A Brief Assessment of the Veracity of Published Statements in the Press and Elsewhere Made by Dan Kaszeta, A Self-Described Expert on the Science and Technology of Chemical Weapons
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
July 10, 2014
Dan Kaszeta describes himself in public statements as having “over twenty years of diverse experience” as “a former US Army and US Secret Service specialist on chemical, biological, and radiological defense.”
Following the release on September 13, 2013 of the UN report on the use of chemicals in Syria, Mr. Kaszeta started making statements that the fact that hexamine was found by UN inspectors in soil samples and on metal fragments from chemical munitions indicated a “smoking gun” that connected the August 21, 2013 nerve agent attack to the Syrian government.
In repeated articles and statements he has claimed that he has scientific evidence that supports this important claim, which if true could well indicate that the Syrian government was the perpetrator of the attack.
Because my colleague, Richard Lloyd, and I have been drawn into scientific and technical analyses of the August 21, 2013 atrocity, and of the far ranging implications of Mr. Kaszeta’s claim, we decided to contact Mr. Kaszeta to get the information needed to confirm the scientific basis of his statements.
During this extensive exchange, Mr. Kaszeta was unable to provide even a single technical document that was relevant to his claims. When we pressed him about the absence of his ability to provide technical information, he claimed that he had information from statements made by Åka Sellström, the head of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, as saying that hexamine proved that the Syrian government was the perpetrator of the attack (see Appendix 1 for entire record of emails).
Because I was unable to get any constructive information from Mr. Kaszeta, I wrote to Professor Sellström and asked him about the hexamine claim. I asked him if he could respond to me as if I were a reporter. My letter of request and his response are in Appendix 2.
During my fruitless effort to obtain any technical information in support of Mr. Kaszeta’s dramatic claim, I enlisted the help of a young quantum chemist who writes under the pen name “Syrian Sister.” Syrian Sister provided valuable technical information and advice in support of my effort to obtain the information from Kaszeta that would demonstrate that he had a technical basis for his claim. Syrian Sister provided valuable information on the solubility of hexamine in isopropanol, on the problems encountered if one were to try to use a very low solubility material like hexamine in a process for manufacturing sarin, and on chemical equilibrium constants, which provide important predictive insights into the equilibrium states of chemical mixtures.
Syrian Sister’s support was totally professional, and often constructively critical of the analysis I was presenting to Mr. Kaszeta. Mr. Kaszeta is very active on Twitter, and his communications offer additional insights into his attitudes towards this very serious question of whether hexamine unambiguously implicates the Syrian government in the attack. For example, in his twitter exchanges, he refers to those who question his claim as “trolls.” He has also attacked the integrity of Syrian Sister in the emails where I was trying to obtain technical information from him in support of his claims.
Mr. Kaszeta has occasionally referred to a book he has published titled, CBRN and Hazmat Incidents at Major Public Events: Planning and Response (see Appendix 3) as evidence that he is truly an expert in the science and technology of chemical weapons. However, the book he claims for his expertise is essentially a planning manual for local police forces and event planners where there is a concern that hazardous material could be released. There is essentially no technical or scientific information in this manual that cannot be obtained by a superficial search of entries available on the Internet.
Appendix 4 shows why the matter of Mr. Kaszeta’s claims are important. This appendix contains a New York Times article that treats false technical information as if it is real and uses that information to make inferences that are extremely important in the debate and analysis of who might have been responsible for the sarin attack of August 21, 2013. Since the US administration was arguing for military action against Syria, and openly accusing Russia in the UN of making false statements about their assessment that the attack might not have been executed by the Syrian government, the implications of this false technical information were far ranging.
Appendix 5 contains additional false technical information produced by Human Rights Watch and published on the front page of the New York Times that was also inflammatory and misleading. Appendix 6 shows a letter that my colleague, Richard Lloyd and I wrote to the London Review of Books making corrections to a large number of false technical claims that were being promulgated by Mr. Kaszeta, and his close colleague Eliot Higgins.
Appendix 7 shows an article written by Mr. Kaszeta where he claims This article explains the what, why, and how of the ‘Hexamine Hypothesis’. I have spent a lot of time and effort studying the history of Sarin and the particularly obtuse history of industrial efforts to produce Sarin. There are at least 20 production pathways to Sarin, each of at least 5 steps.
As is evident from the email exchange between Kaszeta and Postol, Mr. Kaszeta has no expertise at any level on the questions of how sarin could be produced. This very short summary is aimed at exposing a counterfeit expert and his cohort, Eliot Higgins, who were empowered by a serious failure of the mainstream Western press. This empowerment was due to an essentially complete failure of these major journals to exercise the most rudimentary levels of editorial due diligence. This has resulted in controversy that has no basis in sound science. This ill-informed and inflammatory use of false technical facts by the press could have played a role in a US military involvement in Syria. In addition, it is now clear, as reported by the New York Times itself, that by being a highway for the introduction of extremist Sunni jihadists, Turkey has played a major role in exacerbating an already out-of-control situation.
Based on the public information we now have, we cannot say for sure who executed the atrocity of August 21, 2013. But what we can say is that there is now substantial evidence that points to the possibility that the August atrocity in Damascus was a false flag attack by certain Sunni rebel forces that are now operating freely in Iraq as well as in Syria.
The collapse of the mainstream press over the past 10 years has had a major negative impact on the American system of democracy, which like all democracies, cannot function without an informed electorate. It is essential that everything be done by the mainstream press, and its citizen supporters, to encourage it in its role as a guardian of democracy.
The rush to judgment by members of the press who failed to execute their due diligence responsibilities is an important matter that I hope will be noted and corrected by the mainstream press.
Theodore A. Postol
Professor of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts July 10, 2014
Fraudulent Claims Made by Dan Kaszeta
(Pages 1,2 of 44 Pages)