Monday, January 21, 2019

Integrity Initiative - Driving A Wedge Between Russia and the West

While it received relatively little coverage from the Western mainstream media establishment, a recent 42 megabyte upload on an Anonymous server provides us with an inside glimpse into the genesis of the Western anti-Russia narrative.

According to the documents, an organization (rather ironically) named Integrity Initiative with the moniker "Defending Democracy Against Disinformation" was organized to mobilize global public opinion against Russia and its agenda as you can see on the organization's "About" webpage:

The non-for-profit charity was set up in 2015 as a partnership of several independent organizations led by The Institute for Statecraft.  It claims that it is dedicated to "education in good governance and to enabling societies to adapt to a rapidly changing world.", a rather benign mission statement.  In its first two years, it was funded by private individuals, however, funding for 2017 and 2018 was largely provided by governments, particularly the United Kingdom, reflecting the U.K.'s appreciation of the "importance of the threat, and a wish to support civil society programmes seeking to rebuild the ability of democratic societies to resist large scale, malicious disinformation and influence campaigns."

According to the documents a number of organizations including the United States Department of State,  the U.K.'s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), NATO, Facebook and the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense were looking to fund the Integrity Initiative as you can see here:

Integrity Initiative states the following about its services:

"It is inevitable that a programme tackling disinformation in Europe finds itself spending much of its time addressing the activities of the Russian State, including those carried out through its intelligence services. The Kremlin has invested more operational thought, intent and resource in disinformation, in Europe and elsewhere in the democratic world, than any other single player."

Not surprisingly, Integrity Initiative has comments on the leaking of its own documents by Anonymous:

"We note both the attempts by Russian state propaganda outlets to amplify the volume of this leak; and the suggestion by a major Anonymous-linked Twitter account that the Kremlin subverted the banner of Anonymous to disguise their responsibility for it...

It is of course a matter of deep regret that Integrity Initiative documents have been stolen and posted on line, still more so that, in breach of any defensible practice, Russian state propaganda outlets have published or re-published a large number of names and contact details. We have not yet had the chance to analyse all of the documents, so cannot say with confidence whether they are all genuine or whether they include doctored or false material. 

Although it is clear that much of the material was indeed on the Integrity Initiative or Institute systems, much of it is dated and was never used. In particular, many of the names published were on an internal list of experts in this field who had been considered as potential invitees to future cooperation. In the event, many were never contacted by the Integrity Initiative and did not contribute to it. Nor were these documents therefore included in any funding proposals. Not only did these individuals have nothing to do with the programme – they may not even have heard of us. We are of course trying to contact all named individuals for whom we have contact details to ensure that they are aware of what has happened."

With that background, let's look at four of the documents that were posted.

1.) A undated document discussing Russia's use of social media as a proxy for propaganda:

Note the following comments regarding Russia Today aka RT:

"RT has been able to capitalise on growing mistrust of western media among westerners. During the breaking of the coverage of many political scandals, RT articles aggressively raised issues that many felt were not being pursued by the western media, which is frequently seen as covering up non-PC stories. Many users believe that RT is willing to talk about incidents that western media will not, a belief that RT actively encourages. As such, many users of a both far-right and far-left disposition are willing to listen to RT, even being aware of RT’s control by the government, rather than western media.

Here is a page from the document which discusses the target audiences for Russian social media propaganda:

Note that the memo clearly states that Russian media outlets like RT and Sputnik are targeting an audience that is "distrusting of statecraft and major media groups.".  I wonder why Westerners would be distrusting of their own media?

2.) A 2017 document outlining plans for developing an American arm of Integrity Initiative:

Note that the writer of the memo states that the West is badly in need of a reassertion of U.S. leadership and that America needs to rebuild its understanding of Russia and how to deal with it.  It also notes that the international community needs to rebuild its understanding of Russia to ensure that Western governments get the popular support that democracies require (i.e. a strongly anti-populist movement).

3.) An undated document showing how Integrity Initiative is planning to expand "expert clusters" to other nations including Austria, Canada, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland among others:

4.) A January 2015 document showing Integrity Initiative's views on setting up anti-Russia sanctions with the goal of changing Russia's behaviour, peace in Ukraine, a return of Crimea and, most importantly, possible regime change in Russia:

On page four of this this interesting sentence we find the following sentence:

"Driving a wedge between Russians and government is key."

It is interesting to see that Integrity Initiative was ahead of the game when it came to punishing Russia for its involvement in Crimea's move to independence from Ukraine to the point that their greatest hope was that there would be regime change in Russia.

As you can see from these documents, Integrity Initiative, a government-funded, not-for-profit charity has a mandate to ensure that the West is immune to Russia's ongoing propaganda campaign by providing propaganda of its own.  It's certainly a good thing that Integrity Initiative has the "real truth" and is willing to pressure us into seeing the global geopolitical quagmire with its 20/20 vision.  Apparently, integrity in this post-truth era is in the eye of the beholder/purveyor.

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