Part II: The Integrity Initiative's Foreign Agents of Influence Invade the United States
by Barbara Boyd, [email protected]
On November 23, 2018, a group calling itself “Anonymous” posted actual documents from the Integrity Initiative, a rapid-response black-propaganda information-warfare operation targeting Russia, China, Western Europe, and the United States. Since that initial posting, there have been three other document dumps concerning the Initiative, the last on January 4. These documents reveal the “boots on the ground” so to speak, for the cyberspace and black propaganda policies otherwise alluded to in the sanitized diplo-speak of the December 18, 2018 House of Lords report which we covered in Part I of this series.
The Initiative is run under the Institute for Statecraft, a British NGO which receives 95% of its funding from the British government, NATO, and the U.S. State Department. It is housed in London, right next to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the very rich and chic building which, according to the Grayzone’s Mohamed Elmaazi, once housed the Knights Templar and was the London home of William Astor. This is despite its registration as a charity in Scotland with an address corresponding to a dilapidated and abandoned building. Its funding was recently supplemented by Facebook. It is seeking U.S. tax exemption for a spinoff NGO here, to be funded by the Smith-Richardson Foundation, with the plan to target major cities in the United States outside of Washington, DC or the coasts. In all probability, the plan is to concentrate in the presidential battleground states for the 2020 elections, to prevent a second Trump term. The first document released by Anonymous brags that the Integrity Initiative managed to derail the nomination of Pedro Baños to head Spain’s Homeland Security Department based on a 2-hour smear campaign claiming he was too soft on Moscow.
The Initiative operates on the basis of “clusters” or contact groups of journalists, military and foreign office personnel, academics, and lobbyists within almost every European country, the United States, and Canada, and is now looking to expand to the Middle East. These people get alerts, often through the medium of Initiative “contacts” in British Embassies, to take action when the British Foreign Office perceives a need. A look at the “clusters” for the United States and Britain reveal them to be dominated by individuals from the Atlantic Council, the rabidly anti-Russian and anti-Chinese Jamestown Foundation, the Center for European Policy Analysis, and similar National Endowment for Democracy spinoffs.
The Atlantic Council is the home of the Digital Research Lab which housed Dmitri Alperovitch, the guy who also leads CrowdStrike, the company which manufactured the fake story about Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta. It also houses Ben Nimmo, who also shills for the Integrity Initiative and has written many of the provably fake claims about Putin’s purported monster cyber capabilities. The Digital Research Lab was recently hired by Facebook to police and censor users. The U.S. cluster includes Evelyn Farkas, who formerly had the Russia and Eurasia desk at the Defense Department under Obama and famously mouthed off on an episode of Morning Joe, about the Obama Administration’s unmasking and leaks of classified information to Congress in order to derail the Trump presidency. The UK cluster includes Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post, Ed Lucas of the Center for European Policy Analysis, Bill Browder and Vadim Kleiner from Browder’s operations, and, not surprisingly, Sir Andrew Wood, of Orbis Business Intelligence, the firm founded by Christopher Steele. All of these people have been up to their necks in the operations against Trump.
At the center of the Institute’s very military operations, is the use of propaganda directed simultaneously at both the government and the general population. Institute personnel lobby governments on behalf of war party policies against Russia and China, for example, in their disguise as private parties, while the Institute itself is being paid, as a think tank, by the very same governments. At the same time, the Institute’s media contacts echo the entirely concocted government “debate” to the general population. This circular churning of the media sphere is what Obama’s former security advisor Ben Rhodes called creating a public opinion “echo chamber.” Rhodes cut his national security chops by helping with production of the fraud known as the 9/11 Commission Report. This methodology, fulling implemented in the British propaganda and regime change operation against Putin, which began with the Litvinenko poisoning in 2006 and dramatically escalated in 2014, has created an astounding and deranged war fever against Putin in Britain and throughout Europe.
The Integrity Institute is led by Christopher Donnelly, a very well placed British military intelligence officer with an impressive career in NATO, the Ministry of Defence, and in military destabilization operations. Donnelly is obsessed with and paranoid about Russia. He laments that Britain and NATO are not equipped for war with Russia and proposes to change that by hyping the Russia threat both to governments and populations. Like an ever more deranged Doctor Strangelove, Donnelly’s prescriptions for responding to “the annexation” of Crimea in 2014 included mining Sevastopol harbor, attacking Russian satellites, and destroying Russian fighter jets—all of such actions being, of course, acts of war. Donnelly argues, that the British government needs a long term “vision” that will inspire people to fight a war, something which most sane people, of course, given the existence of nuclear weapons, are more than a little hesitant about. The Institute papers feature a discussion between Donnelly and General Sir Richard Barrons in October of 2016 which finds Donnelly wishing for some shocking horrendous event that will wake people up to the Russian threat.
The purloined documents posted by Anonymous show that Initiative personnel have targeted British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in a huge smear campaign as well as the Scottish Nationalist Party and other domestic opponents of the powers that be in Britain. They also show that Simon Bracey-Lane, a young Institute fellow, infiltrated the Bernie Sanders campaign in Iowa in 2016, gathering information which in all probability was reported back to the Clinton campaign. The Institute also claimed that Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a Russian pawn, a claim echoed by Hillary Clinton.
In the United States, according to Max Blumenthal’s terrific reporting, the Institute aims to create a new generation of “information warriors.” It has hired John Rendon, known as the “man who sold the Iraq War,” to train its “perception management” specialists. Rendon handled the publicity for Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress, along with other Washington, DC public relations firms. Buzzfeed, which infamously published the Christopher Steele dirty dossier on Donald Trump, is listed as a friendly media source. An itinerary for Integrity Initiative head Christopher Donnelly’s visit to the United States noted that Sebastian Gorka, Steve Bannon’s buddy who served with him at the White House, was scheduled for a breakfast meeting with Donnelly. Gorka’s wife, Katherine, who works for Homeland Security, is listed as an Institute contact. And Sebastian Gorka openly supports Vitézi Rend, a Hungarian order of fascist pedigree.
Donnelly was shepherded around Washington, DC by Anne Bader, a former Vice-President of the Atlantic Council whose own intelligence pedigree is completely British. He visited the Center for Naval Analysis, a key contributor to the Lords Report, and the John McCain Institute’s Executive Director Kurt Volker, a rabid neo-con who serves as US Special Representative to Ukraine. He also spent a lot of time at the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, where Todd Leventhal doubles as an employee while also serving with the Institute. At its first U.S. event in Seattle, Washington, the Institute spokesman Simon Bracey-Lane, the same guy who infiltrated the Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016, read remarks from Christopher Donnelly noting that
“the West was no longer in a ‘peace time, rules based environment. . . the conclusion is that we have to look for people who suit a wartime environment rather than peacetime.” Blumenthal reports that active recruitment in the United States of such warriors is targeted on the alt-right formations in the circles of Bannon and Gorka, and young Trump supporters more generally, who entertain a positive view of Putin and Russia, as well as the general public. Blumenthal asks the very germane question, how come these people don’t have to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act?
The Institute has recently opened major operations targeting Germany, seeking to smear and defame existing German networks urging peace with Russia while attempting to build the same war fever they have created in Washington and London. According to Sputnik’s Kit Klarenberg, the Institute’s lead agent for Germany is Harold Elletson, who was exposed by the Observer as an MI6 agent in 1996. Klarenberg writes:
“One can spot a ‘cultivated’ Russlandversteher [russia-sympathizer], Elletson suggests, when they make statements in accordance with one the Kremlin's 21 alleged ‘key messages.’ These include: Germany and Russia had a ‘special relationship’ and should return to it; Russia has legitimate interests and the West should respect them; the West deceived Russia over NATO expansion; ‘Wikileaks’ and Snowden show the West has not been open in its dealings with Germany; the Georgian crisis was the result of Georgian aggression; Russia has a legitimate claim to Crimea; the Ukrainian revolution was actually a coup d’état; sanctions against Russia are counter-productive and will damage the German economy; the Syrian crisis cannot be solved without Russian support, which has been instrumental in stopping the spread of ISIS. In essence, any German who’s remotely critical of NATO, the West, or prevailing Western global political narratives, or indeed government policy anywhere in the world negatively impacting Russia in any way — or who simply doesn't view Russia as invariably villainous — is a stooge of Putin.”
The Institute’s now-public documents include a proposal by the French company Lexfo which seeks funding for an offensive online influence campaign and includes a proposal for “counter-activism” through “negative PR, legal actions, ethical hack back, etc.” It states that it can launch hundreds of news pieces a day and offers to “edit” Wikipedia articles.
Lexfo’s proposal is of a piece with the recent scandal enveloping the cyberwarriors at New Knowledge, a U.S. corporation run by former Obama staffers, who were caught openly meddling in Alabama candidate Roy Moore’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. New Knowledge had been endorsed as certifiable experts on Russian disinformation activities in the 2016 U.S. election by none other than the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. The Intelligence Committee released a Report authored by New Knowledge and “experts” at the Oxford University Computational Propaganda Research Project about Russian propaganda techniques on December 17, 2018. On December 19, 2018, however, the New York Times published internal New Knowledge documents about actual election interference, not by Russia, but by New Knowledge.
According to Dan Cohen’s definitive account at the Grayzone Project, among the tactics used was manufacturing “a link between Roy Moore’s campaign and the Kremlin by claiming thousands of Roy Moore’s twitter followers were Russian bots.” The Internal Report cited by the New York Times contained the admission,
“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.” New Knowledge ran a Facebook page boosting an obscure write-in candidate, Mac Watson, to draw votes away from Moore while using social media to amplify sexual assault allegations directed at Moore. Local media were deployed extensively to cover the alleged Russia/Roy Moore linkage and national coverage was provided by the Russiagate conspirators at Mother Jones magazine. According to Cohen’s account, the Alabama disinformation campaign, received at least $100,000 from Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, although Hoffman has said he gave $750,000 to Mickey Dickerson’s American Engagement Technologies. AET paid for the Alabama false flag campaign. Dickerson was a founder of the United States Digital Service, a signature Barack Obama initiative. The entire episode is now under investigation by the Alabama Attorney General.
One of the New Knowledge “experts” is Jonathan Morgan, once a special advisor to the Obama White House and State Department and a contractor for DARPA. After the 2016 election, he was a favored media source for the Obama–Clinton trope that Hillary Clinton’s loss was the product of Russian disinformation. As cited by Cohen, Morgan told television viewers in Austin, Texas, that
“feelings of discontent were telltale signs that they had been duped by Russian disinformation… If it makes you feel too angry or really provokes that type of almost tribal response, then it may be designed to manipulate you… People should be concerned about things that encourage them to change their behavior.” His partner in the actual disinformation operations conducted by New Knowledge is Ryan Fox, who spent 15 years at the NSA and was also a computer analyst for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. Since receiving $11 million in funding from Silicon Valley’s GGV capital, New Knowledge is positioning itself as a major player in Anglo-American propaganda psyops. Morgan helped develop the Hamilton 68 dashboard, a completely phony tool for spotting Russian propaganda, which is funded by the U.S. German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, the Victoria Nuland outfit which testified for the House of Lords report.
The tranche of documents released by Anonymous on January 4 include a contract with Harod Associates to monitor social media and media response internationally to the Sergei Skripal poisoning and the British government response. The Institute labeled this and related activity, “Operation Iris.” A previous Anonymous release of Institute documents included the name of Christopher Steele’s business associate and Sergei Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, on the general contact list of Integrity Initiative head Christopher Donnelly. Anonymous originally claimed that this list is from a meeting concerning the White Helmets, a major terrorist-promoting and intelligence-funded “aid” organization critical to the fake narrative that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.
Former Ambassador Craig Murray, however, reasons that the Donnelly general contact list suggests much deeper involvement in the Sergei Skripal poisoning hoax. Murray notes that the list includes the political handler of Porton Down, the UK’s chemical weapon facility, Skripal’s MI6 handler, the BBC, and representatives of the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office, and the U.S. Embassy. In this release, Anonymous provides documents concerning Operation Iris and a timeline confirming Murray’s hypothesis. As revealed in the January 4 dump, the Institute’s media campaign about the Skripal poisoning was designed to create popular demand for even harsher actions against Russia by the British government while planting articles all over the world blaming Putin for the Skripal poisoning. “Journalists” paid by the Institute published multiple articles in the British press supporting the “Putin did it, and it should be War” line promulgated by Operation Iris. The Initiative characterized the official British response as “weak.” Anonymous notes, in its January 4 release, that the Institute is also deeply entangled in the White Helmets operation.
Many analysts following this story have also asked the obvious questions about Skripal, Miller, and Christopher Steele. Was Skripal, the MI6 former Russian spy, somehow involved in Steele’s full spectrum information warfare campaign against Donald Trump? Did he get Novichoked because he was threatening to spill the beans about how the whole fake dossier was cooked up? Or, was he targeted, as some have suggested, to create a narrative whereby Christopher Steele had actual Russian sources whose bravery in reporting to him resulted in Putin killing them, a phony narrative widely circulated by Steele’s publicists after his Trump dossier had been thoroughly and appropriate debunked? Such an event would hardly be new in the annals of British intelligence.
The blogger Moon of Alabama, points out that Ben Nimmo appears to be double-billing the Atlantic Council’s Digital Research Lab and the Institute for his various raves about the Russian threat. Nimmo is the author of the stunningly preposterous claim that Putin has weaponized jokes. He also authored a 2017 Guardian piece claiming that Russia influenced the Brexit decision through Facebook Ads with Guardian reporter Carole Cadwalladr. Both appear to have been paid by the Initiative for their nonsense, even after Facebook revealed that Russia-linked accounts had spent a total of 97 cents on Brexit ads. These absurd claims, of course, parallel those of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee about how a few thousand dollars in Russian-linked Facebook ads, most of which occurred after the election and had little to say about Trump or Clinton, and a full quarter of which were seen by no one, swung the American election for Trump. Aaron Maté has thoroughly debunked the Robert Mueller/Senate Intelligence Committee nonsense.
Another Integrity Initiative “expert,” Mark Galeotti, invented a whole Russian military doctrine of hybrid cyber warfare out of thin air in 2013, attributing it to a paper written that year by Russian General Valery Gerasimov. After years as an article of faith, requiring expenditure of untold millions of defense dollars to defend against it, Galeotti himself finally retracted his invention in March of 2018, following an earlier shredding of his claims by the U.S. Army Military Review.
The now-exposed Integrity Initiative is only a small part of the massive British-spawned hybrid warfare apparatus targeting Russia, China, and dissident voices in target populations.1The Syria Propaganda and Media organization has produced a very thorough outline of the first three Integrity Initiative document dumps. This apparatus was put into action following the Ukraine coup in 2014 and the initial popular rumblings in Britain itself about Brexit. As Hillary Clinton herself observed, the British and the U.S. utterly failed to sell their coup in Ukraine as a triumph of democracy. Clinton attributed this to superior Russian social media and disinformation regimes. Reality would say, however, that the employment of Neo-Nazis as the coup’s mercenaries by the British and their American friends, led by John McCain and Victoria Nuland, had a major impact on the applause meter. It is not incidental that one Christopher Steele served as a prominent adviser to Nuland and the Obama Administration concerning this coup, delivering over one hundred missives to the State Department concerning its operations.
In 2008, the Obama Administration, faced with managing the financial collapse and the revolt of the American population, proposed to attack “conspiracy theories,” namely anything interrupting their preferred depiction to the American population of reality. Samantha Power’s husband, Cass Sunstein, memorialized these discussions in January, 2008 Harvard and University of Chicago law school publications. He largely focused on debunking what he called fake conspiracy theories about 9/11. Citing the arch British agent, and godfather of George Soros, Sir Karl Popper, Sunstein advocated direct government intervention in internet chat rooms in the form of “cognitive infiltration,” suggesting that the resulting cognitive dissonance would render any political danger from conspiracy theories politically impotent. Sunstein proposed that private individuals fed with government information systematically intervene in internet conspiracy forums. The recent fake narratives produced by QAnon and targeting Trump supporters just before the Midterms, in the form of video game, Pokeman-type clues about the coup, such as the fake claim that Robert Mueller is really on Trump’s side, are a vivid example of such “cognitive infiltration.”
In 2009, Obama and the British engaged NATO to set up a mechanism to control opinion in the trans-Atlantic community, the NATO Centre for Strategic Communications. This project, however, largely sat dormant until 2014 when the Institute for Modern Russia, a think tank run by deported Russian oligarch, crook, and British stooge, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, published a paper asserting that Russia was deploying a vast propaganda network that was inundating the West with “conspiracy theories” in order to create general confusion. The aforementioned and debunked Integrity Institute expert Mark Galeotti is cited in the paper as its primary source of inspiration.
In November 2014, the British military created the 77th Brigade, implementing a strategy of disrupting internet sites devoted to exposing facts about 9/11 and the war against Syria. Subsequently, in 2015, Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post and the Center for European Policy Analysis created a unit called the Information Warfare Initiative which prominently featured Edward Lucas, who is the former editor of the London Economist and a general spook. The Center for European Analysis is a National Endowment for Democracy spinoff and was directed, at the time, by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Madeline Albright. The Information Warfare Initiative focused its attacks on the Russian media outlets, RT and Sputnik. At about the same time, in 2015, the Brits were setting up the Integrity Initiative as the central project of the Institute for Statecraft.
Russiagate in the United States, kicked into manic gear by the electoral victory of Donald Trump, was used to justify a massive expansion of these operations, kicking them off with a lurid article in the November 24, 2016 Washington Post drawing on the supposed “research” of a shadowy outfit calling itself PropOrNot.
The article claimed that 200 websites were pawns of the Russian government. This included just about every site in the United States opposing the Bush/Obama foreign adventures. The PropOrNot organization involves Polygraph (a government-funded Voice of America outlet), the Interpreter (the Institute for Modern Russia’s magazine), the Center for European Policy Analysis, and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Research Lab.
The entire effort is now subject to massive funding based on Barack Obama’s 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Although Trump appears to have been successful in initially blocking full implementation of Obama’s plans, Secretary of State Pompeo has now fully funded the State Department’s Global Engagement Center as stipulated in the 2016 NDAA. The Integrity Initiative claims that it is now fully engaged with State’s GEC. Todd Leventhal is a duel staffer at State and the Integrity Initiative. In the United States, the Integrity Initiative is also working with the Center for Naval Analysis and the Center for European Analysis. It has also worked extensively with the State Department/Ukrainian intelligence collaboration known as StopFake. It is working with far-right groups in Ukraine and the Baltics and mapping a full-scale attack on the Russian Orthodox Church, according to the documents posted by Anonymous.
With the funding spigots now completely open, every think tank inhabiting the U.S. security complex is sprouting “disinformation” and cyber war entities, surpassing even the billions of dollars poured into the same black holes for the War on Terror. The same is true in Britain. It is possible to specify at least 60 organizations now dedicated to information psyops against the population of the United States. Max Blumenthal, in his first takedown of the Integrity Initiative, compares it to Operation Mockingbird, the collaboration of intelligence agencies, compromised politicians, and the national news media which employed over 400 American journalists in the service of the CIA during the Cold War. In a fiery parting shot at just this type of apparatus, award winning journalist William Arkin has resigned from NBC News and MSNBC. Arkin, the author of one of the last great exposes of the national security state, Top Secret America, blasted NBC as a total captive of that very security state.