‘Panama Papers’: Diversion and disinformation in the information war

mediaculpaheader.stretched“The Panama Papers.” A banner headline in 72 point type screams in today’s Toronto Star, a two-article spread covering the entire front page.

Massive hype! Bullets prominently advertise: 376 journalists working for more than 100 media organizations in 25 languages! 11.5 million leaked documents! 2.6 terabytes of data! “Reveals details on rich, famous and powerful people who use offshore tax havens.” What is it all about? According to the Star: “Why the Panama Papers? Because the leaked documents are the secret internal records of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that specializes in hiding money in tax havens such as Costa Rica, the British Virgin Islands and the Seychelles.”

A year ago someone leaked tons of data from Mossak Fonseca to a German newpaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The Munich daily is politically on the centre right and staunchly pro-NATO. It is collaborating with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), together with the Guardian and the BBC in Britain, Le Monde in France, and the Toronto Star and the CBC in this country, etc. – all known supporters of the establishment.

According to former British ambassador Craig Murray, in an article we are posting below, the Panama leaks overall are being stage-managed by the ICIJ (see here) so as to attack only those who are enemies of US imperialism. Not a single piece of information has been released about Wall Street, any US millionaires or government officials so far, so we are supposed to conclude they are all innocent? The six rich Canadians identified by the Toronto Star so far are small fish, e.g, a sports physician from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Mr Murray points out that the ICIJ is another phoney “human rights” organization, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity and major so-called liberal foundations such as Ford. The ICIJ is one subversive velvet glove that works in tandem with the mailed fist of the US CIA and military to bring about regime change and install US-friendly governments. The modus operandi of the release of the “Panama Papers” through 100 media organizations is reminiscent of what the CIA calls “force multipliers.”

Its director, David Kaplan, served as the “principal writer” for the inaugural report of the National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) imperial media manipulator, the misnamed Center for International Media Assistance, launched in 2008. NED’s president, Carl Gershman, states the aim of disinformation:

“In a world of advanced communication and exploding knowledge, it is no longer possible to rely solely on force to promote stability and defend the national security. Persuasion is increasingly important, and the United States must enhance its capacity to persuade by developing techniques for reaching people at different levels.”

Panama Papers.ICIJ-supportersThe ICIJ is part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which is financed by the U.S. government through USAID and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. USAID began as the financial arm of the US State Department in 1962 to address “humanitarian” issues  and has become in the 21st century one of the main actors in the Obama doctrine of Irregular Warfare. Last year, USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries.”

The Star’s scripted presentation is good example how such “techniques” are being used to generate a war psychosis by brazenly touting  Washington’s propaganda themes, blatantly ignoring contrary facts. On page 1, it trumpets, “The $2-billion offshore trail that leads to Vladimir Putin,” on which six bylined journalists worked for a year. The London Guardian, which broke the story in England, uses an identical headline. Inside, the article covers almost 1.5 pages of the 4-page spread in the Star, complete with a picture of the Russian president. The leaks, among other things, claim to “document some $2 billion in transactions secretly shuffled through banks and shadow companies by associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

A closer look at the details reveals a clear political agenda. Even CNN admitted tonight that Putin’s name does not appear in a single e-mail. The insinuations and speculations are reminiscent of Aesop’s fable, the Mountain in Labour: “A mountain had gone into labour and was groaning terribly. Such rumours excited great expectations all over the country. In the end, however, the mountain gave birth to a mouse.”

Or as the Guardian writes: 

Though the president’s name does not appear in any of the records, the data reveals a pattern – his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage. The documents suggest Putin’s family has benefited from this money – his friends’ fortunes appear his to spend.”

“Note, if you will,” writes Robert Parry, “the lack of specificity and the reliance on speculation: ‘a pattern’; ‘seemingly’; ‘suggest’; “appear.’ Indeed, if Putin were not already a demonized figure in the Western media, such phrasing would never pass an editor’s computer screen. Indeed, the only point made in declarative phrasing is that ‘the president’s name does not appear in any of the records’.”

Regardless of the sincerity of this or that individual journalist involved in the Panama Papers, the links of the organizers and main editors of the media monopolies involved to the US imperial “democracy” and war operation casts a disturbing shadow over their ability to conduct objective investigation. Objective journalists would not agree to such a narrative. Think Iraq 2002-03.

Like the Guardian in England, the Toronto Star and CBC/Radio Canada controls all access in this country to the records, 11.5 million leaked documents and the 2.6 terabytes of data. Such is their own neo-liberal “openness,” “accountability” and “transparency.” One is to believe whatever they say is so because they say it is so.

One half page story in the Star recounts a reporter’s failed attempt to enter the tax haven British Virgin Islands. That is the story. To give a sense of proportion, the brave Toronto Star can send journalists to tax haven Panama and the British Virgin Islands, but it has yet to send one journalist to Syria after five years of its warmongering for the overthrow of the Syrian government, with the tragic consequences known to all.

Jurgen Mossack, the co-founder of Mossack-Fonseca, which is the law firm involved in the Panama Papers leak, has an interesting family history. He was born in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany on 20 March 1948. His father Erhard Mossack was a Rottenführer (senior corporal) in the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel, during World War II. Like many Nazis, Erhard then worked for the US government, moving to Panama in 1948, where he worked for the CIA spying on Cuba.

Otherwise, the “Panama Papers,” like the recent Trudeau 2016 budget, provides an opportunity to broaden the discussion on taxation. The present taxation system is highly prejudicial against the working class. Not only does it put the burden of taxation on individuals but distorts the essence of the economy and how value is created, realized and claimed.

Apart from targeting the leaders of Russia and China, the Star is portraying the seconding of funds offshore (representing an est’d $7-8 bn Cdn in lost taxes), merely as a cost to the economy. Likewise, it portrays social programs, especially education and health care, merely as a cost to the economy. Taxation should have nothing to do with most social programs and the realization of their value.

The corruption of income taxes on individuals and corporations, pay-the-rich schemes and private financing of public projects together with the refusal to claim publicly-produced value consumed by the monopolies are proof that control of governments has fallen into the hands of private interests. This is discussed in more detail by K.C. Adams in TML Weekly, “The Production, Reproduction and Transfer of Value and Its Realization,” March 26, 2016. See here.

Corporate media gatekeepers protect western 1% from Panama leak


Whoever leaked the Mossack Fonseca papers appears motivated by a genuine desire to expose the system that enables the ultra wealthy to hide their massive stashes, often corruptly obtained and all involved in tax avoidance. These Panamanian lawyers hide the wealth of a significant proportion of the 1 per cent, and the massive leak of their documents ought to be a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately the leaker has made the dreadful mistake of turning to the western corporate media to publicise the results. In consequence the first major story, published today by the Guardian, is all about Vladimir Putin and a cellist on the fiddle. As it happens I believe the story and have no doubt Putin is bent.

But why focus on Russia? Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung, which received the leak, gives a detailed explanation of the methodology the corporate media used to search the files. The main search they have done is for names associated with breaking UN sanctions regimes. The Guardian reports this too and helpfully lists those countries as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia and Syria. The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

  • Ford Foundation
  • Carnegie Endowment
  • Rockefeller Family Fund
  • W K Kellogg Foundation
  • Open Society Foundation (Soros)
  • among many others.

Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished.

Expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny “balancing” western country like Iceland. A superannuated UK peer or two will be sacrificed – someone already with dementia.

The corporate media – the Guardian and BBC in the UK – have exclusive access to the database which you and I cannot see. They are protecting themselves from even seeing western corporations’ sensitive information by only looking at those documents which are brought up by specific searches such as UN sanctions busters. Never forget the Guardian smashed its copies of the Snowden files on the instruction of MI6.

What if they did Mossack Fonseca database searches on the owners of all the corporate media and their companies, and all the editors and senior corporate media journalists? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on all the most senior people at the BBC? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every donor to the Center for Public Integrity and their companies?

What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every listed company in the western stock exchanges, and on every western millionaire they could trace?

That would be much more interesting. I know Russia and China are corrupt, you don’t have to tell me that. What if you look at things that we might, here in the west, be able to rise up and do something about?

And what if you corporate lapdogs let the people see the actual data?


Hundreds of thousands of people have read this post in the 11 hours since it was published – despite it being overnight here in the UK. There are 235,918 “impressions” on twitter (as twitter calls them) and over 3,700 people have “shared” so far on Facebook, bringing scores of new readers each.

I would remind you that this blog is produced free for the public good and you are welcome to republish or re-use this article or any other material freely anywhere without requesting further permission.

*Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. Visit his blog here.

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