After mobilizing a disinformation marketing campaign throughout Europe, paperwork present that the Integrity Initiative is now infiltrating the U.S., report Max Blumenthal and Mark Ames.
By Max Blumenthal and Mark Ames
A bombshell home spy scandal has been unfolding in Britain, after hacked inner communications uncovered a covert U.Okay. state military-intelligence psychological warfare operation concentrating on its personal residents and political figures in allied NATO nations beneath the duvet of preventing “Russian disinformation.”
The leaked paperwork revealed a secret community of spies, outstanding journalists and think-tanks colluding underneath the umbrella of a gaggle referred to as “Integrity Initiative” to form home opinion—and to smear political opponents of the right-wing Tory authorities, together with the chief of the opposition Labour Social gathering, Jeremy Corbin.
Till now, this Integrity Initiative home spy scandal has been ignored within the American media, maybe as a result of it has principally concerned British names. However it’s clear that the affect operation has already been activated within the U.S.. Hacked paperwork reveal that the Integrity Initiative is cultivating highly effective allies contained in the State Division, prime D.C. assume tanks, the FBI and the Division of Homeland Safety, the place it has gained entry to Katharine Gorka and her husband, the fascist-linked cable information pundit Sebastian Gorka.
The Integrity Initiative has spelled out plans to increase its community throughout the U.S., meddling in American politics and recruiting “a new generation of Russia watchers” behind the false guise of a non-partisan charity. Furthermore, the group has employed probably the most infamous American “perception management” specialists, John Rendon, to coach its clusters of pundits and domesticate relationships with the media.
Again within the U.Okay., Member of Parliament Chris Williamson has clamored for an investigation into the Integrity Initiative’s abuse of public cash.
The Integrity Initiative story is simply rising and rising. Many are rightly outraged that this Tory authorities might fund a political smear unit.
Questions have to be answered. Share this video on Fb to make that occur. https://t.co/MGepaIEfGw
— Chris Williamson MP #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) December 14, 2018
In a current editorial, Williamson drew a direct parallel between the group’s collaboration with journalists and surreptitious funds the CIA made to reporters through the Chilly Conflict.
“These tactics resemble those deployed by the CIA in Operation Mockingbird that was launched at the height of the cold war in the early 1950s. Its aims included using the mainstream news media as a propaganda tool,” Williamson wrote.
“They manipulated the news agenda by recruiting leading journalists to write stories with the express purpose of influencing public opinion in a particular way,” the Labour parliamentarian continued. “Now it seems the British Establishment have dusted off the CIA’s old playbook and is intent on giving it another outing on this side of the Atlantic.”
Unmasking a Smear Machine
The existence of the Integrity Initiative was nearly unknown till this November, when the e-mail servers of a beforehand obscure British assume tank referred to as the Institute for Statecraft have been hacked, prompting allegations of Russian intrusion. When the group’s inner paperwork appeared at an internet site hosted by Nameless Europe, the general public discovered of a covert propaganda community seed-funded to the tune of over $2 million dollars by the Tory-controlled U.Okay. Overseas Workplace, and run largely by military-intelligence officers.
By means of a collection of money inducements, off-the-record briefings and all-day conferences, the Integrity Initiative has sought to arrange journalists throughout the West into a world echo chamber hyping up the supposed menace of Russian disinformation—and to defame politicians and journalists crucial of this new Chilly Conflict marketing campaign.
A bid for funding submitted by the Integrity Initiative in 2017 to the British Ministry of Protection promised to ship a “tougher stance on Russia” by arranging for “more information published in the media on the threat of Russian active measures.”
The Integrity Initiative has additionally labored by way of its fronts within the media to smear political figures perceived as a menace to its militaristic agenda. Its targets have included a Spanish Division of Homeland Safety appointee, Pedro Banos, whose nomination was scuttled because of a media blitz it secretly orchestrated; Jeremy Corbyn, whom the outfit and its media cutouts painted as a helpful fool of Russia; and a Scottish member of parliament, Neil Findlay, whom one among its closest media allies accused of adopting “Kremlin messaging” for daring to protest the official go to of the far-right Ukrainian politician Andriy Parubiy — the founding father of two neo-Nazi events and writer of a white nationalist memoir, “View From The Right.”
These smear campaigns and lots of extra surreptitiously orchestrated by the Integrity Initiative supply a disturbing preview of the reactionary politics it plans to inject into an already poisonous American political setting.
A newly launched Integrity Initiative doc reveals that the outfit plans an aggressive enlargement throughout the U.S.
The Integrity Initiative claims to have already established a “simple office” in Washington, D.C., although it doesn’t say the place. It additionally boasts of partnerships with prime D.C. assume tanks just like the Atlantic Council, the Middle for European Coverage Evaluation, Middle for Naval Analyses (CNA) and its shut relationships with U.S. officers.
A serious hub of Integrity Initiative affect is the State Division’s International Engagement Middle, a de facto U.S. authorities propaganda operation that was established by President Barack Obama to battle on-line ISIS recruitment, however which was quickly repurposed to counter Russian disinformation following the election of Trump.
The Integrity Initiative has additionally recruited one of the notorious American PR males to arrange its clusters of journalists and political figures.
He’s John Rendon, greatest often known as “The Man Who Sold The War”— a number of wars, actually, however most notoriously the Iraq invasion. Rendon was the self-described “information warrior” who planted pretend information in main U.S.-U.Okay. media about non-existent WMD threats. With deep ties to the CIA and different military-intelligence businesses, his PR agency was paid $100 million to arrange and promote Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi Nationwide Congress. In 2002, The New York Occasions uncovered a Pentagon program utilizing Rendon to plant “disinformation” — together with “false stories” and “the blackest of black PR” — in media retailers around the globe, to be able to form public opinion and promote the Iraq invasion.
Journalist James Bamford outlined a listing of disinformation feats Rendon carried out for the Pentagon, comparable to figuring out “the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances, including the possibility of specific relationships and sponsorships.” Bamford additionally discovered proposals and packages Rendon was concerned in that aimed to “‘coerce’ foreign journalists and plant false information overseas… [and] find ways to ‘punish’ those who convey the ‘wrong message.’”
These techniques appear notably related to his work with the Integrity Initiative, particularly contemplating the interior paperwork that reveal additional Rendon-style plans to supply reviews and research to be “fed anonymously into local media.” (Among the many retailers listed as pleasant hosts in Integrity Initiative inner memos are Buzzfeed and El Pais, the center-left Spanish day by day.)
Maintaining With the Gorkas
Inner paperwork additionally seek advice from interactions between Integrity Initiative Director Chris Donnelly and prime Trump officers comparable to Katharine Gorka, a vehemently anti-Muslim Division of Homeland Safety official, in addition to her husband, Sebastian, who earned right-wing fame throughout his temporary tenure in Trump’s White Home.
The latter Gorka is an open supporter of the Hungarian Vitezi Rend, a proto-fascist order that collaborated with Nazi Germany throughout its occupation of Hungary. Following Trump’s election victory in 2016, Gorka appeared for televised interviews in a black Vitezi Rend uniform.
Gorka was among the many first figures listed on an itinerary for Donnelly to Washington this Sept. 18 to 22. The itinerary signifies that the 2 had breakfast earlier than Donnelly delivered a presentation on “Mapping Russian Influence Activities” on the federally funded army analysis middle, CNA.
In line with the itinerary, Donnelly was granted entry to Pentagon officers similar to Mara Karlin, an up-and-coming neoconservative cadre, and John McCain Institute Government Director Kurt Volker, one other neoconservative operative who additionally serves because the U.S. particular consultant for Ukraine. Quite a few conferences with staffers contained in the State Division’s Workplace of International Engagement have been additionally detailed.
Overseas Agent in State?
Of all of the State Division officers named in Integrity Initiative paperwork, the one who appeared most often was Todd Leventhal. Leventhal has been a staffer on the State Division’s International Engagement Middle, boasting of “20 years of countering disinformation, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and urban legends.” In an April 2018 Integrity Initiative memo, he’s listed as a present staff member:
Funded to the tune of $160 million this yr to beat again Russian disinformation with “counter-propaganda,” the State Division’s International Engagement Middle has refused to disclaim concentrating on Americans with info warfare of its personal. “My old job at the State Department was as chief propagandist,” confessed former International Engagement Middle Director Richard Stengel. “I’m not against propaganda. Every country does it and they have to do it to their own population and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”
At a Council on Overseas Relations discussion board about “fake news,” former Editor at Time Journal Richard Stengel immediately states that he helps using propaganda on Americans – then shuts the session down when challenged about how propaganda is used towards the third world pic.twitter.com/ClAT5POv7G
— William Craddick (@williamcraddick) Might 11, 2018
Like so most of the media and political figures concerned within the Integrity Initiative’s worldwide community, the International Engagement Middle’s Leventhal has a penchant for deploying smear techniques towards outstanding voices that defy the overseas coverage consensus. Leventhal appeared in an outtake of a current NBC documentary on Russian disinformation smugly explaining how he would take down a 15-year-old e-book important of American imperialism within the creating world. Quite than problem the e-book’s substance and allegations, Leventhal boasted how he would marshal his assets to wage an advert hominem smear marketing campaign to destroy the writer’s status. His strategic imaginative and prescient was clear: when confronting a critic, ignore the message and destroy the messenger.
Integrity Initiative paperwork reveal that Leventhal has been paid $76,608 dollars (60,000 British kilos) for a 50 % contract.
Whereas those self same paperwork declare he has retired from the State Division, Leventhal’s personal Linkedin web page lists him as a present “Senior Disinformation Advisor” to the State Division. If that have been true, it will imply that the State Division was using a de facto overseas agent.
As a cut-out of the British Overseas Workplace and Protection Ministry, the Integrity Initiative’s work with present and former U.S. officers and members of the media raises sure authorized questions. For one, there isn’t any indication that the group has registered underneath the Justice Division’s Overseas Agent Registration Act, as most overseas brokers of affect are required to do.
Grants from Neocon Basis
An Integrity Initiative memo states that the right-wing Smith Richardson Basis has additionally dedicated to ponying up funding for its U.S. community as quickly because the group receives 501 c-Three non-profit standing. The inspiration has already offered it with about $56,000 for covert propaganda actions throughout Europe.
The Smith Richardson Basis has previous ties to the U.S. intelligence group and controversial chilly struggle affect operations. In line with reporter Russ Bellant, the inspiration was secretly bankrolling radical right-wing “indoctrination campaigns for the American public on Cold War and foreign policy issues”— packages that acquired the eye of Senator William Fulbright, who warned then-President John F. Kennedy of their risks. At one in every of these indoctrination seminars, a Smith Richardson Basis director “told attendees that ‘it is within the capacity of the people in this room to literally turn the State of Georgia into a civil war college,’ in order to overcome their opponents.”
Smith Richardson has funded a who’s who of the neoconservative motion, from hyper-militaristic assume tanks just like the American Enterprise Institute to the Institute for the Research of Struggle. “To say the [Smith Richardson] foundation was involved at every level in the lobbying for and crafting of the so-called global war on terror after 9/11 would be an understatement,” wrote journalist Kelley Vlahos.
Apart from Smith Richardson, the Integrity Initiative has said its intention to use for grants from the State Division “to expand the Integrity Initiative activities both within and outside of the USA.” That is yet one more indicator that the U.S. authorities is paying for propaganda concentrating on its personal residents.
‘Main Event’ in Seattle
An Integrity Initiative inner doc argues that as a result of “DC is well served by existing US institutions, such as those with which the Institute [for Statecraft] already collaborates,” the group ought to “concentrate on extending the work of the Integrity Initiative into major cities and key State capitals [sic] across the USA.”
This Dec. 10, the Integrity Initiative organized what it referred to as its “main event” within the U.S. It was a convention on disinformation held in Seattle, underneath the auspices of a knowledge agency referred to as Adventium Labs. Along with the Technical Management Institute on the College of Minnesota, the Integrity Initiative listed Adventium Labs as one in every of its “first partners outside DC.”
Adventium is a Minneapolis-based analysis and improvement agency that has reaped contracts from the U.S. army, together with a current $5.four million cyber-security grant from the Pentagon’s Protection Superior Analysis Tasks Company, or DARPA.
Inside a modest-sized lodge convention room, the Adventium/Integrity occasion started with a speech by the Integrity Initiative’s Simon Bracey-Lane. Two years prior, Bracey-Lane appeared on the American political scene as a area employee for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential main run, incomes media write-ups because the “Brit for Bernie.” Now, the younger operator was again within the U.S. because the advance man for a military-intelligence cut-out that specialised in smearing left-wing political figures like Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour chief extensively considered the British model of Sanders.
Bracey-Lane opened his handle by explaining that Integrity Initiative director Chris Donnelly had been unable to seem on the occasion, probably as a result of he was slowed down within the scandal again residence. He proceeded to learn remarks ready by Donnelly that provided a window into the frighteningly militaristic mindset the Integrity Initiative goals to impose on the general public by way of their media and political allies.
In line with Donnelly’s feedback, the West was not in a “peace time, rules based environment.” From the halls of presidency to company boardrooms to even the U.Okay.’s Nationwide Well being System, “the conclusion is that we have to look for people who suit a wartime environment rather than peacetime.”
Throughout a Q&A, Bracey-Lane remarked that “we have to change the definition of war to encompass everything that war now encompasses,” referring vaguely to varied types of “hybrid warfare.”
“There is a great deal to be done in communicating that to young people,” he continued. “When we mean being at war we don’t mean sending our boys off to fight. It’s right here in our homes.”
The emphasis on restructuring society alongside martial strains mirrored the disturbing considering additionally on show in notes of a personal assembly between Donnelly and Gen. Richard Barrons in 2016. Throughout that chat, the 2 officers determined that the British army ought to be faraway from democratic supervision and have the ability to function as “an independent body outside politics.”
Whereas Bracey-Lane’s presentation completely captured the army mindset of the Integrity Initiative, the audio system that adopted him provided a various array of views on the idea of disinformation, some extra nuanced than others. However one speak stood out from the remaining — not due to its high quality, however due to its full lack thereof.
Theorist of ‘Red-Brown’ Networks
The presentation was delivered by Alexander Reid Ross, a half-baked political researcher who peddles computer-generated spiderweb relationship charts to show the existence of an enormous hidden community of “red-brown” (or fascist-communist) alliances and “syncretic media” conspiracies managed by puppeteers in Moscow.
Ross is a lecturer on geography at Portland State College with no scholarly or journalistic credentials on Russia. However with a e-book, “Against the Fascist Creep,” distributed by the well-known anarchist publishing home, AK Press, the middling educational has tried to make his identify as a maverick analyst.
Earlier than the Integrity Initiative was uncovered as a military-intelligence entrance operation, Ross was amongst a small coterie of pundits and self-styled disinformation specialists that adopted the group’s Twitter account. The Integrity Initiative even retweeted his smear of Conflict Nerd podcast co-host John Dolan.
In a collection of articles for the Southern Poverty Regulation Middle final yr, Ross tried to deliver his warmed-over Chilly Struggle theories to the broader public. He wound up trashing everybody from the co-author of this piece, Max Blumenthal, to Nation journal writer Katrina Vanden Heuvel to Harvard College professor of worldwide relations Stephen Walt as hidden shadow-fascists secretly managed by the Kremlin.
The articles finally generated an embarrassing scandal and a collection of public retractions by the editor-in-chief of the Southern Poverty Regulation Middle, Richard Cohen. After which, like some Dr. Frankenstein for discredited and buried journalism careers, the British Ministry of Protection-backed Integrity Initiative moved in to reanimate Ross as a sought-after public mental.
Earlier than the Integrity Initiative-organized crowd, Ross provided a rambling recitation of his principle of a syncretic fascist alliance puppeteered by Russians: “The alt right takes from both this ‘red-brown,’ it’s called, or like left-right syncretic highly international national of nationalisms, and from the United States’ own paleoconservative movement, and it’s sort of percolated down through college organizing, um, and anti-interventionism meets anti-imperialism. Right?”
In a wierd twist, Ross appeared on stage on the Integrity Initiative’s Seattle occasion alongside Emmi Bevensee, a contributor to the left-libertarian Middle for a Stateless Society (C4SS) assume tank, whose tagline, “a left market anarchist think-tank” expresses its core purpose of uniting far-left anarchists with free-market right-libertarians.
Bevensee, a PhD candidate on the College of Arizona and self-described “Borderlands anarcho into tech and crypto,” concluded her presentation by asserting a linkage between the choice information website, Zero Hedge, and the “physical militarized presence in the borderlands” of anti-immigrant vigilantes. Like Bevensee, Ross has written for C4SS prior to now.
The irony of contributors to an anarchist group referred to as the “Center for a Stateless Society” auditioning earlier than The State – probably the most jackbooted aspect of it, actually – for extra alternatives to assault anti-war politicians and journalists, can hardly be overstated.
However nearer examination of the historical past of C4SS veers from irony into one thing a lot darker and extra unsettling.
White Nationalist Associates
C4SS was co-founded in 2006 by a confessed baby rapist and libertarian activist, Brad Spangler, who set the group as much as promote “Market anarchism” to “replace Marxism on the left.”
When Spangler’s youngster rape confessions emerged in 2015, the Middle for Stateless Society founder was lastly drummed out by his colleagues.
There’s extra: Spangler’s understudy and deputy within the C4SS, Kevin Carson — at present listed because the group’s “Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory” — turned out to be a longtime good friend and defender of white nationalist Keith Preston. Preston’s identify is prominently plastered on the again of Kevin Carson’s guide, hailing the C4SS man as “the Proudhon of our time” — a loaded praise, given the unhinged anti-Semitism of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the influential 19thCentury French anarchist.
Carson solely disowned Preston in 2009, shortly earlier than Preston helped white nationalist chief Richard Spencer launch his alt-right webzine, Various Proper.
Kevin Carson defending his neo-Nazi bro Keith Preston https://t.co/qfV2y5orQ7 pic.twitter.com/AdzN2S09gM
— exiledonline.com (@exiledonline) January 13, 2016
The C4SS group at present participates within the annual Koch-backed Worldwide College students For Liberty convention in Washington, D.C., LibertyCon, a who’s who of libertarian think-tank hacks and Republican Get together semi-celebrities like Steve Forbes, FCC chairman Ajit Pai, and Alan Dershowitz.
In 2013, C4SS’s Kevin Carson tweeted out his dream fantasy that 4 Jewish leftists—Mark Ames, co-author of this text; Yasha Levine; Corey Robin, and Mark Potok — would die in a aircraft crash whereas struggling over a single parachute. Potok was an government editor on the Southern Poverty Regulation Middle, which final yr retracted each one of many crank articles that Alexander Reid Ross revealed with them and formally apologized for having run them.
For some cause, the super-sleuth Ross conveniently failed to research the libertarian group, C4SS, that he has chosen to associate with and publish in. That capacity to shamelessly smear and denounce leftists over probably the most crudely manufactured hyperlinks to the far-right—whereas cozying as much as teams as sleazy as C4SS and authoritarian because the Integrity Initiative —is the kind of adaptive trait that MI6 spies and the Rendon Group would discover helpful in a covert home affect operation.
Ross didn’t reply to our request for touch upon his involvement with the Integrity Initiative and C4SS.
Disinformation for Democracy
Because it spans out throughout the U.S., the Integrity Initiative has said its want to “build a younger generation of Russia watchers.” Towards this aim, it’s supplementing its coterie of elite journalists, assume tank hacks, spooks and State Division info-warriors with certifiable cranks like Ross.
Lower than 24 hours after Ross’s look on the Integrity Initiative occasion in Seattle, he despatched a menacing e mail to the co-author of this text, Ames, saying his intention to recycle an previous and discredited smear towards him and publish it in The Every day Beast — a publication that seems to take pleasure in a particular relationship with Integrity Initiative personnel.
Regardless of the specter of investigation within the U.Okay., the Integrity Initiative’s “network of networks” seems to be escalating its covert, government-funded affect operation, trashing the political left and assailing anybody that will get in its means; all within the identify of preventing overseas disinformation.
“We have to win this one,” Integrity Initiative founder Col. Chris Donnelly stated, “because if we don’t, democracy will be undermined.”
Mark Ames is the co-host of the Radio Conflict Nerd podcast. Subscribe to Radio Warfare Nerd on Patreon.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the writer of books together with best-selling “Republican Gomorrah,” “Goliath,” “The Fifty One Day War” and “The Management of Savagery,” which will probably be revealed in March 2019 by Verso. He has additionally produced quite a few print articles for an array of publications, many video reviews and a number of other documentaries together with “Killing Gaza” and “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie.” Blumenthal based the Grayzone Undertaking in 2015 to shine a journalistic mild on America’s state of perpetual struggle and its harmful home reper