MH17 and open source intelligence, a suspicious narrative – part 3. Behind the screens

This blogpost is the third part of a series that I will publish in the last months before the MH17 trial starts, on March 9, 2020. It will review important parts of the evidence as publically disseminated or (implicitly) endorsed by the JIT.

As social media and open source intelligence (OSINT) played a pivotal role, first part of the series contained an assessment of the OSINT method the JIT also seemed to have embraced. The second part, Strange Ways, showed examples how some parts of the evidence came out in the open, who were the key players and how social and regular media channels were used to clean the alleged evidence from suspicion.

The research presented in the series will reveal more about the questions how the “main scenario” the JIT has worked with was framed, how the OSINT evidence has come about, who have been involved and how the Dutch Safety Board investigations have supported the scenario. The series is supported by an assessment of most publically known evidence (comprising videos, photos, written messages and intercepts by the Ukrainian secret service) in a report of more than 100 pages containing more than 150 links to original sources and verifications.

It seems most if not all evidence ultimately arrived from a special unit, partly operating overtly and partly covertly, tied to the Interior Ministry of Ukraine and the organization that politically resorts under it, the Ukrainian secret service SBU. This blogpost, part 3 of the series called “Behind the screens”, will shed more light on this unit of ultranationalist  militia, spotters, infowarriors and SBU operatives.

 

Avakov and Gerashchenko


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MH17 and open source intelligence, a suspicious narrative – part 2: Strange Ways

This blogpost is the second part of a series that I will publish in the last months before the MH17 trial starts, on March 9, 2020. It will review important parts of the evidence as publically disseminated or (implicitly) endorsed by the JIT. As social media and open source intelligence (OSINT) played a pivotal role, first part of the series contained an assessment of the OSINT method the JIT also seemed to have embraced.

The research presented in later parts of the series will reveal how the “main scenario” the JIT worked with was framed, how the OSINT evidence came about, who were involved and how the Dutch Safety Board investigations supported the scenario.

It seems most if not all evidence ultimately arrived from a special unit, partly operating overtly and partly covertly, tied to the Ministry for the Interior and the organization that politically resorts under it, the Ukrainian secret service SBU.

 

part 2: Strange Ways

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The narrative of an alleged Russian Buk trail through the Donbass to a perceived launchsite and then back to Russia was ready-made from a few written messages, pictures and videos that were disseminated on social media. More than once the way how this alleged evidence in the MH17 case was popping up, showed some bizar aspects.

To tell the stories behind the construction of the narrative, one could start with discussing two videos allegedly posted by “ordinary citizens”, a photo allegedly taken by a freelance photographer for the French magazine Paris Match and an anonymous eyewitness account from an Associated Press reporter. We have at hand two social media sources which allegedly provided spontaneous, authentic, bottom-up information from civilians and two reporters from two well respected and widely trusted western media organizations. So at first glance all these sources were unsuspected, which might have made a fine start for OSINT gatherers like Bellingcat to use.

These stories convey some insights into the question how social media was used as a cleaning layer to support the impression only “ordinary people” were involved in the dissemination of the points of information that could be used to fill in the blanks towards a desired narrative. They also shed some light on some of the important players in the middle, the bloggers, OSINT gatherers and representatives from the (pro-)western mass media. Finally, one might get a glimpse of the way how western journalist sources retreated from openness to anonimity, playing their part in the OSINT information relay of the nameless evidence that was bubbling up from the infinite container of presumed neutral information, the world wide web.

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