Who Is Blaine Alan Gibson?

[Note: Today is the last in a series of excerpts I’m posting from my new ebook, “The Taking of MH370.” There’s a lot more in there, but I want to get some of the major findings out behind a paywell in order to further the public discussion.]

If the hijacking of MH370 was a Russian plot, and MH370 flew to Kazakhstan, then the pieces of debris collected in the western Indian Ocean must have been planted by the Russians in an effort to support the misleading southern narrative. Blaine Alan Gibson had demonstrated an uncanny knack for locating and publicizing this debris. Was Gibson somehow connected to Russia? 

Ever since he’d first crossed my radar screen, half a year before he found “No Step,” I’d struggled to understand this eccentric character. In the media, he consciously styled himself after Indiana Jones, with a brown fedora and a brown leather jacket. He portrayed himself as an inveterate adventurer and world traveler who before MH370 had pursued any number of quixotic international quests, including an attempt to find the lost ark of the covenant (more shades of Indiana Jones) and an expedition to the site of the Tunguska explosion in Siberia. His was a wonderfully appealing persona. After I wrote about him in New York magazine, TV producers started getting in touch with me, hoping I could hook them up with him to pitch reality shows about his life.

I wondered how, exactly, he was able to support such an exotic lifestyle. He described himself as a retired lawyer, based in Seattle, who inherited the money to fund his search after his mother passed away. He said that he’d started watching the MH370 coverage on CNN and gotten obsessed with the case while packing up her belongings. The inheritance must have been a tidy sum for a 60-year-old man, with decades of expenses ahead of him, to have the financial freedom to travel the world full-time. Yet his background did not suggest lavish wealth. 

Gibson was born in San Francisco on April 21, 1957. His 69-year-old father, Phil Gibson, had retired after serving as the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court from 1940 to 1969. The job was well-paying but not extravagently so; the position today pays $256,059 per year. Blaine grew up an only child. When he was 12, his mother, Victoria, took him on a long overseas trip that sparked a lifelong love of travel. 

Gibson finished high school in Carmel and enrolled at the University of Oregon. While working toward a degree in political science he made his first visit to the Soviet Union in 1976, at the age of 19, “just to understand what it was like.” After graduating in 1979, he earned a master’s degree at The School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He then worked briefly at a bank before spending three years on the staff of Washington State Senator Ray Moore, who like Gibson’s father was a staunch progressive.

Starting in September, 1986, Gibson took a job with the U.S. State Department. He was stationed in Rio de Janeiro and resigned after one year. He was in Red Square when the Soviet Union ended. According to a profile in Seattle Met magazine, “he could see that the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse and decided to capitalize on it. For 10 years he lived off and on in the newly capitalist Russia, serving as a consultant to new business owners and fattening a bank account that would later fund his globe-trotting.”

When I interviewed him for New York magazine, he told me that 20 years before, “when I was living and working in Russia, I was the second American to ever go to the epicenter of the Tunguska meteorite.” He explained that “I speak Russian fluently, I have access to Russian scientists, drinking vodka with them, they tell me what they really thought.”

Russian is not a language that one picks up on a whim. It is considered one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. Friends who served in the Peace Corps in Moldova tell me that according to U.S. State Department guidelines it takes three years to become proficient in Romanian but five years to become proficient in Russian.

In 1992, Gibson established a company called Siberia-Pacific Co, domiciled in his Seattle condo, with two co-founders from the Kemerovo Oblast, a coal-mining region of central Russia. Gibson also registered a company called Russian-American Pen-Pal Service. Gibson dissolved Siberia-Pacific in 2018, after I started making inquiries.  (It’s interesting to note that Brodsky, Deineka, Chustrak, and Gibson all made their fortunes by founding companies in the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, a time when public assets were being snatched up by organized crime bosses and corrupt officials.)

In 1993 Gibson wrote a bill for the Washington State Senate that would establish a trade office in the Russian Far East. In 2002, he took part in a conference held in the western Russian city of Obninsk called “Successes and Difficulties of Small Innovative Firms in Russian Nuclear Cities: Proceedings of a Russian-American Workshop.” Gibson gave a talk about navigating the ambiguities between privately and publicly held companies in cities that are home to nuclear power plants, which at that time foreigners were still restricted from visiting. This suggests a deep level of knowledge on Gibson’s part about the workings of Russian business.

Glenn Schweitzer, who organized the conference, told me that it was hard to find Americans who had experience doing business in nuclear cities, and so was grateful that he found Gibson. Schweitzer said he couldn’t recollect much about Gibson except that he had traveled all over Russia, even to small, obscure places that few Americans ever got to: “I found him to be an interesting guy, because he wasn’t like most of the Americans there.”

In 2004 Gibson took part in a Department of Commerce conference under the auspices of Siberia-Pacific. The conference was on the subject of “International Travel to the U.S.” This time he did not give a talk, however, so it’s not clear what his interest in the event was. He was involved in a Tajikistan tourism company between 2005 and 2008, and the company seems to have been active until at least 2013.

Gibson’s ties to Russia are more than professional. Several profiles quote Vladimir A. Gololobov, described in an AP article as a “friend” who “met Gibson nearly two decades ago while the American was in Siberia on business trips.”

Gololobov was born in 1977 and grew up in Novokuznetsk, a city in Kemerov Oblast. He earned a master’s degree in English and German Languages from Russia’s Kemerovo State University in 1999, when he was 22 years and Gibson was 42. After he met Gibson, Gololobov moved to the US to pursue a master’s degree in International Trade Policy Studies/Commercial Diplomacy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. During that time his listed address was the Gibson family’s home in Carmel. In 2002 Gololobov moved to Washington, DC and started working at the Coalition of Service Industries, a lobbying firm, on issues involving Russian trade. That same year Gibson bought a condo in DC that became Gololobov’s residence. In 2013 Gibson sold the condo to Gololobov for about $100,000 less than its market value.

When I called Golobov he at first denied that he knew Gibson. “I don’t know the person you’re talking about,” he said, adding: “I haven’t talked to the person you’re talking about.”

Incredulous, I asked: “You’re saying that you don’t know anything about Blaine Alan Gibson?”

Gololobov hedged. “I haven’t talked to him in a long time.”

I asked if he’d tell me about how he knew Gibson.

He answered, “No.”

I reached out to Gibson in hopes he could address the issues I’ve raised here, but he did not respond to my email.

So: Did Russia plant the MH370 debris found in the western Indian Ocean? 

We don’t know. 

Does the man who found most of the debris have significant ties to Russia? 


45 thoughts on “Who Is Blaine Alan Gibson?”

  1. @ Jeff Wise
    When you write that BG’s connections are not merely ‘professional,’ are you implying that he had personal connections to the Russian living in DC?
    What is the nature of this relationship? Was it more than just friendship?
    Was he gay?
    Did they have ‘kompromat’ on him from his days in the State dept.?

  2. The problem with the Russian theory is that Putin would be taking a huge risk to become involved in hijacking MH370. And to what end?

  3. Hi Jeff, I’m following your tweets, then I’ve tried to purchase the ebook by clicking your links but it is not available in Australia.. are you aware of this? Or is it our government?
    Doing a search on amazon, it does display with the price, click to purchase then;
    The error says this is not available in your country. Grrrr
    So much want to read your story.

  4. Even if we assume the maximalist case (on known evidence) of RU interference in the American election and Brexit those are not remotely the risk of doing this. The Skripal poisonings are a closer analogy, but even then … Your theory makes sense but breaks down for me at the motive. Russia just doesn’t particularly care if you noticed them annexing Crimea (just as they don’t care that everyone knew they did the Skripals a short time before hosting the football world cup and a Presidential election …) and actual repercussions for them (sanctions etc) weren’t going to be affected by the news cycle or coverage minutes on CNN. If the spoofing/hijack/north scenario turns out to be correct, there will have been something big we’re missing about the why. But, thanks for all the hard work, the book and blog are fascinating.

  5. Honestly I don’t know what to say. Implying a gay relationship and BG being gay seems a bit of a stretch to me given the evidence a frankly borders character assassination. How do you know about the condo purchase and the below market value sale? How do you know there were no other factors (maybe another payment that we don’t know about etc etc)?

    Sure BG seems a rather eccentric type but having traveled a bit myself you’d be surprised how many rather eccentric people there are in the world. To me he sounds pretty much like the typical person you meet who live in ‘faraway places’ like Russia, China, or south east Asia: quite lazy to be honest, not keen on life ‘back home’, not keen on traditional careers, a drifter essentially. His business ventures sound underwhelming in terms of success. When you do a quick back of the envelope calculation of his father it’s quite plausible that he made enough in his career to pay for a nice home in Carmel, and possibly some further income, but as you say, the judge’s salary wouldn’t have meant a huge independent income for BG. Having said that, you can live and travel rather cheaply if you’re the type – and BG really seems that type. Who knows, he might rent out the house in Carmel part of the year to fund traveling. All in all there’s no basis for you to ‘accuse’ him of gay relationships when where’s no further evidence for that and where the man himself has (chosen?) not to publicize that. Surely nowadays this wouldn’t constitute kompromat. Whether the guy really speaks fluent Russian, who knows. On the other hand, given that BG seems to not be great at having a career, maybe the inheritance is frittered away now and he needs money. Come to think about it, imagine you’re Russian and looking for a guy to reliably ‘find’ all the wonderful pieces of evidence you’ve planted (realistically you need someone to find it). Who could you use? I can see some Russians finding BG a good idea. Question is, how do you stop him from talking/writing down his ‘life story’ so that you can’t destroy it? If BG came out claiming Russia had directed him to find that evidence, that would be damning. Is that a risk they could/would take? With a guy who has little to lose?

  6. Will this book be available in print? I really want to read it, but I don’t have a Kindle. I don’t want to buy one just for this book. Adding my email to this comment, can you please email me back and let me know if there’s another way I can buy it?

  7. @Ken, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m going to make a paperback edition available, I’ll email you when it’s ready. Sorry for the frustration.

  8. @ Havelock, I don’t believe Jeff Wise claimed BAG was gay. He gave a no comment, which either suggests he has no idea or does not care to say, which seems honorable in these circumstances.

    You and I may not consider sexuality an issue to be worthy of black, but not everyone feels the same and many gay people, particularly of a certain age, believe it to live a closeted life and avoid fear, shame or, from certain quarters, even violence. See for example the American Senator Lindsey Graham, who seems to have a well known but plausibly deniable shadow life his evangelical constituents would not accept in the light of day.

    Please consider, also, that BAG could be a useful idiot in these circumstances, someone who is well known to the Russians and whose curiosities and interests and “eccentricities,” as you note, could be exploited without his own understanding of the manipulation. In that case, there’s nothing to write down, really.

  9. @Ken, if you have a smartphone or tablet, you can download the Kindle app and have an electronic copy of the book sent to it rather than to a Kindle device itself.

  10. @Jacqueline, I’m sorry to hear that. I just checked my Amazon dashboard and it shows that I have had some sales in Australia. Perhaps try again later? Sorry for the frustration.

  11. I notice the shooting of Zahid Raza didn’t feature in the book, Jeff.

    Did you do any investigation around this and rule it out?

  12. @Crobbie, Since the pieces would seem to have little impact on solving the case, I find it unlikely that his death was related to the fact that he had them.

  13. @Scott O

    Well I mean let’s be honest JW did imply the thing. Whilst it’s not completely abstruse given the circumstances, it could be anything – bg could have just helped that Russian guy, innocently. People do that, sometimes, especially in the context of ‘progressive’ attitudes etc. Citing a potentially closeted senator doesn’t really convince me since that senator depends on voters for his livelihood, whereas bg seems financially independent as far as we can see.

    Useful idiot sure, but still you would have to point him in the right direction. The places where bg went looking aren’t super obvious and a lot of ground to cover, so somehow you’d want to give him a clue. That however would be a dead giveaway and if you’re not 100% sure you can trust a guy or have dependable leverage, that can be suicidal. I can’t see the Russians having such 100% certain leverage. And I can’t see them risking bg going public about getting strangely spot on clues.

  14. @Havelock, It’s interesting to look at Carter Page as an example of someone who is a little, shall we say, larger than life, but seems to have made the cut. I think when looking for someone to do this kind of thing one can’t always be extremely choosy. Trump world is full of folks who seem to be short a ball bearing or two.

  15. Well his sexuality notwithstanding, it is quite true and undeniable that the guy was fascinatingly lucky in finding little pieces of debris on coastlines that are literally thousands of miles long (theoretically when you think about it there really wasn’t much to go on except ‘somewhere around the Indian Ocean’, which is kind of a lot of ground to cover). So either we believe that the plane went down in the SIO and the debris got there on its own and bg won the lottery several times over whilst taking leisurely strolls on a few nice beachws or JW has a point really. It could still be a red herring though, a perp other than Russia purposefully selecting a guy with a long history with Russia. However, realistically the thing about bg is that you would need to know about his existence in the first place. Seems to me he wasn’t very public. I mean when you think about it, we imply that there was a perp effectively brainstorming “well we want the western and Chinese public to believe once and for all that the plane went down in the SIO and need someone to find some planted debris, anyone know anybody?”. Bg isn’t such a bad choice coming kind of out of nowhere. You would have needed a guy where there’s at least some plausibility in pretending that he was doing it on his own and I guess there aren’t that many such people. If you had chosen a private detective f ex, maybe hired through a lawyer pretending to work for victim families, there would have been way more scrutiny and such private investigator would have been less easily directed to the ‘right’ places.

  16. Hi Jeff,

    I agree with Amanda: “Even if we assume the maximalist case (on known evidence) of RU interference in the American election and Brexit those are not remotely the risk of doing this . . . If the spoofing/hijack/north scenario turns out to be correct, there will have been something big we’re missing about the why.”

    I recommend that you focus on a non-Government perpetrator, who would view the potential reward of the hijacking as exceeding the risk.

  17. @Rodney Small: Are you aware that Russia blasted MH370’s sister plane out of the sky four months later? Don’t you think they took a risk in doing that?

    It can be very difficult to deduce what someone else’s risk-reward calculation might be, particular if that person is a former KGB officer.

  18. So what? How about one shred of evidence that the plane flew North and landed somewhere? Let’s be clear, you are saying that this Gibson guy is “working” with the Russians and planting plane debris in the Southern Indian Ocean to try and fool the world that the plane went South, instead of (presumably) North. Of course the obvious question is “WHY” and of course there is no answer because it is a ridiculous theory that one could argue is venturing into “tin hat / illuminati territory.” A reminder for many of you on this site that want to believe this conspiracy stuff……Just because the plane has not been found in the Souther Indian Ocean (yet) does NOT mean it is not there. It JUST HASN’T BEEN FOUND. A few miles one way or another and the search would have (and probably did) miss the debris.

  19. The reason MH17 was shot down was because it was misidentified as a military aircraft. While I agree that Blaine Gibson has a Russian connection, I can’t see any reason why Putin would want to hijack MH370. Perhaps if you keep researching Gibson, you will find that he is connected with a disaffected non-Government organization, whether Russian or otherwise.

  20. @Rodney, You don’t need to see a reason why someone would do something. You need to look at the evidence of whether they did it or not. Yes, I get that this theory requires the Russians to be scarily aggressive and clever. But they’ve managed to subvert US & UK elections, putting the UK on course for the greatest policy catastrophe in a century and installing a stooge in the White House. Long and short, they’ve been running circles around us for years and I see no reason to believe they weren’t doing it in 2014 as well.

    The most depressing/annoying thing for me isn’t seeing Russia attack Western liberal democracy–that they’re thing. It’s not even Trump, ’cause Trump is always going to Trump. What really gets me is Western pundits/analysts/politicians who day in day out watch Trump openly–OPENLY–side with Russia, subvert the constitution, and tear up the alliances that have made the country great, and pretend like everything is normal.

    I hope someday those who stood by and did nothing will feel some remorse at how they let down their country in its darkest hour.

    BTW, have you read the book?

  21. @Jeff
    Quote”@Rodney, You don’t need to see a reason why someone would do something. You need to look at the evidence of whether they did it or not. Yes, I get that this theory requires the Russians to be scarily aggressive and clever.”

    Well Jeff we can apply this to the Pilot Shah doing the Hijacking of the aircraft … He was on the controls that night, right?? So is it not the most logical conclusion?

  22. BK has a point though in that there is no convincing theory as to why ‘the Russians’ should have done what JW alleges.

    Influencing elections, helping trump and the brexiteers, I can see the point. But abducting that plane?? I mean MH17 was a different case again, it was a warzone etc. Even 1MDB doesn’t really cut it honestly – you want to scare some Malaysian politicians? Surely there are better ways?? Just kill a close associate or family member or similar. Stealthily abducting a plane? Like, who gives a f? So, the crux with ‘ze Russians’ is there is no plausibel motive. And don’t say, we don’t need one – yes we do.

    Is it possible though that the Russians “helped out”? I mean, the bg thing looks too clear to dismiss, though I have a hard time believing the rest of the Russia story. Maybe the plane was abducted by a different actor, who needed to deflect with this debris story, and asked for a favor? I mean, initially the search was focused on the south China Sea (for good reason, imho), then that got quickly deflected with the dubious satellite data. When the sat data had been used extensively and people started to wonder whether something might be off about it, conveniently the debris turns up again choking all non-western-route discussion.

  23. @Adnan, I consider Shah to be the only other potential culprit. Though obviously if you go down through all the evidence, I don’t think that hypothesis winds up holding as much water as you might expect at first glance.

  24. I haven’t read the book yet because, like at least one of your other readers, I don’t want to invest in Kindle. However, now that I understand that the book can be downloaded to my PC, I will do that. Moreover, I have read your posts on this subject since the beginning, and appreciate your effort in challenging the conventional wisdom. It’s just that I think the Putin connection is the weakest part of your argument. I think the most fruitful area to focus on at this point is the nature of the MH370 debris and Blaine Gibson’s role in finding so much of it.

  25. Jeff, just tried again using your link on twitter, it says this book is not available to purchase.
    I then searched on google which took me to amazon which said same message.
    Perhaps I’m missing something but I don’t think so. Grrrrr

  26. Hi Jeff,

    I had a lot of fun reading your book. Did you ever think about doing a gofundme? I would gladly give a few dollars to fund your investigation. It’s a lot of time and effort on your part.

    I read the comments here and I have to say I am not convinced by the Russia motive. I think going deeper in this would help a lot of readers to adhere to the theory. I understand that it’s a hard spot to dig, however.

    I would love to know why you think the evidence does not fit the fire hypothesis.

    Also, your book does not really talk about the copilot. And all the passengers were cleared, including the Ukraine and Russia ones; do you know what kind of background check they did on people? Was it thorough? These three guys look really shady.

  27. Thanks, Myriam. I appreciate your gofundme idea. I considered the idea but not very seriously–maybe a mistake.

    As to the background checks, I wonder how in-depth they were, or in some cases if they took place at all. I’ve talked to NOK who said that no one contacted them.

  28. @Jacqueline, I’m sorry you’ve had to endure this frustration. I’ve reached out to Amazon to see if we can figure out a solution. Thanks for your patience.

  29. @Jeff The only way I can see a connection would be if Raza had worked out that the discovery of the remains was not all it was reported to be by BG. Or perhaps had found intel on how the remains came to be where they were.

  30. @Jacqueline. I have accessed the book in Australia. Clicking on Jeff’s link I get the note below top right. I have followed the link in that note.
    “Kindle titles are available for AU customers on Amazon.com.au.
    Continue shopping on the Kindle Store at Amazon.com.au. “

  31. I note you quote Mark Galeotti in the book, I always find his stuff insightful. Just finished his new little primer “We Need to Talk about Putin” and I highly recommend it – he has a whole chapter on how actually risk-averse VP is.

  32. Jeff, I don’t know about your book, maybe you can tell me what it is called. I wanted to ask you what you think about Sy Gunson and his electrical fault theory. Personally I do not accept that all this cover up is to protect Boeing and doesn’t add up.i Also I was directed to take a look at Field McConnell and the Boeing uninterruptible Auto pilot. Have you assessed this ? Gueslain Wattlerose thinks MH370 was shot down, he has had several interviews in English. I would value your opinion.
    Kind regards, prue

  33. @Prudence Weeks, No one seems to know who Sy Gunson really is or what his deal is, but he is the most insidious and idefatigable troll in the MH370 universe. His mission seems to be to spread sophisticated-sounding misinformation. He used to write here and elsewhere but got banned and now seems devoted mostly to heavy coverage of Quora questions.

    The Boeing Uninterruptible Autopilot is a major garbage conspiracy theory — it got so much traction that the Malaysians had to address it specifically in their final report.

    Ghyslain Wattrelos has endured a tremendous loss, and seems heartfelt in his desire to find answers. As a next-of-kin he has special access to the French investigation and has revealed some interesting things about it. However, he has bought into some wackadoodle ideas, like the idea that MH370 was shot down by the Americans.

  34. @Amanda, Yes, Galeotti is an impressive person. I’ll have to check out the book, the idea of Putin being risk-averse certainly seems counterintuitive!

  35. @Crobbie, Right, either of those would make sense. As a reporter, I don’t see a way that I could report out either idea, especially from 10,000 miles away. Maybe I’ll make it to Madagascar one of these days…

  36. @Jeff. I now notice that when I click on it that top right link I mentioned it comes up with my personalised page. It let me buy through that with a click, for I have an account with Amazon.

    Using my wife’s computer, clicking on your link comes up with a note top left, “Deliver to Australia”. Clicking on that leads to the invitation to sign on to an Amazon account or create one, though what happens after that I have not explored since I do not want another account.

  37. Okay, I now have the book on my PC, and I have a question: The second sentence of Chapter 9 states: “We’d known since March that if the plane didn’t go south, it went north, to Kazakhstan.”

    Why necessarily Kazakhstan, to the exclusion of other nearby countries, such as China?

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