Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reply to Mr. J. Medema

Mr. Jan Medema wrote a letter to the editor of CBRNe World ( ) about my book State Secrets: Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program in the style and tone of a typical old time Soviet bureaucrat. He doesn’t like anything in my book and hates the author with the passion of a jealous and abandoned husband. Sure, I can’t help him, because I did exactly what he and his colleagues from Washington didn’t want – revealed the distortion of the goals of the CWC by hiding the novel Russian chemical weapons of the Novichok series in secrecy. Unfortunately, these goals were pursued in Washington and Moscow, clearly not with good intent but for their unknown goals, even though they’re pretending to justify them by alleged terrorist threats. I already explained in my blog why terrorists cannot to develop and produce these chemical agents (CA). Ultimately, Mr. Medema contradicted himself, first by denying the Novichok agents preeminence in comparison with VX gas. Then without any reason he is trying to say that they could be used by terrorists. Probably Mr. Medema knows that the technologies of production of all known phosphororganic CA were already published in many books, and even the method of production was given of the binary version of VX gas from safe components. It is logical to ask why terrorists would prefer to choose Novichok agents for their crimes, if they are not so good - as Mr. Medema is stating - and one of their binary components is as poisonous as typical CA.

Mr. Medema made some other interesting remarks. First, he is trying to give the impression that I am inappropriately rambling on about the “drinking habits” of my teachers. This is an absolute lie from the same Soviet arsenal. Nobody who read my book could find such a thing. If I wrote about the drinking habits of some of my bosses, there was no exaggeration and I don’t regret it. If I wrote how one of the chiefs of GosNIIOKhT, carrying secret papers in his briefcase, fell down in the underground street crossing without any consequences, my goal was to demonstrate how the system of secret holding in GosNIIOKhT was hypocritical and not effective.

I wrote about General M. Dubinin, based on critical study of his work and, as I pointed out in my book, on the basis of my own experiments - the results of which are absolutely not consistent with his equations. I honestly told Dubinin all this and he didn’t try to argue with me. On the contrary, he noted that an experiment is more significant than any theory. Mr. Medema is sorry that people in GosNIIOKhT didn’t know Dubinin’s work, and because of that they made mistakes with work on the breakthrough of gasmasks. Ironically this work was initiated by Dubinin’s former graduate student E. Bogomazov and supported by Dubinin’s assistants. Moreover, an interdepartmental scientific council was organized with their participation for the coordination of this work in GosNIIOKhT. I never wrote in my book, but I have to add here, that a “theory” was developed exactly in the Chemical Defense Academy’s Department of Adsorption under Lieutenant General and Academician M. Dubinin, which predicted that in some unidentified conditions it is possible for CA to go through gas mask filters even in aerosol condition. Sure, my respect for the scientists is based on their works, but not on the alleged services of the scientific bosses.

Next, he quips “Two years later (1970) he ran a laboratory full of modern equipment – even including a US-made GC-MS, which in my memory came onto the market about decade later”. Probably anger misled Mr. Medema. I never wrote such nonsense. I ran the Technical Foreign Counterintelligence Department in 1985 and equipped my laboratory there in 1986-87.

Later on, Mr. Medema is blaming me for not detailing the toxicity of Novichok agents. It is known that the characteristics are given in diapason of intravenous, inhalation and skin-resorption toxicity. I preferred not complicate by my book with more technical details. Further, Mr. Medema is going with another baseless statement as “Even worse are the remarks that the agents would not be detected by available detectors”. This is in the best case a misunderstanding. I never stated such a stupidity. I wrote that nobody can detect unknown CA, especially if it is from the class of phosphates, since there are a lot of agricultural pesticides – phosphates in waste waters, soil and other environs.

Next, he says “A suggestion is made that the detectors missed very low agent concentrations in Kuwait when the Iraqi CW stockpile (including Novichoks) was destroyed, and this could have caused the health problems with the Gulf War veterans.” This statement is the next lie of Mr. Medema. I never ever told that Novichok agents were among the Iraqi CW. Substance 33 is not a Novichok agent. If Mr. Medema saw the chemical formulas of these CA he apparently couldn’t write such nonsense.

He continues, “In addition, it assumes that some of the detectors based on cholinesterase inhibition would not have worked, despite the fact that Novichoks are cholinesterase inhibitors.” No, Mr. Medema, I didn’t assume such foolishness. I’d like to see where you extracted that from. Intentionally misleading, Mr. Medema is mixing the problem of the poisoning of Gulf War veterans by the explosion of Iraqi CW storages with the problem of hidden Russian Novichok agents. Such confusion is not acceptable in any discussion. I wrote in my book that the explosion of CW is not a good method of destroying them, because it doesn’t eliminate them to a safe level. Moreover, residues of CA and their byproducts, which are still dangerous for people, mixed with dust and sand getting adsorbed on them and could be transported long distances by air. Sure I didn’t know the direction of the wind as Mr. Medema did. Still, if he is following the chemical literature, he could know about finding traces of some pesticides used in Africa on islands in Atlantic Ocean. In the 1970-s, Finnish scientists performed experiments on the transportation of model CA in northern Europe and proved that these substances were found at distances of 400-500 miles from the source of emission. I’d like to bring to your attention, Mr. Medema, you cannot detect adsorbed molecules of CA with the electron mobility detectors of the American Army. I am also very doubtful that you can detect them with detectors based on cholinesterase without special preliminary extraction procedures. So, it is clear to me that the barbaric explosion of Iraqi chemical weapons storage led to the poisoning of American troops with residues of CA adsorbed on solid particles, even though you don’t want to accept this sad conclusion. Ignorance multiplied by the arrogance of the chemical bosses is the real reason for this disaster.

Next, he claims, “I will not reveal any details, but with some skilled researchers it is not too difficult to find out what the Novichoks are.” I have no doubt that it is possible. There is just one question: why didn’t anyone do this job before my publications in 1990-s?

Here is another misleading statement, “The Aum Shinrikyo hired a skilled Russian chemist to produce their nerve agent.” Isn’t this pure deception? So far it is known that the Aum Shinrikyo chemical engineers were trained in Russian military units and they built their own factory for the production of sarin. It is known that this sarin was practically garbage, about 7-10 % of the main component. A skilled Russian chemist couldn’t do that at all if he was a real chemist. Why didn’t the Japanese officials throw this bastard in jail or ask Russia to send him back to Japan for trial? Isn’t it strange that nobody in whole world knows about this information and it is released right now by an angry intelligence officer from Netherlands? Or he is pretending to be intelligence to give to his inconsistent argument more weight? Distracting from my point that only high level specialists in advanced countries in extreme safe laboratories can reproduce Novichok agents, Mr. Medema is trying to sell the tale that terrorists right now are getting more skillful. It is just nonsense. Why would “terrorists gourmets” in the field of CA, choose exactly the Novichok agents without any technological secrets for their production when there are more cheap and simple ones with published technological protocols in many books?

He also says, “In addition, most of the experts knew those formulas for nearly two decades.” If this is true why did people from the CIA and Mr. Medema’s friends from Washington lie and try to persuade me to give them the Novichok formulas? I refused because I didn’t and don’t trust them. It is also possible that they are working together with the KGB, trying to compromise me instead of solving the real problem. Sure, it is also possible that Mr. Medema is lying again, because I don’t believe that a serious intelligence officer would reveal the sources of this information. There are only two persons who could do that. One of them is the late Lieutenant General Anatoly Kuntsevich and the other one – my late colleague from GosNIIOKhT. The first one was not capable of memorizing any chemical formulas, because of his ignorance and alcoholism. The second person was a very capable chemist and he definitely could do it.

To blame me as a helper to terrorists is a typical tool of impotent intelligence officers. Their goal is known: to silence me and to destroy my credibility. If Mr. Medema wants to burn my book it is his right. I think it is more appropriate for him do it in modern Russia. Their rulers, in true Bolshevik tradition, love to destroy books, as it was going in Nazi Germany. In return, it is my right is to send him where I sent his colleagues on first page of my book. Satisfaction guaranteed.

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