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FLASHBACK 2007 | Hijacking Human Rights | Human Rights Watch

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August 03, 2007

ZCommunications

by Michael Barker

In our increasingly public relations-driven world, it is of little surprise that cynical political elites regularly use the rhetoric of democracy, peace, and human rights to disguise their overtly anti-humanist policies. Why should we expect less of our leaders in a world where the corporate media wages a relentless war to manufacture our consent for ruling demagogues? Thus it seems a logical assumption that budding mind managers will attempt to pervert the very concepts that their voters/targets hold most dearly. That this doublespeak is rendered invisible in the mainstream media is a given, but the lack of debate about this process in the alternative media is more worrisome.

How the CIA Operates Through Non-Governmental Agencies

April 2012

Source: Class Warfare Exists

Everyone knows that the CIA funds various covert operations throughout the world.  They do this through various front organizations including known CIA operations groups which funnel funds to “various non-governmental agencies” (NGOs) which then use those funds to achieve objectives both foreign and domestic.  There is a tremendous history of this funneling to quasi-private organizations … but it’s also interesting how overt some of it is.  Much of how the CIA operates has bubbled up due to failures and successes around the world in countries like Venezuela, Egypt, Pakistan and thanks to some American whistle-blowers.

The #1 thing you have to understand about this…all of this taxpayer money (your money) that is being spent to further geopolitical and corporate goals is not just money spent to overthrow foreign governments…a good amount of that money is being spent to influence the hearts and minds in America too.

America is a case study of how to successfully let the tail wag the dog; there are a LOT of journalists, editors and influential people on the take (propaganda assets).  And they’re is always a concerted effort to punish those of us who share any semblance of truth.

The video below is an investigative report by the great Mike Wallace in 1967 exposing how the CIA used NGO’s over the 50?s and 60?s.  The investigation took place 45 years ago but that doesn’t make it any less relevant to today. The explanation of how the CIA operates begins at 5:23…

 Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

A list of purported CIA front groups HERE.

Who can forget the news last year that various CIA linked NGO’s conducted a fake polio drive in Pakistan to gain intelligence information in the lead up to the assassination of Osama bin-Laden.  More HERE.

The CIA used to fund the NGO “National Student Association” for many years until a bombshell whistle blower account brought light to that particular organization.  More HERE.

The Telegraph explains how the U.S. planned the Egypt uprising since 2008 HERE.

A GREAT documentary of how the U.S. attempted a coup of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002 HERE.

A video from RT showing how America used NGOs to take down Libyan President Gaddafi HERE.

Here is just a small list of various NGOs that are either known or are broadly accepted as CIA front operations.  These organizations funnel money directly from their budget into various unknown and foundations, humanitarian groups, and private companies to further CIA priorities:

  • National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
  • National Endowment for Democracy
  • Freedom House
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation
  • International Center for Journalists
  • Center for International Private Enterprise
  • USAID

National Endowment for Democracy

The NY Times writes about the National Endowment for Democracy:

The National Endowment for Democracy is a quasi-governmental foundation created by the Reagan Administration in 1983 to channel millions of Federal dollars into anti-Communist ”private diplomacy.” Its bylaws require ”openness” and ”public accountability” in its stewardship of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer funds, which are distributed to labor, business, education and other groups and organizations overseas to promote democratic ideas. Today, however, for the second time in its brief existence, the endowment finds itself in trouble with Congress. Some of its ”private diplomacy,” it turns out, has been more than private; it has been secret.

And the NED is still around; you can see their website HERE.  Reagan created it.  A former CIA case officer – Philip Agee – explains how the money moves from the NED through various conduits to influence international affairs – video HERE.

The NED website lists their mission as:

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, with funding from the US Congress, NED supports more than 1,000 projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.

The most recent budget for the National Endowment for Democracy (page 7):

Foundations, National Endowment for Democracy, and Independent Exchange Programs
FY11 Budget Request:                                       $ 134 million
FY10 Enacted:                                                      $ 162 million
Change from FY10 to FY11:                            $ 28 million decrease (-17.3%)
Asia Foundation reduced from $19 million to $15.7 million
East-West Center reduced from $23 million to $11.4 million
National Endowment for Democracy reduced from $118 million to $105 million

Michael Barker writes about NED – more HERE:

So although the CIA still carries out most of its activities under a veil of secrecy, a lot of their former work is now carried out overtly by the National Endowment for Democracy and an assortment of other related groups. This apparent openness has in turn ensured that there has been next to no critical reporting on the democracy-manipulating activities undertaken by government agencies and private philanthropists. However, as Agee noted in 2003, the CIA still remains a key player in the democracy-manipulating field, especially given the “CIA’s long experience and huge stable of agents and contacts in the civil societies of countries around the world.” Agee adds that: “By joining with the CIA, NED and [US]AID would come on board an on-going complex of operations whose funding they could take over while leaving the secret day-to-day direction on the ground to CIA officers.” Moreover, the CIA has “ample funds of its own to pass quietly when conditions required,” while the CIA officers themselves play a critical role in monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of democracy-manipulating activities.

Millennium Challenge Corporation

The most recent budget for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (page 5):

Millennium Challenge Corporation
FY11 Budget Request:                                      $ 1.28 billion
FY10 Enacted:                                                     $ 1.11 billion
Change from FY10 to FY11:                           $ 170 million increase (+15.3%)
Request assumes four possible compacts for Zambia, Indonesia, Malawi, and Cape Verde

A Wikileaks cable shows the involvement of the Millennium Challenge Corporation in Uganda – a country we have been very active in as of late:

Uganda (ACCU), Jasper Tumuhimbise, went into hiding in late December after publishing a “Fame and Shame” booklet on government corruption. Funded by the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) anti-corruption threshold program, ACCU’s booklet is a public perception survey in which Security Minister and National Resistance Movement (NRM) Secretary General Amama Mbabazi was perceived as Uganda’s most corrupt public official. Tumuhimbise went into hiding after he and ACCU staff received threatening telephone calls and a visit from security personnel seeking information on the ACCU’s international donors. On December 24, Tumuhimbise told PolOff that security forces followed him from the eastern town of Soroti to Kampala. He blames Mbabazi for the intimidation of ACCU staff.

Steve Dobransky writes an analysis about MCC’s official reason for being – MCC does exactly the same thing as USAID and utilizes information from Freedom House (a purported CIA front group):

The MCC was intended to make up for USAID’s apparent gap in political and economic “morality.”  The MCC was portrayed as America’s conscience and will to enact a new world order and not just talk about it.  The MCC conditioned all its aid on recipients’ nature and intentions in terms of democracy and free markets.  The MCC would use data from Freedom House, the World Bank, and other outside institutions.  Never before has a U.S. bureaucracy outsourced its primary judgment and decision-making authority to external organizations. The creation of the MCC also reflected a sizeable distaste for past U.S. policies and their apparent amorality.

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs

The Daily Beast writes about the recent crackdown of U.S. NGO’s in Egypt:

Just after noon on Dec. 29, Julie Hughes, the Egypt country director of the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), got a phone call saying police were raiding the group’s office in the south….

That day, 10 civil-society organizations operating in Egypt were raided, including U.S. pro-democracy groups International Republican Institute (IRI) and Freedom House, which, like NDI, receive U.S. government funding. The Ministry of Justice launched an investigation into the groups and interrogated employees; Hughes’s own questioning lasted four and a half hours. At least seven Americans, including Hughes and IRI country director Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, have been banned from leaving Egypt.

With Egypt still wracked by pro-democracy protests a year after the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, the ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF) has taken to blaming “foreign hands” for the continued unrest. In their search for scapegoats, they’ve launched a full-scale investigation into civil-society groups. But storming NGOs, interrogating U.S. citizens, and banning them from leaving the country has strained U.S.-Egypt relations, and threatened the sacrosanct $1.3 billion in military aid from the U.S. that SCAF thrives on.

Freedom House

People’s World talks about Freedom House in Egypt – read HERE:

Among those facing trial in Egypt are representatives of Freedom House, a U.S. organization with a worldwide reach receiving 80 percent of its funding through the NED. Allegations have repeatedly surfaced of Freedom House ties to the CIA and involvement with clandestine anti-government activities in foreign countries. Between 1997 and 2009, Freedom House gathered in $10.6 million for democracy-promotion work in Cuba.

The Permanent Representative of Cuba to the UN says Freedom House is an appendage of the CIA – read HERE:

With regard to Freedom House, a United States-based NGO enjoying consultative status, the Permanent Representative of Cuba went on to say that the Committee had been dealing with that “so-called NGO” for several sessions after having received complaints from many delegations.  He had submitted proof of the politically motivated, interventionist activities the NGO carried out against his Government.  The NGO’s links with terrorist groups in Cuba as well as the fact that it was an instrument of the special services of the United States were no secret.

He said he was fully aware of the close and proven links between Freedom House and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), under which the NGO carried out destabilization missions against legitimately-established governments.  Freedom House tried to sell the image of an NGO promoting democratic values while concealing the fact that it was a tool of subversion.  While he supported the positive and constructive contributions made by NGOs, he could not allow their image to be tarnished by a tiny minority of groups such as Freedom House.

As he had several questions to pose to the organization, he regretted that its representative was not present at the meeting, even though the NGO had been informed that its case would be discussed today.  That, he noted, represented a new lack of respect by the “so-called NGO” to the Committee.  He informed delegates that information on the links between the NGO and the CIA had been placed at the back of the conference room.

The Monthly Review Foundation says Freedom House is still filled with neo-cons and details their history with CIA involvement – more HERE:

Today, Freedom House continues to serve as both a think tank and a “civil society” funder as part of the State Department’s modern “democracy promotion” complex.  Frequently cited in the press and academic works, the reports and studies produced by Freedom House and its affiliates promote the neoconservative ideology of its trustees and government sponsors.  Although some names and affiliations have changed, the group is still dominated by neocons.  Brzezinski, Kirkpatrick, and Forbes are still on the trustees list, as well as Liasson, O’Rourke, and Noonan.

Trustee Ken Adelman is a contributor to the Project for a New American Century, along with former CIA director R. James Woolsey, who joined Freedom House in 2000.  Adelman was an assistant to Rumsfeld from 1975-1977, U.N. ambassador and arms control director under Reagan, and is currently a member of the Defense Policy Board.  He wrote an article for The Washington Postin 2002 titled, “Cakewalk in Iraq”28 in which he said: “I believe demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.”  Another trustee, Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington, is the U.S. author of the Trilateral Commission report, The Crisis of Democracy and The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order (1996).

The Santos Republic details the involvement of various NGO’s in Egypt – including Freedom House…more HERE.

In 2009 sixteen young Egyptian activists completed a two-month Freedom House ‘New Generation Fellowship’ in Washington. The activists received training in advocacy and met with U.S. government officials, members of Congress, media outlets and think tanks. As far back as 2008, members of the April 6th Movement attended the inaugural summit of the Association of Youth Movements (AYM) in New York, where they networked with other movements, attended workshops on the use of new and social media and learned about technical upgrades, such as consistently alternating computer simcards, which help to evade state internet surveillance. AYM is sponsored by Pepsi, YouTube and MTV and amongst the luminaries who participated in the 2008 Summit, which focused on training activists in the use of Facebook and Twitter, were James Glassman of the State Department, Sherif Mansour of Freedom House, National Security Advisor Shaarik Zafar and Larry Diamond of the NED.

International Center for Journalists

From their website:

ICFJ does more than train citizen and professional journalists. We launch news organizations, media associations, journalism schools and news products. We help journalists develop stories that lead to better public policies such as improved access to health care and cleaner environments. Our trainees expose corruption, increase transparency and hold officials accountable to their citizens.

The L.A. Times reports that the ICFJ receives money from the CIA arm NED – more HERE:

In Egypt, the four U.S. organizations under attack for fomenting unrest with illegal foreign funding were all connected to the endowment. Two — the GOP’s International Republican Institute and the Democratic Party’s National Democratic Institute — are among the groups that make up the endowment’s core constituents. The two other indicted groups, Freedom House and the International Center for Journalists, receive funds from the endowment.

The history of the National Endowment for Democracy would not be unknown to Fayza Aboul Naga, the minister of planning and international cooperation who has been leading the attack against the American organizations. Aboul Naga, a career diplomat, spent five years in New York in the 1990s as an advisor to a fellow Egyptian, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. It was not a good time and place for her to watch American democracy in action.

Center for International Private Enterprise

The Alliance for Global Justice is not a fan:

The boards of the NED and its core organizations are full of Spin Doctors from public relations firms, big advertisers, corporate headquarters; political analysts and advisors; and ex-CIA and military personnel. Vin Weber, NED Board Chair, works for a public relations firm that is part of the Omnicom Group, the world’s 3rd largest advertising agency. The Center for International Private Enterprise, an NED core institute, includes an executive from Google and a major contractor with Google. The International Republican Institute, another NED core institute, includes a former Senior Advisor to the CIA and various representatives from the military-industrial complex. These are just a few examples. Through well-placed contributions to political parties and other organizations, and through its web of corporate PR, military-industrial, and intelligence connections, the NED is able to coordinate campaigns of misinformation and bring together a diverse coalition in order to intervene in and control foreign elections. If that fails, the NED empowers that coalition to overthrow elected governments—like it did in Haiti and like it is trying to do in Venezuela.

CIPE is publicly known to have attempted and failed at a coup of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2002 – more HERE:

One memorandum between the State Department and the NED reveals a supplemental $1,000,000 awarded in April 2002, right after the failed coup d’etat against President Chávez, that was slighted for NED’s Venezuelan benefactors. The primary grant recipients include the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity and the Center for International Private Enterprise. Smaller grant recipients include Acción Campesina, Asociación Civil Asamblea de Educación, Fundación Momento de la Gente, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, Asociación Civil Liderazgo y Visión and Asociación Civil Consorcio Justicia, amongst others.

Other NED major award recipients, such as the Center for International Private Enterprise, which received over $200,000 last year for Venezuela activities and the International Republican Institute, which was awarded almost $300,000 for its work during the past two years in Venezuela, have poured their financial aid into support for Fedecámaras, the radicalized business association at the forefront of the opposition movement and into the development and strengthening of political parties to successfully oppose Chávez in future elections.

CIPE was involved in Egypt’s uprising as well – Jenny O’Connor explains HERE:

According to the NED’s 2009 Annual Report, $1,419,426 worth of grants was doled out to civil society organisations in Egypt that year. In 2010, the year preceding the January – February 2011 revolution, this funding massively increased to $2,497,457.11 Nearly half of this sum, $1,146,903, was allocated to the Center for International Private Enterprise for activates such as conducting workshops at governate level “to promote corporate citizenship” and engaging civil society organizations “to participate in the democratic process by strengthening their capacity to advo­cate for free market legislative reform on behalf of their members”. Freedom House also received $89,000 to “strengthen cooperation among a network of local activists and bloggers”.

Solidarity Center

The Solidarity Center is run by the AFL-CIO which receives the majority of funding from the NED.  It could be very beneficial to America to destabilize countries with an appeal to workers for better pay, better working conditions and who better to create that internal resistance and resentment to a country’s leaders than those who run unions for a living.

You can read a history on the Solidarity Center HERE.  The American Prospect writes about the relationship between the AFL-CIO and the CIA as of 2001 HERE.  You can find their website HERE.

Michael Barker writes about the very current situation with the Solidarity Center’s involvement in Egypt:

There is no question that union organizing against oppressive laws is fantastic, but one can understand the Egyptian government’s repressive response in light of foreign-run NGOs — and especially those partnering with the US government — channeling considerable monies to Egyptian organizations that might not have the Egyptian government’s best interest in mind.

These corporate connections are intriguing, and just a little more research on Beinin’s part would have revealed that the chairman of Suez Cement Company is Omar Mohanna. This is worth acknowledging because Mohanna is the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, which indicates that the US government, if it chose to, could exert significant indirect pressure on reforming the ETUF through their good friend Mohanna. One would expect, however, that such pressure is already being applied given that Mohanna is involved with numerous groups that work closely with the NED’s “democracy-promoting” apparatus.

For example, Mohanna is the vice chairman of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (a group that has received aid from the NED in 1995 and 1997 via the Center for International Private Enterprise), and his work as a board member of the NED-connected New Civic Forum. (20)In fact, as mentioned earlier, the NED has already given the Solidarity Center grants to work with the ETUF, and Beinin himself even explains how the ETUF “received funding and technical assistance from the Solidarity Center to establish child labor programs in the rural governorates (provinces) of Sharqiyyya, Minufiyya, Buhayra, Fayyum, and Kafral-Shaykh, and in Alexandria.” Then, remaining on his theme of uncritical support for the US government, Beinin continues by adding that: “These programs were positively evaluated in reports prepared for USAID…” (21) Now there is a surprise!

Owning the Media

Carl Bernstein writes in “the CIA and the Media“:

“Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty?five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go?betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without?portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring?do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full?time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations…”

The Church Committee uncovered how the CIA funded journalists abroad …where those stories were picked up in the U.S. as truthful and factual.

The NY Times came across an old CIA cable during the time of the Warren commission.  The goal was to discredit critics of the Commission and to use “propaganda assets” i.e. journalists to do so.  You can find a source HERE.

To employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories. In the course of discussions of the whole phenomenon of criticism, a useful strategy may be to single out Epstein’s theory for attack, using the attached Fletcher [?] article and Spectator piece for background. (Although Mark Lane’s book is much less convincing that Epstein’s and comes off badly where confronted by knowledgeable critics, it is also much more difficult to answer as a whole, as one becomes lost in a morass of unrelated details.)

The CIA went after Iraq war critic Professor Juan Cole during the Bush administration – story HERE.

Alternet explains what you can do:

Combined with current events factoids, Wikipedia and Sourcewatch, anyone with basic internet competence [ability to follow links and do key word searches such as ‘African Wildlife Foundation, MI6, CIA’ or ‘Fossey Foundation, arms trafficking’] and is able to make and organize notes while sifting out blatantly misinformed or amateur articles, can learn to overcome disinformation, do their own analysis, map the corporate activities, identify the rip-offs and peoples exploited by these schemes, all while identifying the actual players and motives behind the New York Times propaganda.

Apply the preceding method and the result is quite clear; the New York Times is but one arm of a mechanism to deceive on behalf of a corporate centered sociopath get-mega-rich[er]-quick scheme of the 1%, exploiting Americans belief in their institutions, any consequence to the USA and actual democracy be damned in process

Dr. Francisco Dominguez says U.S. based NGO Human Rights Watch published propaganda on Venezuela – more HERE.

“NGO”: The Guise of Innocence | The Illusion of Innocent Philanthropic Activity

The term “NGO” is used deliberately to create an illusion of innocent philanthropic activity. In this case the Egyptian government is investigating the operations of organisations in receipt of US state funding which have a proven history of covertly funding political parties, influencing elections and aiding coups against both autocratic and democratic non-compliant and left-leaning governments around the world. Yet one mention of the Egyptian government’s raid on the offices of so-called “pro-democracy NGOs” in Cairo was enough to spark an international outcry. The result has been an almost complete failure by the Western press to investigate at all the history of the organisations involved or the validity of the charges being brought against them.

by Jenny O’Connor

Global Research, April 8, 2012 | Irish Foreign Affairs (Vol 5, No. 1, March 2012) and Dissident Voice

 

 

In December Egyptian prosecutors and police raided 17 offices of 10 groups identifying themselves as “pro-democracy” NGOs, including four US-based agencies. Forty-three people, including 16 US citizens, have been accused of failing to register with the government and financing the April 6th protest movement with illicit funds in a manner that detracts from the sovereignty of the Egyptian state.

The US has applied massive pressure on Egypt to drop the case, sending high-level officials to Cairo for intense discussions and threatening to cut off up to $1.3bn in military aid and $250m in economic assistance if the US citizens were tried. A travel ban was imposed on seven of them by Egypt’s Attorney General, including Sam LaHood, son of Obama’s Transportation Secretary. By the first day of the case all but the seven with travel restrictions had left the country and those who remained did not even attend court. A day after the ban was lifted a military plane removed the remaining seven US citizens from Egypt after the US government provided nearly $5m in bail.

The Egyptian authorities stated that the matter was firmly in the hands of the judiciary and out of control of government and accused the US of unacceptable meddling. The international community has expressed outrage at the affair and accused the Egyptian military of inciting paranoia of foreign interference so as to deflect attention from the slow pace of political and democratic reform a year after the revolution. Amid the high-profile diplomatic strife there has been an almost total global journalistic silence on the nature and funding of these “NGOs”.

State Sponsored Organisations, Not NGOs

The people standing trial are repeatedly referred to by governments and the media as “NGO workers”. The 43 defendants worked for five specific organisations; Freedom House; the National Democratic Institute (NDI); the International Republican Institute (IRI); the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Only one of these organisations, the ICFJ, can be considered as non-governmental in that it does not receive the majority of its funding either directly or indirectly from a government.

The NDI, chaired by Madeline Albright, and the IRI, chaired by Senator John McCain, represent the US Democratic and Republican political parties. The NDI and IRI, together with the Center for International Private Enterprise, which represents the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Solidarity Centre, which represents the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), make up the four “core institutions” of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). NED is a non-profit, grant-making institution that receives more than 90% of its annual budget from the US government. While Freedom House claims to be independent it regularly receives the majority of its funding from the NED. The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, sometimes referred to as the German NED, is a non-profit foundation associated with the Christian Democratic Union. It receives over 90% of its funding from the German government. This means that the IRI, the NDI, Freedom House and the Konrad Adenauer Stifung – four of the five accused organisation – are state sponsored institutions and can not be defined as NGOs.

Freedom House has long been criticised for its right wing bias, favouring free markets and US foreign policy interests when assessing civil liberty and political freedom “scores” in countries around the world. Freedom House statistics for 2011 claim that Venezuelans had the same level of political rights as Iraqis. Bolivia’s overall score was reduced from “Free” to “Partially Free” after mass protests removed American-educated millionaire Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada from power after he initiated a sweeping privatization program. Now, under the first government in her history to really recognise the rights of the indigenous majority, Bolivia is still rated by Freedom House as only partially free and received a lower overall score than Botswana where one party (the BDP) has been in power since the first elections were held there in 1965. Freedom House has also been accused of running programmes of regime destabilisation in US “enemy states” and a 1996 Financial Times article revealed that Freedom House was one of several organisations selected by the State Department to receive funding for “clandestine activities” inside Iran including training and funding groups seeking regime change, an act that received criticism from Iranian grass roots pro-democracy groups.1

The most nefarious of these organisations by far, however, are the IRI and the NDI. They receive NED grants “for work abroad to foster the growth of political parties, electoral processes and institutions, free trade unions, and free markets and business organizations.” 2  On March 6th, a protest march was organised by American civil society organisations at the offices of the NED in Washington, demanding; “NO ATTACKS ON DEMOCRACY ANYWHERE! CLOSE THE NED”. Union members and labor activists have protested and campaigned for years demanding that the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center break all ties to the NED.

Board of Directors

Chaired by Richard Gephardt – former Democratic Representative, now CEO of his own corporate consultancy and lobbying firm – the NED’s board of directors consists of a collection of corporate lobbyists, advisors and consultants, former U.S congressmen, senators, ambassadors and military and senior fellows of think tanks. For example, John A. Bohn, a former high level international banker and former President and Chief Executive Officer of Moody’s Investors Service, is now Commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission, a principal in a global corporate advisory and consulting firm and Executive Chairman of an internet based trading exchange for petrochemicals. Kenneth Duberstein, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff under Reagan, is now Chairman and CEO of his own corporate lobbying firm. He also sits on the Board of Governors of the American Stock Exchange and NASD and serves on the Boards of Directors of numerous conglomerates including The Boeing Company, ConocoPhilips and Fannie Mae. Martin Frost is a former congressman who was involved in writing the 1999 “Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act” also known as the “Citigroup Relief Act”, and William Galston, former student of Leo Strauss, is a US Marine Corp veteran.

The Board also contains four of the founding members of ultra-conservative think tank Project for a New American Century; Francis Fukyama (author of ‘The End of History’), Will Marshall (founder of the ‘New Democrats’, an organisation that aimed to move Democratic Party policies to the right) former congressman Vin Weber (who retired from Congress in 1992 as a result of the House Banking Scandal and is now managing partner of a corporate lobbying firm) and Zalmay Khalilzad. Under George Bush Jr., Khalilzad served as US Ambassador to Iraq, Afghanistan and the UN.  He is now President and CEO of his own international corporate advisory firm which advises clients – mainly in the energy, construction, education, and infrastructure sectors – wishing to do business in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also briefly consulted for Cambridge Energy Research Associates while they were conducting a risk analysis for the proposed Trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline.

History

The NED was founded in 1983 when Washington was embroiled in numerous controversies relating to covert military operations and the training and funding of paramilitaries and death squads in Central and South America. The NED was formed to create an open and legal avenue for the US Government to channel funds to opposition groups against unfavourable regimes around the world, thus removing the political stigma associated with covert CIA funding. In a 1991 Washington Post article, “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups”, Allen Weinstein (who helped draft the legislation that established the NED) declared; “A lot of what we [the NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA”. 3

In 1996 the Heritage Foundation published an article in defence of continued NED congressional funding which accurately summed up the NED as a US foreign policy tool; “The NED is a valuable weapon in the international war of ideas. It advances American national interests by promoting the development of stable democracies friendly to the U.S. in strategically important parts of the world. The U.S. cannot afford to discard such an effective instrument of foreign policy…Although the Cold War has ended, the global war of ideas continues to rage”. 4

As well as ongoing campaigns of regime destabilisation in undemocratic US enemy states such as Cuba and China, and its well known funding of “colour” revolutionaries in the former soviet space, the NED has been repeatedly involved in influencing elections and overthrowing governments in left-leaning and anti-US democratic regimes around the world. This is achieved by providing funding and/or training and strategic advice to opposition groups, political parties, journalists and media outlets. As Barbara Conry of the Cato Institute wrote: “Through the Endowment, the American taxpayer has paid for special-interest groups to harass the duly elected governments of friendly countries, interfere in foreign elections, and foster the corruption of democratic movements.”5

From 1986 to 1988 the NED funded the right-wing political opposition to Nobel Peace Price winner, President Oscar Arias, in democratic Costa Rica because he was outspokenly critical of Reagan’s violent policies in Central America. During the 1980s the NED was even active in “defending democracy” in France due to the dangerous rise in communist influence perceived as occurring under the elected socialist government of Francois Mitterrand. Money was channelled into opposition groups including extreme right-wing organisations such as the National Inter-University Union. In 1990 the NED provided funding and support to right wing groups in Nicaragua, and Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas were removed from power in an election described by Professor William I. Robinson as an event in which “massive foreign interference completely distorted an endogenous political process and undermined the ability of the elections to be a free choice”.6

In the late 1990s the NED provided funding and support to the US backed right-wing opposition against the election campaign of progressive former president, and first democratically elected leader of Haiti, Jean-Betrand Aristide. When a coup removed Aristide from power for the second time in 2004 it was revealed that the NED had provided funding and strategic advice to the principal organizations involved in his ousting. The involvement of the NED in the 2002 attempted coup against President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has been well researched and documented. Immediately after the coup, however, the then president of the IRI, George Folsom, revealed the institute’s role in the endeavour when he sent out a press release celebrating Chavez’s ousting: “The Institute has served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future…”.

The IRI was also implicated in the 2009 Honduran coup amid claims that the organisation had supported the ousting of democratically elected leader Manuel Zelaya because of his support of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (an anti-free trade pact including Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba) and his refusal to privatise telecommunications. According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs AT&T – an American telecommunications giant – has provided significant funding to both the IRI and Senator John McCain (its chairman) in order to target Latin American states that refuse to privatize their telecommunications industry.7

Influence in Egypt and the Arab Spring

The NED works in democratic Turkey but does not provide “democratisation grants” to civil society organisations in Western allied absolute monarchies such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia or Oman. A number of NED backed activists have taken centre stage in the Arab Spring struggles and U.S. supported candidates have risen to occupy leading positions in newly established transitional governments. The most glaring example of this is Libya’s transitional Prime Minister, Dr. Abdurrahim El-Keib, who holds dual U.S./Libyan citizenship and is former Chairman of the Petroleum Institute sponsored by British Petroleum, Shell, Total and the Japan Oil Development Company. He handed the job of running Libya’s oil and gas supply to a technocrat and, according to the Guardian, has passed over Islamists expected to make the cabinet in order “to please Western backers”.8 Tawakkul Karman too, of Yemen, who became the youngest ever recipient of a Nobel Peace Price in 2011, was leader of a NED grantee organisation, “Women Journalists without Chains”.

In 2009 sixteen young Egyptian activists completed a two-month Freedom House ‘New Generation Fellowship’ in Washington. The activists received training in advocacy and met with U.S. government officials, members of Congress, media outlets and think tanks. As far back as 2008, members of the April 6th Movement attended the inaugural summit of the Association of Youth Movements (AYM) in New York, where they networked with other movements, attended workshops on the use of new and social media and learned about technical upgrades, such as consistently alternating computer simcards, which help to evade state internet surveillance. AYM is sponsored by Pepsi, YouTube and MTV and amongst the luminaries who participated in the 2008 Summit, which focused on training activists in the use of Facebook and Twitter, were James Glassman of the State Department, Sherif Mansour of Freedom House, National Security Advisor Shaarik Zafar and Larry Diamond of the NED.

This is rather ironic considering that in September 2009 the US authorities arrested Elliot Madison (a US citizen and full-time social worker) for using Twitter to disseminate information about police movements to G20 Summit street protesters in Pittsburgh. Madison, apparently in violation of a loosely defined federal anti-rioting law, was accused of “criminal use of a communication facility,” “possessing instruments of crime,” and “hindering apprehension”. Given that heavily armed police officers were using tear gas, sonic weapons and rubber bullets on protesters Madison’s actions were hardly unjustified. Further demonstrating the hypocrisy of Madison’s arrest is the fact that in June 2009 the State Department had requested Twitter delay a planned upgrade so that Iranian protesters’ tweets would not be interrupted. Twitter Inc subsequently stated in a blog post that it had delayed the upgrade because of its role as an “important communication tool in Iran.”9

A leaked 2008 cable from the Cairo US Embassy, entitled “April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt”, showed that the US was in dialogue with an April 6th youth activist about his attendance at the AYM Summit.10  The cable revealed that the activist tried to convince his Washington interlocutors that the US Government and the International Community should pressure the Egyptian government into implementing reforms by freezing the off-shore bank accounts of Egyptian Government officials. He also detailed the youth movement’s plans to remove Mubarak from power and hold representative elections before the September 2011 presidential election.

While the cable revealed that the US deemed this plan “highly unrealistic”, the dialogue proves that the funding of any youth organisation associated with the April 6th movement by a US organisation since December 2008 had been done with Washington and the US embassy in Cairo being fully aware that the movement’s aim was regime change in Egypt. Yet in April 2011 the New York Times published an article entitled ‘U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings’ in which it openly stated that; “A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6th Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the IRI, the NDI and Freedom House”.

According to the NED’s 2009 Annual Report, $1,419,426 worth of grants was doled out to civil society organisations in Egypt that year. In 2010, the year preceding the January – February 2011 revolution, this funding massively increased to $2,497,457.11 Nearly half of this sum, $1,146,903, was allocated to the Center for International Private Enterprise for activates such as conducting workshops at governate level “to promote corporate citizenship” and engaging civil society organizations “to participate in the democratic process by strengthening their capacity to advo­cate for free market legislative reform on behalf of their members”. Freedom House also received $89,000 to “strengthen cooperation among a network of local activists and bloggers”.

According to the same 2010 report, various youth organisations and youth orientated projects received a total of $370,954 for activities such as expanding the use of new media and social advertising campaigns among young activists, training and providing ongoing support in “the production and targeted dissemination of social advertisement campaigns”, building the leadership skills of political party youth, strengthening and supporting “a cadre of young civic and political activists . . . well positioned to mobilize and engage their communities”, and providing youth  training workshops in “professional media skills as well as online and social networking media tools”.

But this is just the funding that is transparently made known to us on the NED’s official website. After the revolution, the NDI and IRI massively expanded their operations in Egypt, opening five new offices between them and hiring large numbers of new staff. The Egyptian authorities claim that they have found these organisations’ finances very difficult to trace. According to Dawlat Eissa – a 27-year-old Egyptian-American and former IRI employee – the IRI used employees’ private bank accounts to channel money covertly from Washington, and an IRI accountant stated that directors used their personal credit cards for expenses. Eissa and a number of her colleagues resigned from their posts with the IRI in October, and Eissa filed a complaint with the government after director Sam LaHood reportedly told employees to collect all of the organisation’s work related paperwork for scanning and shipping to the US.12

It is clear that NDI, IRI and Freedom House were training and funding the youth movement in Egypt while the US Government and its Cairo Embassy were fully aware that the youth movement aimed to remove Mubarak from power. Critics claim that the defendants are being charged with a law that is a “relic of the Mubarak era”. But, it may be replied, in what country does the law allow foreign governments to fund and train opposition groups with a stated goal of regime change? It is common sense to assume that if China or Cuba were funding similar oppositionist groups in the US, those involved would be facing far harsher sentences than the 43 now standing trial in Egypt. Yet they continue to hide behind the tattered guise of being “NGO” employees, claiming independence because their US government funding is channelled through the National Endowment for Democracy.

The term “NGO” is used deliberately to create an illusion of innocent philanthropic activity. In this case the Egyptian government is investigating the operations of organisations in receipt of US state funding which have a proven history of covertly funding political parties, influencing elections and aiding coups against both autocratic and democratic non-compliant and left-leaning governments around the world. Yet one mention of the Egyptian government’s raid on the offices of so-called “pro-democracy NGOs” in Cairo was enough to spark an international outcry. The result has been an almost complete failure by the Western press to investigate at all the history of the organisations involved or the validity of the charges being brought against them.

•  This article was first published in Irish Foreign Affairs (Vol 5, No. 1, March 2012)

  1. Guy Dinmore, “Bush enters Iran ‘freedom’ debate’”, Financial Times, March 31, 2006 [?]
  2. National Endowment for Democracy official website [?]
  3. Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups by David Ignatius. Washington Post, September 22, 1991 [?]
  4. The National Endowment for Democracy: A Prudent Investment in the Future by James Phillips (Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs) and Kim R. Holmes (Vice President of Foreign and Defence Policy Studies), Heritage Foundation, 1996 [?]
  5. Conry, B. (1993) Cato Foreign Policy Briefing No. 27, November 8 [?]
  6. Robinson, William I. (1992), A Faustian Bargain: U.S. Intervention in the Nicaraguan Elections and American Foreign Policy in the Post-Cold War Era,  Boulder: Westview Press, p. 150 [?]
  7. D’Ambrosio, Michaela,  ‘The Honduran Coup: Was it a matter of behind the scenes finagling by state department stonewallers?” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, September 16, 2009 [?]
  8. “Libyan PM snubs Islamists with cabinet to please western backers”, The Guardian, Tuesday  November 22, 2011 [?]
  9. Pleming, Sue. “US State Department speaks to Twitter over Iran”,  Reuters, Jun 16, 2009 [?]
  10. “Egypt protests: secret US document discloses support for protesters”,  The Telegraph, January 28, 2011 [?]
  11. All figures taken from 2009 and 2010 NED annual report’s for Egypt available on NED’s official website [?]
  12. Hill, Evan,  “Egypt dossier outlines NGO prosecution”, Al Jazeera English, February 26, 2012 [?]

Jenny O’Connor is a graduate of International Relations from Dublin City University and Communications Volunteer with the European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland. Read other articles by Jenny, or visit Jenny’s website.

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