By Max Blumenthal / The Grayzone
As soon as journalist Kit Klarenberg landed in his home country of Britain on May 17, 2023, six anonymous plainclothes counter-terror officers detained him. They quickly escorted him to a back room, where they grilled him for over five hours about his reporting for this outlet. They also inquired about his personal opinion on everything from the current British political leadership to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At one point, Klarenberg’s interrogators demanded to know whether The Grayzone had a special arrangement with Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB) to publish hacked material.
During Klarenberg’s detention, police seized the journalist’s electronic devices and SD cards, fingerprinted him, took DNA swabs, and photographed him intensively. They threatened to arrest him if he did not comply.
Klarenberg’s interrogation appears to be London’s way of retaliating for the journalist’s blockbuster reports exposing major British and US intelligence intrigues. In the past year alone, Klarenberg revealed how a cabal of Tory national security hardliners violated the Official Secrets Act to exploit Brexit and install Boris Johnson as prime minister. In October 2022, he earned international headlines with his exposé of British plans to bomb the Kerch Bridge connecting Crimea to the Russian Federation. Then came his report on the CIA’s recruitment of two 9/11 hijackers this April, a viral sensation that generated massive social media attention.
Among Klarenberg’s most consequential exposés was his June 2022 report unmasking British journalist Paul Mason as a UK security state collaborator hellbent on destroying The Grayzone and other media outlets, academics, and activists critical of NATO’s role in Ukraine.
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Because Klarenberg’s reporting on Mason relied heavily on leaked emails, Mason falsely accused him of “assisting a Russian state-backed hack-and-leak disinformation campaign.” Mason has also reported the leak of his emails to the British police.
Emma Briant, a self-styled disinformation expert who participated in Mason’s campaign to sabotage NATO critics, dispatched lawyers to demand Klarenberg remove all of his articles that mention her from the internet. The lawyer letters also threatened costly super injunctions to prevent further reporting, and challenged the “authenticity” of the emails’ content.
The cease-and-desist letters additionally leveled false and defamatory allegations against Klarenberg, including that he was personally involved in hacking her email and Twitter account.
Did the bogus and obviously malicious complaints by Paul Mason or Emma Briant prompt the UK police to detain and investigate Klarenberg?
Klarenberg’s reports contain neither falsehoods nor anything approaching “disinformation,” which is precisely why intelligence-linked figures like Mason are so frustrated by their existence. Despite Mason and Briant’s allegations, there is not even hard evidence that Russian hackers were the source of the leaks.
While reporting on leaked material, Klarenberg engaged in the same journalistic practice that the West’s most prominent legacy newspapers, from The New York Times to The Washington Post, depend on to break news themselves. In fact, Thomas Rid, a self-styled disinformation expert and professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University, has stated that journalists “should not shy away” from covering the leaks first reported by Klarenberg.
It therefore appears that British authorities did not detain Klarenberg for any legal breaches, but because he reported factual stories that exposed the national security state’s own violations of both domestic and international law, as well as the malign plots of its media lackeys.
Interrogated under Counter-Terror provisions, grilled about non-existent Russian ties
Journalist Kit Klarenberg arrived in the UK on May 17 from Belgrade, Serbia, where he lives. He was planning to visit friends and family, but first, he would have to pass through an obstacle course British police laid before him.
As soon as his flight landed at Luton Airport, the pilot announced that border police were “just around the corner,” and asked all passengers to prepare their passports. The police were waiting for Klarenberg at the bottom of the stairs leading passengers from the plane to the tarmac. They immediately led him to a back room and informed him of his detention under Schedule Three, Section Four of the 2019 Counter-Terrorism and Border Act.
Six plainclothes officers surrounded Klarenberg and explained he faced arrest if he refused to answer their questions and hand over his personal electronics. They refused to tell him their names and offered call signs instead.
“I’d been expecting something like this since a police interview request arrived last summer,” Klarenberg told The Grayzone, referring to a communique he received from a senior British detective on July 27, 2022. The email requested Klarenberg report to a station to be questioned about allegations by an unnamed complainant of “offences under the computer misuse act.”
Klarenberg was notified in September of 2022 (see below) that the police investigation had been closed, however.
Back in the interrogation room at Luton, Klarenberg was asked which passports he held in his possession. “They seemed surprised that I only had a British passport with me,” he recalled. The police then grilled him about whether he owned foreign property, which countries he had visited, and why. He was compelled to provide his address in Belgrade, disclose how much he paid for rent, and bizarrely, whether his energy costs were included. The officers then demanded to know why Klarenberg lived in Serbia.
From there, police interrogators homed in on Klarenberg’s work with The Grayzone. “They asked which publications I wrote for, and I told them I wrote for many,” he said. “One even remarked they’d never previously heard of ‘MintPress Zone.’ Their overwhelming, if not exclusive, interest was in The Grayzone.”
The officers asked Klarenberg about articles including his report on the CIA’s recruitment of would-be 9/11 hijackers, as well as his thoughts on 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Then came a blizzard of questions relating to The Grayzone: How much was Klarenberg paid by this publication, how often, and into which bank account? Who owned the site? How much contact did he have with Max Blumenthal, the author of this article and editor of The Grayzone? Had he met Blumenthal in person?
The counter-terror officers then rattled off a series of unfounded questions related to Russia: Does The Grayzone have an agreement of any kind with Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB) to publish hacked material? Has Klarenberg knowingly been in contact with any FSB operatives? Is he in touch with current or former personnel of Russian state media? Who owns The Grayzone and is it sponsored by Russia?
(As has been publicly stated many times, The Grayzone is a fully independent outlet founded by me, Max Blumenthal. Unlike many of our adversaries, this outlet does not accept funding or support from any state, including Russia.)
At this point, the officers took Klarenberg’s bank cards out of the room for an extended period. They also seized his camera memory cards and sims, demanding he provide pin codes to open them. “What was done with my bank cards, I do not know,” he remarked. “The same for the SDs – what they got off these old and barely used cards was unclear.”
Next, Klarenberg’s interrogators asked if he had any journalistic materials on hand, requesting that he “warn” them about the contents and where they were located so they did not hoover it up “by accident.”
He wondered if the question was a public relations stunt devised in response to the media outcry this April over the British counter-terrorism police’s detention of Ernest Moret, a French publisher held and questioned about his views on Emmanuel Macron’s widely despised pension reforms. There was also the chance they wanted him to lead them to sensitive content he had or was planning to cover.
Klarenberg’s police interrogators displayed intense interest in whether he belonged to any press organizations, and if he held a press card or any professional qualifications. They then probed his career trajectory, asking how he entered the world of political journalism and about perceived employment “gaps” in Klarenberg’s professional record.
He was repeatedly grilled on his journey from covering financial issues a decade ago to political and national security reporting. “The police professed confusion at the transition,” despite Klarenberg explaining that he studied politics in university. “The officers repeatedly returned to this point, they clearly felt this didn’t make sense,” he recounted. “Were they probing whether I’d been ‘recruited’ at some point, or had been a ‘sleeper agent’ all along?”
Throughout the interview, the counter-terrorism police probed Klarenberg aggressively on his political affiliations and beliefs. Was he involved in any activist causes in Belgrade? What did he think of the Russian government? Did he have an opinion on Russia’s arrest of Evan Gerskovich of the Wall Street Journal? What did he think of Rishi Sunak? One officer complained incessantly about Keir Starmer being “useless,” prompting Klarenberg to wonder if the comments were a dangle aimed at drawing him out.
When Klarenberg noted that he had publicly criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the police demanded to know if “anyone” from the Russian government had contacted him to complain. “Presumably, they wanted to know if my criticisms had pissed off my ‘controllers’,” Klarenberg said. “Which is a completely ridiculous proposition.”
An extended philosophical discussion about journalism and the public interest followed. “Your work might be interesting to the public,” an officer told Klarenberg, “but it’s not in the public interest.” He insisted that a journalist could be furthering the interests of a hostile state actor in reporting on national security issues.
“I tried to explain that if material can be authenticated, then the material is the source. We are not citing claims from a human source that provided the material, we are reporting on provided source material in a factual way,” Klarenberg said.
After five hours, the counter-terror police seemed to have run out of questions. They had, by this point, seized all Klarenberg’s electronic devices, forced him to provide unlock codes for his phone and tablet, taken his SD cards, and combed through thousands of his personal photos. “Pity whoever drew the short straw and had to stare at length at thousands of shots of brutalist architecture across the world I’ve taken over the years,” he remarked.
Authorities also fingerprinted Klarenberg, subjected him to DNA swabs, and repeatedly photographed him. “As long as your prints have never been found on an IED in Afghanistan, we delete this data in six months,” one cop with a Northern Irish accent claimed.
A week after releasing Klarenberg from detention, police returned his tablet with masking tape over its cameras, along with two memory cards. The police kept one old SD card, mostly containing music, on the grounds it may be “relevant to criminal proceedings.”
He remains under investigation by the British state at the time of publication.
The editor-in-chief of The Grayzone, Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of several books, including best-selling Republican Gomorrah, Goliath, The Fifty One Day War, and The Management of Savagery. He has produced print articles for an array of publications, many video reports, and several documentaries, including Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded The Grayzone in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.