Invisible Children: Public Awareness, Private Intelligence

[A piece fleshing out my previous post — first printed in The Morning Star, 17/03/2012].

When Invisible Children’s Stop Kony 2012 campaign exploded onto the internet last week, it was just a matter of hours before critiques of every colour followed suit. [You can read Invisible Children’s counterpoints here.]

The Californian not-for-profit’s slick viral video recounted their efforts to convince the US government to send US forces into central Africa to depose the Lord’s Resistance Army general Joseph Kony — arguably the world’s most infamous wielder of child soldiers.

But African bloggers and journalists decried the video’s depiction of Africans as “victims lacking agency, voice, will or power”, while international relations experts warned of its overly simplistic narrative: the LRA left Northern Uganda six years ago and is reportedly on the wane; meanwhile re-igniting the conflict would necessarily mean fighting and killing the very same children the Stop Kony campaign sought to protect.

Still others cast a wary eye over Invisible Children’s own operations: A self-described “advocacy and awareness organization”, just 37 percent of its budget went to programmes in Africa compared to 43 percent spent on ‘awareness’ — projects like last week’s video. It appeared Invisible Children had never been externally audited, and for some reason had an offshore account in the Cayman Islands.

But the Morning Star can reveal a previously unknown wing of the organisation here in Britain — with ties to an international private intelligence agency.

While the spotlight up until now has fixed firmly on Invisible Children’s operations in the US and Uganda, a search of the UK companies office turns up an Invisible Children here as well: company no.06679805, first incorporated in 2008 and still active, based out of Baldon House in Oxfordshire. All but one of its directors – Robert “Bobby” Bailey, Margie Dillenberg, Ben Keesey, James McMurtry, Laren Poole Jason Russell – are current or former staff at the US organisation’s San Diego headquarters.

But the sole remaining director, one David Kelly DePauw Young, gives the same address as the company listing: Baldon House, Baldon Marsh, Oxford. That’s not so strange in itself; plenty of people work from home. But Baldon House is no cottage, or even an office complex – English Heritage lists it as a seventeenth-century grade II* manor in a part of Oxford where the average house price is more than half a million pounds.

So who is David Kelly DePauw Young? Could he be the son of David R. and Suannah “Suzy” Young, directors of private intelligence agency Oxford Analytica? A 2004 Reuters lecture given by Mr Young Sr. seems to confirm it:

“Finally, from our own home, Baldon House, here in England, carved in the marble fireplace 200 years ago is the motto of the family that lived there at the time. It reads, “Verite sans peur” — ‘Truth without fear.’”

Presumably Young the Elder would not be afraid for you to learn that he is a big name in intelligence circles: appointed to the Nixon administration’s National Security Council in 1970, he was an administrative assistant to Henry Kissinger and founder of the White House Special Investigations Unit — the original ‘plumbers’ charged with hushing up the Watergate conspiracy. Barely a year after the administration’s collapse, Young launched Oxford Analytica, the world’s first ‘overt intelligence’ agency — a mix of media monitoring and private bulletins based on academics’ regional expertise in international relations, politics and economics.

A 2004 article for Oxford’s Said Business School boasted around 35 governments as Analytica clients – “among them, all the G7, plus China and Brazil – as well as the World Bank, the EBRD, the UN, and the EU Commission.” Today Analytica claims more than 1,400 network members: “most” are from universities or research institutions; all but the regional heads are anonymous. Its client roster has grown to more than 50 governments, while private sector patrons include financial institutions, hedge funds, energy, mining and technology firms.

Meanwhile David “Davy” Young seems to have followed in his father’s footsteps: an MA in intelligence and international security from Kings College London, his online CV lists him as a consultant in Dad’s firm and as a senior consultant in Booz Allen Hamilton’s ‘Modeling, Simulation, Wargaming and Analysis’ department before joining Invisible Children in 2008 as its ‘European Director’ and ‘International Strategy Advisor’.

Why did Invisible Children – an organisation which urges supporters to “stop at nothing” in the push for Western intervention and military aid to the Ugandan army – hire a man whose family fortunes are founded on a private intelligence agency selling information on regional instability? Where did the UK organisation’s money come from, given the absence of any public profile in Britain? And what was the office even there for?

Its next return due in April may help, but in the meantime there are no answers. Davy Young could not be reached for comment, while Invisible Children’s publicists did not answer our emailed questions or return our calls. Invisible Children’s operations in the UK are at the time of writing a big black hole. A heart of darkness, if you will.

One Comment on “Invisible Children: Public Awareness, Private Intelligence”

  1. Tigger says:

    This is the most ridiculous piece of pot stirring and rumour spreading I’ve ever read.

    If you had bothered to have done even just the smallest bit of research you would have found that Invisible Children did hundreds of events and documentary screenings that raised funds across Europe coordinated by their office in London a few years back. They closed down operations there temporarily to focus on their US based campaigns (ie Kony 2012) at the end of 2009. Financials and company records are filed with HMRC online and there are public records showing this, and there are many many websites talking about the screenings Invisible Children did, a few of which I personally attended and enjoyed.

    I am no expert but to me it doesn’t seem that unusual for an organisation that is working with political leaders to end a 28 year long war to seek someone with an MA in international security… does that really not make any sense to you people? That having someone on board with knowledge or access to that of regional instability might not be an asset when focusing on Central East Africa, one of the most unstable regions in the world? I’m struggling to follow your logic, if in fact there is any.

    This kind of creative journalism is abhorrent and gives blogs a bad name. I would ask that you stop dressing gossip and playground mud slinging as fact in such a way but then you probably wouldn’t get the readership would you? “A heart of darkness, if you will”? Shame, shame, shame.

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