Bryan Hemming

short stories, comment, articles, humour and photography

Bellingcat: the Dead Cat Factory

Dead Cats

There have been two new developments in the long-awaited criminal investigation report into MH17 over the last couple of weeks. Though you might’ve read about one, you’re far less likely to have heard about the other —more important— one.

What could be seen as an interim report on the progress of the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17 wasn’t announced at a big press conference, nor did it grab the headlines in the main corporate media outlets. Signed by Fred Westerbeke, the Dutch prosecutor leading the international Joint Investigation Team (JIT) investigating MH17, the report took the form of a letter sent to family members of the victims.

But not all family members received the letter. In what has all the appearances of having been an incredibly insensitive and vindictive move by someone, Denise Kenke, daughter of Willem Grootscholten, one of the victims of the tragedy, didn’t hear about the interim report either. Not first hand, at least.

Miss Kenke is the only family member to have lodged a case charging the Ukraine Government with culpable negligence at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). An 11-page application was filed as early as November 17, 2014. And if that’s another thing you didn’t hear from in the corporate media, it might be because the ECHR has imposed a blackout covering all details of the case, which also prevents website access.

You could be forgiven for thinking a blackout of information on such a high-profile case might be something British corporate hacks would be clawing at each other to get to the bottom of. But no, they have shown as little interest in that as they have in the Fred Westerbeke letter.

Time to let a Dead Cat out of the Bag

That’s not to say two of Britain’s leading smarmsheets didn’t report anything on MH17 this week. The Independent and the Guardian both published stories on Wednesday, February 24th. And, by some amazing coincidence, both stories centred on the completely different, unofficial report.

So similar were the stories conjured up by Lizzie Dearden and Alec Luhn they could have been penned by Wonderland twins, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Not only are both centred round a Bellingcat report on MH17, released the week following Westerbeke’s letter, but both appeared on the same day within hours of one another. And, surprise, surprise, both lend support to the Bellingcat accusation that Russia was behind the downing of the plane. But the real surprise is that there was no mention by either media outlet of the fact the Westerbeke letter makes a point of discounting the re-churned ‘evidence’ contained in the Bellingcat report, despite the Guardian story referring to the letter. Or perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise at all.

“On December 26, 2015 Bellingcat has submitted a draft report to the JIT.  The report has been gathered using social media and other public Internet sources, include information about members of a Russian military unit with, according to Bellingcat, a possible BUK-missile system in Ukraine.” Fred Westerbeke

In total, Westerbeke mentions Bellingcat by name no less than eight times in his letter, even if it was only to eventually conclude the report was a load of cobblers.

“No evidence of direct involvement of individual members of this unit at the shooting of the MH17 follows from the report of Bellingcat.” Fred Westerbeke

You wouldn’t have guessed that from reading Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The Independent report opened with this little insight.

“The missile system used to down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was transported into Ukraine by Russian soldiers with “high-level” authorisation, a new report has claimed.” Lizzie Dearden

Not to be outdone, in the Guardian’s pick’n’mix Alec Luhn chooses to meld Fred Westerbeke’s letter with Bellingcat’s report, in order to lend the latter more credence, amazingly enough.

“The head of the MH17 investigation, Fred Westerbeke, told victims’ families in a letter last week that finding and prosecuting those responsible “could take a long time”. But the new report raises the likelihood that “justice could be served”, Bellingcat head Eliot Higgins told the Guardian. Although names were changed and faces blurred in the public report, the identities were provided in a version given to Dutch prosecutors in December.” Alec Luhn

All this in spite of the fact Fred Westerbeke seeks to emphasise —as part of his reason for sending the letter— his intention of clarifying any confusion some family members of the victims might suffer from believing evidence like Bellingcat’s is solid enough to be used in a court of law.

“Recently, the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice informed the Lower House of radar and satellite data, the research collective Bellingcat and prosecution capabilities. The same issues are also discussed in a public hearing in the House. I noticed that among family members of the deceased there are still questions about this.” Fred Westerbeke

Unfortunately, parts of the English translation from the original Dutch are very poor. Nevertheless, for both Independent and the Guardian journalists to completely misinform their readers by repeating the discounted evidence raised in the Bellingcat report is nothing less than despicable.

To read the full Independent and Guardian articles follow the links: MH17: Buk missile system used to down plane ‘transported to Ukraine rebels by Russian soldiers’, report claims and MH17 report identifies Russian soldiers suspected of downing plane in Ukraine.

To judge by the translation it certainly looks as though the Westerbeke letter was cobbled together in bit of a rush. Rather than take the Bellingcat ‘report’ seriously journalists should be asking why such an experienced prosecutor as Westerbeke felt the urgent need to address questions about the Bellingcat ‘research’ in this interim report on the progress of the JIT investigation. It isn’t hard to work out, as he only refers to Bellingcat by name before stating “…among family members of the deceased there are still questions about this.”

He shows real concern for the families and the way they have been bombarded with contradictions, lies and disinformation over the last eighteen months, particularly by the corporate media. The references mentioning Bellingcat specifically — as opposed to countless other sources — suggest there was information indicating Eliot Higgins was about to release his ‘evidence’ prematurely and Westerbeke decided to pre-empt it. The pain of reading another bag of disinformation produced by the dead cat factory could cause a lot of unnecessary distress.

Westerbeke may have assumed experienced journalists would realise it isn’t part of his remit to judge whether the conclusions Eliot Higgins reaches from looking at his own flawed evidence are right or wrong. The job of the international investigating team is to consider what evidence is admissible in a court of law, and what is most likely to bring about a successful prosecution, should the culprits be identified and brought to justice.

The Bellingcat research collective, or whatever it now calls itself, amounts to little more than one neo-con conspiracy nut being exploited being by Western intelligence agencies to spread disinformation.

What is particularly contemptible about the Guardian and Independent stories is that neither shows any respect for the families of the victims. The journalists involved didn’t even consider how helping Eliot Higgins throw another dead cat on the table might affect their feelings.

But through the fog of lies, propaganda and confusion being created around MH17, one thing is that is becoming abundantly clear, the international Joint Investigation Team charged with investigating the crime is coming under increasing pressure to reach the ‘right’ verdict, which has Russia taking the fall. Bellingcat is just one more tool being used to apply that pressure. The fact that Independent and Guardian journalists are now also allowing themselves to be used as tools should be a cause of great concern to us all.

Links to sources for further reading :

Global Research: European Court of Human Rights Refuses MH17 Victim’s Case against Ukraine Government, Imposes Secrecy Blackout on Evidence by John Helmer.

Global Research: The Malaysian MH17 Crash Investigation: Dutch Safety Board (DSB) Prepares “Missile Attack On Moscow” by John Helmer.

Consortium News: Here’s what Robert Parry has to say about Bellingcat.









4 comments on “Bellingcat: the Dead Cat Factory

  1. Laura Bloomsbury
    March 9, 2016

    you pen a well-informed political commentary Bryan. My feeling is that there is only one centralised news source and journalists merely have to re-phrase it for their respective papers (the investigative adjective was cut out of journalism a long time ago). Meanwhile with all those pointing fingers its worth looking the other way for truth


    • Bryan Hemming
      March 10, 2016

      It takes an awful lot of time to do the research necessary even for relatively simple articles like this. I have to check and re-check facts, using as many different sources as possible. Luckily, I have built a list of reliable sources and contacts.

      The corporate media has no excuse for the serious decline in standards we see today, especially with the internet. Apart from getting their facts wrong, quite often the quality of writing is appalling.

      The few times I wrote for The Independent I was complimented on the fact my work hardly needed editing. It came as quite a surprise, as I thought journalists who’d got degrees in media studies would’ve learned how to construct an article. I now realise most can’t and neither can many sub-editors sub-edit.


  2. Colltales
    February 27, 2016

    Hope you’re not the only one smelling a big, stinky rat on this ‘investigation’ over the tragedy, Bryan. Terribly cruel to families indeed, specially because we all know where it’s headed: some ridiculous financial compensation, a not so veiled excuse to exempt Ukraine and lay the blame on Putin’s wide, missile-proof front gate, and some official grandstanding. Very said. But, above all, stop killing cats, please, I beg you. Cheers


    • Bryan Hemming
      February 27, 2016

      How can I think of rats and cats when Foxes and Canaries are dominating my thoughts today? Norwich City (the Canaries).


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