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CIP Launches Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative



CIP launches new program: The Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

(Washington) – The Center for International Policy (CIP) announced the start of a new effort to shine a bright light on how foreign powers seek to influence American foreign policy and U.S. elections. Dr. Ben Freeman will direct the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative (FITI) at the Center, where he will research and expose how foreign governments are seeking to influence specific U.S. foreign policies and propose ways that the U.S. government can better protect the American foreign policy making process from undue foreign influence. This work builds upon his book, The Foreign Policy Auction, which was the first book to systematically analyze the foreign influence industry in the U.S.

Ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election have garnered headlines, but foreign powers don’t wait for elections to exercise influence within the United States. Every day their agents are working to mold U.S. public policy to promote their own interests. From lobbying for increased U.S. arms sales abroad to getting the U.S. to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses in war zones, foreign agents have been successfully impacting U.S. foreign policy for decades with substantial negative consequences. Their success has often been a product of their obscurity.  

Dr. Freeman has a long history of research on the work foreign powers are doing to shape U.S. foreign policy. Before launching the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative, Dr. Freeman was the Deputy Director of the National Security program at Third Way. Prior to joining Third Way, he served as the National Security Fellow at the Project On Government Oversight from 2011 to 2013, where he spear-headed creation of the “Foreign Influence Database,” a repository of propaganda and lobbying materials distributed by foreign agents that was previously unavailable online.

Dr. Freeman earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, completing a dissertation that investigated the ability of foreign governments to effectively lobby for economic and military assistance from the United States. Upon graduation, Dr. Freeman taught in the Political Science Department and the Bush School of Government and Public Policy at Texas A&M. His work has appeared in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, Politico, and CNN, and he has testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

As Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative, Ben will investigate and expose the lobbying campaigns specific countries are undertaking to alter U.S. foreign policy, such as the Saudi Arabia lobby that has been successful at getting U.S. policymakers to ignore civilian casualties and human rights abuses in the war in Yemen. The program will also work to increase transparency of filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as some of these documents remain unavailable online. Finally, the program will work to build a coalition of experts on foreign influence in the U.S. who are interested in strengthening mechanisms for transparency and oversight of this sector.  The program will cover the full-range of attempts by foreign powers to influence American democracy, from foreign policy issues to domestic elections.

Please considering donating to the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative and please join us in welcoming Ben and the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative to the Center for International Policy family!