Meet the Henry Jackson Society – the US government’s most subversive mouthpiece


 By Simon Davies

Anyone concerned about the protection of individual freedoms should be wary of the recent proliferation of neocon “think tanks”, many of which are thinly disguised Trojan Horses that were created to support the views of the more authoritarian wing of government. Even more worrying, some of these outfits actually proclaim a commitment to civil liberties.

One of the most recent and active members of this genre is a UK based Spectator groupie called the Henry Jackson Society (HJS). Founded in 2005, it was named in honour of US Rep Jackson, a Democrat hawk who enjoyed a life-long history of blatant support for the arms industry and military expansion – and an equally blatant hatred of communism.

The Henry Jackson Society continues this legacy with a solid pro-military commitment to US interventionist policy. Author and security specialist Nafeez Ahmed summed up the Society rather neatly, observing:

“While touting their support for freedom, liberalism and democratisation as their core organisational remit, in practice they appear to be a neocon trojan horse for the very opposite: state-expansionism, state-militarisation, interventionism, rampant market deregulation and privatisation in the interests of Western investors, coupled with anti-Muslim hostility and white supremacism.

henry-jackson-society1Some of the group’s members have complained about HJS’ rightward drift over the years. “No longer is [HJS] a centrist, bipartisan think-tank seeking to promote democratic geopolitics through providing sober, objective and informed analysis to policy-makers,” wrote founding member Marko Attila Hoare after resigning from the group in 2012. “Instead, it has become an abrasively right-wing forum with an anti-Muslim tinge, churning out polemical and superficial pieces by aspiring journalists and pundits that pander to a narrow readership of extreme Europhobic British Tories, hardline US Republicans and Israeli Likudniks.”

All of which might explain how in this age of austerity, the HJS manages to attract funding for over thirty staff – plus seven further staff vacancies (for anyone interested in working in PR for the US government). We may never know where the money comes from; the HJS has consistently refused to disclose its funding sources.

While the society appears to take a partially healthy position on some “basic” human rights such as equality (as did Jackson himself on occasion), its position on privacy and security is as ignorant and subversive as Jackson’s own proclamations on communism. 

Just how much “thinking” this “think tank” did on this topic is questionable

In recent days, media outlets have pushed the HJS line that Edward Snowden is not just a traitor, but that he has put lives at risk by disclosing secret documents that gave terrorist groups a tactical advantage. Robin Simcox of the HJS was widely quoted on this topic, alleging: “Snowden stole a huge amount of sensitive documents and as a result terrorists and other serious criminals have adapted their methods accordingly.”

Oh really? And precisely where did HJS discover this priceless nugget of intelligence?

A glance at the Society’s list of founders and patrons gives a clue. The names include Sir Richard Dearlove — former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service,James Woolsey (former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency), Richard Perle (Assistant Secretary of Defense under George W Bush) and William Kristol (formerly Chief of Staff to the US Vice President) along with a clump of UK politicians with an infatuation for strong national security and an unsavoury track record on privacy protection.

The veracity of the HJS’s claim (well, the UK and US claim) about shifts in terrorist communications behaviour should be treated with skepticism. HJS political backers have deceived the public on security issues for twenty years, from Weapons of Mass Destruction to the legality of security services.

In any event, that the HJS is institutionally biased against the Snowden action is evidenced by a quick search on the Society’s site. Every reference to Snowden and every cited article is a precise mirror of the US and UK Administration’s position.

Just how much “thinking” this “think tank” did on this topic is questionable. Perhaps this is a case for a complaint under the UK Trades Descriptions Act.