Consortium News has sent libel notices to a Canadian spy agency and major broadcaster after their reports said CN is part of a Russian-directed propaganda campaign targeting Canadian leaders.
Canada’s NSA and Global News Said CN Leads
‘Cyber-Influence Campaign’ Directed by Moscow
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
Consortium News has sent libel notices to the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s version of the U.S. National Security Agency, and to a major Canadian television network, Global News, for a report that said Consortium News was “part of a cyber-influence campaign directed by Russia.”
Based on a CSE leak of a secret document, Global News’ website said in a Dec. 10, 2019 article entitled “‘Canadian eyes only’ intelligence reports say Canadian leaders attacked in cyber campaigns” that Consortium News led this campaign. “The first attack was a February 2017 report in the ‘online Consortium News’ followed ‘in quick succession’ by pro-Russian English language and Russian-language online media, the CSE report says,” according to Global News.
A caption on the Global News site under a screenshot of the Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article reads: “A CSE report says Consortium News was part of an attack from Russia on Chrystia Freeland’s reputation.” Freeland was the then Canadian foreign minister and is now deputy prime minister.
Another caption under a Dec. 10 Global News broadcast, which also shows the CN screenshot, says: “Russia is one of numerous hostile foreign states that have recently targeted Canada with online smear campaigns.”
Global News’ website, quoting from the CSE report, said:
“ ‘A small number of nation states’ are involved in cyber campaigns against Western democracy, but the national security assessment warns the threat and range of actors involved are growing. And the tactics used by Canada’s adversaries include ‘human intelligence operations,’ online and cyber influence campaigns and the use of ‘state-sponsored or influenced media.’”
The libel notices were sent by a Toronto law firm on behalf of Consortium News, which seeks a retraction of all mention of Consortium News and an apology. CN is making a formal Access to Information Act request (Canada’s Freedom of Information Act) to obtain a copy of the CSE report. Part of the CSE report, classified “SECRET CEO,” CEO meaning Canadian Eyes Only, was broadcast by Global News.
Titled, “Cyber Influence Events against Canadian Politicians,” the report says:
“In early 2017 and Spring 2018, sources linked to Russia popularized MFA Freeland’s family history, very likely intended to cause personal reputational damage in order to discredit the Government of Canada’s ongoing diplomatic and military support for Ukraine, to delegitimize Canada’s decision to enact the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Offices Act, and the 2018 expulsion of several Russian diplomats.”
The Act referred to is Canada’s version of the controversial Magnitsky Act passed by the U.S. Congress.
Global News’ website reported:
“The attacks on Freeland, who is now deputy prime minister, were partly meant to combat her support of laws targeting corrupt Russian oligarchs and leaders, the CSE records say, and included allegations that her Ukrainian grandfather had edited a newspaper with ties to Nazis. …
The cyber-campaign directed by Russia involved distortions of facts and was timed, targeted and, according to the CSE, ‘pushed the narrative to suggest that Freeland’s family immigrated to Canada as part of a wave of Nazi-collaborators.’
The first attack was a February 2017 report in the ‘online Consortium News’ followed ‘in quick succession’ by pro-Russian English language and Russian-language online media, the CSE report says.
The CSE records obtained by Global News appear to document for the first time direct allegations from Canada’s government that Russia directed these cyber campaigns.”
The CN Article
The Feb. 27, 2017 Consortium News article, written by journalist Arina Tsukanova exclusively for CN, was titled “A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet.” It reveals that Freeland had lied about her grandfather’s past as an editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland during the war. The story was first reported by John Helmer a month earlier.
In her version, Tuskanova reported:
“Last Aug. 24, reflecting on so-called Black Ribbon Day, which lumps together the crimes of Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler (with Stalin getting top billing), [Freeland] wrote on Twitter, ‘Thinking of my grandparents Mykhailo & Aleksandra Chomiak on Black Ribbon Day. They were forever grateful to Canada for giving them refuge and they worked hard to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine. I am proud to honour their memory today.’
In her autobiography, Freeland presents her grandparents in the following way: ‘My maternal grandparents fled western Ukraine after Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact in 1939. They never dared to go back, but they stayed in close touch with their brothers and sisters and their families, who remained behind.’
According to Freeland, her grandfather Mykhailo Chomiak was ‘a lawyer and journalist before the Second World War, but they [her grandparents] knew the Soviets would invade western Ukraine (and) fled.’ After the war, her mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany before the family immigrated to western Canada, Freeland wrote. …
Chrystia Freeland’s dark family secret is that her grandfather, Mykhailo Chomiak, faithfully served Nazi Germany right up to its surrender, and Chomiak’s family only moved to Canada after the Third Reich was defeated by the Soviet Union’s Red Army and its allies – the U.S. and Great Britain.
Mykhailo Chomiak was not a victim of the war – he was on the side of the German aggressors who collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists in killing Russians, Jews, Poles and other minorities. Former journalist Freeland chose to whitewash her family history to leave out her grandfather’s service to Adolf Hitler. Of course, if she had told the truth, she might never have achieved a successful political career in Canada. Her fierce hostility toward Russia also might be viewed in a different light.
According to Canadian sources, Chomiak graduated from Lviv University in western Ukraine with a Master’s Degree in Law and Political Science. He began a career with the Galician newspaper Dilo (Action), published in Lviv. After the start of World War II, the Nazi administration appointed Chomiak to be editor of the newspaper Krakivski Visti (News of Krakow).
So the truth appears to be that Chomiak moved from Ukraine to Nazi-occupied Poland in order to work for the Third Reich under the command of Governor-General Hans Frank, the man who organized the Holocaust in Poland. Chomiak’s work was directly supervised by Emil Gassner, the head of the press department in the Polish General Government. …
So, it appears Freeland’s grandfather – rather than being a helpless victim – was given a prestigious job to spread Nazi propaganda, praising Hitler from a publishing house stolen from Jews and given to Ukrainians who shared the values of Nazism. …
While it is true that the sins of a grandfather should not be visited on his descendants, Freeland should not have misled the public on history of such importance, especially when her deceptions also concealed how she partly developed her world view.”
A Non-Denial Denial
A week after the Consortium News story appeared, The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, reported on March 6, 2017 that: “Recently a number of stories have appeared in pro-Putin regime websites, calling Ms. Freeland ‘Canada’s fiercely anti-Russian Foreign Affairs Minister’ and alleging her grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi propagandist in Poland.”
Freeland was asked that day at a press conference in Ottawa about the story. She evaded the question about her grandfather and said: “I don’t think it’s a secret [that] American officials have publicly said, and even [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel has publicly said, that there were efforts on the Russian side to destabilize Western democracies, and I think it shouldn’t come as a surprise if these same efforts were used against Canada.”
On the very next day, March 7, a Globe and Mail headline read: “Freeland knew her grandfather was editor of Nazi newspaper.”
The newspaper reported:
“Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland knew for more than two decades that her maternal Ukrainian grandfather was the chief editor of a Nazi newspaper in occupied Poland that vilified Jews during the Second World War…. Ms. Freeland, who has paid tribute to her maternal grandparents in articles and books, helped edit a scholarly article in the Journal of Ukrainian Studies in 1996 that revealed her grandfather, Michael Chomiak, was a Nazi propagandist for Krakivski Visti (Krakow News).” …
‘Dating back many years, the Minister has supported her uncle’s efforts to study and publish on this difficult chapter in her late grandfather’s past,’ press secretary Alexander Lawrence said in an e-mail Tuesday evening. … [Freeland] did not directly respond to questions about whether the stories about Mr. Chomiak were true. When The Globe asked her office on Monday to refute the allegation, Mr. Lawrence responded: ‘People should be questioning where this information comes from, and the motivations behind it.’”
Two days later, on March 9, 2017, Robert Parry, the late founder of Consortium News, wrote:
“On Feb, 27, Consortiumnews.com published an article describing misrepresentations by Canada’s new Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland about her Ukrainian maternal grandfather whom she has portrayed as a hero who struggled ‘to return freedom and democracy to Ukraine’ but left out that he was a Nazi propagandist whose newspaper justified the slaughter of Jews. …
Over the next week, the article entitled ‘A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet’ by journalist Arina Tsukanova (which I personally edited and fact-checked) circulated enough that Freeland was asked about it by the Canadian news media. As often happens these days, Freeland chose not to tell the truth but rather portrayed the article as part of a Russian propaganda and disinformation campaign. …
Yet, instead of fessing up and acknowledging these facts, Freeland chose to dissemble and slander journalists who were doing their job. And the smears didn’t entirely stop. … This pattern has become all too common in the West, to insult and discredit anyone who doesn’t accept the ‘groupthinks’ about the New Cold War. Just as the major news media marched in lockstep over the Iraq-WMD falsehoods, so it has been toeing the line on the hysteria over supposed ‘Russian propaganda’ and ‘fake news.’
The timing of the CSE report and the Global News broadcast regarding a three-year old Consortium News article is unclear. A Global News reporter said in the Dec. 10 broadcast that the CSE report was “prepared ahead” of the Oct. 2019 Canadian federal election.
After winning re-election in her downtown Toronto constituency, Freeland was named deputy prime minister a month later. A month after that, she was tabbed to head a powerful cabinet post, that in the words of one analyst quoted by iPOLITICS, means, “Chrystia Freeland is now functionally the prime minister.”
A Globe and Mail headline read:
“Freeland knew her grandfather was editor of Nazi newspaper.”
The date on the CN front page of the screenshot taken by Global News for its report was Dec. 2, 2019. On that date Consortium News republished an article by Yasha Levine with the headline, “Yes, Ukraine Meddled in the 2016 US Election.”
Global News Reporter Sam Cooper on the broadcast (transcript) implies that the Consortium News article in question “amplified” and “distorted” the true fact, admitted by Cooper, that Freeland’s grandfather was editor of a Nazi newspaper “making it appear that the whole family was connected to Nazi activity.” Cooper also said:
“Canada has plans in place to combat cyber influence. We don’t know a lot about the plans but the records do say all Canadians need to be aware that they can be targeted. Whether you’re a government official or a voter or a company owner, anyone. You’re a target and that can come down to clicking on the wrong links in your email. Anything really, and these attacks are on the rise and they’re really trying to undermine democracy.”
Global News made no effort to contact Consortium News for comment before it published its article and aired its broadcast.
‘It Looks So Real’
That may have been because on Global News’ broadcast, the presenter says: “It looks so real, that’s the thing, lots of people get fooled because it looks like a legitimate news source.”
Consortium News is very real, founded in 1995 by Parry, a former investigative reporter for the Associated Press and Newsweek who broke some of the biggest Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s, revealing the identity of Oliver North and his role in the scandal.
Parry began Consortium News after some of his most consequential stories were suppressed by his corporate news editors. His idea was to provide a publication for a consortium of journalists whose work, often critical of the U.S., was similarly suppressed by their editors.
Parry set up the Consortium for Independent Journalism, Inc. a registered non-profit organization, which publishes Consortium News. It does not receive or accept a penny from any government, corporation or advertiser. It is totally funded by its readers. Its editorial decisions are independent.
Consortium News is today created by a consortium of journalists, academics, freelance writers, former intelligence agency professionals and an independent video producer. Most have served at the highest levels of their professions.
CN‘s deputy editor is a former Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswire editor. Its columnists include a former Asia editor for The International Herald Tribune; a professor of Middle East politics at the University of California; and two former Central Intelligence Agency officials. One delivered Oval Office briefings to President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. The other led the capture of al-Qaeda militant Abu Zubaydah.
Global News made no effort to contact Consortium News for comment before it published its article and aired its broadcast.
The executive producer of Consortium News‘ webcast CN Live! was a tenured professor in post-production in Paris, teaches at film schools in Sydney and has worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Consortium News‘ editor-in-chief is a veteran journalist with decades of experience in some of the most powerful Establishment media. His first professional job was with The New York Times in 1976.
In 1990 he began reporting on international affairs from United Nations Headquarters in New York for numerous newspapers, including the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph in Britain, as well as six years for The Boston Globe and six and a half years for The Wall Street Journal.
The Consortium editor was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London Insight team and has made numerous media appearances, including on the BBC World Service, CNN and ABC’s Good Morning America.
He was the UN correspondent from 1994 to 2003 for Southam News, a Canadian newspaper chain that owned the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, and several other papers. The former Canadian media conglomerate CanWest bought Southam amid controversy in 2000. The editor worked for CanWest while it also owned Global News (from from 1997 to 2009.)
The Consortium editor is co-author of a book with former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel, a Quebec descendant, who is a member of Consortium News‘ board. Gravel was close personal friends with former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Gravel vacationed with Trudeau at Christmas 1977 at a ski resort in Colorado.
The signals intelligence agency of the government of Justin Trudeau has accused an independent news organization, on whose board sits a close friend of the prime minister’s late father, of being “directed” by a foreign power.
Consortium‘s board members also include Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and famed journalist and filmmaker John Pilger. Ellsberg worked for the Pentagon and the RAND Corporation, and Pilger was a correspondent for The Daily Mirror and a columnist at The New Statesman.
Having been on the inside of the Establishment, these writers, editors, producers and board members work to provide the public with a significantly different point of view of international and domestic U.S. affairs than the mainstream corporate media.
CSE and Global News, with this report, are portraying critical journalism as directed by a foreign power, as if legitimate and indigenous dissent cannot exist on its own.
Their report takes place in the context of a broader campaign by powerful interests to link their critics to Russia as a way of discrediting them and protecting themselves. It is reminiscent of the Cold War campaign of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, revived in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and persisting, evidently, until today.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @unjoe .
This article has been updated to show that the story of Freeland’s grandfather was first reported by John Helmer.
Please Donate to the Winter Fund Drive.