Mark Ames: ShamiWitness: When Bellingcat and Neocons Collaborated With The Most Influential ISIS Propagandist On Twitter

By Mark Ames, author of Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion from Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and co-host of the Radio War Nerd podcast. Subscribe to Radio War Nerd on Patreon.

Who remembers @ShamiWitness? At the peak of ISIS’s power, @ShamiWitness stood out as the genocidal militia group’s “most influential Twitter account” according to a Channel 4 exposé and a Kings College report. The @ShamiWitness account was followed by some two-thirds of foreign jihadis. But it went further than propogandizing Islamic State’s massacres and rapes: @Shamiwitness also actively recruited foreign jihadis and helped lead them through the ratlines in Turkey, into the ISIS killing fields in Syria and Iraq, as a George Washington University report revealed this year.

But I want to talk about the western “experts” in Washington and London who cozied up to @ShamiWitness — especially since all of them are still around, many of them bigger and more influential in our political discourse than ever. They’re the ones who built up @ShamiWitness’s social media capital, making his account so popular, and so effective, in recruiting ISIS murderers. Some of the best known Syria regime-change hustlers and “experts”—Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat and the Saudi-funded Atlantic Council; Charles Lister of the Saudi-funded Middle East Institute, former CNN “Syria expert” and Atlantic Council fellow Michael Weiss, all major figures promoting today’s RussiaGate hysteria—together helped transform the @ShamiWitness account from a cretinous troll into a credible “ISIS expert”. They validated and lent credibility to ShamiWitness as someone with deep, local insider knowledge, boosting ShamiWitness’s social capital their countless retweets, #FF’s, #Pt’s, and their numerous public interactions.

As it turned out, @ShamiWitness was a fake “Syria expert”. The millennial yuppie who ran the ShamiWitness account was as much an insider expert on ISIS as the western Syria hacks who boosted him. It wasn’t the “experts” like Bellingcat who unmasked ShamiWitness — quite the opposite, Bellingcat’s team played a major role in building him up as a credible expert. Rather, it was a Channel 4 report exposing ShamiWitness as a fake — but a very dark and dangerous fake, with very real world consequences. @ShamiWitness was run by a 24-year-old Indian marketing executive named Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who tweeted out ISIS and Syria “expertise” from his bachelor pad in Bangalore, India.

And just like that, the London and Washington Syria regime-change neocons who’d been boosting @ShamiWitness suddenly looked like fools — as well as ISIS accessories. Contrary to what they had all assumed, @ShamiWitness wasn’t the expert Syria insider he pretended to be. He spoke no Arabic; he was nowhere near Syria.

The ShamiWitness account was every bit as sick, sectarian and vile as you’d expect from ISIS’s leading Twitter account. In its brief gory heyday, ISIS was responsible for slaughtering somewhere between 50,000 – 100,000 people in Iraq and Syria, enslaving, raping and exterminating untold thousands of Yezidis and other minorities in the region. Which makes it all the more shocking how these western experts, most of whose careers are still thriving today, bigger than ever in fact, were able to get away with being accessories to ISIS propaganda and recruiting efforts. It wasn’t as though they couldn’t have known ShamiWitness was a monster. A year before ShamiWitness was unmasked, Michael Kelley called out reporters (including himself) for being accessories to ShamiWitness’s social media influence, but he was practically alone in that.

Here are a few gruesome examples of ShamiWitness’s Twitter account in action:

  • In 2014, responding to reports out of Kobane that ISIS attackers were raping and mutilating female Kurdish soldiers, ShamiWitness gleefully tweeted:

  • As his Islamic State heroes were posting selfies of their Kurdish female trophies [WARNING GRAPHIC]:

  • …ShamiWitness tweeted out sick ISIS jokes about murdered Kurds like this:

ShamiWitness swooned over ISIS’s murder porn, relentlessly promoting and tweeting out ISIS execution and beheading videos on Twitter. ShamiWitness repeatedly tweeted out ISIS videos of American hostage Peter Kassig’s beheading execution within minutes after they were first posted, feeding bloodlust to his thousands of foreign jihadi followers.

And he did his best to inflame sectarian hatreds, gearing up ISIS foreign recruits for the killing fields:

Despite thousands of vile tweets like that, ShamiWitness was a popular figure among the Syria regime-change “expert” crowd. One of those experts who’s been in the news a lot lately is Eliot Higgins of the Atlantic Council/Bellingcat cyber-sleuth group. Bellingcat have made themselves darlings of the western press — and western intelligence agencies — with their investigative reports targeting NATO’s adversaries, primarily Russia and Syria. After making headlines for tying Russia to the downing of Malaysian Air Flight 17, and unmasking the alleged GRU poisoners in Salisbury, Higgins and his crew have received unanimous glowing press in the BBC, New York Times, Washington Post and elsewhere — along with funding from the Saudi-financed Atlantic Council, and the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a regime-change front set up by Reagan’s ghoulish CIA chief, Bill Casey. (The NED’s first chief, Allen Weinstein admitted to the Washington Post, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly twenty-five years ago by the CIA.”)

Here is Higgins throwing out a big #FF — or “FollowFriday” — recommending the ISIS propagandist to his followers:

  • And again (For the mercifully uninitiated, “#FF” is how you recommend other accounts to your own followers to follow. #FF is a key part of any brand-building strategy. You #FF someone who you think will make you look good, and who you hope will #FF you back to their followers. This is how ambitious Twitter propagandists build brand following):

  • Here’s the Bellingcat founder promoting some ISIS slaughter porn tweeted out by ShamiWitness—in this case, an ISIS video gloating over murdered Kurdish women:

  • Here is the Bellingcat sleuth engaging in what passes for witty Twitter repartee with ShamiWitness, joking about devastating ISIS suicide bomber vehicles that have killed and mutilated untold thousands in Syria and Iraq. But for Bellingcat and ShamiWitness, there’s a Gallagher joke in it:

  • And here’s Higgins offering helpful Twitter tips to ISIS’s top recruiter on how to deal with ISIS’s online critics:

Higgins began his “open source intelligence” career under a misleading avatar — “BrownMoses” — as if Higgins, a doughy pinkish Midlands gamer, was some kind of swarthy Middle Easterner whose friends’ and relatives’ lives were at stake. Oddly reminiscent of a Mehdi Masroor Biswas pretending to be a ShamiWitness (Shami meaning “Syria”). How could ace sleuths Bellingcat not know that ShamiWitness was a fraud, let alone a propagandist for mass murder and enslavement? As online open source experts, they should’ve had no problem unmasking ShamiWitness. Slate reported how it was “fairly easy to doxx” ShamiWitness after all, based on his giant dumb social media footprints under his real name and real life in Bangalore, accounts which were carelessly linked to his ShamiWitness accounts.

Nevertheless, Higgins and his Bellingcat boys were gobsmacked when the ISIS “expert” they’d been #FFing and conversing with for two years turned out to be a fake. And when ShamiWitness was unmasked, rather than owning up to it and trying to understand how he’d been duped, Higgins tried to turn it all into a fatuous joke, in a strangely transparent attempt to minimize the whole scandal and make it go away:

Higgins’ efforts to downplay ShamiWitness were deliberately misleading as well as childish. He was trying to cover his own ass over having been duped by a Bangalore dweeb with blood on his hands. We now know from detailed terrorism studies that ShamiWitness was not on “toilet cleaning duty” as Higgins quipped—he very literally led foreign jihadi recruits into the Syrian and Iraqi killing fields, and inspired one of ISIS’s most gruesome foreign terrorist attacks, in Dhaka.

You had to try really hard not to know what you were getting involved in with ShamiWitness, and in case you were trying too hard, ShamiWitness boasted what he was up to, such as this tweet to another chummy Washington regime-change operative and former Vice guy, Danny Gold:

Mere boasts about ISIS terrorism did not cause Gold any hesitation in brand-building with ShamiWitness:

For now, let’s move on to more familiar names in the DC-London regime-change swamp.

  • Here is ubiquitous regime-change hack Charles Lister, of the Saudi-financed Middle East Institute, logrolling with Higgins and ShamiWitness like something out of a “how to build your social media brand” workshop:

  • Here’s a string of Lister-ShamiWitness-Bellingcat logrolling episodes:

See, this is how you cross-build a community of “experts” on social media: tagging and referencing your circle enough times to create an impression of something happening, a self-validated “community of Syria experts.” All of them benefited from it, including ShamiWitness. Only the Syrian and Iraqi people suffered.

But “Jihad Lister” (as Special Forces vet Jack Murphy calls him) went further than logrolling with ShamiWitness, blowing kisses to the ISIS propagandist/recruiter in ways that are downright sickening:

Here, for example, is Lister yukking it up with ShamiWitness over a particularly brutal Saudi-led militia group, Suqur al-Izz, an ally of both ISIS and Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra — and which carried out savage massacres of hundreds of minority Alawite civilians in Latakia province (documented in a Human Rights Watch report). To Lister and his ISIS friend, it’s all good for an ironic laugh:

To which ShamiWitness reminded Lister:

…prompting a “right back atcha” from his chum Lister:

Naturally, this sordid ISIS-neocon Twitter orgy features serial Thesaurus-abuser Michael Weiss, the Daily Beast’s tenured regime-change hack. There’s a lot of love going back and forth between the two. Perhaps most astonishing is ShamiWitness declaring Michael Weiss as his favorite journalist, Weiss going wobbly at the knees in gratitude, and the ISIS recruiter blowing him a smiley:

  • Weiss blows a smiley back at the ISIS recruiter:

Incredible as it may seem, around the time of this ShamiWitness love-fest, this same group—Weiss, Zelin, and Bellingcat—soon ganged up on another and far better Syria analyst, Aymenn Al Tamimi, accusing him of—are you ready?—being too friendly on Twitter with ISIS. The think-tank neocons accused Tamimi of having turned into a terrorist. In fact, Tamimi’s real sin was debunking an inane Michael Weiss conspiracy article that claimed Iran and ISIS were “secret allies” in Syria.

Weiss was of course wrong—being consistently wrong is what Weiss is paid to do for a living.

This is the same Michael Weiss who posted a similar conspiracy theory claiming Russia secretly served as ISIS’s air force in Syria. Weiss gets things wrongs as a rule, because being wrong is his career. It’s a job not many people are willing to do, or capable of doing without triggering a gag reflex. Michael Weiss gargles made-to-order shit without so much as a chaser. He is, quite literally, a tenured failure. There’s a lot of dark demand for this kind of work, and very few willing takers. You need to believe you’re some kind of evil genius, pulling a fast one on all the honest rubes, to get off on this kind of work.

Weiss also struck up all sorts of sleazy relationships with Syrian jihadis, and even posed for selfies in a jihadi-controlled section of Aleppo in 2012:

As Max Blumenthal reported, the jihadi on Weiss’s left was believed to be Syrian rebel commander Yousef Ajjan Al-Hadid, who was killed shortly after Weiss’s selfie. And the other guy with the AK, the one who looks like Harold Ramis, is Mahmoud Sheikh al-Zour, who ran his own rebel training camp in northern Syria, and worked in Al Qaeda-dominated Idlib as well as Aleppo.

So you’d think Weiss and his crew would be a little more circumspect about accusing a far more serious Syria analyst like Tamimi of being a jihadist sympathizer—but hypocrisy never bothered a neocon. And anyway, their gang hit on Tamimi’s reputation had nothing to do with jihadi sympathies, and everything to do with making Weiss look bad. So the syndicate took a break from brand-building with ShamiWitness, to try to sink Tamimi’s career by smearing him as a terrorist symp. The job was handed to an aspiring young neocon larva named Armin Rosen — previously known for defending a racist hate-group leader’s use of “Islamo-fascism” — who published the hit piece in Business Insider, headlined “The Remarkable Story of a Rising Terrorism Analyst Who Got Too Close To His Subjects”.

Rosen’s article begins with the goal reported as fact:

Aymenn Al Tamimi’s career came apart in public last week.

A couple paragraphs down, the article explains how:

almost from the beginning, his links to known jihadis — including members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), arguably the most ruthless of such groups — and a habit of firing off tweets and social media posts appearing to sympathize with their cause raised eyebrows among his colleagues in the tightly knit, scholarly community of Western-based terrorism analysts.

Next paragraph comes the bombshell evidence, in the form of a non sequitur:

On July 14, Al Tamimi, who had been cited in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post and had appeared on BBC News, published an article attempting to debunk journalist Michael Weiss’s evidence that Iran was aiding ISIS, which now controls a roughly Belgium-sized slice of Iraq and Syria.

This is where the “tightly knit” syndicate comes in—it’s not about evidence or expository logic; the evidence is what the self-appointed “community” decides is evidence. In this instance, it was Bellingcat that pulled the pulled open the trap door:

[Tamimi’s] article was cross-posted to Bellingcat, the online publication launched by Eliot Higgins, the renowned investigative journalist most famous for helping to prove the Syrian regime’s responsibility for the August 21, 2013, chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

But within days the article had been pulled from Bellingcat and Tamimi had been dropped as a contributor to the site, a development Higgins confirmed for Business Insider by email early last week.

Higgins cited serious accusations that had surfaced on Twitter after fellow terrorism analysts had aired evidence suggesting that Tamimi was discomfortingly close with some of his sources in the jihadist world.

Weiss linked to a conversation in which Tamimi told an apparent ISIS supporter that it was “best not openly tweeting” pro-Caliphate sympathies, and that his “bro,” the pro-ISIS Twitter user Shami Witness, “suggested I should stick to objectivity on Twitter.”

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called the exchange “pretty disturbing.”

That would be this Daveed Gartenstein-Ross:

This is a classic neocon smear strategy—activate the network to create the impression that the character smear is a consensus opinion by experts from different backgrounds, and drive the stake in the heart with a retraction. In this case, Bellingcat’s Eliot Higgins played executioner in the Tamimi smear. Higgins and his Bellingcat crew have come a long way since this smear on Tamimi. These days, Bellingcat are media celebrities, fronting for western intelligence agencies’ information wars against Russia and Syria. Eliot Higgins and Bellingcat have positioned themselves as a “pro-NATO Wikileaks” exposing the lies and crimes of NATO’s adversaries, racking up lucrative grants from Google, the Atlantic Council, and Bill Casey’s old regime-change front, the National Endowment for Democracy, along the way.

To Tamimi’s credit, he was one of the very few Syria analysts or journalists who publicly owned up to his own role in lending credibility to ShamiWitness’s Twitter account. Unlike Weiss, Zelin, Lister, Higgins or any of the other Bellingcats, who never owned up to their own role as accessories to ShamiWitness, Tamimi had the integrity to write about and explore his own mistakes, and to try to learn from those mistakes. And despite Bellingcat’s best efforts, Tamimi is still around, blogging at Syria Comment—a site edited by one of the very few American Syria experts to actually get the Syria war right—Professor Joshua Landis, who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at U. Oklahoma, and who appeared on Radio War Nerd early this year.

Being right about Syria is, as I’ve said, the only sin in this business. So you might not be surprised to learn that Michael Weiss and ShamiWitness teamed up against Landis. Actually it’s worse: Weiss and ShamiWitness ganged up on Landis by making menacing attacks on Landis’s Syrian-born wife and her family, who are members of Syria’s minority Alawite sect, which has been targeted for extermination by groups supported by ShamiWitness, Weiss and the rest of this DC-London regime-change crowd.

Here is the ShamiWeiss-Landis exchange, in which Weiss tags his ISIS pal to attack Professor Landis’s inlaws, many of whom still live in Syria:

After Weiss tagged in ISIS’s top propagandist to attack Landis’s Alawite wife and in-laws, he reached for his trusty Thesaurus to deliver what passes for a witty coup de grace, in what passes for the pen of Michael Weiss:

We’ve spent enough time on these sleazy goons. Let’s name some more western “experts” who boosted and promoted the @ShamiWitness account:

  • Phillip Smyth of AIPAC spinoff the Washington Institute for Near East Studies:

  • Faysal Itani, Senior Fellow at the Saudi-funded Atlantic Council:

  • Borzou Daraghi of the Atlantic Council (another pattern) and formerly Buzzfeed:

  • Liz Sly of the Washington Post:

  • Michael Weiss’s co-author, Hassan Hassan:

But how could they have known? some might ask. Indeed, how—not like our Syria experts could be bothered to read the tweets of those accounts they’ve helped promote or anything:

 

In fact, they all knew, but only a very few cared to call it out, and got nothing for it. A year before ShamiWitness was unmasked by Channel 4, Michael Kelley of Business Insider (now editor at Yahoo News) published a piece, “One Of The Most Popular Sources on Syria Happens To Be An Extremist Supporter” calling out reporters and experts like himself for being accessories to ShamiWitness/ISIS propaganda:

“[H]e remains a noticeable voice in the Syria discussion. That is uncomfortable for analysts and reporters (including this author) who have directly or indirectly facilitated Shami’s rise, even if the lift merely involved a citation, a retweet, or friendly banter.”

After ShamiWitness was exposed in December 2014, Syria journalists and experts who hadn’t been part of the ShamiWitness Dupe Brigade called out the hacks who’d made ShamiWitness a powerful and influential propagandist.

For example, Zaid Benjamin of Radio Sawa bitterly tweeted:

In the months and years since ShamiWitness’s account was unmasked and the young man behind it arrested, we’ve learned that ShamiWitness was more than just ISIS’s most influential propagandist on Twitter.

Two of the ISIS Bangladeshi jihadis who carried out the gruesome 2016 Dhaka attack were avid followers of Shamiwitness. That attack left 29 dead —including 9 Italians, 5 women and 4 men, all of whose bodies showed signs of gruesome torture, punishment for anyone who couldn’t cite verses from the Koran.

Indian authorities also discovered that ShamiWitness helped recruit Areef Majid and his group of ISIS jihadist recruits from Kalyan, near Mumbai. Majid fought for ISIS in Iraq and Syria, before escaping in late 2014—like a lot of foreign recruits who started getting cold feet after the US-led coalition and Kurdish fighters made life harder for the Islamic State’s army of sadists and genocidaires.

And this year, a report by the George Washington University Program on Extremism, titled “The Travelers. American Jihadists in Syria and Iraq” revealed just how intimately involved ShamiWitness was in ISIS recruiting and logistics, guiding foreign jihadis to the ISIS rape camps and killing fields in Syria and Iraq.

The report goes deep into the experience of an American ISIS recruit, “Mo,” who was “one of the first Americans to go to Syria [to fight for ISIS].” In June 2014, the FBI paid a visit to “Mo” after monitoring his online interactions with the likes of ShamiWitness. Shortly afterwards, Mo bought a one-way ticket to Istanbul, and made his way to a Turkish town called Urfa (or “Şanlıurfa” in Turkish). From accounts like ShamiWitness “Mo” understood that to join ISIS, Urfa “was the place to go.”

Here, the George Washington U report describes how Shamiwitness led “Mo” to his ISIS handlers:

“While analysis of @Shamiwitness’ activities to date paint him merely as a propaganda disseminator for IS, it seems that his role may have in fact also been one of direct facilitation for would-be Western travelers. While in Şanlıurfa, Mo used Twitter to reach out to @Shamiwitness, who put him in touch with three local IS facilitators, including a British IS member called Abu Rahman al-Britani. Using Kik, the encrypted messenger of choice for IS travelers at the time, he reached out to al-Britani. Mo was then given a number for an IS smuggler and told by al-Britani that he could use him for tazkiya, a vetting process whereby a known fighter vouches for a new member to other IS members.”

So people in Syria and Iraq were killed, kidnapped, tortured and raped. And ShamiWitness is rotting in an Indian prison somewhere. That’s not their problem. Eliot Higgins and Michael Weiss have moved on to bigger things now. Their power network is a lot bigger too. And they can prove beyond a doubt that if you question their research, you might be working for the enemy. Why else would anyone question their expertise?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

32 comments

  1. The Rev Kev

    I’m not surprised that the Indians threw that Mehdi Masroor Biswas’s a** in the slammer. India has about 172 million Muslims living there and the last thing that they need is for someone like this guy encouraging ISIS to form cadres among them.
    As for that Michael Weiss – I’m pretty sure that there are laws on the book saying that it is a Federal crime to give support to terrorists or terrorism but the law never seems to apply to people like him for some reason.
    And Eliot Higgins aka Bellingcat? He doesn’t handle criticism very well such as when he got into a verbal stoush with an MIT professor at a London Conference-

    https://www.rt.com/news/441891-bellingcat-higgins-debate-syria/

    Then again, Bellingcat has a long history of getting into twitter fights with people that call him out on his authorized brand of bs-

    https://www.rt.com/uk/441968-eliot-higgins-twitter-feuds-bellingcat/

    Reply
    1. Code Name D

      I’m pretty sure that there are laws on the book saying that it is a Federal crime to give support to terrorists or terrorism but the law never seems to apply to people like him for some reason.

      No. But it dose seem to apply to teachers, protesters, union leaders, and activists. Odd that.

      Reply
  2. Sylvia

    I notice from one of the tweets that Bellingcat also gets money from NED—that would be the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED was established during the Reagan Administration in 1983 to take over the CIA’s regime change operations after the Church Committee exposed decades of those activities. I need to look up the other organizations but does this make him a paid propagandists for the US regime change operations? No wonder he’s in the middle of things in Syria, Ukraine and Russia.

    Reply
  3. PlutoniumKun

    Glorious takedown. I knew Bellingcat was extremely unreliable, but I’d no idea it was this bad. These people really are the lowest of the low.

    Reply
  4. tgs

    Great job by Ames. It is astounding that frauds like Higgins are the ‘go to’ experts for the MSM. These guys shill for jihadis and outright nazis (in Ukraine).

    Reply
    1. knowbuddhau

      Or is it that catapults, like the MSM, are the ‘go to’ delivery systems for propagandists like Higgins? The MSM PTB, I’m wildly guessing, get to keep their toy empires as long as they know their place in the real one.

      Their weaponized fraud has at least two better names, old and new: propaganda, and PSYOP. They’re a valued and effective force multiplier directly involved in war. Our MSM is, too.

      Our MSM is directly involved in PSYOPing us into “supporting our troops,” even though they be illegally invading and occupying yet another country; this time, Syria. This has been going on all my 54 years. They know exactly what they’re doing.

      Did you see the guy holding that woman’s head? “Fraud” and “shilling” don’t do justice to her.

      Reply
      1. The Rev Kev

        But wait – it gets better. Higgins is a senior fellow in the Digital Forensic Research Lab which is a project of the neocon Atlantic Council. When Facebook wants to determine what is fake news or not, this Lab is one of their main partners that they go to to find out. So if you have a Facebook account, Higgins is helping determine what you do and do not see. How about that!

        Reply
  5. JTMcPhee

    Nice bay window view into the human id. Such a lovely species, neh? Or at least a significant part of us…

    Do people who favor decency and comity and sustainability have the chops to do the kind of logrolling and buzz building that these creatures display? Not a “antisocial media” participant, so I have no idea.

    Reply
  6. Jimmy Rustler

    Maybe I’m in the sensitive minority but I’d prefer not to see decapitated heads during my morning coffee, even if they are “blurred”

    Just a thought. Fantastic article otherwise

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      It’s a news site. The presentation isn’t pornographic in nature which still amounts to shock for the sake of shock. It’s important to show the use of the elite sources though who are peddling in the work of a pornographer and terrorist. No, you aren’t sensitive. You are nitpicking.

      Reply
    2. bob

      You’re not sensitive, you’re tone policing.

      Decapitation isn’t the primary obscenity. Ruining your morning coffee is.

      Just a thought.

      Reply
    3. skippy

      From a long time ago I suggest that in discourse over a topic with the enablers of malfeasance I would demand all the body’s on the table at the time. Any aversion to this is a win in their column as it creates wiggle room.

      I strongly suggest that everyone needs to be able to both look at the body’s and the guilty in the eye at the same time. This is not a picnic or a dinner party.

      Reply
    4. skippy

      From a long time ago I suggest that in discourse over a topic with the enablers of malfeasance I would demand all the body’s on the table at the time. Any aversion to this is a win in their column as it creates wiggle room.

      I strongly suggest that everyone needs to be able to both look at the body’s and the guilty in the eye at the same time. This is not a picnic or a dinner party.

      Reply
    5. Unna

      Remember that video of the US funded “moderate rebel” group guy in Aleppo beheading that 12 year old boy? I watched it. I don’t think it’s available anymore or I’d link to it. Instead I’ll link to the Reuters article describing the beheading.

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-beheading-idUSKCN1000TZ

      “A Syrian rebel group THAT HAS RECEIVED U.S. MILITARY BACKING said it is investigating the beheading of a child in Aleppo after video footage circulated showing the boy being killed….Before being killed, the boy is shown on the back of a truck being taunted by several men who say he is from a Palestinian faction which fights in Aleppo in support of President Bashar al-Assad….The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that it was investigating the incident.”

      If you are from a Western, so called civilized, country whose government funds this sort of thing, then you must look. Just like the American troops forced German towns people in the vicinity of the camps to come and look. Were these individual Germans personally guilty? Probably not. Did they know? Maybe, maybe not. Could they have done anything to stop it short of becoming a White Rose martyr? No, and even with those White Rose deaths nothing stopped.

      Nevertheless, those German middle class persons were forced to put down their morning Kaffeele and march out of town to the camps and look. Not to bear witness to their own personal guilt but to bear witness to what happened and to the atrocities committed by their own government in their name.

      Reply
    6. fajensen

      This is the king of picture that finally killed the bat-shit insane ideas of western air support for the Moderate Head-choppers in Syria! I think the discomfort was well worth it!!

      When Russia finally bombs the crap out of the lot of them with FAE-warheads, it will be worth some discomfort to watch the videos of that too. These creatures have Zero rights IMO.

      Reply
  7. JohnB

    Great article. FYI the RSS feed for Exiled Online doesn’t seem to be getting updated, so I don’t end up seeing articles posted there.

    Reply
  8. lyman alpha blob

    Don’t do social media so thank you for the explanations of how it works in the article.

    I’m a firm believer that journalists doing their job should always be protected no matter how inconvenient their reporting may turn out for the powers that be.

    That being said, if If this article is accurate, this shamiwitness person was not simply a journalist documenting ISIS activity, he was actively recruiting for ISIS. So how did the US authorities, who are supposedly closely monitoring the online world for “terrorist” activity, allow this friendly banter between neocons in training and a headchopper recruiter to go on for so long, when so many other brown people wind up with a drone strike up their nether regions for merely “fitting a profile” whether they’d actually done anything against the US or not?

    It’s almost as if what we’ve been lead to believe by the US media isn’t actually true. Who coulda thunk it?!? Occam’s razor says the reason these groups appear to be so friendly is because they are.

    Reply
    1. lyman alpha blob

      And from the Channel4 expose Ames links to that originally unmasked shamiwitness:

      Two thirds of all foreign fighters on Twitter followed him. When a fighter’s Twitter account is suspended, he often promoted the new one and urged people to follow it.

      So twitter is suspending the accounts of other suspected ISIS members, but not this guy’s?!?!? I’d love to know the reason for that selectivity.

      Reply
    2. John Zelnicker

      @lyman alpha blob
      October 28, 2018 at 11:52 am
      ——-

      You and Occam’s Razor are absolutely correct. Not only was the US responsible for the creation of ISIS by dismissing the entire Iraqi Army and locking up thousands of Baathists, as our goals have changed over the years in the Mid-East we have funded, armed, and provided logistical support, including on the battlefield, to virtually every one of the Jihadist groups, including ISIS, al_Qeada, al-Nusra and most of their offshoots and affiliates.

      For me, and some other commenters here, the best place for on-the-ground information about the Syrian War and its history can be found at Moon of Alabama.

      In fact, b (the host) gives a call-out to Ames’ essay in today’s post over there.

      Reply
      1. Procopius

        I can’t remember where I read it but I remember a report about a declassified memo from the Defense Intelligence Agency to the State Department in 2012, warning them that they were supporting ISIS and Al Qa’ida groups in Syria. Their response was that they hoped those groups would be helpful in removing Assad. So they’ve known for a long time who they were funding.

        I like Moon of Alabama, and have pretty high confidence in most of b’s reports, but he sure has some strange commenters there.

        Reply
  9. William Hunter Duncan

    I have been telling every liberal and conservative I can reach, since 9/11, that “terrorism” is most a motive for pathologically shameful war profiteering by the self-proclaimed “adults in the room.” Mostly I have been treated by those libs and cons like I am a terrorist sympathizer.

    Well, I suppose I would be called a terrorist for demanding the actual rule of law in America, where guys like these described in this article are kept from ever again inciting warmongering for profit.

    Reply
  10. ChrisPacific

    BellingCat was also responsible for a hatchet job on Sy Hersh’s Trump piece in Die Welt (Trump’s Red Line) which was otherwise unmentionable in any US related media at the time, despite the fact that it was highly critical of Trump at a time when when there was enormous appetite for that kind of thing. (There were a few honorable exceptions, such as Scott Ritter).

    Since that time my default assumption has been to regard BellingCat as a neocon propaganda arm. Nothing I’ve seen since that time has done anything to change my opinion. Cases like this one suggest that it’s lacking in basic journalism skills like fact and source checking, which is another tell.

    Reply
  11. Plenue

    Weiss is the one I’m most familiar with. He’s a disaster. His article on Russia being ISIS’s air force will go down in history as one of the single worst takes to come out of this entire conflict.

    My question is what motivates these people. Are they knowing liars, or are they bullshitters who don’t care about truth and just want to collect a nice paycheck?

    Reply
  12. flora

    The crazies ™ are in charge. From Ray McGovern, April 2018:

    Beginning in the 1970s, “the crazies” sobriquet was applied to Cold Warriors hell bent on bashing Russians, Chinese, Arabs—anyone who challenged U.S. “exceptionalism” (read hegemony). More to the point, I told Scahill that President (and former CIA Director) George H. W. Bush was among those using the term freely, since it seemed so apt.

    https://www.truthdig.com/articles/crazy-has-become-the-new-normal-in-washington/

    US foreign policy is now guided by the crazies™. Read the whole article.

    Reply
    1. Sparkle Sparkle

      And then he lost an election to one of them, lol.

      I heard after Barbara Bush died that she and Nancy didn’t get along very well. Wonder why?

      Reply
    2. JTMcPhee

      What are the chances the Crazies ™ will be unseated before they kill us all? And since no one of any decency seem to want or know how to rise to positions of power, who can do it, and by what means?

      On the other hand, we are just stupid effing humans, crapping in our own nest and killing each other with slung stone and the jawbones of asses…

      Reply
  13. Robert Sopenlehto

    Brown Moses career started in a forum I used to frequent, this is blowing my mind. Thank you for posting!
    What are some good news sources for war reporting? I saw Moon of Alabama mentioned previously, however, after a cursory look they have already referenced a few pro-Russia shills. It seems impossible to find anything these days that isn’t either pro-US/West or pro-Russia.

    Reply
    1. Aristonicus

      With regards to pro- whoever sources – we are stuck with them. You have to evaluate what they write and allow for their bias.
      As Colonel Lang says over on his site Sic Semper Tyrannis

      Information is evaluated separately from the source

      Sic Semper Tyrannis isn’t a bad place to start, Col. Lang is a former Green beret who also served as defence attaché in a couple of countries (N. Yemen, Saudi Arabia). The other contributors have been vetted by him.

      ‘b’ (apparently for ‘Bernhard’) at MOA is a former(?) Bundeswehr officer, and uses data from many sources including ‘pro-Russian’. What matters is that his analysis has usually turned out to be correct and that track record is from over more than a decade.

      Otherwise, as Mark Adomanis pointed out with regards to the Ukraine war in August 2014, which side was lying and which was telling the truth became clear at the point where the battlefield reality showed it so.

      Reply
      1. Robert Sopenlehto

        I take your point, however, it’s difficult to understand how we are in a situation where there aren’t any media remaining that haven’t been infiltrated or co-opted by a state in their support of their geo-political ambitions.

        Reply
  14. Reader Anony

    I followed this whole saga when it went down as I followed just about all of the analysts mentioned. This is probably the most comprehensive overview of the shamiwitness/mid-east analyst twitter relationships, mutual builtup, etc. that I’ve read. Well done!

    Reply

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