MH-17: The Dog Still Not Barking
The dog not barking in the Dutch report on the
shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is the silence regarding
U.S. intelligence information that supposedly had pinned down key
details just days after the crash but has been kept secret.
By Robert Parry
October 15, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "Consortiumnews"
- The Dutch Safety Board
report concludes that an older model Buk missile
apparently shot down Malaysia Airline Flight 17 on July 17, 2014,
but doesn’t say who possessed the missile and who fired it. Yet,
what is perhaps most striking about the report is what’s not there –
nothing from the U.S. intelligence data on the tragedy.
The dog still not barking is the absence of
evidence from U.S. spy satellites and other intelligence sources
that Secretary of State John Kerry insisted just three days after
the shoot-down pinpointed where the missile was fired, an obviously
important point in determining who fired it.
On July 20, 2014, Kerry declared on NBC’s “Meet
the Press” that “we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know
the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And
it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the
But such U.S. government information is not
mentioned in the 279-page Dutch report, which focused on the failure
to close off the eastern Ukrainian war zone to commercial flights
and the cause of the crash rather than who fired on MH-17. A Dutch
criminal investigation is still underway with the goal of
determining who was responsible but without any sign of an imminent
I was told by a U.S. intelligence source earlier
this year that CIA analysts had met with Dutch investigators to
describe what the classified U.S. evidence showed but apparently
with the caveat that it must remain secret.
Last year, another source briefed by U.S.
intelligence analysts told me they had concluded that a rogue
element of the Ukrainian government – tied to one of the oligarchs –
was responsible for the shoot-down, while absolving senior Ukrainian
leaders including President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister
Arseniy Yatsenyuk. But I wasn’t able to determine if this U.S.
analysis was a consensus or a dissident opinion.
Last October, Der Spiegel reported that German
intelligence, the BND, concluded that the Russian government was not
the source of the missile battery – that it had been captured from a
Ukrainian military base – but the BND blamed the ethnic Russian
rebels for firing it. However, a European source told me that the
BND’s analysis was not as conclusive as Der Spiegel had described.
The Dutch report, released Tuesday, did little to
clarify these conflicting accounts but did agree with an analysis by
the Russian manufacturer of the Buk anti-aircraft missile systems
that the shrapnel and pieces of the missile recovered from the MH-17
crash site came from the 9M38 series, representing an older, now
discontinued Buk version.
The report said: “The damage observed on the
wreckage in amount of damage, type of damage, boundary and impact
angles of damage, number and density of hits, size of penetrations
and bowtie fragments found in the wreckage, is consistent with the
damage caused by the 9N314M warhead used in the 9M38 and 9M38M1 BUK
Last June, Almaz-Antey, the Russian manufacturer
which also provided declassified information about the Buk systems
to the Dutch,
its analysis of the plane’s wreckage revealed that MH-17 had been
attacked by a “9M38M1 of the Buk M1 system.” The company’s Chief
Executive Officer Yan Novikov said the missile was last produced in
Who Has This Missile?
The Russian government has insisted that it no
longer uses the 9M38 version. According to the Russian news agency
TASS, former deputy chief of the Russian army air defense Alexander
Luzan said the
suspect warhead was phased out of Russia’s arsenal 15 years ago when
Russia began using the 9M317 model.
“The 9M38, 9M38M, 9M38M1 missiles are former
modifications of the Buk system missiles, but they all have the same
warhead. They are not in service with the Russian Armed Forces, but
Ukraine has them,” Luzan said.
“Based on the modification and type of the used
missile, as well as its location, this Buk belongs to the Armed
Forces of Ukraine. By the way, Ukraine had three military districts
— the Carpathian, Odessa and Kiev, and these three districts had
more than five Buk anti-aircraft missile brigades of various
modifications – Buk, Buk-M, Buk-M1, which means that there were more
than 100 missile vehicles there.”
But Luzan’s account would not seem to rule out the
possibility that some older Buk versions might have gone into
storage in some Russian warehouse. It is common practice for
intelligence services, including the CIA, to give older, surplus
equipment to insurgents as a way to create more deniability if
questions are ever raised about the source of the weapons.
For its part, the Ukrainian government claimed to
have sold its stockpile of older Buks to Georgia, but Ukraine
appears to still possess the 9M38 Buk system, based on photographs
of Ukrainian weapons displays. Prior to the MH-17 crash, ethnic
Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine were reported to have captured a
Buk system after overrunning a government air base, but Ukrainian
authorities said the system was not operational, as recounted in the
Dutch report. The rebels also denied possessing a functioning Buk
As for the missile’s firing location, the Dutch
report said the launch spot could have been anywhere within a
320-square-kilometer area in eastern Ukraine, making it hard to
determine whether the firing location was controlled by the rebels
or government forces. Given the fluidity of the frontlines in July
2014 – and the fact that heavy fighting was occurring to the north –
it might even have been possible for a mobile missile launcher to
slip from one side to the other along the southern front.
The Dutch report did seek to discredit one
alternative theory raised by Russian officials in the days after the
shoot-down – that MH-17 could have been the victim of an air-to-air
attack. The Dutch dismissed Russian radar data that suggested a
possible Ukrainian fighter plane in the area, relying instead of
Ukrainian data which the Dutch found more complete.
But the report ignored other evidence cited by the
Russians, including electronic data of the Ukrainian government
allegedly turning on the radar that is used by Buk systems for
targeting aircraft. Russian Lt. Gen. Andrey Kartopolov called on the
Ukrainian government to explain the movements of its Buk systems to
sites in eastern Ukraine in mid-July 2014 and why Kiev’s
Kupol-M19S18 radars, which coordinate the flight of Buk missiles,
showed increased activity leading up to the July 17 shoot-down.
The Dutch-led investigation was perhaps
compromised by a central role given to the Ukrainian government
which apparently had the power to veto what was included in the
report. Yet, what may have spoken most loudly in the Dutch report
was the silence about U.S. intelligence information. If – as Kerry
claimed – the U.S. government knew almost immediately the site where
the fateful missile was launched, why has that evidence been kept
Given the importance of the conflict in eastern
Ukraine to U.S. intelligence, it was a high-priority target in July
2014 with significant resources devoted to the area, including
satellite surveillance, electronic eavesdropping and human assets.
In his rush-to-judgment comments the weekend after the crash, Kerry
admitted as much.
But the Obama administration has refused to make
any of its intelligence information public. Only belatedly did CIA
analysts brief the Dutch investigators, according to a U.S.
government source, but that evidence apparently remained classified.
The second source told me that the reason for
withholding the U.S. intelligence information was that it
contradicted the initial declarations by Kerry and other U.S.
officials pointing the finger of blame at the ethnic Russian rebels
and indirectly at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who
stood accused of giving a ragtag bunch of rebels a powerful weapon
capable of shooting down commercial airliners.
Despite Russian denials, the worldwide revulsion
over the shoot-down of MH-17, killing all 298 people onboard, gave
powerful momentum to anti-Putin propaganda and convinced the
European Union to consent to U.S. demands for tougher economic
sanctions punishing Russia for its intervention in Ukraine.
According to this source’s account, an admission that a rogue
Ukrainian group was responsible would take away a powerful P.R. club
wielded against Russia.
Among the organizations that have implored
President Barack Obama to release the U.S. intelligence data on
MH-17 is the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group
of mostly retired U.S. intelligence analysts.
As early as July 29, 2014, just 12 days after the
shoot-down amid escalating Cold War-style rhetoric, VIPS
wrote, “As intelligence professionals we are embarrassed
by the unprofessional use of partial intelligence information. …As
Americans, we find ourselves hoping that, if you indeed have more
conclusive evidence, you will find a way to make it public without
further delay. In charging Russia with being directly or indirectly
responsible, Secretary of State John Kerry has been particularly
definitive. Not so the evidence.”
But the release of the Dutch report – without any
of that data – indicates that the U.S. government continues to hide
what evidence it has. That missing evidence remains the dog not
barking, like the key fact that Sherlock Holmes used to unlock the
mystery of the “Silver Blaze” when the sleuth noted that the failure
of the dog to bark suggested who the guilty party really was.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the
Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the
1980s. You can buy his latest book,
America’s Stolen Narrative,
either in print
here or as an
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