Boris Johnson is on a hook of his own making after he was exposed as making a false claim in an interview that Porton Down chemical weapons facility had ‘categorically’ told him there was no doubt that Russia was the source of the poison used in the Salisbury attack. Porton Down’s CEO yesterday told Sky News that the facility had not identified the source.
Johnson’s embarrassment has been compounded by the revelation that the Foreign Office (FCO) – which initially dismissed Johnson’s falsehood by saying he ‘misspoke – had also tweeted the claim. The FCO deleted that tweet yesterday when Porton Down’s admission was garnering attention.
The PR/diversion exercise
The Establishment machine has kicked in to try to exonerate Johnson, with the BBC editing video to make Johnson’s lie less obvious and claiming that it can’t find footage it has only just shown.
The front page of the Times even ludicrously claimed that ‘Ministers and security officials” were suddenly able to identify not only the country of manufacture but the very laboratory it was made in.
Given the complete lack of substance provided before now – and the fact that the OPCW won’t even confirm what the substance is before next week – this sudden, extreme claim looks likely to be little more than a desperate reference to the “secret Novichok assassination programme” to which former ambassador Craig Murray referred during a video interview with Sky News on Wednesday.
The other key thrust of the PR exercise has been to ignore the fact of Johnson’s ‘fake news’ in favour of claiming that it must be Russia, as only a ‘state actor‘ could possibly manufacture a Novichok agent.
The chemistry professor
Cornell University is one of America’s ‘Ivy League’ educational institutions. As of 2017, it could claim fifty-six Nobel laureates and four Turing Award winners in its history.
So a claim by Cornell’s variously-published Professor of Organic Chemistry, David Collum, carries considerable weight.
And a week ago, Mr Cornell pre-emptively kicked the legs out from under the Establishment’s attempt to mask or excuse Johnson’s dishonesty.
Professor Collum’s dismissal of the ‘must be Russia’ line could not be more emphatic – but he was prepared to go even further when the SKWAWKBOX asked him to provide further information on what level of laboratory set-up would be required to manufacture a ‘Novichok or related agent’ – the description provided by the UK’s Porton Down facility.
He told us:
The compounds are simple as hell to make. Doing so without killing yourself would be more challenging but within the capabilities of many laboratories.
‘Simple as hell’.
Not only is it possible that a non-state facility could manufacture – many non-state laboratories could do it safely.
Contrary to the claims of the government and its apologists, even just among ‘state actors’ Russia is far from the only known manufacturer of Novichok compounds. The following countries have produced them, are on record as having purchased/received them, or are linked to them by academic texts:
But Professor Collum’s expert statement on the simplicity of fabricating Novichoks and the relative ease of manufacturing them safely blows the field of possible sources wide open.
The hastily-erected ring-fence of PR and false assertions around Boris Johnson lies in small pieces around him. His – and the government’s – dishonesty and intentional misleading of the UK’s people are as naked as a newborn.
He – and his boss – have no place in office.
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