The Labour Party has again called for a full investigation of the government funded Integrity Initiative after an admission by the group it may have broken both Foreign Office Rules and charity laws.
In December of last year, the group were revealed to have made several highly critical comments about Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter by The Sunday Mail, including accusations regarding Russia.
The Integrity Initiative is officially both a registered charity and publicly funded by the government as a subsidiary of the Institute for Statecraft (IFS). Alan Duncan MP stated in December that their role is “working to counter disinformation overseas by bringing together groups of experts to analyse and discuss the problem posed by Russian disinformation.” The group has received funding from NATO, the Lithuanian MOD, Facebook and the U.S. State Department. The Integrity Initiative has also received £2million in public funding from the government.
Documents leaked by Anonymous, however, paint a very different picture, with the true purpose of the Integrity Initiative said to be to counter Russia’s growing influence on the world stage, promoting increasing militarization, the return of Cold War “threat culture” and promoting both a “crisis of governance” narrative and feelings of Russiaphobia amongst the civilian population. The group is accused of lending support to the far-right in Ukraine.
Despite denying that Corbyn had been targeted unfairly at the time, an apology has now been issued to the Labour leader, with the founder of the IFS Chris Donnelly, an honorary colonel in military intelligence, said to have admitted that Foreign Office Rules and charity laws may have been broken.
“We put out something like 26,000 tweets. About 400 made reference to some political party or politician, and they were roughly equal between the main political parties, but we should not have sent [them] because the Foreign Office does not allow us to make any party political comment, nor does Scottish charity law. That was a mistake and we wrote letters of apology to Jeremy Corbyn. I have been special adviser to two Tory defence secretaries, and for Labour’s John Reid and George Robertson, so we are as apolitical as we could be.”Chris Donnelly, Institute for Statecraft, The Times
Despite Donnelly’s claims of being apolitical, he readily admits his own status as an adviser to two Tory defence secretaries and both John Reid and George Robertson were of an era when the Labour Party was some distance away from the socialist principles of Jeremy Corbyn. Other members of the board include members of the SAS and military intelligence.
“It’s extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which ends up attacking Her Majesty’s opposition.”Professor David Miller, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol
Coverage of political issues was also not quite as uniform as he suggests, with four Tweets speaking positively of Theresa May and only two being negative toward the Conservative party, one about a peer and one about a donor, none about elected representatives in parliament. This contrasts strongly with the nine negative Tweets about Corbyn and Labour.
The Initiative were also critical of the SNP and Alex Salmond.
The group also has connections to John Rendon, founder of The Rendon Group, officially a PR company that is perhaps best known for their work alongside the CIA in the 1990s.
The Rendon Group was “paid close to a hundred million dollars by the CIA” for working with the Iraqi National Congress (INC) and formulating a propaganda campaign against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. There have been allegations, which have been denied, that The Rendon Group not only was instrumental in the formation in the Iraqi National Congress but assisted in making the claim for the Iraq war. The Rendon Group was also paid highly for work in Afghanistan.
The Labour Party has called for an independent investigation into the Integrity Initiative, something that Alan Duncan initially agreed to before dismissing the affair as, what else, “Russian disonformation.”