Posts Tagged ‘Institute for Statecraft’

Tony Benn on ‘Spycatcher’ and the Wilson Smears

January 8, 2019

Tony Benn was a passionate defender of civil liberties and an advocate of expanding democracy further against the attempts of the establishment to limit it. He was therefore a critic of Britain’s intelligence agencies and their repeated attempts to destabilise and undermine the left. The publication of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher in the ’80s caused massive controversy, because of its description of the activities by them. Thatcher invoked the Official Secrets Act to suppress its publication in Britain, but it was freely available elsewhere in the world. In his 1988 book, Fighting Back, Benn discusses the book and its revelations about just what the CIA and MI5 were up to, including their smears against the former Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson.

Among the pieces Benn quotes and discusses was Wright’s statement that MI5 bugged and burgled their way across London on behalf of the state, while civil servants looked the other way;

that during the Suez crisis, MI6 planned to assassinate Nasser using nerve gas;

that James Angleton, the head of the CIA, wanted to expand their London station and infiltrate and absorb MI5 completely;

that the intelligence agencies had always taken information from peoples’ national insurance files, and were setting up a computer link to do the same;

and that Angleton believed that Wilson was a Soviet agent, based on an anonymous Soviet source. (Benn, Fighting Back, pp. 237-8).

He then goes on to quote Wright on how MI5 was plotting to smear Wilson from the end of the Heath government. Wright wrote

As events moved to their political climax in early 1974, with the election of the minority Labour Government, MI5 was sitting on information, which, if leaked, would undoubtedly have caused a political scandal of incalculable consequences. The news that the Prime Minister himself was being investigated would at the least have led to his resignation. The point was not lost on some MI5 officers.

Wright continued on page 369 of his wretched book

The plan was simple. In the run-up to the election which, given the level of instability in Parliament, must be due within a matter of months, MI5 would arrange for selective details of the intelligence about leading Labour Party figures, but especially Wilson, to be leaked to sympathetic pressmen. Using our contacts in the press and among union officials, word of the material contained in MI5 files, and the fact that Wilson was considered a security risk would be passed around. Soundings had already been taken, and up to thirty officers had given their approval to the scheme. Facsimile copies of some files were to be made and distributed to overseas newspapers, and the matter was to be raised in Parliament for maximum effect. It was a carbon copy of the Zinoviev letter, which had done so much to destroy the first Ramsay MacDonald Government in 1928. [sic] ‘We’ll have him out’ said one of them. ‘this time we’ll have him out.’ Shortly afterwards Wilson resigned. As we always used to say in the office ‘Politicians may come and go, but the security service goes on forever. (Both quotations in Benn, p. 238).

Benn then went on to say about these revelations that

If any of them are true MI5 officers were incited to break the law, have broken the law, did attempt, with CIA help, to destroy an elected government, and any responsible Prime Minister should have instructed the police to investigate, with a view to prosecution, and the Courts should have convicted and sentenced those found guilty. The charge which the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, the Law Officers, the Police, have to face is that they have all betrayed their public trust, and the judges who have upheld them are in clear breach of the Bill of Rights of 1689. For if ministers can arbitrarily suspend the law, and claim that issues of confidentiality, or national security, justify a ban on publication; and if the judges issue an injunction, there could be no limit to the suppression of any information which might embarrass any government. (Benn, p. 239).

The Wilson smears have again become relevant after the recent revelations from the Anonymous hacking group, which the government admitted following a question by Labour minister Chris Williamson, that the Tory government was funding a private company, the Institute for Statecraft, to publish anti-Putin propaganda on the internet as part of its programme, the Integrity Initiative. This propaganda included smearing European and American politicians and officials, who were held to be to close to Putin. And so they smeared Jeremy Corbyn, just as the press a little while ago also tried smearing him as a Czech spy. Investigation has shown that the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative uses staff from MI5 and the army’s internet counterintelligence units, to the point where journalists investigating it have described it as a British intelligence cut-out.

It is over forty years since Harold Wilson left office, but the British intelligence services are back up to their old tricks of smearing Labour leaders as Russian agents. Benn wanted legislation put in place to make the British secret state fully accountable to parliament. The British conspiracy magazine, Lobster, has making the same argument since its foundation in the 1980s.

Benn and Lobster are right. Our intelligence agencies are out of control, and a danger to democracy.

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Poverty and the Insensitivity of the Queen’s Speech

December 30, 2018

A few days ago Mike put up an article reporting the backlash against the monarchy that had occurred as a result of the Queen’s speech. I never saw it as I find the speech horrendously boring, but I gather that Her Maj had sat in a wonderful gilded room, complete with a priceless gold Erard piano, and urged us all to be tolerant of each other at this time. People were naturally more than a bit annoyed to hear someone, surrounded with the kind of wealth most people can only dream about, telling the rest of the country in effect that they had better respect their superiors when poverty is massively increasing and people are fearing for their jobs, their homes and whether they’ll be able to put food on the table for their children tomorrow.

They also resented the fact that the royal family, as rich as they are, are subsidized by the rest of us through our taxes. Mike in his article reproduced a number of tweets critical of the monarchy, pointing out that the Queen’s comments that we should put aside our differences in the national interest was the type of slogan the Tories come out with.

One of the tweets by Mark Adkins went further, and said that it wasn’t just the monarchy itself that was the problem, but what they represented: the British class system that made breeding more important than anything else, and which concluded ‘This world view helps justify racism, snobbery and the demonisation of the poor. A Republic is long overdue!’

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/12/26/insensitivity-of-queens-speech-prompts-backlash-against-the-monarchy/

I’m not a republican, but this did show that the Queen was seriously out of touch. She could have made her speech in more sombre settings or even actually on the front line, as it were, at a food bank to show that she was at least aware how much some people were suffering. It all reminded me of the comments the 19th century German socialist writer Adolf Glasbrenner made about the Prussian monarchy of his day in his piece Konschtitution. The piece is supposed to be an explanation of the German constitution by a father to his son, Willem. It’s written in the Berlin dialect, and is written from the perspective of someone, who really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s like some of Tony Hancock’s speeches, when he started talking about aspects of British constitutional history, that he obviously didn’t know anything about. Like his remarks in the episode ‘Twelve Angry Men’ about Magna Carta being a poor Hungarian peasant girl, who was burned at the stake in order to get King John to close the boozers at half past ten. Or like some of the rants by Alf Garnett about how great Britain is, but without the racism.

Amongst Glasbrenner’s skewed explanation of the Prussian constitution are his remarks on the monarchy. These include:

‘The King does, what he wants; and against that, the people do, what the kind wants. The ministers are therefore responsible for nothing happening. The king rules quite irresponsibly… Should the people come to penury or starvation, so is the king bound, to say he’s sorry.’ He also declares that the form of the state is ‘monarchical-pulcinelle’, the latter word a character from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. The commedia dell’arte was one of the sources of the modern British pantomime as well as Mr. Punch in the Punch and Judy show, so you could possibly translate the phrase into a British context by saying it was ‘monarchical-Mr. Punch’ The piece also has a line that ‘without Junkers (Prussian aristocracy), police and cannon freedom isn’t possible’.

Although it’s a spoof on the Prussian constitution and the classical liberal conception of the state, which was that it should simply guard against crime without interfering directly in society or the economy, it obviously has some relevance to the Tory conception of politics. This also stresses the monarchy, strongly rejects any kind of state interference, and also believes that freedom is only possible through the aristocracy, the armed forces and the police. Although the police aren’t being supported so much these days, as the Tories want to save money by cutting their numbers so that they protect the rich, while the rest of society are left to defend themselves from crime. Perhaps they still think we’ll all hire the private security guards like the Libertarians and Virginia Bottomley were so keen on as replacements.

More ominously, in the present situation over Brexit it also reminded me of a poem by the Liberal Serbian poet Zmaj Jovanovic, ‘The National Anthem of the State of Jutunin’ I found quoted in Vladimir Dedijer’s Tito Speaks (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1953). This is a memoir of the former Yugoslav dictator’s life and his break with Stalin and the Soviet bloc. It was printed in the last issue of Borba, a Communist magazine, when the Yugoslav king, Alexander, seized dictatorial power, dissolving parliament and banning political parties.

O thou, Holy God, keep our King alive
In good health, strong, proud and glorious,
Since this earth has never seen, nor shall
Ever see a king equal to him.
Give him, O Lord, the holiest gifts from heaven:
Police, gendarmeries and spies:
If he doesn’t fight the foe,
Let him keep his own people under his heel.
(p. 69).

I’m not accusing the Queen, nor the Duke of Edinburgh or anyone else in the royal family of planning to seize power and rule like an absolute monarch. But I am worried about Tweezer’s plan to put 3,500 troops on the streets in case of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Under the Conservatives and New Labour Britain has become a very authoritarian society, including through the establishment of secret courts, where you can be tried in camera without knowing the identity of your accuser and with evidence withheld from your lawyers, all in the interests of national security. We now have a private company, the Institute for Statecraft, publishing smears in the media against Jeremy Corbyn and other politicians and public figures in Europe and America for the British and American secret state. And Mike reports that Tories are now requiring EU citizens or the children of EU citizens resident in England sign up to a central registry, which may make their information available to other public or private bodies without telling anyone which. This is another very disturbing development, as it seems that the British state is determined to leave them open to official persecution. And I’ve said in a previous blog post that a priest at my church, who ministered in Australia, is worried that if Corbyn gets into power, the Tories will try to get the Queen to dismiss him, just as they had her to do Gough ‘Wocker’ Whitlam in the 1970s.

I support the monarchy, but it needs reform and the Queen’s lack of tact in showing off her wealth at a time of great hardship has only made matters worse. And I’m afraid the increasing authoritarianism of the Tory and New Labour governments could discredit the monarchy if and when there’s a backlash.

Private Eye on the Integrity Initiative and Its Links to American Intelligence

December 30, 2018

I’ve just put up a piece by left-wing British vlogger Gordon Dimmack on the Integrity Initiative and its parent organization, the Institute for Statecraft, which have been revealed as British intelligence operations running smears against Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that he’s supported by the Russians. It’s pretty standard British establishment disinformation. In the 1970s MI5 ran a similar campaign against Harold Wilson, claiming that he was a KGB spy. The Sunday Times smeared the former Labour leader, Michael Foot, the same way in the 1990s, and have repeated the same libels recently. And then there are all the absurd attacks on Jeremy Corbyn in the press that he’s a Communist, Trotskyite or Stalinist.

Private Eye also ran a piece about the Integrity Initiative in this fortnight’s Christmas issue, for 22nd December 2018-10th January 2019. The article, entitled ‘Hot News, Cold War’, runs

The Integrity Initiative, ostensibly a campaign against “Russian disinformation”, faced Labour Party anger and a Foreign Office (FCO) inquiry when it emerged recently that the supposedly “independent” initiative was backed by 2m pounds of government money and had been circulating anti-Jeremy Corbyn articles.

Private Eye can now reveal that the project to “defend democracy against disinformation” has also relied on help from one John Rendon, the US political PR supremo dubbed “the man who sold the Iraq war” after his company, Rendon Group, was paid millions by the US government to build the Iraqi National Congress, the supposed “dissident” group behind fake tales about weapons of mass destruction that helped launch the Iraq war.

The Integrity Initiative was launched in 2016 by the Institute for Statecraft, a charity that claims to be “totally independent and impartial, not dependent on funding from political or government agencies”. However, documents released by hacktivist group Anonymous in November revealed that it got nearly 2m pounds from the Foreign Office in 2017/18 specifically to run the Integrity Initiative-figures subsequently confirmed by an embarrassed Sir Alan Duncan, Foreign Office minister, in a written parliamentary answer.

The Anonymous documents included detailed FCO plans to build up secretive “clusters” of friendly journalists and academics to spread their messages, with monthly reports back to government.

Integrity Initiative staff have intelligence links. The documents name as part of the team one Harold Elletson, a former Tory MP identified by the Observer in 1996 to have been an MI6 agent (see Eye 916). Another team member, Chris Donnelly, is a reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps.

Integrity Initiative “clusters” across Europe push articles “written by independent journalists in newspapers” which were “based on material provided anonymously by the cluster”. The documents show the FCO-funded “clusters” were not just aiming at “Russian disinformation”. Instead the attacked European politicians they believed were too “pro-Putin”.

The papers show how John Rendon helped shape this FCO-funded campaign. He was a top speaker at a 45,000 pound programme of Integrity Initiative seminars to “educate core team and clusters”, and his firm helped write Integrity Initiative dossiers.

The Rendon Group works extensively for the CIA, Pentagon and other US agencies. Famously, it was paid nearly $100m to help shape the Iraqi National Congress (INC) from the 1990s onwards. The INC built its western media contacts to pump out fake stories about WMDs. After Saddam’s fall, the INC proved to have little support in Iraq itself. Rendon’s experience shows the danger of secretive government PR supposedly aimed at foreign opponents distorting domestic politics.

The FCO says the Integrity Initiative documents were exposed by a Kremlin hack and “amplified” by “Russian disinformation”. Russian media are certainly delighted by the news, and Russia may well have hacked the press, but they are real. (p. 11).

The people thus smearing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left as Russian stooges are aided by an outfit that the helped to cause the illegal invasion of Iraq, an outfit that works for the American intelligence establishment. This makes sense. The Boston-based alternative news network, The Real News, have also put up a video about Initiative revealing that it doesn’t just smear British politicians and activists, but also American. This is a real scandal, and there needs to be a proper exposure of this organization and inquiry. And especially of the hacks, who are putting the organization’s lies into print to undermine real democracy across Europe and America.

Gordon Dimmack on Government Funded Disinformation House, the Integrity Initiative

December 30, 2018

A week or so I ago I put up an article looking at a piece by Mike about the Integrity Initiative. This is a government-funded disinformation programme run by the Institute for Statecraft, a private company whose funding also comes from the government and various right-wing think tanks, and whose staff appears to be drawn from the British military intelligence establishment.

The Integrity Initiative has caused a scandal because it claims that it was set up to combat Russian propaganda on the Net. It has expanded this, however, to include running smears against Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit. The company was first exposed when Labour MP Chris Williamson asked a question about it in parliament. The revelations about the organization’s political interference, both here and abroad, were truly shocking, but Duncan refused to say anything more about it, pleading that further information would reduce its effectiveness. One of those outraged at the Integrity Initiative and its malign activities was left-wing vlogger Gordon Dimmack, who states that this story is bigger than Brexit.

Dimmack has run a series of video about Integrity Initiative and its parent body, the Institute for Statecraft. In this one, he reveals the identities of three British journalists, who have worked for the organization in spreading disinformation and fake news. They are Ben Nimmo, and the Guardian’s Nick Cohen and Carole Cadwalladr.

Dimmack begins his discussion by running with Labour MP Chris Williamson’s own video about how his question about the government’s funding for the Institute revealed its dirty tricks campaign. It was revealed that last year it received 2.2 million pounds of government money, and was responsible for running political campaigns against various politicians and public figures across Europe. It and its pet journos put out disinformation to stop the attempts to by the Spanish Socialist party to get one of their country’s senior army officer, Pedro Banos, made its security leader. This was even before the Institute’s Spanish cluster got involved. One of the Initiative’s hacks is Ben Nimmo of DFR Labs, the DFR standing for ‘Digital, Foreign and Research’. Nimmo and his employers are funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Atlantic Council. Nimmo wrote a piece in the Scum claiming that Russia supported Corbyn, and then used his own piece as evidence to argue that Russia was not only promoting Corbyn as part of a disinformation campaign to sow division across the UK. Alan Duncan, the minister who answered Williams’ questions, then refused to reveal any more information. Dimmack comments on his excuse that it would damage the programme’s effectiveness, stating this means they’re frightened because they’ve been caught out. Williamson states that this is a threat democracy, and wants a public inquiry.

Dimmack himself notes that there have been four Labour MPs in parliament calling for an official investigation into the Initiative and its shady activities, including Jeremy Corbyn. But the media’s response has been to give it no coverage at all. The BBC wrote one article about it, which could have come from the Foreign Office. He states that the Guardian, or as he calls it, GCHQ’s propaganda rag, is very heavily implicated. Two of its journos, Carol Cadwalladr and James Ball, have attended Integrity Initiative sponsored events. They’ve also defended the Institute in the media and helped to cover this scandal up. They show that the media is not the ‘fourth estate’ holding government to account, but, in Dimmack’s phrase, ‘a fifth column’. Another Groaniad hack, Nick Cohen, has also attended events sponsored by the Initiative. Dimmack states that 90 per cent of Cohen’s articles are either attacks on Corbyn or Brexit.

He then moves on to an article by Craig Murray revealing the true location of the Institute for Statecraft’s headquarters. The lamestream media tracked it down to a disused timber mill in Auchtermuchtie, Fife, Scotland, owned by Daniel Lafeedney. Lafeedney, born with the more prosaic surname Daniel Edney, was formerly of D Squadron in the SAS and Military Intelligence. But Murray said that a quick search through relevant documents and a few phone calls revealed that the Institute’s real headquarters is in the basement of 2 Temple Place, London. This is definitely not a barn – it’s truly palatial, and was the London mansion of the millionaire William Waldorf Astor. The building has a website advertising itself as available for special functions, and showing off its opulent construction and decoration. It also invites people to donate to its maintenance. The Institute claims that it has no permanent staff, and shows nothing for rent, utilities or office expenses. In fact, the rent is paid by the Ministry of Defence. All of this is funded through MOD and the Foreign Office. Dimmack is naturally outraged, as the Ministry of Defence, as its name states, should be defending us rather than interfering in domestic politics or the affairs of foreign, allied states.

Lobster have also run a piece on the Initiative and its wretched parent, discussing government funding and its links to British intelligence, including MI6 and the cyberwarfare section of the SAS. It was set up apparently by Gordon Brown after he read a book on CIA’s sponsorship of the arts during the Cold War by an American academic. The book was actually a condemnation of the agency, but Brown missed the point and thought getting the intelligence services to launch propaganda campaign through the arts and media was a good idea.

As for the attacks on Corbyn, this seems very much like a return to hackneyed form by the British secret state. During the Cold War the IRD, the intelligence services’ propaganda department, ran fake stories attacking the Nationalists in Ireland and the British left. One of the most infamous examples of this was the smears made by MI5 against ’70’s Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson as a KGB spy. The media’s silence on this issue is easily explained: very many newspapers were complicit in running government disinformation. According to Lobster, the Sunday Times under Andrew Neil ran stories for MI5 in the 1970s, while Tony Greenstein did a piece a little while ago about Cohen and the fake news the Guardian was printing to smear Julian Assange of Wikileaks.

Chris Williamson is right. We need a genuine investigation into the Institute for Statecraft and the Integrity Initiative. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lobster has been arguing for years that the British intelligence establishment is corrupt and out of control. And New Labour when they were in power aided this by showing a complete lack of interest in investigating or controlling it and its surveillance and smears of decent people to support the Tory establishment. There not only needs to be an investigation into the Integrity Initiative and the Institute for Statecraft, but tough questions need to be asked of the British intelligence esta