts on Syrian Crisis

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), April 26, 22017

One major benefit of posting on is the unusually well informed readership there.  Often, as in this case, lots can be learned from the substantively oriented “Comments” section under each article. One reader, Dennis Morrisseau, was quick to ask why Ray had not signed the VIPS memo.  Still awake yesterday, Ray replied.  Commenter “Abe” provided two comments worth reading by those not yet saturated by chemical agent story.  There is still more commentary coming in.  These below (which include Ray’s reply to Denni Morrisseau) seem the most interesting:

Dennis Morrisseau

April 26, 2017 at 9:34 pm

All good people in this group…….I noticed the absence of Ray MacFarland.

Can we be told why he did not participate in this?

Dennis Morrisseau
US Army Officer [Vietnam era]


Bill Bodden

April 27, 2017 at 12:25 am

.I noticed the absence of Ray MacFarland.

Did you mean Ray McGovern?


Ray McGovern

April 27, 2017 at 12:29 am


In my view, the most salient conclusion from the evidence at hand has to do with Trump’s unpredictability and his recklessness in ordering “his” generals to fire the Tomahawks before there was time or inclination to do an intelligence assessment worthy of the word. There were no adults in the room. It was a rush to fire more than a rush to judgment, and rather than speak a word of restraint, Trump’s mad-dog defense secretary, his JCS chairman, and his national security advisor were happy to discharge the order to discharge the missiles.

Only then, was there some attempt to “fix” the intelligence. CIA colleagues were reportedly reluctant to go down that road again, and so McMaster had his political hacks prepare the shoddy four-pager, which has since been ripped to shreds by Ted Postol (whose work needs to be referenced in any commentary like this one). From Postol and from other sources, we are 90 percent sure the generals are lying.

It was not the “initial assessment that drove the decision to use military force.” The attack does not seem to have been “an intelligence-based conclusion.” The driving force, pure and simple, was Trump. To bury in the middle of the piece a comment that “the intelligence data has been far from conclusive,” well YES TO THAT. (See Ted Postol.)

And there was absolutely no military reason to rush ahead absent a well-considered assessment, based on an examination of all the intelligence, re what had actually happened.

Trump’s mad-dog generals were happy to test their cohones, as well as more sophisticated weapons. Ex post facto, they hustled to “fix” the intelligence (reaching out to the media) and making liberal use of “social media” — which John Kerry famously described as an “extraordinarily useful tool.” This, in my view, is the most important story.

So why devote the first seven paragraphs to various facets of the deceitful cover story that Postol already demolished. To give space to self-interested assertions that “intelligence” played any significant role does not help. It was unpredictable, reckless Trump – acting rashly for his personal political purposes; and it worked like a charm. A big bump in the polls! And who can say any longer that he is soft on Russia?

Again, it seems to me clear that there was NO intelligence assessment — preliminary or otherwise; and it seems quite unrealistic to expect a National Intelligence Estimate now or any time soon.

Ted Postol wrote: “The facts are now very clear: There is very substantial evidence that the president and his staff took decisions without any intelligence, or far more likely ignored intelligence from the professional community that they were given, to execute a missile attack in the Middle East that had the danger of creating an inadvertent military confrontation with Russia.”

That is BIG; I cannot remember a time (except for a brief episode under Reagan in the fall of 1983 when we were all close to being fried in a nuclear exchange) when the Russians … and now the Chinese and the Koreans have had to prepare against such unpredictable recklessness. This, I think, is the main thing Americans should draw from April 2017. It is safe to expect the Russians to revert to the old hair-trigger “launch-on-warning.” Use ’em, or lose ’em.

So I think we, indeed, the entire world ought to be concerned about Trump’s behavior on April 4-6, given the abundant evidence that he went off half-cocked and ordered the missile attacks (with or without Ivanka’s pleading). And that the mad-dog four-stars followed orders without demurral and absent any reliable intelligence.

“What I do is I authorize my military,” Trump told reporters recently. “We have given them total authorization and that’s what they’re doing and, frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”

Right. Fifteen years of unmitigated success!

Ray McGovern


Comment from “Abe”

April 26, 2017 at 10:43 pm

Disinformation produced by fake “chemical weapons expert” Dan Kaszeta and fake “citizen investigative journalist” Eliot Higgins of the UK-based Bellingcat blog made its way into the Trump White House’s “assessment” of the 4 April 2017 chemical incident at Khan Shakhun in an Al Qaeda controlled area of Idlib, Syria.

Kaszeta is now backing evidence free “Israeli intelligence” claims about Syria.

The Associated Press (AP) report of the 19 April 2017 briefing by anonymous Israeli military officials included evidence free claims that Syrian military commanders ordered the Khan Shaukun attack with President Assad’s knowledge and “estimates” that Syria still has “between one and three tons” of chemical weapons.

The AP report on the Israeli military briefing included an interview with Kaszeta, who said the Israeli estimate appeared to be “conservative”. Kaszeta claimed that “One ton of sarin could easily be used to perpetrate an attack on the scale of the 2013 attack. It could also be used for roughly 10 attacks of a similar size to the recent Khan Sheikhoun attack”.

Back in 2013, Kaszeta backed similar evidence free claims by Israeli defense officials.

Collusion between anonymous Israeli defense officials and British bloggers represents a grave national security concern for the United States.

The U.S. Intelligence Community is responsible for gathering and analyzing the intelligence necessary to conduct foreign relations and national security activities.

The ability of the President and the Secretary of Defense to understand and respond to specific threats as quickly as possible is severely compromised by the production of “Government Assessment” documents based on inaccurate information.

Of urgent concern is the body of information used to manufacture “Government Assessment” documents. The United States Government’s assessment of the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident relied heavily on “videos”, “social media reports” and “journalist accounts” from Bellingcat.

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is defined by both the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), as “produced from publicly available information that is collected, exploited, and disseminated in a timely manner to an appropriate audience for the purpose of addressing a specific intelligence requirement.”

OSINT is intelligence collected from publicly available sources. In the Intelligence Community, the term “open” refers to overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or clandestine sources).

The US Intelligence Community’s open-source activities (known as the National Open Source Enterprise) are dictated by Intelligence Community Directive 301 promulgated by the Director of National Intelligence.

The “Government Assessment” political documents employed by the White House in August 2013 and July 2014 appear to have relied on an extra-governmental species of “open source intelligence” largely supplied by bloggers based in the United Kingdom.

Assessments of chemical use in Syria in 2013 (Brown Moses blog) and the downing of Flight MH17 and its aftermath in 2014 (Bellingcat blog) were supplied by UK citizen Higgins of Leicester.

Higgins’ collaborator Kaszeta, a US-UK dual national based in London, provided additional claims of “chemical attacks” in Syria for both the Brown Moses and Bellingcat blogs.

Since 2013, Kaszeta and Higgins have continued to make ever more dramatic claims about “chemical attacks” in Syria.

Following the 4 April 2017 chemical incident at Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, Kaszeta was cited as a go-to “expert” by the BBC, UK Guardian, CNN, Time magazine, Washngton Post. NPR, Germany’s Die Welt and Deutsche Welle, Business Insider, Popular Science, Asia Times and the Associated Press.

Not content with merely quoting Kaszeta, BBC News online went so far as to publish an essay authored by Kaszeta titled “Syria ‘chemical attack’: What can forensics tell us?” At the end of his BBC News essay, in a furtive effort to quickly “tie the whole narrative together”, Kaszata mentioned that “In 2013, the chemical hexamine, used as an additive, was a critical piece of information linking the Ghouta attack to the government of President Assad.” This intriguing tidbit linked to a December 2013 New York Times article quoting Kaszeta’s own claims about the “very damning evidence” of hexamine.

However, Kaszeta’s claims about hexamine were already debunked in 2014. Kaszeta continues to claim that Hexamine was used in the 2013 Ghouta attack, despite evidence that Hexamine is not soluble in alcohols, making it ineffective for this purpose.

Analysis of all primary and secondary evidence relating to the 21 August 2013 chemical incident at Ghouta indicates it was carried out by Al Qaeda terrorist forces (Al Nusra Front or Jabhat al Nusra, also known as the Jabhat Fateh al Sham).

Analysis of evidence relating to the 4 April 2017 chemical incident at Khan Shaykhun indicates it was carried out by Al Qaeda terrorist forces (Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, the latest rebranding of Al Nusra).

Higgins and Kaszeta have vigorously backed the narrative of an air-dropped chemical bomb in Idlib. However, none of Kaszeta’s articles on Bellingcat, nor any of the numerous citations of Kaszeta by mainstream media, address the complete absence of evidence of an aerial bomb.

The alleged “Sarin bomb” hole in the road in Idlib has been photographed numerous times from multiple angles. The size, depth and shape of the hole are clear evidence that it was not produced by a falling object such as an air-dropped bomb.

MIT physicist Theodore A. Postol reviewed the White House report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib, Syria. He noted that the only source the cited as evidence of Syrian government responsibility for the attack was the crater on a road in Khan Shaykhun.

Postol concluded that the US government failed to provide evidence that it had any concrete knowledge that the Syrian government was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017.

Postol accurately identified the amateurish nature of the White House report:

“No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft. No competent analyst would assume that the photograph of the carcass of the sarin canister was in fact a sarin canister. Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it. All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report… was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.’

Postol concluded:

“I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicization of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times – but I know that the intelligence community has highly capable analysts in it. And if those analysts were properly consulted about the claims in the White House document they would have not approved the document going forward.

“We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report.”

Postol recently told The Nation, “What I think is now crystal clear is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.” He added, “My best guess at the moment is that this was an extremely clumsy and ill-conceived attempt to cover up the fact that Trump attacked Syria without any intelligence evidence that Syria was in fact the perpetrator of the attack”.

Israel has a de facto alliance with Saudi Arabia and GCC backers of the Al Qaeda terrorists who have conducted numerous Chemical Weapons (CW) attacks in Syria.

Israel possesses the means, the motive, and abundant opportunity to supply Sarin nerve agents and other chemical weapons to the Al Qaeda forces in Syria for the purpose of staging false flag chemical attacks.

The Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR), an Israeli government defense research facility near Tel Aviv, develops offensive chemical and biological weapons including Sarin.The IIBR facility was involved in an extensive effort to identify practical methods of synthesis for nerve gases (such as Tabun, Sarin, and VX) and other chemical weapons compounds.

Evidence pointing to possible collusion between Israel, fake “citizen journalist” bloggers like Higgins and Kaszeta at Bellingcat, and officials in the U.S. Government represents a grave national security concern for the United States.


Later Comment from “Abe”

April 27, 2017 at 1:36 am

Status quo ante bellum:

The American “Government Assessment” is backed by an anonymous “Israeli Intelligence Assessment” and now, the chef d’oeuvre, a French “National Evaluation”

French claims of a “Clandestine Syrian chemical weapons programme” rely on “allegations” of chemical use laundered by Bellingcat.

Back in 2003, it was a cascade of grandiose but evidence free WMD claims and waving a little vial at the United Nations.

Today in 2017, it is the climax of a steady feed of ambiguous WMD allegations, a false flag version of a “death by a thousand cuts”, and waving a bogus French “National Assessment” at Les Nations Unies.

The French report directly relies on long ago debunked claims about hexamine from Dan Kaszeta, a collaborator with Atlantic Council-funded disinformation operative Eliot Higgins.

In 2014, professor Theodore A. Postol of MIT concluded that Kaszeta, the mainstream media’s frequently cited “chemical weapons expert” on Syria, was a fraud.

Kaszeta and Higgins both remains frauds, and the Bellingcat “fake news” site continues to be the media’s (and the Trump administration’s) main source for “experts” on the war in Syria.

The French report also refers repeatedly to “air strikes” and “air capacities”. The French even make the extraordinary claim that ” Modelling, on the basis of the crater’s characteristics, confirmed with a very high level of confidence that it was dropped from the air.” No evidence or data are presented to substantiate this claim.