A government-funded destabilisation network is forced to disable its own website

Integrity Initiative website message
Tom Coburg

The Integrity Initiative is an intelligence-linked network. It’s mainly UK government funded and specialises in combating what it calls ‘Russian disinformation’. Tactics include the destabilisation of tendencies it sees as being influenced by the Kremlin. But following the publishing of hacked documents, Integrity has itself fallen victim to a form of destabilisation. As a result, it’s been forced to disable its website.

But despite this development, hactivists continue to publish internal documents that could cause further embarrassment to Integrity.

Clusters

Integrity aims the bulk of its work at Russia. But it’s also actively involved in a number of covert operations in Europe and elsewhere. It does this through a network of ‘clusters’, consisting of journalists, academics and intelligence contacts, amongst others.

For example, via its Spain cluster, Integrity organised a campaign to block the appointment of Pedro Baños as director of Spain’s National Security Department. That was because Integrity saw Baños as “pro-Kremlin”:

UK ops

Integrity is also active in the UK, as shown by its UK cluster list. Integrity documents also mention people representing the Royal United Services Institute, the Henry Jackson Society, the Atlantic Council, Chatham House and Orbis (the private intelligence agency headed by ‘Trump dossier’ author Christopher Steele). And they identify other journalists, as well as military personnel.

Documents show that Integrity has recommended a number of ‘educational events’ by other organisations, including BuzzFeed and Bellingcat, with the latter listed as a possible research partner.

But while the main focus of Integrity is on Russia, it also intervenes in UK politics. This has included publishing comments and retweets on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his associates.

Integrity has also weighed in against Tory lords who associate with Russia and on the alleged links between Leave financier Arron Banks and Russia:

Intelligence links

Integrity’s parent body is the Institute for Statecraft. Statecraft’s director and co-founder Daniel Lafayeedney was a fellow with the Advanced Research and Assessment Group at the Defence Academy of the UK and was reportedly also in the SAS. Chris Donnelly, another Statecraft director, was a special adviser to the secretary general of NATO (and an adviser to Margaret Thatcher) and reportedly an honorary colonel in military intelligence. Both Lafayeedney and Donnelly are listed as directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, whose registered offices are at the same address as Statecraft. Lafayeedney also set up the “Atlantic Committee”, which liaises directly with NATO.

Additionally, Statecraft’s almost 90 fellows offer a range of security and intelligence-gathering specialisms.

Finance

Details of the funding of Integrity by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) appears in a document with the meta heading ‘FCO Budget’.

And on 27 November, FCO minister Alan Duncan confirmed:

In financial year 2017/18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. This financial year, the FCO is funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.

Other bodies that provided funding to Integrity included NATO and Facebook, with a further £250,000 provided by the US State Department.

FCO in denial

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry subsequently raised the matter of Integrity and Statecraft funding in the Commons. In response, Duncan was keen to point out that the FCO did not fund the management of Integrity’s Twitter account. However, an Integrity funding application to the FCO clearly states that “Phase II” includes Twitter activity. Thornberry expanded on this in a letter to Duncan:

Labour MP Chris Williamson later accused Duncan of misleading parliament on the matter.

All of this raises serious questions about Integrity’s precise role, as well as its funding arrangements.

Featured image via Integrity Initiative.

Since you're here ...

We know you don't need a lecture. You wouldn't be here if you didn't care.
Now, more than ever, we need your help to challenge the rightwing press and hold power to account. Please help us survive and thrive.

The Canary Support