The report’s conclusions were based on interviews with mostly Western businesspeople and former and current U.K. government officials as well as a handful of “Russian dissidents.”
LONDON — A neoconservative think tank based in the United Kingdom has released a report that sensationally claims that as many as half of all Russian immigrants in the country are informants for the Russian government.
However, despite the extreme nature of the claim – which has been repeated uncritically by various prominent British media outlets – the methodology of the report has come under question given that its conclusion was reached after interviewing mostly Western businesspeople and former and current U.K. government officials as well as a handful of “Russian dissidents.”
The report, titled “Putin Sees and Hears it all: How Russia’ Intelligence Agencies Menace The U.K.”, was published by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) a neo-conservative think tank based in London that U.K. political analyst David Miller once described as “the child of an elite project among neoconservative activists, their supporters in the arms and defense industry and the hawkish defenders of U.S. (and U.K.) military power.”
The report makes several bold claims, including that there may be as many as 75,000 Russian government informants living in the United Kingdom, namely London. This figure was based off the following assertion made in the report: “interviewees…suggested that anywhere between a quarter and a half of Russian expats were, or have been informants” for the Russian government.
The figure of 75,000 Informants is based off an estimate of 150,000 Russian expats living in London, with the alleged 75,000 informants representing half of the total. However, this estimate of the Russian expat community is dramatically higher than the U.K. government’s own figures, which estimated that only 66,000 Russian expats lived in the entire United Kingdom as of 2016.
'As many as 200 Russian case officers in London, handling up to 500 agents and 75,000 informants, report finds'
HJS NEW REPORT: “Putin Sees and Hears it all: How Russia’ Intelligence Agencies
Menace The UK
See the full report below ⬇️https://t.co/vk0xFzhPrS
— Henry Jackson Society (@HJS_Org) November 5, 2018
However, the basis for this figure — the claim that up to half of Russian expats were or are Informants — was exclusively based on the testimony of those interviewed by the report’s author, Andrew Foxall. As the report itself notes, only 16 individuals were interviewed, a group that included “Russian dissidents and Western business people and humans rights activists,” as well as “Russia watchers and current and former Whitehall [i.e. U.K. government] officials.” In other words, of the 16 individuals interviewed, most were Western as the only Russians interviewed for the report were “Russian dissidents”, making them hardly unbiased sources – a problem magnified by the incredibly small number of interviewees.
Another claim made in the report was that the Russian intelligence agencies currently have as many as 200 case officers handling upwards of 500 agents in the U.K. However, Foxall’s sole evidence for this figure is information provided by Oleg Gordievsky, a Russian asset for British intelligence agency MI6, as well as a former intelligence officer and currently serving one, both of whom were unnamed in the report.
Furthermore, some of the “anecdotal evidence” provided in the report is as absurd as it is xenophobic. For instance, a “prominent Westerner” interviewed by Foxall (who chose to remain anonymous) claimed that they knew that they were being watched by Russian government agents in London because they often saw “a group of two or three men standing for hours on the street where he/she lived.” According to the interviewee, those men were clearly Russian intelligence agents because they “speak in Russian” and “pass the time by peeling and eating sunflower seeds, a common habit amongst Russian men.”
Beyond the obvious flaws of the report itself, some have noted that the very fact that the report was published by the HJS may be the reason for the sensational and poorly-sourced conclusions reached therein. Indeed, the HJS has long been associated with U.K. and U.S. neoconservatives and promotes a strong U.S. and U.K. military that “can protect our homelands from strategic threats.” Notably, the current National Defense Strategy of the U.S. Department of Defense cites Russia as one such “strategic threat.”
HJS has been supported by close associates of former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher as well as well-known U.S. neoconservatives such as Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, Reagan-era Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, and former CIA Director James Woolsey.
Boot, Kristol, Perle and Woolsey were all members of the controversial but now-defunct neoconservative think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and have been cited as “international sponsors” of HJS in the past. PNAC was instrumental in promoting the Iraq War and had advocated for increasing the U.S.’ military might and its global presence, as well as the development of biological weapons targeting certain ethnicities.
HJS has largely tried to keep its funding information private. However, one known donor of the think tank in Nina Rosenwald, who frequently donates to neoconservative and anti-Islamic organizations including the Gatestone Institute that was once chaired by current National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Top Photo | Demonstrators opposing the Russian presidential election process hold placards outside the Russian Embassy in London, Sunday, March 18, 2018. Could they too be Russian plants? Tim Ireland | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.