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Paul Hair is a national security expert and an author. He writes under his own name and as a ghostwriter. Connect with him at http://www.liberateliberty.com/. Contact him at paul@liberateliberty.com.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Really Happened at Smolensk?

There is a story of a potential scandal which has brought about calls for investigations and re-investigations, along with cries of a governmental cover-up. Those who say that there is no scandal or cover-up accuse those making the accusations of being conspiracy theorists.

But this story isn’t about the NSA and PRISM. This story is about the Polish aircraft that crashed near Smolensk, Russia in 2010, killing the Polish president and a large portion of the Polish government. And those calling for investigations and re-investigations are doing so because they say that the crash was no accident; that the Russian government sabotaged and murdered the Polish president and a large portion of the Polish government.

The official investigations into the crash are over, with both the Polish and Russian governments having ruled it an accident involving pilot error.

The legacy media still publishes some stories on the crash—particularly since the third anniversary of the crash just passed this April—but those stories don’t seem to garner much attention.

The New York Times wrote a story on it in May. And The Telegraph published an article in April on it.

The Daily Beast published an article during November 2012 and brought up the inevitable comparisons of those accusing the Russian government of sabotaging the Polish aircraft to September 11 “truthers.”

That thought had crossed my mind as well.

Yet a significant body of people—including a significant amount of serious professionals—continue calling into question the official account.

Gene Poteat is one of those people.

Poteat is a professor at the Institute of World Politics (IWP). His biography at the IWP includes the following:
S. Eugene (Gene) Poteat is a retired senior CIA Scientific Intelligence Officer. He is President of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). He was educated as an electrical engineer and physicist. He holds a Masters in Statecraft and National Security Affairs from IWP.
I am a member of AFIO and I have personally met Mr. Poteat.

Poteat was one of the first to question the official explanation of the crash near Smolensk. He wrote about it in 2010 and was still discussing it in 2012.

So I contacted him about it for the latest information.

“For nearly three years now I have been swamped with information and ever more requests regarding the plane crash,” Poteat said. “I am now trying to extricate myself from this subject so I can go on to other things I need to do. Having initiated the idea the Russians did it, we have yet another Katyn Forest murder, and Russia will spend another 75 years denying it and blaming the Poles rather than the Germans. I think the Poles now have the investigation properly in hand—relieving me.”

He also directed me to the “Doomed Soldiers” website, which documents not only the Smolensk aircraft crash, but the Katyn Forest Massacre as well.

The Katyn Forest Massacre is important and makes the charges against the official explanation of the Smolensk crash, at the very least, interesting.

The New York Times included the following paragraph in its May 2013 story on the Smolensk crash:
At the root of this culture war is intense disagreement about exactly what caused the disaster that day, when Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president, and his delegation were traveling to an official commemoration of the Katyn Massacre of 1940, when the Soviet secret police executed 22,000 Polish officers. For decades the Soviet government denied responsibility for the killings, which to Poles had become a symbol of Russian domination.
So the crash occurred when the Polish government was going to Russia to commemorate an event which the Russia government does not like to remember.

That is strange.

Still, we can’t forget that the Polish government generally agrees with the Russian conclusion that the craft was the result of pilot error. The Poles even have a website dedicated to the investigation into the crash.

So what did Poteat mean when he said that the, “Poles now have the investigation properly in hand”?

The Polish press is applying some pressure. Rzeczpospolita, a Polish newspaper, countered the official explanation of the crash and claimed that traces of TNT were found at the crash site.

Yet Peter Jukes at The Daily Beast noted that Polish officials rejected the Rzeczpospolita claim.
The confirmation of conspiracy didn’t last long. On Wednesday, the chief military investigator into the crash was pointing out that the chemical traces could have been caused by cosmetics or pesticides. "It's not true that traces of TNT or nitroglycerine were confirmed either inside or on the exterior of the wreckage," Colonel Ireneusz Szelag told journalists.
Jukes continued.
To many Polish journalists, Rzeczpospolita’s blunder can be explained by the declining fortunes of both the newspaper and the party it has historically supported. Aleksander Kaczorowski, currently editing the Aspen Review of Central Europe, was Wroblewski’s deputy at Newsweek Polska and thinks the pressure was more commercial than political. “This is a nationalist-conservative paper that sympathizes with Law and Justice,” Kaczorowski told The Daily Beast. “It sells only about 80,000 thousand copies a day, compared with 200,000 a few years ago.”
Yet that debunking of the claim from Rzeczpospolita may not be true as we will see in a moment.

People such as Paweł Piotr Styrna, writing at the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research (SFPPR), continue challenging the official story. (Styrna also is, “. . . working on an MA in international affairs at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, DC, where he is a research assistant to the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies.)

One thing Styrna notes in his April 2013 piece is that someone conducted cyberattacks on the Polish Foreign Ministry on April 6 and April 10, 2010 (with April 10 being the day of the Smolensk crash). As Styrna notes, this tends to make one look at Russia.

Russia, after all, is generally agreed to have conducted a cyberattack on Georgia before the 2008 battle / war in Georgia.

Furthermore, Styrna addresses the issue noted by The Daily Beast (as well as The Telegraph) regarding the supposed mistake Rzeczpospolita made about TNT traces being at the Smolensk crash site.

Styrna writes the following:
The head of the Warsaw District of the MPO, Col. Ireneusz Szeląg, attempted to suppress this information, which was eventually revealed by investigative journalist Cezary Gmyz in his now famous article of October 30, 2012, in the respected newspaper of record, Rzeczpospolita [The Republic]. The fallout resulted in the firing of not only Gmyz, but also two other journalists and even the editor-in-chief of the daily within a week after the publication of the piece.
In a most equivocal manner, the Warsaw District MPO denied that traces of TNT and nitroglycerine had been found on the wreck, while at the same time admitting the presence of “ionized particles” which could, but need not be, explosives. Furthermore, the prosecutors continued, laboratory testing would be required to definitely prove the presence of explosive materials. The “catch” is, however, that such laboratory tests could easily consume six months or so. Antoni Macierewicz, the head of an independent parliamentary commission to investigate Smolensk, does not hide his frustration with what he views as deception: “During the Wednesday hearings of the Parliamentary Justice Committee [in December 2012] the military prosecutors confirmed several times that the instruments used to test the wreckage of the Tupolev detected the presence of TNT. They thereby admitted that they lied! After all, in October they announced that they detected no such thing.”
Finally, as Styrna notes in the above paragraphs, there is some opposition to the official Polish government investigation conclusion into the crash within elements of the Polish government.

Furthermore, there are scientists and other professionals challenging the official version of what caused the crash.

In addition to the University of Akron engineering professor featured in the video at the start of this article, there was an entire conference of scientists in Warsaw during October 2012—nearly 100—who met and offered an alternative to the official explanation of the crash.

It’s also curious that Russia refuses to return the wreckage of the crash to Poland.
So what really did happen? I don’t know.

However, since people are clamoring over the PRISM leak and justifying Edward Snowden breaking the law, it stands to reason that we should give at least as much attention to a potential scandal that is occurring in the open, and with a significant amount of professional people calling attention to it without breaking the law.

The investigations into the Smolensk crash need to continue.

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