How Open Source Investigation Found The Buk Missile Launcher That Downed Flight MH17
In the wake of the tragic events of July 17th a number of photographs and videos were posted online claiming to show the Buk missile launcher that has been alleged to have been involved in the downing of flight MH17 in locations that were claimed to be near the crash site. Over the last 48 hours, using a variety of open source investigation techniques, it has been possible to identify the precise location some of these images were taken, confirming key claims about the location of the Buk missile launcher.
This video, posted on July 17th, claimed to show the Buk missile launcher in the town of Snizhne, roughly 15km-20km away from the crash site. Using satellite imagery it was possible to identify the exact location the video was filmed from, and I detailed this process in a case study on Bellingcat. (Donate for access)
In this photograph, widely claimed to have been taken in the town of Snizhne, the Buk missile launcher is seen on a transporter. A long time follower of mine, Aric Toler, decided to apply some of the techniques I had been writing about and discovered the exact location of the Buk and transporter using a combination of satellite maps, court records, Russian language Wikis, and dashboard cam videos uploaded to YouTube by a Torez local. It was an impressive piece of investigation based on one photograph, and I interviewed Aric about his process and wrote it up as a case study on Bellingcat.
In the above video, posted by the Ukranian Ministry for Interior claiming to show the Buk missile launcher being driven towards Russia it was possible to match the transporter in the video to the transporter in Torez, details of which are on Bellingcat.
In an overnight discussion on Twitter the above image was also geolocated to a location in Snizhne, details of which can be found on the Korean Defense blog.
These examples demonstrate one of the key things Bellingcat is about, collaboratively using open source investigation tools and techniques to gain a greater understanding of breaking news events.
I'm now working on implementing Meedan's Checkdesk on Bellingcat, a tool for collaboratively verifying social media content which I hope will allow for more of the sort of collaborative work I've described above
I'd like to hire someone to work on the Bellingcat Checkdesk to ensure Bellngcat's audience gets the most out of it, but that depends on hitting our goals. My target for Monday is £9400, 20% of the total funds needed. At least statistically speaking, I've been told Kickstarters that reach 20% of their funds in that time frame have a 80% chance of success, so it would be a big boost to me and the campaign to hit that target by Monday.
If you've already donated, you have my thanks, and your help to spread the word about Bellingcat would be hugely appreciated.
If you've not donated, please donate, every penny counts, and Meedan's Checkdesk is only the start of what I plan to do with Bellingcat. I'm currently working on another major Bellingcat project that involves an area that people wouldn't associate with my work, investigating cross-border crime and corruption. I already have a very talented team involved with this, and I hope to provide more details of this in the coming weeks. But again, this all depends on raising funds through Kickstarter, so please donate.
So again, if you've donated, I thank you, and please help spread the word. If you've not, please donate to the Kickstater this weekend to ensure I hit the £9400 goal.