back to article GCHQ boss calls out Russia for 'industrial scale disinformation'

GCHQ‬ boss Jeremy Fleming has hailed the success of a cyber-offensive against ISIS last year and warned of the growing threat posed by Russia. During a wide-ranging speech at the CyberUK conference in Manchester on Thursday morning, Fleming said a cyber operation last year had disrupted ISIS's [Daesh] communications. In 2017 …

Anonymous Coward

From the department of bleeding obvious

blurring the boundaries between criminal and state activity

Thanks for stating the bleeding obvious. Some of us have been telling this for the last f*** 29 years. What blurring, there has never been a boundary since the fall of USSR in the first place.

As the rest of his speech demonstrates he still does not get it. He still does not comprehend what arose from the ashes during the 90-es in Eastern Europe. He still does not understand it. Even after the Litvinenko and Salisbury affairs.

There are 10k+ people each of whom possesses the resources of a state actor, have obtained their wealth via rivers of blood and who support the country policy only because it is in their (and their estate) favour. Half of them have security apparatus which rivals private armies. 10%+ possess chemical facilities more advanced than any of the Arab dictatorships at the height of their chemical weapons programmes.

So the question No 1: If you have the money to build anything like THIS just for entertainment purposes, what resources would you use to eliminate an opponent?

Question No 2: Is any of these who temporarily qualifies as an enemy of my enemy really our friend.

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Facepalm

Re: From the department of bleeding obvious

When a politically-aware head spook doesn't shout angrily about all the horrible things some people/country may or may not have done, it doesn't really mean that they aren't considerably more aware of the issues at play than those who have been shouting angrily for years in Internet forums about all the horrible things some people/country may or may not have done.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: From the department of bleeding obvious

When a politically-aware head spook doesn't shout angrily

Which is exactly the problem here - he does. Yet another UK Government rant about Putin being an incarnation of the Antichrist which glances over the root causes of the issues. Anything and everything to make sure that one of the Tory party sponsors in Kensington and Chelsea is not touched by mistake.

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Re: From the department of bleeding obvious

Perhaps you might be clear which nation is being referred to.

A quick glance at the Forbes 400 shows a whole lot of non-Russians...

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Re: From the department of bleeding obvious

AC "...Question No 2: Is any of these who temporarily qualifies as an enemy of my enemy really our friend."

Grr, I hate hearing this expression. The enemy of my enemy is my ally, at most, and even then only temporarily.

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Coat

""blurring the boundaries between criminal and state activity" "

Indeed.

Now what was STUXNET exactly?

When you live in the glass house be very careful where you throw your stones.

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Re: ""blurring the boundaries between criminal and state activity" "

Stop.

There is a HUGE difference between stuxnet and what Russia is doing.

Stuxnet (arguably) purpose was to delay a dangerous nation state from creating a very dangerous product.

Russia's purpose is to denigrate democracy as a whole. To attack and steal from other nation states, corporations and individuals. Not to mention take the lives of anyone who oppose what they are doing.

Don't confuse the tool with how it's used.

You're smart enough to critically think through something without throwing your politics into it. Start doing so. You'll find your whole view on the world will change... and I don't mean politically.

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Who's the Future Play Author You're Paying Who's Complaining

– they’re not playing to the same rules," he said.

What rules? Spell them out in words of many coloured syllables.

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Big Brother

Pot, kettle ...

..black.

On an industrial scale.

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Re: Pot, kettle ...

Indeed..

or the use of industrial scale disinformation to sway public opinion – they’re not playing to the same rules," he said.

I think they are. Russia has the world's best cyberwarriors, who can win elections. Plus the world's best organic chemists. The only nation capable of producing an organophosphate that affects humans, but not small mammals. And they're the only nation that can produce them at high purity.. Or sufficiently pure that an agent allegedly 5+ times more potent than VX didn't kill. Anything.

Luckily we Brits are much better, so we know it was Russia. Or Syria. Or Russia and Syria.. So bombs away!

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Re: Pot, kettle ...

They also make the best drain cleaner in world - Polonium Draino

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Russia has the world's best cyberwarriors, who can win elections.

Bunk. They can sow mistrust and discord and undermine confidence in the process - with the help of a complicit media.

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Meh

Re: Russia has the world's best cyberwarriors, who can win elections.

The DPRK is up there too.

As well as Trump's "somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

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Re: Russia has the world's best knob fiddlers!

It keeps getting better-

In a letter to Nato(sic*), Sir Mark Sedwill also said Russia trained "special units" to use nerve agents, including applying them to door handles.

I.. imagine they were very special. This is my door knob. There are many like it but this one is mine. My door knob is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Ok, so there's a huge variety of UK door furniture on our streets, so these agents would have to use their mad skillz to improvise, adapt, and daub!

The statement also suggests that Russia was monitoring a Russian's emails.. Which kinda begs the question of how we'd know that, unless we were monitoring their monitoring. That, at least is part of GCHQ's job description.

(*Still not sure why we should be trusting a news agency that can't even get NATO's name right.)

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Corrupt criminals

That's probably because Russia is controlled by a group of corrupt criminals.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Corrupt criminals

I agree, (my wife is (mostly*)Russian), she informs me that Russian politicians are highly corrupt, used to be highly corrupt and always will be highly corrupt in any conceivable future!

However, the western bunch aren’t that much better.

And as for believing what a spook says, :-) Oooh, squirrels!

Cue BBC story of how western spy agencies lied, a while ago, nice article.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/deep_sea_mining

(*) a Russian person, born in a southern ‘stan from mostly Jewish Ukrainian genes with some Finnish, moved at age 7 to live on the permafrost, moved to Estonian Soviet Republic in the 80s, protested in favour of the right of Estonian language and secession as a free state in the 1990s, during the Soviet time. Scary! Never actually was Russian, type of typical Russian. It is a very big & complicated country, about which we know little.

The great news from this article is that GCHQ is building another resilience backup centre ‘oop North. Great for jobs & the economy and easy access to MediaCityUK(Salford)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Corrupt criminals

Which is different from the UK and EU?

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Which is different from the UK and EU?

If you don't think there is a difference, why not move to Russia and educate yourself on the matter.

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Re: Corrupt criminals

I wish them all the luck finding any form of intelligence on that side of he Pennines.

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Re: Corrupt criminals

Our criminals have much better dress sense. Also our money-laundering laws are more of a rulebook on how to do it, rather than what you may not do.

And not forgetting that our criminals* are laundering their dirty money to build apartment blocks so that Russian and Malaysian gangsters can launder their money - who is the smarter there?

* Definitely NOT, repeat NOT anyone called Candy.

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"satellite office in Bude, Cornwall"

Hmmm. Maybe time for a career change. "The Russians are cracking our nuclear launch systems!" "Who gives a shit dude ... surf's up. Oh, and pass me a roach."

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Bude

Is the perfect place - it's the bumhole of the bumhole of nowhere - it's down little tiny sunken lanes that are worthy of a mention in a pTerry crossover and for half the year (and I speak from experience here) it's blocked solid by recalcitrant locals on tractors trying to go one way down a single tracked "road" vs qashqui & caravan driving cretins (when I was there it was Cortinas, Granadas and Alfasuds, but the principles the same) both resolutely refusing to back down. For weeks if necessary.

There's no chance of Soviet, sorry Russian, agents or illegals knocking off the local field office because it'll take a lifetime to find it. But then it probably doesn't matter cos half the Russian department will be channelling Kim Philby anyway..

The depressing thing is that even with CCTV and all the advanced technology and skilled police *cough* it's easier to try and knock off a(n) ex spy and his daughter (which by the way is against ALL the rules and should in itself be a warning to the MIs) than it was to do the same in the 70s. Not to mention the much less targeted approach, which should be another warning that certain players are becoming somewhat less tactful.

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Re: Bude

Is the perfect place - it's the bumhole of the bumhole of nowhere

So the perfect place for C&W's training centre! Mind you, BT's HMP Stone wasn't much better. Or worse due to lack of beaches. At least Cornwall has the cable museum now.

Challenge for TPTB will still be recruiting staff for any expansion activity given the dual challenges of vetting and development given lower pay scales compared to private sector Infosec roles.. Where there's high demand for DV'd staff, especially to work on sensitive public sector projects. But then public sector procurement's always been funny like that. GCHQ made a few stabs at consulting, but naturally private sector consultancies objected.

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Re: Bude

The depressing thing is that even with CCTV and all the advanced technology and skilled police *cough* it's easier to try and knock off a(n) ex spy and his daughter

We still have failed to prove that they were the target. We do not even know how it was done and where it was done. If they were the target and they were attacked at home (as you describe) they would have not been alive. Neither would be the cat. Nor the other cat (there is a lot of running gags around the press in Eastern Europe about it being a Russian GRU colonel Koshnkina).

Do not even get me started about destroying evidence (the cat) and the fact that MI5/6 and CIA both knew that the compound in question is in mob's hands since 1996.

Not to mention the much less targeted approach,

The sh*t in question is supposed to be (I still have not seen an official LD50) so toxic that even traces on belongings from the Skripal's son being snuffed in Russia in late 2017 should be enough to produce the picture we see - including traces on the car and the plane which brought Julia from Russia.

The reality is - we do not know. However we have everyone posturing because it serves the political agenda.

We should figure out what happened to a level which would satisfy a prosecutor and drive it from there. Yeah, I know - this means Borish shutting up which is possible only if you lock him up.

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PS: I wouldn't worry about the nuclear launch passwords - there's probably only two possible options..

Password (if it's British)

Or

00000000* (if it's American)

Anything else is either too much trouble to type in or too hard to remember.

*Actually true, a US government enquiry into nuclear weapons found that all the PALs (permissive access links) had had their passwords set to 00000000 apparently on the basis it was easy to remember.

This being despite the fact that the PAL was a last line of defence failsafe against a rogue or terrorist launch§. The PAL when triggered would disable the launch vehicle in various ways (or in the case of the Russian version, when the US shared it with them, blow the missile to kingdom come - on the, for a Russian, sensible proviso that the naughty little boys and girls who were trying to launch it would be nearby).*²

§ Quite which one of these would correspond to taking orders from Donnie Dickwit has not been mentioned by the US Department of State.

*² A Golf II (refit) class submarine, K129, found this out the hard way according to some, when it tried to re-enact Pearl Harbour with a 1Mt nuke, the hijackers of the boat, suspected oznaz operatives, failed to deactivate the PAL before launching and the rocket exploded in the launch tube - cooking a fair percentage of the "crew" instantly and blowing out the keel of the boat.. Allegedly.

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Re: Bude

Toxicity does not equal longevity of effect. That's the first thing.

Secondly there are labs all around the UK and Ireland alone can identify this stuff, and tell you where it was made (down to the factory and batch in most cases) and all I'd need to do to book a test myself is ring my dad's mate..

This person, who I will not name, actually, as a because I'm bored project, improved the glyphosate formulation so much the company bought his formula off him because it was so much cleaner than their own... And they invented the damn stuff.

Thirdly, I've been given no reason to doubt it's Novichok and if it is there is only one state or organisation thereof that manufacturers it. Russia. It's not like glyphosate where there are generics coming out of every agrochemical factory this side of the Sunnydale hellmouth..

The fact that this trundled out of Russia (probably in a diplomatic bag), flew in an aircraft or more than one to the UK, was then trundled through security and customs where some suicidal womble made his or her way down to Salisbury and applied it liberally breaks so many international laws its hard to know where to start - and that's before the charges pursuant to trying to kill two people on British sovereign territory and putting countless others at risk of a deeply unpleasant death.

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Re: Bude

..where some suicidal womble made his or her way down to Salisbury and applied it liberally breaks so many international laws its hard to know where to start.

That's what the police will be trying to do, despite a suspect having already been named and found guilty. Which isn't normal police procedure. Laws were most certainly broken, but for a womble hunt, a good place to start would be hospitals in and around Salisbury. No sick womble, not suicidal. Again part of the investigation, ie who was exposed, when, and tracking that back to initial exposure. Currently goop on a door handle, which seems a tad crude. Or an extreme version of 'knock down Ginger'. But a complex investigation that should take time to make a solid case.

It's also a story that's unlikely to have any happy endings. So Russia did it. More sanctions? More diplomats expelled? Sanctions post-Crimea don't seem to have brought about regime change. Or, it wasn't Russia. In which case some other state actor's framed a nuclear power and made the West look foolish. Apparently the OPCW's reference strutures were provided by Iran.. Who seem to be getting along nicely with Russia at the moment. If Iran can synthesise it, how many other states could? That's one aspect of the 'industrial scale disinformation' surrounding this case. Then of course there's Syria. Assad rounding up one of the last pockets of resistance and decides to use chemical weapons when he's winning..

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Re: Bude

Secondly there are labs all around the UK and Ireland alone can identify this stuff, and tell you where it was made (down to the factory and batch in most cases) and all I'd need to do to book a test myself is ring my dad's mate..

Dude, the difference between you and me is that I actually did an MSc in Chemistry and did phosphoroorganics. You are suffering from an overdose of an NeuroToxic Gas known as Durachok-2018, usually transmitted by contact with the Daily Mail.

1. In order to get a "signature" you have to have a sample. I did not know we have successfully managed to infiltrate Russian chemical weapons program and get a sample from each and every lab there, each and every batch. If we have, where is the proof and why are we having this conversation to start off with?

2. In order to "get the signature" you need a minimum amount of the compound. While you can get a yes/no via gas-mass, the signature which you are describing requires micrograms (at least) quantities so you can get the ratio between the different impurities. It is impurities which provide the trace so you are dealing with trace quantities of a trace of poison.

3. The trace will differ less than 30 minutes after exposure to air. Both phosphororganics and the typical impurities from their synthesis react with moisture in the air, acids and bases. You need to replicate the same process to get a comparison. So to make things interesting the trace from something that has sat for 30 minutes on top of skin will no longer match a trace of something you have taken out of a vial 30 minutes ago. Sure, you can try doing some modeling, but for that you need grams of stuff and a herd of lab animals to build a baseline to feed into the computer model - effectively violating the chemical weapons convention and reinstating Porton Down to 1950-es level.

4...

5...

6...

I can continue for pages here - I studied this only a year after the "Chemical Weapons" course in the University becamee "Toxic compounds and toxicology" so I actually got the tail of how to do this stuff. I have also worked for real doing crhomatography before money and health issued forced me to switch to the Dark Side - software and IT.

All in all, this is a technical rag, please go and spout your drivel in the daily mail or wherever you have been paid to replicate the daily mail. Or at least learn some chemistry and how analysis of this stuff is done before spouting utter rubbish.

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Re: Bude

Apparently the OPCW's reference strutures were provided by Iran.. Who seem to be getting along nicely with Russia at the moment. If Iran can synthesise it, how many other states could?

As many as you like. The shit was synthesized in a chromatography lab (place usually not equipped for proper toxic compound synthesis) by a lab technician during the affair when it was sold to the mob in the 1990-es.

This is IN THE F***ING FILE. The one USA and UK government got in 1996 by a whistleblower and which is available on Scribd for everyone to read.

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Re: Bude

Couple of points.

1. The person I've mentioned is one of the top agrochemical analysts in the UK including Ireland and has probably forgotten more about chemical analysis than you were ever taught. He may well have been involved in this situation so I am not mentioning any names.

2. Organophosphate residual analysis is a well known discipline as are the changes those compounds go through when exposed to all sorts of chemical substances including but not limited to air, water, adjuvants and/or wetters. There is very little that isn't known about OPs including why it's a RFB idea for Welsh farmers to try and use agrochemical formulations for spraying as sheepdip cos they can't get sheepdip*

* a hint for the uninitiated - agrochemical OP formulations were 10x the strength of the dip formulation at the time.. Get the dilution wrong and you will have very miserable sheep and some under the weather Welsh farmers..

You are broadly correct when you say that in order to make an analysis down to the "factory" level you need a signature to test against - although I'd doubt your amounts required, and even then it wouldnt be that difficult because every single label has to have been tested by BASIS and a sample supplied thereto . However to identify a particular general formula or formulation - ie to be able to say this is Temik or Round-up or for that matter VX is a lot simpler.

And just a word to the wise I'd stop running your mouth off - most of what you just verbally diahorrea'd could have been picked up by someone of average intelligence from reading a few articles.

Although you are entirely right that it's the impurities that allow a site level identification. Although I doubt you will be aware of what happens or (in this case) doesn't happen when you dilute agrochem with water from artesian wells. The particular chemical didn't work because of salts dissolved in the well water - use tap water and it's fine.

As to Miss Julia and Sergey - there have been multiple news outlets confirm NCK contamination - both of them have royally pissed off Putin - him historically, her because she really hasn't figured when to keep her (not unattractive) mouth firmly shut. KGB have long memories and short scruples.

It's entirely possible that others were involved (such as oligarchs or employees thereof) to mask the govt involvement. It certainly won't be the first time (the Americans are no stranger to that tactic in various theatres and neither are the British).

The Brits have nothing to gain from it, the Americans might (but if they did someone would have to explain it slowly and in simple language). Skripal Sr humiliated and insulted the KGB (never a good idea for a long and peaceful existence) and the daughter dived in with both feet and tried to put the boot into Putin personally.. That's about the same level of common sense as going tapdancing in a minefield. You could argue (and being an arrogant twerp) you probably will that it's circumstantial evidence that can be interpreted in different ways - but that pretty much explains espionage in a single sentence. And personally when virtually every countries government (who all have MI6 alike organisations) are happy to accept the premise that good 'ole Vlad is the cause of all this situation - versus you - guess which side of the fence I'm going to be on..

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Re: Bude

I don't disagree that the method so far released (ie the door handle) seems crude compared to a Markov-a-like but maybe that's part of the intention (think about how many people could have been contaminated if a postie had touched that door handle, then touched all the mail on his route... Anyone who got a letter or touched one, or touched a person who did, could be a potential victim, deliberately or otherwise).

But as to *chemical weapons*, caffeine is technically a chemical weapon, if i fed you a few teaspoons of pure caffeine you'd be starring in an episode of Bones as the cadaver.. It's powder form can only be road transported under a hazchem license and signage (taurine is even more dangerous). Chlorine, phosgene and the like are chemical weapons but they're a whole different level in toxicity and manufacturing difficulties to things like tabun/sarin/soman (as the Germans found out circa '44) which again are almost secondary school level chemistry when it comes to the agents like VX and others.

Many of the more exotic agents need very specialised manufacturing plants and loading plants, not to mention munitions (binary shells and the like) and storage.

It's one thing to understand and have available the formula to make something on paper - it can be a lot harder to make said chemical especially if you want to do it in secret.

Its also possible to narrow down production using signatures such as the water a plant uses. If the water is soft at one place and hard at another then despite the fact you have perfectly formulated your chemical at both places - the result of an analysis will be different (even using the same plant machinery, set up by the same person, using identical feedstock at the same ambient temperature) - the difference in the dissolved minerals will be identifiable.

But even that can conceivably be bypassed - using bowsers to provide water as a controlled feedstock instead of using the local supply.

It really comes down to how much you want your victim to suffer, whether you care about collateral damage, whether or not you want to be identified as the perpetrators (and in some cases that's to the individuals or governments advantage) or not - and how much information you want to leave behind of a chemical nature (that may identify your manufactury to potentially unwanted attention). The more money and therefore influence you have the more you can tailor the results - from creating a situation of complete bafflement (which was the intent with Markov, although due to bad luck it didn't work) - to full on tackle out "look what we did" (Skripal) - intended to be a wake up call to the western services which has now I suspect blown up somewhat in Russias face because that poor copper got involved (I never thought I'd catch myself saying that!) and if there's one thing that ain't Cricket for the British government it's police officers getting poisoned by foreign nationals - even by accident. The bluster seems very over played, as if the Russians are really running around like headless chickens wondering how the hell they're going to get out of this one..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bude

At least they've ruled out the Ukrainians as having the means, motive and opportunity...

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Re: Bude

"If they were the target and they were attacked at home (as you describe) they would have not been alive. "

-- Voland's right hand

They very, very nearly were not alive. It doesn't matter how lethal a poison is, if the dose is low enough and/or medical attention prompt enough, there are circumstances in which a victim can survive. That's why measures like LD50 have to be used, after all.

In any chemical attack, the injured outnumber the killed. Tokyo subway sarin attack, about 50 dead, hundreds severely affected, thousands affected overall. Hell, it's probably true in any attack (with the exception of airplane bombings or other 'traps'): in the Manchester Arena bombing the ratio of injuries to fatalities was over twenty to one. Are you going to argue that bombs clearly aren't lethal, because most of the people injured weren't killed? No: even a lethal bomb has a non lethal 'dose'.

A potent nerve agent is a f***ing stupid assassination weapon. The only way to be sure to kill the target would be to use a dosage that would cause huge collateral damage and contrariwise, a precise dose is not guaranteed to kill (moisture in the environment hydrolyzing the compounds; other environmental effects; skin absorption variability; genetic differences in susceptibility due to PON1 or other enzyme differences; promptness of medical attention; etc., etc. --- just too many factors to make it suitable).

So why use CWs? To send a message. That message is "the Russians did it" whether or not the Russians actually did do it. But, on the balance of probabilities, the Russians did it. It's the old horses-head-in-the-bed: the signature is completely obvious to everyone without being anything like evidence.

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Re: Bude

Its also possible to narrow down production using signatures such as the water a plant uses.

Assuming you have those samples. It'd give agents something to do, collecting tap water, spring water or well water around top-secret laboratories that don't officially exist per OPCW's CBW verification programme. But assuming this was state-level production inside specialised labs.. If water were required, would you be using the local tap water, or highly distilled water?

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Re: Bude

Couple of points.

You are deliberately mixing in strawmen arguments.

On your points:

Point 1 - Maybe.

Point 2 - Mixing, diluting and spraying sheep has nothing to do with this case. The LD50s and the amounts differ by 3+ orders of magnitude. The amounts available for analysis are not even in the microgram range.

Organophosphate residual analysis is a well known discipline For ones with fluorine modification in the organic portion which were invented after all western chemical weapons programs were officially closed? I very seriously doubt it. They hydrolize differently. Sure - you may use some of the old Porton Down data, but you will need to synthesize it and re-establish baseline running some experiments.

However to identify a particular general formula or formulation - ie to be able to say this is Temik or Round-up or for that matter VX is a lot simpler

Can you stop shuffling strawmen? The GP was repeating the Daily Mail drivel that we can identify the supplying lab to its post code. Gas Mass and the software which does the frag analysis for the Mass Spectrometry portion will often give you the formula even when the formula is unknown. That's its job. It does not give "quantity" for any of the compounds detected.

It cannot give you a definitive signature for "source". For that you need samples and calibration curves and sufficient amounts for "legacy" chromatorgraphy detection such as IR spectrography on the detector. I have worked with this for a few years - definitely long enough to tell you that you simply cannot get those from a residual trace smeared on a (supposedly) door handle. You need a sufficient quantity to work with.

And personally when virtually every countries - you mean like the current Eu rotating presidency which said black on white in writing that: "The British have only provided hypothesis, suppositions and maybes. They have failed to support it with a single shred of evidence and fact. We are not doing anything until they do. Sometimes, the only way not to repeat the Daily Mail propaganda is to be able to read 4-5 languages.

The reality is - even Eastern Europe is presently kept in line solely by the threat of "sanctions" (no, I am not kidding, that is how we treat allies). If we provided tangible evidence, that would be unnecessary.

I will leave the tap-dancing in the minefield separately - I suggest you get a proper analysis of their propaganda and how they shifted internal propaganda efforts for the last decade. It makes an interesting reading (and something our dolts have failed to read).

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Re: Bude

Assuming you have those samples. It'd give agents something to do, collecting tap water, spring water or well water around top-secret laboratories that don't officially exist per OPCW's CBW verification programme.

Not water. Air. And we did it all the time. We are doing it now too. So do they.

The official job of the lab which got caught in the 1990-es selling Novichok on the black market was to collect air samples around all sites and check if there are any leaks to call in the clean-up and investigations team.

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Re: Bude

That's one of the bizarre aspects to this. Leonid Rink was arrested and charged with selling stolen novichok from his garage. And the collapse of the Soviet Union left a lot of people with dangerous skills looking for money, some of whom ended up helping oligarchs with their business deals. Or just book deals, like Mirzayanov, who showed the world what novichok looked like. But that was 1994, so knowledge has been out there for two decades. And since then, the Internet's exploded and powered the 'knowledge economy', except some of the knowledge we'd probably prefer wasn't shared.

But that's where GCHQ comes in, monitoring how this stuff gets shared, and by whom.

Then there's the current Syrian crisis. Jaysh al-Islam claim a chemical weapons atttack. They should understand these after using them against rival Kurdish groups in Aleppo. Or the use of chlorine bombs by Salafist terrorist groups in Iraq. Again that's a situation where it would be better to act on evidence, rather than propaganda, or where the propaganda could end up embarrassing. Russia's being blamed for Syria, but if it turns out to have been Jaysh al-Islam, that could prove.. awkward given their backers.

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Re: Bude

Yes, let's take a step back.

1. An "ex" spy (rus/brit double agent) and his daughter are found on a park bench, collapsed, and rescued by a Det Sgt. All 3 are hospitalised.

2. Concurrently a 2 week defence exercise on the topic of biol chem nuclear terrorist attacks taking place in same area.

3. Principal Chem Biol etc lab just up the road.

4. Russians miraculously recover.

5. Also despite super strong nerve poison nobody else in Sarum is affected. Brillant Focus!

6. Russians disappear with a promise to give them a new ID (like Cemetery Locs XYZ 123 and XYZ 124).

7. Russian sister (whatever) refused visa by gov.uk to visit sick relatives WTF!!

8 "Det Sgt" (employed by WHICH ministry?) also vanishes... Life Will Never Be Same... etc

OH LOOK A SQUIRREL

Let's do an Occam

Said Military Exercise includes pretend drugging of "ex" spy and his "I am Not a Mule" daughter and pretend period in ICU. WOW says gov.uk we can make sth out of this let's PRETEND we think it was gov.ru doing a real assassassasssassination. HEY GUYS LOOK A REALLY BIG SQUIRRRRRREL.

Contingency corner cases like two dead guinea pigs and FFS a starved half to death kittypuss were NOT in the script, typical "mil intel" competence /sarc

Anyway even the germans are laffin at this. Photo in german satire mag showing police discovery of VVPs ID card under a bush in Spy Close, Salisbury, Wilts.

Go On, gov.uk, insult my intelligence. Offer me a job in National Security!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bude

"If Iran can synthesise it, how many other states could?" Any half reasonable research chemist in a University lab could make it, that's the word from a current research chemist I work with. Not sure if he's worked at Porton, as I did in the 80's, but a lot of these chemical weapons were/are simply accidental discoveries whilst trialling new pesticide ideas.

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Re: Bude

"Any half reasonable research chemist in a University lab could make it"

Make it in a university lab and the fatalities will be right there in the lab, including the cook. There's more to manufacturing chemical weapons than synthesizing the chemicals.

There's a reason ISIS have been using bombs, guns and knives. It really isn't that easy to make this sort of stuff and, even if you've made it, it's incredibly hard to handle and, even if you can handle it, it's non trivial to weaponize.

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Re: Bude

Problem is ISIS & offshoots have been using this sort of stuff in Iraq & Syria. A point that's often conveniently overlooked. If you're only interested in making nasties in small quantities, basic lab safety like glove boxes and simple decontamination avoids most casualties. I agree they can be a lot harder to turn into effective weapons, which is why when they've been used in Iraq & Syria, the casualty numbers have been very small. When religious fanatics have been using it (including Tokyo), safety is less of a concern because the people delivering it are often happy to be martyred.

That's also why GCHQ and the security services need the tools and resources to track people who might be thinking about using CBW, because access isn't just a state thing any more. And Porton Down may need some extra help if the agent used turns out to have been BZ, not Novichok..

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plus ça change ...

Forty or fifty years ago, the type of thing the Russian government stands accused of was called propaganda, broadcast in various languages in the medium and high frequency radio bands, and sometimes fought with jammers. I never had trouble receiving the English language services of any of the major players, but there were enough active jammers to make me suspect that East German, Russian, and other Eastern bloc countries were trying to blot out Western broadcasts on a regular basis.

I do not remember anyone getting into a panic about this propaganda, then, that seems to be the standard response in the last couple of years.

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Re: plus ça change ...

The social media's appetite for fake news is a real problem today. It actually spreads faster than the truth, and having just discovered that our boffins are busy building the funding case to find out why. Old-style propaganda and the Big Lie play straight into the modern game.

I for one much prefer a little small-time bending of the rules by GCHQ's almost-democratic sponsor than the industrial-scale thuggery of the alternatives.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: plus ça change ...

It’s the plebs – they can’t be trusted to vote the right way. Just look at the reaction when non-mainstream candidates are voted to the various assemblies, the political classes have a little meltdown.

The plebs need to be educated to vote mainstream, and punished when they don’t.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: plus ça change ...

I do not remember anyone getting into a panic about this propaganda, then, that seems to be the standard response in the last couple of years.

40 or 50 years ago, was before the Internet. Back then unless you read the Morning Star (offical newspaper of the CPGB (Communist Party of Great Britain) OR were able to recieve the english language broadcasts from behind the Iron Curtain, the average person had very little knowledge of what went on behind the Iron Curtain let alone in Russia.

Now, with the internet and social media and the easy way fake news can trend it is a whole different ballgame.

Putin can sit in the Kremlin and tell an apparachnik to do something and an hour later a fake news story is trending on social media. He must be laughing all the way to his Cayman Island bank accounts.

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Re: plus ça change ...

What has changed is that "Eastern Block" tractor production statistics broadcast by a radio station that identified itself at regular intervals have been replaced by often successfully disguised disinformation about "Western Block" matters. The intent has changed.

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Re: plus ça change ...

> unless you read ... the average person had very little knowledge of what went on behind the Iron Curtain

I think you might well know even less about it if you *did* read the Morning Star.

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Anonymous Coward

"Yes, for some of our roles we’ll continue to need those with a Doctorate in Mathematics or Computer Science, but we also need people straight from school or those who want a career change. People who can lead and make decisions," he concluded.

Now read that sentence again:

"Yes, for some of our roles we’ll continue to need those with a Doctorate in Mathematics or Computer Science,

...but we also need people straight from school or those who want a career change. People who can lead and make decisions,"

... this is because people with a Doctorate degree in maths or computer science can neither make decisions nor lead.

Look, I'm a high school dropout with a patchy employment history. I will happily lead a GHCQ sponsored troll factory. You can pay me in weed or bitcoin ...

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Given what's happening with bitcoin I'd go for the weed*

*If I wasn't allergic.

The weed seems like a better long-term option.

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In spite of the rhetoric about "outside threats", making the world safer, and all that.... I'm concerned that this agency, like the ones here in the States, aren't always looking the outside threats. I suspect that it wouldn't take much to go from "monitoring ALL comms" as done now within their own country to more nefarious deeds. I read what he said, and re-read it only replacing ISIS, etc. with "those who disagree with the current administration"... So who is watching our watchers?

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