UPDATE 02. October 2020: Revealed: Key Assange prosecution witness is part of academic cluster which has received millions of pounds from UK and US militaries

ICYMI: Eyewitness to the Agony of Julian Assange

The Belmarsh Tribunal (Livestream First Session)

The Progressive International is putting the US on trial for its war crimes in the twenty-first century.

By Srećko Horvat - 02. October 2020

On November 13, 1966 – at the height of the resistance war in Vietnam – Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre convened a people’s tribunal to hold the US government accountable for its escalating war crimes.

“The tribunal has no clear historical precedent”, Russell said. It represented no state power; it had no capacity to sentence the accused. “I believe that these apparent limitations are, in fact, virtues. We are free to conduct a solemn and historic investigation”, said Russell, “presented to the conscience of mankind.”

One half-century later, the Progressive International (PI) is once again calling on the conscience of mankind against the crimes of US imperialism.

Today, Friday October 2nd, marks the first day of the Belmarsh Tribunal, named for the prison where Julian Assange has been kept in permanent confinement for daring to publish documents that detail torture, violence, and illegal spying by the US government.

From Belmarsh, Assange now faces extradition to the United States – the first time in history that a publisher has been indicted under the Espionage Act. Today’s tribunal takes its name from this site of complicity in the crimes that have been revealed by Assange, and the crimes that have been committed against him, in turn.

In a recent statement signed by many members of its Council (including Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy), the PI warned that the prosecution of an Australian citizen for his journalistic activities done in sovereign countries in Europe is a gross violation of human rights and international law. “More dangerously, it sets a legal precedent that means that any dissident from the foreign policy of the United States may be shipped to the United States to face life imprisonment or even a death penalty.”

But statements will not suffice. That is why the PI is establishing the Belmarsh Tribunal: to put the United States government on trial for its crimes of the twenty first century – from atrocities in Iraq to torture at Guantánamo Bay to the CIA‘s illegal surveillance program – and draw attention to the extradition case of Julian Assange for revealing them.

“Our position is strong because we do not seek to send a few individuals to prison”, Sartre said of the 1966 tribunal, “but to reawaken in public opinion, at an ominous moment of our history, the idea that there can be policies which are objectively and legally criminal.”

We are again at that ominous moment of our history – asking, as Bertrand Russell did then, for “the peoples of the world, the masses, to take action to stop the crimes.”

The Belmarsh Tribunal

•Streamed live on Oct 2, 2020

Progressive International

The Belmarsh Tribunal will investigate and evaluate US war crimes in the 21st century — and defend Julian Assange's right to reveal them.

The Tribunal will bring together a planetary cast of activists, artists, thinkers, and political representatives to investigate and evaluate the Wikileaks revelations. The former president of Brazil Lula will remind us that Brazilians owe an additional debt for the WikiLeaks revelations, while former Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis will reiterate why Assange has to be released immediately.

The Tribunal will be joined by the original member of the Russell-Sartre Tribunal, Tariq Ali, who went to Vietnam to investigate US war crimes; Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson; activists and musicians Roger Waters and M.I.A.; former president of Ecuador Rafael Correa; philosopher Slavoj Žižek; actress and activist Pamela Anderson; and many others.

Today’s events mark only the first day of the Tribunal. As long as Julian Assange is in prison, the Belmarsh Tribunal will continue its fight for justice. Our goal is not only freedom for Assange, but also justice for the crimes revealed by WikiLeaks – and the protection of our freedoms to speak, express, assemble, and demand truth from the powers arrayed against us.

If we do not stand now – with all the evidence in our hands – we stand little chance against a machine of war and surveillance that becomes more sophisticated and more secretive by the day.

It is time to take action. And it is time to demand justice. Because if they charge against the publisher who revealed their crimes, we must charge against the criminals themselves. Join us.


The original source of this article is openDemocracy Copyright © Srećko Horvat, openDemocracy, 2020

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Eyewitness to the Agony of Julian Assange

By John Pilger and Timothy Erik Ström - 02. October 2020

 John Pilger has watched Julian Assange’s extradition trial from the public gallery at London’s Old Bailey. He spoke with Timothy Erik Ström of Arena magazine, Australia.


Timothy Erik Ström: Having watched Julian Assange’s trial firsthand, can you describe the prevailing atmosphere in the court?

John Pilger: The prevailing atmosphere has been shocking. I say that without hesitation; I have sat in many courts and seldom known such a corruption of due process; this is due revenge. Putting aside the ritual associated with ‘British justice’, at times it has been evocative of a Stalinist show trial. One difference is that in the show trials, the defendant stood in the court proper. In the Assange trial, the defendant was caged behind thick glass, and had to crawl on his knees to a slit in the glass, overseen by his guard, to make contact with his lawyers. His message, whispered barely audibly through face masks, WAS then passed by post-it the length of the court to where his barristers were arguing the case against his extradition to an American hellhole.

Consider this daily routine of Julian Assange, an Australian on trial for truth-telling journalism. He was woken at five o’clock in his cell at Belmarsh prison in the bleak southern sprawl of London. The first time I saw Julian in Belmarsh, having passed through half an hour of ‘security’ checks, including a dog’s snout in my rear, I found a painfully thin figure sitting alone wearing a yellow armband. He had lost more than 10 kilos in a matter of months; his arms had no muscle. His first words were: ‘I think I am losing my mind’.

I tried to assure him he wasn’t. His resilience and courage are formidable, but there is a limit. That was more than a year ago. In the past three weeks, in the pre-dawn, he was strip-searched, shackled, and prepared for transport to the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, in a truck that his partner, Stella Moris, described as an upended coffin. It  had one small window; he had to stand precariously to look out. The truck and its guards were operated by Serco, one of many politically connected companies that run much of Boris Johnson’s Britain.

The journey to the Old Bailey took at least an hour and a half. That’s a minimum of three hours being jolted through snail-like traffic every day. He was led into his narrow cage at the back of the court, then look up, blinking, trying to make out faces in the public gallery through the reflection of the glass. He saw the courtly figure of his dad, John Shipton, and me, and our fists went up. Through the glass, he reached out to touch fingers with Stella, who is a lawyer and seated in the body of the court.

We were here for the ultimate of what the philosopher Guy Debord called The Society of the Spectacle: a man fighting for his life. Yet his crime is to have performed an epic public service: revealing that which we have a right to know: the lies of our governments and the crimes they commit in our name. His creation of WikiLeaks and its failsafe protection of sources revolutionised journalism, restoring it to the vision of its idealists. Edmund Burke’s notion of free journalism as a fourth estate is now a fifth estate that shines a light on those who diminish the very meaning of democracy with their criminal secrecy. That’s why his punishment is so extreme.

The sheer bias in the courts I have sat in this year and last year, with Julian in the dock, blight any notion of British justice. When thuggish police dragged him from his asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy—look closely at the photo and you’ll see he is clutching a Gore Vidal book; Assange has a political humour similar to Vidal’s—a judge gave him an outrageous 50-week sentence in a maximum-security prison for mere bail infringement.

For months, he was denied exercise and held in solitary confinement disguised as ‘heath care’. He once told me he strode the length of his cell, back and forth, back and forth, for his own half-marathon. In the next cell, the occupant screamed through the night. At first he was denied his reading glasses, left behind in the embassy brutality. He was denied the legal documents with which to prepare his case, and access to the prison library and the use of a basic laptop. Books sent to him by a friend, the journalist Charles Glass, himself a survivor of hostage-taking in Beirut, were returned. He could not call his American lawyers. He has been constantly medicated by the prison authorities. When I asked him what they were giving him, he couldn’t say. The governor of Belmarsh has been awarded the Order of the British Empire.

At the Old Bailey, one of the expert medical witnesses, Dr Kate Humphrey, a clinical neuropsychologist at Imperial College, London, described the damage: Julian’s intellect had gone from ‘in the superior, or more likely very superior range’ to ‘significantly below’ this optimal level, to the point where he was struggling to absorb information and ‘perform in the low average range’.

This is what the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer, calls ‘psychological torture’, the result of a gang-like ‘mobbing’ by governments and their media shills. Some of the expert medical evidence is so shocking I have no intention of repeating it here. Suffice to say that Assange is diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s syndrome and, according to Professor Michael Kopelman, one of the world’s leading neuropsychiatrists, he suffers from ‘suicidal preoccupations’ and is likely to find a way to take his life if he is extradited to America.

James Lewis QC, America’s British prosecutor, spent the best part of his cross-examination of Professor Kopelman dismissing mental illness and its dangers as ‘malingering’. I have never heard in a modern setting such a primitive view of human frailty and vulnerability.

My own view is that if Assange is freed, he is likely to recover a substantial part of his life. He has a loving partner, devoted friends and allies and the innate strength of a principled political prisoner. He also has a wicked sense of humour.

But that is a long way off. The moments of collusion between the judge— a Gothic-looking magistrate called Vanessa Baraitser, about whom little is known—and the prosecution acting for the Trump regime have been brazen. Until the last few days, defence arguments have been routinely dismissed. The lead prosecutor, James Lewis QC, ex SAS and currently Chief Justice of the Falklands, by and large gets what he wants, notably up to four hours to denigrate expert witnesses, while the defence’s examination is guillotined at half an hour. I have no doubt, had there been a jury, his freedom would be assured.

The dissident artist Ai Weiwei came to join us one morning in the public gallery. He noted that in China the judge’s decision would already have been made. This caused some dark ironic amusement. My companion in the gallery, the astute diarist and former British ambassador Craig Murray wrote:

I fear that all over London a very hard rain is now falling on those who for a lifetime have worked within institutions of liberal democracy that at least broadly and usually used to operate within the governance of their own professed principles. It has been clear to me from Day 1 that I am watching a charade unfold. It is not in the least a shock to me that Baraitser does not think anything beyond the written opening arguments has any effect. I have again and again reported to you that, where rulings have to be made, she has brought them into court pre-written, before hearing the arguments before her.

I strongly expect the final decision was made in this case even before opening arguments were received.

The plan of the US Government throughout has been to limit the information available to the public and limit the effective access to a wider public of what information is available. Thus we have seen the extreme restrictions on both physical and video access. A complicit mainstream media has ensured those of us who know what is happening are very few in the wider population.

There are few records of the proceedings. They are: Craig Murray’s personal blog, Joe Lauria’s live reporting on Consortium News and the World Socialist Website. American journalist Kevin Gosztola’s blog, Shadowproof, funded mostly by himself, has reported more of the trial than the major US press and TV, including CNN, combined.

In Australia, Assange’s homeland, the ‘coverage’ follows a familiar formula set overseas. The London correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, Latika Bourke, wrote this recently:

The court heard Assange became depressed during the seven years he spent in the Ecuadorian embassy where he sought political asylum to escape extradition to Sweden to answer rape and sexual assault charges.

There were no ‘rape and sexual assault charges’ in Sweden. Bourke’s lazy falsehood is not uncommon. If the Assange trial is the political trial of the century, as I believe it is, its outcome will not only seal the fate of a journalist for doing his job but intimidate the very principles of free journalism and free speech. The absence of serious mainstream reporting of the proceedings is, at the very least, self-destructive. Journalists should ask: who is next?

How shaming it all is. A decade ago, the Guardian exploited Assange’s work, claimed its profit and prizes as well as a lucrative Hollywood deal, then turned on him with venom. Throughout the Old Bailey trial, two names have been cited by the prosecution, the Guardian’s David Leigh, now retired as ‘investigations editor’ and Luke Harding, the Russiaphobe and author of a fictional Guardian ‘scoop’ that claimed Trump adviser Paul Manafort and a group of Russians visited Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy. This never happened, and the Guardian has yet to apologise. The Harding and Leigh book on Assange—written behind their subject’s back—disclosed a secret password to a WikiLeaks file that Assange had entrusted to Leigh during the Guardian’s ‘partnership’. Why the defence has not called this pair is difficult to understand.

Assange is quoted in their book declaring during a dinner at a London restaurant that he didn’t care if informants named in the leaks were harmed. Neither Harding nor Leigh was at the dinner. John Goetz, an investigations reporter with Der Spiegel, was at the dinner and testified that Assange said nothing of the kind. Incredibly, Judge Baraitser stopped Goetz actually saying this in court.

However, the defence has succeeded in demonstrating the extent to which Assange sought to protect and redact names in the files released by WikiLeaks and that no credible evidence existed of individuals harmed by the leaks. The great whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg said that Assange had personally redacted 15,000 files. The renowned New Zealand investigative journalist Nicky Hager, who worked with Assange on the Afghanistan and Iraq war leaks, described how Assange took ‘extraordinary precautions in redacting names of informants’.

TES: What are the implications of this trial’s verdict for journalism more broadly—is it an omen of things to come?

JP: The ‘Assange effect’ is already being felt across the world. If they displease the regime in Washington, investigative journalists are liable to prosecution under the 1917 US Espionage Act; the precedent is stark. It doesn’t matter where you are. For Washington, other people’s nationality and sovereignty rarely mattered; now it does not exist. Britain has effectively surrendered its jurisdiction to Trump’s corrupt Department of Justice. In Australia, a National Security Information Act promises Kafkaesque trials for transgressors. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been raided by police and journalists’ computers taken away. The government has given unprecedented powers to intelligence officials, making journalistic whistle-blowing almost impossible. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says Assange ‘must face the music’. The perfidious cruelty of his statement is reinforced by its banality.

‘Evil’, wrote Hannah Arendt, ‘comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil’.

TES: Having followed the story of WikiLeaks closely for a decade, how has this eyewitness experience shifted your understanding of what’s at stake with Assange’s trial?

JP: I have long been a critic of journalism as an echo of unaccountable power and a champion of those who are beacons. So, for me, the arrival of WikiLeaks was exciting; I admired the way Assange regarded the public with respect, that he was prepared to share his work with the ‘mainstream’ but not join their collusive club. This, and naked jealousy, made him enemies among the overpaid and undertalented, insecure in their pretensions of independence and impartiality.

I admired the moral dimension to WikiLeaks. Assange was rarely asked about this, yet much of his remarkable energy comes from a powerful moral sense that governments and other vested interests should not operate behind walls of secrecy. He is a democrat. He explained this in one of our first interviews at my home in 2010.

What is at stake for the rest of us has long been at stake: freedom to call authority to account, freedom to challenge, to call out hypocrisy, to dissent. The difference today is that the world’s imperial power, the United States, has never been as unsure of its metastatic authority as it is today. Like a flailing rogue, it is spinning us towards a world war if we allow it. Little of this menace is reflected in the media.

WikiLeaks, on the other hand, has allowed us to glimpse a rampant imperial march through whole societies—think of the carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, to name a few, the dispossession of 37 million people and the deaths of 12 million men, women and children in the ‘war on terror’—most of it behind a façade of deception.

Julian Assange is a threat to these recurring horrors—that’s why he is being persecuted, why a court of law has become an instrument of oppression, why he ought to be our collective conscience: why we all should be the threat.

The judge’s decision will be known on the 4th of January.


John Pilger, journalist, author and film director, has won many distinctions for his work, including Britain’s highest award for journalism twice, an American ‘Emmy’ and a British Academy Award. His complete archive is held at the British Library. He lives in London and Sydney. Visit his website at www.johnpilger.com

Featured image is from Snopes.com

The original source of this article is Copyright © John Pilger and Timothy Erik Ström, 2020

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Revealed: Key Assange prosecution witness is part of academic cluster which has received millions of pounds from UK and US militaries


By Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis | 02. October 2020

US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta speaks at Kings College in London, England, 18 January 2013. (Photo: DoD / Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo) 

One of the US prosecution’s key medical witnesses in the Julian Assange hearing, who claimed that Assange’s risk of suicide is ‘manageable’ if extradited to the US, works for an academic institute that is funded by the UK Ministry of Defence and linked to the US Department of Defence, it can be revealed.

Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis

  • US prosecution witness works at Institute of Psychiatry funded by UK military, although is not personally funded by it.
  • Witness leads research group which works “in collaboration” with centre set up with US Department of Defence funding.
  • He co-leads the group with academic whose work is often funded by UK military.
  • Institute’s partner department is closely linked to the Anglo-American military and intelligence communities, and created a course for British intelligence officers on behalf of the UK government.
  • Responding to Declassified, witness says: “I had no conflicts [of interest] to declare.”
  • Revelations come following end of Old Bailey hearing on Assange’s US extradition.

Dr Nigel Blackwood, a reader in forensic psychiatry at King’s College London (KCL), told the extradition hearing in London last week that Julian Assange was suffering only “moderate” depression. 

Giving evidence as an expert witness for the US prosecution, Dr Blackwood rebutted other experts’ findings on the seriousness of Assange’s condition, adding his suicide risk was “manageable”. He told the court: “Mr Assange has proved himself to be a very resilient and very resourceful man, and he has underplayed that.” 

At the request of US prosecution lawyers, Dr Blackwood examined Assange during two meetings in March. In his written submission to the court, he said that it would “not be unjust” to extradite Assange to the US.

Declassified has discovered that Dr Blackwood’s professional work at KCL is linked to a cluster of academic groups which are funded by or associated with the British and American militaries. 

Declassified has seen a contract showing that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) provided more than £2-million to KCL’s Institute of Psychiatry for the years 2013-16 for a project which KCL is forbidden to mention in public without MOD approval. It is likely the contract has been renewed and is still active.

  • The £2.2m contract between King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry and the UK Ministry of Defence.

The project is managed “on behalf of the Secretary of State for Defence” and is for Phase 4 of a “wellbeing” study of veterans of Britain’s recent military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seeking to “inform MOD decision-making”, the project began in 2003.

The value of the first three phases of the contract is not known but if the Institute of Psychiatry received a similar level of funding for Phase 4 as they had previously, the total contract value would be more than £8-million. A spokesperson for the institute refused Declassified’s request to divulge the amount of funding from the MOD.

Dr Blackwood works in the Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, which is part of KCL’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. He told Declassified he was aware of MOD funding the institute in which he works, but said he had never personally worked on an MOD contract. 

Asked by Declassified if he declared any conflicts of interest to the hearing, Blackwood responded, “I had no conflicts to declare.”

However, Declassified has found that the Forensic Research Group (FRG) that Dr Blackwood heads at KCL — and which “explores the complex relationship between mental disorders and crime” — is conducting research which uses data from Phase 3 of the MOD-funded project. 

In addition, the FRG works “in collaboration” with the King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), which is part-funded by the MOD and was “originally funded by the US Department of Defence”. A KCMHR webpage, which is undated, states that “latterly” the centre is being funded by the Department of Defence “again”. 

Nigel Blackwood, a Reader in forensic psychiatry at King’s College London, who was a US prosecution medical witness in the Julian Assange extradition hearing. (Photo: King’s College London)

US Department of Defence

The King’s College website states that the KCMHR is “the leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research and independent of the UK Ministry of Defence”. The centre notes that it also “collaborates” with the UK Ministry of Justice and the US Department of Defence.

The KCMHR is a “joint initiative between the Institute of Psychiatry and the Department of War Studies and makes significant contributions to UK military personnel policy”, the university website states. 

KCL’s Departments of War Studies and Defence Studies “have a number of contracts/agreements with various departments within government, including the Cabinet Office, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Ministry of Defence”, according to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request sent to KCL by Declassified.

However, “more specific information” on the contracts themselves was withheld by KCL because “the majority of contracts are listed as classified under UK security legislation. This means we are not permitted to disclose details, since they predominantly involve areas either directly or pertaining to the UK security services.”

The university also said disclosure would damage its commercial opportunities. “Two of the largest contracts [with the UK government] are due for renewal in the next 12 months and will go to open tender,” it explained. 

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta visited King’s College War Studies Department in 2013, saying: “I deeply appreciate the work that you do to train and to educate our future national security leaders, many of whom are in this audience.”

Panetta, who also served as director of the CIA from 2009 to 2011, recently said in an interview that the purpose of prosecuting Assange was to stop other journalists from revealing information about the US government: “All you can do is hope that you can ultimately take action against those who were involved in revealing that information so you can send a message to others not to do the same thing.”

One of the two co-directors of the KCHMR, which collaborates with Dr Blackwood’s FRG, is Nicola Fear, a professor of epidemiology and a former MOD staffer who is on the study teamworking on the MOD “wellbeing” project. 

According to the centre, Professor Fear “leads several studies… which have been awarded funding from the UK Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defence”. 

One recent project led by Professor Fear for the KCHMR, which was funded by the US Department of Defence, studies how the military deployments of parents affect children’s emotional development. 

  • King’s College London rejects a Declassified Freedom of Information Act request for its UK government contracts “since they predominantly involve areas either directly or pertaining to the UK security services”. 

biography of Professor Fear notes that “Nicola frequently briefs senior government officials and military leaders on the work of KCMHR and the impact of service life on personnel, veterans and families”. From 2014-15, she worked on a US army contract

Declassified has also discovered other KCMHR projects funded by the US Department of Defence. Different KCL researchers have received funding from the US Office of Naval Research for a project which “examined the political, social and the strategic dimension of cybersecurity”.

The KCMHR’s other co-director is the vice-dean of Academic Psychiatry, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, who is one of the “approved” researchers on the MOD “wellbeing” contract.

The KCHMR has been developing data-sharing links with colleagues in the US, according to the university’s webpage. “We want to make increasing use of the possibilities of electronic data linkage, reflecting the fact that the UK and US have been fighting the same war,” Professor Wessely is quoted as saying.

Wessely and Fear are two of the four members of the “senior team” of KCL’s Academic Department of Military Mental Health (ADMMH) which, according to KCL’s website, appears to be funded solely by the MOD. The ADMMH “works directly” with the KCMHR, with which it shares a research policy, and has “both academic and military personnel seconded to the unit”. 

The other two senior members of the ADMMH, Lieutenant Colonel Norman Jones and Major Amos Simms, are both serving UK military personnel. 

The ADMMH says its “mission is to act as the uniformed focus for military mental health research” for the UK military. It adds: “The centre aims to gather, assess and report on information that will enhance the health and operational effectiveness of the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces.”

A slide from a presentation by Professor Nicola Fear, the co-director of the King’s Centre for Military Health Research, advertising the centre’s US Department of Defense-funded study on the children of military personnel.

Forensic research

Dr Blackwood told Declassified he had never personally worked with the KCMHR, adding that his “colleague” has “worked with” the centre examining Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the ex-service population.

That colleague, Dr Deirdre MacManus, is the co-team leader with Dr Blackwood of the FRG and — according to the KCL website — a member of the KCMHR team. She is also part of the study team working on the MOD “wellbeing” contract. 

MacManus, a clinical senior lecturer in forensic psychiatry, has been funded directly by the UK military to produce research. MacManus also appears to have published a number of outputs produced from the MOD “wellbeing” contract alongside academic papers co-authored with, among others, a serving member of the British army. 

Dr MacManus and Dr Blackwood co-authored an academic paper in September 2019 on the subject of PTSD in prisons, which “identified significant associations between PTSD and suicidality”. This was a subject on which Blackwood gave evidence to the Assange hearing. 

Intelligence training

The War Studies Department at KCL, which co-founded the KCMHR with the Institute of Psychiatry, is also linked to the UK and US intelligence community. 

The department was in the mid-2000s commissioned by the “professional head of intelligence analysis” — working within the Cabinet Office’s Intelligence and Security Secretariat — “to develop a course for experienced [intelligence] analysts” in order to “enhance the analytic capability of the United Kingdom’s intelligence community”.

A study titled “Teaching Intelligence Analysts in the UK” and published in the US Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA’s) in-house journal, notes that: “Exposure to an academic environment, such as the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, can add several elements that may be harder to provide within the government system.”

Co-written by David Omand — a former director of the UK’s largest intelligence agency, GCHQ, who teaches on KCL’s War Studies course — the article notes that “the CIA had recognised as early as 1960 how beneficial it would be to use universities as a means of intelligence training”. 

The paper continues by noting that KCL “offers a containing space in which analysts from every part of the [intelligence] community can explore with each other the interplay of ideas about their profession”.

Professor David Omand, ex-head of British intelligence agency GCHQ and now a visiting professor at King’s College London. (Photo: Creative Commons)

The Department of War Studies is currently home to a number of personnel connected to the US military and intelligence community.

The university also runs a cross-department centre — called the Academic Centre of Excellence in Cybersecurity Research — which brings King’s College academics together to look at the “sociotechnical aspects of cybersecurity”. The body runs “in association” with the National Cybersecurity Centre, an arm of GCHQ. 

Consent of the MOD

The contract seen by Declassified is made out between the “Secretary of State for Defence” and the “Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London”. Worth £2.17-million, Phase 4 of the project ran from February 2013 to January 2016. Earlier phases were renewed in 2006 and 2010. 

The Institute for Psychiatry refused to disclose to Declassified the total level of funding provided by the MOD, saying that the university’s “web pages are very comprehensive and should help with your queries”. KCL’s website does not appear to provide such details.

The contract stipulates that KCL cannot “without the prior written consent of the [MOD], advertise or publicly announce that work is being undertaken for the [MOD]”. It adds that KCL researchers “may not communicate on these matters with any communications media representatives” unless they are granted written permission by the MOD.

Declassified searched the British government’s contract database and could find no other contract between the MOD and a department of psychiatry in the UK. 

The contract states that “the Ministry of Defence did not expect, and was unprepared for, the criticism that arose some years after the 1991 Gulf conflict over the so-called Gulf War Syndrome”. The project’s purpose is to “have early warning of any similar problem arising from the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and to be in a position to respond appropriately with targeted medical research”. 


Excerpts from the contract between King’s College’s Institute of Psychiatry and the UK Ministry of Defence.

Funding of the Forensic Research Group

 Dr Blackwood told Declassified his FRG at King’s College had never received funding, directly or indirectly, from the MOD. 

The group does, however, receive funds from organisations associated with the British military. One of its six listed funders is Help for Heroes, which supports wounded military personnel. The organisation receives funds from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, an MOD-funded charity that was until 2018 based inside the ministry.

Another funder of the FRG is the Forces in Mind Trust (FIMT), which supports former British military personnel. The chair of FIMT’s board, Hans Pung, is President of RAND Europe and a former US army officer. 

Other directors include Major General Martin Rutledge, who served in UK military headquarters during the Iraq campaign, and General Sir John McColl, a former deputy commander of Nato. DM

Matt Kennard is head of investigations and Mark Curtis is editor of Declassified UK, an investigative journalism organisation that covers the UK’s role in the world.