Saturday, 22 January 2022 — Craig MurraY
The most important piece of information to come out of Carole Cadwalladr’s current libel trial is perhaps the least reported – that she received material alleging links between Arron Banks, Vote Leave and Russia from “a contractor to the UK security services”. The information came to light because under discovery rules she had to disclose a great deal of relevant material to Banks.
We know of course that Cadwalladr was an active participant in the Integrity Initiative, the covert MOD and FCO funded programme to place articles by journalists in the media setting out the security services narrative. The Institute for Statecraft, which runs the Integrity Initiative, is indeed a “contractor to the security services” and this is probably the source of Cadwalladr’s disinformation, though it might also be the charlatan Christopher Steele and his firm Orbis, with whom Cadwalladr, like Sergei Skripal’s MI6 handler Pablo Miller, is also connected.
Here is something else I am pretty confident you did not know about Cadwalladr. Her great story for which she won the Pullitzer Prize was simply a lie. There was in fact no connection between Vote Leave or UKIP and the Brexit campaign and Cambridge Analytica. This is what the official investigation by the UK Information Commissioner uncovered:
7. From my review of the materials recovered by the investigation I have found
no further evidence to change my earlier view that SCL/CA were not
involved in the EU referendum campaign in the UK – beyond some initial
enquiries made by SCL/CA in relation to UKIP data in the early stages of the
referendum process. This strand of work does not appear to have then been
taken forward by SCL/CA.
Investigation into the data practices of organisations on both sides of the EU
8. I have concluded my wider investigations of several organisations on both
the remain and the leave side of the UK’s referendum about membership of
the EU. I identified no significant breaches of the privacy and electronic
marketing regulations and data protection legislation that met the threshold
for formal regulatory action. Where the organisation continued in operation,
I have provided advice and guidance to support better future compliance
with the rules.
9. During the investigation concerns about possible Russian interference in
elections globally came to the fore. As I explained to the sub-committee in
April 2019, I referred details of reported possible Russia-located activity to
access data linked to the investigation to the National Crime Agency. These
matters fall outside the remit of the ICO. We did not find any additional
evidence of Russian involvement in our analysis of material contained in the
SCL / CA servers we obtained.
The entire, glorious campaign of huge Guardian articles by Cadwalladr on how Cambridge Analytica, aided by Russia, won the Brexit vote, was in fact found to be entirely untrue. It is worth noting that the expressions of concern in para 9 about Russian interference were never supported by any evidence. The linked Mueller investigation in the United States on this point also drew a great big blank.
There was a genuine scandal around Cambridge Analytica, about Facebook’s willingness to sell the personal date of its users. The company who then got that data – SCL – was owned by a bunch of very major, behind the scenes, Tory figures, including Lord Ivar Mountbatten. The use had not been Brexit but a Tory parliamentary election campaign. That was in itself very much worth reporting, but Cadwalladr was being pointed by the security services away from the Tories and towards Russia.
Whether she was a naive dupe or an active enthusiast I really don’t care. She is a disgrace to journalism.
Cadwalladr became a hero to British liberals because she provided a comfortable explanation of Brexit. Cadwalladr told them the people of England and Wales had rejected the EU solely because they had been duped, by internet manipulation of their thoughts and by those pesky Russians.
This was a much easier explanation to swallow than the truth, which is that the massive disparity between rich and poor in our neo-liberal economic societies had left most people alienated and feeling powerless, and prey to the anti-immigrant propaganda the media had been relentlessly pumping out for decades.
This is of course the mirror of the fake Russiagate narrative that American liberals use to explain why the voters rejected Hillary Clinton, whereas the real reasons were very similar in both cases. It has recently emerged that the illegal foreign cash to influence the 2016 election was in fact received by Hillary.
I have been amused this last few months that the journalists who portray as lunatic those who believe Biden’s election was fraudulent, are precisely the same journalists who told us for years that Trump’s election was fraudulent and engineered by Vladimir Putin. For what it is worth, my own view is that both elections were valid.
The present libel trial between Arron Banks and Carole Cadwalladr is therefore a struggle between two deeply unpleasant people. I find myself strangely hoping that Cadwalladr – for whom I have fathomless wells of contempt – wins. The English libel laws are an utter disgrace, and I support Cadwalladr’s right to freedom of speech in making her claims against Banks, even though she did indeed make unfounded and untrue statements about him.
Cadwalladr’s lies, in my view, are political and still come within the realm of free speech. I support her right to say it, just as I support my right to denounce and expose her as an utterly unprincipled and fraudulent tool of the security services.
It is quite interesting to see what weighs heaviest with the judge; a desire to protect one of the Guardian’s security service assets, or a desire to protect the London legal profession’s ultra lucrative libel industry.
UPDATE 23.01 10:25am It is worth adding that Cadwalladr is not running the defence of truth. She is running the defence of fair comment in the public interest.