Reprinted from Consortium News
Forensic experts are challenging an amateur report -- touted in The New York Times -- that claimed Russia faked satellite imagery of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the day that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky killing 298 people.
In a Twitter exchange, Dr. Neal Krawetz, founder of the FotoForensics digital image analytical tool, wrote: "'Bad analysis' is an understatement. This 'report' is outright fraud."
Another computer imaging expert, Masami Kuramoto, wrote, "This is either amateur hour or supposed to deceive audiences without tech background," to which Krawetz responded: "Why 'or'? Amateur hour AND deceptive."
On Saturday, The New York Times, which usually disdains Internet reports even from qualified experts, chose to highlight the report by arms control researchers at armscontrolwonk.com who appear to have little expertise in the field of forensic photographic analysis.
The Times article suggested that the Russians were falsely claiming that the Ukrainian military had Buk missile systems in eastern Ukraine on the day that MH-17 was shot down. But the presence of Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile batteries in the area has been confirmed by Western intelligence, including a report issued last October on the findings of the Dutch intelligence agency which had access to NATO's satellite and other data collection.
Indeed, the Netherlands' Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) concluded that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government, not the ethnic Russian rebels. MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. (The MH-17 flight had originated in Amsterdam and carried many Dutch citizens, explaining why the Netherlands took the lead in the investigation.)
MIVD said that based on "state secret" information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but "powerful anti-aircraft systems" and "a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country." MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:
"Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude."
I know that I have cited this section of the Dutch report before but I repeat it because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other leading U.S. news organizations have ignored these findings, presumably because they don't advance the desired propaganda theme blaming the Russians for the tragedy.
In other words, the Times, the Post and the rest of the mainstream U.S. media want the Russians to be guilty, so they exclude from their articles evidence that suggests that some element of the Ukrainian military might have fired the fateful missile. Such "group think" is, of course, the same journalistic malfeasance that led to the false reporting about Iraq's WMD. Doubts, even expressed by experts, were systematically filtered out then and the same now.
Further, it is dishonest journalism to ignore a credible government report that bears directly on an important issue, especially while running dubious Internet analyses and accepting propaganda claims from self-interested U.S. officials seeking to make the case against Russia.
For instance, the Dutch report contradicted The Washington Post's early reporting on MH-17. On July 20, 2014, just three days after the crash, the Post published an article with the title "Russia Supplied Missile Launchers to Separatists, U.S. Official Says."