After His Mysterious Death, the Media Scrambles to Get its Story Straight About White Helmets Founder James Le Mesurier

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by Vanessa Beeley, MintPress News:

Almost immediately after Le Mesurier’s alleged plunge to his death, reports began to emerge of tampering and the removal of details about the controversial “private security” operative’s career.

On November 11, 2019, the British founder of the notorious White Helmets, James Le Mesurier, died in Istanbul, Turkey. The circumstances surrounding his death immediately elicited a flurry of Turkish and corporate media reports, many of them contradictory, as the details of his final hours came to light.

Mark Urban, the diplomatic editor at BBC Newsnight, immediately tweeted that “a former colleague” had told him it was impossible to “fall from that balcony,” referencing Le Mesurier’s reported cause of death and intimated that there may have been “state involvement.” Urban did not identify his mysterious “former colleague” or explain what made him sufficiently qualified to conclude that Le Mesurier’s death may have been a state-sanctioned hit.

Urban, declaring ignorance over Le Mesurier’s suspected ties to Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency, then suggesting that a “black propaganda campaign by Russian and Syria media and their social media acolytes” against Le Mesurier was “a prelude to murder” (emphasis added). Extraordinary claims for a journalist to make prior to the publication of any official autopsy.

Urban deleted his tweets soon after, maintaining that “there is a good deal of suspicion it may be murder by a state actor, but others suggest he may have taken his own life.” Did Urban jump the gun? Was he instructed to delete the tweets, and if so, by whom?

In the tangle of media reports that ensued, a pattern of denials and misdirection became apparent. The overriding response from the narrative curators in corporate media was to blame Russia for everything. Russian Foreign Office spokesperson Maria Zakharova was vilified for her description of Le Mesurier as a British intelligence agent and for condemning his previous association with al-Qaeda in Kosovo in 1999. The author and investigative journalist, Whitney Webb, previously exposed those connections for MintPress News.

Le Mesurier death

One of the many headlines blaming Russia for Le Mesurier’s death

Part one of this series will attempt to bring a greater degree of transparency and context to the Le Mesurier affair by examining his role in Syria and his financial responsibility as founder of Mayday Rescue, an NGO he established in 2014 to act as the UK Foreign Office’s (UK FCO) implementing partner, responsible for the management of the White Helmets. Suspected collusion between Le Mesurier, his Mayday Rescue colleagues and UK state media to crush dissent or questioning of the establishment narrative on Syria will also be examined.

As the corporate media rushed to file reports on Le Mesurier’s death, two narratives emerged that effectively attempt to revise his career history.

Disconnecting Le Mesurier from the White Helmets

Raed Saleh is the “chairman” of the White Helmets. Saleh has connections to extremist armed factions and individuals inside Syria. In fact, he was refused entry into the United States in April of 2016 because of these “extremist connections.” Saleh writes for The Guardian, although he does not speak a word of English. His appearances at UN-sponsored events and in the corporate media appear heavily scripted and managed. So, when Saleh announced that Le Mesurier was not the founder of the White Helmets, alarm bells rang. Why would a spokesperson for the White Helmets deny something that Le Mesurier himself had admitted many times? That he founded the group while contracted to Analysis Research and Knowledge Group (ARK), even Le Mesurier’s Wikipedia entry doesn’t dispute the fact.

In April of 2017, the online news outlet The Middle Ground interviewed Le Mesurier. In its background for the interview, they described the founding of the White Helmets thusly:

The White Helmets was started by Mr Mesurier when he was working for ARK, a for-profit international contracting firm based in Turkey.”

Le Mesurier confirmed his role in founding the organization in the interview, stating:

ARK was funded by Friends of Syria, “a coalition of about 35 different countries who provide support to those that are in opposition to the Assad Government.”

Le Mesurier not connected to “any” British intelligence

Chris York of the Huffington Post sprang to the defense of the White Helmets immediately after Le Mesurier’s demise. York, who prior to 2017 had written a number of superficial commentaries about the Syrian conflict, began a campaign of attacking anyone exposing the White Helmets’ links to terrorist groups and their criminal activities alongside those groups.

York’s campaign gathered momentum in 2017 and continued in 2018, attacking, smearing and attempting to discredit independent journalists and academics who were countering the state-established narratives on Syria coming mostly out of Washington and London.

One of York’s articles, published three days after Le Mesurier’s death, bore the title, This is why James Le Mesurier’s White Helmets are the target of a Russian disinformation campaign. Beyond the multiple inaccuracies in the report, York’s heavy-handed blame Russia approach effectively disappeared the voices of those Syrians who reject the White Helmets and who have accused them of organ traffickingchild abduction and abuse, torture, murder, theft, and collaboration with the armed groups that persecuted civilians in the areas they occupied.

In reality, Russia’s role has been to provide those voices with a media platform and to give them a chance to speak. But York would prefer they keep quiet. If he really were interested in truth or impartiality, he would support a public inquiry into the White Helmets to allow evidence against them to be legally reviewed.

There is one point in York’s article that curiously echoes a statement made by the UK representative to the UN, Karen Pierce. Under the subheading, “James Le Mesurier was a spy”, York writes:

Russian authorities have never provided any evidence that Le Mesurier was a spy or worked for any intelligence agencies and have only repeated unsubstantiated claims made by bloggers that write about the White Helmets.” (emphasis added)

One day before York’s article was published, The Guardian quoted Karen Pierce’s statement that (Russian) claims that he worked for British Secret Services were “categorically untrue.”

Guardian Le Mesurier

The amendment by the Guardian walking back a claim that Le Mesurier worked for British intelligence.

Apart from the fact that Le Mesurier was active in various areas of NATO intervention, suggesting he had links with British intelligence agencies, The Guardian itself previously stated categorically that Le Mesurier was working for British military intelligence during his time in Kosovo in 1999.

Wiping the slate clean for Le Mesurier

Almost immediately after Le Mesurier’s alleged plunge to his death from the window of his Istanbul apartment, reports began to emerge of tampering with video reports and of the removal of links to articles detailing the career of the controversial “private security” operative. A Men’s Journal article which detailed Le Mesurier’s career path was removed from the Mayday Rescue website as well as the White Helmets Wikipedia page. The Men’s Journal article opens with the following description:

Sweating in the 104-degree heat in Adana, Turkey, former British infantry officer James Le Mesurier is training a group of average Syrians to become members of the U.S.-funded Syria Civil Defense (SCD) team”

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