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Media linking NHS leak to Russia is absurd, but using the Atlantic Council & Ben Nimmo as the source is journalistic malpractice

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan
is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ
Media linking NHS leak to Russia is absurd, but using the Atlantic Council & Ben Nimmo as the source is journalistic malpractice
The new effort to cast doubt over leaked NHS documents as a potential ‘Russian influence’ plot is nothing more than a pre-election smear campaign against the Labour Party, concocted by con artists and amplified by the Tory press.

We have reached a point in time when no Western political scandal would be complete without a nefarious Russian angle. So naturally, when Jeremy Corbyn claimed last week that a 451-page leaked dossier proved Boris Johnson was willing to put the public health service “up for sale” during trade talks with the Trump administration, it was only a matter of time before someone shouted ‘Russia!’ But who would be willing to bravely step up to the plate and point the finger at Moscow? 

Enter the Atlantic Council — the omnipresent US-funded ‘think tank’ where researchers specialize in magicking up Russia links wherever a desperate status-quo protecting political party might need them. This astonishing talent for sniffing-out alleged traces of Russkie interference is matched only by their ability to have the establishment media collectively gasp in admiration at their sleuthy skills.

And, so it is that British media is beside itself this week with claims that the NHS leak might be part of a Russian disinformation campaign, seizing on a report compiled by the AC, along with social media analytics firm Graphika. The report claims that the way the documents were disseminated online "resembles" another Russian information operation called Secondary Infektion.

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Media hysteria aside, three points are particularly important to note; the first being that there is absolutely no suggestion that the NHS documents are fake, the second being that there is also no evidence proving the dossier was fed to Corbyn by Russia — and the third being that the “experts” responsible for this drama are actors of highly dubious intent. 

One of those experts, Ben Nimmo, is described by Reuters and the Guardian simply as “head of investigations at Graphika.” The Telegraph had the gaul to refer to Nimmo and co. as “independent researchers” — yet nowhere in the mainstream press, is it disclosed that Nimmo is a former spokesperson for NATO, who has essentially dedicated his career to fear-mongering about Russia. 

Nimmo has also been linked to the now-exposed Integrity Initiative, a covert psyop funded by the British Foreign Office, ironically masquerading as an independent disinformation-busting ‘charity’ — which was caught disseminating anti-Corbyn talking points on social media and attempting to link him to the Kremlin. 

In a healthy media environment, Nimmo’s name appearing on any kind of ‘research’ whatsoever would immediately set off alarm bells — but journalists have been collectively infected by a compulsive desire to uncover Russian footprints around every corner, so Nimmo’s allegiances go unmentioned and he is regularly wheeled out as an independent source. As for Graphika itself, its website proudly states that it is partnered with the US Department of Defense.

Another expert, the AC’s Graham Brookie, warns Reuters that the NHS leak “carries the spectre of foreign influence.” Surely another unfortunate and unplanned oversight, but Reuters and the rest of the British press also forgot to mention that Brookie’s employer is NATO's soft-power PR arm, bankrolled by an impressive lineup of US and UK weapons manufacturers, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon.

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It is journalistic malpractice to cite these NATO lobbyists as “independent” expert sources without divulging their government ties and political agendas. It is also an insult and slap in the face to their readers. Try to imagine the reaction from Telegraph and Guardian journalists, if another news outlet used a think tank funded by the Russian government as an expert source on pretty much anything, without disclosing those deeply relevant ties? 

The whole affair is reminiscent of the 2016 DNC leaks which revealed that supposedly neutral Democratic Party higher-ups were actively biased in favor of centrist Hillary Clinton over left-leaning Bernie Sanders. Desperate to avoid negative fallout, Clinton’s campaign, with help from establishment media, worked tirelessly to ensure that the public was consumed with concern over the source of the leaks (‘Russia!’), rather than their content.

True to form, the new effort to smear Corbyn’s Labour as an enabler of Russian interference in British politics is a well-timed distraction, which looks very much like an attempt to get the British public to stop talking about the Tories' alleged plans to decimate the NHS and to start obsessing over the "source" of the documents. Don’t fall for it.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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