Johnson hides security report on Russian meddling amid suggestion he’s ‘compromised’

Boris Johnson
Tom Coburg

CORRECTION: This article was updated at 3.20pm on 6 November to make clear that Alexander Downer was not on the board of consultancy firm Hakluyt at the time of Downer’s reported meeting with the FBI.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has delayed publication of a dossier on alleged Russian interference in UK voting, Russian bot attacks, and Russian funding of Conservatives. This comes after Johnson’s link to a “Russian agent” was questioned at a US House intelligence committee hearing.

The UK allegations

MP Ben Bradshaw requested that the Commons’ Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) look into:

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activities and funding of political organisations such as Conservative Friends of Russia, now renamed as the Westminster Russia Forum.

This followed an investigation that claimed the Kremlin had targeted leading Tories. One Russian Embassy senior diplomat was Sergey Nalobin, whose father worked for the KGB and brother for its successor. Nalobin was subsequently ‘expelled‘ from the UK. The Guardian, meanwhile, claimed that Nalobin targeted Matthew Elliott, who later joined Paul Staines (aka ‘Guido Fawkes’) and others to develop a UK voter database. Elliott then went on to head Vote Leave (fronted by Johnson and Michael Gove) and Brexit Central.

Russian bots

Bradshaw and Labour MPs Chris Bryant and David Lammy also called on the ISC to investigate pro-Brexit campaigns involved in alleged bot attacks prior to the EU referendum vote. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told US authorities that thousands of accounts were run from a St Petersburg-based ‘troll farm’.

One study found that 150,000 Russian-based accounts tweeted 45,000 messages in a 48-hour period. Claims by a data analyst suggested a Russian origin to many of these tweets.

Who is Joseph Mifsud, and did he ‘compromise’ Boris Johnson?

Fast forward to July 2019, when US Republican congressman Devin Nunes questioned former FBI director Robert Mueller about his report into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. Nunes referred to former FBI head James Comey’s description of a certain ‘Professor’ Joseph Mifsud as a “Russian agent”. Nunes went on to ask Mueller if Boris Johnson or NATO had been subsequently “compromised” by Mifsud.

Here is a photo of Johnson with Mifsud (on the left):

Mifsud is famously said to have been in contact with George Papadopoulos, a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Mifsud reportedly told Papadopoulos that Russia had ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails (Mifsud denied this). A heavily inebriated Papadopoulos allegedly spoke about this with Alexander Downer – Australia’s former high commissioner to the UK. On a separate note, Downer was also formerly a member of the advisory board of Hakluyt, a commercial consultancy with strong intelligence links.

According to the New York Times, Downer gave a statement about Papadopoulos to the FBI.

Who was Mifsud working with?

But there could be more to Mifsud than is apparent.

Disobedient Media argues that Mifsud was closely associated with the UK intelligence community. Indeed, Mifsud was photographed next to Claire Smith, a former member of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee and who was also on the UK Security Vetting Appeals Panel. Assange Defence further claimed that Mifsud and Smith were involved in the training of Italian ‘security services’.

Mifsud was also photographed at an international conference on Brexit, with representatives from Chatham House (a UK-based international affairs thinktank), the London School of Economics, and Italy.

(Here is a diagram of Mifsud’s many connections).

Mifsud’s exact allegiances may never be known, as it seems he has ‘disappeared’.

Security threat?

Regardless of Mifsud’s alleged link to Johnson, there are also questions about the latter’s integrity. For example, Johnson is known to have attended so-called ‘bunga- bunga’ parties (see video) at the luxury Italian villa belonging to Russian oligarch Evgeny Lebedev, the son of a KGB officer. That in itself could mean that Johnson is a security threat. And veteran journalist John Sweeney concurs:

Johnson reportedly visited the villa Palazzo Terranova four times, and flew there via Lebedev’s private jet.

According to the Times, an unnamed cabinet minister commented:

There’s the danger that people leak what they have over him or blackmail him with it.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that during Johnson’s time as foreign secretary he was allegedly disallowed responsibility for MI6 (that was later restored to the post when Jeremy Hunt took over).

The ISC report

The ISC report was provided to Johnson on 17 October, but he’s so far refused to publish it. MP Dominic Grieve, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee which is responsible for the report, is demanding it be published immediately.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also believes Johnson may have something to hide:

I suspect that the reason it hasn’t been published is because they’re going to delay it past the dissolution of parliament on Tuesday, and then they can hide it away until some point in the future.

If a report has been called for and written, and it should be in the public domain, then what have they got to hide?

This is a question not just about integrity, but also about judgement – and whether Johnson is fit to hold public office.

Featured image via YouTube

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