The NY Times national security reporter held news of a massive voter manipulation campaign while pumping up the political operatives behind it as ace Russian disinformation detectives.
By Dan Cohen
In September 2017, New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane attended an off-the-record event in Washington, DC held by American Engagement Technologies, a data firm run by Obama administration veteran Mikey Dickerson. Shane was not there simply as an observer – he was invited to speak on his supposed subject of expertise: “Soviet and Russian disinformation.”
It was at that meeting where Shane learned of “Project Birmingham,” an online disinformation campaign waged against voters in the 2017 Alabama senate race between Republican Roy Moore and its eventual winner, Democrat Doug Jones.
The plot involved voter suppression tactics, including what its architects called an “elaborate false flag operation” that aimed to convince voters that the Kremlin was supporting Moore through thousands of fake Russian bots. The campaign also involved a phony Facebook page that encouraged Alabamians to vote for an obscure write-in Republican candidate, arranged interviews for him in major newspapers and even sought to arrange SuperPAC funding for his campaign.
But as Shane learned, this deception wasn’t the work of the Kremlin or financed by Russian oligarchs. It was a mass manipulation carried out by a private cyber intelligence firm run by Democratic operatives called New Knowledge. And it was run in conjunction with AET – the firm that had invited him to its secret meeting.
The US has 95% of the world’s foreign military bases, with personnel in more than 160 countries. But the Pentagon is leaving hundreds of outposts out of its official reports.
Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. A paperback edition of his book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books) was published earlier this year. His website is NickTurse.com.
The Integrity Initiative has mobilized an international disinformation campaign across Europe. Now, with government and right-wing foundation money, this massive “political smear unit” is infiltrating the US.
By Max Blumenthal and Mark Ames
A bombshell domestic spy scandal has been unfolding in Britain, after hacked internal communications exposed a covert UK state military-intelligence psychological warfare operation targeting its own citizens and political figures in allied NATO countries under the cover of fighting “Russian disinformation.”
The leaked documents revealed a secret network of spies, prominent journalists and think-tanks colluding under the umbrella of a group called “Integrity Initiative” to shape domestic opinion—and to smear political opponents of the right-wing Tory government, including the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.
Until now, this Integrity Initiative domestic spy scandal has been ignored in the American media, perhaps because it has mostly involved British names. But it is clear that the influence operation has already been activated in the US. Hacked documents reveal that the Integrity Initiative is cultivating powerful allies inside the State Department, top DC think tanks, the FBI and the DHS, where it has gained access to Katharine Gorka and her husband, the fascist-linked cable news pundit Sebastian Gorka.
The Integrity Initiative has spelled out plans to expand its network across the US, meddling in American politics and recruiting “a new generation of Russia watchers” behind the false guise of a non-partisan charity. Moreover, the group has hired one of the most notorious American “perception management” specialists, John Rendon, to train its clusters of pundits and cultivate relationships with the media.
Back in the UK, Member of Parliament Chris Williamson has clamored for an investigation into the Integrity Initiative’s abuse of public money.
The Integrity Initiative story is just growing and growing. Many are rightly outraged that this Tory government could fund a political smear unit.
Questions need to be answered. Share this video on Facebook to make that happen. https://t.co/MGepaIEfGw
— Chris Williamson MP #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) December 14, 2018
In a recent editorial, Williamson drew a direct parallel between the group’s collaboration with journalists and surreptitious payments the CIA made to reporters during the Cold War.
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican Gomorrah, Goliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.