Integrity Initiative scandal reaches Sweden amidst deceiving media debate on Kragh

By Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli, SWEDHR chairman.

[Swedish version here]

The exposures concerning the British Intelligence-related project “Integrity Initiative” name the head of the ‘Russia and Eurasia Program’ at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Martin Kragh, as the British organisation’s “Cluster Coordinator” for Sweden and Scandinavia. [1] Kragh’s inclusion in the organisation has been indicated anew in yet another leaked document referred to it as “Cluster leaders”. [2] In both documents is given his official email at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs –whose main funder is the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

However Kragh initially claimed that such information is “false” [3], Integrity Initiative has not denied it. According to The Guardian (13 dec 2018), neither the organisation had disputed the authenticity of the disclosed documents, but instead acknowledged that they were hacked from their archives. [4]

It is important to note that Kragh does not deny the authenticity of the hacked/published documents that name him. At the contrary, he gives an explanation why his name is in those documents: “Three years ago, Institute for Statecraft wanted to work with me [sic]”, I turned down the offer.” Then he adds, “That is why my name is there, in some form of intern document, and this has been used as proof that I would be working with a British Intelligence service”. [5] Kragh’s declarations do raise important questions, some of them related to Sweden’s national security:

a) Why would Integrity Initiative –a secretive project managed by Statecraft– keep the name of Martin Kragh in a current document exclusively listing the organisation’s cluster-leaders three years after Kragh has ‘never been there’?

b) And if it is not Kragh, then, who is the actual Cluster leader in Sweden? And coordinating whom?

c) Why would Statecraft / Integrity Initiative have  a “cluster” of Swedes, let alone a “cluster coordinator”, operating in Sweden in the first place?

d) If the operations deployed by those “clusters” were not of an ‘Intelligence’ (cover disinformation) character, why the clusters’ existence, its activities and members’ identity have been concealed?

e) Why are these questions not addressed –never been addressed, up to here– in the Swedish debate on this issue?

Seemingly, in order to defuse any further investigations that would lead to inquire into who are the individuals or organizations that the “Cluster coordinator” would have been “coordinating” on behalf of the Integrity Initiative operations in Sweden, the Swedish media sat in motion a forceful campaign to counter arrest the exposures. This has comprised the following steps:

  1. Disinformation to the public about the actual nature of the Integrity Initiative project, whitewashing both its clandestine and operative interventions in other countries. The Swedish media reports do not even name “Integrity Initiative” as such, but only the Institute of Statecraft.
  2. Converting the reports on the leaks identifying Kragh as a “personal attack” against the researcher, allegedly motivated in “old-time” issues he had with a single reporter.
  3. Deviating the discussion towards the topic of the scientific value in Kragh’s article about ‘Russian disinformation against Sweden’, all which the stream media managed pivoting to:
  4. The notion that “ in fact were the Russians” which started the “unjustified attacks” on Kragh –which is today is portrayed at the Swedish press as both victim and hero.

In other words, an “Integrity Initiative” typical design.

The same leaked document listing the participants from different countries in the secretive organisation Integrity Initiative, also mentions Professor Thomas Mahnken, [6] which is the co-editor of the “Journal of Strategic Studies” [7], a (low impact) journal which published [9] Martin Kragh & Sebastian Åsberg controversial article describing ‘Russia’s disinformation activities against Sweden’ and blaming, among others, the organisation WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. [9] Another member of the editorial board of that journal is Timothy D. Hoyt, whose given affiliation in the journal website reads solely, “United States Naval War College”. [7]

The referred article by Kragh & Åsberg has been criticized for scientific shortcomings [10] [11] by Swedish professors. [12] Other debaters have also considered it unscientific as well as unethical from the perspective of research. [13] A recent publication by the Atlantic Council on the same theme done by an associate researcher at the same Swedish Institute of International Affairs (Henrik Sundbom) [14] also appears in that debate.

Certainly, these objections are important, as demonstrated unscientific method also entails an implicit annulment of the authors’ sweeping conclusions. Nevertheless, to analyse under which strategy and operational context the writings of Kragh and related authors are taking place, do have, in my opinion, a higher relevance. In the same line, what Kragh and supporters have pursued, and succeeded with so far, is in getting the domestic debate in the media – which originally had taken place in Aftonbladet, [15] Expressen [16] and SvD– [17] to mainly focus on the controverted scientific quality of his writings, instead on his engagement in the Integrity Initiative, as it is consistently alleged in the leaked documents. Nowadays a defence of Kragh –as a victim of “Russian disinformation propaganda”– has practically been spread all over Swedish mainstream media.

Non-scientific relevance in Kragh’s paper alleging “Russian disinformation in Sweden”

In addition, the magnified discussion on the ‘scientific’ relevance of Kragh’s publication – which is now being conducted in the Swedish media – is not only misleading but lacks relevance in itself. It is a discussion that is mostly done by journalists or commentators with seemingly no insight into what the relevance of a scientific publication really is. In Kragh’s case, it would have been enough to spend one minute on Google Scholar and found that out of the 35 publications listed as done by Kragh as author or co-author, [18] over half of those publications have no citation at all. Of the only 16 works that have been ever cited according to the Google Scholar record, over half of those publications have received only 1 to 3 citations each.

There is only one article that, as an exception, has received a “high” number of citations. It is, as I referred above, the one published in the Journal of Strategic Studies (“Russia’s strategy for influence through public diplomacy and active measures: the Swedish case”). [9] However, the breakdown of the citations to that article gives the real panorama in terms of a scientific vs. non-scientific value of Kragh’s article citations. I had neither the time nor the interest to go through the entire list, but this is at least the result of the review I’ve done of the first page [19] of the Google Scholar citation-list of that article – which identifies the first ten citing works:

a) Of these 10 citations, only 3 articles are published in scientific indexed journals (and only one journal shows impact factor over 1.0; the others are categorized as “low impact factor” journals, with an impact factor corresponding to 0.3 and 0.08 respectively).

b) Most citing works have not been subject to peer review;

c) over half of the citing works are conference-presentations or other forms of self-published essays.

d) And the most qualitatively significant in the context of this discussion: a third of the works citing Kragh’s article in the first row of ten articles I analysed, are authored by US military staff or academics associated with institutions of the military, such as “US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, “National Defense University, Washington, USA”, or “National Defense University’s College of Information and Cyberspace”.

 

Above: 37 Drottning Kristinas street, Stockholm, shared by the Armed Forces ‘Swedish Defence University’ (“Försvarshögskolan”), and the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (“Utrikespolitiska institutet”)

As mentioned above, Sweden’s state media has also been enrolled in the operation “Save Kragh”, and claims that this debate mainly corresponds to a conflict between an Aftonbladet journalist (Åsa Linderborg) and Kragh, and who would have a background in earlier confrontations a few years ago, etc. [20]  In other words, restating my conclusion, the Swedish elite tries to save what can be saved. Apparently, by intending  to remove focus from the real relevance that the exposures on the Integrity Initiative might have for Sweden, the  establishment’s media appears discouraging a potential identification of other individuals and groupings (outwardly pertaining to that same elite) that allegedly have been “coordinated” by the Swedish “Cluster leader” Mr Martin Kragh.

State television SvT is blunt deceiving the Swedish public on the Kragh scandal

Consequently, in the debate around Kragh, the newspaper articles have  avoided paying attention to the military intelligence character of the British organisation “Integrity Initiative” which is now revealed to have a coordinator manager right in the hearth of  the Foreign Policy Institute of Stockholm. Instead of demonstrating concern about these revelations, or of initiating any form of inquire, the Foreign Policy Institute came publicly in defence of Kragh. [21] And so does the pro-NATO media in Sweden, including the state-owned TV. [22]

Meanwhile in the British media, the Integrity Initiative organisation is reported to be “run by military intelligence specialists.” [23] The head of the organisation, Christopher Donnelly, is a reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps [24] and Honorary Colonel in the Specialist Group Military Intelligence, SGMI. “[25] Among the hacked documents that are now available through multiple mirror sites that are distributed in the Internet, one can also see the list of dozens of SGMI officers that Donnellly allegedly recruited. [26] Which contradicts the information by the Swedish public TV (SvT) saying only that “two ex-officers” participate in the organisation, and that “it is not run by the military”. [5]

The whitewashing assayed by the Swedish SvT presents “Institute for Statecraft” as only a “private think-tank” which receives some “state funding”, and that there is no reports in the British media on that it would be managed by Intelligence services. [5] But the information by SvT is double fold deceptive. In the first SvT they do not name the actual “Integrity Initiative project”, which is specifically the one implicated in the Kragh scandal. Integrity Initiative has an administration of its own under Statecraft, and what the British media refers is Statecraft manages the project “Integrity Initiative”, since the funding to such activity is channeled through Statecraft.

Secondly, the “state funding” unmistakably pertains to military sources, and obviously for military aims. These are the facts: apart the funds received from NATO, Statecraft  receives funding from the UK’s Ministry of Defence (corresponding to SEK 2,179,511 during 2016-2018) [27] and also by the British arm that contributed (corresponding to SEK 83,419 ) for “specialist training”. [28] The UK Government is planning to assist the Integrity Initiative with the equivalent of 24 million SEK in current financial year. [29]

What shines by it absence in the Kragh debate

We have seen that participants in the Kragh debate in the Swedish press, have partly indulged in blunt deceptive information, and also with unreasonable ad hominem attacks on those who have pointed out deficiencies in Kragh’s and supporter writers’ unscientific production, or their anti-Russia bias. But by forcing such a minimalist or superfluous focus in this debate, they have paradoxically emphasized the relevance of these other really important subjects, precisely because they shine with their absence. Such as:

a) the early existence of a professional pro-NATO lobbyist endeavour, which, wrapped in “scientific research clothes,” walks in the naïve decision-makers’ corridors. Which raises the question of the effect of their possible impact on contemporary politicians’ decisions regarding foreign and defence policy;

b) a renewed awareness of the constitutional right that any citizen has regarding to have an opinion on national security in the geopolitical context – for example, the advocacy of neutrality and non-alignment – and without being unfairly designated as a ‘non-patriot’. Which used to be done in Sweden by commentators or journalists for whom being “patriot” seems to mean paying tribute to NATO, hating Russia, or / and being positive towards British, American and Swedish arms industries;

c) an open discussion of what Sweden’s national interest really is. This includes survival issues for the Swedish population who so far have not been able to say directly what they think about the issue of non-alignment. A national referendum should be relevant. Such a tremendously vital issue as war is and what it can mean for both people and nature, which determines the fate of a whole nation, it is a risk that every citizen must be involved in pondering, and then deciding. The choice between provoking a war or doing everything to prevent it cannot be determined by a “cluster” of NATO lobbyists and their representatives among the elite of decision-makers. A national referendum on the issue of close cooperation with NATO vs. non-alignment and neutrality is a must. Life is the primary human right. Thus, the struggle for peace is also primary for Swedish Professors and Doctors for Human Rights (SWEDHR). [30]

Kragh, White Helmets, and SWEDHR

Martin Kragh and supporting writers who are coordinated with or without the knowledge of British Integrity Initiative, have since long had SWEDHR as one of their targets. Professors emeritus at SWEDHR are among the specifically targeted by Kragh or other actors around him. In addition, Kragh has also offered himself as a provider of Swedish-language information regarding SWEDHR, to CNN’s national security analyst Michael Weiss, also executive editor of “Coda Story”, a publication known for strong anti-Russia propaganda. [31]

As early as 2017, Martin Kragh characterized SWEDHR as only “left-wing extremist [sic] actors who get space in Russian-controlled channels” in an interview in Swedish Yle. [32] He did not say a word about what we had said and neither he referred to the facts that were the basis of our analysis. Our descriptions of geopolitical incidents of medical relevance were not political opinions, but instead our fact-based conclusions. That is the reason why our conclusions  were the subject of interviews abroad, and not only in Russia –another fact which Kragh and collaborators chose to totally ignore. Such behaviour does not belong to a good Swedish scientific research tradition.

For example, we stated that the material that the “White Helmets” (an organisation created and funded by the UK) showed in the UN Security Council in March 2015, was no evidence that chlorine gas was the purported cause of death of those children –that were displayed in a macabre propaganda scene done in the White Helmets footage. [33] Later in April 2017, we found that there was no evidence that sarin was used in the Khan Shaykhun incident. [34] Once again, the SWEDHR fact-based arguments were silenced. Later, it was only noted that the my analysis of this issue was presented by the UN Security Council by the Russian delegation. However nothing about the content of that document was mentioned by the media in Sweden. [35]

However later on February 2018, the then US Defense Minister Jim Mattis admitted that the US had no evidence that sarin gas had been used in Syria. [36] One week later, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said about the same regarding the alleged chlorine gas attacks. [37] So we were proven right.

Nevertheless, despite this clear “exoneration”, in December 2018 an attack with the same obsolete narrative took place anew by a Foreign Policy Institute’s associated researcher against Professor Emeritus Anders Romelsjö, [38] named in his capacity of SWEDHR’s Vice Chairman. This without the writer stating that our observations have been correct, according to the official information given by the defence ministers cited above. Professor Romelsjö has now replicated in Globalpolitics.se. [39]

The happenings around the White Helmets related above may now be better understood in view of the current leaks commented here. These leaks also include a document recording the Integrity Initiative representatives participating in a secretive meeting [“closed-doors meeting” as referred there] with the White Helmets, and which would have taken place at the Institute for Statecraft. [40]

The time in Sweden in which journalists or academic activists as Kragh indulge themselves in throwing away indecent, groundless, and evidence-deprived attacks against  honest researchers – as it consistently has been done against us at SWEHR– must be over.

To question and/or investigate a given – dominant – narrative does not automatically make the investigator a supporter of a particular political side. On the contrary, it is the researcher’s main task; to question, scrutinize, and create new knowledge and new insights.

Furthermore, it is now high time to seriously investigate whether Swedish academics, journalists and others in the publishing endeavour participate in a structured activity led and funded by foreign powers –with the aim of lobbying on the decision-making of Sweden’s defense and foreign policy on behalf of those foreign powers’ and their own interests.

14 March 2019. [Swedish version here]

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Notes, references, links:
[1]  From https://www.pdf-archive.com/2018/11/02/cluster-participants/cluster-participants.pdf

Found at https://www.pdf-archive.com/2018/11/02/cluster-participants/

[2] Cluster leaders:  https://www.pdf-archive.com/2018/11/02/cluster-participants/cluster-participants.pdf 

Link found at https://roguemedialabs.com/2018/12/20/scribd-took-down-all-leaked-integrity-initiative-documents-so-cyberguerrilla-consolidated-them-all-in-one-place/] [3] Lisa Nordlund, ”Martin Kragh: ’Målet är att få mig att sluta forska’ ”. Expressen, 10 mar 2019.

https://www.expressen.se/ledare/ledarsnack/martin-kragh-malet-ar-att-fa-mig-att-sluta-forska/

[4] The Guardian, “Foreign Office denies state funds went to Twitter account criticising Labour”,  13 dec 2018. Excerpt from The Guardian’s article:

“FCO funding of the Integrity Initiative was revealed by a set of stolen documents posted online last month by hackers under the banner of the Anonymous hacktivist collective. The organisation has not disputed their authenticity, but in a statement suggested that Russia was responsible for the hack and that Moscow had used its media channels to amplify its impact.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/13/foreign-office-alan-duncan-denies-state-funds-went-to-twitter-account-criticising-labour-integrity-initiative

[5] ”Hård kritik mot Aftonbladet: Anklagade svensk forskare för spionage”, SvT, 14 feb 2019.

https://www.svt.se/kultur/massiv-kritik-mot-aftonbladet-anklagade-svensk-forskare-for-spionage

[6] From https://www.pdf-archive.com/2018/11/02/cluster-participants/cluster-participants.pdf

Found at https://www.pdf-archive.com/2018/11/02/cluster-participants/

[7] Journal of Strategic Studies. Editorial Board

https://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?show=editorialBoard&journalCode=fjss20

[8] Enligt uppgifter från Research gate har Journal of Strategic Studies enligt senaste redovisning en impact-factor av 0.81, dvs låg impact-factor (< 1.00).

https://www.researchgate.net/journal/0140-2390_Journal_of_Strategic_Studies

[9] Doc. Martin Kragh and Sebastian Åsberg, “Russia’s strategy for influence through public diplomacy and active measures: the Swedish case”. Journal of Strategic Studies, published on-line, 5 jan 2017.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01402390.2016.1273830

[10] Prof. Lars Drake, ”(DEL I) Anmälan av Uppsala universitet och Utrikespolitiska Institutet för bristande kvalitét i forskning (Kraghs & Åsbergs artikel)”. Synapze, 20 jan 2017.

http://www.synapze.se/?link=article&key=16520

[11] Prof. Lars Drake, ”(DEL II) ”Anmälan av bristande kvalitét i forskning”. Synapze, 30 jan 2017.

http://www.synapze.se/?link=article&key=16523

[12] Prof. Lars Drake och Prof. Anders Romelsjö, “Martin Kragh: ”Påverkansarbete och informationskrigföring”? Global Politics, 3 mars 2019.

https://www.globalpolitics.se/vilketn-paverkansarbete-och-informationskrigforing/

[13] Tom Andersson, ”Ovetenskaplig forskning bakom mediekriget”. Aftonbladet, 26 feb 2019.

https://www.aftonbladet.se/kultur/a/5V5plX/ovetenskaplig-forskning-bakom-mediekriget

[14] Utrikespolitiska Institutet uppger (18 apr 2018) att Henrik Sundbom är ”Associerad medarbetare på Utrikespolitiska institutet (UI)”

https://www.ui.se/evenemang/tidigare/2018/april/gymnasiedag-mjuk-makt-och-paverkansoperationer/

Sundbombs artikeln i Atlantic Council, i ref. 18 nedanför.

[15] Debatt om Martin Kragh I Aftonbladet

https://www.aftonbladet.se/tagg/eab04b28-2513-4ce8-b174-5f24b61592bb

[16] Debatt om Martin Kragh i Expressen

https://www.expressen.se/sok/?q=martin+kragh&sort=relevance

[17] Debatt om Martin Kragh i Svenska Dagbladet SvD

https://www.svd.se/sok?q=martin%20kragh

[18] Google Scholar, retrieved 14 March 2019:

https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=5wEioWsAAAAJ&hl=en

[19] Google Scholar, retrieved 14 March 2019:

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?oi=bibs&hl=en&cites=9768588839841500659

[20] ”Detta har hänt: Konflikten mellan Aftonbladet och Rysslandsforskaren”. SvD, 14 mars 2019.

https://www.svt.se/kultur/detta-har-hant-konflikten-mellan-aftonbladet-och-forskaren?nyhetsmeny=1

[21] “Till stöd för Martin Kragh“. Utrikespolitiska institutet, 4 mars 2019.

https://www.ui.se/aktuellt/2019/till-stod-for-martin-kragh/

[22] “Hård kritik mot Aftonbladet: Anklagade svensk forskare för spionage”, SvT, 14 feb 2019. Op. Cit.

[23] John Ferguson, ”Secret Scottish-based office led infowars attack on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn”. Daily Record, 9 dec 2018.”

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/foreign-office-funds-2m-infowars-13707574

[24] Commonwealth Argosy, “Programme Leadership – Chris Donnelly CMG, TD”

http://commonwealthargosy.com/about-chris-donnelly/

[25] Wikipedia bio article om Chris Donnelly,

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Donnelly

[26] https://roguemedialabs.com/2019/01/26/anonymous-cyberguerrilla-publish-integrity-initiative-leaks-part-5/

[27] “(UK) Ministry of Defence: Institute for Statecraft:Written question – 200608″

https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2018-12-10/200608/

[28] Id.

[29] Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Integrity Initiative. Foreign and Commonwealth Office written question – answered on 3rd December 2018.

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2018-11-27.196177.h&s=speaker%3A24830#g196177.q0

[30] Swedish Professors och Doctors for Human Rights ( SWEDHR)

http://swedhr.org/

[31] Se Martin Kraghs svar-tweet till Michael Weiss, 7 okt 2017.

https://twitter.com/MartinKragh1/status/916655875179335680

[32] Ingemo Lindroos, ”Banden stärks mellan svenska högerextremister och Putins maskineri”. Svenska Yle. 29 jun 2017.

https://svenska.yle.fi/artikel/2017/06/19/banden-starks-mellan-svenska-hogerextremister-och-putins-maskineri

[33] M. Ferrada de Noli, SWEDHR:

” White Helmets Video: Swedish Doctors for Human Rights Denounce Medical Malpractice and ‘Misuse’ of Children for Propaganda Aims”. The Indicter Magazine, 6 mar 2017.

http://theindicter.com/white-helmets-video-swedish-doctors-for-human-rights-denounce-medical-malpractice-and-misuse-of-children-for-propaganda-aims/

“White Helmets Movie: Updated Evidence From Swedish Doctors Confirm Fake ‘Lifesaving’ and Malpractices on Children”. The Indicter Magazine, 17 mar 2017.

http://theindicter.com/?s=chlorin+white+helmets

[34] M. Ferrada de Noli, SWEDHR: “UN ‘Joint Investigative Mechanism’ report on Khan Shaykhun proven inaccurate, politically biased”. 8 nov 2017.

http://theindicter.com/un-joint-investigative-mechanism-report-on-khan-shaykhun-proven-inaccurate-politically-biased/

[35] Dagens Nyheter skrev 2 april 2018, ”gruppens påståenden har även tagits upp i FN:s säkerhetsråd.” Journalisten refererade till FN:s säkerhetsråd dokument ”Doc S/2017/1010” [ http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2017/1010 ] [36] Mattis warns Syria against using chemical weapons. CNN, 2 February 2018.

https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/02/politics/mattis-syria-chemical-weapons-warning/index.html

See also, Transcripts of US Def Sec James Mattis Press conference 2 feb 2018.

[37] Florence Parly : Le Service national universel doit être attractif pour les jeunes. Franceinter, 9 feb 2018.

https://www.franceinter.fr/emissions/l-invite-de-8h20/l-invite-de-8h20-09-fevrier-2018

Se även video “France Defense Minister: No confirmation of chlorine attacks, Syria.” The Indicter Channel. YouTube, 9 feb 2018:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSEXNW7yvdE

[38] Atlantic Council, “The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses 3.0.” See Henrik Sundbom: “Sweden – fertile soil for influence ops?”. 3 dec 2018.

https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/reports/the-kremlins-trojan-horses-3-0

[39] Prof. Anders Romelsjö, “Mäktigaste Nato-siten Atlantic Council uppmärksammar mig och min blogg. Smickrande?” Globalpolitics.se, 9 dec 2018.

https://www.globalpolitics.se/maktigaste-nato-siten-atlantic-council-uppmarksammar-mig-och-min-blogg-smickrande/

[40] “List of employees who attended a closed-door meeting with the White Helmets”  https://www.pdf-archive.com/2018/12/13/cnd-gen-list-2/cnd-gen-list-2.pdf

[link obtained at https://roguemedialabs.com/2018/12/20/scribd-took-down-all-leaked-integrity-initiative-documents-so-cyberguerrilla-consolidated-them-all-in-one-place/ ]