Foundation for Defense of Democracies

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The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a neoconservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., which was founded two days after the September 11th attack in 2001.[1][2] In its own words, it “uniquely combines policy research, democracy training, strategic communications, and investigative journalism. We focus our efforts where opinions are formed and, ultimately, where the war of ideas will be won or lost: in the media, on college campuses, and in the policy community, at home and abroad.”[3]

In 2004, FDD reincarnated the Cold War relic Committee on the Present Danger in support of the so-called 'war on terror'. George W. Bush used FDD as a platform for the launch of his National Security Strategy 2006[4].

Selling the Iraq War

In April 2002, in a seemingly coordinated move the Center for Security Policy and FDD ran television adds identifying Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Osama bin Laden and the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as part of a common threat in a bid, according to journalist Jim Lobe 'to advance their seven-month-old campaign to make Arafat a target of the President George W. Bush's war on terrorism.' The ads tried to explicitly link Israel with the US as a common victim of global terrorism.

The FDD script opens with its title, 'The Suicide Strategy' in bold letters and continues, 'It was used by terrorists against America on September 11. It's being used by terrorists against Israel day after day,' as the video flashes to a hellish scene immediately after a suicide bombing.
'If we let the suicide strategy succeed anywhere in the world, it will succeed everywhere,' the narrator continues as the video shows Palestinian children dressed up as suicide bombers at a Hamas demonstration.
'The suicide strategy threatens al of us - all those who are hated as 'infidels',' the voice continues as the camera shows Saddam Hussein addressing a crowd.
'If we appease terrorism, we'll get more terrorism. Our way of life is threatened,' it goes on, as the video depicts the burning of a U.S. flag and then fades to a written imperative: 'Never Appease Terrorism.'[5]

Democrats Defect

Like all other think tanks enjoying 501 (c) 3 charitable status, FDD also claims that it is non-partisan. Initially it even garnered the support of prominent pro-Israel Democrats. However, several defected the think tank accusing it of 'fear mongering for political purposes' and 'scare tactics'. Democratic Party consultant Donna Brazile, who is listed as a founding member wrote: 'I am deeply disappointed they would use my name since no one has consulted me about the activities of the group in years.' She added that FDD had turned into 'a radical right wing organization that is doing the dirty work for the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans'.[6] Brazile was followed Eliot Engel and Chuck Schumer.[7] Shortly afterwards, the name of Marc Ginsberg also disappeared from board of directors.[8]

However, investigative journalist Jim Lobe notes that this belated recognition of FDD's tactics is odd considering that 'fear-mongering is exactly FDD’s stock in trade, as it has been from the very beginning.' It has, he adds, 'acted primarily as a front for the Likudist founders of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC)...Cliff May, FDD’s president since its founding Sep 13, 2001, served previously as RJC’s vice chair.'[6] He adds:

Of course, these Democrats are leaving primarily because FDD has become increasingly partisan in its attacks on specific Democratic lawmakers and leadership, not because of its steady drumbeat of Arabo- and Islamo-phobia that has dominated its work since its inception more than six years ago.[7]

The departures prompted FDD to hastily reorganize its corporate structure, giving birth to a new organization, [Defense of Democracies] — to preserve its 501(c)3 status.[7]

George W. Bush speech

In George W. Bush’s 2006 speech he congratulated the FDD for helping fight terrorism and spread democracy across the Middle East. He said:

You have trained Iraqi women and Iranian students in the principles and practice of democracy, you've translated ‘democracy readers' into Arabic for distribution across the broader Middle East, you've helped activists across the region organize effective political movements—so they can help bring about democratic change and ensure the survival of liberty in new democracies. By promoting democratic ideals, and training a new generation of democratic leaders in the Middle East, you are helping us to bring victory in the war on terror—and I thank you for your hard work in freedom's cause.[9]

Terrorology Summer School

In its first five years, FDD has established numerous programs that have extended its influence and reach. Three of these programs focus increasing attention on the issue of terrorism in universities:

Summer Workshop on Teaching about Terrorism (SWOTT)

According to FDD, SWOTT is a “unique, U.S.-based effort to provide college professors with the tools they need to teach about the threat of terrorism and the methods used to combat it … and includes classes that encompass all facets of terrorism studies and field trips to military and other national security-related installations.”[10][11]

Undergraduate Fellowship on Terrorism

FDD fellowships and terrorism education programs routinely involve study trips to Israel. There they meet with Israeli, American, Turkish, Jordanian, and Indian officials to learn about each country's experience fighting terrorism. The fellows often form FDD-affiliated student groups on their respective campuses. FDD-affiliated student groups can now be found at nearly all major American undergraduate institutions. Many FDD Undergraduate Fellows have gone on to work in the intelligence and defense communities. [12]

Academic Fellowship on Terrorism

The Academic Fellowship program uses Israel as a case study to teach “an intensive, 10-day course on terrorism and the threat it poses to democratic societies”. “The goal of the program is to offer information to teaching professionals about the latest trends in terrorists' ideologies, motives, and operations, and how democracies can fight them”.[13]

Media, Campaigns & Conferences

  • In May 2003, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies were co-sponsors (along with the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute) of an all-day conference on Iran. The speakers are reported to have all been strongly pro-Israel, with many of them calling for the US to replace the Iranian regime with a democracy[16].
  • FDD have also campaigned against the UN court hearings on “Israel's Anti-Terrorism Fence”. They have also sponsored the Iraq-America Freedom Alliance (which is giving “voice to Iraqis who are grateful for their newfound freedom and working to secure democracy”)[17].
  • Every Sunday night at 9pm, FDD's Ambassador Richard Carlson hosts the WMAL radio show the Danger Zone. Danger Zone features discussions involving leading figures from the worlds of intelligence, security, military and academia.[18].

Oil for Food Scandal

The FDD's journalist-in-residence, Claudia Rosett, was the first reporter to break the U.N.'s Oil for Food scandal.[21]

As U.S. News and World Report senior writer Michael Barone explained: "The U.N. Oil for Food program, we learn from the reporting of Claudia Rosett in The Wall Street Journal, was a rip-off on the order of $21 billion -- with money intended for hungry Iraqis going instead to Saddam Hussein and his henchmen, to bribed French and Russian businesses and, evidently, to the U.N.'s own man in charge, Benon Savan."[22]

For this reporting, Ms. Rosett received the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism[23]

As a result of her work, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed an internal commission to investigate. The U.S. Senate and House also began their own reviews and invited her to testify at their hearings [24].

The Iran Energy Project

FDD's Iran Energy Project is led by Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Schanzer. It is dedicated to strengthening the Israel lobby-orchestrated sanctions against Iran's energy sector. FDD claims that it has "promoted the utility of energy sanctions as part of a comprehensive economic warfare strategy against the Iranian regime [providing] leading research and analysis in support of strong, broad-based energy sanctions." Going further it states:

The Wall Street Journal credits FDD for having "brought the idea of gasoline sanctions to political attention." ...Informed by FDD research and analysis, the House and Senate have both passed legislation to curtail Iran's ability to import gasoline. [...] Nine of Iran's major gasoline suppliers – BP, Vitol, Trafigura, Glencore, Total, Shell, Reliance, Lukoil and Petronas – reportedly ended their gasoline supplies to Iran after calculating that the political risk from continued trade was too high. Most Western banks have stopped underwriting gasoline shipments to Iran. Three major insurance companies, Lloyd's of London, Munich Re and Allianz, announced that they would stop underwriting the gasoline trade.[25]

The project's efforts have been given legislative muscle by fellow neoconservative Stuart Levey, presently a US Treasury undersecretary, who reportedly liaises with FDD and previously employed its current vice president Jonathan Schanzer as a researcher.[26] The lobby group now liaises directly with the European Israel lobby through Emanuele Ottolenghi, based in Brussels.


Journalist Jim Lobe has revealed that according to publicly available tax records the following individuals and institutions contributed $100,000 or more — sometimes much more — to the group between 2002 and 2005:[8] In 2010 Laura Rozen of Politico revealed that in 2005 former board member Joyce Chernick[27] and multimillionaire husband Aubrey Chernick had contributed USD $120k to FDD in 2005.[28]

Other funders







Founding Members

Steve Forbes | Jack Kemp | Jeane Kirkpatrick | Newt Gingrich | James Woolsey | Frank Lautenberg | Charles Schumer | Joseph Lieberman | Donna Brazile.[96]

Board of Directors

Steve Forbes, CEO Forbes Magazine - Board Member | Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Fmr. Ambassador to the UN - Board Member Jack Kemp, Fmr. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Chairman | Clifford D. May, Frm. Republican National Committee Director of Communications - President

Distinguished Advisors

Louis J. Freeh - Fmr. Director of the FBI |R. James Woolsey, Fmr. Director of the CIA | Newt Gingrich, Fmr. Speaker of the House | Joe Lieberman - US Senator

Board of Advisors

Gary Bauer, American Values - President | Charles Krauthammer, Syndicated Columnist | Donna Brazile, Campaign Manager Gore 2000 | Bill Kristol, Weekly Standard Editor | Eric Cantor (R-VA), Task Force on Terrorism Chairman Richard D. Lamm, Fmr. Colorado Governor | Eliot Engel (D-NY), U.S. House of Representatives | Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), U.S. Senate | Mark Foley (R-FL), U.S. House of Representatives | Jim Marshall (D-GA), U.S. House of Representatives | Frank Gaffney, Center for Security Policy President | Zell Miller, Fmr. US Senator | Marc Ginsberg, Fmr. Ambassador Morroco | Richard Perle, Former Chair of the Defense Policy Board and FDD Advisor | J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), U.S. House of Representatives | Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Senate | Charles Jacobs, American Anti-Slavery Group President

Some original board members affiliated with the Democratic party defected after FDD launched a partisan campaign against Democratic candidates. These include: Donna Brazile | Eliot Engel | Charles E. Schumer

Senior Fellows

Khairi Abaza | Daveed Gartenstein-Ross | Avi Jorisch | Samer Libdeh | Mario Loyola | Andrew C. McCarthy Barbara Newman | Walid Phares | Victoria Toensing | Youssef M. Ibrahim

Adjunct Fellows

Jonathan Adelman, University of Denver Professor | Mohammed Akacem, Metropolitan State College of Denver Professor Richard Z. Chesnoff, Journalist | Paul Crespo, Former Marine Corps Officer and Military Attaché Tanya Gilly | Orde Kittrie, Arizona State University Law Professor | Agota Kuperman, U.S. Foreign Service (ret.) Joel Mowbray | J. Peter Pham | Jess Sadick, U.S. government Terrorism Specialist | Frederic Smoler, Sarah Lawrence College Professor | Jan Ting, Temple University Law Professor | Asaf Romirowsky, former IDF liaison to Jordan.


Richard W. Carlson, Vice Chairman | Audra Ozols, Campus Programs Coordinator | Mark Dubowitz, Chief Operating Officer | Cara Rosenthal, Donor Relations Senior Manager | Tanya Gilly, Democracy Programs Director | Claudia Rosett, Journalist-in-Residence | Eleana Gordon, Senior Vice-President | David Silverstein, Campus Education & Grassroots Programs Vice-President | Sara H. Levy, Communications Manager | Jonathan L. Snow, Research Manager Clifford D. May, President | Jean Thurman, Operations Manager | Bill McCarthy, Communications Vice-President Caitlyn Walters, Project Coordinator |Andrew Apostolou


Related Organizations

American Enterprise Institute | Americans for Victory Over Terrorism | Center for Security Policy | Coalition Against Terrorist Media | Committee on the Present Danger | Empower America | European Foundation for Democracy International Republican Institute | National Endowment for Democracy | Project for the New American Century |Spirit of America

Government Links

Defense Policy Board

External links

Official Sites

External Resources


  1. FDD Website, About Us, Accessed 01-April-2009
  2. Daniel McCarthy, The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies goes on offense., The American Conservative, 17 November 2003
  3. DefendDemocracy.Com, About Us, Accessed 01-April-2009
  4. Jim Lobe, Bush Reaffirms Ties With Leading Neocons, IPS News, 15 March 2006
  5. Jim Lobe, Pro-Israel Hawks Take to the Airwaves, IPS News, 26 April 2002
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jim Lobe, Donna Catches on to FDD,, 29 February 2008
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Jim Lobe, More Democrats Flee FDD , IPS News, 27 February 2008
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Jim Lobe, "Some Of FDD’s Bigger Donors And Another Defection",, 29 February 2008
  9. George Bush, President Bush’s speech on Iraq, The Washington Post, 13-March-2006, Accessed 01-April-2009
  10. FDD Website,Campus Programs, Accessed 01-April-2009
  11. Swott, Summer Workshop, Accessed 01-April-2009
  12. FDD Website, Programs, Accessed, 01-April-2009
  13. FDD Website, Academic Fellowships, Accessed 07-April-2009
  14. FDD Website,European Foundation For Democracy (EFD) Applaud's Germany’s Ban of Hezbollah’s Al- Manar TV, 26-November-2008, Accessed 07-April-2009
  15. Rightweb, Foundation for Defence of Democracies, Accessed 01-April-2009
  16. Mearsheimer, J. & Walt, S. (2006) The Israel Lobby, London Review of Books, Accessed 8th July 2008
  17. Rightweb, Foundation for Defence of Democracies, Accessed 01-April-2009
  18. FDD Website, Amb. Richard Carlson, Acessed 07-April-2009
  19. FDD Website, Programs, Accessed 01-April-2009
  20. FDD Website, Programs, Accessed 01-April-2009
  21. FDD Website,Investigative Reporting Project, Accessed 07-April-2009
  22. FDD Website, What They’re Saying About FDD’s Claudia Rossett and the Oil-For-Food-Scandal, Accessed 07-April-2009
  23. Gary Shapiro, Rosett wins Breindel Laurel, New York Sun, 3-June-2005, Accessed 07-April-2009
  24. United States House of Representatives Statement of Claudia Rosett, 04-October-2007, 07-April-2009
  25. The Iran Energy Project (About), Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, accessed 23 October 2010
  26. Ron Kampeas, Stuart Levey: The man trying to make anti-Iran sanctions work, JTA, 29 June 2010
  27. OneSource, "Joyce Chernick", OneSource, accessed on 29 October 2010
  28. Laura Rozen, "The Park51 money trail", Politico, 4 September 2010
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  36. Klarman Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2010
  37. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, 990 Form, 2010
  38. Marcus Foundation, 990 Form, 2010
  39. Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundation, 990 Form, 2010
  40. Rita & Irwin Hochberg Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2010
  41. Sarah Scaife Foundation, 990 Form, 2010
  42. Snider Foundation, 990 Form, 2010
  43. Vanguard Charitable Endowment Fund, 990 Form, 2010
  44. Abstraction Fund, 990 Form, 2011
  45. Bialkin Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  46. Edgerly Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  47. Fairbrook Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  48. Hochberg Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  49. Jewish Communal Fund, 990 Form, 2011. accessed 26 October 2016.
  50. Klarman Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  51. Koret Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  52. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  53. Marcus Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  54. Nathan Seter Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  55. Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  56. Sarah Scaife Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  57. Snider Foundation, 990 Form, 2011
  58. Vanguard Charitable Endowment Fund, 990 Form, 2011
  59. William Rosenwald Family Fund, 990 Form, 2011
  60. Edgerly Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
  61. Emerson Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
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  63. Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, 990 Form, 2012
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  65. Klarman Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
  66. Koret Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
  67. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
  68. Marcus Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
  69. Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust, 990 Form, 2012
  70. Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
  71. Shillman Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
  72. Snider Foundation, 990 Form, 2012
  73. Vanguard Charitable Endowment Fund, 990 Form, 2012
  74. Abstraction Fund, 990 Form, 2013
  75. Bialkin Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  76. Edgerly Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  77. Emerson Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  78. Jacobson Family Foundation Trust, 990 Form, 2013
  79. Jewish Communal Fund, 990 Form, 2013
  80. Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, 990 Form, 2013
  81. Klarman Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  82. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  83. Marcus Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  84. Nathan Seter Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  85. Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  86. Snider Foundation, 990 Form, 2013
  87. Vanguard Charitable Endowment Fund, 990 Form, 2013
  88. Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, 990 Form, 2014
  89. Edgerly Foundation, 990 Form, 2014
  90. Jacobson Family Foundation Trust, 990 Form, 2014
  91. Jewish Communal Fund, 990 Form, 2014
  92. Klarman Family Foundation, 990 Form, 2014
  93. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, 990 Form, 2014
  94. Marcus Foundation, 990 Form, 2014
  95. Smith Richardson Foundation, 990 Form, 2014
  96. FDD Website, Our Team, Leadership Council, Accessed 01-April-2009
  97. FDD Website, Our Team, Accessed 07-April-2009