Today I attended a presentation by Eliot Higgins (founder of Bellingcat) and Maks Czuperski, Special Assistant to the President and CEO of the Atlantic Council. For me it was an opportunity to meet Higgins for the first time. The presentation was organized very last minute by students of the University College Utrecht. Because of the great weather, last minute announcement and little advertising only about 12 people showed up.
In this post I will explain a bit more about Atlantic Council which uses just like Bellingcat open source information for studies. An understanding of Atlantic Council makes clear why Bellingcat cooperates.
I will then describe what Eliot Higgins told about what they are working on regarding MH17.
Overall it was a very interesting session about the work of both Bellingcat and Atlantic Council. Atlantic Council is a non-profit organization based in Washington, United States. It is not a boy scout club. The president and CEO Frederick Kempe earns about $ 420.000. The goals of Atlantic Council are broad. Basically the initial mission was to encourage the continuation of cooperation between North America and Europe after World War II. However currently Atlantic Council covers many topics worldwide. I would say Atlantic Council is more or less a PR bureau with one of the goals to inform or influence the public opinion. An example for this is the upcoming study on the war in Syria. The study is titled ‘Distract Deceive Destroy’ and shows the acts of Putin’s army in Syria.
Other mission is providing strategic advice and analysis to governments, defense industry, oil and energy industry.
Maks Czuperski explains in this video interview that Atlantic Council must inform the public about the bombing of Russia of civilians so the public can make their governments accountable and move them from talk to action.
Atlantic Council is paid by many funders/donors. It is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization which falls under category 501(c)(3). Funders are states and companies. This is an overview of donors as in 2013. According Czuperski only small percentage of the fundings is paid by the United States Government. Atlantic Council states they always place the integrity of their work above the preferences of their funders. A project can only start if there are two or more founders.
However a Newrepublic story provides a different story. It describes Atlantic Council hosted a conference on Kazakhstan. Kazakstan has a regime. However during the event hard any criticism was heard on the regime.
Lets us focus on Bellingcat and MH17.
Higgins told a couple of interesting studies they work on:
- there is a study by a UK university on the damage of the skirt of the BUK photographed in Donetsk. The damage is exactly the same as seen on a photo of a BUK in Russia.
- Bellingcat is researching the wheels and cables of BUK systems. There seems to be very minor differences in these between different BUK models.
- In summer 2016 Bellingcat will present more evidence that BUK 3×2 indeed was part of the convoy which was seen in Millerovo.It seems JIT already has this information.
Higgins has been in contact with Google Earth team because of satellite images. It seems someone can buy the exclusive right to see satellite images. At a certain time satellite images of Raqqa in Syria could not be obtained from a satellite operator because of this exclusive right. It also seems for marketing reasons satellite operators only like to provide clear photos, with a little as possible clouds.