SAMs Leave Traces


Hearing the voices of the guilty speak about their war crimes is rare, indeed, but this sort of thing isn't really necessary:
Intercepted phone calls purportedly between Russian military intelligence officers and members of a pro-Russian separatist group that appear to capture the moment the rebels realized the plane they shot down was a civilian passenger plane could be the smoking gun that helps prove Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed Ukraine by the insurgents.
The tapes were released by SBU, Ukraine's security agency, and transcript was published in the Kiev Post. It appears to capture the chaotic moments after the plane was shot down — and the realization that it was a passenger plane rather than a Ukrainian transport plane, which had been targeted in recent days by the Russia-backed separatists.
"We have just shot down a plane," says a man the SBU identified as Igor Bezler, a Russian military intelligence officer and leading commander of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

That call came just 20 minutes after the crash and was placed to a person identified by Ukraine’s SBU as a colonel in the main intelligence department of the general headquarters of the armed forces of the Russian Federation Vasili Geranin, according to Ukraine security officials.
The individuals in question--Ukrainian separatist rebels aligned with Russia--have decided to operate with impunity and without understanding just how easy it is to identify who fired the missile that brought down the plane. Various news stories have referenced "American" officials, but, really, the American intelligence community knows who fired the missile, what kind it was, and where it was launched from. They know all this because it is their job to know such things, Edward Snowden notwithstanding.

When a surface-to-air missile is launched, it leaves numerous traces that are collected and stored in databases and a missile launch with this level of sophistication requires coordination with command and control elements well beyond the level of expertise found in a simple battery. If the separatists have no command and control, why are they talking with the Russians? If there's nothing but chaos out there, then the Russians are going to abandon their allies because their complicity in mass murder will eliminate any separation between a nascent independence movement and a Russian land grab.

This is why we collect intelligence on foreign countries in bulk--it gives us access to critical data when incidents like this happen. This is why it is money well spent--having this capability means something. Your garden variety Edward Snowdens will give this to our enemies and then hide behind the idea that your privacy and your uninteresting life are threatened by an agency that is more interested in locating and tracking weapons, not hipsters.

To the separatists, life means nothing and their provocation hangs a target on their backs. My guess is that the Russians will sell them out first.