Eliot Ward Higgins (born January 1979),[1] who previously wrote under the pseudonym Brown Moses, is a British citizen journalist and former blogger, known for using open sources and social media for investigations. He is the founder of Bellingcat, an investigative journalism website that specialises in fact-checking and open-source intelligence. He has investigated incidents including the Syrian Civil War, the Russo-Ukrainian War, the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. He first gained mainstream media attention by identifying weapons in uploaded videos from the Syrian conflict.[2][3]

Eliot Ward Higgins
Higgins in 2015
Eliot Ward Higgins

January 1979 (age 45)
  • Blogger
  • weapons analyst
  • citizen journalist
Known forAnalysis on:
Notable workWe Are Bellingcat

Life and work edit

Higgins was born in Shrewsbury, England, in January 1979.[2][4][5] A high-school dropout,[6] he attended Haberdashers' Adams Grammar School in Shropshire from 1990 to 1995.[7]

He previously worked in finance and administration.[8] In 2012, when Higgins began blogging about the Syrian civil war, he was unemployed and spent his days taking care of his child at home;[2] his wife is Turkish.[8][9] Higgins took the pseudonym Brown Moses from the Frank Zappa song "Brown Moses" on the album Thing-Fish.[2]

Higgins' analyses of Syrian weapons, which began as a hobby out of his home in his spare time, are frequently cited by the press and human rights groups and have led to parliamentary discussion.[2] His Brown Moses Blog began in March 2012 by covering the Syrian conflict. Higgins operates by monitoring over 450 YouTube channels daily looking for images of weapons and tracking when new types appear in the war, where, and with whom.[2] According to Guardian reporter Matthew Weaver, Higgins has been "hailed as something of a pioneer" for his work. Higgins has no background or training in weapons and is entirely self-taught, saying that "Before the Arab spring I knew no more about weapons than the average Xbox owner. I had no knowledge beyond what I'd learned from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rambo."[2]

Higgins began reporting on the use of improvised barrel bombs by the Syrian government in 2012, around the time their use was first reported.[10][11]

Other aspects of the Syrian conflict uncovered and documented by Higgins include the use of cluster bombs in 2012, which the Syrian government denied using; the proliferation of shoulder-launched heat-seeking missiles known as MANPADS; and the proliferation of Croatian-made weapons which was reportedly connected to the United States, a story later picked up by The New York Times.[2] He has also investigated the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons, including the Ghouta chemical attack in detail.[12][13] Higgins has also performed contract work for Human Rights Watch and Action on Armed Violence.[8] Higgins' work on who was responsible for the sarin gas attacks in the Syrian civil war was criticised in a letter to the London Review of Books by Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former UN weapons inspector,[citation needed] Richard Lloyd.[14]

Higgins used geolocation to publish an estimate of where the James Foley execution video was made outside Raqqa, an Islamic State stronghold in north-central Syria. Higgins used visual markers in stills from the video and his interpretation of satellite images of the terrain around Raqqa.[15]

From 2016 until early 2019, Higgins was a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab and Future Europe Initiative projects.[16][17][better source needed] In 2018 Higgins was a visiting research associate at the Centre for Science and Security Studies (CSSS) at the Department of War Studies at King's College London and visiting research fellow at University of California Berkeley's Human Rights Center.[18] In October of that year, Higgins was the subject of BBC Radio Four's programme Profile.[19]

Bellingcat edit

On 15 July 2014, Higgins began a new website called Bellingcat for citizen journalists to investigate current events using open-source information such as videos, maps and pictures. Its launch was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.[20] Bellingcat's self-taught open-source analysts include Higgins and eight volunteers.[21][needs update]

Among its major projects, Bellingcat has investigated the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. Its work is being considered by the Dutch police investigating the crash,[12] and Higgins has been interviewed twice by the investigators.[22] Bellingcat has suggested that the anti-aircraft missile that hit the plane was fired by a Russian unit, the 53rd Buk brigade, based in the city of Kursk.[23] On 31 May 2015, Bellingcat released a report alleging among other things photo manipulation of satellite images released by the Russian Ministry of Defense.[24][non-primary source needed] The photos concerned the location of Ukrainian Buk missile launchers around the time MH17 was shot down.[25][non-primary source needed] Bellingcat's use of error level analysis in its report was criticised by Jens Kriese, a professional image analyst.[26] Bellingcat's findings about which field the missile was fired from were vindicated in September 2016 by the Dutch-led MH17 Joint Investigation Team.[27]

In 2023, Higins published an image on social media of former President Trump in jail in a jumpsuit, generated by AI. As a result of this, he was banned from Midjourney, which he used to creat the image.[28]

Publications edit

Eliot Higgins and Alina Polyakova,[29] presenting "Hiding in Plain Sight"; Andrij Melnyk,[30] Berlin, 2015[31][32][33][34][35][36]

In 2015, Higgins was one of five co-authors of the report Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine published by the Atlantic Council, which examined direct Russian military involvement in Ukraine.[37][38][39] Higgins together with a report co-author, Maks Czuperski[40] from the Atlantic Council, presented Hiding in Plain Sight at the European Parliament alongside Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin and former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.[41][non-primary source needed]

Higgins was also one of five authors of an Atlantic Council report released in 2016, Distract, Deceive, Destroy, on Russia's role in Syria.[42][43][44][45][46][47]

Higgins' 2021 book We Are Bellingcat documents the rise of citizen investigative journalism and Bellingcat and was The Times' and The Week's book of the week in February 2021.[48][49]

Reception edit

Higgins has received significant praise and support from human rights groups, journalists, and non-profit organisations. In 2013, Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch said "Brown Moses is among the best out there when it comes to weapons monitoring in Syria".[2] The New York Times war reporter C.J. Chivers said, in 2013, that fellow journalists owe a debt to Higgins' investigative reporting in Syria. "Many people, whether they admit or not, have been relying on that blog's daily labour to cull the uncountable videos that circulate from the conflict," he said.[2] Amnesty International said, in 2013, that the Brown Moses Blog was vital in proving the Syrian government was using ballistic missiles, information then used to send a research mission to Syria.[50]

Higgins has been a subject of interest for the British and U.S. media. In 2015, he was described as "one of the world's foremost citizen journalists" by News Limited reporter Victoria Craw.[51] He has been profiled in print by The Guardian,[2] The Independent,[12] The Huffington Post,[8] and The New Yorker.[3] Television features have been run by Channel 4 News[50] and CNN International.[9] He has also been covered by non-English sources.[52]

A 2015 Hanns Joachim Friedrichs Award (Sonderpreis) for excellence in journalism was awarded to Higgins and bellingcat.[53] In 2019, he was announced as one of Foreign Policy magazine's Global Thinkers.[54] In 2021, he was named one of the 28 most influential people in Europe, in the "Disrupters" category, by Politico Europe.[55]

Bibliography edit

  • Higgins, Eliot (19 July 2013). "How I Accidentally Became An Expert On The Syrian Conflict". Sabotage Times. Archived from the original on 23 July 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  • Maksymilian Czuperski; John Herbst; Eliot Higgins; Alina Polyakova; Damon Wilson (15 October 2015). "Hiding in plain sight: Putin's war in Ukraine". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  • Higgins, Eliot (26 January 2016). "Piecing together open source evidence from the Syrian Sarin attacks - First Draft Footnotes". First Draft News. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  • Higgins, Eliot (2021). We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-5266-1575-6.

References edit

  1. ^ "Eliott Ward Higgins". Companies House. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Weaver, Matthew (21 March 2013). "How Brown Moses exposed Syrian arms trafficking from his front room". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  3. ^ a b Keefe, Patrick Radden (25 November 2013). "Rocket Man". The New Yorker. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  4. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  5. ^ "Eliot Ward HIGGINS". Personal Appointments. Companies House. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  6. ^ Higgins, Eliot (2021). We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-5266-1575-6.
  7. ^ "Adams' Grammar School Alumni". Adams' Grammar School. Retrieved 6 November 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d Bosker, Bianca (18 November 2013). "Inside The One-Man Intelligence Unit That Exposed The Secrets And Atrocities Of Syria's War". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  9. ^ a b Shubert, Atika (1 April 2013). "In his living room, blogger traces arms trafficking to Syria". CNN International. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  10. ^ Higgins, Eliot (30 August 2012). "The Mystery of the Syrian Barrel Bombs". Brown Moses Blog. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  11. ^ Marcus, Jonathan (20 December 2013). "Syria conflict: Barrel bombs show brutality of war". BBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  12. ^ a b c Burrell, Ian (18 January 2015). "With Isis, Assad and Putin exposed, who's next on citizen journalist Eliot Higgins' list?". The Independent. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  13. ^ Keefe, Patrick Radden (29 March 2014). "The blogger who tracks Syrian rockets from his sofa". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Ein-Mann-Nachrichtenagentur" [One man news agency]. Suddeutsche Zeitung (in German). 1 June 2015. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  15. ^ Josie Ensor (24 August 2014). "Is this where James Foley was beheaded?". The Telegraph.
  16. ^ "Eliot Higgins - Nonresident Senior Fellow, Digital Forensic Research Lab, Future Europe Initiative". Atlantic Council. Archived from the original on 22 February 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  17. ^ Higgins, Eliot (16 January 2019). "I actually left the Atlantic Council at the start of this year to focus on justice and accountability work and a major Yemen project, so you'll need to update your conspiracy theories". Twitter.
  18. ^ Martin Hieslmair (12 June 2018). "Bellingcat: Looking for Traces in the Digital Environment". ars.electronica.art.
  19. ^ Presenter: Mark Coles; Producer: Smita Patel; Researcher: Oliver Jones; Editor: Emma Rippon (14 October 2018). "Profile: Eliot Higgins". Profile. BBC. BBC Radio Four. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  20. ^ Higgins, Eliot. "Bellingcat, for and by citizen investigative journalists". Kickstarter. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  21. ^ Tucker, Maxim (22 June 2015). "Meet Eliot Higgins, Putin's MH17 Nemesis". Newsweek. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  22. ^ Alfred, Charlotte (16 October 2015). "The Citizen Journalists Challenging Assad And Putin's Story Of War". The Huffington Post.
  23. ^ Borger, Julian (8 September 2014). "MH17: Dutch Safety Board to publish preliminary report on disaster". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  24. ^ "Forensic Analysis of Satellite Images Released by the Russian Ministry of Defense: A bell¿ngcat Investigation" (PDF). Bellingcat. 30 May 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  25. ^ "MH17 – Forensic Analysis of Satellite Images Released by the Russian Ministry of Defence". Bellingcat. 31 May 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  26. ^ Bidder, Benjamin (4 June 2015). "'Bellingcat Report Doesn't Prove Anything': Expert Criticizes Allegations of Russian MH17 Manipulation". Spiegel Online International. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  27. ^ Harding, Luke; Luhn, Alec (28 September 2016). "MH17: Buk missile finding sets Russia and west at loggerheads". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  28. ^ Jeune, Diamond (22 March 2023). "Eliot Higgins banned from AI program Midjourney for viral Trump deepfake images". We Got This Covered. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
  29. ^ Atlantic Council Associate Director
  30. ^ Ukraine Ambassador to Germany
  31. ^ "Conference: Exposing Russian Disinformation in the Twenty-First Century. Berlin, Germany". Atlantic Council. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  32. ^ "About the Eurasia Center". Atlantic Council. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  33. ^ "Exposing Russian Disinformation in the 21st. Century - Welcoming remarks". Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  34. ^ Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (3 July 2015). "Exposing Russian Disinformation in the 21st. Century - Welcoming remarks". via: YouTube. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  35. ^ Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (3 July 2015). "Russia's disinformation campaign in Europe". via: YouTube. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  36. ^ Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung. "Hiding In Plain Sight: Putins War In Ukraine And Boris Nemtsovs Putin.War". via: SoundCloud. Retrieved 3 March 2021. Presentation of Boris Nemtsov's Russia.War; Presentation of Hiding in Plain Sight Report; Panel discussion on what the US and European policy makers and Russian opposition leaders should do to counter Russian disinformation;
  37. ^ "MH17 A Year Later: Looking For Answers With Bellingcat". Hromadske International. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  38. ^ "Hiding in plain sight: Putin's war in Ukraine - Atlantic Council's DFRLab". Atlantic Council. 15 October 2015.
  39. ^ Ostrovsky, Simon. "Russia Denies That Its Soldiers Are in Ukraine, But We Tracked One There Using His Selfies". vice.com. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  40. ^ "Aleppo: Civilians, hospitals targeted in final attack, report says, rebutting Russian and Syrian claims". ABC News. 14 February 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  41. ^ "Boris Nemtsov's "Putin.War" & Atlantic Council's "Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine"". Putin. War. ALDE Group.
  42. ^ Williams, Brian Glyn; Souza, Robert Souza (30 November 2016). "The Consequences of Russia's 'Counterterrorism' Campaign in Syria". Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel. Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. 9 (11).
  43. ^ Ford, Christopher M.; Williams, Winston S. (21 December 2018). Complex Battlespaces: The Law of Armed Conflict and the Dynamics of Modern Warfare. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-091536-0. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  44. ^ "Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's Wars & the Power of Open Source". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  45. ^ "DISTRACT, DECEIVE, DESTROY: Putin at War in Syria" (PDF). Atlantic Council. April 2016. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  46. ^ "Report proves a direct Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine". Centre for East European Policy Studies. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  47. ^ German, Tracey; Karagiannis, Emmanuel (7 December 2018). The Ukrainian Crisis: The Role of, and Implications for, Sub-State and Non-State Actors. Routledge. p. 126. ISBN 978-1-351-73792-0. Retrieved 24 March 2021.
  48. ^ Rifkind, Hugo. "We are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins review — the rise of the 'intelligence agency for the people'". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  49. ^ "Book of the week: We Are Bellingcat by Eliot Higgins". The Week UK. Retrieved 26 April 2022.
  50. ^ a b O'Brien, Paraic (30 March 2013). "Brown Moses: the British blogger tracking Syrian arms". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  51. ^ Victoria Craw (29 January 2015). "Bellingcat citizen journalist Eliot Higgins is holding global governments to account". news.com.au. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015.
  52. ^ Higgins, Eliot (16 April 2013). "The Brown Moses Blog Fundraiser Launches!". Brown Moses Blog. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  53. ^ "2015 - Hanns Joachim Friedrichs Prize". Hanns Joachim Friedrichs Award (in German). 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2021. Special award to Eliot Higgins and the team of the research network Bellingcat. The jury awards the special prize to Eliot Higgins and his team for their unshakable confidence that in the fight for the truth they do not have to rely on covert or intelligence information, but rather convince the public with public, verifiable images and facts that are accessible to everyone. Their method of worldwide networking of publicly accessible sources and their competent and responsible evaluation is the best journalistic education on the battlefield of modern wars of propaganda and uncertainty. It is particularly effective where the climate of distrust and conspiracy has taken hold: on the Internet. The jury also recognizes the support that Higgins and his team give many journalists, including German, in their research. Eliot Higgins, born in 1979, is the founder and pioneer of the Bellingcat network platform. Blogger and citizen journalist. With his team and numerous researchers around the world, he evaluates hundreds of data and videos every day. His evaluations brought to light much that numerous newspapers and media, including in Germany, could rely on: For example, the use of cluster bombs and chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and the involvement of the Russian Buk missile system in the downing of the Air Malaysia MH17 commercial aircraft. The prize is endowed with € 2,500.00.
  54. ^ Foreign Policy global thinkers
  55. ^ "Eliot Higgins". POLITICO. 8 December 2021. Retrieved 13 December 2021.

Further reading edit

External links edit