On Thursday the Ukrainian-controlled Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released what the mainstream media (MSM) grandly referred to as a ‘preliminary report’ on the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17th 2014. It was in fact a glorified press release, largely recycling the flawed Dutch Safety Board (OVV) report published in 2015.
The ridiculous theory that “the rebels did it” has now been abandoned by Western officialdom and the MSM in favour of an absurd and offensive conspiracy theory, first circulated on the sinister Bellingcat website (no offense intended), that the Russian Government moved a Buk (SA-11) TELAR (combined radar and launch vehicle) into rebel-controlled territory, shot down MH17 and then moved the launcher back into Russia.
The press release led to an international incident, and rightly so, since the JIT, which was fronting for Ukraine, effectively accused the Russian Federation of committing an Act of War against inter alia the Kingdom of the Netherlands, many of whose nationals were on the flight and Malaysia. The Russian Government, which is not involved in the JIT, slammed the report, which ignored Russian data and was entirely one-sided.
Very properly, the Russian Government also questioned the integrity of the Dutch public prosecutors office, no more independent or reliable than the CPS in the UK, with respect. The pro-EU Dutch Foreign Minister then summoned the sheer gall and impertinence to call in HE the Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands. A complete diplomatic breach between Russia and the Netherlands is now in prospect.
The JIT report is in fact junk and Moscow were right to slam it. In a shrewd move the Russians pre-empted the JIT press release by releasing primary radar data which had been stored and overlooked, which pretty much blew the OVV report out of the water.
Who Are The JIT?
The JIT is not a UN body. It’s just a group of policemen and public prosecutors assembled by Kiev. Its work is heavily dependent on intelligence drip-fed to it by the notorious Ukrainian SBU, still smarting over Germany’s defeat by the Allies, including Russia, in 1945. None of its members seems to have any aviation expertise, indeed it would be fair to say that none of its members possesses any relevant qualification to conduct such a sensitive investigation. Absurdly, it has relied upon social media reports and information, or disinformation, as the case may be, supplied by the anti-Russian Bellingcat propaganda website.
Basically, the JIT are SBU + Plod. If there is one thing we have learnt over the years, it is never to put DC Plod in charge of investigating anything important. It was Plod who royally screwed up the Madeleine McCann Kidnap Inquiry and missed those two stolen Russian warheads smuggled into London by the DVD and GO2 in 2012. (I am glad to report that the police chief under whose nose those nukes were smuggled into London resigned this week, apparently not of his own volition).
Apart from anything else, intelligence work requires intelligence (duh!). Trying to do intelligence work without a brain is more difficult than running a marathon without legs. If you have the misfortune to be legless, other than through drink, you can always strap on a pair of legs, or blades, as the case may be. Sadly for the police, we have yet to invent a prosthetic brain.
In order to crack an intelligence problem you need powers of deductive reasoning, something most police officers lack, with respect. Police officers are usually as out of their depth dealing with an intelligence problem as they would be with a scientific problem, where again deductive reasoning is usually required.
Problems With the OVV Report
The OVV report is one of the three legs of the triad upon which the JIT rely, the others being heavily-edited COMINT supplied by the dodgy SBU and social media/Bellingcat. The trouble is that the OVV report suffers from fatal defects, to the point where many of its conclusions simply cannot be supported.
The OVV itself is a deeply-troubled institution. It’s run by a Dutch bureaucrat, Tjibbe Joustra, who was given the job as part of a deal after he was caught up in a scandal involving misuse of public money. I express no view, of course, on whether he was actually involved in impropriety. All I say is that there was a scandal, his name was mentioned and he resigned. Joustra is also suspected in some quarters of supporting Dutch membership of the EU, an organisation which we now know was set up by German Intelligence.
Joustra’s specialism seems to be food. I doubt he’s ever flown a plane. At any rate, his aviation credentials are obscure. So far as the loss of MH17 is concerned his expertise would appear to be limited to criticising the menu, which, knowing Malaysian, was probably fine anyway.
There are eleven big problems, it seems to me, with the report (all times Zulu):
(1) It lacks objectivity. It proceeds from a pro-Ukraine, anti-Russian perspective, to the point where Russian data is rejected automatically and Ukrainian data accepted without critical analysis.
(2) It lacks intellectual rigor. It rejects data without giving sufficient reasons and glosses over major problems with the evidence. Without citing my reporting, e.g., it rejects the theory I first put forward in 2014 on VT, that the plane was brought down by a combination of cannon fire from a Ukrainian Su-25 and a Chinese Buk, partly on the ground that the first officer’s body had been penetrated by shrapnel consistent with a GN314M warhead, but fails to explain why the captain, sitting on the side of the plane I suggest the cannon attack came from, had no trace in his body of the distinctive fragmentation shrapnel associated with that warhead.
(3) It makes no attempt to explain the dishing to the lower fuselage, consistent with a proximity-fuzed detonation, having concluded that the missile warhead exploded above the aircraft. Dishing occurs when an aircraft skin is pressed in, without deforming, e.g., the stringers. It is consistent with blast impact, but not immediately adjacent, when the stringers and other structural members are also deformed.
(4) It notes, correctly, that one of the cabin pressure relief valves was found in the open position, without assessing the implications, one of which was depressurisation in lower fuselage, creating a pressure differential with the cabin, which the valve was designed to prevent (these valves came in to correct one of the flaws in the design of the DC-10, shared with other first-generation wide-bodies, where the cabin floor could collapse following a loss of pressure in a cargo hold). The open valve suggests that the hull aft of the cockpit was penetrated from below, not above.
(5) It concludes that the warhead detonated just feet away from the aircraft without a technical analysis of the proximity fuze, i.e. it wholly fails to explain why the warhead did not detonate as it approached the aircraft.
(6) It rejects the cannon-fire theory partly on metallurgical analysis, without considering the metallurgy of the various types of cannon round the Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 could have used.
(7) Its timeline is out by about 7.5 minutes. It assumes that hull break-up commenced shortly after MH17 went off air and the CVR and FDR kicked out, at 1320, gives a credible time to ground impact from commencement of hull break-up as 60-90 seconds but then gives the impact time as about 1330. Not fixing the precise time of impact of the major wreckage was sloppy, with respect. 300 tons of airplane falling out of the sky, even in pieces, is the sort of thing that gets noticed, even in the Eastern Ukraine, and ground impact will usually stop several hundred watches and digital timers in mobile phones, laptops and other equipment. If you don’t believe me, try dropping your laptop 31,000 feet and see if it still works.
(8) The crime scene was seriously contaminated and investigators took weeks to get there. At no time was it ever properly secured.
(9) It resort to wild speculation instead of sticking to the facts, or at least acknowledging the gaps in the evidence. The wildest piece of speculation in the report is the suggestion that the oxygen mask found fitted to a passenger was put there by one of the people trampling over the crash site before the OVV eventually got there – why on earth would anybody want to do that? The suggestion is bizarre. It is far more likely that the cabin oxygen masks dropped, and at least one of the poor, terrified passengers had time to put it on, and tie it securely, so that it was not dislodged when their seat hit the ground. The oxygen mask evidence supports the cannon-fire strafing theory and suggests non-explosive decompression, at least initially. Other oxygen masks appear to have dropped, but as their plane came under armed attack without warning most passengers would have frozen.
(10) The supposed SAM launch area is not supported by the missile manufacturer, who may safely be presumed to know more about the missile they designed than the Dutch investigators. No variant of the Buk has ever been used, or so far as I know even fired, by the Dutch Armed Forces, and
(11) The report obsesses on Russian-made versions of the Buk. It doesn’t even mention the three Chinese versions, the HQ-16, HQ-16A and HQ-16B, although we can probably rule out the latter, as there is no reliable reporting of it having entered service with the PLA by July 2014.
I respectfully maintain the analysis I first put forward on VT in 2014: MH-17 was shot down by a Chinese PLA HQ-16 truck-mounted launcher, after Ukrainian ATC directed MH-17 into the kill zone and a Ukrainian Air Force Su-25, on combat power, lightened by having its titanium armor bath removed, disabled the crew, making MH370-style evasive maneuvers impossible, with 30 mil cannon fire, attacking from the port side.
I note that analysis of the shrapnel found in the poor captain’s body confirms that it came through the cockpit windows. The SAM was fired from the ground, by definition, and approached the target, which was in level flight at FL310, from below.
Jamming of the ATC and guard frequencies probably commenced at or around 1320, timed with the sabotage, probably by the insertion of self-deleting lines of software code, of the SATCOMs. The Ukrainian Su-25 was probably the first target observed on Russian primary ATC radar as approaching MH17. The second target is probably the HQ-16, which was big enough to be picked up by ATC radar.
I entirely acquit the Russian Government and Armed Forces of responsibility in the matter and condemn the reckless speculation in the MSM about Russian military involvement in this outrageous armed attack upon a civilian airliner, with 298 souls aboard, proceeding along her allotted flight path upon her lawful occasions.
Update on Brexit
It’s happening, but it will be Brexit-lite, unless Theresa May is forced to resign in the spring by backbench defections. The UK is leaving the EU, in 2019, the EEA option, thankfully, has been rejected, but Theresa May and the Cabinet Office want to strangle the UK in EU red tape after 2019, by keeping most EU regulations in place. That will cost us about £75 billion per annum. They also want to continue dumping surplus European labor already here on our economy, also at a cost of about £75 billion a year. The Chancellor apparently proposes to fund these extravagances through increased borrowing. It won’t work.
My Take on the Debate
It was a draw. Donald won the first half, Hillary the second. The moderation was anything but moderate with respect, and having a Democrat voter chair the debate may have back-fired. Hillary’s problem is two-fold: she came across as a smug, Washington insider, dedicated to business and usual, and she needed a win, not a draw. She could probably have done with extra time, assuming that her medication lasted, no offense.
I doubt the Democrats will get much leverage from the leak by the IRS to the New York Times of Donald Trump’s tax returns. It just confirms how sleazy the federal bureaucracy is, with respect. Does anyone seriously believe that the IRS would have passed Donald Trump’s tax returns to a newspaper if they didn’t contain any ammunition for the Democratic candidate? In the long run the leak will probably do more damage to the reputation of the IRS than Donald Trump.
My Reading This Week
My reading this week has included Spies in the Sky, a rather good history of British aerial reconnaissance in World War II, by Taylor Downing, published by Little, Brown in 2011. It’s a good narrative account of the incredibly important photo interpretation work done at RAF Medmenham.
The story of Sid Cotton, the infamous German spy, is very entertaining, although like many historians Downing, with respect, gets the side Sid worked for wrong. There is no doubting Sid’s intelligence or inventiveness – the Sidcot suit is named after him, e.g. (by Sid himself, as Downing recounts!). He was however working for the Abwehr. RAF Intelligence might have picked this up earlier, with respect, indeed it rather looks as though Naval Intelligence, in the person of Ian Fleming, got there first. Having an RAF officer charging French officers for lifts in an impressed RAF aircraft was more than a little unusual.
Sid may actually have brought the German invasion of the Low Countries forward. An RAF photo-recon Spitfire picked up a German armored division concealed in the Ardennes, ready for a typically German sneak attack (you never know when your engine’s going to blow up if you’re battling with the Jerries), on May 6th 1940. Sid rushed up to London with the piccies, making sure no-one went with him, apart from his gay chauffeur of course, who used to give Sid a lift in more ways than one. Allegedly he took them to the Air Ministry. More likely he took them to the Swedish Defence Attaché, or the Irish Embassy, first, along with a warning that the RAF had spotted a bunch of panzers where they had no business being.
That might explain, by the way, why the Blitzkrieg in the West was a little bit short on panzers, spare parts and fuel. It always did look a bit rushed. Your typical Jerry does not ordinarily go in for sloppy staff work.
Taylor Downing also misses another intelligence wrinkle, with respect. He reports, correctly, that Field Marshal Smits, a real sleazebag, no offense intended, visited the first photo-interpretation HQ, before Medmenham, in Wembley, which was shortly thereafter bombed by the Luftwaffe. Of course it was. The whole point of having a German spy getting himself invited on a guided tour of our PR HQ (Jerry must have had a shock when he found out one of our chaps had been taking a dekko at his carefully-concealed panzers) was to find out what we were up to, and obtain targeting information.
Don’t forget that in addition to being a Boer general, ‘von’ Smuts was a politician. Shaking people by the hand and pretending to be on their side, whilst all along intending to get them killed, came naturally to him. He was one of the biggest bastards of all time, again no offense intended.
Happy New Year to my Jewish readers.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.