Embedded on the Frontline: Carole Cadwalladr and OSI

David Macilwain

“Investigative journalism” is all the rage nowadays, in the age of “fake news. And anyone can do it, from institutions like the Guardian – “support our independent investigative reporting” – to nerds with an iPhone and odd habits. What is revealed by these “investigations” of “Open Source Intelligence” – OPI – is only limited by one’s imagination, because one must imagine what “closed source intelligence” might reveal.

This is more of a problem with OSI than it might seem, as mostly it is only concealed information which needs investigating! No better example of this exists than the work of the renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. What has made his recent reports of such significance is information gleaned from “intelligence sources” – which Hersh has cultivated over years, and which have given us special insight into controversial events such as the alleged chemical weapon attacks in Syria.

Equally topical are the “closed source investigations” obtained by Wikileaks, whose revelations about US war crimes and covert actions in the Middle East have been of such fundamental importance and use to those pursuing “truth and justice” – and the people who try to avoid them.

That the work of these two genuine investigative journalists has been the cause of such strife to those caught in the headlights is evidenced by their reaction and the extreme efforts to stifle the incriminating truth. Hersh may not have been subject to trumped-up charges and imprisonment, but his writings have been stifled by publishers and his conclusions ignored by Western media.

Meanwhile, those media – the Guardian and its ilk – have given “investigative journalism” a bad name, particularly with solicitations like this:

And we need your help, too. More people, all around the world, are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our reporting accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

The Guardian is editorially independent, meaning we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion.

This is important as it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes us different from so many others in the media, at a time when factual, honest reporting is critical.

It’s often necessary to read Guardian articles, and be subjected to this obnoxious and mendacious hype. This particular version came at the end of this article, whose content perfectly summarises the problem with the Guardian:

Citizen journalists – the fighters on the Frontline against Russia’s attacks.”

“We can no longer count on our governments to protect us from a tide of disinformation. Our security rests in the hands of open source intelligence, as pioneered by Bellingcat.” – writes Carole Cadwalladr.

A chilling thought!

The mention of “frontline” in Cadwalladr’s title seems hardly coincidental, as it was at the Frontline Club in London that Chis Wiley, the whistleblower on Cambridge Analytica appeared in public following Cadwalladr’s dramatic expose’ in the Observer two days earlier. Her work in bringing this scandal to light was widely recognised and lauded, including with the Orwell prize in July last year, an irony that would have been lost on readers of the Observer and Guardian.

It would also be lost on those of our compatriots who suddenly discovered Cadwalladr following her dramatic presentation at the recent TED annual conference in Vancouver. And justifiably. Cadwalladr confounds our distrust of her allegiances and establishment status with her passionate and brave speech to Silicon Valley tech-heads, linked to in this article.

Orwell might have noted the irony also – or perhaps coincidence – that the Frontline club became known a decade ago when it became the forum for discussion of Wikileaks’ investigations, and the place where Julian Assange was the idol du jour amongst a similar cult social group before the insidious destruction of his credibility took hold of them. And the links go further. A youthful James Ball was working with Wikileaks back then, if fractiously. Ball claimed to support the “laudable aims” of Wikileaks, but objected to its practices as well as some of its adherents.

But any problem he may have had with Assange and Wikileaks is dwarfed by the problem we now have with James Ball as an agent for the Integrity Initiative working at the Guardian. Ball’s name was included in lists of II’s contacts in documents hacked and leaked by Anonymous in December 2018, and this forced the Guardian employee to come clean – after a fashion.

While admitting but downplaying his connection to Donnelly’s Institute for Statecraft, Ball spares no words to mouth off about Russia’s alleged disinformation tactics, and supposed responsibility for the shooting down of MH17 and the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury.

Ball also mentions the Integrity Initiative event he attended, along with his colleague Carole Cadwalladr, at the Frontline club in mid December 2018. This twitter thread from Wikileaks tells almost the whole story:

But that was in December, and before further documents from the IfS had been released by Anonymous. Although Ball suggests that the Integrity Initiative “was doomed from the start” by operating covertly “like the Russians”, its agenda to spread disinformation and to extend malign influence into centres of government across Europe could hardly operate transparently! And it continues to operate as before; last week there was this event at the Frontline Club:

Meet some of the world’s leading Open Source Investigations teams to discuss the groundbreaking techniques being used to support and strengthen reporting of civilian harm in conflicts worldwide. Times senior foreign correspondent Anthony Loyd will be joined by Chris Woods, Director of Airwars, Bellingcat’s Yemen reporter Rawan Shaif and Milena Marin, project lead for Amnesty Decoders.

Enter OSI. Using mountains of data sourced from freely available online resources like Twitter, Facebook and Google Earth, and often on a shoestring budget, many of the world’s biggest stories are being broken from behind laptops across the globe.

From the Skripal poisoning to the Battle of Mosul, Open Source Investigations are bringing information to the public by harnessing the phenomena of mass communication. This panel will focus on how OSI teams and monitoring groups are working to strengthen our power to report, and uncover stories of civilian harm in the world’s bloodiest conflicts.

The chair for this event was none other than the BBC’s Defence correspondent Jonathan Beale, named in II documents as one of their own. Chris Woods has also worked for BBC Panorama, while Anthony Loyd recently distinguished himself by stumbling upon the “IS bride” Shamima Begum in Al Hol refugee camp.

Loyd “has witnessed the atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the brutal rise of the self-styled Islamic State and the desperate struggle of the Syrian people caught between the two.”

One wonders where he may have “witnessed” these things, given the problem in visiting parts of Syria controlled by the “regime” without a visa. Or perhaps he witnessed them on a laptop in London. But his story of Begum and her babies captivated British audiences for weeks, allowing the real action to pass almost unnoticed until the End of the Caliphate was announced.

Also at this significant planning meeting was Rawan Shaif from the very recently launched Bellingcat-Yemen project. Whatever is behind this “open source investigation” into the US coalition’s war on the Yemeni national resistance, it certainly isn’t intended to identify the culprits for Yemen’s humanitarian disaster, given they aren’t in Yemen but in Abu Dhabi, Tel Aviv, Washington, Paris and London. One might ask also “why now”, and not three years ago, when thousands were being killed by bombs and missile strikes, including one on a funeral that ended up killing over 400 people, and over a dozen officials from Ansarullah.

For that particular war crime, I wrote “Decapitation in Sana’a”, also reviewing the moves to form a new government after 18 months of war. Reading it again now, two and a half years later, it’s hard not to be cynical about anyone who claims to “investigate” the crimes of the aggressors, without setting a foot in Yemen. In fact, it’s hard not to be incensed, at the sheer wilful brutality and calculated mendacity of those behind the “world’s worst humanitarian disaster” – that they themselves created.

The truth of what has been done to Yemen, as revealed by brave investigative journalists like Marwa Osman and Vanessa Beeley, and ignored by the serried ranks of mainstream reporters and commentators, is representative of the whole crisis on the cyber-battlefield – the virtual frontline between the Western mainstream and the “Resistance” – or whatever we like to call those who stand against it. The chasm between the two – us and them – has become almost unbridgeable, as even if we can manage to stir an interest in “The Integrity Initiative”, or “the Nurse’s Tale”, the details will be incomprehensible and unacceptable.

The reality of this impotence – my inability to influence close friends and acquaintances – came home with a crash last week with a group email about Carole Cadwalladr’s TED talk. The chair of my local climate action group unusually sent it round saying:

I am compelled to share this straight away. It’s about how powerful elites bypassed UK electoral laws using platforms such as FaceBook and how this resulted in a vote to leave on Brexit. It’s not just about Brexit, it’s about all elections. I’d read bits and pieces about this issue, but not previously understood the full ramifications.”

There is an election underway in Australia at the moment, in which climate change and coal mining are big issues, as is electoral interference, so Cadwalladr’s message has struck a chord with my campaigning friends, and struck a nerve with me!

How to explain “the full ramifications” of Cadwalladr’s cooperation with the enemy that she herself seems barely aware of – that is embedded in her? And to a community where US and Israeli influence is so embedded as to be invisible?

Originally published at American Herald Tribune


If you enjoy OffG's content, please help us make our monthly fund-raising goal and keep the site alive.

For other ways to donate, including direct-transfer bank details click HERE.

Categories: latest, On Guardian
Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Richard Ong
Richard Ong
May 8, 2019 3:34 AM

You belong to a “climate action group”?

May 5, 2019 10:27 PM

Aren’t we lucky to have Carol Codswallop and Luke Harding and Bell End Higgins to tell us all what to think.

May 5, 2019 1:48 PM

Carol Cadwalledr is not even be fit to write for the Beano

Francis Lee
Francis Lee
May 5, 2019 11:37 AM

Taking a long view it was very astute and cleverly conceived plan to to present counter-revolution as revolution; progress as regress; the new order 1980- (i.e., neoliberalism) was cool, and the old order 1945-1975 (welfare-capitalism) was fuddy-duddy.


Capital controls = fuddy duddy

Capital Account liberalisation = cool

Worker’s Rights = fuddy duddy

Flexible Labour markets = cool

World Peace – fuddy duddy

War = Cool

National Sovereignty = fuddy duddy

Globalization = Cool

Social Mobility = fuddy duddy

Inequality = cool

Respect for elections/referenda = fuddy-duddy

Flexible referenda/elections = cool

Social solidarity = fuddy-duddy

Rampant nihilistic invidualism = cool

Respect for human rights and the UN International Law = fuddy-duddy

Blatant Imperialism = cool

And so the agenda goes on. Counter-revolution qua revolution

Francis Lee
Francis Lee
May 5, 2019 11:22 AM

I like this bit – ”No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion.” That’s because the bullshit has become so internalised and second nature that these stenographers need no external guidance.

I think that it was Trotsky who summed up this process.

”Every bourgeois journalist has a gendarme sitting in his head, so that the external one is unnecessary.”

May 5, 2019 10:07 AM

Carole Cadwalladr is the crazy cat-lady of “investigative journalism”. her twitter is a revelation. she should get a room with Louise Mensch

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
May 5, 2019 4:37 AM

‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Here is OUR news’

May 5, 2019 9:29 AM
Reply to  Fair dinkum

‘Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Here is some shit we just made up.’

Gezzah Potts
Gezzah Potts
May 4, 2019 11:17 PM

The Guardians ‘independent, investigative journalism’…. ‘challenge the powerful and hold them to account’ Who? Tony Blair? Obomber? NATO? Netanyahu? How exactly does the Guardian ‘hold the powerful to account’? Who wrote this crap? Oh…. they did.

May 5, 2019 12:31 AM
Reply to  Gezzah Potts

The signature pattern is of accusing one’s own intent and act on the other. While I hold to the truth – “it takes one to know one”. The intent to persist in hate while assigning cause outside oneself IS the way of gaining a mind by which to judge it and everyone in it – in terms of a private or personal assertion, demand or script of conditions. That this then comes back to us is not appreciated – because our giving sets the measure of our receiving. Judge not lest ye be judged. This is not about whether we notice judgements – but whether we invest identity in WANTING them be true for us. To look upon those who convict themselves unknowing, is to look upon the opportunity to release and be released. What another chooses to accept and live from is their freedom, but I cant give them… Read more »

May 5, 2019 8:24 AM
Reply to  binra

I hold to the truth — “it takes one to know one”.

Your disinfo is growing old and tired.

Nobody younger than sixty-five takes this New Age bs at all seriously anymore; you must be completely out-of-touch if you don’t understand that.

Ask your handlers to provide you with some fresh material, that hasn’t been recycled twenty-seven times already.

May 5, 2019 9:32 AM
Reply to  milosevic

Yes. “The Guardian is no longer a credible or worthy witness, but rather a tool of a hidden hand.” is all that needed to be said.

May 5, 2019 6:00 PM
Reply to  milosevic

Well throw your baseless accusation in smear to my post milosovic and join the purpose of propagating and directing hate – as if to disempower others is to gain it for your ‘self’. What is hate but ‘hurtred’? You make offence when there is none – except perhaps to cherished or weaponised illusions. But I don’t attack your illusions except by not sharing them you will think so. ‘New Age’ is of course used pejoratively to invalidate and with some understandable justification with regard for the co-opting and subversion of any movement to a reactive identity – which is just another version of the old. But insofar as the old is revealing itself ever more insane and hatefully polarised or myopically managed in what I see as an ongoing and terminal paralysis – I will stand in the New regardless of the comings and goings of fashions that are themselves… Read more »

Ken Kenn
Ken Kenn
May 6, 2019 9:45 PM
Reply to  Gezzah Potts

Well perhaps Carole and her acolytes need to dig ( or use OSI as to how a newspaper like the Guardian manages to keep going without advertising?

It’s a very tough market.

Surely even the Centrist Middle Class readers can’t stump up enough donations to keep
the Guardian and Observer going on its own?

There’s a story right there Carole.

May 4, 2019 9:52 PM

Off-Guardian.org should consider registering itself as an organisation investigating dangerous religious cults. So much of what Off-G writers report about The Fraudian increasingly resembles the monitoring of cult practices aiming at the brainwashing and closing the minds of vulnerable people caught in its grip.

Fraudian journalists act as missionaries advocating or evangelising for their cause. The constant appeals for money smack of similar appeals made by cults that deliberately portray themselves as showing the only true way to salvation or enlightenment and which claim to be shunned, persecuted or marginalised for their “courage” or “undeviating loyalty” to Truth.

No wonder The Fraudian seems whiffy when you look at it online: the whiffiness is of a dangerously self-deluded and arrogant religious cult hell-bent on pursuing a fast lane to its own Armageddon.

May 4, 2019 8:40 PM

Good article.
I agree that the gap has become a gulf.
The liberals are almost unreachable now, and as their sense of entitled safety in the world implodes they will be increasingly vulnerable to the manipulations of some very nasty forces.
I too know this from friends, family and acquaintances. It worries me greatly.
To try and unpick the layers of lies and distortion with which they have been subject in recent years is a task beyond the achieveable.
It’s not that they are bad people per se, but they identify with a system that is being revealed as evil (no other word for it), and they would rather bolt themselves to a sinking ship than question that identification.

May 4, 2019 6:34 PM

I always think there’s something slimy about most of the Guardian’s journalists, but I cannot quite get a handle on what exactly it is about them. Perhaps their deep seated conceit and arrogance. Their belief that what they think is always right and those who think otherwise should be silenced.

Codswallop and Monobot are two of the worst, but King Turd surely has to be every mothers favorite gayboy Owen Jones. Still, he has some stiff competition from the likes of Freeman and Williams. What an odious bunch, the lot of them. Bleah!

May 5, 2019 12:17 AM
Reply to  John2o2o

I always think there’s something slimy about most of the Guardian’s journalists, but I cannot quite get a handle on what exactly it is about them…

It’s not too difficult John:

“Oh yaaah of course I’m all in favour of radical change. Only please god don’t let it ever actually happen. And if you do, please god make sure it doesn’t impinge on my comfortable upper-middle class metropolitan lifestyle. And whatever you bloody well do god DON’T LET IT AFFECT THE VALUE OF MY PROPERTIES IN LONDON!!!”

Gezzah Potts
Gezzah Potts
May 5, 2019 9:44 AM
Reply to  Stonky

Stonky: Oh, how well you hit the nail on the head. I think they’re referred to as… The Resistance, otherwise known as Faux Left. Especially the hipsters.

May 5, 2019 8:32 AM
Reply to  John2o2o

I always think there’s something slimy about most of the Guardian’s journalists, but I cannot quite get a handle on what exactly it is about them.

It’s the slime.

That’s what makes them too slimy to get a handle on.

May 4, 2019 5:17 PM

Embedded thinking doesn’t comply or conform; it does not even happen. Something else operates in place of what thinking was.

In my own preference for terms I see ‘thinking’ as the means of denial of a quality of awareness to which thought is a servant and a tool.

Narrative dictate is the surrender of the freedom of thought to an overriding fear – under which a dissociated mind may operate under the stockholm syndrome – so as to play out some sense of love and life even under coercive captivity – by polarising to protect and support the power that can destroy – and so by pleasing, mitigate or assign privileged status.

May 4, 2019 4:28 PM

The Frontline Club is owned by aristocrat Captain Vaughan Smith, an EMBEDDED journalist with the British Army in Afghanistan. Vaughan Smith put Assange up in his stately home while under house arrest. Assange is a bigger fraud than Cadwalladr.

See also

‘He (Assange) had been (hiding) at the Frontline Club, the central London haunt for reporters, which is owned by Captain Smith’.