Professor: Integrity Initiative Operations Are 'Outrageous in Democratic System'

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In response to mounting pressure from the opposition in recent days, the UK foreign office has defended its Integrity Initiative, after hacked documents suggested it was being used to meddle in politics both abroad and at home. Sputnik spoke to Professor David Miller, a political sociologist from the University of Bristol.

Sputnik: The Foreign Office says the Institute of Statecraft is an independent charity which has been the victim of a hack and Russian disinformation, what do you make of that?

Professor David Miller: Well, we don't know if it has been the victim of a hack. As far as I can see the reporting on the Institute for Statecraft and its Integrity Initiative has not been Russian disinformation but rather British outrage at the way in which the Foreign Office is handling this and the political class is handling this.

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As Emily Thornberry said this is a problem which involves the government spending money to attack the opposition and that is completely out of order and completely outrageous in a democratic system. You can't have the government playing party politics which is clearly what has been happening in this case.

Sputnik: The Institute for Statecraft has denied any party political meddling in the UK, saying ‘at no time has the Integrity Initiative engaged in party political activity and would never take up a party-political stance'. However, it added that ‘disinformation and malign influence from rogue states and certain non-state actors are a threat to democratic values and transcend any party political cause' which essentially gives them a mandate for meddling as has been suggested does it not?

Professor David Miller: That's right — they're saying they're not party political but they can have a go at Jeremy Corbyn and indeed parts of the Conservative party if they want. This is the secret state saying that they can attack any politicians regardless of what their party background is. That again is fundamentally undemocratic; it takes you back to the seventies when the secret state undermined the Labour party and indeed undermined any party which had policies it didn't approve of. In the case of the Irish conflict, the secret services tried to undermine Ted Heath the Conservative Prime Minister, as well as Harold Wilson, the then Labour Prime Minister.

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So this is a fundamentally undemocratic approach and their statement is a lie; they have been doing party political stuff, they've not been even-handedly attacking different parties. They've done one tweet which they've managed to dredge up which criticized the Russian money behind a particular Tory politician. But they've done tons of tweets attacking Jeremy Corbyn in the most appalling and smearing sort of way so it's really clear what's been going on with this.

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Sputnik: What questions remain unanswered regarding this organization?

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Professor David Miller: The questions which remain unanswered are: where is this Integrity Initiative based? The companies house registration is to a derelict building in Fife; the address on the website is to an office with two desks in it in the basement of a mansion in Temple in London — they haven't got enough space there for it — so where is the office? That's not at all clear and remains to be revealed.

That becomes more interesting in light of the fact that Chris Donnelly who was the recipient of the grant does not just have a career history in military intelligence but in 2015 was appointed as an honorary colonel in military intelligence; a position which he apparently still holds today. So the question is, is this a charity operation being funded by the Foreign Office, or is this, in fact, a Ministry of Defence operation, an intelligence operation, using a charitable front in order to first of all attack Jeremy Corbyn, but also to attack politicians in other countries.

The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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