Ben Freeman

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 PUBLICATIONS

REPORT

Japan's Influence in America

by Cassandra Stimpson and Ben Freeman

FITI analyzed every Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Supplemental Statement filed in 2019 by firms working on behalf of clients in Japan. This report presents the findings of this analysis.

Japan's Influence in America
REPORT

Report: U.S. Government and Defense Contractor Funding of America’s Top 50 Think Tanks

by Ben Freeman

In an effort to move towards greater transparency of think tank funding in America, this report analyzes U.S. government and defense contractor funding at the top fifty think tanks in America, as ranked by the University of Pennsylvania’s Global Go To Think Tank Index, based on criteria like the quality and reputation of the think tank’s research and the reach of its publications. The analysis includes all U.S. government and defense contractor funding received by these think tanks from 2014-2019. This analysis builds upon a previous report released by FITI in early 2020, “Foreign Funding of Think Tanks in America,” and points towards a simple policy recommendation: think tanks should be required, by law, to publicly disclose their funders.

Report: U.S. Government and Defense Contractor Funding of America’s Top 50 Think Tanks
REPORT

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: The Qatar Lobby in Washington

LATEST NEWS

Congress Moves to Block UAE Weapons

"Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative" mentioned

The Center for International Policy’s Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative is out with a new report today unwinding Japan's “massive influence operation in the U.S.” and Tokyo’s heavy emphasis on securing advanced American weapons. The report tracks 51 different firms registered as foreign agents that were paid $32 million in 2019 by the Japanese government.

One Third of Biden's Pentagon Transition Team Gets Money From the Weapons Industry

Ben Freeman quoted

“It’s telling the think tanks rep­re­sent­ed here — RAND, CSIS and CNAS — are among the top recip­i­ents of Depart­ment of Defense and Depart­ment of Defense con­trac­tor fund­ing,” says Ben Free­man of the For­eign Pol­i­cy Trans­paren­cy Ini­tia­tive, which recent­ly authored a report on think tank fund­ing. ​“CNAS and CSIS are lit­er­al­ly num­ber one and num­ber two in terms of dona­tions received from U.S. defense con­trac­tors in the last six years. RAND is, by far, the top recip­i­ent of Depart­ment of Defense fund­ing of any think tank.”

Canada’s Laws About Foreign Agents Haven’t Caught Up to the Modern World

Ben Freeman quoted

The U.S. law, first created in 1938 out of a fear of Nazi propaganda, is too broad, Mr. Freeman said. It requires registration for anyone doing non-commercial activities, notably political activities, at the request of a “foreign principal,” which can even be an individual, Mr. Freeman said. And he argued the U.S. needs more transparency, such as disclosure of foreign donations to think tanks.

A Long Overdue Discussion on Pentagon Spending

by William Hartung and Ben Freeman

In a series of interviews this month, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) expressed an openness to making modest reductions in the Pentagon’s near-record $740 billion budget, but he has also stated he is “unconvinced” by progressive calls for more substantial cuts. One of his key arguments has been that we can’t reduce Pentagon spending without a “conversation about what’s the strategy, what’s the plan going forward.” It’s long past time to have that conversation. One contribution has already been made by the Center for International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force (SDTF), a group of former White House, congressional and Pentagon budget officials, retired military officers and think tank experts from across the political spectrum that we co-chaired.

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