The US and UK are still fighting the cold war in new ways about which Australians know little.
The Democrat National Committee commissioned a report associating Russian ‘meddling’ with the 2016 election. It was put together by Christopher Steele, formerly an MI6 agent in Moscow. He is currently a witness in a US case relating to Buzzfeed’s publication of the ‘dodgy dossier’s’ salacious contents.
Steele was a partner at Orbis Intelligence in the UK with Pablo Miller, his former intelligence colleague, who recruited Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Estonia as a double agent in the 1990s. Later swapped in a US/Russia deal, Skripal lived in Salisbury, with Miller as his neighbour and possibly his ‘minder’. Skripal’s inside information was fed into the dossier, suggests former UK ambassador Craig Murray. Then in March 2018, Skripal and his daughter collapsed, apparently poisoned, in murky circumstances for which the UK authorities and the mainstream media (MSM) immediately blamed Russia. They repeatedly contradicted themselves about the details, but urged allied governments to dispel Russian diplomats, and several, including Australia, obliged.
The imposition of three DSMA (‘D-notices’) prevented the British media challenging the inconsistencies in the government’s case, or finding out what has become of the Skripals. BBC Panorama and Reuters ran reports that backed the official line. But a group of academics (Working Group on Syria, Propaganda, and Media) and several independent journalists in the US, UK and elsewhere have pointed to numerous scientific and circumstantial inaccuracies. The question of why the Skripals were poisoned, who by, and with what motive remains open, and there has been no public inquiry.
Meanwhile in Syria, the UK and US-backed White Helmets (founded by James Le Mesurier, a former British army intelligence officer) staged what were reported as chemical weapons (CW) attacks on Syrian civilians. According to independent Western observers, they used video images from other sites, and brought in terrified but un-gassed children to be hosed down for visual effect. Such events have at least twice occurred when the US looked likely to withdraw its forces: ‘If the White Helmets turn off their cameras, America will turn off the money’ wrote former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. On 14 April 2018, after the President’s daughter was upset by pictures of ‘gassed’ children, the US, UK, and France bombed what they said were Syrian CW factories, about which they produced no evidence.
Anonymity allows falsehood to thrive. In 2018, it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, White Helmets, and even government agencies in the UK like the Institute for Statecraft (established 2009 as a ‘charity’) were apparently using psy-ops and targeting selected audiences with increasing sophistication. Chris Donnelly was a ‘Security and Justice Senior Mentor’ of the UK’s Stabilisation Unit, whose task is destabilising other countries. In 2015 he became director of a subsidiary, Integrity Initiative (with a false address in Scotland), reportedly a ‘military directed push’. It set up a ‘network of influencers’ with ‘clusters’ in ten EU countries and 20 others in the Middle East and North Africa, the US and Canada, and links to neo-Nazi groups in the Baltics and Ukraine. The joint operation in London received millions in funding from British government, the US, NATO, Facebook, and private sources to support ‘manipulation of the public sphere including campaigns to smear and suppress dissenters and block their appointment to public office’, according to Labour MP Chris Williams. In 2016 Donnelly recruited Mark Laverick, a specialist in CW at Porton Down, and in July 2018 a Porton Down colleague, Howard Body, joined Pablo Miller and representatives of White Helmets at a meeting at the London HQ.
Former Ambassador Craig Murray detected complicity between the BBC and Britain’s security services over the Skripal affair, and his freedom of information request about the BBC’s Mark Urban meeting several times with Skripal in 2017 was rejected. Until the Integrity Initiative website was taken down in January 2019, Urban was listed among its associates, along with several Defence and Foreign Office officials, and people with backgrounds in military intelligence including Pablo Miller, Hamish de Bretton Gordon (often quoted by the ABC), and the BBC’s Frank Gardener. Urban published a book about Skripal in 2018.
Integrity Initiative listed among its publicity successes reports that WikiLeaks had instigated the Catalonian uprising in 2017, and articles placed following the Skripal poisoning. Another effort was disseminating allegations about Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-Semitism. At a meeting in October 2016 Donnelly and retired General Sir Richard Barrons agreed that the UK should double its military expenditure ‘to deal with Russia and China’. Chillingly, they suggested the need for a catastrophic event that would generate agreement to spending £7 billion more per year on war. This echoed American neo-conservative Donald Kagan’s call in 2000 for a catastrophe to trigger revolutionary change, which was followed a year later by 9/11.
In January 2019 American journalist Tom Secker cut through the complexities and propaganda: ‘We have a group that called for a ratcheting up of sanctions and actions against Russia, then called for a “catastrophe to wake people up and demand a response”, who in effect are plotting a military takeover of the British foreign policy establishment, who work closely with both scientific and non-scientific officials at Porton Down, and have some association with Skripal’s handler, and were for a time engaged in information warfare on the Skripal case’.
It is no surprise that many governments do propaganda and psy-ops. What is puzzling is that the operations of Donnelly and his colleagues are widely discussed in the US and UK, but not in Australia. The shared agenda of the ‘Five Eyes’ partners suggests that they may well have ‘clusters’ in New Zealand and Australia. Only two Australian names appear in the leaked documents: an academic and a prominent journalist. There’s a lot more we need to know, but the MSM aren’t interested.
Dr Alison Broinowski AM, FAIIA is writing a book on terrorism.