Brian Castner Profile picture
Investigating bombs & bullets for @Amnesty's Crisis Team. Former EOD officer. Author of THE LONG WALK, etc. New book: STAMPEDE, coming Apr '21. Views mine.
27 Apr
Been listening to the new podcast on Gallagher's war crimes trial, and I need to take issue with the basic conceit: "the series explores just how blurred the line between right and wrong has become in the forever wars."
Wrong. The line isn't blurry. 1/ podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the…
The series makes a dangerous fundamental misunderstanding of the law. Gallagher was accused of an extradjudical execution and targeting of civilians. That's not blurry or a grey area. That's a war crime. Under both IHL and the UCMJ. No ambiguity.
I keep waiting for an IHL lawyer to be interviewed on the podcast and explain this but it's episode 5 and none have appeared yet and I don't think one is coming.
Read 12 tweets
2 Mar
My new book, STAMPEDE, is coming out April 13th. (penguinrandomhouse.com/books/598588/s…)

A true joy of researching the Klondike gold rush was diving into the wealth of historical imagery. So every day between now & pub, I want to share a photo. Like this iconic shot of the Chilkoot Pass: 1/ Image
Prior to the 1897 rush, few prospectors worked the creeks off the Yukon. The indigenous people knew of the gold but had little use for it. The Russians barely left the Alaskan coast. Americans didn't arrive until the 1870s. To me these guys look made of soot and frostbite. 2/ Image
Early settlements like Fortymile were poor miserable places. The few miners dug out barely enough gold to cover costs and stay in the country. Sled dogs weren't fed in summer (cuz they weren't working) & so stole and ate anything left unguarded, incl (in 1 story) a lit candle. 3/ Image
Read 43 tweets
16 Dec 20
Important investigation here on the strike on the Shushi cathedral in October. The ordnance scraps collected at the scene remain a bit of a mystery, but to me they point to IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries) as the likely manufacturer. (photos in thread below)
There are photos in the HRW report that show a March 2019 manufacture date. They also show this same basic data plate pattern.
The font (particularly the "AO" and "0"), the data plate layout, the basic design, etc are all similar to other IAI products. For example, this Mikholit missile (this one labeled in Hebrew, because used domestically - Israel uses English in their exports).
Read 4 tweets
13 Dec 20
We've gotten a lot of feedback on this piece. Some is in bad faith, but some is legit and from researchers and journalists I respect, so let me answer a few concerns. 1/?
(I don't feed trolls. And I ignore government bots. But if you have constructive thoughts, reply away, I'll leave it open)
Q) A lot is going on in the conflict, why is your report so short?

Because it's not a report, it's a press release. Our reports, like this recent one on Yezidi kids, is 64 pages. Our output on the NK execution vids is less than 1000 words. amnesty.org/en/latest/news…
Read 20 tweets
27 Nov 20
Interesting use of web design here to explain this painting. But the pieces misidentifies the man in green, who is (my opinion) the key to it. I wrote about him in my book DISAPPOINTMENT RIVER. Warraghiyagey, the bridge between whites and the Iroquois. 1/ nytimes.com/interactive/20…
"Warraghiyagey" was Sir William Johnson, named by the Mohawk as "One Who Does Much." In the painting, he is the only main figure doing anything, running into the scene while everyone else sits and watches General Wolfe die.
Johnson was a British aristocrat who created a fur trading empire in the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York in the mid-1700s by partnering with Hendrick, the Mohawk chief.
Read 8 tweets
16 Dec 19
On my run today, listening to @Tmgneff on this podcast, I thought about the various discussions I've been having with veterans since the Afghanistan Papers story came out.

I realized I had been conflating two things: was this wrong, and was this news? (1/?-book list to follow)
I realized I have almost skipped past the wrongness, long ago having become accustomed to the official dissembling, what @AdrianBonenber1 calls "the absurdity and cravenness of this chartified process." It makes me angry, but it no longer surprises. newrepublic.com/article/155918…
So it is surely wrong for the gov't to lie & mislead for decades. But is it news? This is the part I had focused on, and on this score, I stand firm. Anyone paying attention (everyone should be) knew the US military has been disingenuous since...well, let's say the post-WWII era.
Read 11 tweets
31 Oct 19
Over the last week, protesters in Baghdad have died with some absolutely gruesome injuries. Every doc we talked to said it's trauma like they've never seen.

Here's a #thread about the new grenades being used, and why they are so deadly. amnesty.org/en/latest/news…
Listen, there are videos out there of these horrific injuries at the moment of impact. Do yourself a favor and don't watch them - your sleep will thank you. The CT scans from hospital afterward are bad enough, as you can see.
Why such awful trauma? Less-lethal weapons can always kill when used incorrectly, and police should never fire grenades directly at people. But this is a new level of damage. Not only are Iraqi security forces firing at point blank range, they are using a heavier kind of grenade.
Read 11 tweets
22 Oct 19
In August we went to Tripoli to do post-blast investigations on civilian casualties. Full @amnesty report & cool interactive map at the link.

But for #osint & #weapons twitter here's a long #thread on what exactly we pulled out of the craters & bomb dumps amnesty.org/en/latest/news…
We made it to 33 strikes, on both sides of the front line: Tarhouna, Qasr Bin Ghashir, Wadi al-Rabie, al-Swani, etc. Some of the craters were a month old. Others, like a slaughterhouse hit on Eid, were just struck that day. I managed to pull fresh frag out of nearly every spot
Not surprisingly, old inaccurate Gaddafi-era rockets and artillery caused the majority of civilian casualties. But we saw A LOT of Blue Arrow 7 strikes - in the vacated buffer along the front lines, lots of cheap burned out technicals hit by v. expensive guided missiles.
Read 17 tweets
1 Oct 19
Today we are releasing a new investigation into an American airstrike that caused civilian casualties in Somalia.

With so much Trump impeachment news to keep up on, why should you spare a moment on 3 dead farmers in Somalia?

Give me a shot in this #thread to answer that.
First, the facts: on 18 March 2019, the US launched an airstrike against 3 men driving in a Toyota SUV on their way back to Mogadishu. Everyone agrees on that.

@USAfricaCommand says they killed 3 "terrorists."

We say they don't know who they killed. amnesty.org/en/latest/news…
This word "terrorist" is important. After 18 years of war, it no longer means what you think it means.

The US isn't talking about operatives planning international attacks. AFRICOM told us they hit "lower level al-Shabaab" or "affiliates" ahead of a ground operation.
Read 17 tweets
18 Feb 19
This senior French artillery officer says from inside the Coalition what many of us have been saying from outside: the destruction of ISIS didn't have to mean the rubblization of eastern Syria and northern Iraq. /thread thenational.ae/world/mena/top…
Here are some choice quotes: "Yes, the Battle of Hajin was won, at least on the ground but by refusing ground engagement, we unnecessarily prolonged the conflict and thus contributed to increasing the number of casualties in the population." 2/
Also: "We have massively destroyed the infrastructure and given the population a disgusting image of what may be a Western-style liberation leaving behind the seeds of an imminent resurgence of a new adversary." 3/
Read 10 tweets
21 Aug 18
Last night, the US admitted publicly that they killed al-Asiri in a drone strike. He was NOT a master bomb maker, & speaking now as a former EOD tech, the US obsession with al-Asiri embodies everything misguided about US natsec "strategy." (thread/)
Quick recap: al-Asiri is the reason we have body-scanners and laptop checks in airports, though he was fundamentally a failed bomb designer. He was the "mastermind" of plots that didn't work, but he was on the FBI's Most Wanted List for years. (2/)
His first target was the Saudi royal family - in 2009, he recruited his brother as a suicide bomber and inserted a device in his rectum, who activated it when meeting a minister. His brother died, the minister received minor injuries. (3/)
Read 13 tweets