Director, Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Dr. Ben Freeman is the Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, where he works to expose how foreign governments are influencing U.S. public policy and elections. 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.

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 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.

Recent Features



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Recent Publications

Report: The Qatar Lobby in Washington

by Ben Freeman


In June 2017, member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) severed diplomatic ties and blockaded Qatar, citing the country's ties to terrorist organizations. This damaged Qatari-U.S. relations, but only ten months after the blockade began, Trump met with the Emir of Qatar in the Oval Office.
This report investigates the Qatar Lobby and the work that it did in those ten months between 2017-2018 to mend its relationship with the U.S.

Report: Foreign Funding of Think Tanks in America

by Ben Freeman


Think tanks vary considerably in terms of their objectives and organization, but many think tanks in Washington D.C. share a common trait—they receive substantial financial support from foreign governments. While these are often democracies with interests closely aligned with those of the U.S., a significant number of these foreign donors are undemocratic, authoritarian regimes whose aims often diverge significantly from U.S. interests. In a variety of instances, the public has learned that this foreign funding can significantly influence think tanks’ work. It can lead to a think tank producing reports favorable to a foreign power, think tank experts offering Congressional testimony in support of a foreign powers’ interests, or its scholars working closely with a foreign funders’ registered lobbyists.

Report: The Emirati Lobby: How the UAE Wins in Washington

by Ben Freeman


How has the UAE maintained its privileged status? In short, the UAE has a vast and immensely influential lobbying and public relations campaign in America that has allowed the monarchy to exert considerable sway over U.S. policy, while keeping the UAE’s indiscretions largely hidden. In this report we attempt to tell the story of that influence operation.

Report: Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending

Sustainable Defense Task Force, co-directed by William Hartung and Ben Freeman


An alternative defense strategy that avoids unnecessary and counterproductive wars, reduces the U.S. global military footprint, takes a more realistic view of the major security challenges facing the United States, and reduces waste and inefficiency could save at least $1.2 trillion in projected spending over the next decade while providing a greater measure of security...

Report: The Saudi Lobby in 2018

by Ben Freeman


If the findings in this report are any indication, the Saudi lobby in Washington is feverishly contacting Executive branch officials and Congressional offices to stymie legislation that would punish Saudi Arabia for its actions, and they’re likely making campaign contributions to those same Members of Congress.

Latest News

Coronavirus? What coronavirus?: Congress is setting national security priorities as if it's been living in a cave.

by William Hartung and Ben Freeman


Arms and Security and Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Despite the extraordinary and dire threat of the coronavirus, many Members of Congress are effectively ignoring it as they deliberate the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – the annual bill that decides the details of the Pentagon budget. They are now poised to authorize a near-record level of Pentagon spending that will do little to combat the threat of the coronavirus or future pandemics. In these unusual times, it is business as usual for Pentagon pork.

Taiwan Funding of Think Tanks: Omnipresent and Rarely Disclosed

Ben Freeman quoted


Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

“Taiwan is an interesting case because we know Taiwan gives a good amount of money to think tanks, and we know they have a good amount of influence around town,” said Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy.

More than 50 scientists fired or resign after NIH probe into grants' foreign support

Ben Freeman quoted


Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

The Center for International Policy’s Ben Freeman, who studies foreign government influence in the U.S., said while the bad actors appear to represent less than 0.1% of the total grantees, a single scientist giving cutting-edge research to China could harm U.S. national security.

Saudi wealth fund 'shopping spree' belies economic pain

Ben Freeman quoted


Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

"I'm particularly concerned about the large Facebook stock buy given that we already know the Saudis had agents at Twitter to spy on Saudi dissidents," Ben Freeman, a director at the Washington-based Center for International Policy, told AFP.

Who Are the Secret Puppet-Masters Behind Trump's War on Iran?

Ben Freeman mentioned


Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative and Ben Freeman

Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy has documented the dangerously unaccountable and covert expansion of the influence of foreign governments and military-industrial interests over U.S. foreign policy in recent years, in which registered lobbyists are only the "tip of the iceberg" when it comes to foreign influence.

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