Cambridge University’s planned involvement with military propaganda programme exposed

Cambridge University made a bid to take part in a military propaganda scheme designed by the UK Ministry of Defense (Mod)

In 2017, the MoD announced it was seeking an academic partner to create a centre to conduct psychological research in its efforts to build a stronger military. As part of the Human Social Science Research Capability (HSSRC) programme, according to an MoD presentation, the centre would be involved in the “targeted manipulation of information in the virtual and physical domains to shape attitudes and beliefs in the cognitive domain.”

The six major areas of research the programme would focus on are: personnel, training and education, humans in systems, human performance, and, notably, understanding and influencing human behaviour.

The British propaganda Secret Service run by your government the Tory party

Influencing human behaviour, the MoD claimed, would follow a “full-spectrum approach” in order to “achieve geopolitical and strategic aims, including military, non-military, overt and covert means, within the rule of law.”

As reported by Varsity, Cambridge University was one of the four finalists in the running to house the proposed centre. According to documents obtained by the paper, Cambridge proposed to make a bid for the centre in partnership with the private defence firm, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, which would “provide the primary interface with industry and cover work that requires high levels of security clearance.”

Cambridge University Library

If selected, the HSSRC programme would have provided Cambridge researchers with £20 million for research projects as well as £6.9 million in “core funding.” This amount, the proposal stated, “will provide a significant surplus over the actual cost to the University of managing the programme.”

Cambridge also estimated that, as prime contractor, it would be in a better position to compete for additional research funding associated with the programme amounting to £42 million, over a four-year period, with the potential for a three-year extension.

Cambridge university Library

The programme was meant to be housed in a new research centre, to be known as the Centre for Strategic Futures, with the possibility of transforming it in the long term to a “profit generating programme management consultancy.”

Varsity reports that the proposal, discussed during a General Board of Faculties meeting in June 2018, had the support of the Heads of the School of Arts & Humanities and School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Head of the School of Clinical Medicine, Professor Patrick Henry Maxwell, was quoted as supporting the proposal because it could contribute to supporting students’ mental health, while the MoD described it as designed to deliver a “skilled and capable workforce equipped … to meet Defence requirements.”

The document published by Varsity is redacted and generally describes the proposed research centre by means of sanitized language characteristic of the corporate world. The sinister substance of the proposal is, however, unmistakable: there are ongoing and well-funded attempts on the part of the government’s armed forces to covertly influence the UK population.

A Guardian article reporting on the MoD’s “secret cyber-warfare programme” illustrated more vividly the Orwellian character of these efforts, which are reported to go back at least to Britain’s 2010 Strategic Defence Review.

In describing one of the few concrete instances of manipulation that have been exposed, the Guardian reports how “chatbots—computer programmes that make human-sounding small talk and which have been used in everything from customer relations to sex industry marketing—could take on military roles in intelligence and propaganda operations to influence targets.”

Quoting other defence industry reports, the article describes how “an influence bot could be deployed in both covert and overt ways—on the web, in IM/chatrooms/forums or in virtual worlds.”

Concerning “the adverse effect that the unmasking of a non-declared bot would have on the subject, and their wider group,” the report advises, “for the bot to withdraw if it thinks it may be compromised. In the early days, it may be better that the bot activity is declared and overt—in the same way as much broadcast and UK plc promotional activity.”

The fact that prestigious universities such as Cambridge are making these kinds of sordid activities their business is alarming. The university’s proposal exposed by Varsity notes with satisfaction the financial windfall that would result from its adoption. It identified as the proposed head of the programme an English professor who writes on Beckett, along with six unnamed “academic theme leaders,” looking forward to the promising interdisciplinary collaborations that could result from it. This shows just how widespread and normalized a culture of collaboration with government and military efforts on the part of faculty appears to be at Cambridge.

However, Cambridge’s involvement with the HSSRC programme has not gone without opposition among staff, with Varsity reporting last Friday that 41 academics have signed an open letter of protest.

Addressed to Vice-chancellor Stephen Toope and the director of the University’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Professor Steven Connor, it states, “We do not believe that the role of a public university is to involve staff in armed conflicts by acting as a supplier of contract research to the MoD.”

It concludes, “We are also appalled that, according to the minutes of General Board, ‘the potential reputational risks’ associated with participation, were to have been “mitigated by a targeted communications effort, fully funded through the programme.” In other words, one of the first targets of ‘information manipulation’ would have been the very people whose taxes pay for the research in the first place, including members of staff and students at the University not involved in the programme. We call on the University and CRASSH not to seek future funding under this or similar schemes.”

The proposal was brought up to the university’s General Board for consideration because its authors feared a potential backlash, given the nature of the programme and its connection to the MoD. They reassured the board that the “potential reputational risks” of being involved in the programme, could be “mitigated by a targeted communications effort.” In other words, the new propaganda centre offered assurances that it would simply deploy its techniques on the university community in order to pre-empt opposition.

These efforts are further exposure of the lies of Theresa May’s Conservative government and its surrogates in the media, who are attempting to convince a sceptical population that the most pressing danger to democracy are the sinister efforts on the part of Russia to deceive and manipulate public opinion. As this report exposes, it is the government that is in fact systematically engaged in these kinds of operations.

While Cambridge University ultimately decided to pull its bid to lead the programme, its level of collaboration with the defence industries and the MoD remains staggering. Varsity earlier reported that at least five of the colleges in the University of Cambridge had investments in arms manufacturing companies totalling over £6.5 million. Emmanuel College holds the largest amount, with nearly £2.9 million invested in two arms companies, Airbus SE and United Technologies.

Moreover, Cambridge’s decision to move on does not halt the MoD’s efforts to find a reliable academic partner. Nor is there any information about which universities remain in the running for it.

It should be noted that Cambridge recently granted a prestigious fellowship to Noah Carl, a proponent of eugenics, and is attempting to intimidate students who have protested his appointment.

Rather than centres of science and learning, universities in major capitalist countries are becoming more and more closely integrated with business, government and the military.

With many thanks to the: World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) and Emanuele Saccarelli and Meenakshi Jagadeesan for the original posting.

Karen Bradley’s apology isn’t good enough. She has proven herself incompetent, and she must resign

Her remarks on killings by the state during the Troubles drew fury from victims, as well as politicians from both communities

Karen Bradley, the North of Ireland Secretary, and a wall mural depicting the famous photograph of Bishop Daly waving a white handkerchief as a group try to remove a wounded civilian from the line of fire on Bloody Sunday, 1972 (Photo: Getty)

It takes something of the shine off an apology if you have to do it twice, so it’s understandable that there was some scepticism when Karen Bradley discovered she was “profoundly sorry” for remarks about killings in the North of Ireland.

Not that she had much choice. The backlash to her claim that killings by the army and police in the North of Ireland during the Troubles are inherently “not crimes” had the uncommon effect of crossing communities.

Sinn Féin felt they were an “insult to families who have lost loved ones”, while the nationalist SDLP demanded her resignation straight away.

But unionists got on board too. “One way or another I have had dealings with the last 13 Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland,” said former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt. “Karen Bradley consistently demonstrates she isn’t up to the job.”

A diplomatic incident Irish foreign minister and Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Simon Coveney demanded an explanation (Photo: Getty)

“One way or another I have had dealings with the last 13 Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland. Karen Bradley consistently demonstrates she isn’t up to the job.”

Mike Nesbitt, former UUP leader

Fifty miles south in Dublin, the Irish Times’ Kitty Holland felt Bradley had shown “what nasty, colonial bigots the Tories really are”. The incident even became diplomatic when the Irish minister for foreign affairs demanded (and got) a meeting and an apology. This isn’t just a political disagreement – it’s genuine disgust.

It’s been pointed out that what she was actually attempting, in the Commons in response to a question about legacy issues, was a version of the Nuremburg defence. She referred to troops “acting under orders” and “fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”, a week before we expect to find out if some of those troops will be prosecuted.

Her first clarification, on the same day, missed the point. Fearing, perhaps, claims that she was trying to influence the legal process, she said she was speaking in a “general” way and that wrongdoing should be investigated by “independent” police and prosecutors.

That’s better than the-army-can’t-commit-crime as a position, but it’s no apology.

‘A colonial governor from the past’
“It wasn’t a word out of place, it was a clear statement, like some colonial governor of the past lording over people.”

Liam Wray, brother of a Bloody Sunday victim

The sorry came a day later, today, when she (or her advisers) realised her comments were “deeply insensitive to many of those who lost loved ones”.

We already knew that, because they’d told us. John Teggart, whose father was killed in the Ballymurphy shootings in 1971, said she had described as dignified the “14 bullets [that] went through his body, ripped chunks out of his body”.

The brother of one of the 14 victims of Bloody Sunday in 1972 said it was “like a statement from a colonial governor of the past, lording over people”.

The apology was welcomed in various quarters, but it’s beyond a sensitivity issue. It might be the single most densely incompetent move made by a single minister in this Government – and it’s a crowded field.

On top of her brief?

Chris ‘Failing’ Grayling might not be covering himself in glory as Secretary of State for Transport, but he presumably at least he knew what trains were when he started (Photo: Getty)

Amazingly, she still has a job. One of her predecessors in Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, reckons she’s “very much on top of her brief”, and the Prime Minister may feel that Bradley’s is the Jenga block that collapses her whole Government.

But it’s hard to overstate how obvious her unsuitability is to anyone even passingly familiar with Northern Ireland. Chris “Failing” Grayling might not be covering himself in glory as Secretary of State for Transport, but he presumably at least knew what trains were when he started.

Bradley, on the other hand, managed to give a magazine interview nine months into her tenure in which she revealed she didn’t know Northern Ireland tended to vote on community lines. It wasn’t even a gotcha, she just shared it as a charming discovery she had made.

An insult to the North of Ireland. The North of Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley faced calls to resign

She has made her already difficult main job – bringing back the constitutionally cross-community assembly at Stormont – almost impossible by gravely offending at least half the elected politicians, and signalling clearly to the rest that she has no idea what she’s doing.

It’s an insult to the parties and people of Northern Ireland to expect them to deal with a minister with such obvious contempt for their history. Belfast is a backwater to the big beasts in Westminster, but it is, through the considered planning of centuries worth of British rulers, just as much a part of the United Kingdom as Manchester or Maidenhead.

That should mean the state can’t shoot its civilians without consequence. And it should mean governance in good faith from London, with a basically competent person in charge.

That’s not Karen Bradley, and she needs to resign.

With many thanks to: for the original story


Despite Karen Bradley’s claims that soldiers killings are ‘not crimes’ prosecutions have been brought

Former soldier Dennis Hutchings

DESPITE Karen Bradley’s claims that killings at the hands of the security forces were “not crimes”, prosecutions have been brought in a small number of fatal shootings involving British soldiers.

Legal proceedings are also active in several high-profile cases.

A file is currently under consideration with the Public Prosecution Service about whether soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday, in which 14 demonstrators were shot and killed in 1972, will be charged with murder and other offences. A decision is expected next week.


Karen Bradley faces calls to resign over claim that security force killings are ‘not crimes’
Karen Bradley: British soldiers responsible for Troubles killings acted in ‘dignified and appropriate way’

Solicitor for Aidan McAnespie family says Karen Bradley comments mean juries cannot hear soldier trails

Another case ongoing is that of former British soldier Dennis Hutchings (77), who has been charged with attempted murder linked to the fatal shooting of John-Pat Cunningham, (27) in Co Tyrone in 1974.

He was killed as he ran away from a military patrol in Benburb. It was later revealed he was an innocent bystander and had the mental age of a child.

John Pat Cunningham was 27 at the time of his death

Meanwhile lawyers acting for a former British soldier accused of the manslaughter of Aidan McAnespie say they plan to travel to England to speak with him.

Ex-Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden (49) has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter. He did not appear for a hearing in Dungannon last month.

Mr McAnespie was shot dead close to a checkpoint on the border at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in 1988 as he made his way to Aghaloo GAC’s grounds.

Aidan McAnespie was shot dead close to a checkpoint on the border at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in February 1988
Two former paratroopers have also been accused of shooting an Official IRA man in the Markets area of Belfast in 1972.

The pair, known only as Soldier A and Soldier C, were last year granted leave to seek a judicial review of a decision to have their case heard by a judge sitting alone. The defendants, now aged in their sixties, have been given anonymity.

Prosecutions could also be brought against members of MI5 and an undercover military unit after an investigation into allegations of murder by the British Army double agent Stakeknife.


Analysis: Karen Bradley’s comments crass and insensitive (#Premium)
Karen Bradley is sadly out of her depth

Jon Boutcher, chief constable of Bedfordshire Police, is understood to have questioned former army personnel as part of Operation Kenova which is investigating allegations of serious criminal activity during The Troubles.

Throughout the Troubles a number of British soldiers have been convicted of shootings while on duty.

In 1972, Michael Naan (31) and Andrew Murray (23) were killed in what became known as ‘The Pitchfork Murders’. They were stabbed to death by members of a British army foot patrol near Newtownbutler.

It was six years later before it emerged that members of the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were responsible for the killings which were described by a pathologist at the time as “frenzied”.

Several members of the patrol were subsequently convicted for their parts in the killings.

On January 30 1972, 13 people taking part in a civil rights demonstration in Derry. Picture by Pacemaker

Thomas ‘Kidso’ Reilly (22) was killed by Private Ian Thain, on Springfield Road on August 9 1983. He served just over two years in a military prison before being accepted back into the army.

Scots guardsmen, Mark Wright and James Fisher, were convicted of killing 18-year-old Peter McBride in 1992. Following a high-profile campaign they were eventually released in September 1998, and went back into their regiment.

Lee Clegg served four years in prison for the murder of teenager Karen Reilly (18) in 1990. He was cleared at a retrial in 1998 and returned to the Parachute regiment and was later deployed to Afghanistan.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story




Tories have abandoned pretence of impartiality on North

Bradley’s stupid blunder demonstrates lengths May will go to keep DUP support

North of Ireland’s 🙈🙊🙉 secretary of state Karen Bradley: has already won herself a reputation as the stupidest and most inept secretary of State anyone can remember.

The British prime minister, Theresa May, puts on a special voice when she’s reassuring the DUP about “our precious, precious union”. We all know she only does it to hold on to their precious, precious votes. However, it is now clear she is dangerously willing to pay any price for the highly equivocal loyalty of that party.

She has already alienated the majority of Northern voters, those who voted to remain in the EU, over Brexit. Now she has shown that her government will trample on the independence of the legal system, jeopardise trials and inquests, and grievously insult the families of children, women and men bereaved at the hands of her security forces.

It was the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly who asked the question in parliament on Wednesday. With so much focus on the 10 per cent of people killed by the security forces during the Troubles, she demanded, what was the government going to do for the other 90 per cent, those she called the “innocent victims of terrorism”.

As it happens, Little-Pengelly’s father was convicted, in France, of involvement in a loyalist gun-running plot. Alongside the late Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Sammy Wilson, he donned the red beret of the Ulster Resistance Movement.

He denies he actually imported arms. The DUP distanced itself from the group after it came out that it had imported weapons. But when it gets exercised about terrorists, the DUP is referring, by and large, to the IRA. It is left to others to point out that mounting evidence of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries skews all the figures.

The context of Little-Pengelly’s question is the impending announcement by the Public Prosecution Service about whether or not paratroopers will face prosecution over the role of the regiment on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 when 13 unarmed civilians were murdered. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley thanked her for asking. Killings during the conflict by soldiers and police were “not crimes”, she said. These people were “acting under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”.

Harrowing evidence While she was speaking, an inquest in Belfast was hearing from a man who said he had spent the last 48 years trying to forget what he had seen on the day he was shot as a nine-year-old child by a British soldier during what has become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre.
The Butler brothers were shot at as they tried to run away across a field. They saw soldiers flinging injured people and bodies into the back of a Saracen. One teenager was crying.

“One of the soldiers pulled out a gun and said F**k up, you c**t and shot him once or twice towards the chest. There was no sound from him after that,” Edward Butler said in evidence.

Relatives of Joan Connolly who had come out of her house to search for her daughters, sobbed as they heard harrowing evidence of her final moments after she was shot in the face. Those soldiers were from the Parachute Regiment. Had the regiment been disciplined in any way for its actions that day, its soldiers might not have felt free to go on a similar rampage in Derry six months later – on what will henceforth be known not as Bloody but as Dignified and Appropriate Sunday.

Bradley has already won herself a reputation as the stupidest and most inept secretary of state anyone can remember – she laughingly boasted that when she was given the role she had not known that nationalists did not vote for unionists, and vice versa.

Now she has blundered into undoing the tentative healing which began with former prime minister David Cameron stating in 2010 that the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”. She has also inadvertently lent her support to those who argue that it is various decorated gents including Gen Sir Mike Jackson who should be in the dock since they were the givers of orders and instructions.

Outrageous comments More shocking even than her outrageous comments was the fact that while the SOS (oh the aptness of that acronym!) was speaking, her Tory colleagues on the benches behind her continued to chat among themselves, as oblivious to what Bradley was saying as they were to the television cameras.
At one level, it is just another demonstration of how little the parties at Westminster care about the North. For years now, MPs have been racing each other to the exit doors whenever it comes up. Bradley rushed through Northern Ireland’s budget last week to benches that were almost empty.

Report after report shows that the North is likely to be disproportionately badly impacted by Brexit, particularly if there is no deal. That hasn’t stopped the Conservatives, particularly the extreme Brexiteers who are favourites among the DUP, from flirting with that outcome.

But it is worse than that. When the British government signed up to the Belfast Agreement in 1998, it committed itself to “rigorous impartiality”. In her desperate bid to hold on to power at any cost, the prime minister has abandoned all pretence of this. As for the profundity of Bradley’s belated apology – we already have irrefutable evidence that this secretary of state is deeply, deeply shallow. Is it reassuring when a senior politician says, “I want to be very clear – I do not believe what I said. That is not my view” ? It is not.

With many thanks to: The Irish Times for the original story 



Elderly should do community work or lose pension, peer says – Telegraph

Sam McBride: May and the DUP face a delemma – but so does Sinn Féin

The Conservative MPs who resigned from the party yesterday (from left) Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry

The departure of the three Tory MPs yesterday creates a potentially circular problem for Theresa May.

On leaving the Conservative Party, they complained about the influence of the ERG and the DUP on the prime minister.

The Westminster distaste for aspects of the DUP – some real, some imagined – has been obvious since the signing of the confidence and supply agreement in mid-2017.

But by further depleting Mrs May’s already slender working majority, the most immediate impact of those MPs’ departure is to make the DUP yet more influential, thus potentially leading to increased angst on the Tory benches and perhaps more resignations which would make the DUP more powerful still.

That leverage for Nigel Dodds and his colleagues would, however, come to an abrupt end if the trickle of resignations became a flood.

If even the DUP’s 10 MPs are insufficient to keep Mrs May in Downing Street, then a general election is inevitable unless Jeremy Corbyn can suddenly persuade enough MPs to endorse him – and he is facing the same problems as Mrs May with resignations from his own benches.

But although the DUP is now at the centre of a high-stakes power game, it is not the only Northern Ireland party in that position.

Sinn Fein, despite not taking its seats in Westminster, is increasingly going to find itself in the spotlight.

Although the party’s argument for abstentionism has been confused by contradictory utterances from various senior figures, its core has remained constant and is two-fold: Westminster is a foreign parliament which has no right to rule over a part of Ireland, and Westminster is irrelevant because Northern Ireland’s 18 MPs have no real power.

The latter of those arguments has since the 2017 election been wrong – and that is being increasingly exposed by the narrowing Commons arithmetic.

If Sinn Fein could shape Brexit but chooses not to do so, that is a huge decision for Mary Lou McDonald – not just in Northern Ireland, but in the Republic.

With many thanks to the: Belfast News Letter and Sam McBride for the original story


Tory MP Chris Davies charged over false expence claims

Chris Davis MP unseated Liberal Democrat Roger Williams at the 2015 general election

A Welsh Conservative MP has been charged in connection with allegations over false expenses claims.

Chris Davies, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, is accused of two offences of making a false instrument and one of providing false or misleading information for allowance claims.

The CPS said he was due to appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in March.

It said the charges followed a review of evidence submitted by police.

Mr Davies was elected in 2015, winning the seat from the Liberal Democrats, and retained the seat in the 2017 election.

A CPS spokesperson said: “In November 2018, the Crown Prosecution Service received a file of evidence from the Metropolitan Police relating to an allegation that Christopher Davies, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, falsified two invoices in support of Parliamentary expenses claims.

“Following a review of the evidence, the CPS has today charged Mr Davies with two offences of making a false instrument and one offence of providing false or misleading information for allowance claims.

“He will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 22 March.”

The charges are:

Forgery between 25 January 2016 and 11 March 2016
Forgery between 28 March 2016 and 12 April 2016
Providing false or misleading information for allowances claims between 6 and 11 March 2016.
Mr Davies said: “I am very disappointed at today’s announcement by the CPS.

“I have explained previously the circumstances that led to the investigation, relating to events dating back to when I was a newly elected MP over three years ago.

“I will now speak to my lawyers and my colleagues in Parliament. I have nothing further to say about the matter at this time.”

With many thanks to: BBC Wales for the original story