State-Backed Alliance for Securing Democracy Smears The Grayzone

The online censorship initiative depicted critical reporting about the Iowa caucuses as part of a Russian plot, Alex Rubinstein reports. Independent reporter Jordan Chariton was also targeted.

By Alex Rubinstein

The Alliance for Securing Democracy, an online censorship initiative of the Western government-funded German Marshall Project, falsely and hypocritically characterized The Grayzone and independent journalist Jordan Chariton as “state-backed media,” smearing them for their factual reporting on the shadowy network behind the controversial app that undermined the integrity of the Iowa caucuses.

The Grayzone has exposed the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) in a series of investigative reports as a neo-McCarthyite outfit prone to spreading disinformation, staffed by counter-terror cranks and national security hustlers.

The ASD’s parent organization also happens to be bankrolled by the U.S. government, numerous European governments, and the European Union, to the tune of millions of dollars — making these false accusations against The Grayzoneand Jordan Chariton actual state-backed smears.

Chariton, who founded the independent progressive news outlet Status Coup, hit back at the ASD’s outrageous claims. “The days of faux democracy gladiators defaming journalists – whose factual work they seek to discredit —  as part of a Kremlin syndicate are over. It’s time to fight back,” he told The Grayzone.

On Feb. 10, the ASD published a dubious analysis of a supposed Russian effort to spread conspiracies and disinformation around the Iowa caucuses. It homed in on the Russian-funded Sputnik Newsand three shows broadcast by RT. Those programs included “Going Underground,” which is hosted by British journalist Afshin Rattansi.

The post continued: “In addition, all the most popular tweets about Iowa retweeted in this time period by at least one monitored account pushed a narrative that the Democratic National Committee and/or the Democratic establishment more broadly seeks to undermine Sanders via nefarious means. Monitored accounts ‘Redacted Tonight’ (@redactedtonight) and ‘Watching the Hawks’ (@watchinghawks) are the primary accounts engaging directly with this material.”

“Watching the Hawks” is hosted by American journalist Tyrel Ventura, son of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura,. “Redacted Tonight” is a political satire show hosted by American comedian Lee Camp. Camp opens each show by welcoming his live studio audience to “the comedy show where Americans in America covering American news are called foreign agents.”

The social media managers for both “Watching the Hawks” and “Redacted Tonight” are U.S. citizens.

Nonetheless, the retweeting by these shows of factual reporting by The Grayzone and Jordan Chariton set off national security alarm bells among the disinformation warriors of the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

The Grayzone article that the ASD took issue with exposed the role of pro-Israel billiionaire Seth Klarman in pouring his money into the Super PAC behind the faulty Iowa vote results app, while at the same time donating directly to candidate Pete Buttigieg — the candidate who benefited the most from the sabotage of the caucus results.

The Klarman Family Foundation also happens to be a major funder of the ASD.

On Twitter, the ASD muddled the distinction between The Grayzone, Chariton, and the RT-sponsored Twitter accounts that retweeted them. The outfit claimed that “state-backed media accounts spread various conspiracy theories about the Iowa caucuses, many of which claimed the DNC, news media, and other candidates used ‘dirty tricks’ to steal the victory from Sen. Bernie Sanders.” Attached to the tweet was a screenshot of tweets by The Grayzone and Chariton, making no mention of either “Watching the Hawks” or “Redacted Tonight.”

The false accusation was subsequently retweeted by ASD founder Clint Watts.

The Grayzone Editor Max Blumenthal responded to the smear with indignation: “Neither Jordan Chariton nor The Grayzone are state-backed media, unlike your fiscal parent. And our reporting is 100% factual, unlike yours,” Blumenthal wrote on Twitter. “We are currently exploring options for holding your McCarthyite operation fully accountable for spreading malicious disinformation.”

After enduring a withering barrage of online criticism for its malicious falsehood, the ASD issued a weasely clarifying point.”

Media Citations & Grants from Oligarchs

The Alliance for Securing Democracy is the most prominent of an array of information warfare initiatives that exploited public hysteria over supposed Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

The group’s Hamilton 68 Dashboard claimed to have tracked 600 Twitter accounts supposedly “linked to Russian influence operations.” In the mainstream press, that dubious claim was stretched even further as the dashboard was touted as a tool for keeping tabs on “Russian bots.”

Among the widely cited claims of Russian covert influence campaigns was the #taketheknee trend inspired by blacklisted NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s high-profile protest of police brutality. The ASD’s cynical accusation, that a domestic protest movement against racism was being manipulated by the Kremlin, was reported uncritically by The New York Times.

The ASD has even claimed that Stars and Stripes,  a military publication operated out of the Department of Defense, was an outlet “relevant to Russian messaging themes.” It has made similar accusations against The Intercept.

Oddly enough, the sole proprietor of The Intercept is billionaire Pierre Omidyar, whose Democracy Fund is a major financial backer of the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

An ASD fellow who helped design its bogus bot tracker, Andrew Weisburd, has publicly fantasized about the murder of Intercepteditor Glenn Greenwald, whom he branded a “traitor.”

Aside from Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, the ASD is backed by Craig Newmark, the namesake of Craigslist, and the Klarman Family Foundation. As The Grayzone recently reported, Seth Klarman is a major funder of pro-settler Israel lobby organizations. He is also a prominent debt vulture strangling Puerto Rico with austerity. And, again, Klarman is a top donor to Buttigieg, the self-declared winner of the Iowa caucuses.

Ascertaining a full picture of just who is backing the ASD is not possible, however, as the organization’s public list of funders “does not include any donors who do not wish to disclose their charitable giving.”

But besides the centrist billionaires that fund it, the group’s fiscal parent rakes in money from Western governments, including the U.S. State Department.

The Real State-Backed Shop

While the Alliance for Securing Democracy claims to be independently funded, it shares major backers with the German Marshall Fund (GMF), including the Sandler Foundation.

Likewise, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund gave somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million to the GMF, while Klarman Family Foundation chipped in between $250,000 and $499,999.

According to the ASD website, the group is “housed at the German Marshall Fund.”

Unlike The Grayzone and Jordan Chariton, the GMF is a state-backed entity that faithfully pursues the agenda of its government funders.

In the 2019 fiscal year, the German Marshall Fund received $1 million or more from both the German and Swedish foreign offices, at least $1 million from the US State Department, and $1 million or more from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a primary arm of the U.S. government for fomenting regime change abroad.

The European Commission — which is the executive branch of the European Union — supported the German Marshall Fund to the tune of between $500,000 and $999,999.

Additional supporters of the German Marshall Fund include branches of the German and U.S. government, anti-communist billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, NATO, internet giants like Google, the European Parliament, oil companies like Exxon, big agro companies like Bayer, large banks, and an array of global arms dealers such as Raytheon and Boeing.

Russiagate Online

The Alliance for Security Democracy’s bogus dashboard was undoubtedly the most-cited authority on Russian bot activity in the media. But its credibility suffered a major blow following a series of revealing remarks by founder Clint Watts, who confessed to Buzzfeed, “We don’t even think [all the accounts we monitor are] all commanded in Russia — at all. We think some of them are legitimately passionate people that are just really into promoting Russia.”

Having banked his credibility on fighting the supposedly pernicious presence of Russian bots, Watts went on to concede, “I’m not convinced on this bot thing.”

The ASD’s faulty methodology was developed by J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan. The latter was involved in orchestrating a false flag influence campaign targeting Alabama’s Senate elections, and was banned from Facebook after it was exposed. New York Times reporter Scott Shane, who reported on the disinformation campaign, was also responsible for hyping up the ASD’s supposed findings on the “take the knee” hashtag.

But among the ASD’s cadre of national security hacks, Clint Watts is perhaps the most shameless hustler. As The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal previously reported, “Watts appears to speak no Russian, has no record of reporting or scholarship from inside Russia, and has produced little to no work of any discernible academic value on Russian affairs.”

In his published work, Watts has not only called for the U.S. to “befriend” the “al-Qaeda linked group” Ahrar al-Sham; he also urged Washington to support “jihadi[s]” in order to deliver “payback” to Russia.

In testimony to Congress in 2017, Watts claimed Russia organized a massive bot attack on his Twitter account after his article urging support for al-Qaeda was published. The tale was not just hyperbole; it appeared to have been a fabrication. He also regaled Congress with a story about RT’s and Sputnik’s coverage of a stand-off at Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase that was completely false.

Clint Watts has admitted to running an influence operation for 15 years aimed at improving approval for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, which he has said “had almost no success,” and came at a cost of “billions a year in tax dollars.”

While he hypes his work for the FBI, where he spent at most one year, Watts has spent much of his career at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a hardline neoconservative think tank founded by an open white supremacist.

And left unmentioned in Watts’ bio is his affiliation with the Central Intelligence Agency: the agency has published an article he co-authored with former CIA director and current CNN contributor John Brennan.

Besides producing dubious analysis, Clint Watts has exhibited a tendency for paranoid Cold War fantasies. In 2017, he warned an audience that Russia was “trying to knock us down and take us over,” then claimed that his colleagues had seen their computers “burned up by malware” after they criticized Russia.

In response to supposed Russian meddling, Watts has called for interfering in Russia’s elections, “but do[ing] it in line with the founding principles of democracy and America.”

He has also called for a government-imposed censorship campaign inside the United States, demanding it “quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”

Even as the Alliance for Securing Democracy was exposed by The Grayzone and others as the Russiagate version of the phony Theranos nanotainer – with Clint Watts playing the Cold Warrior analog to Elizabeth Holmes – the state-backed neo-McCarthyite operation has forged ahead, rebranding its dashboard as “Hamilton 2.0” and rolling out an “Authoritarian Interference Tracker.”

Currently, the ASD is hyping up claims by NATO vassal state Estonia about Russian interference in their country, according to its Authoritarian Interference Tracker.” Coincidentally, former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves sits on ASD’s advisory council.

He is joined on the ASD board by Michael Chertoff, the notoriously self-dealing former Department of Homeland Security chief; and by John Podesta, who workshopped ways to “stick the knife into Bernie Sanders while leading Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. Podesta was recently nominated to the 2020 Democratic Convention Rules Committee.

Also on the ASD advisory council is neoconservative extraordinaire turned liberal media’s favorite Never-Trumper Bill Kristol, who is widely acknowledged as the leading media and think tank influencer behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Kristol has called for a deep state coup to depose Trump, and is rolling out a wave of ads to undermine Bernie Sanders.

Former CIA director Michael Morell, who offered unsolicited advice on killing Russians and Iranians in Syria during a televised interview, and the obsessively anti-Russian former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul also occupy seats on the council.

While the ASD couches its work as an attempt to counter Russian disinformation, a clear pattern has emerged of efforts to suppress domestic reporting in the U.S. that doesn’t conform to the imperial foreign policy consensus.

As The Grayzone previously reported, senior German Marshall Fund fellow and neocon movement veteran Jamie Fly appeared to take credit for a purge of popular Facebook accounts of alternative media outlets including The Free Thought Project, Anti-Media, and Cop Block. He promised it was “just the beginning.”

Now, the Alliance for Securing Democracy has trained its guns on The Grayzone. And with its latest falsehood, this malign organization has targeted an independent journalistic organization that has done more than any other to hold it accountable.

Alexander Rubinstein has covered foreign policy, police, prisons, and protests for a variety of publications including The Grayzoneand Mint Press News. Follow him on Twitter at @RealAlexRubi.

This article is from The Grayzone

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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26 comments for “State-Backed Alliance for Securing Democracy Smears The Grayzone

  1. Peter H
    February 17, 2020 at 17:57

    The Grayzone must be doing a great job to receive such special attention. Bravo! Next step: sue the bastards.

  2. jmg
    February 17, 2020 at 17:28

    Alexander Rubinstein wrote:
    > Chariton, who founded the independent progressive news outlet Status Coup, hit back at the ASD’s outrageous claims. “The days of faux democracy gladiators defaming journalists – whose factual work they seek to discredit — as part of a Kremlin syndicate are over. It’s time to fight back,” he told The Grayzone.

    Yes but, now, the imminent War on Truth:

    “The targeting of ‘hacktivists, leaktivists and public disclosure organizations’ in the new strategy of US counterintelligence makes it clear that a major assault on First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of the press is being prepared.”

    (Trump administration’s national counterintelligence strategy focuses on “hacktivists, leaktivists and public disclosure organizations” — World Socialist Web Site — 15 February 2020)

    So it’s coming now, including the UK via extradition…

    And globally, in the news these days:

    The Death Of Free Speech: Zuckerberg Asks Governments For Instructions On “What Discourse Should Be Allowed” — Jonathan Turley — February 17, 2020

    Also, Twitter is not answering why WikiLeaks can’t publish new posts now, one week before Julian Assange’s extradition hearing.

    Kristinn Hrafnsson, journalist, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks:

    “WikiLeaks twitter account has been locked, shortly before Assange extradition hearing. All attempts to get it reopened via regular channels have been unsuccessful. It has been impossible to reach a human at twitter to resolve the issue. Can someone fix this? @twittersupport @jack”

    (Kristinn Hrafnsson (@khrafnsson) — Twitter — Feb 17, 2020)

    • jmg
      February 18, 2020 at 08:09

      On a positive note, after the issue went public, WikiLeak’s account (@wikileaks) has been unlocked by Twitter.

  3. DavidH
    February 15, 2020 at 23:23

    Russia hysteria is a “bad trip” that America embarked on. Real bad. All the motives and enticements it allowed, but it won’t look at the evidence of its weakness in all of this. It’s like Salem during the witch trials. ANYONE in town could have told off the perpetrators.

    Whatever has been repressed holds a tremendous amount of energy, with a great positive potential. So the shadow, no matter how troublesome it may be, is not intrinsically evil. The ego, in its refusal of insight and its refusal to accept the entire personality, contributes much more to evil than the shadow.” “What The Shadow Knows: An Interview With John Sanford” Miller, thesunmagazine dot org

    my words and Sanford’s words I stuck together this evening to make, for me and maybe someone else, some sense of everything,…put up earlier somewhere on facebook

    Now, I’d also like to say that Grayzone and Loud & Clear are GREAT! They keep me going. And of course CN too. All comments here also much appreciated!

  4. John Puma
    February 15, 2020 at 05:45

    Re: “Securing Democracy”

    That’s a grim, sick joke. What “democracy,” exactly?

    Whatever was purporting to serve as “democracy” has been chased out of the barn,
    like a herd of horses, and the flames are engulfing the structure

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      February 18, 2020 at 08:23

      The Democracy we have been exporting to Iraq, Afghanistan, etc…. Afghani mothers are said to coerce their children to go to bed by telling them that Democracy will come if they don’t sleep now.

  5. robert e williamson jr
    February 14, 2020 at 17:29

    Do not miss the fact here that not one but two billionaire driven organizations are interfering in U.S. elections and they are based right here in the good Ole US of A. There are more I’m sure.

    We still remember where the pitch forks are by the way.

    • Charlene Richards
      February 16, 2020 at 00:53

      The best pitchforks are sometimes the very quiet type where voters either sit out the election in protest or vote for the opposing team to send a message.

      If the DNC continues to thwart the will of the People, they may soon realize they have NO party.

  6. robert e williamson jr
    February 14, 2020 at 17:21

    Attention to all here. Currently at the Intercept as story is running, “AIPAC IS HELPING FUND ANTI-BERNIE SANDERS SUPER PACT ADS IN NEVADA” . The ads are being ran by a group called Democracy Majority for Israel. Mark Mellman is involved.

    It should be clear to anyone who actually cares about American Democracy. This is the pall the SCOTUS has cast upon American Democracy. More foreign special interest money interfering in our elections. So when do the true
    American patriots wake the hell up!

    I for one want no part of what life is like in Israel which is a phony democracy at best. If I did I would do what all the Trumpian republicans tell everyone else to do, you like Israel so much you go to Israel.

    Maybe now the masses of “dumbed down” Americans who for what ever reason have this radical, hate filled love of Israel will wake up and do as I suggest. That would be booting Israel in the ass and taking away their U.S.Government credit card. The billions Israel receives from the U.S. could be much better spent on American Health care and Education. We give them billions and then MIC’s private companies sell them military equipment and rake in the doe.

    Americans need to fully understand what is actually happening here. Ask yourself for what reason is the U.S. led around by the nose by a country as small as Israel. What good is this for Americans? This appears to me no more than U.S. willingly handing over the keys to country for not one thing.

    Israel is a country that constantly cries wolf, while pocketing U.S. billions and interfering in our Politics. Does any one actually believe that Israel would let the U.S. do the same with their elections?

    This is about your freedom money and safety. Natinyahoo and his ilk are obviously is more in line with Trumpian values that yours. Think about that please.

    Viva La Truth and much thanks to Mr. Parry and his group here.

  7. Deniz
    February 14, 2020 at 16:02

    I am discovering that impugning Pete’s integrity is the new third rail of democrat politics. Apparently, Pete’s Iowa election fraud bounce has nothing to do with his association with the CIA.

    • mary e
      February 15, 2020 at 13:45

      Nevertheless, Mayor Pete should just stay in South Bend and fix all the things he messed up, including making the police force there
      work for the people, not against them. He was a not a hands on mayor – and he would do even less as president. We all pretty much know that he is backed by the intelligence community and they will be in control of his agenda as president. The main thing, though, in the Iowa caucuses, is that the DNC is again working nefariously against Bernie Sanders
      just as they did in 2016 when they backed – and worked intimately with- Hillary Clinton’s campaign to put her in as their candidate.
      They are slitting their own throats again.

    • lou e
      February 15, 2020 at 13:50

      Buttigieg is a Rhodes Scholar. Selected by the Anglo elite funded by Cecil Rhodes fortune to program and promote ‘leaders’ around the world. Great way to rig the system…. Nice to see the Nazi (since 1947) founders of NPR (Nazi Petroleum Radio) German Marshall money. Cleverly named so as to confuse Americans with the ‘Marshall Plan’ wherein the Americans financed the rebuilding of Europe thus allowing the Nazis (and their American collaborators) to use the Black Eagle Trust, and the Bormann Group funds to control the largest overt and covert empire in world history. Might want to meditate on ‘Martin Bormann Nazi in Exile’ by Paul Manning arguably one of the most important investigative reporters in USA. Free download on Spitfirelist website. Also ‘Gold Warriors by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave’ available at Amazon. Facts per column inch on what went on in the Pacific War.

  8. rosemerry
    February 14, 2020 at 14:02

    “Alliance for Securing Democracy”!!! Any gang with the word “democracy” in it is definitely NOT anything to do with democracy. For any US American (I object to the USA assuming it is “America”) to even mention democracy in relation to their system of government is laughable, when every bit is bought.
    The whole business of “Russian interference”, which is decried as if the USA never interfered with others, but acceptance of huge and effective Israeli input into every stage of US elections and lawmaking, shows the double standards in the alleged poster child for democratic rule.

  9. Mary Gourdoux
    February 14, 2020 at 11:42

    Too, too sad the way the “liberals” fell for the DNC’s McCarthyism plot. Bringing us closer to WW III. Thanks goodness for independent media.

  10. richard baker
    February 14, 2020 at 10:58

    Many thanks for another excellent article. I remember trying to figure out who the hell Clint Watts was when he first went before Congress (late 2016, I think) and started the whole big hysterical narrative about Russkie activity on FB. Everyone was taking him at his word and NO ONE was asking who he was, though the links to the neocons were generally known – often for anyone with two brain cells to rub together to get the picture. To this day almost no liberal I know has ever questioned who this guy is and what his agenda is.

  11. February 14, 2020 at 10:37

    Kudos to Grayzone for its ongoing excellent reporting. The deep state’s propaganda smear machine must be a completely Irony Free Zone, as they continue to insist in their endless Russia, Russia, Russia propaganda narratives that Russia is apparently the only nation
    of any significance which actually Supports Truthful Reporting. The irony of it all would be enough to make one smile, if it were all not such an odious and corrupt propaganda enterprise that our amoral Western oligarchy is now wallowing in. The stench emanating from their desperation and their rotting institutional structures has now become absolutely eye watering!

  12. Drew Hunkins
    February 14, 2020 at 10:30

    Keep up the trenchant and insightful work Grayzone. This is when you know you’re right over the target, when you start receiving flack.

  13. AnneR
    February 14, 2020 at 09:46

    Don’t you just love the nerve of such as this a******* Clint Watts pushing for interference in Russian elections “but do[ing] it in line with the founding principles of democracy and America” – as if:
    a) those ‘founding principles of democracy and America’ were anything to be truly proud of given that the FFs never intended to create a true democracy – the bewildered masses would grab the property of the ruling elites and can’t have that; and as if America were pure-hearted, trustworthy, kind – “exceptional”;
    b) the organs of the USA had never interfered in, overthrown, worked toward coups, meddled in the elections of the governments of other countries, never removed other countries governments, indeed never previously meddled, interfered in a Russian election before (short term memory loss?).

  14. Skip Scott
    February 14, 2020 at 08:59

    ASD should change its name to ASP- Alliance for Spreading Propaganda. What they are trying to “secure” is nothing like Democracy. They are trying to secure Empire for the Oligarchs. No doubt they are well paid shills without conscience. Someone should ask them how it just so happens that their hatred for Russia coincides with the end of the west’s pilfering during the Yeltsin era.

  15. February 14, 2020 at 08:51

    When we hear such phrases and “already discredited” and “conspiracy theory” it piques your interest. When we hear what the Russians are doing to interfere with our elections think projection, reckon that what we claim they are doing to us often dwarfs what they(our side) is doing to them.

    Hard to miss how many very wealthy and powerful (by virtue of their money) people are obsessed with Russia, a Russia far different than the one that actually exists. In so doing, they become very serious threat to peace.

  16. Terje M
    February 14, 2020 at 07:51

    It is worth mentioning that it is an open secret in Germany that the German Marshall Fund is the CIA, not just some ordinary run of the mill faux NGO, but an important front for the Agency.

  17. geeyp
    February 14, 2020 at 06:28

    Michael Morell, Michael McFall…think alike and remind me of each other. Michael Chertoff, John Podesta: Have they now occupied the same room at some point? I have asked this for years. Add the current head of the DNC to those two. Triplets for sure. Clint Watts? Please.. Sic ’em, Alexander.

  18. Jeff Harrison
    February 13, 2020 at 21:13

    The alternative media needs to start calling the MSM out as USG bots and useful idiots for Trump. The one thing the US has left is expertise in propaganda and narrative control. And their control of that bubble is beginning to weaken.

    • DH Fabian
      February 14, 2020 at 14:41

      Several have been doing that for decades. However, the dominant liberal media that primarily serve the Democrat Party have the financial backing to drown them out. The biggest barrier to breaking through the din of corporate propaganda has been the liberal bourgeoisie, whose concept of reality is shaped by the likes of MSNBC.

    • michael
      February 16, 2020 at 19:11

      The abolition/ “modernization” of the Smith Mundt Act (the anti-propaganda act) of 2012 made it legal for the CIA to disseminate “proper” narratives through the State Department and US Agency for Global Media. While propaganda was always released to the American people, now it is an unrelenting 24-7 control of the public discourse via MSM. Censorship of social media and alternative media (such as CN) will surely follow.

  19. February 13, 2020 at 21:00

    Add Jimmy Dore to the list. His reporting on Iowa caucus posted on his facebook page was designated “fake news”- he posted a video on his youtube channel explaining it all. All of this censorship and labeling/intimidation is horrible.

Comments are closed.