What do NATO, private military contractors, giant arms manufacturers, wine merchants, the NSA, Trump, British property tycoons, Russian oligarchs, and Big Oil have in common? The world’s largest social network
By Nafeez Ahmed and cross-posted from Insurge Intelligence
Imagine a world in which everybody gave away their freedom, willingly, in return for being able to belong to a toxic network which, rather than enriching their lives, profited from eroding civil discourse, polarizing communities, and manipulating their minds.
Wouldn’t you wonder what was wrong with these people?
You would. And yet that is the world you are about to inhabit, right now. Unless you do something about it.
Facebook is on track to become more powerful than the National Security Agency — so says a senior advisor to the US military intelligence community who predicted the rise of artificial intelligence and robot warfare. In less than a decade, Facebook’s growth will mean it potentially has the ability to monitor almost everyone on the planet. This will make the firm more powerful than any other government contractor in the world.
This prospect has dangerous ramifications for democracy. Increasing evidence reveals that Facebook’s most lucrative business model is to outsource itself as a conduit for psychological warfare to any third party that wants to influence the beliefs and behaviors of citizens.
Key portions of this story have remained untold, until now. You’ve heard the story of Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook profiling to influence election campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic. You’ve heard how Russia has curious ties to some of these players, even as it too has gamed Facebook in its efforts to fight ‘hybrid war’.
All of which suggests an extreme right-wing cabal has used Big Data to hijack US, British and European democratic processes.
But this is not the whole story. INSURGE intelligence navigates a web of connections between Cambridge Analytica’s directors, senior employees and associated companies, throwing new light on how the firm’s modus operandihas been developed in the most classified bowels of the British government’s national security system.
We reveal for the first time the firm’s sweeping interlinkages with powerful Anglo-American political and economic interests; the NATO national security complex; military intelligence agencies; private military contractors accused of illegal activity and incompetence; the global fossil fuel industry; and a pro-Tory British financial oligarchy with massive investments in British and Russian property markets. Rather than representing a grand conspiracy, these interlocking networks grant us a window into the structural alignment of power in which they operate.
Cambridge Analytica’s UK umbrella company, SCL Group, is a former UK Ministry of Defense contractor which held access to classified information. Our investigation reveals that the firm continues to have symbiotic ties with the British Foreign Office, which officially wants to exploit the firm’s success in assisting the Trump campaign for UK foreign policy goals.
Mark Turnbull, who heads up SCL Elections, the subsidiary company responsible for the firm’s elections work, is a former Bell Pottinger consultant who oversaw Pentagon influence operations in Iraq, one of which produced fake al-Qaeda videos.
The same Turnbull had founded Aethos, the ‘strategic communications’ division of Aegis Defense Services, the giant UK military contractor bought up by the even bigger Canadian corporation, GardaWorld. Together, these firms have generated significant controversy over their treatment of civilians in Iraq, recruitment of child soldiers in Sierra Leone, and ‘tactical incompetence’ in Afghanistan, to name just a few issues.
SCL Group’s directors hold direct business interests in a range of companies involved in two prominent sectors: the arms and defense trade; and the global oil and gas industry. The key mover-and-shaker here is Julian Wheatland, Chairman of SCL Group, who is a director of Hatton International, an obscure company that specializes in defense offset services to private arms and aerospace firms; and a former director of a Hatton-associated company, Phi Energy Group, which worked with some of the world’s leading oil majors.
Other SCL Group directors have business partnerships with powerful pro-Tory financial interests, some with ties to the Brexit campaign. Chief among them is Hanson Asset Management, the legacy of the late Thatcherite business tycoon, Lord Hanson. Patrick Teroerde, a co-founding director of Hanson Asset Management, was an early director — seemingly a co-founding director — of subsidiary company SCL Elections, which reportedly assisted Vote Leave. Lord Hanson’s surrogate at his anti-EU ‘Business in Sterling’ group, Dominic Cummings, was Vote Leave’s campaign director.
Another SCL Group director, Roger Gabb, shares a property investment company with a number of British property tycoons, including billionaire Anton Bilton and Bimaljit Singh Sandhu, both of whom are invested heavily in UK and Russian property markets through the firm, Raven Russia — which explicitly articulates an interest in opening up Russia to foreign investors. Raven Russia denies knowing Gabb or anything about SCL Group.
SCL Group has not only gamed Facebook to assist the election of Donald Trump and, it seems, the Brexit campaign; but also received $1 million (CAD) to support NATO influence operations in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine, targeting Russia.
And while the firm no longer has contracts with the MoD, it has picked up several State Department contracts for global influence operations, is pursuing numerous others across the US federal government, and maintains close ties with the British Foreign Office…