Misplaced Trust Leads to Crime Without Punishment
By S. Euguene Poteat, LL.D
S. Eugene Poteat, LL.D
Editor's note: On April 10, 2010 an airplane carrying the entire top echelon of the Polish government crashed in Smolensk, Russia, killing all 96 onboard. Russia claimed the crash was due to pilot error attempting the landing in bad weather, along with the usual regrets for the tragedy. Russians quickly cleared the crash site, removed and locked all bodies in sealed caskets, and confiscated the planes black boxes. The Mercury, shortly after the crash, published an article by Gene Poteat suggesting the crash was no accident, but more likely a Russian arranged crash to decapitate the pro-NATO Polish government. The Mercury placed the article on its website, spreading it worldwide via the internet.
The article was picked up, translated and published in Poland, where it created outcries for an official investigation. These on-going investigations, carried out by highly qualified Polish and Western experts, are now concluding the crash was indeed not an accident. Poteat’s latest article, below, brings us up-to-date on the emerging revelations from these investigations.
- Charles Waring, Editor, Charleston Mercury
Shortly after the crash, Russia produced an official report, known as the MAK [Interstate Aviation Committe] Report, declaring pilot error the cause of the crash: a consequence of attempting to land in bad weather, with onboard officials pressuring the pilot to land in spite of the weather. The direct cause of the crash, according to the report, was the airplane striking a birch tree, severing the left wing, causing the plane to crash into the ground short of the runway.
Vladimir Putin. PHOTO by AP.
Accidents happen. But Russia’s actions immediately after the crash - unusually swift and unprecedented - reflected actions akin to a criminal cleaning up the crime scene, not a concerned nation seeking answers. Instead, they quickly bulldozed the crash site, confiscated the airplane's black boxes, and prevented examination by others. The control tower operator, who had been in contact with the airplane during the approach, quickly disappeared. The recovered bodies were sealed in locked caskets, no viewings permitted. Even the birch tree, for some odd only-in-Russia reason, was dug up by the roots and removed. To the Russians: case closed.
Poland’s Parliament and Senate established their own investigations, drawing on experts in Poland, the US, the EU, and Australia, as well as testimony of individuals who heard and saw the airplane seconds before the crash. The most shocking and trustworthy is the recording of one of the passengers’ screams before the fatal crash.
Polish investigators did have access to the airplane’s computer (but not the black boxes), which proved conclusively that the Russian MAK Report veered far from the facts: the airplane never was low enough to strike a birch tree; there was no pressure on the pilot to land; the pilot had initiated a go-around with full throttles, and as he was climbing out two onboard explosions tore the plane apart. American experts associated with NASA and the FAA used sophisticated analysis to show that striking a birch tree would cause only a small dent, not tear off a wing. Australian experts’ examination of the computer and photos of the debris field concluded the plane was blown apart by two explosions, one inside the left wing and a second inside the airplane, causing total destruction.
But why would Russia wish to sabotage the plane? It was merely a ceremonial visit by the Polish elite to commemorate and mourn the 1940 murder of 22,000 Polish officers and other officials in the Katyn Forest, Russia, by the NKVD – the Soviet secret police. These officers were defenseless prisoners of war (POW), slaughtered in violation of the Geneva Convention. Despite blaming Germany for the massacre, Russia hurriedly acknowledged the event in 1989, and then swept the atrocity out of the history books much the way they airbrush disfavored officials out of photos. The April 2010 Smolensk trip would have reminded the world that the Russians had murdered thousands, and lied about it for decades. It became a problem for the Russians on how to make the planned Smolensk ceremony disappear…quickly.
An easy way to avoid the dreaded ceremony arrived. The delegation of top Polish officials would be arriving, en masse, on a single airplane. An airplane serviced and ‘prepared’ in Russia. If the crash was made to appear an accident, Russia saves face, and there is no mention of that Stalin-era Katyn mess. Problem solved. The operation, instead, was handled with heavy, flat-footed imprecision, making denial nearly impossible. Impossible – but not for Russians.
Though American jurisprudence does not allow prior bad acts to influence the determination of guilt for each and every new act - International incidents like this highly suspect airplane crash must be held to higher standards. If it was indeed an accident, as Russia claims, the airplane’s black box would have supported them. Instead, they engaged in smokescreens and disappearances to prevent further examination.
While a jury would be unable to convict without hard evidence or credible witnesses, the court of public opinion has no trouble seeing things as they are. But for those who have lost their leaders, their loved ones, their colleagues, this is little comfort. All those outcries carry little power to bring to justice those in Russia responsible for this manufactured accident.
As for Poland, they will have to swallow this bitter experience, and use it to never forget, and forever alter their behavior and level of trust. When your country is permeated with enemies, as Poland is, every move must be made skillfully to avoid falling into another trap concocted by conniving cohorts or colleagues. This will happen again until Poland is fully free of Russian hegemony. This ‘accident’ enabled Putin to eliminate our pro-NATO allies in Poland and replace them with pro-Russian ones, proving the Russian adage: Make yourself into a sheep, and you will meet a wolf nearby. And so they did. What is at stake for them, and us, is to always remember that little has changed when one is dealing with Russians, and their well-known oft-used expression more apt than ever: It was no accident, Comrade!
Written By Eugene Poteat
This article originally appeared in the Charleston Mercury, and is reprinted here with the author's permission.
About the author: S. Eugene (Gene) Poteat is a retired senior CIA Scientific Intelligence  Officer. He is President of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) . He was educated as an electrical engineer and physicist. He holds a Masters in Statecraft and National Security Affairs from IWP . His career in intelligence included work with U-2 and SR-71 class of aircraft and various space and naval reconnaissance systems. He also managed the CIA's worldwide network of monitoring sites. He holds patents on covert communications techniques. His CIA assignments included the Directorate of Science and Technology, the National Reconnaissance Office, Technical Director of the Navy's Special Programs Office and Executive Director of the Intelligence Research and Development Council. He served abroad in London, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Asia. He received the CIA's Medal of Merit and the National Reconnaissance Office's Meritorious Civilian Award for his technological innovations.Gene Poteat is an electrical engineer (The Citadel) and a retired CIA scientific intelligence officer. He writes and lectures on intelligence matters and teaches at The Institute of World Politics graduate school in Washington. He may be reached at G2Poteat@gmail.com.
Gaping Holes In Russian Report
In 1952, Congress investigated the Katyn Forest Massacre and proved Soviet guilt; in 2010 and 2011, there were calls in Congress for an independent investigation into the Smolensk crash.
Such an investigation is urgently required in 2012, and not only to solve the mystery of a vexing crash. We must find out whether the West has once again been party to another Big Lie out of Moscow.
Did Polish Military Prosecutors' Office lie to the international media during its press conference in Warsaw on October 30, 2012? Was the international public opinion purposefully misled by the Polish military prosecutors? It is noteworthy, that on October 30, 2012, during the international press conference in Warsaw concerning the discovery of the TNT on the wreckage of the Polish president's plane, Mr. Szelag said the following: "'It is not true that investigators found traces of TNT or nitro-glycerine,' said Colonel Ireneusz Szelag from the military prosecutors' office." (Source: Reuters - "Poland denies explosives found on wreck of crashed jet")
Dr. Michael Baden Interview
World-renowned forensic pathologist goes on the record: "I have been doing autopsies for 50 years, and I've investigated more than fifteen, twenty airplane crashes […] I've been in countries all over the world where families think that the government is hiding something. Whether it is Zimbabwe or Israel, or Philippines, the government may not like an outside person checking to make sure they got it right. [But,] they never interfered with that. The family, the next of kin, always has the right to do what the wishes of the family are. In the 21st century, the body of the dead person no longer belongs to the state. It belongs to the family. So, it is unusual - something that I have never experienced before - where the government [of Poland] has not permitted the famil[ies]" to conduct independent forensic examinations of their loved ones' remains [...] I've never heard of a body coming back to a country and the family being unable to open up a casket. I've never heard of the family not being able to get an autopsy… Read more here
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