The recent articles showing that erstwhile U.S. Administrator of Truth Nina Jankowicz was connected with the shadowy, government-funded British group Institute for Statecraft (and its offshoot Integrity Initiative project) have reopened a can of worms far too numerous to herd into a single post.
Indeed, they’re so numerous it’s hard to keep track of them from one online search to the next.
So this won’t be an in-depth treatment of “IfS/II” and its squirming, hydra-headed mass. Rather, it’s a few notes on what Ms. Jankowicz was doing in the period when an IfS/II document reflects a connection to her. Plus some bonus observations about IfS/II.
As far as I’ve discerned at this point, one document out of quite a few – all of which were hacked and exposed by Anonymous in 2018 and early 2019 – identifies Jankowicz as explicitly linked to the Integrity Initiative’s “UK Cluster.”* The various clusters of the multinational Integrity Initiative project, which received funding from the UK and U.S. governments as well as from NATO, are described or at least referred to in the documents Anonymous extracted in its hack(s).
The UK Cluster was by far the best developed, a natural result of the UK being the nation where the original Institute for Statecraft was started in 2006. The U.S. Cluster was still in formation at the time the documents came to light, however. (The other national clusters were mostly in Europe.)
The screen shots above are from a PDF document entitled “UK Cluster.” Personal email information is blanked out (by TOC) to avoid doxing.
Please see the links from this article (including the footnote) to read discussion of the other personalities in the UK Cluster list. There’s no need to make this article longer with redundancy on that head.
That said, the others in the list are keys to the probable date range of this document. It was heisted by Anonymous in November 2018, so its posting date is 25 November 2018. But that can’t be taken as the original date of the document.
I’ve narrowed down the earliest month to August 2016. That’s based on the arrival date of an individual who was not at the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) before that month. (It’s an American, in fact, so it’s possible to be confident the person wasn’t there before the exchange assignment started.)
We can posit that the departure of another individual from a UK MOD office in mid-2017 indicates the general terminal date of the potential timeframe for the UK Cluster list. If so, the departure would put the terminal date in June or July. However, that individual is also a person who was in uniform at the time, and who, due to still being in the UK armed forces, may have remained on the list after that for some period of time before it was updated.
A significant set of points can be made based on what we can see through the lens of the documents. One is that there doesn’t seem to have been an operational U.S. Cluster in play before the 2016 election.
There were some Americans in the UK Cluster list, and at least one, Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council and the Digital Forensic Research Lab, was in a position to have potentially had a general role in election-related events. (At a more specific level, British UK Cluster member Simon Bracey-Lane was definitely involved: he basically infiltrated the Bernie Sanders campaign.)
Without discounting the possibility of generalized involvement by DFRLab, I haven’t been able to marshal enough likely information on the matter for a lengthier discussion here. (I will mention a couple of items below, however. Nimmo’s later activities argue that it’s by no means unlikely he was involved on the edges in 2016. Of course, CrowdStrike’s Dmitri Alperovitch is a prominent Atlantic Council figure as well.)
The IfS/II in the UK overlapped U.S. election events all over the place, however, including through Orbis Business Intelligence and Christopher Steele’s connections with Andrew Wood (contact of John McCain and David Kramer). Also of interest is Pablo Miller (MI6 spy and running mate of Steele who allegedly handled Sergei Skripal). Both Wood and Miller appear in the IfS/II documents.
Miller is listed in the documents as a general contact of IfS founder Chris Donnelly (a defense and Russia expert who spent decades as an advisor to UK and NATO defense officials. Donnelly was a member of Margaret Thatcher’s Soviet advisory team in the 1980s).
From Steele’s own time in MI6, he was in the same information chain at the time Miller was running Skripal. Steele was also linked to previous Russian poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko, who was attacked in the UK in 2006.
The attack on Skripal wasn’t until 2018, but Steele and Miller presumably knew each other, ran in the same MI6-retiree circles, and came to share the same particular experience when Skripal was poisoned. Of specific importance here, the IfS documents show that the Institute was closely engaged in the reaction to and messaging about the Skripal incident. Given the IfS connection to the British foreign office, defense and intelligence, and Steele – and its focus on “Russian disinformation,” which involved a lot of attention to Ukraine in the period surrounding the U.S. 2016 election – it’s likely that IfS was more than merely aware of Orbis’s activities in relation to the American presidential campaign.
Also essential to note about Pablo Miller: he was reportedly an MI6 asset at the British embassy in Tallinn, Estonia, when he was handling Skripal in the late 1990s. That has to set off alarm bells about “intelligence” shopped into the U.S. hopper in 2015 and 2016. Estonia popped up as an oddly prominent reported source of intelligence on Trump and Russia. (Estonia is naturally a unique source on Russia, being perched next door on the Baltic. But the kind of intel Estonia is supposed to have had on Russian dealings with Trump isn’t something Estonia’s national assets would have a better view into than other collectors.)
The Estonian intelligence seemed to always be something vouched for and known about only by John Brennan, and it’s something I’ve considered curious given the very long-term friendship between then-President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia and the country’s outsize benefactor George Soros.
A related figure from this group, although he had no known connection to Orbis or the dossier, is Russian expat Igor Sutyagin. Sutyagin was a Russian operative who was also allegedly recruited by the Brits in the same period as Skripal, and who, like Skripal, left Russia for the UK when the chance arose.
Rather than keeping a low profile in Britain, as Skripal did, Sutyagin became an expert commentator and think-tanker in Europe, and in the IfS/II document is listed as part of the UK Cluster.
Again, the overarching point here is that the influence being wielded by IfS/II characters in the U.S. 2016 election was managed by the UK Cluster. The U.S. Cluster was still in formation. We’ll see more on that later.
Jankowicz’s intersection with the UK Cluster
Another important point is that it doesn’t appear Nina Jankowicz was involved in activities related to the U.S. election. If she was, it was probably very tangentially. The vector of the tangent will be immediately clear if I spot readers one word: Ukraine.
Assuming the date of the UK Cluster list was sometime between August 2016 and the hacking date of November 2018, and that it was probably compiled in 2017, its timing dovetails nicely with Jankowicz’s stint as a Fulbright-Clinton fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. According to her online biographies, it was in that fellowship, which began in mid-2016, that she was an advisor on strategic communications to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We can’t be surprised by this anymore. Ukraine has emerged in the last five years as not just some gin joint for all the world’s NGOs, funny money, hopes and dreams, and proxy clashes. Ukraine appears to be the gin joint. Of course that’s where Nina Jankowicz (a Russian and Ukrainian linguist) was plying her information trade.
The assignment meshes with other information about her career. From 2013 to 2015, before she embarked on the fellowship, she worked at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a quasi-governmental entity created as a spinoff of Reagan’s National Endowment for Democracy. (NDI is run by Democrats; the Republicans have their own spinoff entity, the International Republican Institute, or IRI.)
Jankowicz’s bio material states that she devoted her efforts to Russia and Belarus during that period. But it was also during that time, in 2014, that Russia invaded Ukraine – with obvious implications for NGO employees working the Russia portfolio – and NDI decided it needed to beef up the overseas NDI unit in Kyiv. NDI’s reports from the time indicate that information and messaging were a major issue for the Institute and its approach to the Ukraine problem. That was up Jankowicz’s alley; a transition from working Russia at NDI to working in Ukraine as a Fulbright-Clinton fellow looks like a natural progression.
During her fellowship period, Jankowicz also hosted episodes of the online (YouTube) outlet StopFake, a Ukrainian non-profit which bills itself as seeking to combat “disinformation.” From her perch in Kyiv, the disinformation she was combating was naturally that of Russia.
Moreover, her biography blurb as a Wilson Center grantee describes her as a board member for the Open Information Partnership of an IfS entity called the Zinc Network, which the hacked documents show is an organization created to solicit funding from UK government agencies.
The timeframe of this connection falls shortly after Jankowicz’s fellowship in Ukraine, and indicates a continuing link with the IfS through at least 2018.
In light of these facts, it should be no surprise that the IfS became a key sponsor of an outlet called the Ukraine Crisis Media Center in Kyiv. (Remember, IfS receives major funding from the UK and U.S. governments and from NATO.)
In fact, let’s just lay out the list of sponsors cited by the UCMC (emphasis added): “Ukrainian World Foundation, USAID, NED, EED, NATO, UNICEF, German Marshall Fund / Black Sea Trust, UNHCR, Spirit of America, Heinrich Boll Stiftung, the Institute for Statecraft, Estonian Center for Eastern Partnerships, the Czech think tank ‘European Values’, the International Renaissance Foundation, GIZ, the Embassies of the United States, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Germany, as well as other reputable organizations.”
It was presumably in her media role with the Ukrainian MFA that Jankowicz interacted – no doubt frequently – with the UCMC and became a point person in the Integrity Initiative’s UK Cluster list. It’s quite probable that she was known to many in that circle from her role with NDI, before she entered on her fellowship in 2016.
As others have noted, the IfS/II also mentioned StopFake as a promising avenue for its self-appointed mission to impose “integrity” on information. This capture is from an Integrity Initiative handbook that bears the date 30 May 2018 on its original pages:
That citation, indicating familiarity with the medium, would have been a year or so after Jankowicz was hosting StopFake videos, so we can deduce that II was aware of her StopFake oeuvre.
The timing of all this suggests to me that Jankowicz wasn’t positioned to have significant involvement in the 2016 Ukraine machinations that accompanied the Steele dossier and the allegations about Paul Manafort. She started working in Kyiv when the efforts by figures like Alexndra Chalupa, Cody Shearer, Sidney Blumenthal, and Glenn Simpson’s network had already been well underway for months. Most of her important work while there probably took place somewhat later, in late 2016 and 2017. There have been no un-fraught periods for Ukraine in recent memory, but that timeframe doesn’t encompass the most-fraught either.
All of that in itself is informative, since Jankowicz felt compelled to insist that the Russiagate hoax was a valid narrative. I’ll let readers work out for themselves the meaning of adding such confirmations to the story being retailed in the media, with her career experience being in Russia and Ukraine during the relevant timeframe, when she probably couldn’t vouch on a first-person basis for any of it.
As much as it hurts to leave a lot of excellent material on the cutting-room floor, this article will never be published if I try to organize and incorporate everything. So with this nod to what I think is a reasonable estimate of what Nina Jankowicz was doing as part of the UK Cluster, I’ll move on to briefly touch on a few other topics.
The incipient U.S. Cluster
There is considerable discussion in the IfS/II documents of the need to establish a cluster in North America, which the documents typically refer to as a U.S.-Canada Cluster. A key communication in that regard is an itinerary outlining a U.S. trip for IfS Director Chris Donnelly, with dates in what I conclude to be September of 2016.
That conveys the mental adjustment of how deep we were into the U.S. 2016 election campaign when the top man at the IfS traveled to the U.S. for a series of meetings with American officials. I put the trip in September 2016 because that’s the earliest point at which one of the people on the itinerary, Hunter Treseder, was working in Washington, D.C. for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center.
Donnelly was also scheduled to meet with Sebastian Gorka on this trip, which I doubt would have been arranged a year later, once the U.S. media had kicked a campaign to smear Gorka with charges of Nazism into overdrive.
One of the noteworthy features of Donnelly’s visit is that it was sponsored by the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), a think-thank that gets a lot of contract business with the Department of Defense. The CNA point person for managing the itinerary was Ms. Mary Ellen Connell, whose biography and on-the-record footprint are interestingly light.
There is hardly any information to be found about Connell. Her brief bios describe her as a research scientist for the CNA Center for Strategic Studies, and formerly as a “counselor” for the U.S. Foreign Service. (Note here for research hounds: this is not the Notre Dame law professor named Mary Ellen O’Connell.)
However that may be, Connell has only two extant products from her time at CNA (here and here), which spanned at least 10 years. If either involved her doing original work, that’s not evident; the memo from 2005, for which she is attributed along with author Dmitry Gorenburg, isn’t posted online anywhere. The more recent one, from February 2015, summarized the presentations and findings from a CNA-sponsored seminar on Ukraine, at which the attending experts delivered the content.
While at the State Department, she served as the Executive Secretary of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA; noted in that position in documents dating to 1993 (see last page) and 1995 (p. 1/716)). At USIA in 1986 she was listed as Executive Assistant to the Bureau of Programs. But she was also the Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Mission in Denmark in 1988, and – again, but earlier, at USIA – was the Regional Exchanges and Cultural Coordinator in the Office of African Affairs in 1985.
Other standouts in her career history include attending the National War College in 1992, and receiving an award in 1989 for excellence in preparing “exceptionally candid, well-written and documented Officer Evaluation Reports” (i.e., performance reviews). The latter may not be a natural stepping stone to a research scientist position with a defense think-tank, but it’s certainly not an accolade I would sneeze at.
To cap the interesting history here, a website that auto-tracks these events presented an update in 2015 showing that Connell left CNA in July of that year. If that’s correct (the website claims a bit in excess of 90% accuracy), Ms. Connell came back to CNA from what was presumably retirement to escort Chris Donnelly around. (Even if I have the year wrong and the Donnelly visit was in September 2015 – when the UK’s Integrity Initiative itself was still not fully up and running – Connell would have left CNA before Donnelly’s trip.)
What this collection of facts raises in my intelligence analyst’s mind is the question what Connell was really doing all those years of manning desks for the State Department.
Other than Connell, there are no persons in the Donnelly itinerary who lack properly credential-stuffed biographies. One of the persons is Ambassador Thomas Pickering, a natural enough contact for such a visitor but also a confirmation of the significance the U.S. was placing on Donnelly’s trip.
Pickering, a five-time U.S. ambassador whose posts included Russia, India, and Israel, is now the Vice Chairman of the Hills and Company consultancy, founded by Ambassador Carla Hills in 1993 (and acquired in 2021 by Albright Stonebridge). Besides being a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Pickering also is or has been on the boards of usual suspects like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the International Crisis Group (the Soros-funded non-profit where Rob Malley was lately the president and CEO, and which is now decorated by such luminaries as Frank Giustra, Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees, along with Carl Bildt, Alexander Downer, Federica Mogherini, George and Alexander Soros, and others).
But it’s another affiliation of Pickering’s that caught my attention. Ambassador Pickering is on the Board of Directors of American Ditchley, the U.S. affiliate of the British Ditchley Foundation, which probably surpasses even the Hakluyt consulting firm as a nosebleed elite club. Among the current UK management are former Prime Minister John Major; the UK’s ambassador to the U.S., Dame Karen Pierce (who was Chief Operating Officer of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – the main UK source of IfS funding – from 2016 to 2018); Alexander Stubb, former Prime Minister of Finland; Norbert Röttgen, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag; the chair of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Bill Emmott; and Charles Grant, Director of the Center for European Reform – the CER that figures as an operating venue and partner in a number of the IfS documents.
Americans are likely to be familiar with current honorary board members Julie Brill of Microsoft and Vint Cerf of Google.
In the U.S., the Board Chair of American Ditchley is Jami Miscik, and board members include Joseph Califano, Jr., Robert G. Kaiser (formerly managing editor of the Washington Post), Geoff Morrell (Senior Executive Vice President of the Walt Disney Company), Joseph Nye, and Strobe Talbott. Among other personalities is board member Edward Cox, whom alert readers will know as Chairman of the New York State GOP, and who reportedly recommended Carter Page to the Trump campaign in early 2016.
Another board member is James F. Hoge, formerly the Chairman of Human Rights Watch and now a senior advisor to Teneo Intelligence, an arm of the Teneo consulting firm (which we’ve met a number of times before; scroll to the end here) founded in 2010 by Clinton associates Declan Kelly and Doug Band.
This is not a ragtag band of misfits the IfS/II has been running with. In this company the Atlantic Council is a hanger-on.
U.S.-UK clubs in the stratosphere
So it’s as good a time as any to mention an event that has always been of interest to me from the spring of 2015. The Ditchley Foundation in the UK held a conference in May 2015 on the topic of mass surveillance, prompted by the Snowden revelations of 2013. According to a report by Ryan Gallagher in The Intercept, U.S. attendees included Jami Miscik (formerly the Director of Intelligence for the CIA) and David Ignatius of the Washington Post, along with representatives from Google and Apple.
(See here for an additional article about the conference.)
But another American conference attendee was Mona K. Sutphen, at the time a partner with Macro Advisory Partners (replete with U.S. and UK seniors from foreign affairs, national security, and intelligence) and formerly a deputy chief of staff for the Obama administration from 2009 to 2011. She was on the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board at the time of the conference. (Notably, former MI6 chief John Sawers’s tenure at Macro Advisory Partners and as a member of Ditchley’s board of governors overlapped Sutphen’s exertions in these venues. As I have recounted before, Democratic political operative Jim Messina, whose ties to both Obama and Hillary Clinton put him in a center seat in the 2016 election cycle, was also a political consultant in the UK in the same period, and plugged in through David Cameron’s government with the Macro Advisory crowd as well as Hakluyt. The links are just endless.)
Sutphen was in the Foreign Service during the Clinton years, and her husband, Clyde Williams, was domestic advisor at the Clinton Foundation after Bill Clinton left office, as well as a vice president at the Center for American Progress (Podesta) and political director of the DNC.
The timing of the Ditchley conference on 14-16 May 2015, and its constellation of attendees, have been of interest to me because the meeting seemed to just precede or coincide with so many events of significance to Russiagate and Spygate.
Its topic of mass surveillance was certainly germane to a big slice of those twin Gates, from the extralegal exploitation of mass surveillance in the U.S. to the Russian electronic surveillance of U.S. communications reported by the Netherlands (and uncharacteristically trumpeted later to the media, by someone), starting just about the time of the Ditchley conference.
It was in the “autumn of 2015” that IfS launched its Integrity Initiative, which was to address disinformation – a separate but related aspect of the information environment.
But: per information we’ll see in the extensive Twitter thread linked below, the domain name integrityinitiative.net, used by the IfS/II, was first registered on 22 June 2015. (Holy Gregorian calendars, Batman. The thread by @pepesgrandma notes that the date was shortly after Trump and Melania came down the escalator at Trump Tower on 16 June. But as we’ve discussed in earlier posts, a whole lot of things happened in the weeks between the Ditchley conference and the Integrity Initiative domain registration. It’s clear that the II was already in planning at that point.)
Here’s the single tweet in question; the mega-thread occurs further down.
So it’s also of interest that in November of 2015, John Sawers and Richard Dearlove – another former MI6 chief – reportedly addressed an “exclusive” dinner for international fund managers at Gleneagles in Scotland. Both had moved on to their consulting work at the time.
The Guardian article notes that Sawers and Mona Sutphen had joined Macro Advisory Partners within months of each other. And the article from 2015 – that unwary, pre-Spygate world of the past – provides a graphic that may well make readers laugh out loud, showing the links of former MI6 heads and a few officials from Whitehall to the political consulting firms that have kept recurring as features of the Spygate/Russiagate landscape. Pull the thread on each circle in that graphic and a link to practically everything in the Russia-Trump hoax is overlapped. One hop away and allegations about 2020 are covered as well.
And IfS, with its II, is part of the overlap.
The Facebook connection
IfS doesn’t just swim in the same school as a slew of Russia/Spygate-connected people and entities.
Through connections including its II link with Ben Nimmo and the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, a link specifically involving disinformation and social media, IfS is connected to Facebook and its operations to influence the vote in the United States. One of those is Facebook’s own “integrity initiative,” which is basically a censorship project, in which DRFLab is a key player.
Another is Mark Zuckerberg’s 2020 project to steer the vote in swing states, paying for and sponsoring highly insecure, exploitable voting activities like drop boxes, vote harvesting, and freelance voter registration where state laws prohibit them – or at least do not authorize and purport to regulate them.
According to research done by Twitter super-sleuth @pepesgrandma, Facebook provided funding for IfS/II in recent years. Facebook also works with DFRLab in the social media giant’s “News Integrity Initiative” and “Election Integrity Initiative,” which thousands of conservative media providers can testify have the effect of severely restricting their audience reach on Facebook (when the initiatives don’t completely shut it down, that is).
There’s much more than that. I appeal to readers to peruse the thread, where the work has already been done. There are far too many noteworthy connections for me to delay this article by attempting to organize them differently. None of them is unimportant. User @pepesgrandma is good about receipts, and provides them here. I’m trusting readers to recognize that the tone of Twitter communications can make readers warier than they’d be with a stately-paced article format – but if the links to credible sources are just as good, they’re worth the consideration.
I do want to highlight a couple of additional things. One is the involvement of the Rendon Group in shaping the profile and activities of the Integrity Initiative. This isn’t highlight-able just because of the well-known allegation that the Rendon Group is a running mate of the CIA.
It’s also because, in a twist specifically relevant to our long, many-splendored probe of Spygate, the Rendon Group sponsored the Conficker (malware) Working Group led by Rodney Joffe in 2010. The Conficker Working Group, though less-remembered today, was an eye-opening innovation in manipulating and weaponizing the infosphere to provoke tactical reactions from targeted users, maneuver against them, and build narratives justifying this behavior.
In retrospect, the structural features of what Joffe and his Georgia Tech-centered team did with the “Alfa Bank” narrative in 2016 and early 2017 were previewed in the Conficker Working Group. It can’t fail to be informative that the Rendon Group was involved in both that working group and the IfS/II.
The other observation is that Zuckerberg’s Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL) worked with the Bellingcat project FirstDraft News under the auspices of the Democracy Fund (the non-profit created by Pierre Omidyar) in the run-up to the 2020 election. As we saw above, the Integrity Initiative lists Bellingcat as one of its go-to venues for integrit-izing the information, and has multiple individuals from Bellingcat in its UK Cluster. (Bellingcat, purportedly a citizen-journalism outlet, is also sponsored by the UK government.)
Zuckerberg’s CTCL, meanwhile, was the non-profit through which he funded privately-operated government voting functions in the 2020 election cycle.
The Rendon Group-Conficker link, with its connections to Joffe and Alfa-gate and IfS/II, and the Zuckerberg/CTCL-Bellingcat connection, together clarify that there is a network of interlinked groups operating in different but related facets of “information” to achieve a couple of very big objectives.
The objectives are to dominate public thought and steer the outcomes of elections. (If the objective were truly to ensure information integrity, the organized efforts wouldn’t pull everything offline and go into hiding whenever they’re smoked out. The sudden collapse of the DHS Disinformation Governance Board’s façade is just the latest iteration of that pattern.)
And the hovering presence of the senior political officials and their revolving door with consulting firms, and billionaire-funded non-profits, puts the whole enterprise in the realm of tangible reality.
Their moment is now, for making a concerted effort to digitally enforce the theme that they’re on the right side of information history. It seems that, to date, more discoveries have been made about the hovering presences in the UK than in the U.S. But peeling back the UK layers will keep leading to the ones in America.
* For very extensive background on the hacked documents and the information in them, including links to most of the original documents, start with these references. Not all of them are “sanitary” from the standpoint of political opinion, but they link to original material on everything they discuss, so readers can judge for themselves. The Wikispooks site has the contents of a number of the documents copied directly to its topic pages for ease of access.
Feature image: Ready for its draining. (YouTube)