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The OPCW Douma Leaks Part 4: The OPCW Investigation

February 11, 2020

By Bellingcat Investigation Team


Over the last year, the OPCW has faced a series of leaks related to the Fact Finding Mission’s (FFM) investigation into the Douma chemical attack. The OPCW have now released their investigation into these leaks. These leaks appear to have originated from two former employees: Inspector A, who is Ian Henderson and Inspector B, a.k.a “Alex”, who is almost certainly Brendan Whelan.

In previous parts of this series we looked at the claims associated with Whelan and Henderson, and consulted chemists, toxicologist and chemical weapons experts. It became clear that Henderson and Whelan’s claims were flawed, overstated and at times actively misleading.

We also assessed what would be required for a “false flag” attack to have taken place in order to result in the the huge amount of evidence found related to this incident. Once available information is taken into account, it is clear that faking the Douma chemical attack would have been effectively impossible. 

The OPCW investigation

In short, the OPCW’s investigation agrees with the key points that we identified using openly available information. These two employees not only had limited access to information related to the Douma investigation, but also actively misled people on issues, including their status and the work they were authorised to conduct.

Ian Henderson a.k.a Inspector A

The OPCW report makes it clear that Henderson was not a member of the FFM. He aided the FFM by collecting data at sites of interest, including processing the cylinders from the two locations. He was later assigned to conduct an inventory of information and assess what other information would be required for future studies. The OPCW investigation states he had no further official part in the FFM investigation. It is important to note that this means Henderson would not have had access to large amounts of information regarding the Douma attack, including further investigations conducted by the FFM. 

Extract from OPCW investigation

Henderson’s status was already possible to establish using both OPCW statements and internal documents leaked by WikiLeaks, specifically an email from Sebastien Braha, the Chief of Cabinet to the Director General of the OPCW. In this email Braha finds out that Henderson had produced an “engineering assessment” and asks why someone who was not a member of the FFM was carrying out this work.

Extract from leaked email chain

It is ironic that this email chain was leaked in an attempt to support the narrative of Whelan and Henderson, but resulted in a clear demonstration that Henderson was not regarded as being part of the FFM by the OPCW.

Despite not actually being part of the FFM, and despite being told specifically not to do so, Henderson decided to conduct his “engineering assessment” anyway. This not only involved misleading senior members of the OPCW, but also lying to the university which carried out his simulation. Henderson told this university they were being officially engaged by the OPCW. They were not. Indeed the OPCW even claims Henderson was on leave when this simulation was carried out.

Extract from OPCW investigation

During this period, Henderson also improperly handled extremely sensitive classified information. As well as disclosing this information to external organisations without proper authorisation, he also requested that they email him using his personal Gmail address. Considering the sensitivity of this kind of information, Henderson’s actions in handling it appear to be extraordinarily reckless.

Extract from OPCW investigation

In short, the OPCW report confirms the key points of our reporting on Henderson: his “engineering assessment” was an unauthorised report carried out with incomplete information by a person who consistently misled in order to achieve what they personally wanted. Henderson himself acted in a cavalier attitude with incredibly sensitive information and deceived those around him, both inside the OPCW and at external organisations, to achieve his own goals. 

Brendan Whelan a.k.a Inspector B

We have previously examined Whelan’s claims in detail. In short, they are flawed, hugely overstated and, at times, actively misleading. As with Henderson, the conclusions of the OPCW investigation on Whelan are very similar to ours. 

The most important point of the OPCW investigation is that Whelan left the OPCW altogether in August of 2018. This was the month after the interim report was published. Whelan was not present for, nor had access to information relating to, the majority of the FFM investigation. Although we noted this as a possibility, the OPCW investigation confirms it. 

Extract from OPCW investigation

Timeline of Whelan’s presence at the OPCW with reference to the Douma investigation

This is an absolutely vital piece of information that was not mentioned by any previous coverage of Whelan’s claims. By excluding this detail, organisations such as WikiLeaks, the Mail on Sunday and CounterPunch have potentially misled their readers about Whelan’s capacity to dispute the findings of the FFM. 

The OPCW investigation also claims that Whelan confirmed in writing that he was satisfied with the Interim report that was eventually published. Although the OPCW does not provide any direct evidence of this, it is not entirely surprising. The only firm conclusion the published Interim report made about the Douma attack was that nerve agents were not used. As with all versions of the Interim report, it noted that further investigations were required. 

Extract from OPCW investigation

The OPCW’s conclusions about Henderson also reflect on Whelan too. Whelan clearly made misleading statements about Henderson’s status, possibly in an attempt to lend more weight to Henderson’s analysis. It seems possible that Whelan’s email of the 20th May 2019, which criticises the OPCW for kicking out Henderson and insists he was a member of the FFM, was written with the intention of leaking it later in support of Whelan’s own claims. As we now know, those claims were false. 

Extract of email from Whelan dated 20 May 2019


Even using open sources, it was possible to demonstrate that the claims of a conspiracy at the OPCW were misleading. We have previously covered this with a series of articles looking at the claims made by Henderson and Whelan, consulting with chemists, chemical weapons experts and toxicologists. 

The OPCW investigation supports these conclusions: Whelan and Henderson made claims unsupported by evidence, misled their colleagues and lied to external organisations, mishandled sensitive classified information and made misleading claims about the attack in Douma.

It is fitting that the last word on this subject should go to Mr Fernando Arias, the Director-General of the OPCW:

“Inspectors A and B are not whistle-blowers. They are individuals who could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence. When their views could not gain traction, they took matters into their own hands and breached their obligations to the Organisation. Their behaviour is even more egregious as they had manifestly incomplete information about the Douma investigation. Therefore, as could be expected, their conclusions are erroneous, uninformed, and wrong.”


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  1. Jeroen

    Here is the behaviour filmed of a gas cylinder with its regulator snapped off, behaving in the livingroom and the kitchen of a house.

    • dick

      Well there you go Jeroen, the cylinder should have smashed through walls and messed up the bed at least instead of hopping demurely on to it like Goldilocks
      The cylinder you show does not go vertical
      Doncha just hate it when your own link which you think is going to be a killer ends up biting you in the bum?

      • Jeroen

        A yellow cylinder smashing through a bedroom roof is a killer, a cylinder airdropped on a balcony is a killer, a cylinder releasing a great amount of chlorine is a killer, this happened in Douma, at least at one location.
        I should correct, to be more precise.
        The cylinders an sich are not killers, the killers are the pilots and crew who loaded those cylinders in helicopters and took off that night.

  2. Jeroen

    This Douma cylinder was filmed apparantly with its regulator or valve still in place.
    It did not travel very far from the hole in the roof.
    The steel wires (visible hanging from the roof) and the strenght of the concrete, which may different (slightly) at certain spots, may have changed the trajectory of the falling cylinder. At least one stabilisation fin is bend, hinting on some kind of impact, there seems to have been some force working in the direction of the main axis of the cylinder causing the attached metal frame to bend.

    I myself could not for certain tell its trajectory from this film only.
    But experts did look into all data available and presented to them.

  3. Jeroen

    To give all readers a small overview.
    Two yellow cylinders were airdropped that night/day over Douma.
    One smashed through a roof.
    The other hit first a wall then punctured a balcony but did not go through the hole it caused. Both cylinders contained chlorine probably partly liquid partly gas. In one place at least 34 were found killed, at the other place it seems less chlorine got less fast into the environment.
    SorryViennese states that a cylinder after falling through the hole could not have ended up in the bed.
    Theoretically just as an example, it is possible some persons changed its position for whatever reason.
    Moving it within the room from one place to another. Manually.
    OPCW asked specialists to have a look into how the cylinder ended on that bed.. They state that the cylinder after passing the roof could end up in that position on the bed, such a trajectory is possible and likely.
    SorryViennese atate he/she personally does not believe that the cylinder could have ended upon that bed.

    We expect him to present a model, a simulation and calculations to proof his thesis.

    We did not experience that a cylinders fell through our bedroom roof. Syrian people, suffering from a long war, are confrontated with barrel bombs and cylinders being airdropped on them.

    Two cylinders were dropped that night, chlorine was found and proven present.
    People were killed,

    • SorryViennese

      Dear Jeroen,
      I agree with your finding “cylinders were dropped that night”.

      However the only evidence report on the exact ballistics (trajectory), present in the public, is that via WikiLeaks, created by Mr. Henderson, working 12 years at OPCW as highly qulified expert. We all agree on that.

      His finding was: The drop at Location 4 was SOME CENTIMETERS, into the bed, by some hand ( manually). You do not agree to that.

      Fact is: There is no evidence (detailed reports) of any experts against that finding by Henderson, available in the public.

      Therfore: It was not “airdropped”.

      All explanations, why not airdropped, pro- and con-, can be read in our discussions over 4 comments pages, repeated again and again, now by anybody interested.

      KR; SV

      • Servus

        Vienia is it you or somebody replacing you ?

        “However the only evidence report on the exact ballistics (trajectory), present in the public, is that via WikiLeaks, created by Mr. Henderson, ”

        This is utter nonsense, Mr Henderson documented one simulation, dropping a chlorine cylinder from 500m on a concrete and discussed the cylinders’ damages. Rest is just described in words with no diagrams.
        The drawing of the location 4 crater with a cylinder in it is an obvious falsification, cylinder gets longer and has problems passing through the hole…
        And all his work is invalidated by a minimum 500m drop altitude assumption.

        While OPCW final report, prepared by many highly qualified OPCW specialists and 3 independent engineering teams is formal, there are cylinders velocity vectors compatible with the cylinders final position in the bed. Two such simulations’ results are included in the OPCW final report.

        The OPCW final report has been peer reviewed by tens of specialist, it is prepared for UN Security Council, this is a serious stuff.

        Henderson’s private sub-technical teal consist of him alone, his report is not reviewed, his simulation is a result of imposture, lying and cheating some honest and gullible university professors. This report is disqualified by an arbitrary limitations of the drop altitude, falsified drawings, contradictions and a embarrassing elementary logical error making it’s conclusions invalid.

        Vienia, don’t let your mentor Fiodor the Cannibal destroy your reputation as scholastic and boolean logician with scientific merits in toxic ballistics.

  4. SorryViennese

    Dear Reader,
    to ease the understanding of the result of the discussion:
    Why the Cylinder at Location 4 was not airdropped, here a summary of 5 important links.

    Just look at the recommended [figures … ], or read and listen as much as you like.

    [look at therein: Figures 6 – 9]

    [Final official Report: look at Figures 7 -12]

    [Expert Hendersons report summary, leaked by somebody else, from the OPCW headquaters in de Hague]

    [the latest public avaialbe documents, by the only expert, whose face is known: Just read it …]

    [February 2020: Face & voice of real expert Henderson, just play it (6 minutes)]

    Enjoy it, kind regards by Sorry Viennese (SV)

    11:25 21.02.2020

    • SorryViennese

      Dear Jeroen, – special friend of the moderator, blocking my Summary Links.

      The “assessments by indpendent experts” are not in the public.

      Hendersons finding of “No airdrop” is.
      Everybody think/decide him/herself.

      KR, SV

      • Servus

        Simply not true, results of one of the OPCV simulation by FA is in the final report, figures and graphs, but … one needs a little bit of technical competence to understand it though.
        Henderson’s report has just a photo of a cylinder dropped from 500m on concrete, interesting but completely irrelevant.

        TRY HARDER !

  5. SorryViennese

    My comment including 5 summary links were
    blocked by BC around 12:00 today, I have the PDF printout proof of that!

    Jeroen (see below) was allowed to provide his links after that. Interstingly related in content to my comment, not published.

    Was he/she allowed to see it, by the moderator of the page?
    Special status of “Some” at the BC server? Member of the staff?

    KR, SV

    KR; SV

  6. Jeroen

    Comments will be checked by BC, sometimes it can take a day before the comments will be readable, do not worry, it happened to me and to others.
    Be patient.
    I never saw BC changing my comments

    • Amused

      How do you know that this also happened to others. Your companion 😉 Servus confessed to you 🙂 ???

      • Jeroen

        If you are a regular reader you should have noticed others made such remarks before SV.

        Didn’t you notice, did you forgot or just trying to smear like some others?


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