The Bellingcat phenomenon: how to declare a war against free speech and be awarded for ‘advances in journalism’

At the end of March an American journalist Brenna T. Smith published a controversial article which consisted of revealing the personal data of people who took part in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6.

Some of these people are still trying to raise money for lawyers through crowdfunding, but Brenna swiftly counteracted their move by calling them “extremists”. In the USA Today article, she called for the banning of such people from crowdfunding platforms, leaving them without any opportunity of raising money in order to hire lawyers and legal representatives.

The main reason the American journalist is behaving this way, is that these people hold views she does not share. They are “right-wing” and “alt-right”, and therefore should be denied the opportunity to get highly qualified and therefore expensive legal council.

Smith’s Twitter bio mentions that she previously worked for Bellingcat. Moreover, Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins was one among the first to support her in her fight against the Capitol protesters’ attempts to seek legal protection.

Higgins defended the journalist from criticism, saying that what she was doing had nothing to do with doxxing.

At the same time, many observers noted that Brenna Smith and Bellingcat supported the Black Lives Matter protests and were not opposed to their participants raising money for themselves. Now, however, they want to deprive the protesters at the US Capitol of the same opportunity.

According to some experts and commentators, Smith and Higgins is simply doing what they typically do: Bellingcat is known in particular for his shameless ideological bias and double standards.

“Some of the worst Antifa media ghouls work/have worked for Bellingcat, which is a CIA funded disinformation outfit. The ‘journalist’ Brenna T. Smith trying to deny Proud Boys and patriots their right to a legal defense was piped into the USA Today and soon the New York Times from there. The insufferable Antifa weasel Robert Evans is still at Bellingcat,” Eric Striker, an American journalist and blogger, wrote on his Telegram.

Even Glenn Greenwald who was the co-funder of the news organization Intercept which provided similar content as Bellingcat, was forced to acknowledge that “the only purpose of the Smith’s article was to pressure and shame tech companies to do more of blocking against these ‘criminal defendants’ from being able to raise funds for their legal fees, and to tattle to tech companies by showing them what techniques these indigent defendants are using to raise money online”.

The case of Brenna Smith is significant not only because it demonstrates the ideological bias of mainstream Western media and pseudo-independent “investigators” like Bellingcat. This case shows that the activity of such groups such as Bellingcat is dangerous for rights and freedoms in the West. Brenna Smith used to work for Eliot Higgins and was guided in her first “investigation” for USA Today by the same principles which were accepted by Bellingcat. However, until recently, Bellingcat had mostly been investigating Russians, and therefore the question of compliance with ethical standards or even legal norms of law were not raised in the West.

For example, in the investigation into the “poisoning” of Alexey Navalny, Bellingcat constantly refered to the information from the “sources” who had provided Bellingcat with personal data from certain people (Bellingcat stated that these people were employees of the Russian state security institutions). These “sources” provided illegally obtained data. Either they were stolen by order of Bellingcat, or Bellingcat bought stolen data. However, the illegal origin of the information does not embarrass Bellingcat as their sacred aim is to expose the Russian state.

Besides the questionable ethical side of the investigation and blatant violation of the law, the data which Bellingcat had obtained from “sources” has one more significant flaw. It is impossible to verify it.

This applies, for instance, to the case of the murder of Chechen Islamist Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin in 2019. After having carefully read all the testimonies of Bellingcat, it turns out that the investigators pass off their assumptions as facts. These are based on references to anonymous sources with access to anonymous databases and some photos and scans of documents, the reliability of which cannot be verified, or to metadata, which have allegedly been changed. And this metadata was either obtained illegally, or there was no metadata at all, or it could have been forged.

All the arguments of Bellingcat are based on the use of “sources” and closed databases, as well as on mobile phone billing. However, the billing can also be faked. And the databases need to be verified, witnesses need to be heard in order to confirm the relevance and reliability of the provided information. There is no other way to confirm the data.

Another point about Bellingcat’s questionable sources is a fact that these sources are never named. An interesting situation came up when Bellingcat’s investigator Christo Grozev claimed that he had been a close witness for the prosecution at the Khanhoshvili murder trial in Berlin. His perhaps imaginary “sources”, not himself, had witnessed the Islamist being killed by the Russian state.

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Groziev even candidly revealed that he had used “bribery” for his investigation.

Thus, for now it is not just a nameless Russian which is being put on trial in Berlin, but an effort to legitimize the dubious methods used by this organization.

Doubtful, unverifiable information resulted in heated discussions in German court, but in response Bellingcat quickly published data from the Ukrainian special services, which allegedly confirmed his version of events. Thus, on the basis of Bellingcat’s assumptions allegedly supported only by the data of a foreign special service (eager to blame Russia for everything), a court decision could be made. After this precedent on the basis of unreliable data, thrown in from Bellingcat and other kindred organizations, it might become possible to convict anyone using “closed witnesses”. And there is no guarantee that these shady figures will be reliable.

Using Bellingcat’s material in court and referring to the investigators as “witnesses” is a convenient ploy for the prosecution in Germany, which itself could not find arguments to justify the connection between Russia and the person accused in the murder of Khangoshvili. The prosecution would have been forced to reveal its sources in court or admit that they had no evidence. However, with references to the authority of Bellingcat, and investigators being allowed to cite their mysterious sources in Russia, no event can be verified. It also allows for legalizing a possible leak of unverifiable intelligence information, which due to its illegal origin (hacking, wiretapping, surveillance) cannot be used in court as evidence. However, thanks to Bellingcat this unreliable information can now be laundered, much like dirty money.

The situation with the trial on Khangoshvili’s murder opens up the possibility of breaking laws in order to spy on Russians or throw in evidence convenient for a foreign intelligence outfit. Soon, such private agencies or under-cover secret services will legitimize surveillance of dissenters in Europe as well as the USA.

It is worth mentioning that Bellingcat is already actively engaged in fighting the opponents of the current western liberal mainstream represented by the supporters of QAnon and the opponents of radical extremist Antifa. They are also accusing participants of the Capitol assault of “Nazism”.

Another example is Alan Swinney, a participant in the August 2020 Portland protests. He is now under arrest on charges related to August 22 and because of an earlier rally on August 15. He has pleaded not guilty to any of the charges, including assault, attempted assault and unlawful use of a weapon. However, Bellingcat published an investigation on February 10 allegedly confirming the charges against Alan Swinney. As a result, he remains in custody.

The fact is that the violence during the protests in the US had been mutual: both from Antifa as well as right-wing activists. However, Bellingcat has never accused the Antifa movement; instead he is actively working against their opponents.

A suspicious example of cooperation between Antifa terrorists and Bellingcat is the investigation “Far-Right Group’s Plans for Portland Violence”, where Bellingcat once again openly relied on “sources” who are more likely to be spying provocateurs.

“Bellingcat has acquired several months of chat logs from the Patriot Coalition of Oregon, a network of pro-Trump, pro-police activists. These chat logs were provided by an infiltrator affiliated with the antifascist collective Eugene Antifa. We were also given login information for the infiltrator’s account on GroupMe, a secure messaging app owned by Microsoft,” Bellingcat investigators Robert Evans and Jason Wilson openly admitted.

Bellingcat is supported by mainstream NGOs and Western governments. The evidence is always revealed in the same fashion: whatever Bellingcat is doing or investigating, the mainstream media in Western countries applaud him without fail and governments as well as NGOs routinely shower him with awards and other forms of encouragement. A curious example is the recent inclusion of Bellingcat into the long list of the Orwell Prize. It is the Orwell Foundation, which gives this prize. Its chair – Lord Ken Macdonald QC – is an embodiment of the British establishment. He is a former defence lawyer and the Director of Public Prosecutions. “His clients have included international media organisations, prominent British banks, major foreign defence corporations,” reads his official bio on the foundation’s website.

Another example is the Machiavelli Award, which Bellingcat received in 2020. The board of this organization includes Wim van der Weegen – the Director of Communications at the Ministry of Defence of Netherlands, Marjan Hammersma – the Secretary-general of Media and Culture at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Dutch government and several deputies from mainstream Dutch parliamentary parties.

And that is does not include the grants from the National Endowement for Democracy, funded by the US Congress, or Open Society Foundations. It is known that Bellingcat receives money from the British Foreign Office and is also a partner of an Open Information Partnership funded by Foreign Office. Bellingcat is also a partner in the Zinc Network’s UK FCO-funded EXPOSE Consortium.

Thus, it is blindingly obvious that Bellingcat and similar structures act in the interest of the globalist liberal establishment. The European and American activists who have patriotic position are the internal enemy for such structures, which are tightly connected to the Deep State mechanisms. And, as judged from the behaviour of Bellingcat, which is actively attempting to subvert courts, one should expect that fresh repression against opponents of left-liberal globalism will be wholly supported and promoted by Western investigative organizations.

https://freewestmedia.com/2021/04/22/the-bellingcat-phenomenon-how-to-declare-a-war-against-free-speech-and-be-awarded-for-advances-in-journalism/

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