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Bellingcat DID take UK Foreign Office money, open logs show, directly contradicting Eliot Higgins’ claims

By Kit Klarenberg | RT | October 27, 2020

Controversial ‘open source investigations’ website Bellingcat was paid directly by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) at least once, official data shows, debunking its founder and chief’s claims to the contrary.

Suggestions that Bellingcat is a tool of Western governments, and funded by them directly, have long-abounded – and consistently been denied by founder and chief Eliot Higgins.

Such allegations reached fever pitch in late 2018, when files related to the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) military intelligence operation Integrity Initiative were leaked by hacktivist collective Anonymous. The papers revealed the secret endeavour, among other things, worked to discredit left-leaning, anti-war figures at home and abroad, and maintained clandestine global networks of journalists, academics, and military and intelligence operatives to spread pro-Western propaganda and encourage more aggressive policies toward Moscow.

Several documents openly referred to Bellingcat, at least one suggesting the organizations were collaborating on certain projects – if true, this would in turn imply Bellingcat was in receipt of FCO cash. Higgins was repeatedly probed on the question via Twitter, but he strenuously denied Bellingcat had conducted any work for or with the Initiative, or received FCO funding.

However, publicly-available documents prove the latter contention, at least, to be an outright lie. As Declassified UK chief Matt Kennard revealed on Twitter on October  26, official FCO procurement figures make clear the department paid Bellingcat £1,800 on December 20 2018 for “consulting, management and public relations” services – mere days prior to several of Higgins’ spirited denials.

The precise nature of the “consulting, management and public relations” services rendered by the organization is unclear, although it may be related to shadowy FCO program Open Information Partnership (OIP).

Officially, under its auspices Bellingcat collaborates with the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, Zinc Network and Media Diversity Institute to “work together through peer-to-peer learning, training and working groups to pioneer methods to expose disinformation,” in collaboration with a sizable network of NGOs across Europe.

However, leaked documents suggest the endeavor is in actuality an avowed “disinformation factory” itself, seeking to covertly further Whitehall’s global policy objectives, seeking to influence “elections taking place in countries of particular interest to the FCO,” and other malign objectives – and strongly suggest Integrity Initiative is involved in the endeavour, or at least was at some stage.

The Initiative’s parent ‘charity’ Institute for Statecraft was named as one of OIP’s partners alongside Bellingcat et al, a number of Initiative staff were to be seconded to OIP, and the Initiative’s “pre-existing pool of contacts” was intended to serve “as a springboard for the identification of new potential network members.”

Significantly, the documents also detail numerous examples of OIP partners collaborating prior to the program’s April 2019 launch – yet further indications Eliot Higgins was also lying when he denied Bellingcat had ever joined forces with the Integrity Initiative.

For instance, in Ukraine OIP collaborated with a dozen online ‘influencers’ “to counter Kremlin-backed messaging through innovative editorial strategies, audience segmentation, and production models that reflected the complex and sensitive political environment,” in the process allowing them to “reach wider audiences with compelling content that received over four million views.”

In Russia and Central Asia, OIP worked with a network of ‘YouTubers’ in Russia and Central Asia to create videos “promoting media integrity and democratic values.” Somewhat sinisterly, participants were also taught how to “make and receive international payments without being registered as external sources of funding” and “develop editorial strategies to deliver key messages,” while the organization minimized their “risk of prosecution” and managed “project communications” to ensure the existence of the network, and indeed OIP’s role, were kept “confidential.”

Bellingcat’s website notes the organization is an OIP partner, although the fact that the program is funded entirely by the FCO – a fact openly stated on OIP’s homepage – isn’t mentioned. Upon the endeavour’s launch, Higgins was keen to claim Bellingcat was “subcontracted” for the project by OIP partner Zinc Network, which in turn received FCO funds. A cynic might suggest this semantic fudge allowed him to maintain the fiction Bellingcat wasn’t funded directly by the FCO, thus preserving the myth the organization is an independent citizen journalist collective, while nonetheless being heavily bankrolled by the UK government.

Alternatively, it may be the case that Whitehall itself wishes to distance itself from Higgins. After all, a leaked FCO-commissioned appraisal of Bellingcat concluded the organization was “somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay.”

Whatever the truth of the matter, there are indications Bellingcat’s relationship with the FCO may extend far further than what can be pieced together from publicly-available information. A Freedom of Information request submitted to the FCO in January 2019 asked the department for all internal documents related to research on the Syrian crisis mentioning Bellingcat, particularly those relating to the use of chemical weapons in the country, and “any documents that refer to the reliability of Bellingcat as a source when drafting research assessments.”

In response, the FCO stated it could “neither confirm nor deny it holds information relevant to your request,” on the grounds of “safeguarding national security.”

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. Follow Kit on Twitter @KitKlarenberg

October 28, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

The War on Truth, Dissent and Free Speech

Syria, the OPCW Douma Investigation and the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media

Dr Piers Robinson | OffGuardian | October 6, 2020

On Saturday 13 June 2020 the Times newspaper published its third attack on academics associated with researching British government propaganda and the war in Syria. This time the attack focused on smearing myself and Professor David Miller with the objective of discrediting an academic organization we established, the Organisation for Propaganda Studies (OPS), designed to foster research and writing on propaganda.

The article contained multiple falsehoods and distortions and was similar in style to previous attacks aimed at character assassination mainly through employment of the ‘conspiracy theorist’ smear. Most prominently the hatchet pieces misleadingly conflated work by members of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), of which myself and Miller are also members, with the OPS. Formal complaints from the OPS are in process and the Times has already been forced to issue a number of corrections.

Of course, character assassination as a propaganda tactic is widespread and there is even a Routledge academic handbook on the subject, the Routledge Handbook of Character Assassination and Reputation Management’, which was published in 2019 and contains 30 odd chapters. The attacks by the Times have been amplified by similar pieces written by Chris York for the Huffington Post.

In total, approximately 20 articles have been produced attacking those of us who are working on the war in Syria and questioning important aspects of UK propaganda operations. The bulk of these articles have been written by just two journalists, Dominic Kennedy for the Times newspaper and Chris York for the Huffington Post. This represents an extraordinarily intensive and sustained campaign against us.

Why on earth have we gotten into so much trouble?

A history of the attacks is instructive. Attention first started to be paid by former Guardian journalist Brian Whitaker in February 2018 when he penned a series of crude hatchet pieces on his blog smearing academics associated with the then newly established WGSPM. At that point Huffington Post journalist Chris York had already been attempting for several months to make contact with me, Professor Tim Hayward and journalist Vanessa Beeley.

But it was several weeks after Whitaker’s smears that the attacks started in earnest. Following the now controversial alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma, Syria, on 7th April 2018, the US UK and France bombed Syrian government targets claiming Syria was responsible for the attack. At the same moment these air attacks were underway, the Times of London published four articles which included one on the Front page, photographs of some of us from WGSPM and an editorial.

These articles smeared the academics as ‘conspiracy theorists’ for questioning official narratives regarding chemical weapon attacks in Syria, as ‘Assadists’ and also implied the existence of nefarious links with Russia. Chris York of the Huffington Post then followed the Times attack with multiple articles attacking us. The articles followed a similar pattern to the Times’ hatchet pieces involving allegations of ‘conspiracism’, ‘war crimes denial’, being pro Assad and pro Putin etc. More than two years later, attack pieces are still being published.

The vast bulk of the output of WGSPM has concerned the issues of alleged chemical weapon attacks in Syria and, in particular, the Douma event. The working group’s briefing notes documented serious anomalies and issues regarding these attacks and, in particular, critically analysed both the OPCW investigations of these alleged attacks and also identified the involvement of UK-linked actors, including the late James Le Mesurier (founder of the White Helmets) and Hamish de Bretton-Gordon.

The evidence, as the working group briefing notes set out, is that the OPCW Douma investigation was manipulated in order to ensure the finger was pointed at Syrian government responsibility for the alleged chemical weapon attack. In reality, the evidence did not demonstrate an attack had occurred and, in fact, pointed toward the attack having been staged.

Our findings have been presented at an event at the UK House of Commons and at the Harvard-Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons.

The WGSPM has not been alone in raising questions and a wide body of material now corroborates its work. For example, even at the time of the Douma attack credible individuals voiced doubt about the likelihood of the Syrian government launching a chemical weapon attack in Douma just as its forces were on the brink of retaking the enclave.

For example, both retired Major General Jonathan Shaw and Admiral Lord West questioned the tactical logic of any such an attack and the latter raised the possibility the event was carried out by opposition groups.

Following the publication of the final OPCW report on Douma in March 2019, an engineering report was leaked to WGSPM and which concluded that the chlorine gas cylinders had likely been manually placed at the alleged attack scenes rather than having been dropped from a Syrian air force helicopter. This engineering report, it subsequently transpired, had been rejected by OPCW management on spurious grounds.

During the Autumn of 2019 the Courage Foundation hosted a panel at which a former OPCW official briefed a panel of trusted and authoritative individuals, including José Bustani the first Director General of the OPCW, about significant procedural and scientific flaws regarding chemistry, ballistics, toxicology and witness statements.

An open letter addressed to OPCW states parties from the Courage Foundation followed and was signed by eminent voices such as Professor Noam Chomsky, Hans von Sponeck (former UN Assistant Secretary-General), GCHQ whistleblower Katharine Gun, former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter, film director and producer Oliver Stone and John Pilger.

Since then, multiple documents have been published by Wikileaks evidencing irregularities with respect to the Douma FFM investigation whilst journalists such as Peter Hitchens (Mail on Sunday ), Stefania Maurizi (formerly of La Repubblica ) and Robert Fisk (The Independent ) have reported on the issue.

Peter Hitchens has been a particularly vociferous voice defending the reputations of two OPCW staff who have been subjected to a malicious internal investigation aimed at smearing their reputations. In 2020, further leaks have been published by The Grayzone in the United States including statements from further OPCW persons and, most recently, Aaron Maté published an article in the leading US current affairs magazine The Nation.

Finally, and by no means least, former OPCW inspector Ian Henderson addressed an Arria Formula meeting of the UN Security Council at which he detailed the irregularities and misconduct he had experienced with respect to the FFM Douma investigation. In September 2020, a second Arria Formula meeting was held at which OPCW Syia FFMs and the Douma investigation were again debated and which included, again, the former OPCW Inspector Ian Henderson. And, this week at a UN Security Council meeting, a statement from OPCW First Director-General José Bustani was read out in which yet again raised concerns about the conduct of the OPCW Douma investigation.

To any casual observer it should be abundantly clear that the activities and output of the WGSPM is entirely legitimate. Our work has been at the forefront of an issue that has been discussed by mainstream media journalists and has been corroborated by information from people within the OPCW itself.

Why then have the Times of London and the Huffington Post published approximately 20 articles (including three Times leaders) in 2 years targeting us?

In general, the behaviour of both the Times and the Huffington Post is disturbing and suggestive of a deliberate campaign aimed at suppressing public debate regarding both the war in Syria and the involvement of the UK government in supporting activities aimed at the overthrow of the Syrian government.

UK involvement in the Syrian war has included direct support for opposition groups as well as potentially criminal activity relating to the OPCW and connection with the staging of alleged chemical weapon attacks.

In the last few weeks, a large volume of FCO documents have been leaked which document a vast ‘strategic communication’ operation aimed at supporting the war against Syria. According to Ben Norton from the Grayzone:

[V]irtually every major Western corporate media outlet was influenced by the UK government-funded disinformation campaign exposed in the trove of leaked documents, from the New York Times to the Washington Post, CNN to The Guardian, the BBC to Buzzfeed.

In fact, there are some indications that the media attacks might be the direct result of deliberate media alignment with the UK government position on Syria and its well-established policy seeking to overthrow the existing Syrian government. Specifically, two of the authors of the original Times attack on the academics, Dominic Kennedy and Deborah Haynes, are identified in leaked documents as being associated with the UK government-funded propaganda operation known as the Integrity Initiative.

The Integrity Initiative leaks provided powerful insights on how propaganda operations were being built around “clusters” of journalists. Haynes has subsequently denied involvement with the article whilst Kennedy has repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding the relationship between his articles and the Integrity Initiative.

Most notably, Times columnist Oliver Kamm has stated in public that the late James Le Mesurier ‘had reached out to this newspaper to urge us to keep on their [the academics] case’.

Regarding Huffington Post, Chris York’s line manager, Jess Brammar, is a member of the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee which works with the UK government on influencing and controlling media reporting of defence and security related issues. Further information regarding the organizational details and scale of media-related activities aimed at suppressing criticism of UK Syria policy is still being investigated and information will be published in due course by WGSPM.

However, even if it is, as of yet, unclear whether the attacks are at the behest of those involved in UK government/FCO strategic communication operations related to Syria, it is certainly the case that they have a deleterious impact on open public debate and academic research. People might reasonably expect mainstream media to uphold, defend and encourage research and debate, as opposed to smear honest academics who are simply doing their jobs.

Even more seriously, the available evidence indicates that the alleged attack in Douma involved the murder of captive civilians. That means the event surrounding Douma likely involve an extremely serious, and indeed horrific, war crime. Those seeking to hinder those in pursuit of the truth run the risk of complicity, whether knowing or unknowingly, in a war crime and run legal jeopardy as a result.

A final note. The late Julian Perry Robinson, one of the world’s leading experts on chemical and biological weapons, was in communication with the Working Group. In an earlier era, Robinson played a key role challenging the false claim made by the US government that Soviet-backed forces in Laos and Cambodia were deploying toxins.

At the time of his death, he was completing a chronology regarding chemical weapons and the war in Syria. Writing about the events surrounding alleged chemical weapon attacks in Syria and the vicious attacks against WGSPM, he noted that:

It is not immediately clear from their pronouncements that the critics of the WGSPM just quoted have in fact adequately studied the Group’s publications. They certainly seem not to have done their reading with the care that might have been expected ahead of such vicious denigrations.

So is the Group simply becoming a victim of the fake news and other acts of information warfare it has itself been seeking to counter? Is the WGSPM being maliciously targeted by enemies that its principled research and outreach seem to have created?

— Part 8: The Chemical Warfare Reported From Syria: a documented chronology detailing reports of events in Syria since 1982 said to have involved use of chemical weapons, by Julian Perry Robinson

It was Julian Perry Robinson who subsequently invited WGSPM member Professor Paul McKeigue to present at the Harvard-Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Weapons roundtable meeting in March 2020.

If a figure of such standing and brilliance wished for his colleagues to hear our analysis, where does this leave the Times and the Huffington Post who have so relentlessly sought to silence us through character assassination and smears?

Not, I would suggest, in a very good place.

Dr Piers Robinson is a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies and convenor of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media. He writes here in a personal capacity.

October 6, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

The “Russia Report”: Deep State reinforcing delusion to spread fear and seize power

“Suppressed” report should be a lesson to those who begged for its release – be careful what you wish for.

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | July 22, 2020

The “Russia report” is an action plan for the intelligence agencies to hand MI5 direct control over the mechanisms of British democracy, and give the government legal power to control social media.

Nobody in the mainstream will tell you this. The media are going to tell you it’s a “shocking condemnation Britain’s vulnerability to hostile state actors” or something similar, the Remainers will tell you it’s cast iron evidence the Brexit vote was rigged, and Luke Harding will tell you it means “they” are all around us and you should buy a copy of his book.

The truth is it’s just the latest of the Deep State’s plays to secure as much power as possible as quickly as possible. If anything, it already feels old-fashioned, being authored in a pre-Covid world, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be put to use in service of the world’s “new normal”.

In terms of actual content, there’s nothing new here. It’s just a collection of familiar proven lies and unproven accusations in the service of four primary agendas:

  1. Invalidating the result of the Brexit referendum
  2. Boosting funding/resources for the UK’s “Cyber Offensive capabilities”
  3. Ceding more powers to MI5 to oversee and “protect” our democratic processes
  4. Creating a “protocol” that empowers the government/intelligence agencies to force social media companies to censor and/or ban certain material, opinions, websites or users

You can plow through the whole thing here if you really feel the need.

For those outside the UK, who may not be aware of this story, sometime last year it was “leaked” that the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee had prepared a report on “Russian interference” in UK politics. In a brilliant piece of PR manoeuvring, Boris Johnson refused to make the report public.

This decision manipulated those who consider themselves “the left” in British politics to clamour for the release of the “Russia Report”, believing there would be something in it that Boris didn’t want us to see. This was an act of pure naivety by Corbynista influencers, and deliberate public manipulation by the “leftist” media.

Yesterday Boris Johnson’s government finally “caved” to this pressure, and released a “confidential report” which tells us nothing we haven’t been told a million times before. This apparently secret testimony has been blasted across headlines in every broadsheet and tabloid for years.

Russia is accused of poisoning the Skripals, leaking the DNC emails, using “bots and trolls” to influence public opinion…and so and so on.

The witnesses called are all either actual spies (Christopher Steele), or “journalists” heavily involved with the Integrity Initiative (Edward Lucas). No evidence is supplied, save the tired old links to “academic studies” conducted by bought-and-paid-for NATO shills like Ben Nimmo and Bellingcat (whose direct funding from the likes of the Atlantic Council and National Endowment for Democracy represents a massive conflict of interest that is never once mentioned in the report).

In that way, the report is massively dated. Its lies, worn smooth through repetition, are dry and stale.

But that’s not the point of this report. That’s the first part of the Hegelian Dialectic. The “problem”, long since mythologised, created by force of repetition without ever being evidenced. This report is far more concerned with generating a “reaction”, and the procuring consent for a pre-planned “solution” (the report doesn’t shy away from this obvious structure – using the terms “threat” and “reaction” instead).

In short, buried in the 55 pages of waffle, repetition and bureaucratic double-talk, are key suggestions to take a more warlike stance against Russia and parlay this into a simultaneous crackdown on dissent at home, all while securing shiny new powers for MI5.

Firstly, the UK plans to strike a new attitude on “attribution” of alleged cyber attacks, claiming, apparently with a straight face:

The UK has historically been reticent in attributing cyber attacks – as recently as 2010, this Committee was asked to redact mention of Russia as a perpetrator of cyber attacks, on diplomatic grounds.

But the UK’s “reticence” to blame Russia for cyber attacks is over, they now intend to “name and shame” foreign actors who carry out cyber attacks:

there has to now be a cost attached to such activity. When attacks can be traced back – and we accept that this is in itself resource-intensive – the Government must always consider ‘naming and shaming’.

[NOTE: This section on “attribution” would be an absolutely ideal time to mention that another state player – namely the US military – has the technology to carry out cyber attacks and make it appear to have come from somewhere else. We know they know, because of the Wikileaks Vault 7 leaks, but they don’t mention it.]

Oh, and they’re going to “leverage” their diplomatic relations to force those countries who would rather not start a new cold war based on the testimony of lunatics, fraudsters and underwear salesmen, to publicly blame Russia for… pretty much everything:

it is apparent that not everyone is keen to adopt this new approach and to ‘call out’ Russia on malicious cyber activity. The Government must now leverage its diplomatic relationships to develop a common international approach when it comes to the attribution of malicious cyber activity by Russia and others.

This is dishonest, and potentially dangerous, but this kind of geo-political positioning is very much the long game. It’s the short term stuff, the local stuff, we should really worry about.

Like handing over powers to “monitor” and “protect” the democratic processes of the country to MI5 [our emphasis]:

Overall, the issue of defending the UK’s democratic processes and discourse has appeared to be something of a ‘hot potato’, with no one organisation recognising itself as having an overall lead. Whilst we understand the nervousness around any suggestion that the intelligence and security Agencies might be involved in democratic processes […] that cannot apply when it comes to the protection of those processes […] Protecting our democratic discourse and processes from hostile foreign interference is a central responsibility of Government, and should be a ministerial priority. In our opinion, the operational role must sit primarily with MI5

They recommend this, based on MI5’s pre-existing “relationship built with social media companies”. They don’t mention, at this stage, how social media companies have “built a relationship” with MI5, or what role they might serve in “protecting democracy”, but it’s not hard to guess.

Social Media is an important theme in the report, actually, being mentioned fifteen times in 47 pages.

Firstly, we’re told that social media companies must bear the brunt of the blame for “hostile state activity” being at all effective:

we note that – as with so many other issues currently – it is the social media companies which hold the key and yet are failing to play their part

Before they add the government must seek a “protocol” by which social media companies remove any material the UK government deems “hostile state use” of their platform:

The Government must now seek to establish a protocol with the social media companies to ensure that they take covert hostile state use of their platforms seriously, and have clear timescales within which they commit to removing such material

Any companies who refuse to do this will be “named and shamed”.

You might think “well, this protocol could easily be used against people with no state affiliation whatsoever”, and you’d be right. It could. The government admits as much, but doesn’t seem to have a problem with it:

Such a protocol could, usefully, be expanded to encompass the other areas in which action is required from the social media companies, since this issue is not unique to Hostile State Activity

This would be a good time to note that the Atlantic Council employees this report cites have, in the past, labelled people “bots” who are definitely, provably not bots. This includes noted independent journalists and a world-renowned concert pianist.

The proposed “protocol” opens up an avenue for the state to silence dissident individuals by similarly “mistaking” them for state-backed agents.

Another thing the report is keen on is boosting the UK’s “Offensive Cyber” capabilities:

this is an era of hybrid warfare and an Offensive Cyber capability is now essential. The Government announced its intention to develop an Offensive Cyber capability in September 2013, and in 2014 the National Offensive Cyber Programme (NOCP) […]The UK continues to develop its Offensive Cyber capability.

What their offensive cyber capabilities ARE, and how they use them, is never described. Are they used solely against other states, or against domestic politic parties, organizations and individuals too? They don’t say.

Is cyberwarfare even legal under international law? Well, no. In fact, the way the report dances around the idea that cyberwarfare is actually potentially illegal under international law is a thing of beauty:

While the UN has agreed that international law, and in particular the UN Charter, applies in cyberspace, there is still a need for a greater global understanding of how this should work in practice […] Achieving a consensus on this common approach will be a challenging process, but as a leading proponent of the Rules Based International Order it is essential that the UK helps to promote and shape Rules of Engagement, working with our allies.

The fact that people out there can even begin to cite this report in earnest when it describes the UK as a “key defender of a Rules Based International Order” just boggles my mind.

The real scary stuff comes later though, in the “legislation” section.

The UK is already one of the most surveilled countries in the world, and the report happily mentions that last February, the UK police/intelligence agencies got [our emphasis]:

new powers to stop, question, search or detain any person entering the UK gained Royal Assent in February 2019; it is not necessary for there to be suspicion of engagement in hostile activity in order to use these powers.

Following on from this, the report recommends a new Espionage Act and a Foreign Agent Registration Act, to “crackdown” on espionage.

Hearings resulting from these acts could be “closed material proceedings” to protect national security.

For those who don’t know, in UK law a “closed material proceeding” is a hearing where a prosecutor presents some evidence directly to a judge which is kept secret from both the public and the defense counsel.

Until this new legislation is passed, the report warns, “the Intelligence Community’s hands are tied.”

To sum up, the long-awaited Russia report is – surprise surprise – not a trove of secrets and corruption which could bring down the Johnson government. It was never going to be that, despite what all the fake-left “journalists” were saying, and what all the Labour supporters who should know better were tweeting.

It was actually sickening to watch so many people, especially in Corbyn’s camp, cry-out for this report and not realise they were getting played. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Cheap reverse psychology that doesn’t work on children past the age of about five, but apparently does work on the majority of the members of the Labour party.

Thanks to their gullibility, no one is questioning the honesty, providence or intentions of a report which finds, in short:

  • MI5 should have more control over our democratic systems.
  • We should spend more money on developing cyber attack ability.
  • We should investigate and maybe overturn the Brexit vote.
  • We should pass authoritarian new legislation
  • Social Media companies should take down whatever the government says they should take down.

People who are supposed to guard against tyranny and hold power to account have abandoned their posts to take part in anti-Russia hysteria which endangers what remains of our civil liberties.

As a result, we’re getting headlines like this:

GUARDIAN : Report damns number 10 and spy agencies over Russia

And this:

MAIL : Now tame the Russian bear

And this:

THE TIMES : MI5 to get more powers

It’s the same old lies, on the same old topics, told by the same old people, for the same old reasons. The only difference is, this time, they managed to trick some of the gullible “woke” left into begging for it.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Pangs of conscience or howl of an empty wallet? Steele claims he never meant for infamous Russiagate dossier to go public

RT | July 22, 2020

Former British spy Christopher Steele insists he never wanted the notorious Trump dossier, which was central to the Russiagate investigation, to be made public. The belated pang of conscience emerged in response to a new lawsuit.

Steele would have done “whatever I could do to prevent” BuzzFeed from publishing the dossier, he told London’s High Court in a written statement on Wednesday.

The document, which Steele compiled at the behest of the US opposition research firm Fusion GPS and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, was published in early January 2017, shortly before Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The former spy’s pang of conscience might have had something to do with the defamation lawsuit by Russian tech entrepreneur Aleksey Gubarev. One of the claims in the Steele dossier was that Gubarev’s Webzilla internet service provider was used by Russian security services to hack the Clinton campaign. The tech executive has not only denied the claim but sued both BuzzFeed and Steele for making it.

Despite his professed remorse, however, Steele admitted he provided copies of the “pre-election” dossier, compiled between June and October 2016, to the FBI and the State Department because of its “national security implications.” Another copy was sent to a UK national security official in the days following the election, lest the Trump administration “compromise British sources and operations.”

He whipped up a second version in December 2016, and gave that to the same UK official, as well as the since-deceased Arizona Senator John McCain – who leaked it to a number of US media outlets, including BuzzFeed, Steele explained.

That second memo, he wrote, was “self-evidently sensitive and confidential,” meaning it was never intended to make it into print, where Gubarev could read it and sue him.

Steele has admitted the dossier was largely “unverifiable,” presumably intended to serve as the basis for further investigation that could confirm or deny its claims. Earlier this week, internet sleuths suggested that Steele’s mysterious Russian source was in fact a Washington-based Brookings Institute researcher, who lacked firsthand knowledge of any of its salacious claims.

Steele has previously said that his 17-page report was commissioned with the intention of giving Clinton legal basis to challenge the 2016 election. While the legal challenge never happened, the dossier saw plenty of uses in “further investigation” of Trump, both official and in the court of public opinion.

The FBI used it as the backbone of its request for a FISA warrant to spy on Trump’s campaign via aide Carter Page, whom Steele claimed met secretly with Russian agents in Moscow. The dossier also underpinned special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling ‘Russiagate’ probe.

While Mueller ultimately came up empty in his efforts to prove the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian government to get the president elected, relations between the US and Russia deteriorated considerably as Trump’s cabinet urged him to take a more antagonistic position toward Moscow so as not to be seen as the ‘Putin puppet’ the media and Democrats were determined to call him anyway.

July 22, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Sound familiar? Reddit says US-UK trade deal leaks may be tied to Russia, citing speculation from… of course, Atlantic Council

RT | December 7, 2019

A trove of secret papers cited by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in attacking the Tories may have links to Moscow, Reddit has announced. The proof? The US-UK-NATO-funded Atlantic Council says it isn’t sure but it might be true.

The leaked documents, which were shared on the discussion site several weeks ago, point to evidence that the United States would demand a market share in the UK’s National Health Service in any trade talks after Brexit. In a statement, Reddit said that it believed that the accounts that had shared the documents were “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia.”

The vague wording is further muddled by the source that Reddit cites: The Atlantic Council. Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the think tank, said that the leaks “closely resemble techniques” allegedly employed by Russia. He noted, however, that “we do not have all the data that allows us to make a final determination in this case.”

While media outlets rushed to hype the “findings” as definitive proof of Russia’s involvement, some journalists noted obvious holes in the story.

Aside from the Atlantic Council’s clear conflict of interest in the story (it’s a US and UK-funded think tank, allegedly investigating leaks that damage both governments), Nimmo’s prominence in this saga of alleged Russian meddling is also cause for concern. The self-professed disinformation fighter has links to the now-exposed Integrity Initiative, a shadowy group funded by the British Foreign Office that masquerades as an independent disinformation-busting ‘charity.’ In fact, Integrity Initiative even used its platform to spread talking points aimed at linking Corbyn to the Kremlin.

December 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

Pure: Ten Points I Just Can’t Believe About the Official Skripal Narrative

By Craig Murray | March 7, 2019

I still do not know what happened in the Skripal saga, which perhaps might more respectfully be termed the Sturgess saga. I cannot believe the Russian account of Borishov and Petrov, because if those were their real identities, those identities would have been firmly established and displayed by now. But that does not mean they attempted to kill the Skripals, and there are many key elements to the official British account which are also simply incredible.

Governments play dark games, and a dark game was played out in Salisbury which involved at least the British state, Russian agents (possibly on behalf of the state), Orbis Intelligence and the BBC. Anybody who believes it is simple to identify the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in this situation is a fool. When it comes to state actors and the intelligence services, frequently there are no “good guys”, as I personally witnessed from the inside over torture, extraordinary rendition and the illegal invasion of Iraq. But in the face of a massive media campaign to validate the British government story about the Skripals, here are ten of the things I do not believe in the official account:

1) PURE

This was the point that led me to return to the subject of the Skripals, even though it has brought me more abuse than I had received in my 15 year career as a whistleblower.

A few months ago, I was in truth demoralised by the amount of abuse I was receiving about the collapse of the Russian identity story of Borishov and Petrov. I had never claimed the poisoning, if any, was not carried out by Russians, only that there were many other possibilities. I understood the case against the Russian state is still far from established, whoever Borishov and Petrov really are, and I did not (and do not) accept Bellingcat’s conjectures and dodgy evidence as conclusive identification. But I did not enjoy at all the constant online taunts, and therefore was not inclined to take the subject further.

It is in this mood that I received more information from my original FCO source, who had told me, correctly, that Porton Down could not and would not attest that the “novichok” sample was made in Russia, and explained that the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was an agreed Whitehall line to cover this up.

She wanted to explain to me that the British government was pulling a similar trick over the use of the word “pure”. The OPCW report had concluded that the sample provided to them by the British government was “of high purity” with an “almost complete absence of impurities”. This had been spun by the British government as evidence that the novichok was “military grade” and could only be produced by a state.

But actually that is not what the OPCW technical experts were attempting to signal. The sample provided to the OPCW had allegedly been swabbed from the Skripals’ door handle. It had been on that door handle for several days before it was allegedly discovered there. In that time it had been contacted allegedly by the hands of the Skripals and of DC Bailey, and the gloves of numerous investigators. It had of course been exposed to whatever film of dirt or dust was on the door handle. It had been exposed to whatever pollution was in the rain and whatever dust and pollen was blowing around. In these circumstances, it is incredible that the sample provided “had an almost complete absence of impurities”.

A sample cannot have a complete absence of impurities after being on a used doorknob, outdoors, for several days. The sample provided was, on the contrary, straight out of a laboratory.

The government’s contention that “almost complete absence of impurities” meant “military grade” was complete nonsense. There is no such thing as “military grade” novichok. It has never been issued to any military, anywhere. The novichok programme was designed to produce an organo-phosphate poison which could quickly be knocked up from readily available commercial ingredients. It was not part of an actual defence industry manufacturing programme.

There is a final problem with the “of high purity” angle. First we had the Theresa May story that the “novichok” was extremely deadly, many times more deadly than VX, in minute traces. Then, when the Skripals did not die, it was explained to us that this was because it had degraded in the rain. This was famously put forward by Dan Kaszeta, formerly of US Intelligence and the White House and self-proclaimed chemical weapons expert – which expertise has been strenuously denied by real experts.

What we did not know then, but we do know now, is that Kaszeta was secretly being paid to produce this propaganda by the British government via the Integrity Initiative.

So the first thing I cannot believe is that the British government produced a sample with an “almost complete absence of impurities” from several days on the Skripals’ doorknob. Nor can I believe that if “extremely pure” the substance therefore was not fatal to the Skripals.

2) Raising the Roof

Three days ago Sky News had an outside broadcast from the front of the Skripals’ house in Salisbury, where they explained that the roof had been removed and replaced due to contamination with “novichok”.

I cannot believe that a gel, allegedly smeared or painted onto the doorknob, migrated upwards to get into the roof of a two storey house, in such a manner that the roof had to be destroyed, but the house inbetween did not. As the MSM never questions the official narrative, there has never been an official answer as to how the gel got from the doorknob to the roof. Remember that traces of the “novichok” were allegedly found in a hotel room in Poplar, which is still in use as a hotel room and did not have to be destroyed, and an entire bottle of it was allegedly found in Charlie Rowley’s house, which has not had to be destroyed. Novichok was found in Zizzi’s restaurant, which did not have to be destroyed.

So we are talking about novichok in threatening quantities – more than the traces allegedly found in the hotel in Poplar – being in the Skripals’ roof. How could this happen?

As I said in the onset, I do not know what happened, I only know what I do not believe. There are theories that Skripal and his daughter might themselves have been involved with novichok in some way. On the face of it, its presence in their roof might support that theory.

The second thing I do not believe is that the Skripals’ roof became contaminated by gel on their doorknob so that the roof had to be destroyed, whereas no other affected properties, nor the rest of the Skripals’ house, had to be destroyed.

3) Nursing Care

The very first person to discover the Skripals ill on a park bench in Salisbury just happened to be the Chief Nurse of the British Army, who chanced to be walking past them on her way back from a birthday party. How lucky was that? The odds are about the same as the chance of my vacuum cleaner breaking down just before James Dyson knocks at my door to ask for directions. There are very few people indeed in the UK trained to give nursing care to victims of chemical weapon attack, and of all the people who might have walked past, it just happened to be the most senior of them!

The government is always trying to get good publicity for its armed forces, and you would think that the heroic role of its off-duty personnel in saving random poisoned Russian double agents they just happened to chance across, would have been proclaimed as a triumph for the British military. Yet it was kept secret for ten months. We were not told about the involvement of Colonel Abigail McCourt until January of this year, when it came out by accident. Swollen with maternal pride, Col. McCourt nominated her daughter for an award from the local radio station for her role in helping give first aid to the Skripals, and young Abigail revealed her mother’s identity on local radio – and the fact her mother was there “with her” administering first aid.

Even then, the compliant MSM played along, with the Guardian and Sky News both among those running stories emphasising entirely the Enid Blyton narrative of “plucky teenager saves the Skripals”, and scarcely mentioning the Army’s Chief Nurse who was looking after the Skripals “with little Abigail”.

I want to emphasise again that Col. Alison McCourt is not the chief nurse of a particular unit or hospital, she is the Chief Nurse of the entire British Army. Her presence was kept entirely quiet by the media for ten months, when all sorts of stories were run in the MSM about who the first responders were – various doctors and police officers being mentioned.

If you believe that it is coincidence that the Chief Nurse of the British Army was the first person to discover the Skripals ill, you are a credulous fool. And why was it kept quiet?

4) Remarkable Metabolisms

This has been noted many times, but no satisfactory answer has ever been given. The official story is that the Skripals were poisoned by their door handle, but then well enough to go out to a pub, feed some ducks, and have a big lunch in Zizzi’s, before being instantly stricken and disabled, both at precisely the same time.

The Skripals were of very different ages, genders and weights. That an agent which took hours to act but then kicks in with immediate disabling effect, so they could not call for help, would affect two such entirely different metabolisms at precisely the same time, has never been satisfactorily explained. Dosage would have an effect and of course the doorknob method would give an uncontrolled dosage.

But that the two different random dosages were such that they affected each of these two very different people at just the same moment, so that neither could call for help, is an extreme coincidence. It is almost as unlikely as the person who walks by next being the Chief Nurse of the British Army.

5) 11 Days

After the poisoning of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, the Police cordoned off Charlie Rowley’s home and began a search for “Novichok”, in an attitude of extreme urgency because it was believed this poison was out amidst the public. They were specifically searching for a small phial of liquid. Yet it took 11 days of the search before they allegedly discovered the “novichok” in a perfume bottle sitting in plain sight on the kitchen counter – and only after they had discovered the clue of the perfume bottle package in the bin the day before, after ten days of search.

The bottle was out of its packaging and “novichok”, of which the tiniest amount is deadly, had been squirted out of its nozzle at least twice, by both Rowley and Sturgess, and possibly more often. The exterior of the bottle/nozzle was therefore contaminated. Yet the house, unlike the Skripals’ roof space, has not had to be destroyed.

I do not believe it took the Police eleven days to find the very thing they were looking for, in plain sight as exactly the small bottle of liquid sought, on a kitchen bench. What else was happening?

6) Mark Urban/Pablo Miller

The BBC’s “Diplomatic Editor” is a regular conduit for the security services. He fronted much of the BBC’s original coverage of the Skripal story. Yet he concealed from the viewers the fact that he had been in regular contact with Sergei Skripal for months before the alleged poisoning, and had held several meetings with Skripal.

This is extraordinary behaviour. It was the biggest news story in the world, and news organisations, including the BBC, were scrambling to fill in the Skripals’ back story. Yet the journalist who had the inside info on the world’s biggest news story, and was actually reporting on it, kept that knowledge to himself. Why? Urban was not only passing up a career defining opportunity, it was unethical of him to continually report on the story without revealing to the viewers his extensive contacts with Skripal.

The British government had two immediate reactions to the Skripal incident. Within the first 48 hours, it blamed Russia, and it slapped a D(SMA) notice banning all media mention of Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller. By yet another one of those extraordinary coincidences, Miller and Urban know each other well, having both been officers together in the Royal Tank Regiment, of the same rank and joining the Regiment the same year.

I have sent the following questions to Mark Urban, repeatedly. There has been no response:

To: mark.urban@bbc.co.uk

Dear Mark,

As you may know, I am a journalist working in alternative media, a member of the NUJ, as well as a former British Ambassador. I am researching the Skripal case.

I wish to ask you the following questions.

1) When the Skripals were first poisoned, it was the largest news story in the entire World and you were uniquely positioned having held several meetings with Sergei Skripal the previous year. Yet faced with what should have been a massive career break, you withheld that unique information on a major story from the public for four months. Why?
2) You were an officer in the Royal Tank Regiment together with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, who also lived in Salisbury. Have you maintained friendship with Miller over the years and how often do you communicate?
3) When you met Skripal in Salisbury, was Miller present all or part of the time, or did you meet Miller separately?
4) Was the BBC aware of your meetings with Miller and/or Skripal at the time?
5) When, four months later, you told the world about your meetings with Skripal after the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you said you had met him to research a book. Yet the only forthcoming book by you advertised is on the Skripal attack. What was the subject of your discussions with Skripal?
6) Pablo Miller worked for Orbis Intelligence. Do you know if Miller contributed to the Christopher Steele dossier on Trump/Russia?
7) Did you discuss the Trump dossier with Skripal and/or Miller?
8) Do you know whether Skripal contributed to the Trump dossier?
9) In your Newsnight piece following the Rowley/Sturgess incident, you stated that security service sources had told you that Yulia Skripal’s telephone may have been bugged. Since January 2017, how many security service briefings or discussions have you had on any of the matter above.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Craig Murray

The lack of openness of Urban in refusing to answer these questions, and the role played by the BBC and the MSM in general in marching in unquestioning lockstep with the British government narrative, plus the “coincidence” of Urban’s relationship with Pablo Miller, give further reason for scepticism of the official narrative.

7 Four Months

The official narrative insists that Borishov and Petrov brought “novichok” into the country; that minute quantities could kill; that they disposed of the novichok that did kill Dawn Sturgess. It must therefore have been of the highest priority to inform the public of the movements of the suspects and the possible locations where deadly traces of “novichok” must be lurking.

Yet there was at least a four month gap between the police searching the Poplar hotel where Borishov and Petrov were staying, allegedly discovering traces of novichok in the hotel room, and the police informing the hotel management, let alone the public, of the discovery. That is four months in which a cleaner might have fatally stumbled across more novichok in the hotel. Four months in which another guest in the same hotel might have had something lurking in their bag which they had picked up. Four months in which there might have been a container of novichok sitting in a hedge near the hotel. Yet for four months the police did not think any of this was urgent enough to tell anybody.

The astonishing thing is that it was a full three months after the death of Dawn Sturgess before the hotel were informed, the public were informed, or the pictures of “Borishov” and “Petrov” in Salisbury released. There could be no clearer indication that the authorities did not actually believe that any threat from residual novichok was connected to the movements of Borishov and Petrov.

Similarly the metadata on the famous CCTV images of Borishov and Petrov in Salisbury, published in September by the Met Police, showed that all the stills were prepared by the Met on the morning of 9 May – a full four months before they were released to the public. But this makes no sense at all. Why wait a full four months for people’s memories to fade before issuing an appeal to the public for information? This makes no sense at all from an investigation viewpoint. It makes even less sense from a public health viewpoint.

If the authorities were genuinely worried about the possible presence of deadly noivchok, and wished to track it down, why one earth would you wait for four months before you published the images showing the faces and clothing and the whereabouts of the people you believe were distributing it?

The only possible conclusion from the amazing four month delays both in informing the hotel, and in revealing the Borishov and Petrov CCTV footage to the public, is that the Metropolitan Police did not actually believe there was a public health danger that the two had left a trail of novichok. Were the official story true, this extraordinary failure to take timely action in a public health emergency may have contributed to the death of Dawn Sturgess.

The metadata shows Police processed all the Salisbury CCTV images of Boshirov and Petrov a month before Charlie Rowley picked up the perfume. The authorities claim the CCTV images show they could have been to the charity bin to dump the novichok. Which begs the question, if the Police really believed they had CCTV of the movements of the men with the novichok, why did they not subsequently exhaustively search everywhere the CCTV shows they could have been, including that charity bin?

The far more probable conclusion appears to be that the lack of urgency is explained by the fact that the link between Borishov and Petrov and “novichok” is a narrative those involved in the investigation do not take seriously.

8 The Bungling Spies

There are elements of the accepted narrative of Borishov and Petrov’s movements that do not make sense. As the excellent local Salisbury blog The BlogMire points out, the CCTV footage shows Borishov and Petrov, after they had allegedly coated the door handle with novichok, returning towards the railway station but walking straight past it, into the centre of Salisbury (and missing their first getaway train in the process). They then wander around Salisbury apparently aimlessly, famously window shopping which is caught on CCTV, and according to the official narrative disposing of the used but inexplicably still cellophane-sealed perfume/novichok in a charity donation bin, having walked past numerous potential disposal sites en route including the railway embankment and the bins at the Shell garage.

But the really interesting thing, highlighted by the blogmire, is that the closest CCTV ever caught them to the Skripals’ house is fully 500 metres, at the Shell garage, walking along the opposite side of the road from the turning to the Skripals. There is a second CCTV camera at the garage which would have caught them crossing the road and turning down towards the Skripals’ house, but no such video or still image – potentially the most important of all the CCTV footage – has ever been released.

However the 500 metres is not the closest the CCTV places the agents to the Skripals. From 13.45 to 13.48, on their saunter into town, Borishov and Petrov were caught on CCTV at Dawaulders coinshop a maximum of 200 metres away from the Skripals, who at the same time were at Avon Playground. The bin at Avon playground became, over two days in the immediate aftermath of the Skripal “attack”, the scene of extremely intensive investigation. Yet the Borishov and Petrov excursion – during their getaway from attempted murder – into Salisbury town centre has been treated as entirely pointless and unimportant by the official story.

Finally, the behaviour of Borishov and Petrov in the early hours before the attack makes no sense whatsoever. On the one hand we are told these are highly trained, experienced and senior GRU agents; on the other hand, we are told they were partying in their room all night, drawing attention to themselves with loud noise, smoking weed and entertaining a prostitute in the room in which they were storing, and perhaps creating, the “novichok”.

The idea that, before an extremely delicate murder operation involving handling a poison, a tiny accident with which would kill them, professionals would stay up all night and drink heavily and take drugs is a nonsense. Apart from the obvious effect on their own metabolisms, they were risking authorities being called because of the noise and a search being instituted because of the drugs.

That they did this while in possession of the novichok and hours before they made the attack, is something I simply do not believe.

9 The Skripals’ Movements

Until the narrative changed to Borishov and Petrov arriving in Salisbury just before lunchtime and painting the doorknob, the official story had been that the Skripals left home around 9am and had not returned. They had both switched off their mobile phones, an interesting and still unexplained point. As you would expect in a city as covered in CCTV as Salisbury, their early morning journey was easily traced and the position of their car at various times was given by the police.

Yet no evidence of their return journey has ever been offered. There is now a tiny window between Borishov and Petrov arriving, painting the doorknob apparently with the Skripals now inexplicably back inside their home, and the Skripals leaving again by car, so quickly after the doorknob painting that they catch up with Borishov and Petrov – or certainly being no more than 200 metres from them in Salisbury City Centre. There is undoubtedly a huge amount of CCTV video of the Skripals’ movements which has never been released. For example, the parents of one of the boys who Sergei was chatting with while feeding the ducks, was shown “clear” footage by the Police of the Skripals at the pond, yet this has never been released. This however is the moment at which the evidence puts Borishov and Petrov at the closest to them. What does the concealed CCTV of the Skripals with the ducks show?

Why has so little detail of the Skripals’ movements that day been released? What do all the withheld CCTV images of the Skripals in Salisbury show?

10 The Sealed Bottle

Only in the last couple of days have the police finally admitted there is a real problem with the fact that Charlie Rowley insists that the perfume bottle was fully sealed, and the cellophane difficult to remove, when he discovered it. Why the charity collection bin had not been emptied for three months has never been explained either. Rowley’s recollection is supported by the fact that the entire packaging was discovered by the police in his bin – why would Borishov and Petrov have been carrying the cellophane around with them if they had opened the package? Why – and how – would they reseal it outdoors in Salisbury before dumping it?

Furthermore, there was a gap of three months between the police finding the perfume bottle, and the police releasing details of the brand and photos of it, despite the fact the police believed there could be more out there. Again the news management agenda totally belies the official narrative of the need to protect the public in a public health emergency.

This part of the narrative is plainly nonsense.

Bonus Point – The Integrity Initiative

The Integrity Initiative specifically paid Dan Kaszeta to publish articles on the Skripal case. In the weekly collections of social media postings the Integrity Initiative sent to the FCO to show its activity, over 80% were about the Skripals.

Governments do not institute secret campaigns to put out covert propaganda in order to tell the truth. The Integrity Initiative, with secret FCO and MOD sourced subsidies to MSM figures to put out the government narrative, is very plainly a disinformation exercise. More bluntly, if the Integrity Initiative is promoting it, you know it is not true.

Most sinister of all is the Skripal Group convened by the Integrity Initiative. This group includes Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 handler, and senior representatives of Porton Down, the BBC, the CIA, the FCO and the MOD. Even if all the other ludicrously weak points in the government narrative did not exist, the Integrity Initiative activity in itself would lead me to understand the British government is concealing something important.

Conclusion

I do not know what happened in Salisbury. Plainly spy games were being played between Russia and the UK, quite likely linked to the Skripals and/or the NATO chemical weapons exercise then taking place on Salisbury Plain yet another one of those astonishing coincidences.

What I do know is that major planks of the UK government narrative simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

Plainly the Russian authorities have lied about the identity of Borishov and Petrov. What is astonishing is the alacrity with which the MSM and the political elite have rallied around the childish logical fallacy that because the Russian Government has lied, therefore the British Government must be telling the truth. It is abundantly plain to me that both governments are lying, and the spy games being played out that day were very much more complicated than a pointless revenge attack on the Skripals.

I do not believe the British Government. I have given you the key points where the official narrative completely fails to stand up. These are by no means exhaustive, and I much look forward to reading your own views.

March 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

Integrity Initiative: New leaks show UK-funded project sought £5.5m for Balkans influence campaign

RT | February 12, 2019

Hackers have released a sixth batch of Integrity Initiative leaks, this time focusing on how the project sought £5.5 million in funding from the British government to establish an influence campaign in the Western Balkans.

According to the leaks, Chris Donnelly, who heads the Institute for Statecraft (IfS) — the Integrity Initiative’s parent organization — used his NATO contacts and extensive background in military intelligence to try to secure the money for the program.

The Integrity Initiative (II) had been positioning itself as an “independent” anti-disinformation charity until hackers began dumping batches of internal documents last November which revealed its government funding and the fact that it was running Europe-wide anti-Russia influence campaigns using “clusters” of cooperative journalists, academics and politicians. In response to the leaks, the II wiped all content from its website and claimed that while some of the documents were “genuine,” others were “falsified” — but did not provide any proof that this was the case.

The latest leaks show that the Balkan program would be run in conjunction with global marketing and communications firm Edelman, which Donnelly said could help produce “advertising campaigns on TV promoting change,” English-language training promoting the “right messages” and even “a TV soap opera looking at the problem of corruption.”

To aid ‘Her Majesty’s Government’

In a letter to former MI6 employee Guy Spindler and good governance expert Keith Sargent — who would be a key figure in the Balkan effort — Donnelly explains how the project would need “local partners” in the WB6 countries. The partners will help find journalists “who can be allies” in their efforts and who could be brought “on trips to London, HQ NATO etc.”

Donnelly’s letter is dated October 15, but no year is given. It appears, however, that it is from 2018, based on the fact that the proposal documents for the Balkan project make reference to the year 2018 and January 2019 as the potential start date.

The letter focuses on the efforts to set up the “anti-corruption” and “good governance” influence campaign across the Western Balkans, which a separate document says would “contribute to the aims and strategy of HMG” (Her Majesty’s Government) and would shield the region from corruption “being used as a method of external influence.”

Stumbling blocks and help from the BBC

Perceptively, the document — which lays out the projected three-year costs of £5.5 million ($7.87mn) — also recognizes that the program itself could be “identified as external interference” in the domestic affairs of the Balkan countries. Another leaked document notes “Russian hostility” and “traditional Soviet ties” as potential stumbling blocks to the Western influence campaign.

One serious concern is that many Serbian organizations “promote friendly ties with Russia” and it is suggested that BBC broadcasts could help to “counter Russian fake news” in the region. The fact that Serbia, Russia and a number of other countries do not recognize Kosovo’s independence is also cited as a “major problem” for the project.

‘A Bellingcat for counter-corruption’

To achieve success Donnelly said they would need to “identify a national goal” that could be used as a “lever”— citing Macedonia’s efforts to join NATO as an example. Donnelly boasts about his efforts in Slovakia in the 1990s using MPs to teach businesses how they could lobby government “legitimately in a democracy” rather than using “their then model of cash in brown envelopes.”

Part of the so-called anti-corruption program would entail building “training courses for journalists, students and wider public activists” to help them obtain the relevant investigative tools. Such a program could be “a Bellingcat for counter corruption,” the proposal document states. Bellingcat shot to prominence as a controversial one-man investigative website, which later expanded, received money from the notorious US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and was also linked to the II.

Anti-Russia entertainment

The latest leaks also reveal contacts between IfS fellow Euan Grant and a number of journalists, academics and think tank lobbyists. Grant sent a “memorandum of cooperation” to US writer Martha Bayles after a “detailed Skype call” in July 2018. He was looking for her “input into media documentaries and fictional entertainment” to counter Russian narratives.

Governments seeking help from writers and the entertainment industry to counter Russian narratives is nothing new. The 2014 hack of Sony Pictures revealed that the US State Department enlisted Hollywood’s help with “anti-Russia messaging” for movies and TV shows. It appears from these leaks that the British government is also trying to use thinly-disguised entertainment propaganda to promote divisive anti-Russia messaging onto TV screens in politically volatile regions of Europe.

The leaks say that the II should “alert” the press, radio and TV journalists to the “relevance” of already-made entertainment like the BBC series ‘McMafia’ which focuses on a London-based corrupt Russian family.

‘Sympathy for Russia’ in Scotland

There was also contact between the IfS and Neal Stewart, an adviser to the Scottish National Party’s Westminster front bench about “considerable sympathy for Russia” in Scotland in general, but particularly within academia. The “significant Russian speaking presence in private schools and in the Universities could fuel such attitudes,” the document warns. Another leaked document also cites “academic sympathies with Russia” as an indicator of “malign influence and disinformation.”

Targeting academics and students for their ‘Russian sympathies’ brings up rather negative historical parallels, particularly with the McCarthy era in the US, during which entertainers, academics and left-leaning activists were aggressively accused of being Communist sympathizers or agents and were placed on industry blacklists.

More recently, in Britain, a group of academics were smeared on the front page of the Times for similar sympathies, based on the fact that they publicly expressed doubts over certain anti-Russia media narratives. One of the academics involved called it a“coordinated smear campaign” against anti-war journalists and activists. The authors of the Times report were later named in Integrity Initiative documents, proving the existence of collusion between the British government and pro-establishment journalists to target those who do not stick to certain narratives.

High profile names & media ties

In an II“weekly report,” Grant names University of Exeter Professor Jeremy Black and Sunday Times journalist Roland White as two people who expressed interest in collaborating with the II. Roderick Parkes of the Paris-based ISS think tank and Nigel Gould-Davies, an associate fellow at Chatham House, were also named.

The leaks also say that Deborah Haynes of Sky News (a co-author of the aforementioned Times report) and Jonathan Beale of the BBC attended a speech by Air Marshal Sir Philip Osborn on the future of intelligence and information warfare in May 2018. The speech was described in the document as “manna from heaven for the Integrity Initiative.”

Grant writes that the government-funded IfS has “particular links with the Times, Telegraph, Guardian and BBC TV and radio” but says that it needs to “strengthen” its relationship with the Mail.

Times writer and CEPA lobbyist Edward Lucas also crops up in the latest leaks and due to his “considerable interest” is named as the II’s way into getting “articles and references” in the Times. Lucas recently defended the II in an op-ed for the newspaper and argued that criticism of the project would “play into the Kremlin’s hands.”

NGOs and the ‘Australian cluster’

The documents also reveal that the II wanted to provide NGOs with manuals on Russian corruption. Among the named organizations are Transparency International, Global Witness and the World Wildlife Fund.

One of the newly leaked documents also shows just how far the II has extended its reach, referencing an”Australian cluster.” Given the issue of Russian and Chinese influence in that region, Grant writes that there is “scope for a lot of crossover with media in Europe” and Australia relating to “Russian issues.”

Presenting the new leaks, the Anonymous-linked hackers claim that the Integrity Initiative has been trying to “divert people’s attention from the organisation’s wrongful activity” since the documents were made public. The leakers bash the II’s “pathetic attempt” to cover its tracks and say all its efforts have been “shattered to pieces by irrefutable evidence” of wrongdoing that has been shared with the public.

RT sent requests for comment to the people named in the story who were linked to the Integrity Initiative in the latest leaks.

February 12, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Integrity Initiative’s ‘Counterfeit Expert’ Perpetuated Novichok Narrative

By Kit Klarenberg | Sputnik | 07.02.2019

In the days following the apparent poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal on 4 March 2018, speculation abounded. What substance had rendered the double agent and his daughter comatose? How? Who was responsible? Why?

By 7 March, it’d been established the pair were struck by a nerve agent, confirmation merely triggering yet further frenzied theorizing — much of it unscientific — on what precise variety had struck the pair. Could it have been VX for instance, first synthesized in the 1950s at Porton Down, the UK’s secretive and controversial chemical and biological weapons testing centre situated a mere eight kilometres from Salisbury?

A day later, security consultant Dan Kaszeta offered an alternative explanation — writing for controversial website Bellingcat, he suggested the agent may have been ‘novichok’.

“The Soviet Union developed a new series of nerve agents in the 1970s and 1980s. The exact nature of these so-called novichok agents is still debated and the information on them varies a bit depending on what source you are looking at… some Novichok agents of interest include A230 and A232,” Kaszeta said.

It was seemingly the first time anyone anywhere had connected the substance with the Salisbury incident — but it would soon become a crucial feature in the UK government’s official narrative, helping lay blame for the attack squarely on the Russian state, before a motive had been established, any perpetrators identified, or other basic facts ascertained.

Own Initiative?

Due to Kaszeta’s amazingly fortuitous insight, he would become a central figure in media reporting on the Skripals, a go-to ‘independent chemical weapons expert’ quoted in a great many articles and reports.

At no point however did Kaszeta disclose his intimate relationship with the Integrity Initiative, a shadowy military intelligence outfit funded by the British state and NATO — and moreover, an organization that specifically sought to systematically shape media reporting on, and Whitehall’s response to, the Salisbury incident from day one.

Dan Kaszeta’s Integrity Initiative Biography

In fact, were it not for hacking syndicate Anonymous, his role within the organization’s ‘Specialist Team’ would be entirely unknown, the only documentation linking him to the organization in any way a series of articles he wrote on novichok for the Initiative’s official website over the course of 2018 — which have since been removed from the web, along with all other site content.

Among them was a puff piece ardently defending Porton Down, stating the UK urgently needed the facility “to do valuable work to protect not just the nation’s armed forces but also to protect all of us who live here”, and dismissing as ludicrous the notion any poison could somehow be smuggled out of the “secure compound”.

Given US Fort Derrick is also highly secure, and anthrax was apparently smuggled out of the grounds successfully in 2001, leading to a notorious wave of anthrax attacks in the week after 9/11, this argument is surely dubious. What’s more, Kaszeta would surely have been aware of this, given he claims to have been “heavily involved in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the 2001 Anthrax incidents” — in what capacity though, he doesn’t clarify. Moreover, what published literature exists on novichok (or A-234) indicates the substance can be produced at bench scale by any laboratory.In addition to offering technical information on novichok to journalists — including then-Times Defence Editor Deborah Haynes, part of the Initiative’s UK Cluster — Kaszeta sought to rebut alternative explanations for the attack, and answer key questions such as why the Skripals didn’t die on the spot, and how novichok could poison two further people four months after the incident, writing a dedicated article on the former for politics.co.uk on 6 April. Conspicuously, much of this analysis relied on conjecture rather than science — for instance, when asked by NPR on 12 March 2018 why anyone would use “such an unusual agent”, Kaszeta responded “it was possible, given the historic secrecy around the programme, the culprit may have thought it would go undetected”.

“Maybe somebody somewhere felt they could get away with it,” he says. Then again, he says, it could have just as well been used to send a clear message to would-be spies and defectors. “It’s much more than waking up with a horse head in your bed,” he postulated.

He also frequently tweeted on the subject, the postings apparently becoming newsworthy in themselves — it’s difficult to quantify the exact number of articles featuring his Twitter output, although a 5 July 2018 Yahoo article — Weapons expert busts conspiracy theories about the Wiltshire Novichok attack — is certainly representative in terms of tone and content.

Integrity Initiative Monitors Social Media Activity Related to Salisbury Incident

Every step of the way, Kaszeta’s activities were closely tracked by the Initiative, with ‘expert team’ member Chris Hernon (ex-BBC) noting them in regular roundups. Elsewhere, in an internal email titled ‘FCO Disinformation Update’, FCO Head of Counter Disinformation Andy Pryce hailed his “strong rebuttal of conspiracy theories”.

‘Deep in the Pentagon’

Quite where, and indeed when, Kaszeta gleaned his specialist knowledge of novichok is unclear — particularly as he’s repeatedly (and wrongly) claimed the operation that produced the nerve agent was extremely secretive, and little is known about the substance outside the former Soviet Union.

Moreover, he doesn’t appear to have written a single word about novichok prior to his 8 March 2018 Bellingcat article — and his oft-touted chemical weapons and/or warfare prowess doesn’t appear justified by his professional or academic history either. Kaszeta’s work experience in that regard seems strictly limited to crisis response planning, and he holds a BA in political science and an MA in international affairs — but his LinkedIn profile nonetheless makes for fascinating reading.

His first listed role, from August — December 1990, was ‘policy intern’ at the Office of the Secretary of Defence, which he describes as “hard work at a desk deep in the D ring of the Pentagon during the final days of the Cold War” — and between 1994 — 1996 he engaged in “hard thankless toil in the depths of the beltway bandit universe, relieved only by boondoggles to the [Pentagon think tank] RAND Corporation” at Defence Group Inc. Thereafter, he worked in a number of positions within the US military-industrial complex, including the White House Military Office and Secret Service, before entering the private sector.

Dan Kaszeta’s LinkedIn Profile

In 2011, Kaszeta founded Strongpoint Security, which “provides consultancy and advice across a wide variety of defence and security disciplines, with a focus on unconventional threats, CBRN defence, crisis management, and physical security assessment”. The company’s website is rudimentary in the extreme, with many sections appearing to have not been updated for many years — for instance, references are made to Kaszeta’s “new” and “recently published” book, CBRN and Hazmat Incidents at Major Public Events, which was released in November 2012. He claims the work is “the first serious attempt to address the diverse and challenging issues of safeguarding the major event environment against the full spectrum of CBRN and Hazmat incidents and accidents”.

Self-aggrandizement is a recurring theme on the site, with Kaszeta boasting that his “degree and depth of expertise is relatively unique [sic] in Europe” — but while he’s bragged about the size of his “expert daily rate”, Companies House records indicate the firm has very little in the way of capital, cash reserves or assets, with annual post-tax profits typically in the low thousands, falling to just US$448 (£394) in the 2016/2017 tax year.

Strongpoint’s yearly takings certainly don’t appear to have ever reached levels by which Kaszeta could support himself, and references to the company online are sparse — any firms that have ever employed his services have certainly not advertised the fact in any way, and neither Strongpoint’s outdated website nor barely active Twitter account offer any sign of the company or its founder actually working, the latter consisting almost exclusively of retweets, often of Integrity Initiative posts.Strongpoint’s lack of assets is even more puzzling given it operates out of Kaszeta’s flat in Pimlico, one of Central London’s most expensive areas, where housing costs an average of US$1.9 million (£1.4 million) in 2019, 135 percent above the city average.

It’s unclear whether Britain’s spying agencies MI5 and MI6, both situated a few minutes’ walk from Strongpoint, have played any role in boosting property prices there — the organizations maintain a large portfolio of lodgings in the district, including 36 Alderney Street (located half a mile from Kaszeta’s home-cum-office), where GCHQ secondee to MI6 Gareth Williams died in extremely mysterious circumstances in August 2010.

Proximity of Strongpoint Security to MI6 HQ

Nonetheless, Kaszeta owns the residence, so obvious questions must be asked — namely, how is he actually making his living, and is Strongpoint merely a legitimizing professional ‘front’ for other activities, lending superficial credence to his status as ‘independent’ specialist?

‘Counterfeit Expert’

Kaszeta’s rise to media prominence is also somewhat curious. Prior to 2013, he was entirely unheard of in the mainstream — that would change when he began writing articles for Elliot Higgins’ ‘Brown Moses’ blog (the forerunner of Bellingcat ) on 20 August that year, a day prior to the notorious chemical weapons attack in Ghouta, Syria. With Western leaders claiming Syrian government forces were behind the strike, but unable to provide supporting evidence, Kaszeta eagerly filled the void, being a frequent fixture of media reporting on the incident for months afterward.

Among a variety of allegations, his core contention was hexamine had been found by UN inspectors investigating local soil samples and metal fragments, a discovery apparently amounting to “smoking gun” evidence proving Syrian government forces were behind the contested strike, as — he alleged — the fuel can be used in the production of sarin gas, the chemical weapon purportedly used in the Ghouta attack. While Kaszeta has never cited a single scientific paper supporting this thesis, journalists invariably presented his analysis without critique.

He was nonetheless questioned on his various assertions and credentials via email by Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of Science, Technology, and International Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, correspondence the academic later published in a wider July 2014 review.

Over the course of their discussion, Postol writes that Kaszeta made “numerous false science-based claims” which he’d “not researched before [he] made the statements”, referenced quotes “not made by the individuals [he] cited” and claimed scientific expertise he “amply demonstrated” he didn’t have.

Dan Kaszeta Defends Integrity Initiative Employment

Concluding Kaszeta to be a “counterfeit expert”, the professor notes the self-avowed CBRN aficionado’s aforementioned book contains “no technical or scientific information” that couldn’t be obtained by a “superficial” internet search, and suggests Kaszeta’s prominence in news reports on Ghouta stemmed from a “complete failure” by the media “to exercise the most rudimentary levels of editorial due diligence” and challenge his “ill-informed and inflammatory use of false technical facts”.

Moreover, this bogus “empowerment” of Kaszeta, Postol writes, resulted in “controversy [with] no basis in sound science”, which could’ve played a role in justifying US military involvement in Syria.

Despite this extremely damning indictment of his probity and professional competency, mainstream journalists and news outlets were evidently indifferent, as Kaszeta’s media profile would grow exponentially in the years afterward, leading to his central role in perpetuating the novichok narrative.

Notably, not once in this period has Kaszeta ever provided ‘expertise’ even vaguely inconvenient for Western governments — in fact, he has unfailingly supported and perhaps even legitimized their aggressive policies, in the manner his Ghouta analysis potentially offered a pretext for US action in Syria.

Urban Planning

One of the most renowned journalists to promote Kaszeta’s views on novichok was BBC Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban, who championed his politics.co.uk article as a “common sense answer” to the question of why the Skripals weren’t killed by the poison they seemingly came into contact with, written by a “real expert”.

Mark Urban Promotes Dan Kaszeta’s ‘Expertise’ on Twitter

Urban’s advocacy of Kaszeta is perhaps unsurprising given his own peculiar connections to the Skripal affair — for in a shock disclosure, in July he revealed he’d repeatedly met with and interviewed the former Russian intelligence officer in the year prior to the Salisbury incident, while researching a book on the history of East-West Espionage.

That Urban neglected to mention securing such a seismic, serendipitous scoop until four months after that fateful March day — a period in which discussion of the attack, and Skripal, utterly dominated media reporting the world over — is somewhat staggering, but not quite as astounding as him having once served in the same tank regiment as Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 recruiter and handler, and neighbour in Salisbury.

Serious questions hang over Miller’s involvement in the incident, not least because immediately afterward he deleted his LinkedIn, which revealed him to be a Senior Analyst at Orbis Intelligence, the private “investigative consultancy” run by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, author of the highly controversial ‘Trump-Russia’ dossier — which Integrity Initiative operatives worked to circulate among US politicians.

Furthermore, on 7 March the UK government issued a D-notice related to the Salisbury incident, effectively blocking mention of Miller in the mainstream media since.

“The issue surrounding the identity of former MI6 informer Sergei Skripal is already widely available in the public domain. However, the identities of intelligence agency personnel associated with Sergei Skripal are not yet widely available in the public domain. The provisions of DSMA Notice 05 therefore apply to these identities. If any editor is currently considering publication of such material, may I ask you to seek [the] advice [of the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee] before doing so?” the notice reads.

Adding to the intrigue, Miller also has an unclear relationship with Integrity Initiative, a leaked file naming him in a list compiled by Initiative chief Chris Donnelly, alongside representatives of the BBC, Porton Down, the FCO, the MOD and the US Embassy. The nature of the register is neither clear from the file itself, nor referenced in any other internal Initiative documents, although Anonymous claim the individuals were invitees to a private meeting with Syria’s notorious White Helmets group. Conversely, former Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray has speculated the event was in fact related to the Skripal incident, a hypothesis partially supported by the presence of Howard Body, Assistant Head of Science Support at Porton Down (and Assistant Head of Strategic Analysis at the Ministry of Defence) among the names.

Integrity Initiative Promotes Dan Kaszeta’s ‘Skripal Files’ Review on Twitter

Whatever the truth of the matter, Urban’s aforementioned book, The Skripal Files — widely marketed as the “definitive account” of the incident — was published 4 October 2018. On 21 December, a glowing review of the work authored by none other than Dan Kaszeta was published on the Integrity Initiative website — strikingly, in its introductory paragraph the “counterfeit expert” revealed he’d met with Urban “several times over the past few years”. On 20 January, I emailed Kaszeta seeking clarity on how, why and when it was he crossed paths Urban — predictably he didn’t respond, a recurring theme with Initiative-connected individuals.

Dan Kaszeta Reviews Mark Urban’s Book, ‘The Skripal Files’

A mere two days later the organization would remove all content from its website, pending an “investigation” into the hack which acquired so much incriminating information from the organization’s servers. While there’s no necessary connection between my contacting Kaszeta and the purge, the timing is at least potentially significant given the review is one of very few Initiative site pages not still accessible via internet archiving services — it’s also not included among the now-dead links to the various articles he wrote for the Initiative on the Strongpoint website.

Wider Conspiracy

Shockingly, Kaszeta was but one cog within a much wider connivance — Operation Iris — constructed by Integrity Initiative. Under its auspices, many Institute for Statecraft and Initiative operatives — and journalists within the organization’s assorted international clusters — played a leading and early role in perpetuating various narratives, myths and recommended “responses” to the incident that would utterly dominate mainstream media reporting of the affair the world over for months afterwards.

2015 File Written By Victor Madeira on Possible Anti-Russian Actions

In addition to cementing an extremely negative public perception of Russia, the Initiative also sought to influence government policy in the UK — and ensure isolation of Russia internationally.

Disturbingly, many of these narratives, and recommended strategies, were originally mooted in a document produced in 2015 by Initiative staffer Victor Madeira, who likewise played a leading role in pushing particular angles in the wake of the Salisbury incident. Over the coming weeks, Sputnik will document the activities of each and every Operation IRIS operative, in an attempt to ascertain just what role the Initiative played in the Skripal affair, and why.

February 8, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Russophobia | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Integrity Initiative wipes website pending probe into ‘theft’ of disturbing leaked data

RT | January 22, 2019

The British state-funded Integrity Initiative, exposed last year for conducting Europe-wide political influence campaigns in leaked files, has removed all of its website content “pending an investigation” into the data “theft.”

A group claiming association with the loose hacktivist collective Anonymous has been dumping private Integrity Initiative documents online in various batches since November. The leaks revealed that the Scotland-based, government-funded organization, which bills itself as a non-partisan disinformation-busting charity, was actually using “clusters” of journalists, politicians, and academics to carry out secret anti-Russia campaigns, interfere in domestic politics across Europe and smear anyone who questioned its narratives.

In a surprise move on Monday, the Integrity Initiative abruptly announced on Twitter that it had “temporarily removed” all content from its site “pending an investigation into the theft of data” from the Institute of Statecraft, the II’s London-based parent operation.

In a statement posted on its now mostly bare website, the II claimed the leaks were “part of a campaign to undermine the work” of the Initiative which it said involved “researching, publicising and countering the threat” Europe faces in the in the form of “disinformation” and “hybrid warfare” – ironically, exactly what the shady organization itself was accused of engaging in with its hefty government paycheck.

It remains an open question if, in an effort to save face, the group would accuse Russia of being behind the leaks and even of doctoring the documents. While the statement admitted that some of the leaks were “genuine,” it claimed others were “falsified” – but did not provide any evidence to back up that claim. It is, however, apparent that Russia has been the Initiative’s main target during the course of its questionable work.

The website will be “relaunched shortly” and “analysis” of the hack and its “significance” will be published soon, the statement said. It doesn’t look as though many will be awaiting that analysis with bated breath, however.

Perhaps discouraging for the Integrity Initiative, few seemed upset to see their content disappear. Most responses to the announcement tweet are of the trolling variety, accusing the organization of simply being caught in the act and trying to clean house.

After the II leaks, Scottish newspaper the Daily Record wrote that the revelations – including that the government-funded organization had also conducted a domestic smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn – was “one of the biggest political scandals of the year.”

The scandal received scant coverage by mainstream British media, however. Labour MP Chris Williamson told RT earlier this month that the lack of interest could have something to do with the fact that high profile journalists themselves were seemingly involved in the shady operation.

January 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

‘America must rebuild understanding of Russia’: How Integrity Initiative drafted US for new Cold War

RT | January 9, 2019

Shortly after Donald Trump’s election, a UK-funded covert influence group proposed opening a new office in the US to train a “younger generation of Russia watchers” and “strengthen” American role in countering Moscow, leaks show.

The latest tranche of documents, anonymously uploaded online last week, include an outline for “developing a US arm of [the] Integrity Initiative Program” and a schedule for a visit to Washington of its director, which details meetings with former senior Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, and top diplomats and officials.

‘West badly needs US leadership’

Despite the elected White House administration tentatively attempting a rapprochement with the Kremlin at the time, the group, effectively a foreign agent on US soil, suggests in the first document, dated to August 2017, that Washington needs to go in a radically different, if familiar, direction, “before it is too late.”

“The West is badly in need of a reassertion of US leadership. The EU has been unable to generate any strategic thinking or to exercise convincing leadership. Russia (& China) are successfully driving wedges between EU Member States and between Allies within NATO,” reads the plaintive precis.

The solution: revive the Cold War-era resistance to Moscow through a Washington-dominated NATO, which is elsewhere also listed as a financial sponsor of Integrity Initiative, alongside the UK’s Foreign Office.

“The US needs to rebuild its understanding of Russia and how to deal with it,” while “the UK needs reminding how to play its key role of encouraging/enabling US leadership in Europe/NATO.”

To serve these aims Integrity Initiative plans to “bring together academics, think tankers, journalists, civil servants, politicians, business people,” who understand “the problem” of Russia, but “have not been working coherently.”

This is a facsimile of the model Integrity Initiative rolled out in the UK after its founding in 2015, where it used its “cluster” of influential public voices to discreetly sway, manipulate or to outright dictate Russian coverage on such issues as cyber warfare, Syria and the Skripals. Or, as the text euphemistically puts it, their function is “to ensure the popular support for governments that democracies require.”

With many of the original Cold Warriors now of pensionable age, a vital responsibility of the recruits would be “attracting a new generation of younger analysts to learn from the older generation.”

Screenshot from the leaked US office proposal

There also appears to be implicit criticism of how the actual chosen US president is handling foreign policy, with the document urging the US to “improve its own governance at a time of transition.”

But, luckily for America, it doesn’t have to fear foreign meddling, as “the cluster will work completely impartially and not become involved in US party politics.”

Goulash with Gorka

The second document contains the dates and locations of a trip by Chris Donnelly, the UK military intelligence veteran and director of Integrity Initiative, to the American capital between September 18 and 22 of an unstated year. In the same upload folder, there are several support documents related to some of the events he was set to attend.

The trip involved wall-to-wall meetings, dinners, lectures and workshops, with separate visits to the State Department, National Defense University and the Pentagon, but several names stand out.

One is breakfast with Sebastian Gorka, the hawkish TV intelligence pundit, who served as a deputy assistant to Donald Trump between January and August 2017, and was credited as a key foreign policy inspiration prior to that. Another is a meeting with McCain Institute director Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO, who currently represents the US in the Ukrainian peace negotiations.

There is a meeting with officials from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, an official counter-propaganda department, which, perhaps not coincidentally, has recently switched from fighting jihadis online, to combating Russia, having received a boost in funding. On the last day of the four-day trip, Donnelly was due to talk to Dorothy Rayburn, an official at USAID, the civilian aid agency, which has previously been accused by foreign governments of operating as an arm of US intelligence, and has been expelled from Russia since 2012.

Screenshot from leaked file

It’s not ‘meddling’ when Integrity Initiative does it

Integrity Initiative has acknowledged that its private documents were “hacked” though it has not confirmed or denied the authenticity of any that have been made public in four separate tranches starting from November.

So, with only partial evidence available, it is not possible to conclude if Integrity Initiative did open an office in the US, or whether the talks held by Donnelly resulted in a shift in Russia policy.

Nonetheless, the first leak did contain a document listing a dozen names under the heading “US Cluster,” including several Donnelly was due to meet. There is also an exchange with an FCO official in which Integrity Initiative says that it is in the process of opening a non-profit in the US and, as well as a “simple office” in Washington, plans to create several clusters “in key states, not in DC.” It is not clear what would constitute a “key state” for an agency with Integrity Initiative’s apparently boundless remit.

What does appear certain is that the outfit was setting up its networks of influence covertly, and without declaring its true purpose, despite operating in an allied state. While the meeting with government figures seems to give it a sheen of legitimacy, it is also notable that none of those it met are representative officials, but rather narrowly-known but influential members of various Washington letter agencies. Its policy aims are not democratically-vetted, and possibly even at odds with those officially pursued by the United States.

Nonetheless, while a Russian outfit operating in “key US states” –even if it cultivated peaceful engagement– would surely command the attention of the Mueller investigation, the activities of a UK organization advocating a return to Soviet-era tensions are almost sure to be allowed to continue, without so much as a peep from Washington.

January 10, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

‘They made a mess & are fighting fires’: UK academic says Integrity Initiative fatally hurt by leaks

RT | January 8, 2019

Despite being ignored by Western media, leaks from Integrity Initiative have paralyzed the operations of this UK-funded covert influence network, and could lead to its dismantling, says a leading British academic.

“This has made a mess of [Integrity Initiative’s] operations, they are spending most of their time now trying to fire-fight on the coverage this is getting. And they are not doing essentially what they are being paid to do, which is to counter the Russians,” David Miller, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol School for Policy Studies, told RT.

“The British government is getting bad value for money, if it was ever getting better value.”

As part of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media, which studies Western attempts to control media coverage of key international events, Miller has played a crucial role in studying the four tranches of data anonymously uploaded and sourced from the previously little-known group, which has been backed by the UK Foreign Office, NATO and Facebook, to the tune of over £1 million per year.

The documents, whose authenticity has not been denied, contain details of psyops operations against public figures, of the manipulation of media coverage in leading Western outlets, and have also revealed worldwide networks of prominent journalists and academics, secretly engaged to discredit, at every turn, pro-Moscow points of view and political developments.

Despite the refusal by all of those named to either admit their connection or to say that there was nothing untoward in their activities, Miller believes that getting rumbled has made it more difficult for them to push and publish anti-Russian content.

“Most of the people named are trying to pretend that this is not all of great significance, but the revelation of the involvement of the government in manipulating other countries, and the political process in the UK, is extremely damaging for them,” he said, via video link.

For Miller, the “cardinal sin” from a UK perspective was smearing Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, as a potential Kremlin ally in Whitehall, which would mean that a state-paid intelligence operation was meddling in domestic politics.

Miller bemoans the absence of coverage of what he calls a “real, genuine scandal” in top English-language news sources, which, he says, are themselves implicated in the fallout. But regardless, such is the scope of Integrity Initiative’s ambition – from indoctrinating schoolchildren to infiltrating Hollywood – that it should lead to a national dialogue about the role intelligence agencies should play in public life.

“Integrity Initiative are beyond the realms of sense. The activities they are engaged in are morally and ethically dubious, and will certainly – as we can see already – backfire on them,” he said.

“This will result hopefully in the ending of this operation, and if we are lucky, a sensible discussion in parliament about controlling the future British covert operations.”

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

British Government Covert Anti-Russian Propaganda and the Skripal Case

By Craig Murray | December 21, 2018

It is worth starting by noting that a high percentage of the Integrity Initiative archive has been authenticated. The scheme has been admitted by the FCO and defended as legitimate government activity. Individual items like the minutes of the meeting with David Leask are authenticated. Not one of the documents has so far been disproven, or even denied.

Which tends to obscure some of the difficulties with the material. There is no metadata showing when each document was created, as opposed to when Anonymous made it into a PDF. Anonymous have released it in tranches and made plain there is more to come. The reason for this methodology is left obscure.

Most frustratingly, Anonymous’ comments on the releases indicate that they have vital information which is not, so far, revealed. The most important document of all appears to be a simple contact list, of a particular group within the hundreds of contacts revealed in the papers overall. This is it in full:

Tantalisingly, Anonymous describe this as a list of people who attended a meeting with the White Helmets. But there is no evidence of that in the document itself, nor does any other document released so far refer to this meeting. There is very little in the documents released so far about the White Helmets at all. But there is a huge amount about the Skripal case. With the greatest of respect to Anonymous and pending any release of further evidence, I want you to consider whether this might be a document related to the Skripal incident.

The list is headed CND gen list 2. CND is Christopher Nigel Donnelly, Director of the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative and a very senior career Military Intelligence Officer.

The first name on the list caught my eye. Duncan Allan was the young FCO Research Analyst who, as detailed in Murder in Samarkand, appears in my Ambassadorial office in Tashkent, telling me of the FCO staff who had been left in tears by the pressure put on them to sign up to Blair’s dodgy dossier on Iraqi WMD. During the process of clearing the manuscript with the FCO, I was told (though not by him) that he denied having ever said it. It was one of a very few instances where I refused to make the changes requested to the text, because I had no doubt whatsoever of what had been said.

If Duncan did lie about having told me, it did his career no harm as he is now Deputy Head of FCO Research Analysts and, most importantly, the FCO’s lead analyst on Russia and the Former Soviet Union.

Now let us tie that in with the notorious name further down the list; Pablo Miller, the long-term MI6 handler of Sergei Skripal, who lived in Salisbury with Skripal. Miller is the man who was, within 24 hours of the Skripal attack, protected by a D(SMA) notice banning the media from mentioning him. Here Pablo Miller is actively involved, alongside serving FCO and MOD staff, in a government funded organisation whose avowed intention is to spread disinformation about Russia. The story that Miller is in an inactive retirement is immediately and spectacularly exploded.

Now look at another name on this list. Howard Body. Assistant Head of Science Support at Porton Down chemical weapon research laboratory, just six miles away from Salisbury and the Skripal attack, a role he took up in December 2017. He combines this role with Assistant Head of Strategic Analysis at MOD London. “Science Support” at Porton Down is a euphemism for political direction to the scientists – Body has no scientific qualifications.

Another element brought into this group is the state broadcaster, through Helen Boaden, the former Head of BBC News and Current Affairs.

In all there are six serving MOD staff on the list, all either in Intelligence or in PR. Intriguingly one of them, Ian Cohen, has email addresses both at the MOD and at the notoriously corrupt HSBC bank. The other FCO name besides Duncan Allan, Adam Rutland, is also on the PR side.

Zachary Harkenrider is the Political Counsellor at the US Embassy in London. There are normally at least two Political Counsellors at an Embassy this size, one of whom will normally be the CIA Head of Station. I do not know if Harkenrider is CIA but it seems highly likely.

So what do we have here? We have a programme, the Integrity Initiative, whose entire purpose is to pump out covert disinformation against Russia, through social media and news stories secretly paid for by the British government. And we have the Skripals’ MI6 handler, the BBC, Porton Down, the FCO, the MOD and the US Embassy, working together in a group under the auspices of the Integrity Initiative. The Skripal Case happened to occur shortly after a massive increase in the Integrity Initiative’s budget and activity, which itself was a small part of a British Government decision to ramp up a major information war against Russia.

I find that very interesting indeed.

With a hat-tip to members of the Working Group on Syria, Media, and the Propaganda, who are preparing a major and important publication which is imminent. UPDATE Their extremely important briefing note on the Integrity Initiative is now online, prepared to the highest standards of academic discipline. I shall be drawing on and extrapolating from it further next week.

December 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments