Strategic Communication Laboratories

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Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) is a London based communications company set up by former advertising executive and old-Etonian Nigel Oakes. It calls itself, “the leading supplier of strategic communications, information operations and public diplomacy to governments and military clients around the world.” SCL’s approach to propaganda is based upon a methodology developed by the associated Behavioural Dynamics Institute. This apparently secret methodology was – according to SCL’s website - developed with $20 million funding from SCL’s backers.[1]

Origins of the company

The company’s website states that SCL was formed in 1993[2] although the company was not registered at Companies House until 20 July 2005. In September that year, the company officially launched as a military communications company at the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) arms show at London’s Excel Centre. Reporting the launch, The Observer called SCL a UK political communications consultancy firm, which it said was re-launching as a psyops operator.[3] What legal personality the company had prior to the 2005 relaunch - if any - is not clear. Companies House lists no former companies under that name although there were several companies affiliated to the founder Nigel Oakes during the 1990s so perhaps it existed in name only, whilst legally taking the form of a network of offshore entities. It must have existed in some sense because several newspapers in 2000 reported that the company had worked for the Indonesian government. Australia’s The Age reported at the time that SCL had operated in Indonesia since the final days of the Suharto regime,[4] which confirms the company’s existence at least as far back as 1998. What it was, and what it was doing between its purported formation in 1993 and its first appearance in the press in 2000, however, is unknown.

Activities

SCL is clearly involved in military propaganda operations although few specific details are known of its operations. SCL’s website states that:

'The demand for the agency grew out of the failure and frustration many clients experienced when trying to apply traditional marketing techniques to non-commercial issues, such as resolution of wars and civil strife, strike aversion, international crises and riot control.'[5]

Quoting Abraham Lincoln, the opening page of SCL's website clearly states its objective:

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds public opinion is greater than he who enacts laws."[6]

Here is another, perhaps more methodologically appropriate, quote often attributed to Lincoln:

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.[7]

Who are SCL out to fool and with what, is not immediately obvious from their description of themselves. They are pioneers of "a new methodology" based on "16 years of academic research and development conducted at 42 universities around the globe." But what is it?

"The methodology uses 'scientific techniques' from a variety of social sciences to make ‘communications with groups’ far more effective (and measurable)."

What this scientific methodology does is enable governments 'and countries' to 'manage their relationships with their key audience groups through more powerful communication.' SCL offers various solutions based on this methodology to help countries in specific governmental areas such as defence, foreign affairs, internal security, health, finance and tourism. The site also tells us that SCL are the 'leading supplier of strategic communications, information operations and [public diplomacy] to governments and military clients around the world'. Communication can be more than just propaganda. Their section on Homeland Security [1] tells us they are in the business of 'population control.'

Public diplomacy, information operations and strategic communication are the polite terms for propaganda, spin and psychological operations, a further look at the site reveals that this methodology has a name (and an institute) the 'Behavioural Dynamics Institute' a 'virtual lab' led by Professor Phil Taylor of Leeds University.

At times their tone can be a bit ominous "In a world where the perception is the reality, all countries need to have the capability to manage their own perceptual alignment – otherwise someone else will." But they are not without humour, and quote Sourcewatch on their own site.[8] Nigel Oakes, their CEO has stated: 'We used to be in the business of mindbending for political purposes....'[9]

SCL's website gives the following vague accounts of past operations:

  • Design and develop a permanent military strategic communication facility capable of delivering strategic and operational psyop campaigns for a South Asian country.
  • Production of a five-tiered training programme covering strategic, operational and tactical Psyop and the design and re-equipping of a communication facility. The personnel had to be able to take over the new facility after only six months.
  • Design, build and install a Homeland Security Centre for an Asian country. The Opcentre can override all national radio and TV broadcasts in time of crisis.
  • Design, build and install a diplomatic communication centre staffed by researchers, writers and spokespersons for an International Organisation.
  • Design and installation of a Strategic Communication Centre to improve a country's ability to conduct Public Diplomacy.
  • Recruitment, training and equipping an operational and tactical Psyop and Civil Affairs military unit for a British Commonwealth country.

Areas of operation

The company pledges strict confidentiality, saying that “absolutely no information concerning any of our past projects will be made available under any circumstances”.[10] However, Nigel Oakes did tell Slate Magazine that they have worked for post-Apartheid South Africa and the United Nations.[11] SCL are also known to have operated in Indonesia until 2000 and were reportedly operating there since at least 1998[12] (see the page on SLC head Nigel Oakes for further details).

It is also extremely likely that SCL is involved in operations in Afghanistan. A word document previously posted on RUSI’s website lists retired colonel Ian Tunnicliffe of ‘Strategic Communications [sic.] Laboratories’ as a presenter of a talk at the RUSI event Countering Asymmetric Taliban Strategies in Afghanistan, held on 26 March 2008. The session Tunnicliffe co-presented was entitled Winning and Maintaining Indigenous Support: Current and Future Strategies.[13]

Lithuania - Training Centre "Valkyrie"

In late 2009, "in cooperation with UK based company SCL", Training Centre Valkyrie opened in Lithuania, purporting to carry out many of the same activities as SCL does. The centre claims that it "creates, implements, and evaluates complete Strategic Communication campaigns for governments and military organisations worldwide" using a "unique scientific approach [which] focuses on creating real, measurable behavioural change, not simply conceptual change that may not be played out with real-world consequences"[14] - this description is lifted verbatim from the "What We Do" section on SCL's website[15]. The website for Valkyrie is only partially constructed (as of April 27 2010) but looks to be modelled on the SCL example - there are "Election Campaigns" and "Propaganda" sections under construction, and there are also a number of types of operation described: psychological operations; information operations; Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC); media operations; deception operations; computer network operations; electronic warfare and key leader engagement.[16] The "offers" section of the website offers expertise in "research and analysis", election "consultancy" and "crisis management" [17] - with descriptions of work which are taken verbatim from the SCL Elections website.[18] The "news" section of the website gives details of a meeting between Lithuanian Valkyrie staff and SCL in London. Stating that on December 4th 2009 the head of Valkyrie, Aušra Antanaitienė met SCL's Ian Tunnicliffe to discuss and agree "collaboration of the two companies and supporting of training and campaign planning".[19] The "news" section also gives details of an "Introductory PSYOPS course" given by Valkyrie to members of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian military at the Latvian Military Academy in Riga on the 27th November 2009 where "attendants were acquainted with the knowledge of psychological operations, cross cultural communications and crisis management".[20]

Known affiliates

  • Aušra Antanaitienė - Head of Training Centre Valkyrie
  • Darius Antanaitis - Lithuanian PSYOPS officer and "Information Operations" employee at TC Valkyrie [21]

Lobbying the Pentagon

In April 2007 it was reported that:

Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL), has retained the lobbying firm Global Policy Group to help it win contracts with the American government, and specially from the Pentagon. The U.S. military already employs several psychological operations (psyops) consultants in Iraq and, to a lesser degree, in Afghanistan.[22]
Congressional filings indicate that SCL spent approximately $20,000 lobbying the Department of Defense, Congress and the Department of Labour on ‘defense’ and ‘foreign ops’.[23]

People

Board of Directors

circa 2012

Former Directors

Known staff

Shareholders

Circa 2006

Several of the company directors hold shares in the company and there are a number of non-executive shareholders. In early 2006 it was reported that the Iranian born London property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz had acquired 23 per cent of Strategic Communications Laboratories,[33] and in May that year the investment company Viatrade PLC bought a small stake. Conservative Party treasurer and venture capitalist Jonathan Marland also holds shares, as does his company Herriot Ltd.

The company’s latest Annual Returns[34] (made up to 20 July 2006) list the following shareholders. They are arranged in descending order according to their share allocation.

Name: Consensus Business Group, 18 Upper Grosvenor Street, London W1K 7PW :Shares held: 22,533
Name: Nigel Oakes :Shares held: 14,849
Name: Roger Gabb :Shares held: 11,266
Name: R M Gabb, M A Gabb and M J Thompson as Trustees of the Glendower Settlement :Shares held: 11,266
Name: Share Nominees Ltd on behalf of the Fund :Shares held: 9,013
Name: Alexander Waddinton Oakes :Shares held: 7,429
Name: CMTC Nominees BV (registered to an address in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles) :Shares held: 6,253
Name: Paul David Ashburner Nix:Shares held: 5,633
Name: Alexander James Ashburner Nix :Shares held: 5,249
Name: Jonathan Peter Marland :Shares held: 563
Name: Viatrade PLC :Shares held: 507
Name: Herriot Ltd :Shares held: 338
Name: S Marland & P Addington as Trustees of J P Marland’s child. :Shares held: 225
Name: Harry Rollo Gabb Shares held: 10

Subsidiaries

Election Campaign Services

The website http://www.electioncampaignservices.com [no longer functioning] contained no information except a picture of a blond female model and a message stating that ‘Campaign Election Services is a subsidiary of Strategic Communication Laboratories’, followed by a link to SCL’s website. However, no company has ever been registered at UK Companies House under that name. A Whois search[35] reveals that the domain is registered to one Alexis Everington, who gives Nigel Oakes’s home address. Everington is known to have worked as an analyst at Beaver Westminster[36] the consultancy company run by ‘terrorism expert’ Paul Beaver. He was also formerly listed as a friend on Ian Tunnicliffe's Facebook page.[37]

Address

SCL are based at 33 St James's Square London SW1Y 4JS, [38] according to their website, this houses 18 separate companies. These include Anglo & International Corporate Finance Ltd, Kobe Steel Europe Ltd, and Scotland & Associates. [39] The Website according to http://www.whois.net was registered by REGISTER.COM, INC. [40] whose principal activity is to provide internet domain name registration and other online products and services such as web hosting, email, domain name forwarding and advertising.

Affiliated companies

notes

  1. Strategic Communication Laboratories, History, (20 June 2008)
  2. Strategic Communication Laboratories, History, (20 June 2008)
  3. Oliver Morgan, ‘Lobby firm goes to war’, The Observer, 11 September 2005
  4. Simon Mann, ‘PR tweaks president, then folds his tent’, The Age, 7 August 2000
  5. SLC Website, Strategic Communication Laboratories
  6. SLC Website, Strategic Communication Laboratories
  7. Quote DB Authors :: Abraham Lincoln, accessed February 2007.
  8. SCL Strategic Communication Laboratories, reposted from Sourcewatch
  9. Lobby firm goes to war Oliver Morgan Sunday September 11, 2005 The Observer
  10. Strategic Communication Laboratories
  11. Sharon Weinberger, ‘You Can't Handle the Truth: Psy-ops propaganda goes mainstream’, Slate Magazine 19 September 2005
  12. Simon Mann, ‘PR tweaks president, then folds his tent’, The Age, 7 August 2000
  13. Google html version of the file http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/Programme.doc
  14. "About Us", Training Centre Valkyrie, accessed April 27 2010
  15. ".What We Do", Strategic Communication Laboratories, accessed April 27 2010
  16. "Information Operations", Training Centre Valkyrie, accessed April 27 2010
  17. "Offers", Training Centre Valkyrie, accessed April 27 2010
  18. "What can SCL do for you?", SCL Elections, accessed April 27 2010
  19. "2009-12-06 The directors of training centre "Valkyrie" and "Strategic Communication Laboratory" of Great Britain met", Training Centre Valkyrie, accessed April 27 2010
  20. "2009-11-29 The introductory PSYOPS courses in Riga",Training Centre Valkyrie, accessed April 27 2010
  21. "Darius Antanaitis", Linkedin, accessed April 27 2010
  22. British Psyops for Pentagon, Intelligence Online, 20 April 2007
  23. Global Policy Partners Mid-Year-Report 2007
  24. 24.0 24.1 People, Strategic Communication Laboratories' website, undated, accessed 24 September 2012
  25. Companies House SCL Group, last accessed 21 March 2018
  26. British Psyops for Pentagon Intelligence Online, April 20, 2007
  27. Strategic Communication Laboratories
  28. Non-executive board, Strategic Communication Laboratories, accessed 27 March 2011
  29. David P. Michaels - Senior Advisor, Strategic Communication Laboratories, accessed 27 March 2011
  30. SCL Key Management, Retrieved from the Web archive dated 30 December 2005, accessed 9 January 2008
  31. Sharon Weinberger, ‘You Can't Handle the Truth: Psy-ops propaganda goes mainstream’, Slate Magazine 19 September 2005
  32. BDEC Online Company Details for STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION LABORATORIES, (accessed 23 June 2008)
  33. Jenny Davey 'Tchenguiz turns focus to green projects' The Times (London), 31 January 2006, Tuesday Pg. 45
  34. Strategic Communication Laboratories Annual Returns made up to 20 July 2006
  35. Whois Record of electioncampaignservices.com retrieved from Domain Tools on 19 June 2008 at 10.44am
  36. Beaver Westminster, News for September 2005 (PDF), (accessed 20 June 2008)
  37. Google Cache of <http://www.facebook.com/people/Ian_Tunnicliffe/753527169> as retrieved on 24 May 2008 17:48:11 GMT, (Accessed 20 June 2008)
  38. Strategic Communication Laboratories
  39. Postcode
  40. www.whois.net, accessed 14/02/07
  41. "Partners", Wise Strategic Communication, accessed April 19 2010