Consortium News Sues Canadian TV Network for Defamation Over Report CN Was Part of ‘Attack’ ‘Directed’ by Russia

In January Consortium News sent a libel notice to Global News demanding a retraction and apology. The TV network refused. On Tuesday CN filed suit in Virginia.

Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, where  Consortium News filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. (Tim Evanson/Wikimedia Commons)

By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News

Consortium News has sued the Canadian TV network Global News for defamation in federal court in Virginia over a report that said CN was part of an “attack” and a “cyber influence” campaign “directed” by Moscow against a Canadian leader.

The lawsuit (PDF) accuses the Corus Entertainment-owned network of entering into a business conspiracy with the Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE)–Canada’s NSA—to “link …critics” of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to “’Russia’ as a way of discrediting those critics and protecting themselves.”

The suit says: Global received the storyline from CSE and then consciously regurgitated the preconceived narrative that it knew to be false. In its quest to paint Plaintiff as a ‘Russian collaborator’, Global abandoned journalistic integrity and ethics, misrepresented the content of CN’s articles, and applied false labels to Plaintiff.”

In January Consortium News sent libel notices to both Global News and the CSE, demanding an apology and retraction of any mention of CN in Global News’s Dec. 10, 2019 on-line article and video reports. The CSE did not respond to the notice. Global News refused to retract all mention of CN from the article or to apologize.

Global News did not contact Consortium News for comment before it published its article and broadcast two TV reports. Instead, two months after the Global News reports appeared—and after receiving the libel notice—Global News attached an editor’s note to its article, which is still on-line. It says:

“Editor’s Note – Subsequent to the publication of this article, Consortium News advised Global News it disputes statements about it referred to in the CSE document that are reported on in the article. Consortium News has told Global News it denies any implication it is ‘an organ of or directed by the Russian government’ and says it is an independent news source.”

CN informed Global News that the editor’s note coming after publication was insufficient and insisted that without a retraction and apology it would pursue litigation.

Citing case law, the suit filed on Tuesday states that “a clear evasion from the truth and the failure to interview an important witness, who was easily accessible, supports a finding of actual malice.”

The Global News Reports

The lawsuit says: “The focal point of Global’s accusations was an article published in February 2017 in Virginia by Plaintiff and false accusations that Plaintiff – a Virginia corporation – is linked to Russia and knowingly published Russian propaganda to harm the reputation of Freeland.”

Based on exclusive receipt of a CSE secret document, Global News’ website said in its Dec. 10, 2019 article entitled, “‘Canadian eyes only’ intelligence reports say Canadian leaders attacked in cyber campaigns,” that Consortium News led this campaign. “The first attack was a February 2017 report in the ‘online Consortium News’ followed ‘in quick succession’ by pro-Russian English language and Russian-language online media, the CSE report says,” according to Global News.

A caption on the Global News site under a screenshot of the Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article reads: “A CSE report says Consortium News was part of an attack from Russia on Chrystia Freeland’s reputation.” Freeland was the then Canadian foreign minister before becoming deputy prime minister in 2019.

Global News’ website, quoting from the CSE report, said:

“ ‘A small number of nation states’ are involved in cyber campaigns against Western democracy, but the national security assessment warns the threat and range of actors involved are growing. And the tactics used by Canada’s adversaries include ‘human intelligence operations,’ online and cyber influence campaigns and the use of ‘state-sponsored or influenced media.'”

Screenshot from Global News TV report: Consortium News as part of “Russian cyber influence” campaign that “targeted high-profile Canadian politicians.”

Part of the CSE report, classified “SECRET CEO,” CEO meaning Canadian Eyes Only, was published by Global News.

Titled, “Cyber Influence Events against Canadian Politicians,” the report says:

“In early 2017 and Spring 2018, sources linked to Russia popularized MFA Freeland’s family history, very likely intended to cause personal reputational damage in order to discredit the Government of Canada’s ongoing diplomatic and military support for Ukraine, to delegitimize Canada’s decision to enact the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Offices Act, and the 2018 expulsion of several Russian diplomats.”

The Act referred to is Canada’s version of the controversial Magnitsky Act passed by the U.S. Congress.  The lawsuit disputes that Consortium News is a “source linked to Russia” and that it was “directed” by Russia.

Global News’ website reported:

“The attacks on Freeland, who is now deputy prime minister, were partly meant to combat her support of laws targeting corrupt Russian oligarchs and leaders, the CSE records say, and included allegations that her Ukrainian grandfather had edited a newspaper with ties to Nazis. …

The cyber-campaign directed by Russia involved distortions of facts and was timed, targeted and, according to the CSE, ‘pushed the narrative to suggest that Freeland’s family immigrated to Canada as part of a wave of Nazi-collaborators.’

The first attack was a February 2017 report in the ‘online Consortium News’ followed ‘in quick succession’ by pro-Russian English language and Russian-language online media, the CSE report says.

The CSE records obtained by Global News appear to document for the first time direct allegations from Canada’s government that Russia directed these cyber campaigns.”

Portion of CSE report mentioning Consortium News as broadcast by Global News.

The CN Article

The Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article was titled “A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet.” It reveals that Freeland had lied about her grandfather’s past as an editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland during the war.

CN reported:

“Last Aug. 24, reflecting on so-called Black Ribbon Day, which lumps together the crimes of Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler (with Stalin getting top billing), [Freeland] wrote on Twitter, ‘Thinking of my grandparents Mykhailo & Aleksandra Chomiak on Black Ribbon Day. They were forever grateful to Canada for giving them refuge and they worked hard to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine. I am proud to honour their memory today.’

“In her autobiography, Freeland presents her grandparents in the following way: ‘My maternal grandparents fled western Ukraine after Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact in 1939. They never dared to go back, but they stayed in close touch with their brothers and sisters and their families, who remained behind.’

According to Freeland, her grandfather Mykhailo Chomiak was ‘a lawyer and journalist before the Second World War, but they [her grandparents] knew the Soviets would invade western Ukraine (and) fled.’ After the war, her mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany before the family immigrated to western Canada, Freeland wrote. …

Michael Chomiak and wife Alexandra, with their children in Canada in 1952. Freeland’s mother Halyna is second from left.

Chrystia Freeland’s dark family secret is that her grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, faithfully served Nazi Germany right up to its surrender, and Chomiak’s family only moved to Canada after the Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.

Mykhailo Chomiak was not a victim of the war – he was on the side of the German aggressors who collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists in killing Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Former journalist Freeland chose to whitewash her family history to leave out her grandfather’s service to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might never have achieved a successful political career in Canada. Her fierce hostility toward Russia also might be viewed in a different light.

According to Canadian sources, Chomiak graduated from Lviv University in western Ukraine with a Master’s Degree in Law and Political Science. He began a career with the Galician newspaper Dilo (Action), published in Lviv. After the start of World War II, the Nazi administration appointed Chomiak to be editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti (News of Krakow).

So the truth appears to be that Chomiak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was directly supervised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Polish General Government. …

So, it appears Freeland’s grandfather – rather than being a helpless victim – was given a prestigious job to spread Nazi propaganda, praising Hitler from a publishing house stolen from Jews and given to Ukrainians who shared the values of Nazism. …

While it is true that the sins of a grandfather should not be visited on his descendants, Freeland should not have misled the public on history of such importance, especially when her deceptions also concealed how she partly developed her world view.”

A Non-Denial Denial

Chrystia Freeland. (Flickr)

A week after the Consortium News story appeared, The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, reported on March 6, 2017 that: “Recently a number of stories have appeared in pro-Putin regime websites, calling Ms. Freeland ‘Canada’s fiercely anti-Russian Foreign Affairs Minister’ and alleging her grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi propagandist in Poland.”

Freeland was asked that day at a press conference in Ottawa about the story. She evaded the question about her grandfather and said:

“I don’t think it’s a secret [that] American officials have publicly said, and even [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel has publicly said, that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada.”

On the very next day, March 7, 2017 a Globe and Mail headline read: “Freeland knew her grandfather was editor of Nazi newspaper.”

The newspaper reported:

“Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland knew for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland that vilified Jews during the Second World War…. Ms. Freeland, who has paid tribute to her maternal grandparents in articles and books, helped edit a scholarly article in the Journal of Ukrainian Studies in 1996 that revealed her grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi propagandist for Krakivski Visti (Krakow News).” …

‘Dating back many years, the Minister has supported her uncle’s efforts to study and publish on this difficult chapter in her late grandfather’s past,’ press secretary Alexander Lawrence said in an e-mail Tuesday evening. … [Freeland] did not directly respond to questions about whether the stories about Mr. Chomiak were true. When The Globe asked her office on Monday to refute the allegation, Mr. Lawrence responded: ‘People should be questioning where this information comes from, and the motivations behind it.'”

‘So Much for Russian Disinformation’

On March 8, 2017, The Ottawa Citizen published an article with the headline “Chrystia Freeland’s granddad was indeed a Nazi collaborator – so much for Russian disinformation.”

The paper reported:

“What are the sources for the information that Freeland’s grandfather worked for the Nazis? For starters, The Ukraine Archival Records held by the Province of Alberta. It has a whole file on Chomiak, including his own details about his days editing the newspaper Krakivski Visti … ‘In 1943 and 1944, both Lvivski Visti and Krakivski Visti hailed the German approved formation of the 14 Waffen SS Division Halychyna, composed of Ukrainian volunteers,’ the [Holocaust] museum pointed out. So much for Russian disinformation.”

“A Globe and Mail headline read:
‘Freeland knew her grandfather was editor of Nazi newspaper.'”

Two days later, on March 9, 2017, Robert Parry, the late founder of Consortium News, wrote:

“On Feb, 27, Consortiumnews.com published an article describing misrepresentations by Canada’s new Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland about her Ukrainian maternal grandfather whom she has portrayed as a hero who struggled ‘to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine’ but left out that he was a Nazi propagandist whose newspaper justified the slaughter of Jews. …

Over the next week, the article entitled ‘A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet’ … (which I personally edited and fact-checked) circulated enough that Freeland was asked about it by the Canadian news media. As often happens these days, Freeland chose not to tell the truth but rather portrayed the article as part of a Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign. …

Yet, instead of fessing up and acknowledging these facts, Freeland chose to dissemble and slander journalists who were doing their job. And the smears didn’t entirely stop. … This pattern has become all too common in the West, to insult and discredit anyone who doesn’t accept the ‘groupthinks’ about the New Cold War.’”

‘A Collusive Arrangement’

CSE Headquarters in Ottawa. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Consortium News lawsuit against Global News alleges that:

“Freeland harbored a grudge against Parry and CN as a result of CN’s criticism of Freeland and her grandfather. In 2019, ahead of the Canadian elections, the Communications Security Establishment (‘CSE’) manufactured a narrative that linked Plaintiff to Russia. CSE prepared a SECRET CEO (‘Canadian Eyes Only’) intelligence report that was given to Global in furtherance of the scheme to defame Plaintiff and deflect attention from Freeland’s misconduct and her grandfather’s sordid past.

Global agreed to republish CSE’s false statements as part of a collusive arrangement to undermine CN’s credibility and integrity as a news publisher.”

The suit further alleges that:

“Global acted intentionally, purposefully and in concert with CSE to accomplish an unlawful purpose through unlawful means, without regard for Plaintiff’s rights and interests. Acting in concert with CSE, Global published the Defamatory Statements knowing they were false out of a desire to seek revenge and reprisal for CN’s prior reporting about Freeland and her grandfather and to protect Freeland politically at all costs.

Global received the storyline from CSE and then consciously regurgitated the preconceived narrative that it knew to be false. In its quest to paint Plaintiff as a ‘Russian collaborator’, Global abandoned journalistic integrity and ethics, misrepresented the content of CN’s articles, and applied false labels to Plaintiff.

Global knowingly allowed an inaccurate report to damage an independent media organization, and reiterated, repeated and continued to republish the Defamatory Statements out of a desire to hurt Plaintiff and to permanently cripple Plaintiff’s business. Global lacked reasonable grounds for any belief in the truth of its statements, and acted negligently in failing to determine the true facts.

Global agreed to republish the scandalous statements without investigation. Global and CSE engaged in a joint scheme the unlawful purpose of which was to defame Plaintiff and destroy Plaintiff’s reputation, and the credibility, therefore, of the February 2017 article about Freeland and her grandfather.”

Timing

A Global News reporter said in one of its Dec. 10 broadcasts that the CSE report was “prepared ahead” of the Oct. 2019 Canadian federal election.

The CN lawsuit states:

“By December 2019, CN’s article about Freeland and her grandfather was over three-years old. It was not news, so there was another reason for publication of the Defamatory Statements. Global confirmed that the “SECRET CEO” intelligence report mentioned in its online article and television broadcasts was ‘prepared ahead’ of the October 2019 Canadian federal election.

After winning re-election in her downtown Toronto constituency, Freeland was named deputy prime minister a month later. A month after that, she was tabbed to head a powerful cabinet post, that in the words of one analyst quoted by iPOLITICS, means, ‘Chrystia Freeland is now functionally the prime minister.’

In December 2019, CSE had a vested interest in squashing any further criticism of Freeland. Global acted in concert with CSE to accomplish that common goal.”

A footnote in the suit adds:

“The CSE report was ‘CEO’ (‘Canadian Eyes Only’), meaning that it was not to be shared with Five Eyes (‘FVEY’), the intelligence alliance comprised of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Notwithstanding its classification, Global acquired the ‘SECRET CEO’ intelligence report directly from CSE, Canada’s version of the National Security Agency (‘NSA’).

The source, CSE, plus the timing of CSE’s leak, plus the bizarre nature of the accusations – that a Virginia consortium of journalists would collude with Russian agents to spread disinformation – plus the prior reporting by Globe and Mail and Parry should have raised red flags and created serious doubts as to the truthfulness of the CSE report. Instead of investigating further or at all, Global simply republished the Defamatory Statements about Plaintiff and added a few of its own for good measure.”

‘It Looks So Real’

Robert Parry receiving the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in London on June 28, 2017. Also, from left to right, are Victoria Brittain, John Pilger and Vanessa Redgrave.

During the Global News broadcast, a presenter says: “It looks so real, that’s the thing, lots of people get fooled because it looks like a legitimate news source.”

Consortium News is real. It was founded in 1995 by Parry, a former investigative reporter for the Associated Press and Newsweek who broke some of the biggest Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s, revealing the identity of Oliver North and his role in the scandal. Parry won a George Polk Award for his work on the Iran-Contra affair. In 2015, he was awarded the IF Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence by Harvard University, and won the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.

Parry began Consortium News after some of his most consequential stories were suppressed by his corporate news editors. His idea was to provide a publication for a consortium of journalists whose work, often critical of the U.S., was similarly suppressed by their editors.

Parry set up the Consortium for Independent Journalism, Inc. a registered non-profit organization, which publishes Consortium News. It does not receive or accept a penny from any government, corporation or advertiser. It is totally funded by its readers. Its editorial decisions are independent. 

Consortium News is today created by a consortium of journalists, academics, freelance writers, former intelligence agency professionals and an independent video producer. Most have served at the highest levels of their professions.

CN‘s deputy editor is a former Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswire editor. Its columnists include a former Asia editor for The International Herald Tribune; a professor of Middle East politics at the University of California; and two former Central Intelligence Agency officials. One delivered Oval Office briefings to President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. The other led the capture of al-Qaeda militant Abu Zubaydah.

The executive producer of Consortium News‘ webcast CN Live! was a tenured professor in post-production in Paris, teaches at film schools in Sydney and has worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Consortium News‘ editor-in-chief is a veteran journalist with decades of experience in some of the most powerful Establishment media. His first professional job was with The New York Times in 1975.

In 1990 he began reporting on international affairs from United Nations Headquarters in New York for numerous newspapers, including the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph in Britain, as well as six years for The Boston Globe and six and a half years for The Wall Street Journal.

The Consortium editor was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London Insight team and has made numerous media appearances, including on the BBC World Service, CNN, the PBS NewsHour, C-Span and ABC’s Good Morning America. He won journalism awards from the Center for Public Integrity and the United Nations Correspondents Association.

The Consortium editor is co-author of a book with former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel, a Quebec descendant, who is a member of Consortium News‘ board. Gravel was close personal friends with former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Gravel vacationed with Trudeau at Christmas 1977 at a ski resort in Colorado.

From “A Political Odyssey” by Mike Gravel and Joe Lauria, Seven Stories Press, NY, 2009

The signals intelligence agency of the government of Justin Trudeau has accused an independent news organization, on whose board sits a close friend of the prime minister’s late father, of being “directed” by a foreign power.

Consortium‘s board members also include Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and famed journalist and filmmaker John Pilger. Ellsberg worked for the Pentagon and the RAND Corporation, and Pilger was a correspondent for The Daily Mirror and a columnist at The New Statesman.

Having been on the inside of the Establishment, these writers, editors, producers and board members work to provide the public with a significantly different point of view of international and domestic U.S. affairs than the mainstream corporate media.

The CSE and Global News portrayed critical journalism as directed by a foreign power, as if legitimate and indigenous dissent cannot exist on its own.

The suit alleges:

“Global’s false statements constitute defamation per se. The statements accuse and impute to Plaintiff unfitness for an office of employment, deception, dishonesty, unethical behavior and lack of integrity, and cast aspersion on Plaintiff’s honesty, integrity, prestige and standing in its field of business. The false statements also prejudice Plaintiff in its trade and business as a news reporter/publisher.”

CNs lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against Global News to prevent it from repeating “the defamatory speech.”

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional career as a stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

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