The two OPCW Inspectors, whose dissent at the OPCW’s suppression of evidence is now public, were recently subjected to a one-sided condemnation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
At last, the full story of what happened at the UN’s Poison Gas Watchdog
By Peter Hitchens
Published on the author’s blog, Feb 29, 2020
The two OPCW Inspectors, whose dissent at the OPCW’s suppression of evidence is now public, were recently subjected to a one-sided condemnation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which can be read here.
Because the OPCW refused to meet the two men’s reasonable conditions for attending the hearings, they were not able to give their own version of events. So it is missing from the OPCW report, which is therefore almost useless as a fair summary of events. It breaks the ancient rule of any trial, a rule known to the Romans as ‘Audi alteram partem’ – hear both sides. Here, in the interests of justice, fairness and transparency, and to rebut claims that the OPCW’s report ends the controversy, is the two inspectors’ detailed response, which I am proud to publish. Emphases are mine. Note that it begins with two clear statements, from the Technical Secretariat report, acquitting both men of leaking on the basis of ‘insufficient evidence’.
The report, which consists of a main document, and then of indictments from the OPCW Technical Secretariat (TS) and the Director General (DG) , often repeats itself, so on occasion the inspectors give one response to two attacks. Occasionally they give a combined response. Where possible, the document is colour-coded to show who is speaking. Inspector A’s responses are in blue. Inspector B’s are in red. Where both are combined they are also in red:
Director-General’s Statement on the Report of the Investigation into Possible Breaches of Confidentiality
6 February 2020
*****Para 20, TS Note: (not mentioned in DG Statement!) ‘There is insufficient evidential basis to find that Inspector A disseminated his assessment to the website’.
*****Para 28. TS Note: (not mentioned in DG Statement!) There is insufficient evidential basis to find that Inspector B disseminated Inspector A’s assessment to the website.
Summary: A + B: The investigation report is a bait and switch tactic that creates the illusion of a report about a breach of confidentiality, when in fact it is little more than a public defence of the scientifically questioned Douma Report. Ironically, the defence, from a highly technical and scientific body, is not founded on science or logic, but on ad hominem attacks on two of its former inspectors, who had raised concerns about the scientifically indefensible manner in which the Douma investigation was conducted. It is classic ‘if you can’t get the ball, get the man’.
In another classic ruse, the Technical Secretariat tries to distract from the serious concerns of A and B, by trying to portray them as “individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence”. This is demonstrably false and conspicuously the report never says what those ‘views’ are supposed to have been. As a technical body the TS will be aware that inspections, verification, or investigations are never about ‘views’. Views are subjective by definition. They are not the currency of scientists and engineers who (should) only deal in facts, evidence and hypotheses.
It is about the suppression and cherry-picking of these facts and evidence, and the refusal to test alternative hypotheses, which is scientifically questionable, that Inspectors A and B have raised concerns with senior management. These concerns are not exclusive to A and B. Other inspectors involved in the Douma investigation have the same, but because of their contractual relationship with the Organisation are not free to raise them without fear of repercussion.
It is worth comparing these events to a staff member in the Organisation reporting some other kind of malfeasance such as sexual harassment from a supervisor or suspected financial fraud. Surely the Director General would not dismiss the accusations so off-handedly because the person’s ‘views are not supported by the evidence’. What he would certainly not do is launch a personal attack on the integrity and professionalism of the individuals involved. He would naturally instigate an immediate investigation to substantiate or refute the claims, the individuals reporting the misdemeanours would be heard, facts would be examined, and conclusions would be drawn. A and B have reported a very serious allegation and therefore deserve to be heard. The difference in their case, is that it has now become highly politicised.
The inspectors’ defence takes the OPCW documents, paragraph by paragraph, and responds to them, beginning here:
DG (Director General) :
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
- I have invited you to this meeting to brief States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention about the findings of the independent investigation that has been carried out over the past several months in relation to possible breaches of confidentiality.
- My goal is to provide you with all the relevant information, as is consistent with our confidentiality rules, so that you will have the necessary elements for your analysis and conclusions.
A + B: What does the Director General mean ‘so that you will have the necessary elements for your analysis and conclusions’? It is not a judge or jury being addressed so what conclusions do the delegates need to draw? Innocent or guilty? Surely, that was the remit of the investigators?
- According to the OPCW Policy on Confidentiality [OPOC]adopted by States Parties in 1997, during the first session of the Conference of the States Parties, I will present to you a report that is referred to as “modified”.
A + B: According to document cited above, the individual under investigation has a right to have a copy of the full confidential report made available to him or her (OPOC, IX, para 1.18). This right was refused by the TS.
- For the sake of clarity, it is relevant to explain what this term means. It means that the report of the investigators has been anonymised, so that the names of persons or institutions cannot be recognised. Beyond this required modification, the substance of the report has not been changed.
- The report that is the topic of this briefing contains all of the substantive information of the original text prepared by the external investigators. The report that will be issued to States Parties and my statement today will be made available on the OPCW website.
A + B: It is notable that the fundamental conclusions of the investigators’ report that there is insufficient evidential basis to find that Inspectors A or B disseminated the engineering assessment to the website (para 20 and 28) is conspicuously absent from the Director General’s briefing.
Moreover, the Director General takes advantage of the briefing to launch his own personal attack on A and B with acerbic comments and conclusions that were not contained in the investigator’s report.
“They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence”
“Their behaviour is made even more egregious by the fact that they had manifestly incomplete information on the Douma investigation”.
“As could be expected, their conclusions are erroneous, uninformed, and wrong”.
- Once you have had the opportunity to read the report, you may address in writing to the Secretariat any questions you have. The Secretariat will then endeavour to respond in writing. For purposes of transparency and consistent with the non-confidential nature of the briefing, any questions sent to the Secretariat in relation to this briefing will be circulated to all States Parties, along with the responses of the Secretariat.
A + B: The manner in which the TS (Technical Secretariat) made the modified’ report freely available to the States Parties and published it on its website and on Twitter is entirely inconsistent with OPOC which states (OPOC, IX, para 1.18) “In its modified form, the report may be made available to any State Party upon request and it shall be summarised in the annual report of the Director-General to the Conference concerning confidentiality as required under paragraph 3 of the Confidentiality Annex”. There is no mention of a dedicated ‘show trial’ or allowance for questions and responses, and particularly not being made public.
- As I start my briefing now, I acknowledge that my primary responsibility as Director-General is to the States Parties to the Convention. Bearing that in mind and due to the respect that I owe to all the States Parties, throughout this process I have maintained my independence and objectivity.
A + B: See comments under point 5 in which the Director General ad libs on the investigator’s report.
- As you know, during the past several months, the issue of a purported document disseminated outside the Organisation has appeared online. After a preliminary inquiry was carried out by the Secretariat, I came to the conclusion that it was necessary to start an independent investigation into possible breaches of confidentiality.
A +B: What is a purported document? Was or was there not a document that was leaked?
- Independent, professional investigators, from outside the Organisation, were hired last year. They followed established procedures in a lengthy process of investigation that has resulted in an extensive report of their findings. While the investigation was on-going, I have refrained from engaging with the media, because I had no doubt that I had to wait for the completion of the investigation and to come here to report to you, first of all.
A+B: See item 15
- I wish to underline that everything I will say first to States Parties in the following remarks will be based on evidence in the form of documents, interviews, audio recordings, and forensic analyses.
A+B: The audio recordings were almost certainly of the interviews, so it’s not an evidence source itself but a means of recording evidence.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
- Following a preliminary inquiry, I initiated in July 2019 an investigation into possible breaches of confidentiality related to the investigation by the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) into allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Douma on 7 April 2018. The breach concerned the publication, on or about 13 May 2019, of a document entitled “Engineering Assessment of Two Cylinders Observed at the Douma Incident – Executive Summary”. The document in question purports to contain information and findings regarding the Douma incident. The document was published on the website of the so-called Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media.
A+B: Again, it’s unclear what is meant by the ‘document in question purports to contain information and findings regarding the Douma incident’. The confidentiality breach being investigated was supposed to relate to a document containing Highly Protected information relating to the Douma investigation. Investigating the leak of a ‘purported’ document that ‘purports’ to contain confidential information is conspicuously non-committal and vague. Did the investigators not establish with certainty whether the document contained Highly Protected information or not? It’s as if, on the one hand, the investigators want to consider the engineering report as a Highly Protected document to add seriousness to the alleged breach, but on the other hand don’t want to give the document credibility and try to downgrade its importance by referring to it as a ‘purported’ document.
- According to its own website, the working group was “established to facilitate research into the areas of organised persuasive communication (including propaganda) … with respect to the … conflict in Syria”.
- During the course of the investigation, two OPCW inspectors were identified as possibly being implicated in breaches of confidentiality. In the report and in this briefing, these individuals shall be referred to as Inspectors A and B. This is on account of the confidential nature of the investigation and in order to safeguard their due process rights under the OPCW’s internal legislation and general principles of international administrative law.
A + B: The report claims it safeguards the names of the two individuals by calling them A and B but yet reveals not so nuanced details as to their identities —their years of service in the Organisation, year of commencement and departure, that they were rehired, that they went to Damascus, what they did in Damascus— leaving no doubt to anyone within the Organisation (and States Parties, who are notified of when staff are hired) as to the individuals’ identities. This is information that could have no bearing on the investigation and appears to have been included in bad faith.
- The investigation was conducted in strict compliance with the detailed procedures set forth in the OPCW Policy on Confidentiality(OPOC). The OPOC was approved and adopted by the Conference of the States Parties. It contains mandatory provisions to protect confidential information and to investigate potential breaches, as required under the Confidentiality Annex to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
A + B: NOT TRUE. According to the OPOC (Chap. IX, para 1.7) “The aim of the investigation is to establish whether there has been a breach of confidentiality or a violation of the handling, protection, dissemination or release procedures for confidential information”. The scope of the investigation, however, went far beyond this remit, breaching the subjects’ rights of due process. It expanded (without the subjects’ knowledge) into a full defence of the conclusions of the Douma Report, by attacking the credentials of the subjects of the investigation. What the conclusions of the Douma report have to do with whether A or B leaked a confidential document or not is perplexing. This creep in remit is evidenced from Director General’s personal attacks on the inspectors such as;
“Their behaviour is made even more egregious by the fact that they had manifestly incomplete information on the Douma investigation” or “As could be expected, their conclusions are erroneous, uninformed, and wrong”
But most alarmingly, the Director General in his closing remarks inadvertently lays bare the true purpose of the report when he stated: “Therefore I stand by the conclusions of the final Douma report”
- In accordance with the OPOC, I designated the Deputy Director-General as the Senior Investigating Officer. I also appointed independent, professional, and highly experienced investigators—external to the OPCW—to conduct the investigation. The hiring of external investigators is not required under the OPOC, but I felt it was important to take additional measures to ensure that the investigation was conducted in a transparent and independent manner. Appropriate measures were taken in order to prevent the tampering of evidence.
A + B: What is perhaps telling here is that the two investigators were ****** (a UK ex-policeman) and ****** (a US lawyer). It is difficult to see why this deviation from the standard protocol of using highly professional in-house investigators from the Office of Confidentiality and Security (OCS) who have no conflict of nationality is more transparent and independent. Or had the TS insisted on using external investigators, it might have shown enough discretion to recruit “independent” investigators from States Parties not centrally involved in the Douma controversy? This makes a mockery of the independence of the investigation.
- The investigation took place from July 2019 to February 2020. It was conducted in full conformity with the OPOC and relevant internal legislation. In particular, the investigation was conducted on the basis of objectivity and due process.
A +B: Not true. (similar to above) A key element of due process is knowing the subject of the investigation – the OPCW employed a bait and switch approach- i.e. an investigation that was supposed to be in relation to violation of confidentiality policy (i.e. issues of procedures) suddenly transformed into an investigation in relation to accuracy of different versions of the Douma report. The fact that this objective was never disclosed clearly to participants underscores the unfair and arbitrary nature of the investigation. That the outcome appears tied to the credibility of the OPCW’s final report also shows that the investigation completely lacked impartiality and independence – it was a witch hunt appointed and ordained to achieve a particular result
A specific example of how the investigators breached the provisions of the Directive on Investigations (AD/ADM/26), relates to a provision that allows for the subject to be accompanied at the interrogation by an observer, the only prerequisite being that the observer have no connection to the investigation and be readily available. Inspector B, however, was refused his right to attend with his own lawyer because the investigators insisted it had to be a staff member. In one email from the US investigator, she stated “only a currently serving OPCW staff member who is authorised to have access to confidential information may serve as an observer”
- The investigators interviewed 29 individuals. These witnesses consisted of current and former staff members, as well as persons outside the Organisation. All witnesses who were formally interviewed attested to the accuracy and truthfulness of their testimony. The investigators also collected documents and examined email records and other electronic evidence relevant to the investigation.
A +B: The interviewees reportedly were obliged to sign a statement to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”, which seems more appropriate to a court-room setting than an in-house investigation. By all accounts the interviews were conducted like a criminal interrogation, which is not surprising given the background of one of the investigators.
The investigators showed personal emails from Inspector B to a senior Director as well as a personal letter from Inspector B to the DG (expressing concerns about the final report) to interviewees as incriminating evidence, demonstrating that Inspector B was a target from the outset.
Taken in context, this investigation appears to be a witch-hunt, an enormous waste of time and effort, when the matter of substance was far more serious. Talk about fiddling while Rome burned.
- Inspectors A and B did not cooperate with the investigation, despite their duty to do so.
B: This is false. Inspector B fully cooperated with the investigators despite the fact that there is no duty on former staff members (contrary to the DG’s assertion) to comply with an investigation. The OPOC and relevant directives only make it obligatory for current staff members. Inspector B, in fact, has an email from the UK investigator dated September 4, 2019 where he states “As an ex-staff member we appreciate your participation would be voluntary and thank you for the consideration of the request. We look forward to hearing from you.”
Inspector B agreed (in email correspondence) to participate in the investigation but requested the procedures set out in the relevant directive AD/ADM 26 be adhered to, which they were not, as exemplified in item 16.
A: Inspector A agreed to cooperate but set a reasonable condition. This condition was that the DG was made aware of the memorandum from Inspector A to the Acting Director of the Office of Internal Oversight, requesting an investigation into the substance of the matter, i.e. a concern about apparent improper activities related to the Douma FFM investigation. Inspector A considered this a reasonable condition, something every staff member has a right to request. It was not met. The email exchange between Inspector A and the “special investigators” is available, and this shows that Inspector A was prepared to engage willingly to assist with the investigation (without any conditions), but his condition for taking part in a formal interview was that the DG was at least made aware of the request for an investigation by the Office of Internal Oversight.
- Additionally, I sent letters of invitation to the two of them to come to The Hague, at the Organisation’s expense, to review the draft investigation report prepared by the independent investigators and to provide comments thereon. One of them acknowledged receipt, but did not respond. The other placed conditions upon the way he would review the report, that were not consistent with OPCW procedures.
B: This is turning the situation on its head- the conditions were fully consistent with OPCW procedures and have been adhered to in other cases – it was therefore the DG’s refusal to allow such conditions that departed from OPCW procedures. In fact it was the conditions set by the investigators that made it abundantly clear the due process being touted was nothing more than illusory. The Draconian conditions included:
- A requirement for A and B to leave their places of work and fly to the Hague (one from Australia) to ‘view’ the report and write comments, if any— when a non-classified version of the report (which the DG is obliged to prepare in accordance with Chapter IX of the OPOC) could simply have been sent in the post or emailed (with secure email if necessary)
- Inspectors A or B could not be accompanied by any advisor or anyone to ‘view’ the report
- They were given just one working day to ‘view’ the report, unaccompanied but closely supervised, to digest its contents and prepare comments, despite having no knowledge of its length or complexity or what evidence there was to review
The conditions requested by Inspector B’s lawyer by email to the OPCW were, in line with his right to adequate time and facilities, that
– He receive a non-confidential (‘modified’) version of the report in advance of the ‘viewing date’ in order to prepare his comments (the same version published subsequently on the OPCW website);
– He be accompanied at the OPCW by his lawyer;
– He be allowed to review the report and formulate notations and comments in private; and
– For his records, he be given a copy of the report that was made available to him during this *viewing procedure.
These are reasonable requests by any account given the gravity of the accusations and particularly since Inspector B’s participation in the investigation was voluntary. However, each of these basic due process requests was met with a summary denial, accompanied by language which appears to constitute an attempt to dissuade Inspector B from pursuing his basic rights.
There was no attempt by the OPCW to accommodate any of the conditions, refusing even to acknowledge or reply to Inspector B’s lawyer. It would appear, that the OPCW did not in fact want either A or B to append their comments to the report and by making the conditions impossible to accept, ensured neither A nor B did so.
*The OPCW has an obligation to provide the confidential version of the report to Inspectors A and B as stipulated in para 1.17-1.18 of Chapter IX of the OPOC where it states”It (the confidential version of the report) should be made available (only) to all those who are directly involved in the investigation, including any individual staff members implicated in a breach or alleged breach”. The OPCW refused.
A: It is true that Inspector A declined the opportunity to travel to The Hague to review the investigation report. In addition to other considerations, he did not wish to be ignominiously escorted by Security around the building from which he had been ejected in May 2019, so decided to avoid the spectacle. Having now seen the report on the confidentiality investigation, in particular the unfortunate way it has been commandeered to provide an opportunistic defence for the conclusions in the FFM report, he realises it would have been a waste of his time.
- Moreover, Inspector A refused to identify the individuals with whom he had shared his assessment. This will be discussed more fully in a moment. As a result, the investigators had additional difficulties to ascertain who disseminated Inspector A’s assessment to the website of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media.
A + B: This is merely an attempt to pass on responsibility for the investigators’ inability to conduct a proper investigation. Despite the lack of information, the investigators had no difficulty in apportioning guilt.
- Allow me now to outline some elements related to applicable law. All staff are prohibited, under their individual secrecy agreements, from using, disclosing, or disseminating confidential information to which they had access in the course of their employment, unless specifically authorised by the Director-General. Before any confidential material is transferred outside the Organisation, the sender must first ensure that the intended recipient is authorised to receive the material.
- Inspectors A and B both signed secrecy agreements with OPCW. They were therefore aware of their confidentiality obligations.
A +B: They were, and fulfilled them.
- Within the Technical Secretariat, the specific functions or tasks defined for a staff member are the principal determinant of that individual’s need-to-know and scope of access to confidential information. Furthermore, under the Code of Conduct for staff members of the Secretariat and the Staff Regulations and Interim Staff Rules, staff members must exercise the utmost discretion and confidentiality with regard to all matters of official business. They are further obliged to ensure that their personal views and convictions do not adversely affect their official duties. These obligations remain in effect following separation from the Organisation.
B: This is the point where the idea begins to germinate that Inspector A and B’s actions were a result of conflicting personal ‘views’ with the remainder of the FFM team. The reality is not to do with a clash of views, but a clash of ethics and integrity with senior management.
A: This is a key paragraph. Personal views and convictions may be the language of a lawyer or diplomat, but this has little relevance for a scientist. As OPCW Inspectors, we are required to always separate views and convictions from facts and science; we report in terms of facts, calculations, logic and analysis. It was the departure from this standard by the management, and the control that was exercised over the post-mission activities of the Douma FFM, that first triggered the concerns that the impartiality and integrity of the investigation was being threatened.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
- As you may recall, in mid-April 2018, the FFM was deployed to the Syrian Arab Republic to gather facts and evidence regarding the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma on 7 April 2018. Between April 2018 and October 2018, the FFM deployed five times to investigate the Douma incident. The FFM investigation included conducting on-site visits, collecting biomedical and environmental samples, and interviewing victims and witnesses.
A + B: The FFM only deployed once to Damascus to the actual alleged sites of chemical attack, the other four being to Country X. All the environmental samples that had full chain of custody, the engineering data, chemical monitoring, measurements, photos, and on-site observations were performed or collected during this first mission. None of those who wrote the final report were involved in or witnessed any of these activities.
- In late 2018, the FFM consulted three independent experts in mechanical engineering, ballistics, and metallurgy—who utilised specialised computer modelling techniques. These experts produced three separate, independent reports. The FFM continued to collect and analyse facts and evidence related to the Douma incident through February 2019. The FFM’s final report on the Douma incident was released on 1 March 2019.
A: There is insufficient detail in the FFM report to indicate what these so-called external experts actually did, and what their qualifications were. Their findings are contradicted by the findings of the engineering assessment conducted by the qualified FFM team member who deployed to Douma to inspect the cylinders and to perform detailed measurements and technical assessments on-site.
B: What is the purpose of singling out the ballistics studies? Four expert toxicologists were also consulted on 5 June, 2018 who stated there was no consistency with the observed symptoms and chlorine poisoning, but this is not mentioned in the final report or in the investigators report.
- Let me first turn to the findings of the investigation with respect to Inspector A. (i) Inspector A first worked for the OPCW from June 1997 to December 2005, eventually being promoted to Team Leader. (ii) He was rehired at a lower level in June 2016 and worked at the OPCW until May 2019. (iii) Inspector A was not a member of the FFM. His name is not included in the mandates issued for FFM deployments signed by my predecessor. The Director-General is the only person with the authority to sign this type of document. (iv) In fact, Inspector A’s name is specifically mentioned in a separate internal mission warning order signed by my predecessor. In this mission warning order, Inspector A’s role is specifically defined as supporting the FFM’s activities.
A: There are four points that need to be addressed, numbered as above:
(i) This “eventually being promoted to Team Leader” is misleading, and appears designed to demean Inspector A’s status. Inspector A joined the OPCW prior to Entry-into-Force, as part of Training Group A. He was the first P-5 Inspection Team Leader to be appointed (along with a handful of others), seeing as during the 6-month training and first deployments he had been clearly identified as one of the best inspectors, with leadership potential. He was later appointed as the lead in the Technical Secretariat for the task “Preparedness of the Technical Secretariat for Conduct of a Challenge Inspection”, one of the critical operational tasks for the OPCW. He was also appointed as Acting Head of Inspectorate Management Branch for a year.
He has many letters and references to substantiate that status during his first period with the OPCW from 1997-2005, in particular a performance appraisal from the Director of Inspectorate, which reads quite openly “’Inspector A’ is the “best” ITL whose expertise and managing skills are highly appreciated by INS and VER”. And a later “’Inspector A’ is thus selected for the most complex and sensitive missions as ITL”. It could also be an indication of the regard in which he was held, that after leaving the OPCW in 2005 he was invited back twice to participate in OPCW activities as an expert. One was an academic forum and the other a workshop on Challenge Inspection.
(ii) This “rehired at lower level” is also misleading. Frankly it’s a bit sleazy. As a cost-saving measure, the Inspection Team Leader post was downgraded from P-5 to P-4, sometime after Inspector A left the organisation in 2005 and prior to him re-joining as a rehired Team Leader in 2016.
(iii) Wrong, and misleading. When the first FFM team was assembled, Inspector A was on a mission in Nepal. Therefore, obviously, he couldn’t have been on the mandate for the team first deploying. When he returned to HQ, it was agreed at the operational level that there was a need to add expertise and experience to the FFM. He was then notified to the Syrian Arab Republic as an additional FFM team member and he joined them in Damascus forthwith.
(iv)This is in addition to the earlier (routine) Warning Order that had been prepared for Inspector A to serve a rotation at the Command Post in Damascus. The F038 Notification to the Syrian Arab Republic, advising that Inspector A was joining the FFM team, was for the period prior to his taking over the Command Post from another inspector who was there during the Douma deployments. The handover was conducted on May 6, after the end of the Douma deployments, after which Inspector A took over the Command Post. Documents support this.
A: For information, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) does not require the names of the inspectors to be on the mandate. The mandate is an internal document, for which the workflow was developed during the early days of establishing inspection administrative documentation (Inspector A was part of this). It is signed by the DG and addressed to the Team Leader. It became common practice to provide a copy of this mandate to the inspected State Party at the start of inspections, as a courtesy (the Convention states that the Team Leader shall “inform” the inspected State Party of the mandate, only in the case of a Challenge Inspection), and this practise continues today. Similarly, the Warning Order is an internal workflow document to manage the administrative and logistical preparations of any mission. The Convention, however, does require the names of inspectors to be provided on the formal transmission, the Notification to the State Party (which was done for Inspector A).
A: It is important to note that there is no such role as ‘supporting inspector’. The Convention describes Inspectors and Inspection Assistants (the latter being a category we generally have not used in practise) but both form part of the inspection team. If you perform inspection activities, you are part of the inspection team (you are in or you are out, there is no in-between). Otherwise an individual would likely forfeit their Privileges and Immunities (Part II.B.11 of the Verification Annex). It is unthinkable that someone who is not part of the inspection team would be conducting team activities such as using chemical detectors, taking measurements and photographs, and sampling. A question to the TS; if Inspector A was not part of the team, what then would have been his status vis-a-vis his rights to Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities set out in Part II.B.11 of the Verification Annex of the CWC? Would these rights have been violated if Inspector A was not part of the team?
- The OPCW’s standing support office in Damascus is referred to as the “command post”. A Secretariat official is assigned from The Hague to the command post in six-week rotations. This single official supports OPCW activities in the Syrian Arab Republic, including communications and movements.
- The mission warning order signed by my predecessor appointed Inspector A as team leader at the command post in Damascus. This mission warning order also established that he was the sole OPCW team member in this mission. As such he provided, as is customary, support to the FFM team investigating the Douma incident.
A: (repeated) The F038 Notification to the Syrian Arab Republic, advising that Inspector A was joining the FFM team, was for the period prior to his taking over the Command Post from another inspector who was there during the Douma deployments. The handover was conducted on May 6, after the end of the Douma deployments. Documents support this.
- It is customary for the inspectors serving, at the relevant moment, in the command post in Damascus to provide assistance to missions deployed to the Syrian Arab Republic—not only to the FFM, but also to the Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) and the biannual missions to the Scientific Studies Research Centre. This support is essential and composed of United Nations Office for Project Services personnel, interpreters, and drivers.
- As described by the independent investigators, Inspector A played a minor supporting role in the investigation of the Douma incident. The investigators specifically found that Inspector A did not have access to all of the information gathered by the FFM team, including witness interviews, laboratory results, and assessments by independent experts regarding the two cylinders—all of which became known to the team only after Inspector A had stopped working in support of the investigation.
A: The statement “minor supporting role” is nonsense. This shall be expanded upon, with supporting documentation.
A: An important point. It is true that Inspector A was not allowed access to the assessments by independent experts regarding the two cylinders. That was a central issue. He had conducted studies that showed, transparently through science and engineering, that it was not possible to identify conditions that supported the allegation the cylinders were dropped from aircraft, and he informed the FFM and management that he would be prepared to explain this to them. They declined. He stressed that they urgently needed to get these external experts to the TS, to compare facts, data, inputs and methodology, to establish why there was such a difference. He alluded to some of the evident weaknesses in the text in the FFM report on the topic, and told them he was worried that they had got it wrong. In addition, he had received a verbal update on one of the studies (the only reputable one where the source was known to him at that stage), that “they said that one case is maybe possible, but the other one very unlikely”. Inspector A, having consulted many other independent engineers, and having spoken further with some TS staff, now must question the credibility of the other two “experts”. Regarding the other areas such as chemical analysis, toxicology, and witness accounts, there appears to be a misunderstanding from the DG as to how a team works (and remember here, when we refer to a “team” we mean the Douma FFM, the inspectors on the ground in Douma, not the later definition of “the FFM” as the “Core Team” or as the two individuals appointed to write the FFM report).
It may be illuminating to discuss further this matter of teamwork, as it appears the TS management engaged practices deliberately aimed at diminishing the effectiveness of teamwork in the FFM. Throughout the investigation, during the Douma deployments and afterwards in HQ, Inspector A engaged with other inspectors to continuously build up the joint understanding of what happened in Douma on 7 April 2018. This is how teams of inspectors work. He thus gained a detailed impression from sharing experiences, from summaries of witness accounts, results from the laboratories, outcome of meetings with toxicologists; on the key developments in understanding in all those areas. Inspector A also continued working in the FFM core team offices for some weeks after the issuance of the Interim Report.
B: Few inspectors in the team have access to all the information gathered in an investigation, because each specialises in a specific area, chemical analysis, interviews, engineering etc. Inspector A’s specialisation was the ballistics and chemical engineering. Whether he had access or not to witness testimonies of chemical analysis results in no way hindered his work on the engineering studies.
Is the finding that the “investigators specifically found that Inspector A did not have access to all of the information gathered by the FFM team” supposed to be a major revelation? Of course he didn’t, nobody in the team has.
The inspector who had most access to information was Inspector B, who was in charge of compiling the Original draft report. Because he was assigned the additional role of Confidentiality Officer on the mission and during post-mission activities, he had access to and knowledge of ALL confidential materials (as well as non-confidential materials), including, progress reports from on-site, Situation Reports, technical assessments onsite, recordings and transcripts of witness testimonies, analytical results, inspectors’ notebooks, mission photos and videos, measurements, detection data, toxicological assessment, Notes Verbales to and from the SAR, records of negotiations and discussions on site.
- He accompanied the FFM to certain sites of interest that had been identified by the Syrian Arab Republic. He assisted in taking environmental samples at a hospital and in taking measurements at one location. He also assisted the FFM in the tagging and sealing of cylinders that had been found at two locations.
A: This does not fully describe the activities conducted by Inspector A; the language is contrived to achieve the intended point. It shall be ignored.
Examples: If Inspector A’s role was limited in this way, (i) why was he involved in the review and finalisation of the Interim Report (after the incident of the unannounced doctoring of the original version, and interception of the doctored version), (ii) why did he spend two months working in the 7th-floor FFM area, progressing the strategy for analysis of the cylinders, and (iii) why did he attend the briefing from the US delegation where they presented their “findings”? Again, if Inspector A conducted these activities, he was by definition part of the FFM team, in accordance with the rules of the Chemical Weapons Convention (see discussion earlier on Privileges and Immunities)
- As a follow-up to these activities—and after finishing his normal rotation at the command post of the OPCW in Damascus and returning to The Hague in June 2018—Inspector A was assigned to conduct an inventory of the Highly Protected information collected on the cylinders and determine what information was needed to carry out further studies.
A: Incorrect; this shows a misunderstanding of who was assigned what during the post-mission tasking. The inventory of FFM materials was assigned to two junior inspectors in the core team. The terms of the assignment of Inspector A on the cylinders were “To review all data available on OS (open source) or collected by the team; To come up with a thorough analysis and assessment; To identify experts who could contribute and fill the gaps; To determine what is the missing data from the site”. This is clearly shown in a document by the team leader called the “Summer Activities Plan”.
- Nevertheless, in July 2018, Inspector A—without authorisation—contacted companies via email about conducting an engineering study on the cylinders found at two locations in Douma. When this became known, the team leader instructed Inspector A to refrain from making contact with any external third parties. The investigation found that Inspector A did not accept this, disregarded instructions, and decided he was going to complete his study alone—without informing the FFM team leader.
A: Again, this is described in detail in the UN Security Council statement.
A: Inspector A informed the team leader what he was going to do. This needs to be seen in the context of the Team Leader’s unannounced modification of the Interim Report, and that team members had concerns about the Team Leader’s motivations. Inspector A informed him that he did not accept that request, and that due to the gravity of the situation he would no longer communicate with the Team Leader and that he was in consultation with higher managers, i.e. he consulted the Head of Operations, the Director of Inspectorate and the Chief of Cabinet. The Chief of Cabinet appeared to understand the situation, and stated to Inspector A “I don’t see why both studies can’t be done” (this relates to the intent of the Team Leader, an analytical chemist, to take charge of the conduct of engineering assessments). Inspector A took this as approval to continue, as long as the results of the work were kept within the FFM. The result of this was that Inspector A was going to complete his technical study and submit his finding through the correct channels, to the team leader.
- In August 2018, Inspector A—against the instructions received from the FFM team leader— engaged professors at a university to assist him in producing his assessment. He misled the professors of the university, telling them that they were being officially engaged by the Organisation to conduct this work.
A: Inspector A produced a written authorisation from a Director of the Technical Secretariat, which was also signed by the professors. The professors were made aware of the situation, including the sensitivity of the work and the fact that there were differing approaches within the Secretariat, and that there was the possibility of a developing controversy. Inspector A stressed that his initiative (and that of the senior OPCW official) was to concentrate on the facts, science and engineering as a critical contribution to the investigation. Inspector A mentioned that there was the possibility of political interference, but that should have no impact on the desire to at least do the technical work (properly) and submit it, through the correct channels, for consideration.
Inspector A has records of correspondence between himself and the experts that demonstrates the integrity of this initiative. An example is an exchange after the engineering study was suppressed, where a professor states “Very sad to read all this. I still remember well that from the beginning you warned us that our “truth” might not become “the” truth. I guess, we all did not expect that the matter would turn out this way….”. The professors are, Inspector A believes, uncomfortably aware of the political interference, and have, no doubt, been put under some pressure recently. These professors are the real heroes of the day, for their expertise, for their integrity, and for their sincere efforts to perform real, truthful, work. It is a real pity they have been dragged down into the political morass, and were subjected to a visit from the “independent” investigators of a confidentiality breach.
- In September 2018, more than a month after having engaged the professors, Inspector A— belatedly and through subterfuge—procured written authorisation from a high-level OPCW official for him to work with the university just mentioned in order to proceed with his unauthorised activities. Such authorisation was therefore invalid.
A: Not true. The institutions were only formally engaged after the appropriate authorisation was obtained from the OPCW. Any prior discussions were informal, in-principle discussions about scientific capabilities. And the implication he “misled” a senior official is offensive. Inspector A approached this person because (i) he was the most senior line manager, (ii) he was from a technical background and thus had an appreciation of what was needed (and yes, here he is implying there were questions about diplomatic and management interference into areas in which they had no expertise), and (iii) he was someone who could be trusted to do the right thing.
- Inspector A travelled outside the Netherlands twice to meet the professors in person. The investigation revealed that both trips were conducted while Inspector A was on leave. Inspector A gave the professors a USB drive. He claimed that the drive only included open-source information; this was not the case. The professors, in the spirit of cooperation, provided the investigators with the USB drive. The investigators conducted a forensic analysis of the USB drive. This analysis revealed that the USB drive contained an important amount of OPCW confidential information classified as Highly Protected at the time it was disclosed.
A: Not on leave, but during informal free time granted in compensation for doing missions. This should be seen as an indication of Inspector A’s commitment to work.
A: False. Inspector A has a copy of the C-16 handover certificate, where the material is described as “Information for Research Project”. Inspector A explained that the material was unclassified, but highly sensitive and not to be circulated to anyone other than themselves. Inspector A explained that the Syrian chief escort had informed that all material was to be considered unclassified, where he (the Syrian official) had added “it’s all unclassified, we have nothing to hide.” Inspector A acknowledges that it is the right of the DG to classify material, regardless of the classification level advised by the State Party. However, at this stage, none of the material used by Inspector A had any classification level applied, nor any markings.
A: Incidentally, many FFM inspectors at this stage were using their unclassified desktops to work on some of the materials. The elevated classification should perhaps be seen in the context of the subsequent lockdown by a manager, after the controversy around the doctored Interim Report, in response to the situation where the outcome of the FFM may have been seen to be going in the “wrong” direction
- At his request, the professors communicated with Inspector A using his personal Gmail account. The professors completed a report on the cylinder found in one of the two locations in Douma. Inspector A shared several drafts of his assessment with the professors—again using his personal Gmail account. These drafts contained Highly Protected information.
A: True. But – Using additional security protocols. This was around the time of concerns about certain agencies attempting to hack into OPCW systems, particularly emails, so this was considered a lower-risk means of communicating sensitive (but unclassified) notes
- Inspector A used the professors’ report to complete his assessment, a version of which eventually appeared on the website of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media. The investigators established that Inspector A showed his assessment to at least seven members of the Technical Secretariat who did not have the need to know the confidential information contained therein. They did not have the need to know because they were not involved in the FFM investigation into Douma.
A: Whilst the professors’ report was a key item of information used in compiling the Engineering Summary, it was by no means all.
A: Inspector A showed it to more than seven TS staff members. Here he employed the “need to know” principle, and his judgement. He appreciates there will be differing views on “need to know” in this context. In this particular case, in addition to peer review from Douma FFM team members, the list expanded to some (trusted) experts in specific fields (such as ballistics), peers, and senior TS staff, managers and directors, in that they “needed to know” that a potential mistake was being propagated. This was in order to find a way to resolve the situation internally, in a neutral, responsible technical and scientific manner
Surely internal, independent, technical experts within the OPCW (who all have signed secrecy agreements) who could support the technical aspects of the mission could be considered in ‘the need-to-know’ category as much as unknown so-called external experts about whose competence, independence or credentials nothing is known.
- After denying it first to senior management, Inspector A then admitted to witnesses that he distributed his assessment. But he refused to identify the individuals with whom he shared it. Inspector A also dropped off an envelope containing his assessment with the unit of the Secretariat responsible for the storage of verification-related documents. This unit is known as the Documents Registration and Archiving Section (DRA). Inspector A did not follow the proper procedures when he dropped off the envelope with DRA, because documents generated for non-routine missions—such as the FFM, DAT, and Investigation and Identification Team (IIT)—are stored in specialised archives with heightened security. This is due to the high sensitivity of the information.
A: It is nonsense to state that “After denying it first to senior management, Inspector A then admitted to witnesses that he distributed his assessment”. From the start, Inspector A made it clear that he had considered it essential to get peer review from all FFM team members, and he had thus circulated hard copies of the assessment. Inspector A does, however, recall an omission made by him. During discussions with the Chief of Cabinet, Inspector A forgot that he had handed a copy of the engineering summary to the Head of the IIT, at the latter’s request. However, this item of information was clearly stated in the memorandum that had been passed to the Director of Inspectorate to be handed to the DG. The memorandum was read by the Chief of Cabinet but not passed to the DG, so the Chief of Cabinet was aware that the engineering summary had been handed to the IIT, and Inspector A knew this. The idea that documents for non-routine missions such as FFM and DAT have additional security by circumventing well established confidentiality handling procedures is absurd, and appears to be for no other purpose than camouflaging the questionable manner in which FFM documentation is managed (outside the security critical network (SCN), which is especially designed to handle even the most highly sensitive documents, including those that are classed as Highly Protected.)
- In this regard, I take this opportunity to recognise the efforts of States Parties to create the special fund that has made possible the continued financing of these heightened security archives for the FFM and other non-routine missions of the OPCW.
- The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media published Inspector A’s assessment on its website on or about 13 May 2019. Inspector A told officials of the Technical Secretariat that he was surprised that the document had been disclosed, but that he was also happy it had been—because his information was finally available to the public.
A: Inspector A did not use the term “happy”. He said he was shocked to find the report had been released, and that he was surprised and dismayed why they (he/she) hadn’t at least redacted his name and hand-written notes from the document. He was perhaps a little stressed at the time, knowing what was going to develop, and he concedes he may have said something unwise at the time along the lines of “I’ve now got my own problems; in a way right now I couldn’t care less about the results of the work being out there”.
A: Inspector A said he did not want to be part of a witch-hunt that could potentially have serious ramifications for a person who, it must be assumed, had been trying to do what he/she thought was the right thing.
- The investigation found that Inspector A violated his obligations concerning the protection of Highly Protected confidential information, due to his unauthorised disclosure of such confidential information to individuals both within and outside the Organisation. Furthermore, Inspector A failed to comply with the specified procedures for the handling, protection, release, and dissemination of confidential information, so as to create a clear risk of unauthorised disclosure. This risk materialised, and the disclosure occurred, with the publication of Inspector A’s assessment on the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media’s website. Inspector A also violated the Organisation’s Code of Conduct, in that he did not act with integrity and transparency.
A: Inspector A would like simply to point out that after twelve years’ service to the OPCW, everything he has ever done has been based on the principles of personal integrity and scientific transparency.
A: The “independent” investigators should perhaps have asked the Director-General a serious question: Why would two of the most qualified senior Inspection Team Leaders, with impeccable records of scientific expertise, impartiality and judgement, arguably the best in the organisation, suddenly “go rogue”? They both have said time and time again; “it’s not about the people, or reputations. Take me out of it. The science and engineering, the facts, speak for themselves. If there are any countering facts, science and engineering to support the conclusions in the FFM report, then why can’t the OPCW at least allude to the substance in them?”
- I now turn to the findings of the investigation on Inspector B. Inspector B first worked for the OPCW from July 1998 to December 2011, eventually being promoted to Team Leader. He was rehired at a lower level in September 2015 and worked at the OPCW until August 2018.
B: For the sake of accuracy, Inspector B departed the OPCW on 3 September 2018. It is worth noting that in addition to the periods specified, Inspectors A and B had to undergo, before being hired as inspectors, a six-month intensive inspector training program to be passed before hiring, followed by on-the-job training and a six-month probation period.
All team leaders and rehired inspectors (who, incidentally, were rehired because of their experience and expertise solely for the specific purpose of filling lacuna in knowledge and skills among the pool of inspectors as a result of the Organisations failing tenure policy), are now appointed at P4 level (the ‘lower grade”). The P5 level team-leader category, which A and B had held previously (unlike the team leader), was downgraded by the Organisation for cost cutting measures, and there are currently NO team leaders who hold the P5 level. This kind of pettiness is irrelevant to the investigation and clearly aimed at demeaning the status of A and B for ominous purposes
Having been selected to be a member of the FFM for the first time, Inspector B travelled to the Syrian Arab Republic in April 2018.
B: The reality is that this was the first time for most of the team in Syria to conduct an FFM. In fact, it was the first on-site investigation of alleged use of chemical weapons ever conducted by the FFM, so was in fact new to all the team. All previous FFM’s in relation to Syria were conducted outside Syria, where the inspection team never had to collect their own samples or conduct engineering studies. There was never a need therefore to have organic chemists or engineers on the team just to receive samples from third parties and conduct interviews.
This was the very reason why Inspectors A and B were drafted into the Douma investigation, since now the inspectors would have to identify how, which and where samples would be collected based on solid chemical principles. This mission also required intricate engineering studies. For both these reasons A and B were drafted in as the most qualified chemical engineering and ballistics expert, and foremost OPCW expert in chemical weapons chemistry, respectively.
However, he never left the command post in Damascus because he had not completed the training required to deploy on-site in Douma.
B: The statement tries to smear by implying two falsehoods. Firstly, that by not entering the buildings of alleged attack to physically gather the samples or take measurements, Inspector B is at a disadvantage in terms of insight and knowledge of what went on. Secondly, there is a subtle implication that Inspector B was not interested or had not passed the relevant safety training to do so. Both of these points are refuted in detail:
Inspector B is in fact one of only 4 inspectors (out of 10) who was present in Damascus for the entire duration of the investigation (14 April to 3 May). The team leader himself, who wrote the final report, left after 3 days, before the investigation ever began, which by an extension of the logic implied, invalidates the team leader’s contribution to the final report.
Inspector B was the planner and coordinator of all the scientific and technical activities on site. He was part of the sub-team involved in the negotiations with the Syrian authorities, participated in the interview process, was also the Confidentiality Officer, wrote the on-site progress reports for the previous Director General, was the chief drafter of the main report, and with Inspector A, the most experienced inspector in the team. In fact, his experience as an inspector far outnumbers the average for the team.
Inspector B was the only organic chemist in the team and the recognised specialist in the OPCW when it came to chemical weapons production. As testimony to this, in his annual performance appraisals, it is cited by his supervisors that,
“he demonstrates a knowledge and skill in chemistry which is not possessed by others in the TS” (PMAS 2010),
“I can say without fear of being unfair to others that you have been the professional in the TS that has contributed the most to the knowledge and understanding of CW chemistry applied to inspections. You produced a lot of knowledge and unselfishly shared every bit of what you know with others, enthusiastically” (PMAS 2017)
Because of this expertise Inspector B conducted the technical evaluation on the warehouse and lab suspected of producing chemical weapons.
If there is a subtle attempt to suggest Inspector B was not interested or had not passed the relevant training to deploy on site, the reality is quite the contrary. Inspector B in fact wrote an email to his immediate supervisor several months prior to deploying to Damascus requesting to participate in an upcoming training course referred to above. The response from his supervisor was that he could not, the reason given he “was not priority” (because he was due to leave the Organisation the same year) Inspector B protested the decision, but it held.
This decision by management would later prove to have consequences, when Inspector B was in Damascus for the Douma investigation. Because Inspector B was the expert in chemical weapons synthesis and had conducted the pre-technical evaluation of the warehouse suspected of being a chemical weapons factory, the Deputy Team leader made a formal request to the Chief of Cabinet and Director General for a waiver for Inspector B to deploy. Senior management were unable to come to a decision on the waiver, and the Deputy team leader had to forego having an organic chemist on the team to investigate the alleged chemical weapons factory. Inspector B, nonetheless, through constant radio communication with the team on the ground provided the technical backup and advice to the team on matters of chemistry.
That Inspector B’s role in the FFM was anything but marginal, is evidenced by the fact he was requested by senior management to brief national delegates of Member States in June 2018 on the technical aspects of how the on-site investigation in Douma went. This should normally be done by the team leader,but given the team leader left Damascus before the investigation commenced, Inspector B was asked to oblige as the person with the most detailed and comprehensive insight into the activities on site.
44. Inspector B was involved in the drafting of the interim report on the Douma incident.
B: Inspector B was more than ‘involved’, he was the main drafter of the ‘Original Interim Report’ (which was later suppressed by unknown persons). He also lead the scientific analysis of the data collected on site, analysed all the witness testimonies, was the only organic chemist involved in analysing the chemical analysis results, consulted with toxicologists in June 2018, worked in close collaboration with the Organisation’s Scientific Policy Officer, led the work on constructing the 3D site drawings and metadata analysis, and liaised with senior management on analysis results and exhumations. In fact, because the team leader had very limited personal knowledge of the activities in Damascus and was otherwise overburdened with drafting another report on an alleged chemical incident, most of the work and coordination with the team on the Douma report was delegated to Inspector B, who had been in Damascus for the entire duration of the investigation and, being the assigned Confidentiality Officer for the mission, had access to all the information collected on site.
In June 2018, Inspector B voiced some concerns about the draft interim report to the senior management of the Organisation in place at that time.
The concerns refer to an email of protest from Inspector B to senior management (copied to all team members) on 22 June 2018 to protest unethical and unscientific behaviour in relation to the Douma investigation. In the e-mail Inspector B vigorously protests against a last-minute attempt by unknown persons to secretly substitute the Original Team Interim Report , due for imminent release, without knowledge of the team members, for a highly redacted version which contained conclusions that were either false and/or unsubstantiated. Furthermore, it deliberately omitted key data, such as expert opinions from toxicologists that contradicted the conclusions of the redacted report.
The evidential record shows that these concerns were taken seriously by senior management, who asked the team to discuss their views together to reach agreement on the draft interim report.
B: The evidential record refers to the response email from senior management to Inspector B’s protest. In it, senior management did not deny that the report was ‘redacted’, only that it was not redacted by the Office of the Director General and suggested Inspector B ‘sit with the team leader and the team to discuss’ (not discuss their ‘views’ as the report incorrectly states). This is the ‘seriousness’ with which senior management dealt with what was a duplicitous attempt to publish a scientifically fabricated report on what was probably the Organisation’s most controversial and politically sensitive investigation ever. No internal investigation was initiated into who or how the attempted deception was perpetrated. The response was akin to saying ‘run along now and sort out your differences’.
Senior management further made clear to Inspector B that this was only an interim report and that there was a large amount of further work to be done in a number of areas following the interim report.
B: Saying that it was ‘only’ an interim report seems to have missed the point of Inspector B’s timely intervention, which was to protest an underhanded attempt to blindside the inspection team with a fake report. A senior Director of the TS who was copied in on the email, later replied to B, saying: I don’t think saying this is an “interim report” quite does it in defending the selective nature of presenting the facts”
The Director added, “My respect (Inspector B), I think your email is very carefully drafted, without emotions, not accusing anybody but laying out the facts and concerns very clearly. Really well done. It seems there is still leeway to re-edit the report, together with the rest of the team?
In a follow up email the Director wrote “Through your (Inspector B) action, you could actually be making the first step towards having a more professional, transparent and sound fact-finding. I hope!”
Clearly from this, there was an awareness at the highest levels of management that something was seriously wrong inside the FFM.
Inspector B subsequently confirmed in writing to senior management that he and other members of the FFM who were involved in drafting the report had met, and agreed on the interim report—which was then released on 6 July 2018.
B: The Interim Report issued on 6 July was a ‘truce’ report that at the time reflected the developing divisions in the FFM team after the publication of the doctored Redacted Report had been thwarted. Inspectors A and B (and others) agreed to the ‘truce’ interim report in principle, on two conditions – it would not contain the grossly inaccurate conclusions that had been deceitfully inserted into the redacted report, and that key facts that were being left out would find their way back into the final report.
Inspector B (and others) did agree to the interim report, but not the same one that was issued on 6 July. The one that Inspectors A and B and others agreed to a day or two earlier, reported the trace levels of chlorinated chemicals that were detected (parts per billion levels which are almost at the limits of detection they are so small) that would have given proper context to the results. However, at the last minute, reminiscent of the sleight of hand with the Original Report, the team leader unilaterally decided, in the face of fervent protests from the team, to omit critical information on the trace levels of chemicals found. The report that was issued, therefore, was not the same one that the inspectors agreed to.
In an e-mail
from 5 July, 2018, the team leader, defended his unilateral removal of the levels of chemical found with a perplexing logic “There are also other very important facts that we (the Royal we) decided not to release in this interim report” As history has shown, these ‘other very important facts’ (the expert toxicology opinions from June, the trace levels of chlorinated organic chemicals, the discrepancies in witness accounts, engineering doubts, never made it to the Final Report despite the promise to do so. Regardless of what new information had been gathered since the Interim Report, it is scientifically unacceptable to exclude any facts that could impact on the conclusions of an investigation.
This is the central issue, and not whether A or B did or didn’t agree with the Interim Report. The argument about Inspectors A and B agreeing to the Interim Report is simply a red-herring meant to distract from the real concerns of the inspectors. If the inspectors are guilty of anything, it is of being naïve to have believed that the “other very important facts”, which the team leader fought so hard to keep out of the interim report, would ever see the light of day again.
- Upon the expiration of his employment contract with the Organisation, Inspector B departed at the end of August 2018. It is important to note that Inspector B departed the OPCW half a year before the release of the final FFM report on Douma.
B: Why is it important to note Inspector B departed the OPCW at the end of August, six months before the release of the final report? What does it have to do whether he disclosed or not confidential information in May 2019? Is it supposed to provide some kind of motive? If so, it is not only irrational but beyond the scope of the investigation itself, which is to only determine if and who leaked the engineering report, not why.
46. During the last seven months of the investigation, the FFM undertook the bulk of its analytical work, examined a large number of witness interviews, and received the results of sampling and analysis.
B: Untrue: The bulk of the analytical work was in fact already done by the time the Interim Report was released. 31 of the 44 samples were analysed, 34 of the 39 interviews had been conducted and analysed, and the toxicological study was already done but the conclusions suppressed. In the almost eight months after the Interim Report was released only 13 new samples were analysed along with 5 additional interviews. How is this the bulk of the analytical work? Moreover, as manifest in the Final Report the few additional interviews and analytical results provide no evidential information over those of the Interim Report.
It is worth noting that even the bulk of the report writing had been done long before the release of the Interim Report. One only need compare the 116-page Original Interim Report that was suppressed, with the 26-page published Interim Report and the 106-page Final Report. The Final Report is a massive cut and paste operation from the suppressed Original Report with inconvenient evidence removed and unsubstantiated conclusions added.
It is correct to say however, that the bulk of the engineering studies took place during the later months of the investigation. Inspector B was not involved in this. Inspector A, however, took the lead in this area as the only chemical engineer in the team. This role was documented by the team leader in what was called the ‘Summer Activity Plan’. There were subsequent attempts to have Inspector A removed from this role.
In any case, regardless of what new information was gathered after the Interim Report was released, the issue remains that ‘very important facts’ that the team leader decided not to release in the interim report (see e-mail from the team leader to members of the FFM team) never found their way back into the Final Report, and excluding A and B from the investigation process ensured this did not happen. These were the same facts that did not support the conclusion that there were ‘reasonable grounds’ to determine that chlorine was used as a chemical weapon.
- The investigation found that Inspector B, prior to the dissemination of Inspector A’s assessment, knew of its existence. This is despite the fact that his assessment was completed more than five months after Inspector B had left the Organisation. The investigation also found that—a month before Inspector A’s assessment appeared on the website of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media—Inspector B referred a staff member to an article critical of the OPCW’s final report on Douma that was published on the same website.
B: The report becomes farcical at this point. What is being referred to is an email thread from Inspector B to a senior management official. In a PS note, Inspector B adds a casual remark where he says “”PS, A very interesting and insightful article has just been published by a group of UK academics on the Douma report. I can send you the link if you are interested?
What could this remark possibly have to do with Inspector B leaking the Engineering Report? From an objective procedural perspective, it is clear that the OPCW’s confidentiality investigation is targeting the discussion of info that was in the public sphere – showing again that the purpose of the investigation was not to investigate confidentiality issues but to target the inspectors themselves and to penalise them for their scientific curiosity.
What is actually very concerning is the response of the senior management official to Inspector B’s casual comment which said; “Yes I have seen the analysis by the UK academics. Unfortunately, this is a discussion that is difficult to pursue out in the open, knowing that it is already being played by parties who are decidedly not bona fide supporters of the CWC. But I yet have to read it in detail”. For a scientist, the political undertones of the reply are shocking.
- However—despite Inspector B’s separation from the Organisation long before the Douma investigation came to an end, and despite his agreement with the interim report (B: repeating it won’t make it true) —he continued to approach members of the Technical Secretariat to discuss confidential information regarding the Douma investigation that was classified as Highly Protected at the time it was disclosed. Some of these staff members did not have the need to know the confidential information that Inspector B disclosed to them. see 50
- The investigators obtained evidence that Inspector B, many months after his separation from the OPCW in August 2018, continued to display a desire to have continued access to, and influence on, the Douma investigation. This included a letter he wrote to me in March 2019. This letter criticised the Douma report, even though he did not have access to the large body of evidence that had been considered by the FFM during the half-year since his departure from OPCW. B:See 50
- As late as August 2019, almost a year after he left the Organisation, Inspector B contacted members of the Organisation to attempt to convince them to join his campaign to challenge the final Douma report. The investigation found that Inspector B violated his obligations concerning the protection of Highly Protected confidential information, due to his unauthorised disclosure of confidential information to individuals who did not have the need to know such information.
B: Response to 48, 49 and 50
First and foremost, Inspector B did not approach anyone to discuss confidential information of any classification. After the Final Report was issued on 1 March 2019, Inspector B, who no longer lived in the Netherlands, had concerns about the Final Report, given his extensive knowledge of and involvement in the investigation itself. He was particularly concerned that ‘important facts’ that were ‘decided not to be released (at the team leaders insistence) in the Interim Report’ and were supposed to be incorporated into the Final Report, were conspicuously and worryingly still absent from the Final Report. These absent ‘important facts’ would have been critical to the conclusions of the Final Report.
As the Director General had not yet joined the Organisation at the time the Interim Report was released he would likely not have been aware of this serious omission. Inspector B felt Mr. Arias should know this and felt a professional and moral obligation to inform him.
For this reason, Inspector B tried to correspond with the Director General with a detailed memo outlining the details of what had gone on in the FFM before the Director General joined the Organisation. Getting the memo to the DG however proved to be quite challenging as it was apparently being blocked by senior persons close to him.
Inspector B then contacted a senior Director whom he trusted, to help get his memo to the Director General, which B eventually managed to do.
As one email from senior management demonstrates, Inspector B’s attempts to communicate were in fact welcomed and certainly not a breach of confidentiality.
“xxxx is perfectly OK with receiving your letter and, once he reads through, to take it from there in terms of possible meeting with the DG”..I take it as positive news as there clearly is interest to continue the communication”
On this occasion Inspector B’s concerns were apparently being taken seriously. In an email from the Director to B in relation to his letter to the Director General, it is stated
“I am also thinking how things could develop further and basically see just one option that seems realistic, given that we can’t turn back the clock, and which has been already floating around: it relates to all (emphasis from the author of the email) your points being forwarded to the IIT for a fresh and comprehensive assessment by people who are also newly recruited and should therefore have a fully unbiased take on things”
There is a clear acknowledgement from a senior manager that the FFM is indeed biased and that all of B’s issues would be brought to the IIT. This clearly contradicts the Director General’s portrayal in his statement of the relationship B had with senior management at the time.
Another email from a senior management official on 17 April 2019 states: “I suppose we both concur that it is difficult to imagine that the DG would change his mind and order issuing another, revised report or anything of this kind. The report is simply out. But I would see this as a useful “lessons learned” input from somebody that has no direct stakes in any of this anymore but who still cares enough to want to help us do the non-routine missions the best way possible”
There you have it!
The other correspondence Inspector B had with members of the TS was an email he sent to the two colleagues who had been with him in the meeting with the toxicologists in June 2018, to see if they had the same concerns about how information had been suppressed and if they were interested in talking to the Director General. This email, to which there was no reply, was clearly given to the investigators as some kind of incriminating evidence. Notably, this email was sent three months after the engineering report had been leaked, so obviously cannot be considered as a contributing factor to the leak.
- Furthermore, Inspector B failed to comply with the specified procedures for the handling, protection, release, and dissemination of confidential information so as to create a clear risk of unauthorised disclosure. This risk materialised with the publication of Inspector A’s assessment on the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media’s website.
B: Inspector B mailed an 8-page memo to the Director General in March 2019 to inform him of highly irregular procedures that had taken place before his appointment and which B understood the DG would want to hear. That B had permission to send the memo was sanctioned beforehand by the *Chief of Cabinet, through a senior Director, in an email to Inspector B. As requested the letter was sent by registered post (which incidentally cost 40 euros!). The DG answered Inspector B in a formal memo in June 2019.
What confidential information or procedures therefore did Inspector B fail to properly handle or comply with?
*“xxxx is perfectly OK with receiving your letter and, once he reads through, to take it from there in terms of possible meeting with the DG”..I take it as positive news as there clearly is interest to continue the communication”
- The investigation found that these breaches of confidentiality were serious. …
B: The evidence provided for concluding there was some breach of confidentiality is non-existent and demonstrates a total disregard for any kind of due process.
- Inspector A’s assessment purports to be an official OPCW FFM report on the Douma investigation. Instead, it is a personal document created with incomplete information and without authorisation. It was created through the misuse of incomplete confidential information by a staff member who had ceased to provide support to the FFM six months prior to the release of the final FFM report on Douma. It was during this six-month period that the majority of the investigative work was conducted by the FFM. Despite this, Inspector A’s assessment has been used to call into question the work of the Secretariat, as well as the Secretariat’s competence and credibility.
A: All aspects of this paragraph have been rebutted. Whilst the last part is, now, unfortunately true (“Inspector A’s assessment has been used to call into question the work of the Secretariat, as well as the Secretariat’s competence and credibility”), it is important to note that the work was done as a genuine contribution to the scientific analysis by the FFM, as was meant to have been assessed, internally, as such. It is a great pity that it was deliberately suppressed and then leaked.
- Therefore, the deliberate and premeditated breaches of confidentiality committed by Inspectors A and B were considered by the investigators to be serious. …
B: It is still not clear what premeditated breaches of confidentiality Inspector B is accused of. The key findings of the investigators report were:
*****Para 20, TS Note: ‘There is insufficient evidential basis to find that Inspector A disseminated his assessment to the website’.
*****Para 28. TS Note: There is insufficient evidential basis to find that Inspector B disseminated Inspector A’s assessment to the website
NOTEWORTHY: The Director General made no mention of these exculpatory statements in his address to delegations.
- In accordance with the OPOC, I shall be taking appropriate actions in response to the findings of the investigation. Taking into account that such actions are “staff-in-confidence” by nature, I will not communicate on them any further.
- The investigation recommends remedial measures that may be taken by the OPCW to reduce the risk of similar breaches of confidentiality in the future. Confidentiality training for OPCW personnel will be enhanced. An additional obligatory Organisation-wide confidentiality training programme will be instituted for all personnel employed by the Secretariat. This training will be accompanied by annual attestations by staff as to the requirements and obligations arising from the Organisation’s confidentiality regime.
- The internal legislation is being reviewed in order to reduce the risks of future breaches of the confidentiality regime. In this regard, the Secretariat has already begun to analyse the OPOC and the Manual of Confidentiality Procedure and to benchmark the results of this analysis with six other international organisations.
- We are also conducting a study into whether the Code of Conduct for Secretariat officials needs to be updated and supplemented with additional obligations in respect to the duty to safeguard confidential information of the Organisation.
A+B: Contrary to what the report implies, the alleged breach of confidentiality has little to do with shortcomings in staff members’ awareness or knowledge of the confidentiality regime. The Office of Confidentiality and Security (OCS) has been very effective in ensuring staff members are fully aware of their confidentiality obligations. Incidentally, Inspector B served as a Confidentiality Officer for one year with OCS and delivered training to inspectors on this topic. He in fact drafted Chapter 14 of the Manual of Confidentiality Procedures which is dedicated to confidentiality aspects of inspections.
If members of senior management would reflect on their questionable handling of the concerns raised about the Douma investigation, they might realise that it is they, in fact, who might be in need of training—perhaps effective listening and conflict resolution. Had senior management shown leadership from the outset and not stuck its head in the sand, there would likely never have been a need for an investigation of alleged breach of confidentiality.
Excellencies, distinguished delegates,
59. Now that I have presented to you the results of the investigation, I wish to re-assert a number of crucial elements that have been confirmed through this independent investigation process. These elements bear a significance that goes well beyond confidentiality matters.
A+B: What did the Director General mean when he said he wished to ‘re-assert a number of crucial elements whose significance goes well beyond confidentiality matters’? These are strange utterances considering the goal of his briefing was ‘to provide [delegates] with the relevant information, as is consistent with [OPCW] confidentiality rules’ and that his remarks ‘[would] be based on evidence..’.
It transpires that the ‘crucial elements’ the Director General remarks on (which he mistakenly claimed were confirmed in the investigation process) are neither based on evidence, have relevance or are consistent with confidentiality rules. They are simply the Director General’s subjective and denigrating remarks of A and B’s character and integrity, in which he accuses both of: not accepting that their views were not backed by evidence; behaving in a most egregious manner, taking matters into their own hands because their views didn’t gain traction, and “as could be expected” drawing conclusions that are erroneous, uninformed, and wrong.
This groundless and subjective epilogue to the investigation report—delivered in the manner of a judge summing up before sentencing— is a sad attempt by the Director General to spin the meagre findings of the investigation report into cheap fodder for the selected media outlets.
- Inspectors A and B are not whistle-blowers
What’s the point of this, if not to cover the fact that the OPCW has failed to heed external auditor’s recommendations that they implement a whistle-blowing policy? Also, in the absence of a whistleblower policy, how can the Organisation define what a whistleblower is, especially when the information provided is against the very DG who is making this determination?
Though the Director General may not recognise it, A and B are two former inspectors who are dedicated to the mission of the OPCW. Together they have a combined service of almost 30 years, have seen three Director Generals come and go and are among the highest regarded members of the Organisation. Their dedication to the integrity of science and the credibility of investigations should not be confused with lack of loyalty to the Organisation. On the contrary, it is about doing the right thing or what one believes is the right thing. Just two weeks before departing the Organisation in 2018, inspector B’s Division Director would write of him:
”I want to commend you as well for your character and strong values, which have stood firm at times when it would have been easier to simply “let it go” without fighting for what you believed was right. Thank you for everything, it will be difficult to replace you, now that your tenure is about to end.”
They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence.
What views? A and B have only raised concerns about what they consider irregular behaviour within the organisation that has led to an impartial report. As stated in one email published by Wikileaks, “We are not insisting on being right in our assertions, but we are demanding to be heard”.
When their view could not gain traction, they took matters into their own hands and committed a breach of their obligations to the Organisation.
Isn’t this precisely the issue – why did these ‘views’ not get traction? The onus should not have been on the inspectors to try to get traction – OPCW procedure dictates that all data and facts should have been published – it was an irregularity to suppress them – The CWC gives the right to inspectors to have differing observations appended to its reports, but this was denied. The OPCW is now trying to divert attention from its own improper conduct by creating a diversionary investigation that appears to have the sole objective of suppressing any legitimate discussion as concerns these irregularities
Yet despite the Organisation’s improper conduct the inspectors made huge efforts, over a period of nine months or so, to get management to listen and keep the issue in-house. With no whistle-blowing policy in place and the DG, Chief of Cabinet and the Office of Internal Oversight all refusing to engage (and even employing intimidating tactics) there was no mechanism to have any concerns of irregular behaviour or breach of scientific rules heard within the Organisation. How could the inspectors concerns possibly get traction?
Both A and B have been exonerated from leaking the engineering report. As the report says there was no proof to say either was responsible. They have only tried to fulfil their professional and ethical responsibilities to raise legitimate concerns about the conduct of the Douma investigation and tried to do so through all the proper channels within the Organisation. The OPCW simply refused to listen. Where therefore is the breach of confidentiality?
- Their behaviour is made even more egregious by the fact that they had manifestly incomplete information on the Douma investigation. This is due to the fact that they both had no involvement in the last six months of the FFM investigation, when most of the analytical work took place.
B: What is truly shocking is that A and B have struggled to flag concerns about irregular, unethical, and scientifically questionable behaviour within an Organisation that supposedly champions professionalism and integrity, but nobody wants to listen.
Arguing that A and B were not involved in the final stages of the final report is little more than a cynical ruse to hide the true concern that the final report was created in a scientifically questionable process in an atmosphere of exclusion, secretiveness and unprofessionalism.
A: The problem for this statement, is that that facts, science and engineering can’t be changed; they can’t be undone. Interpretation of these, of course, aided by omission (in the FFM report) is the tricky part. It appears to many of us as scientists, that the facts appear to be staring at us in the face. If, however there are (alternative) additional(?) facts, science and engineering, then they can be used to justify the conclusions of the FFM report. That should be easy, and we would all be satisfied. On the other hand, had these facts been available, then surely, they would have been alluded to in the FFM report, and we wouldn’t have the controversy in the first place. This is what makes a mockery of the statement that six months of additional analysis had turned things around. If that had been the case, one imagines these new results would have been triumphantly expounded in the FFM report. Or at least alluded to. But they have been notably missing, actually completely absent, other than the continued entreaties that we accept the unknownconclusions of the unknown “three experts in engineering and ballistics”.
On the contrary, the final report is so insipid in these areas that it appears to confirm that nothing new was established. All it seems was done, was to repeat the same messages from the earlier (cut-back) interim report, add some questionable conclusions on engineering, and then by applying some scientifically-questionable fuzzy “logic”, attempt to justify reaching an opposite conclusion. This is not how the scientists of the Technical Secretariat work
Footnote from Inspector A
There is a key issue that needs clarification. Who, or what, is “the FFM”? The DG and many delegations, and some statements from parliamentarians have referenced this entity called “the FFM”. As in “the Director-General has full confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the FFM”. And “I (the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs) have full confidence in the professionalism, impartiality and objectivity of the findings in the FFM (Fact Finding Mission) report on the attack in Douma”. And a permanent representative to the OPCW, who said she has admiration “for the courage of the members of the FFM”. Now here’s the rub; are they all misguided? We, the two apparently-being disgraced senior experts, along with other inspectors who deployed to Douma, perhaps have more right than others to be called “the FFM”. In the case of Douma, the FFM was essentially disbanded, and subsequently two individuals were appointed by the Chief of Cabinet (as he explained to Inspector A), to draft the FFM report under his direction. One of the individuals, ***** had deployed only to Country X. The other, *****, only joined at the end of 2018 when all was done and dusted. The rest of the core team had little involvement other than interviewing alleged witnesses in Country X.
- As could be expected, their conclusions are erroneous, uninformed, and wrong.
B: This is offensive and certainly not to be expected from someone who used to unconditionally defend the integrity and professionalism of his inspectors. Why would it be expected that the conclusions of A and B would be erroneous, uninformed and wrong In any case, what conclusions is the Director General talking about?
Inspectors A and B were witnesses to a scientifically questionable process during the conduct of the Douma investigation. This included, exclusion of key members of the investigation team who had gathered the evidence on site, suppression and doctoring of reports, exclusion of key toxicology data, and chemical analysis results, among others.
Inspectors A and B, while questioning the science in (or absent from) the FFM report, are not protesting the conclusions of the final report per se. They are protesting how the conclusions were derived—through a scientifically questionable process. Whether Inspector A was part of the FFM or not (he was) or if Inspector B left the Organisation before the final report was issued, is in fact irrelevant and merely a smokescreen to hide the real issue. If an accountant at the Organisation believed there was fiscal fraud being perpetrated, would management dismiss these concerns by claiming the staff member was not involved in the preparation of the end of year balance sheets? Of course not. The concerns would be immediately investigated and either given credence or dismissed. Why should it be any different with A and B’s concerns about bad scientific practice?
- The FFM interim report on the Douma incident was issued on 6 July 2018. It took seven months of further FFM investigations before the final report was issued. During those seven months, the FFM undertook the majority of its analytical work, conducted a large number of witness interviews, and—importantly—received the results of relevant sampling and analysis.
A: The later results of sampling and analysis did not provide anything new, and did not change the situation from the time of the Interim Report. The final report contains no scientific commentary that could be related to “new” specific results from analysis, nor scientific or medical facts or opinion. The only new information purported in the final FFM report is the statement that engineering and ballistic studies had been done. These results however, are contradicted by the findings of the Engineering Summary produced by the qualified FFM team member.
- Arguments based on the provisional elements of the FFM investigation contained in the interim report have been eclipsed by the final Douma report—which was released on 1 March 2019—more than half a year after the interim report. The conclusions of every FFM inquiry are based on an in-depth and objective analysis of all of the evidence. These conclusions are also based on prevailing standards of proof used by international commissions of inquiry in the United Nations system.
A +B: Yet another defence of the Douma Final Report, which simply has nothing to do with the leaking of a confidential document. Why do the investigators insist that defending the merits of the Final Report somehow incriminates A or B in the mishandling of confidential information?
The argument that the scientifically questionable process that resulted in the Interim Report is somehow ‘eclipsed’ by the Final Report rings of Machiavellian ‘the end justifies the means’ mentality.
- In the course of any investigation, members of a team may have views and ideas about what happened. A good investigator will use these elements to follow specific leads. The FFM investigators are no different. They follow leads. But they do not bend the facts to accommodate the view of individuals. The Code of Conduct for staff members of the Secretariat specifically requires staff members to ensure that their personal views and convictions do not adversely affect their official duties.
It’s not about the views and ideas! That’s stuff of politicians and some on-line investigative outfits. OPCW inspectors don’t work that way. They work with hypotheses, facts, evidence and established and ethical scientific procedures.
- The Secretariat always takes into account all information submitted and views exchanged. The Douma investigation was no exception. The findings of the FFM final report was based on the thorough analysis of all of the evidence collected.
The point is, they weren’t. And rather than just repeating the same mantra, why doesn’t the TS explain, if it analysed all the evidence collected, why some critical evidence regarding the quantitative chemical analysis, expert opinions of toxicologists, inconsistent witness statements, and engineering studies were omitted from the report.
- Therefore, I stand by the conclusions of the final Douma report
A + B: This affirmation says it all. This investigation was not about investigating a breach of confidentiality at all, but about defending the Douma Report, and defending it in a manner unbecoming of an Organisation of the stature of the OPCW.
In accordance with the FFM’s mandate, the report of the FFM does not draw conclusions about possible perpetrators. In the June 2018 decision, the States Parties mandated the Secretariat to put in place arrangements to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. The IIT—established by the Conference of the States Parties—examines cases as specified in the June decision. The FFM Douma report falls into this category of cases.
In the interest of transparency and completeness, Inspector A’s assessment has been transmitted to the IIT and will be examined by it in due course. This is consistent with the Conference’s call for the IIT to examine all information.
I wish to seize this opportunity to thank all States Parties that have provided the Secretariat with information and expertise on all aspects of the Syrian chemical file, as mandated by the relevant decisions of the OPCW policy-making organs. I call again upon all States Parties, in a position to do so, to extend their assistance in this matter.
The OPCW is, and will remain, the global institution mandated to deal with chemical weapons in an impartial and independent manner. You can count on me, and on the staff of the Secretariat. I would like to pay tribute to all of them, particularly for their competence, hard work and dedication, with which we have been able to fulfil the mandates we have received from States Parties.
Distinguished delegates, I wish to thank you for your kind attention during this briefing. The investigation was pursued in accordance with the core values of the OPCW—namely independence, professionalism, and integrity. We have continued to fulfil our core business related to verification, capacity building, chemical safety and security, and assistance and protection.
You can count on the unrelenting commitment of me and my team to work with you to uphold the universal ban on chemical weapons and contribute to global peace and security.
I thank you for attending this briefing—which is now concluded. *****