WikiLeaks at December 24, 2019 published a set of documents which are related to the OPCW investigation into what happened in Douma in April 2018. An alleged chemical attack killed dozens of civilians. On a summary describing the content of the documents WikiLeaks suggests OPCW wanted to cover up a dissenting report. However WikiLeaks did not clarify the OPCW possibly wanted the document removed because it was stored in a wrong archive.
One of the documents which were leaked by an unknown source to WikiLeaks is an email sent by Sebastien Braha, the Chief of Cabinet to the Director General of the OPCW. In an article explaining the content of the documents WikiLeaks writes:
One of the documents is an e-mail exchange dated 27 and 28 February 2019 between members of the fact finding mission (FFM) deployed to Douma and the senior officials of the OPCW. It includes an e-mail from Sebastien Braha, Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW, where he instructs that an engineering report from Ian Henderson should be removed from the secure registry of the organisation:
“Please get this document out of DRA [Documents Registry Archive]… And please remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever in DRA”.
The exact quote marked in italics was copied by many people sceptical to the narrative the armed forces of Syrian Arab Republic dropped two cylinders filled with chlorine on two apartmentbuildings in Douma. Over 800 hits are found when searching for this sentence.
Headlines at conspiracy websites read like this “top officials in the organization had conspired to delete all traces of dissenting report on the alleged chemical attack on Syria’s Douma in April 2018.” and “Senior OPCW Official Busted”.
However WikiLeaks in its text left out some important context which explains why the OPCW official wanted to have the report out of the Documents Registry Archive. The full text of what Braha wrote in this email dated February 28, 2019 is :
“Please get this documeny out of DRA, as DRA is instructed to specifically NOT deal with any non-routine missions, untill futher instruction. And please remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever in DRA”
The “as DRA is instructed to specifically NOT deal with any non-routine missions” is important context. When Google is used to search for the sentence marked in bold, there are no hits all all! None of the truthers bothered to explain why the OPCW offical might have ordered to delete the document.
Nobody outside the OPCW knows what the DRA exactly is, why whom and under what conditions documents can be stored in the DRA.
In a statement by the Director-General (DG) of the OPCW given in February 2020 more details became clear about the DRA.
Inspector A did not follow the proper procedures when he dropped off the envelope with DRA, because documents generated for non-routine missions—such as the FFM, DAT, and Investigation and Identification Team (IIT)—are stored in specialised archives with heightened security. This is due to the high sensitivity of the information.
Based on the remark by Braha and the DG it can be concluded the DRA is used for routine missions which has a less high sensitivity than FFM missions.
And it appears the investigation by the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) is not a routine missions. In this OPCW-document examples of non-routine operations are given.
non-routine operations, such as OPCW fact-finding missions, Investigation and Identification Team missions, technical assistance visits, or joint missions with other international organisations.
This is speculation but the DRA could well be an archive which is open to many OPCW employees and people working for OPCW member states. Any document related to FFM should not be stored in the more general DRA but in an archive dedicated for the FFM. The members of the FFM store their documents extremely likely in a secure IT-environment which can only be accessed by a very limited number of people.
Such an isolated secure network is suggested in a follow-up email sent on February 28 as well by Braha. In this email he wrote: “under whose authority was this work conducted, outside FFM authority and dedicated highly secured network, by someone who was not part of the FFM?”
It seems Ian Henderson was not part of the FFM team at the time of writing of the e-mail.
Mind the final report by OPCW FFM was published at March 1, 2019. So the next day after the Chief of Cabinet Braha ordered to remove the Henderson assessment. His draft for review version was dated February 27, 2019.
So it is very much possible the conclusions of the assessment could not be included in the final report because of time constrains. Apart from the OPCW statement the conclusion in the document violated the mandate of the FFM.