Thursday, April 19, 2018

Porton Down cannot prove where the Novichok agent was manufactured

A key piece of evidence that the Russians carried out the recent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was carried out using what is termed a Novichok type nerve agent manufactured in Russia. However the lab claims it cannot prove this.

This article will deal only with several issues raised by the recent statements by Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down. Wikipedia describes Porton Down as follows: "Porton Down is a United Kingdom science park, situated just northeast of the village of Porton near Salisbury, in Wiltshire, England. It is home to two UK Government facilities: a site of the Ministry of Defence's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) – known for over 100 years as one of the UK's most secretive and controversial military research facilities..." The lab did the tests to identify the nerve agent said to be used in the poisoning.
Aitkenhead's statements
Aitkenhead told Sky News: "We were able to identify it as novichok, to identify that it was military-grade nerve agent. We have not identified the precise source, but we have provided the scientific info to Government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions you have come to. It is our job to provide the scientific evidence of what this particular nerve agent is, we identified that it is from this particular family and that it is a military grade, but it is not our job to say where it was manufactured."
Aitkenhead also claimed that the nerve agent required "extremely sophisticated methods to create, something only in the capabilities of a state actor".
Craig Murray pointed out in an article some time ago that the lab had never claimed that the nerve agent came from Russia. He claims that there was pressure on the lab to specifically say so which the lab resisted. Murray pointed out the exact phrasing of what the lab said does not claim that the source was Russia: "The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia. The exact formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was used by Theresa May in parliament, used by the UK at the UN Security Council, used by Boris Johnson on the BBC yesterday and, most tellingly of all, “of a type developed by Russia” is the precise phrase used in the joint communique issued by the UK, USA, France and Germany yesterday"
Yet the impression is given in many politician's statements that the lab did establish this. In one interview Boris Johnson UK cabinet minister actually claimed that he was informed by a scientist at Porton Down that the agent definitely came from Russia.
No doubt Aitkenhead's statements were meant to set the record straight as politicians deliberately have tried to confuse the issue and had launched vicious attacks on Craig Murray for pointing out the careful wording of the lab's earlier statement.
Porton Down no doubt has samples of Novichok type agents
While Mr. Aitkenhead would not comment on whether Porton Down keeps novichok he dismissed suggestions that the substance used to poison the Skripals had come from Porton Down and said: "There is no way anything like that could have come from us or left the four walls of our facility."
It is hard to see how the lab could identify the substance as a Novichok type unless they had some of the same type of formulas to compare it with. Novichok is a type of nerve gas not a specific formula. The claim that only Russia could make the Novichok is just obviously wrong. Many states could produce it.
Iran has produced a Novichok type nerve agent

Craig Murray reports: "I have now been sent the vital information that in late 2016, Iranian scientists set out to study whether novichoks really could be produced from commercially available ingredients. Iran succeeded in synthesising a number of novichoks. Iran did this in full cooperation with the OPCW and immediately reported the results to the OPCW so they could be added to the chemical weapons database."
Two countries that probably have the capacity to develop Novichok type agents are North Korea and Israel neither of which have ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Official narrative now falls to intelligence evidence
The official narrative now admits what Craig Murray had long held that Porton Down never said that that Porton Down never even claimed to have any proof the agent came from Russia. It now falls back on what the Foreign Office calls the wider "intelligence picture".
The Foreign Office said: "As the Prime Minister has set out in a number of statements to the Commons since 12 March, this includes our knowledge that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents - probably for assassination - and as part of this programme has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks. Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views former intelligence officers as targets. It is our assessment that Russia was responsible for this brazen and reckless act and, as the international community agrees, there is no other plausible explanation."
Note that even if all of this were true it does not give a shred of evidence that this particular instance involved the Russians. It just shows that they could have done it.
There is one obvious questions that you wont find asked in any of the mainstream reports. Why would Russia develop a nerve agent that could be traced back to Russia and so immediately lead to Russia being a likely culprit? Are the Russians so stupid as to use a means of assassination that could immediately provide evidence that it was somehow involved? Although obvious it seems that the mainstream press does not seem to think these questions are relevant or important.
Another reason it is not plausible that the Russians would carry out the assassination is that when spies are swapped it is understood that neither side will further punish those swapped. Who will trust Russia with a swap again if Russia wreaks revenge on those swapped? Again, this question does not come up.
We do not know who did the act, but questions remain regarding the official U.K. narrative, some of which I discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.



Previously published in Digital Journal

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