Since its launch in July 2014, the self-styled open-source investigations website Bellingcat has cemented itself as a darling of mainstream Western media, with its dives into alleged Syrian government chemical weapon attacks and Russian intelligence operations showered with praise, puff pieces, and glitzy awards. While vehemently insisting that it is independent of government influence, Bellingcat is funded by both the US government’s National Endowment for Democracy and the European Union. CIA officials have declared their “love” for Bellingcat, and there are unambiguous signs that the outlet has partnered closely with London and Washington to further the pair’s imperial objectives. Now that the media consortium has obtained access to high-tech satellites capable of capturing 50cm resolution imagery of any place on Earth, it is time to place these connections under the microscope.
Investigative site Bellingcat is the toast of the popular press. In the past month alone, it has been described as “an intelligence agency for the people” (ABC Australia), a “transparent” and “innovative” (New Yorker) “independent news collective,” “transforming investigative journalism” (Big Think), and an unequivocal “force for good” (South China Morning Post). Indeed, outside of a few alternative news sites, it is very hard to hear a negative word against Bellingcat, such is the gushing praise for the outlet founded in 2014. This is troubling, because the evidence compiled in this investigation suggests Bellingcat is far from independent and neutral, as it is funded by Western governments, staffed with former military and state intelligence officers, repeats official narratives against enemy states, and serves as a key part in what could be called a “spook to Bellingcat to corporate media propaganda pipeline,” presenting Western government narratives as independent research.
The website Bellingcat promotes itself as a collective of digital sleuths who “pledge allegiance to truth and evidence and abide by the principles of transparency and accountability.” Its self-described “groundbreaking investigations,” especially those aimed at Russia and Syria, have led to fawning Western media endorsements of its claim to be an “intelligence agency for the people.” But Bellingcat’s carefully crafted public image as an “open source” outlet is belied by its extensive NATO government ties and a conspicuous pattern of conduct in line with its state sponsors’ interests.
Reuters, BBC, And Bellingcat Participated In Covert UK Foreign Office-Funded Programs To ‘Weaken Russia’
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have sponsored Reuters and the BBC to conduct a series of covert programs aimed at promoting regime change inside Russia and undermining its government across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to a series of leaked documents. The leaked materials show the Thomson Reuters Foundation and BBC Media Action participating in a covert information warfare campaign aimed at countering Russia. Working through a shadowy department within the UK FCO known as the Counter Disinformation & Media Development (CDMD), the media organizations operated alongside a collection of intelligence contractors in a secret entity known simply as “the Consortium.”
Russia’s FSB intelligence agency has been accused of poisoning opposition activist Alexei Navalny. While the allegation may prove to be true, Western media coverage has overlooked the key role of the CIA, MI6, and the state-funded outlet Bellingcat in generating it. Western media outlets have failed to disclose that Bellingcat is funded by NATO member states, including the US via the National Endowment for Democracy, and that Bellingcat has a dubious record. In a leaked assessment, the UK government’s Integrity Initiative wrote: “Bellingcat was somewhat discredited, both by spreading disinformation itself, and by being willing to produce reports for anyone willing to pay.”