Internet-powered investigators?

In our Internet-connected generation, it’s amazing to see what can be done by private citizens determined to ferret out the truth.  The shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine is the latest example.  Mashable reports:

On Tuesday, U.S. intelligence officials admitted that while it’s true that Russia has been arming pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine for months, no proof exists that the Buk SA-11 surface-to-air missile launcher, which Washington says took down the plane, was Russian.

. . .

But a group of citizen journalists led by Eliot Higgins, who is better know by his online alias “Brown Moses,” has had plenty of Perry Mason moments in the last few days.

Higgins, with the help of some of his Twitter followers, was able to pinpoint the location of a Buk launcher while it was being transported through Snizhne, a pro-Russian rebel-held town in Ukraine near the Russian border, based on a video circulating on YouTube.

. . .

The next day, Aric Toler, a longtime follower of Higgins, identified the exact location of a photograph of the Buk launcher in Torez, another town in Eastern Ukraine, using only open source information like the name of a store shown in the picture, and other unrelated YouTube videos filmed in the area.

. . .

Toler and Higgins were able to establish that the photograph was shot around 11:40 a.m. local time, using an online tool called Suncalc, which lets you calculate the position of the sun based of the time of day and location. That would prove that the launcher was in the area before the MH17 crash. (Higgins told Mashable that he checked the tool’s accuracy by taking pictures of his garden at different times of the day to see if the shadows matched the ones on the site.)

Another crowdsourced analysis that Higgins assembled on Tuesday offers strong proof that a video published by the Ukrainian government shows the Buk launcher being moved from Ukraine to Russia through rebel-held towns. In the video, the launcher seems to be missing a missile.

The Russian government rebuffed the video, claiming it had actually been filmed in the town of Krasnoarmeisk, which under the control of the Ukrainian military. However, thanks to other open source intelligence analysis, it turns out the town is not actually Krasnoarmeisk but the rebel-held Luhansk, just 30 miles from the Russian border.

There’s much more at the link.  Intriguing and highly recommended reading.



  1. Now the Russian propaganda machine and RT will have to work even harder to say they are "helping the poor Russian citizens with homes, properties and loved ones living in Eastern Ukraine". Let's hope these investigators continue to keep working.

  2. This seems similar to the process that repeatedly misidentified bombing suspects in Boston and made life distinctly unpleasant for a bunch of 'domestic terrorists' who happened to fit some Redditor's profile for ethnicity, gender and backpack size. Let's hope it's being more responsibly and accurately conducted this time around….

  3. Here we have intelligent and motivated people seeking the truth, instead of Intelligence personnel fabricating a predetermined political narrative. Good on the truth seekers.

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