You may not have heard of the Institute for Statecraft, which was registered in Scotland as a charity, or indeed of the Integrity Initiative, which it launched and effectively controlled. But OSCR, the Scottish Charity Regulator, most certainly has heard of both bodies, and has just concluded an Inquiry under Section 33 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. The conclusions of that Inquiry are damning.
The Executive Summary tells that the charity was not meeting the charity test for three clear reasons: One, “its purposes were not entirely charitable”, Two, “one of its most significant activities, a project known as the Integrity Initiative, did not provide public benefit in furtherance of the charity’s purposes”, and Three, “private benefit to charity trustees was not incidental to the charity’s activities that advance its charitable purposes”.
So what were the Institute for Statecraft and Integrity Initiative about? Well, the latter was ostensibly a campaign against “Russian disinformation”. In reality, it was all about Russophobia, trying to stoke fear of potential Russian actors and assets, even if they weren’t Russian actors or assets. It was perpetuating Cold War paranoia under another name. Which is where the Labour bashing came in.
The Institute for Statecraft claimed to be “totally independent and impartial, not dependent on funding from political or Government agencies”. This was not true: it had received around £2 million from the Foreign Office during 2017/8 to run the Integrity Initiative. And the latter was then caught circulating anti-Jeremy Corbyn articles.
Worse, as Private Eye magazine revealed last January, this campaign was assisted by a man called John Rendon: “The Rendon Group works extensively for the CIA, Pentagon and other US agencies. Famously, it was paid nearly $100m to shape the Iraqi National Congress from 1990 onwards”. The INC infamously told the West what it wanted to hear: that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. He didn’t. It took the money and ran.
Emily Thornberry - demanded answers from the Tories ...
And the Integrity Initiative is really Psy-Ops, propaganda, and yes, disinformation. First it gets its audience to “look over there” at alleged Russian disinformation, then slips out its own. It does this using content from “clusters” of supposedly independent journalists, although it should surprise no-one that the Murdoch empire is in there somewhere: the UK “cluster”, I’m told, includes David Aaronovitch and Edward Lucas of the Times.
There are more at the Times in that UK “cluster”. And last December, Ian Fraser in the Daily Record considered Alan Duncan’s initial campaign that the FO wasn’t funding any of the Integrity Initiative’s “domestic” activities, and a later angry rebuttal following the realisation that the group Anonymous had hacked the II’s website, and concluded “The Government’s line appears to be that it is wholly wrong for British media and journalists to expose what appear to be British ‘dirty tricks’”. The FO paying for Labour bashing.
... as did Chris Williamson. That's most interesting
It is, though, entirely consistent with dredging up the “Agent Boot” story over which Michael Foot took the Sunday Times to the cleaners, the claims by a fantasist that Corbyn had been an asset of Czech intelligence, and the easily disproved claim that the records of the East German Stasi held a file on the Labour leader. Which they did not.
The disinformation industry just lost a battle. But it has not yet lost the war.
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