Talk:Alleged Chemical Attack, August 21, 2013/Proof of government guilt

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Has this man been watching too much massacre porn?

For any YouTube video to become "evidence" it must be dated and assigned to a location on the map. Has the US intelligence community done any of this? If they have, they have not published their results.

Okay, sure, there's no logic to it. But socialist-leaning secular Arab dictators who oppose Israel don't need logic. They just force us to destroy them and we destroy them. It's a basic pattern of nature we're as familiar with as the changing seasons. And of course, there's "mounting" evidence, some call it proof, to prove Assad or a general or anyone but the rebels is responsible. And of course you need good evidence when you're making a case with no logic behind it. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:44, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

The Phone Call

The intercepted call between Syrians said to prove the attack was first spoken of by a former Israeli Mossad agent and run in the German media.

U.S. Foreign Policy magazine's the Cable ran a detailed and widely cited piece about it on August 27/28, a week after the attacks: "Exclusive: Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say." This describes the conversation as "the major reason why American officials now say they're certain that the attacks were the work of the Bashar al-Assad regime -- and why the U.S. military is likely to attack that regime in a matter of days." So just what was it? As they report:

Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned.[1]

First, I'm not certain there even is a "chemical defense unit." But let's say there is, it's the basis of this whole exercise.

Why is the caller panicked and asking questions? Panic suggests sudden realization, questions a lack of knowledge. If it was an order from the government, wouldn't he know about it? Perhaps not. That seems to be one of the questions:

the intercept raises questions about culpability for the chemical massacre, even as it answers others: Was the attack on Aug. 21 the work of a Syrian officer overstepping his bounds? Or was the strike explicitly directed by senior members of the Assad regime? "It's unclear where control lies," one U.S. intelligence official told The Cable. "Is there just some sort of general blessing to use these things? Or are there explicit orders for each attack?" [1]

Most important: the response is not specified. Why? If he said something like "yes sir, we gassed the rats, on orders from xxx," that would be included. They wouldn't say a guy called and asked, they'd say when he did that, he got confirmation, and they would be quoting it in exact translated words. It'd be in bold headlines "WE GASSED THE RATS." Conversely, if the response was negative, or just as surprised to even hear such a thing was reported, wouldn't that mean the government probably didn't do it? How many other types of response are there? Those are mainly it, and it seems more likely to have been the latter, since they were too embarrassed to include it. --Caustic Logic (talk) 11:18, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Another possible issue, as the Atlantic Wire points out, is that the original source for the recording is a little unclear:

the German magazine Focus spoke to an anonymous Israeli intelligence official, who claims that the intercepted phone call comes from intelligence gathered by one of their elite units. Foreign Policy, however, specifies that U.S. intelligence overheard the call.
Neither claims to be borrowing a copy of the others' recording. Perhaps they both overheard it? I don't see why not. --Caustic Logic (talk) 11:18, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Possibilities:

  • Completely faked call: from the description so far and lack of clarity, it sounds unlikely to have been faked. This makes the commcenter in Qaboun possibly irrelevant as a clue - that would best help with placing a fake call and making it look real.
  • Real official, saboteur intent: A secret defector and total backstabber, he was paid to place a call that looks really suspicious. Perhaps why he, but not the guy answering, gets cited. However, you'd think he'd work in a really doomy and damning line worth a direct quote, if so. And that would probably be mentioned, which it wasn't.
  • Real official, double-checking, got no clear answer or even a denial: intel officials are twisting and essentially lying about the content, perhaps to let the president make his saber-rattling intimidation dance.
  • Real call, with a response that really did confirm the attack, and that just wasn't mentioned in the articles so far, for some reason. --Caustic Logic (talk) 11:18, 28 August 2013 (UTC)
  • Sub-sets of the last:
    • The attack was ordered from on high, skipping the caller
    • The attack was done by a rogue officer or whoever acting on their own
      • He was doing it to kill the rats, super-Syrian, badder than the "bad guys"
      • He was a paid defector false-flagging his former employers from the inside to get them bombed, a "good guy"--Caustic Logic (talk) 23:33, 29 August 2013 (UTC)
      • Or, duh, he was a paid defector falsely confirming the attack to be heard on intercepts and grease the intervention. --Caustic Logic (talk) 01:38, 1 September 2013 (UTC)


FOCUS is a miserable rag and the rest of the German media didn't run with the story. I think this is just part of bigmouth back-pedalling. T'wasn't the ebil Assad, just some rogue element, bla bla. I still think this is all just saber-rattling. UK is now presenting a UN resolution - didn't they say just yesterday that they don't need one? --CE (talk) 11:48, 28 August 2013 (UTC)
Could be. I don't think it taints the story enough though. I could be wrong, but I tend to think the recording really does exist. Notes below. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:38, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

My further thoughts: I'm going with roughly the third option. I guess how they're presented makes that fairly clear. Reasons: I imagine a lot of communications are intercepted in this day and age. I don't know the details, but ... lots to comb through. It would be foolhardy to make up such a thing and be caught unable to prove it if that became important. And if you faked it, it would be something better than an unanswered panicked question, following panic-inducing global rumors of an action that threatened the nation's undoing. What I think is that the West will try to not release the call, because it will become clearer that the context was badly distorted. And it will dawn on a few people that there's a lot to comb through, they probably combed hard, and this is the best they could find. Conclusion: there was no order, likely no such action. Should shrivel next to the Russian satellite video, if such a thing existed. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:38, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Put simply, then: Alleged Proof = A dude was nervous. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:53, 28 August 2013 (UTC)

Can I get a second opinion on this? I ran ahead feeling it was simple genius to notice this question, but my girlfriend thinks I must be missing something, because simply ignoring the answer is too obvious and stupid a thing for them to do.-- C.L.

Sorry, yeah, from your first quote the panicking caller was "demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people". How did he know about that complete picture "truth" not even Doctors without Borders and others have yet found? Frankly, given the sources for this, I think the answer to your "where is the response" question simply is "they didn't think their nonsense through, it's just throw-away FUD after all". I saw it making the rounds a bit lately, though, so showing why it makes no sense can still be important. --CE (talk) 00:03, 30 August 2013 (UTC)
Cool. Good point on the 1,000 dead big picture thing, except that's likely the writer's description - he just asked about this rumored attack, as he was hearing then. That's why direct quotes are good. I like calling this real, am finishing up the article after doubting it a bit. Need to shorten it a bit more, link here soon hopefully.--Caustic Logic (talk) 12:38, 30 August 2013 (UTC)
Update
The cool pattern fell apart. Yes, the Cable's report curiously excluded any response, but we can't say it's not being mentioned. The White House intel assessment (see below) refers to a call that's either about the opposite of the one described above, or the same from the other end. In that, an official with a lack of knowledge called asking for details. In the later report, it says:
We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence.

So they were concerned with the inspectors who'd just arrived? Okay then. We have a completed picture then of a dude who didn't know and a dude who did, the latter just got left out of the first report for whatever reason. The above possibilities remain, with the third option allegedly ruled out in favor of the fourth. Allegedly, then, the sub options of that option apply. - Caustic Logic

Kenneth Timmerman

I have doubts here too, but suspending at least to look closer. Kenneth Timmerman, right-wing pro-Israel, anti-Iran activist, onetime mainstream journalist and capitol hill insider, natural Syria enemy. But he's also a conservative not down with Obama leading the attack on Iran's ally. So he could be that placed to run into people who've been allowed to see this report, and motivated - perhaps too motivated - to speak up if something's amiss. So far, so good. The content sounds and somewhat plausible, but also perhaps too perfect, especially in getting to us. But he's citing the original report, not the "doctored" one, and drawing on no public sources - he must be talking to himself to, as he describes, "former military officers with access to the original intelligence reports ... who served in top positions in the United States, Britain, France, Israel, and Jordan." --Caustic Logic (talk) 06:02, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

One of the former officers is quoted: “the Syrian general staff were out of their minds with panic that an unauthorized strike had been launched by the 155th Brigade in express defiance of their instructions.”

According to the doctored report, the chemical attack was carried out by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, an elite unit commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president’s brother. However, the original communication intercepted by Unit 8200 between a major in command of the rocket troops assigned to the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division, and the general staff, shows just the opposite.

More than back to my first theory, this claims the response was negative:

According to the transcript of the original Unit 8200 report, the major “hotly denied firing any of his missiles” and invited the general staff to come and verify that all his weapons were present.
The report contains a note at the end that the major was interrogated by Syrian intelligence for three days, then returned to command of his unit. “All of his weapons were accounted for,” the report stated. --Caustic Logic (talk) 06:02, 3 September 2013 (UTC)

US assessment

The US assessment is out and available on the Whitehouse pages. the PDF version is 45kB, four pages.

The document does not contain a single falsifiable statement. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods... – If the report does not specify the launch site, how can we verify that it a "regime-controlled area"? -- Petri Krohn (talk) 22:12, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage. – Did they really match videos to locations on the ground. I have hardly seen any videos, with meaningful content – that would show enough of a location to be matched to a spot on the map. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 22:17, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

No tangible evidence has been offered by either the U.S. or Britain to demonstrate what lead to the conclusion that Assad's forces must have been behind the previous suspected chemical attacks, and the U.N. inspection team -- which had its original plans derailed by the unexpected attacks in Ghouta -- has not reached any other sites. Much like the Ghouta attacks, the intelligence behind the accusations that Assad's regime was involved in previous chemical weapons incidents has remained secret.
Drives home the fact that this "Assessment" was cooked up by the White House and isn't an intelligence document. --CE (talk) 01:28, 10 September 2013 (UTC)
With all evidence considered, the intelligence community found itself with numerous skeptics in the ranks, leading to sharp exchanges with the Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. A number of analysts threatened to resign as a group if their strong dissent was not noted in any report released to the public, forcing both Brennan and Clapper to back down. This led to the White House issuing its own assessment, completely divorcing the process from any direct connection to the intelligence community. The spectacle of CIA Director George Tenet sitting behind Secretary of State Colin Powell in the United Nations, providing him with credibility as Powell told a series of half-truths, would not be repeated.
--CE (talk) 18:35, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

Seymour Hersh Counter-Assessment

  • Whose Sarin?, Seymour Hersh, London Review of Books, December 8, 2013
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
Some other good stuff in this. On the "preparation" intelligence that had some "rebel" elements stunned and complaining why there was no warning:
So when Obama said on 10 September that his administration knew Assad’s chemical weapons personnel had prepared the attack in advance, he was basing the statement not on an intercept caught as it happened, but on communications analysed days after 21 August. The former senior intelligence official explained that the hunt for relevant chatter went back to the exercise detected the previous December, in which, as Obama later said to the public, the Syrian army mobilised chemical weapons personnel and distributed gas masks to its troops. The White House’s government assessment and Obama’s speech were not descriptions of the specific events leading up to the 21 August attack, but an account of the sequence the Syrian military would have followed for any chemical attack.
See also discussion on MoA --CE (talk) 20:17, 8 December 2013 (UTC)

Damn, Seymour Hersh. Great investigative work. The NRO sensors I'm a little skeptical about, but he says these were planted by all CW sites and could tell when warheads were loaded with Sarin. They never went off. He makes a good case that there was no intel or sign or clue until they scraped together whatever it was they scraped together, within the few days after. And I also note that could go against Western direct collusion in the attack - it would be to start war and they might have their fake intel lined up ahead of time to look more convincing than this. But then they could make it look like this so it didn't look pre-planned. Reverse psychology sucks that way. --Caustic Logic (talk) 01:08, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

As it should, this article is making news. I just saw on Yahoo News "Seymour Hersh Alleges Obama Administration Lied on Syria Gas Attack" --Caustic Logic (talk) 01:27, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

I'm also quite skeptical, although there's no question that Obama, Kerry and Cohorts blatantly lied into the face of the world about every aspect of this affair. But isn't Hersh known as the limited-hangout guy with excellent establishment connections? Just look at the title for framing: "Whose Sarin?" I for one am still not convinced that there was Sarin involved at all, and I'm also not convinced about this whole UMLACA stuff. I think there is much more fake to this than commonly believed in skeptical observer circles, and more direct "western" involvement than Sy would likely want to be publicly known. Anyway, will be interesting to see how this plays out. Rubbed it under our "skeptical" friends noses already... ;o) (edit: 3455 comments under that yahoo article, four hours since posting) --CE (talk) 01:33, 9 December 2013 (UTC)
Limited hangout/establishment - ultimately I think that's so, but he seems to stake out solid positions within that. I'm no Hersh expert really. He is keeping Sarin at the center without even clarifying that's a rhetorical device, that maybe there wasn't any. On UMLACAs I think he fails suggesting they're rebel-made - they've been seen now fired in Aleppo too by army forces. These are improvised anti-rebel weapons mainly, FAE I think, capable of falling into the wrong hands, but surely unconnected to those dead people or to any Sarin besides the stuff sprayed on ahead of the monitors. --Caustic Logic (talk) 03:39, 9 December 2013 (UTC)
Also no Hersh expert here, but I just learned a bit while watching him on "Democracy Now!". Interview here: Part One Two. Very much liked what I saw, especially some "big picture" things he said in the second part. And he knows his limitations, which is very important. --CE (talk) 05:56, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

I doubt the sensors being talked about are 'intelligent rocks'. They are more likely a technical term for automated analysis 'bots that take in remote observation data feeds and trigger on specific events - such as specific trucks being moved or particular radio frequencies / callsigns being used. --Charles Wood (talk) 02:18, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

I'm sure there are ways, so I'm only a bit skeptical. If it's true, it helps our case that signs are the government did NOT do what the West tried to so hard to act like it believed DID happen. Cool. --Caustic Logic (talk) 03:39, 9 December 2013 (UTC)
Higgins has now published the entirely predictable attack piece on Hersh at
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/12/09/sy_hershs_chemical_misfire
He again raises the canard of a hypothetical nosecone and tacks on an extra kilometre in range!
It is remarkable in its ability to blur facts in an entirely convenient way and in particular his chaotic description of the tactical situation in Jobar on August 21.
He fails totally to define a safe launch location in any part of Northern Jobar and he ignores the fact that no-one saw any LOUD and BRIGHT missiles being fired from that hypothetical safe location - despite the entire area being a hot battleground.
He then pretends that the missile target location was a military objective when in fact it is still in insurgent hands and the SAA has never made any attempt to take it. At present the SAA game plan - as it was on August 21, is to cut lines of communication between Zamalka and Jobar across the Southern Bypass. Bombarding a civilian area with gas a kilometre or so away from any fighting does not play any part in a tactical battle.
He has failed to establish that the missiles COULD have been fired from Government territory (range). He has failed to establish that the missiles WERE fired from Government territory - witnesses. He has failed to establish any tactical reason for the targeting.
Beyond these minor imperfections he has also deliberately mixed up the various types of volcano and their capabilities and range and he has quite studiedly ignored the fact that the chemical variant has NEVER been seen in possession of the SAA or any other Government military force.--Charles Wood (talk) 00:03, 10 December 2013 (UTC)
I posted the above comment on the reddit syria section on a report of the Higgins article. It got deleted and me banned! They seem like a touchy bunch there! --Charles Wood (talk) 02:04, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

Germany?

The German intelligence agency has enough evidence in its possession to conclude President Bashar Assad ordered the suspected chemical attack in Syria, Germany’s Der Spiegel reports, quoting the results of a secret security briefing.
The BND’s President Gerhard Schindler voiced his support for US allegations Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s government ordered the attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21, Der Spiegel reported Monday.
Schindler also presented an additional clue, one that has not thus far been made public. He said that the BND listened in on a conversation between a high-ranking member of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which supports Assad and provides his regime with military assistance, and the Iranian Embassy. The Hezbollah functionary, Schindler reported, seems to have admitted that poison gas was used. He said that Assad lost his nerves and made a big mistake by ordering the chemical weapons attack.

...

"Thus far the US has only noted that after the attack, intelligence agencies had intercepted internal government communications indicating concern about a possible UN inspection of the site." (and also confirming there was an attack, the White House said). So two alleged intercepted phone calls, virtually no logic whatsoever to the allegations (he wanted to scare the rebels, etc., with no reason for this ridiculous method) - really, nothing's proven one way or the other, but fake calls, or real ones twisted into lies, are most likely. Western pals do this for each other when they all hate the "axis of evil" and its allies. --Caustic Logic (talk) 23:05, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
The German spy agency is not run by the German government, but by NSA and CIA. (There must be a secret agreement on that somewhere in the archives.) -- Petri Krohn (talk) 23:33, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
One participant at the Berlin meeting said German lawmakers of all parties were skeptical about a military intervention in Syria and had quizzed the BND over faulty intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq used to justify the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. ... A Hizbollah spokesman was not available for comment.
Germany's leading tabloid reports relying on unnamed "intelligence sources" that the German spy ship "Oker" cruising the Syrian coast has picked up several radio messages over the last four months from SAA commanders to "the Presidential Palace" asking for the permission to use chemical weapons. Assad said "no" on all occasions, and they assume he said "no" this time as well, and someone went ahead anyway. Sounds like BS to me, but there you go. Also in the article: the general inspector of the Bundeswehr assesses that the FSA is "de facto non-existant" by now and the various Islamists are completely running the show. Has indeed been some time since I last saw a mandate flag in situ (other than on their little brigade logos). --CE (talk) 14:00, 8 September 2013 (UTC)
...picked up by Reuters, Guardian. Both omit Volker Wieker's "FSA is de facto non-existant" statement but Reuters at least mentions the "Islamists get stronger" part of it. --CE (talk) 19:10, 8 September 2013 (UTC)
Bild am Sonntag cites high-level German surveillance source suggesting Syrian president was not personally behind attacks.

France

Summary by Noirette on MofA here. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 07:23, 6 September 2013 (UTC)

Facebook celebrations

There has been an odd element in the early reports of SPIEGEL this morning ... "Assad supporters celebrate" was part of the news. In the article(s) (they publish a lot of newly assembled versions of their stuff over the day) they report that "Harasta News Network" published a statement that "On orders of President Assad, may God protect him, and on orders of proud Syrian Alawite Officers, this morning at half past five East Ghouta was attacked with Chemical Weapons and the operation was finished successfully. We are awaiting details of the operation in the next hours". (my translation of what you find in the last paragraph of the German language article). At 10:30 AM (not specified for both if German or Syrian time zones) "the site was taken from the net" (sic) Also, they claim, a facebook page called "Shohdaa.alwatan" claimed that 500 died in a "cleansing operation". A search for "Harasta News Network" only gave a small number of indifferent results, most of them German news articles quoting SPIEGEL. Maybe worth investigating - I don't do facebook. --CE (talk) 00:21, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

Clearly, this sounds like a pretty fishy allegation. Someone may have actually even typed that into an actual loyalist site, etc. Just like you can with John Snow's blog. To me, it only shows that someone in the opposition knows they need some supports here, quick. This admittedly doesn't make much sense. Consider this desperate activist explaining it all ((Observers France 24): "I think the regime doesn’t care that the UN inspectors are less than 5 kilometres away. On the contrary, by carrying out these bombings despite the observers’ presence, they’re sending a crystal-clear message to the international community." He doesn't say just what the message is supposed to be, other than that it's so super clear some are mistaking it for an obvious false-flag operation. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:35, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

Sources

Interesting read, but the article does not contain a single verified fact. I prime example of how to construct "truth" from assorted half-truths and heresy. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 07:48, 26 August 2013 (UTC)

Intercepted phone call sources (to move)
Der Giftgaseinsatz in Syrien mit mehr als 1300 Toten sorgt weltweit für Entsetzen – auch weil viele Kinder unter den Opfern sein sollen. Der israelische Geheimdienst macht Präsident Assad für das Massaker verantwortlich. Kanzlerin Merkel drängt im FOCUS-Interview auf eine rasche Aufklärung. Doch nichts geht ohne Moskau und Peking.
Israeli intelligence can tie the recent gas attack against the Syrian rebels to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the German publication Focus reports.
“According to the findings of Israeli intelligence community, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the gas attack in Damascus,” reports the publication.
According to FOCUS, the Israel Defense Forces Unit 8200, the IDF’s signals intelligence unit, intercepted communications of the Syrian army during the attack.
The German weekly, Focus, is reporting that a “former Mossad officer” tells them that IDF Unit 8200 (Israel’s NSA) has intercepted Syrian government communications that confirms Assad’s responsibility for the recent chemical gas attack on a Damascus suburb that left more than 1,000 civilians, including many children, dead.

Now in English:

International Institute for Counter Terrorism:

This report is the first part of an ICT project intended to evaluate the threat of proliferation of Syrian chemical weapons to local and regional terrorist organizations and beyond. The report includes information on the status of chemical weapons in Syria and their use updated to mid-June 2013 and an addendum presenting the main points of the United States and French intelligence communities' evaluation concerning the August 21, 2013 chemical attacks in the suburbs of Damascus.

References

<references>

  1. 1.0 1.1 Exclusive: Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say By Noah Shachtman, Foreign Policy magazine, the Cable, August 28, 2013