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MH-17 Probe Trusts Torture-Implicated Ukraine

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Reprinted from Consortium News


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According to the report, the SBU helped shape the MH-17 investigation by supplying a selection of phone intercepts and other material. But the JIT seemed oblivious to the potentially grave conflict of interest, saying:

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"Since the first week of September 2014, investigating officers from The Netherlands and Australia have worked here [in Kiev]. They work in close cooperation here with the Security and Investigation Service of the Ukraine (SBU). Immediately after the crash, the SBU provided access to large numbers of tapped telephone conversations and other data. ...

"At first rather formal, cooperation with the SBU became more and more flexible. 'In particular because of the data analysis, we were able to prove our added value', says [Dutch police official Gert] Van Doorn. 'Since then, we notice in all kinds of ways that they deal with us in an open way. They share their questions with us and think along as much as they can.'"

The JIT report continued: "With the tapped telephone conversations from SBU, there are millions of printed lines with metadata, for example, about the cell tower used, the duration of the call and the corresponding telephone numbers. The investigating officers sort out this data and connect it to validate the reliability of the material.

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"When, for example, person A calls person B, it must be possible to also find this conversation on the line from person B to person A. When somebody mentions a location, that should also correlate with the cell tower location that picked up the signal. If these cross-checks do not tally, then further research is necessary.

"By now, the investigators are certain about the reliability of the material. 'After intensive investigation, the material seems to be very sound', says Van Doorn, 'that also contributed to the mutual trust.'"

But would SBU turn over data that might reveal the role of a Ukrainian military unit in the shoot-down? Under the security agency's secrecy mandate, could it even do so?

Further, the collegial dependence on the SBU has not led to a quick resolution of the MH-17 mystery, with the JIT's investigative report now not expected until after the summer, i.e., more than two years after the shoot-down, and even then the report is to be kept secret.

In this month's update, the JIT would not even endorse last fall's finding by the Dutch Safety Board that MH-17 was likely brought down by a Buk anti-aircraft missile system fired somewhere in a 320-square-kilometer area in eastern Ukraine, territory that was then partly controlled by the rebels and partly by the government.

Nor does the JIT update address last October's findings of Dutch (i.e., NATO) intelligence that the only operational anti-aircraft missile batteries capable of bringing down a plane at 33,000 feet on July 17, 2014, were in the possession of the Ukrainian military.

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"For the investigation into the weapon system that was used, the well known seven questions need to be answered are: who, what, where, when, which, how and why," the update said. "In this investigation only the question of 'when' has been established irrefutably: flight MH17 crashed on 17 July 2014. The remaining questions require intensive investigation, according to Gerrit Thiry (team leader) and Susanne Huiberts (operational specialist) of the National Criminal Investigation Service."

Punishing Russia

The MH-17 case also has relevance to the decision later this month by the European Union on whether to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months as the U.S. government wants. The E.U. imposed the sanctions amid a frenzied rush-to-judgment in late July 2014 blaming the Russians and the rebels for the deaths of the 298 people on MH-17 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.


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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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