What Happened Today
November 29, 2028
The Big Story
A top CIA official posted a pro-Palestine image on her private Facebook page two weeks after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, the Financial Times reported Tuesday. The official, whom the FT declined to name after the CIA “expressed concern about her safety,” was later identified by The Washington Free Beacon as Amy McFadden, an associate deputy director for analysis who was once responsible for the President’s Daily Brief.
On Oct. 21, McFadden changed her Facebook cover image to a picture of a boy waving a Palestinian flag, which the FT notes is “often used in stories criticising Israel.” The paper also reported that McFadden posted a selfie with a “Free Palestine” sticker superimposed on the photo, although sources said that image was posted years before the current conflict.
McFadden joined the agency in 1999 and was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution from 2012 to 2013. The Free Beacon reports that McFadden also recently liked a post by the International Crisis Group, whose former president Robert Malley, also Biden’s Iran envoy, is now under investigation for mishandling classified materials. In September, Semafor revealed that Malley had hired two top aides from a group of Iranian American analysts who participated in the Iran Experts Initiative, an Iranian Foreign Ministry-run influence operation to sell the Iran nuclear deal to Western publics. One of those analysts, Ariane Tabatabai, now serves at the Pentagon, where she retains a top-secret security clearance.
Former U.S. intelligence officials quoted in the Financial Times were highly critical of McFadden’s decision to post the image. One called it an example of “glaringly poor judgment,” another said it “reflects exceptionally and surprisingly bad judgment,” and a third referred to it as “highly irregular,” especially given the CIA’s close relationship with Israeli intelligence.
Retired CIA officer Peter Theroux, who served more than 20 years in the analytic directorate, was even more blunt in an email to The Scroll:
It would be very unusual, very troubling, and ethically wrong for a senior analyst to make public political statements contradicting U.S. policy. It is also a violation of Agency policy, as any public statements on U.S. policy have to be cleared by the Prepublication Classification Review Board, whether the officer is active or retired. The PCRB denies any officer holding a clearance the publication of such statements. But Amy isn't just a senior analyst, she is in a seventh-floor leadership position high in the analytic directorate's front office, unless she has been demoted by now.
Also, it comes at a time when CIA director Bill Burns is arriving in the Middle East to work on this nightmarish Israel-Hamas predicament, and as U.S. and Israeli policies on prosecuting the war seem to be diverging. The last thing Burns needs is for his Agency to look like its analytic shop is run by circus sideshow freaks.
The context is no less unsettling when you look at her connections to the Qatar-funded Brookings Institute and the International Crisis Group, formerly run by the thoroughly disgraced Rob Malley—another Hamasnik—and at the the bias towards Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism, tolerated in the U.S. government in the case of the Iran Experts Initiative. So far this is three Executive Branch entities—Defense, State, and now the CIA—where high-level officers don't bother to hide pro-terrorism sympathies. Only Malley has suffered consequences. Someone has to right the ship.
Theroux added that “while posting ‘Free Palestine’ is not exactly like writing a New York Times op-ed, it needs no parsing especially in late autumn 2023. It implies genocide. An officer at Amy’s altitude should need none of this explained to her. There is no excuse for not demoting her.”
McFadden’s case may be exceptional due to her seniority, but she is far from the first U.S. government official to publicly diverge from the Biden administration’s messaging on Israel. For instance, as The Scroll has previously reported, Sylvia Yacoub, a foreign affairs officer in the State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, has publicly accused Biden of complicity in Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza, as has Yousra Fazili, the chief of staff to Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord and former strategic adviser to Qatar’s ambassador to the United States. Hundreds more have signed anonymous dissent cables and letters of protest. Perhaps, in this environment, McFadden assumed there would be no consequences for this sort of display. She may well be proven right.
IN THE BACK PAGES: What does Yale have in common with Hamas? They’re both bankrolled by Qatar. Tablet’s Armin Rosen investigates.
→Amy McFadden’s LinkedIn cover photo reads, “I am for equity because equity starts with everyone,” and she’s not alone in that sentiment—at least in the upper echelons of the U.S. national security apparatus. Since 2020, the RAND Corporation, one of the United States’ oldest and most prominent nonpartisan think tanks and the leading policy adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense, has followed the lead of nearly every other leading government and civil society institution and embraced diversity, equity, and inclusion. As Kenin Spivak, a former member of the advisory board for RAND’s Center of Corporate Governance and Ethics, writes in a recent essay for National Review:
This month, at a celebration of its 75th anniversary, [RAND President Jason] Matheny ignored RAND’s national-security legacy and announced that henceforth most of its research would be grouped into four main initiatives: “countering truth decay and autocracy,” “reducing inequity,” “governing technology,” and “advancing climate and energy solutions.” Three of the four initiatives are centered on DEI.
Read the rest here: https://www.nationalreview.com/2023/11/another-institution-bites-the-woke-dust/
→The Oakland City Council on Monday night unanimously passed a resolution calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, after hours of testimony from far-left activists who praised Hamas as a legitimate “resistance organization,” called for Israel to be “completely dismantled,” likened the Oct. 7 attacks to a woman fighting back against her abusive husband, and booed speakers who mentioned Hamas’ sexual assaults on Jewish women. A Jewish council member proposed an amendment to add an acknowledgment of the Oct. 7 massacre and condemnation of Hamas, but it was voted down 2-6. According to one attendee, who described the hearing as “the most antisemitic room I’ve ever been in,” the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, which is a subsidiary of the progressive dark-money group the Tides Center, handed out scripts to attendees that “justified and glorified Hamas.” Some “highlights” from the rally can be seen in the video below.
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→Michael Shellenberger, Alex Gutentag, and Matt Taibbi have obtained new whistleblower documents on the genesis of the U.S. “Censorship Industrial Complex.” At the center of their report is the Cyber Threat Intelligence League (CTIL), a “public-private partnership” between U.S. and British military and intelligence contractors, government officials, and employees from social media platforms, which between 2018 and 2020 helped develop the censorship framework later adopted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to control narratives around COVID-19 pandemic policy and the 2020 election. Here are some highlights from the report:
“[One of the whistleblower documents] explains that while [information operations] overseas are ‘typically’ done by ‘the CIA and NSA and the Department of Defense,’ censorship efforts ‘against Americans’ have to be done using private partners because the government doesn’t have the ‘legal authority.’
“The whistleblower alleges that a leader of [CTIL], a ‘former’ British intelligence analyst, was ‘in the room’ at the Obama White House in 2017 when she received the instructions to create a counter-disinformation project to stop a ‘repeat of 2016.’”
“According to the whistleblower, roughly 12-20 active people involved in CTIL worked at the FBI or CISA.”
Through a related organization, the head of CTIL, a former U.K. defense researcher named Sara-Jayne Terp, developed an anti-disinformation strategy called Adversarial Misinformation and Influence Tactics and Techniques. AMITT was later used to develop the DISARM framework adopted by the United States, European Union, and the World Health Organization.
“The AMITT framework calls for discrediting individuals as a necessary prerequisite of demanding censorship against them. It calls for training influencers to spread messages. And it calls for trying to get banks to cut off financial services to individuals who organize rallies or events.”
“When asked whether Terp or other CTIL leaders discussed their potential violation of the First Amendment, the whistleblower said, “They did not. … The ethos was that if we get away with it, it’s legal, and there were no First Amendment concerns because we have a ‘public-private partnership’—that’s the word they used to disguise those concerns. ‘Private people can do things public servants can’t do, and public servants can provide the leadership and coordination.’”
Read the rest here:
→Germany saw 994 antisemitic incidents from Oct. 7 to Nov. 9, a 320% increase over the same period last year, according to the Department for Research and Information on Antisemitism, a state-funded monitoring group. These incidents included antisemitic abuse online and in public places, antisemitic graffiti, vandalism of Jewish homes and businesses, physical assaults, and the firebombing of a Jewish community center on Oct. 18.
Despite—or perhaps because of—this groundswell of popular antisemitism, especially from Germany’s Muslim immigrant community, the German government has aggressively cracked down on NGOs and aid agencies linked to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups. In October, for instance, Germany banned Samidoun, a Palestinian group with alleged terror links that is a subsidiary of the Alliance for Global Justice, a left-wing American NGO that has received funding from Democratic dark-money groups such as Tides and the New Venture Fund, a subsidiary of Arabella Advisors. And yesterday, Germany announced that it was freezing aid to the UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, following reports that agency employees were distributing antisemitic educational materials and inciting and glorifying terrorist violence. Donald Trump eliminated U.S. funding for UNRWA in 2018, but Biden reinstated it in 2021. The United States is set to provide the agency with well over $300 million in 2023.
→For anyone interested in a possible Scroll podcast (let us know what you think in the comments) check out this conversation between Scroll editor Jacob Siegel and Egyptian American writer Hussein Aboubakr Mansour. The two discuss the strange career of senior U.S. diplomat Robert Malley, a strident anti-Zionist whose rise inside the U.S. government represents the normalization of Soviet and Middle Eastern pathologies within the American ruling class.
TODAY IN TABLET:
Pallywood’s Latest Blockbuster, by Richard Landes
How the media’s lockstep coverage of the Al-Ahli Hospital explosion promoted Hamas propaganda
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What Yale Has in Common With Hamas
Qatar is buying the Ivy League, along with every other institutional bauble in America, from the Brookings Institution, to Foreign Policy magazine, to the NHL and the NBA
By Armin Rosen
The Qatari government’s American partners have pursued a range of damage control tactics since Oct. 7, when Hamas, a Qatar-sponsored terrorist group whose senior political leadership is based in the Gulf emirate, murdered over 1,200 people, killing over 30 U.S. citizens and kidnapping a dozen more. Qatari money has spread far across American life, but leading institutions do not often brag about partnering with governments that openly facilitate the work of a genocidally minded terrorist organization that records videos of its atrocities. Such relationships risk becoming a source of public shame, and raise the specter of long-term damage to an organization’s reputation and brand. Then again, what the public doesn’t know can’t hurt it.
Higher education, one of the last remaining industries in which the U.S. is still the unquestioned global leader, has proven particularly expert in shielding its favorite deep-pocketed investor from public scrutiny. In a new series of reports, a research consortium organized by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy found that some $2.7 billion in Qatari funding made it to American colleges and universities between 2014 and 2019 without public acknowledgement from the institutions themselves. The universities only divulged these contributions, which also included some $1.2 billion from China and $1.06 billion from Saudi Arabia, through a Department of Education online portal set up in 2019 to track previously unreported foreign funding.
Universities in the United States that receive funding from the federal government are legally obligated to disclose direct support or contracts they receive from foreign sources if they are valued at $250,000 or more over the course of a calendar year. But there are ways for these states to fund activities at American universities without the money actually reaching the U.S. or being directly traceable to a government source. The Qatar Foundation, the Qatar National Research Fund, the Qatar Fund for Development, and the Qatar Investment Authority are all classified as nongovernment entities under Qatari law, even if their money comes entirely from the crown. While Qatar has made large and highly publicized gifts to American institutions, including $760 million to Georgetown, and $1.8 billion to Cornell, Qatari state-financed entities often fund individual scholars or programs in the United States without official disclosure, thus avoiding public scrutiny.
An upcoming report, which ISGAP shared with Tablet, used the example of Yale University to show the diverse paths through which Qatar supports the work of U.S. universities. As the study notes, the New Haven-based institution disclosed only $284,668 in funding from Qatar between 2010 and 2022. ISGAP’s researchers found that this amount reflected only a small fraction of the money and services the university and its scholars had in fact received from the Qatari government over that period.
The most common channel for hard-to-track Qatari support for Yale came from individual research grants originating from the Qatar National Research Fund, which describes itself as a “member” of the Qatar Foundation. In a few cases, an individual grant's value appeared in publicly available sources. Per the curriculum vitae of the research partner whose institution, Texas A&M University, helped obtain the grant, Yale engineering professor Abbas Firoozabadi and his three collaborators received a total of $1,029,978 from QNRF for a “Theoretical and experimental study of asphaltene deposition during CO2 injection in Qatar’s oil reservoirs” in 2010. In 2011, University of Massachusetts political scientist David Mednicoff received a grant of $1,016,808 from QNRF for a project titled “The Rule of Law in Qatar: Comparative Insights and Policy Strategies.” In November of that year, he delivered a presentation on a similar theme to Yale’s Council on Middle East Studies Colloquium, based on research that partly predated the QNRF grant.
When reached by email, Mednicoff explained that Qatar has a sophisticated—and, by regional and even global standards, remarkably open—system for supporting academic research conducted in the emirate. QNRF-funded projects “must be managed by researchers in Qatar, and on subjects directly connected to Qatar,” Mednicoff recalled. “I had complete freedom to design and run my research as I saw fit, and was actually surprised that no one in the Qatari government seemed concerned about open-ended research on law and politics.” Meanwhile QNRF’s grant process “was exactly like any other one I have been through,” Mednicoff wrote, “namely, highly bureaucratic … and judged through blind peer reviews from expert scholars.” Money from a QNRF grant could only make it to the U.S. in a highly regulated system in which a scholar and their team “worked as subcontractors for a grant run by someone based at a Qatari research institution.”
The ISGAP report found 11 Yale-linked QNRF grants, and lists the grant number that the fund attached to each project. QNRF, the Qatar Foundation, and other Qatari funders do not have a searchable online grant database—ISGAP had to cull their information from CVs, research journals, and other disaggregated public sources that had listed the applicable QNRF grant number. The website of the Qatar Research, Development and Innovation Council, of which QNRF is apparently a member, does have a portal for information about affiliated projects, but the database does not disclose the value of any individual grant. The extent of QNRF funding therefore can’t be known unless a scholar or their institution chooses to publicly announce the amount themselves. Of the four grants whose amount had been voluntarily disclosed by their recipient, three were worth over $1 million, while the last was for $413,000. Yale professors and affiliates received grants of unknown value from QNRF for research they conducted in the country on topics like Christian support for anti-regime uprisings in Egypt and Syria, various genetic disorders, and the use of oil byproducts as a green energy input.
Joint programming offers another potential channel of support. As ISGAP reported, in 2013 Yale’s Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering announced “a research collaboration in Qatar made possible by QAFCO [the Qatar Fertilizer Company], who sponsored the first Green Chemistry and Engineering Chair at TAMQ [Texas A&M University’s Doha campus].” The “collaboration” would temporarily bring Yale chemistry and environmental studies professor Paul Anastas to TAMQ, to “initiate research projects with funding from the Qatar National Research Fund and local Qatar industry." In addition to leading Yale’s Center For Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Anastas served as a senior Environmental Protection Agency official during Barack Obama’s first term. The ISGAP report notes that several Yale scholars and administrators, including a longtime university vice president, had some level of affiliation with the World Innovation Summit for Education, which is a project of the Qatar Foundation.
In yet another point of contact between the Yale bureaucracy and a Qatari government entity, Yale University Press produced a 2019 book as part of the Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art that, according to the press’s website, was “distributed for the Qatar Foundation.” When contacted for comment, a representative for Yale University Press replied, "The Press has an agreement with Virginia Commonwealth University," which has an arts campus in Doha, "with respect to the lecture series 'The Hamad Bin Khalifa Symposia and Publications on Islamic Art and Culture'—a series we understand is sponsored by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development. The Press does not have any agreements with the Qatar Foundation, nor does it receive funding from them. A 2013 book on Islamic art was “published in association with the Qatar Foundation.”
The geopolitical implications of a university press advancing a small aspect of the cultural agenda of a nondemocratic government, in one case in connection with an event named after that country’s former emir, are inevitably minor. But it is the relative insignificance of many of the partnerships detailed in the ISGAP report that hints at Qatar’s broader strategy, which is to be treated as a mainstream and generally positive actor within U.S. academia.
Only a small handful of scholars and academic administrators are in a position to know that Qatar distributes million-dollar grants, or collaborates on academic research projects and publications. But such assistance to U.S. universities ensures that there will be people ensconced in the American elite’s major credentialing institutions who will look to Qatar as an enlightened, perhaps even liberal-minded source of financial support and professional encouragement. Grantees and donors alike can be sure that no one on Yale’s campus will be marching against Qatar, regardless of what the emirate’s government or its clients do.
In large and small amounts, and through methods calculated to both attract and avoid public attention, Qatar accurately identified the centers of power in America and made sure they’d have their own piece of them, using official and semi-official largesse to purchase the support of America’s academic, media, and entertainment leaders. Qatar has become a factor in both the United States and in world affairs through spending its money wisely and patiently, over long periods of time and in a way that enlists everyone from college administrators to magazine editors to NBA owners. Qatar’s U.S. strategy is an extension of its successful policies in the Middle East, where a long-term financial and political commitment to Hamas has thrust Doha into the center of global diplomacy, with the effect of legitimizing both the Gulf emirate and its Islamist client in Gaza.
Foreign Policy magazine, for example, which aims to provide expert reporting and opinion on the Middle East and surrounding policy debates, is the official podcasting partner of the Doha Forum and the only media organization whose logo appears on the front page of the website for the Doha Debates. Both events are a project of the state-funded Qatar Foundation.
“We’re quite proud of these shows,” Andrew Sollinger, Foreign Policy’s publisher and CEO, told Tablet on Oct. 16 by email, when asked about his partnership with Qatar on the magazine’s podcasts. “Two of them, The Negotiators and The Long Game, have either won or were short-listed for big awards and had episodes featured on dozens of public radio stations.” When asked if Foreign Policy would continue the partnership, or consider partnering with Qatari state-linked entities in the future, Sollinger simply replied, “yes.”
Similarly, the International Crisis Group considers Qatar to be no better or worse than the rest of its numerous other state or multilateral funders, even with the obvious conflicts of interest involved in an institute being financed by a participant in conflicts that it studies. “Qatar's contribution accounts for less than 5% of our total annual unrestricted funding from all income sources, a similar level of funding to that which we receive from the EU and from some individual European governments,” ICG advocacy chief Elissa Jobson wrote to Tablet on Oct. 17. “We have strong safeguards in place to protect our independence and do not accept any support with strings attached that would infringe that independence.”
Other American recipients of Qatari money are cagier. In June, The Washington Post reported that the Qatar Investment Authority was purchasing 5% of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, owner of the NBA, NHL, and WNBA franchises in the nation’s capital, as well as two arenas and various other real estate, at a $4 billion valuation. The estimated $200 million that the Leonsis-owned Monumental was set to receive from Doha is hardly a record windfall—former Vice President Al Gore got a half-billion dollars from Qatari investors when he sold his struggling cable news network, Current TV, to Al Jazeera, the Qatari state-owned satellite network, in 2013. But this latest purchase still marks the first direct sovereign wealth fund investment in any of the major American sports leagues, with the Qataris purchasing a share in teams that play just blocks away from the headquarters of the U.S. federal government, in the heart of the American defense and lobbying industry.
In the weeks after Oct. 7, it was oddly difficult to get anyone from the NBA, NHL, or Monumental itself to confirm that the deal had closed—the leagues and Monumental either had nagging doubts about their controversial new business partners, or else they didn’t want to provide an opening for outside actors who might attempt to stop the sale. Representatives of the NBA and Monumental refused to discuss the status of the deal on-record, with NBA spokesman Mike Bass sending Tablet a terse, one-line statement after a phone conservation on background on Oct. 22: “We continue to follow the directives and guidance of the U.S. government as it relates to Qatar.” The deal had “closed,” Monumental spokeswoman Anu Rangappa wrote by email—but as proof she cited a Monumental press release saying only that the deal had been announced. When I asked on-record whether the NBA and NHL had finished their respective due diligence on the purchase, Rangappa wrote, “I’d direct you to the leagues for comment on their actions,” an odd next step to suggest if the leagues had in fact completed due diligence on the purchase, which would have been an obvious condition for the deal closing. I received no reply after asking her by email if QIA currently owns 5% of Monumental. When I asked by phone on Oct. 30, she paused for a moment, said she was in a meeting, added that she would call back later, and hung up. I never heard from her again.
Others have encountered a similar ambiguity. “As we understand it, the NHL is currently doing due diligence on the proposed purchase of 5% of the Washington Capitals by the Qatar Investment Authority,” the parents of Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who Hamas is currently holding hostage in the Gaza Strip, wrote to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Oct. 17, adding, “We believe that buying into the NHL, and into Washington, DC in particular, is a top priority for the State of Qatar. Thus pressure from the NHL on Qatar might be uniquely important.”
On Nov. 14, Rep. Jack Bergman, a Michigan Republican and retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, sent letters to Bettman, Leonsis, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver voicing his opposition to the deal. In each letter, he asked for the exact date that the NBA and NHL recognized QIA as a minority owner of one of the leagues’ teams, a sign the congressman himself isn’t sure of the deal’s status. He asked Leonsis for “the name of QIA’s wholly owned subsidiary that reached agreement with MSE for a $200 million investment,” as well as the date that this subsidiary transferred the reported $200 million to Leonsis. Bergman also noted a Washington Post report that Monumental was seeking $600 million in taxpayer assistance for a projected $800 million in renovations at Capital One Arena, making QIA a possible source of easy liquidity for the Capitals and Wizards owner, who is apparently dependent on public funding for his flagship project. If Qatar’s past success in the large-scale purchase of American institutions and the people who run them is a fair guide to the fate of Bergman’s inquiry, chances are that answers won’t be forthcoming from much of anyone. After all, the checks might already have been cashed.