By Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton – Jun 29, 2021
Entitled heiress Sulome Anderson waged a McCarthyite lawfare campaign to destroy The Grayzone. We can now expose her and the powerful forces behind her deranged legal assault.
“Because of the lawsuits my family won against Iran, I had all the money in the world to spend on drugs, and I made some dealers a lot of money.” –Sulome Anderson, 2016
“I’ll destroy him :)” –Sulome Anderson on defendant Ben Norton, 2017
“I’m not stupid enough to take it this far without legal grounds.” –Sulome Anderson on her plans to sue The Grayzone, 2018
The District of Columbia Superior Court has rejected a frivolous, million-dollar lawsuit claiming libel, defamation, and tortious conspiracy filed by writer Sulome Anderson against The Grayzone’s editor Max Blumenthal and assistant editor Ben Norton.
Judge William M. Jackson’s June 16, 2021 decision put an end to the entitled heiress’ three-year-long campaign to smear and bankrupt The Grayzone with the help of a powerful DC lawyer closely linked to the Israel lobby.
It was a humiliating resolution to a legal assault that threatened to impose a serious chilling effect on independent media and press freedom had it been successful.
Sulome’s suit was triggered by a May 2018 article for The Grayzone by Norton, entitled “Sulome Anderson Admits Her Supposed Hezbollah Source Is ‘Incredibly Unreliable,’” which showed how she published blatant misinformation falsely alleging Iranian attacks on Israel-occupied territory that, if true, could have triggered a regional war.
A clearly embarrassed Sulome retaliated against the report – which consisted primarily of her own admission that her sources were not credible – with a Twitter tirade defaming The Grayzone as a “Russian propaganda conspiracy site.”
She subsequently taunted and threatened William Moran, Blumenthal’s friend and long-time personal attorney, with the coming lawsuit: “I wish I could see your faces when your client is served and you see the letterhead. You’re playing with the big boys now, Moran.”
In a Medium post announcing her legal assault, Anderson attempted to obscure her petty vendetta by casting herself as a noble defender of the free press and “real” journalists threatened by evil dictators.
“This lawsuit is about something much more important than my feelings,” she claimed. “It’s about fighting a coordinated effort to attack, discredit and endanger journalists whose work counters a certain political line… And it’s about pushing back against the forces that would silence anyone who presents inconvenient truths to the public.”
On Twitter, meanwhile, Sulome declared, “This [lawsuit] has very little to do with defaming me,” conceding her ulterior motive to muzzle and destroy The Grayzone.
The malicious quality of the wealthy plaintiff’s complaint prompted an exasperated statement by Judge Jackson at the start of our July 2019 hearing. “I don’t think anyone expected to see a journalist using libel law to try to sue another journalist in a local court,” the judge commented.
Jackson went on to reject the allegation that formed the heart of Sulome’s legal assault: that we had engaged in a nefarious conspiracy to defame her with a collection of anonymous Twitter accounts with which we had no connection. If a judge had validated such an absurd claim, Sulome’s legal assault could have made social media users liable for tweets by anonymous users simply because they shared similar opinions or ideology.
In a statement to The Grayzone, our legal defenders at Hawgood & Moran Law described Sulome’s complaint as “a Trojan Horse that would have ended the free and open exchange of ideas on social media.”
“Sulome Anderson reported a false casus belli based on an admittedly ‘incredibly unreliable source,’” our counsel explained, “then unleashed a venerable, or at least very expensive, DC law firm in an attempt to effectively banish not only social media use but also having (alleged) thoughts that her attorney would deem controversial.”
To carry out her vendetta, Sulome enlisted Stuart H. Newberger, a lawfare specialist who had previously represented her father, former Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson, in his lawsuit against the Iranian government, which he held responsible for his kidnapping in Beirut, Lebanon in 1985.
A member of the Israel Practice of one of the largest corporate law firms in Washington DC, Crowell & Moring, Newberger has spearheaded numerous legal actions extracting massive punitive judgments against designated enemy states and accused terrorist groups.
In 2000, he won $341 million on Terry Anderson’s behalf against an Iranian government that did not appear in court. In her memoir, Sulome wrote that the multimillion-dollar payout her family received from the lawsuit guaranteed her “all the money in the world to spend on drugs, and I made some dealers a lot of money.”
Sulome’s frivolous lawsuit was also boosted by some powerful friends in the corporate media. CNN host Jake Tapper promoted it, as did New York Magazine’s in-house neoliberal enforcer, Jonathan Chait, who smeared us as “domestic extremists.”
As she readied her lawfare campaign, Sulome flaunted her wealth and the high-powered legal attack dog she planned to sic on us, while disparaging our legal counsel as an “ambulance chaser” and “dimestore bullshit.”
“I have plenty of resources,” she boasted in a tweet directed at Moran, and “I’m determined to use them to my full advantage to teach your client a lesson.”
Earlier, Sulome had vowed, “I’ll destroy him:)”, referring to Ben Norton in a tweet concluded with a smile emoji.
She thus bet all her chips on a vindictive lawfare campaign prosecuted by an attorney who makes his living off default judgments against official evildoers unable to defend themselves in the US court system.
In the end, it turned out that litigating a case against American defendants who actually showed up was more daunting than Newberger imagined.
For over two years, we, the defendants, have been barred from discussing this McCarthyite assault while the heiress’ lawsuit was relentlessly promoted and cheered on by an echo chamber of regime-change operatives and corporate media hacks.
Now that Sulome’s lawfare campaign has backfired, we are free to release our investigation into the personality that initiated it; the powerful, pro-war political forces that animated her ill-conceived attempt to annihilate The Grayzone; and the Lebanese hustler that furnished her and numerous other gullible Western parachute journalists with the phony Hezbollah sources they relied on to spin out interventionist propaganda in mainstream outlets.
Suing Iran, snorting away its seized public assets
Sulome Anderson’s legal complaint against us describes her as “a well-respected freelance journalist who covers conflict in war torn areas, including the Middle East in general and Syria in particular,” stating that she “is the author of an autobiography, The Hostage’s Daughter, which recounts her life growing up and living in the Middle East and the United States as the daughter of Terry Anderson, also a respected journalist… who was kidnapped and held hostage for almost seven years in Lebanon by Iran and its agent Hezbollah.”
The 2016 memoir referenced in Sulome’s complaint is not exactly a literary gem – “he must have seen me and thought: Jackpot,” read one typically cringe-inducing passage about her seduction of a romantically attached ex-Army Ranger. A more gifted writer might have been able to spin their drug-fueled antics into a gonzo Hunter S. Thompson-style narrative; instead, this one strikes the reader as a B-list Hunter Biden.
Nevertheless, Sulome’s book provided this investigation with an unintentionally invaluable first-person guide to the imperial pathologies, deceptiveness, and sheer sleaze that characterize the culture of the elite Western parachute journalists infesting Middle Eastern conflict zones.
As both the title of her memoir and her legal complaint against us implied, Sulome’s professional and political trajectory was shaped by her father’s kidnapping by a Shia militant faction in Beirut, Lebanon.
Terry Anderson was a reporter for AP during the height of the Lebanese civil war. He was also a US military veteran and former recruiter who strutted around Beirut “wearing a Marine Corps belt buckle” after the US Marines invaded Lebanon, according to the New York Times. (Strangely, the reference to Anderson’s Marine Corps belt buckle was scrubbed from the article by Times reporter James Barron, who happens to be the son of a CIA agent.)
The Shia militants resisting the US invasion and Israeli occupation noticed that Anderson was a frequent guest of the US embassy and targeted him on the basis of their belief that he was a spy, an accusation he denied. A book critic noted that the key detail about Anderson’s visits with US embassy officials was buried in his memoir of captivity, mentioned only once in a footnote.
After Anderson was freed in 1991, he and his family sued the Iranian government for sponsoring the militants that kidnapped him. Anderson’s lawyer, Stuart Newberger, was himself a militant of sorts – a hardcore Zionist devoted to smashing the revolutionary government of Iran.
During a trial where Iran did not bother to offer a defense, Newberger called on Patrick Clawson, a fellow neocon from the pro-Israel think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), as an expert witness to establish Tehran’s culpability for the kidnapping. Years later, Clawson publicly called for Israel to stage a false flag attack and blame it on Iran in order to create the pretext for a US regime-change war.
“My parents and I actually filed three separate lawsuits,” Sulome wrote in her memoir “The Hostage’s Daughter,” “and when I was fifteen years old, I was awarded somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million in frozen Iranian assets held in the United States, after taxes and lawyers’ fees. All my money went straight to a trust fund, of course, but my parents collectively received settlements of around $40 million, and our lives abruptly changed.”
In 2000, a US federal judge ordered Iran to pay $24.5 million to Terry Anderson, $10 million to his wife, Madeleine Bassil, and $6.7 million to Sulome.
“Because of the lawsuits my family won against Iran,” Sulome wrote in her memoir, “I had all the money in the world to spend on drugs, and I made some dealers a lot of money.”
Indeed, the trust fund Sulome relied on to finance her louche lifestyle was the product of money seized from Iran in a sadistic act of economic warfare by the US and Israeli governments. While Iranians suffered widespread deprivation and death under Western sanctions, and faced the constant threat of invasion following a devastating war with Iraq, Sulome snorted away the country’s public assets with reckless abandon.
“I would often find myself doing lines off the toilet lid in the school restroom or running around town with some guy, rolling on Ecstasy,” she wrote.
She appears to have originally intended on a career as an actress, pursuing a degree in theater at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where tuition today runs around $60,000 a year.
“College was one long party—not the fun kind,” Sulome recalled, “but the kind where you wake up the next day feeling like shit and swear never to do that again. In many ways, I never got to the waking-up part.”
She wrote that she soon “went from cokehead to nonfunctional opiate junkie,” getting “lost in a drugged haze for so many years.”
Detailing “a diagnosed mental illness,” Sulome said she was afflicted by “paranoid ideation” and “inappropriate, intense anger.” She recounted a dinner with her father where he wondered why she had not died from a heroin overdose and called her “crazier than a bag of cats.”
Following her “long party” at NYU, Sulome began her upward-failing trajectory into the world of elite journalism.
“In 2009, at age twenty-four,” she wrote. “I started interning at the Committee to Protect Journalists, and I won’t lie and say I didn’t get that job because of my father, who was on the board of directors.”
Her next stop was the Columbia School of Journalism, a mainstream corporate media farm system where children of the upper class shell out more than $116,000 to network with award-winning journalists such as disgraced “Caliphate” podcast fabulist Rukhmini Callamachi and adopt Western chauvinist perspectives passed along by their professors as the ultimate standard of objectivity.
“I applied to Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism,” Sulome conceded, “and got in, probably also partly because of my father and the fact that he used to teach there.”
The aspiring war reporter made a strong impression on her instructors, though not the kind they necessarily appreciated. “My Covering Conflicts teacher despised me…” Sulome revealed. “On my final evaluation, she wrote that no news organization would put up with me. She was probably right.”
But Sulome managed to graduate with a master’s degree in a craft that did not require any particular skill, and which was a magnet for narcissists. “I left Columbia a reporter,” she wrote, “albeit a crazy one.”
Sulome also left with a nagging addiction to prescription drugs. By 2012, she said she was laid up in a mental health and substance abuse treatment center that “cost a small fortune and boasted a number of celebrity alumni.”
To be sure, people who suffer from addiction and mental illness deserve care and compassion. But when a hyper-entitled heiress like Sulome teams up with a powerful corporate lawyer and a pack of rabid neocons to launch a lawfare assault designed to destroy independent journalists and bankrupt their media outlet, her afflictions and wealth can no longer be deployed to shield her from accountability.
Ultimately, the heiress gravitated to Beirut, the capital of her Lebanese Christian mother’s native country and the city where her father had been held in captivity.
“The single most important person in [Sulome’s] journalism career”: a “semigangster” furnishing fake Hezbollah sources
In Beirut, Sulome Anderson’s reporting would focus almost exclusively on the evildoing of Hezbollah, Iran, the Syrian government, and any other entity that could have been held remotely responsible for her father’s kidnapping. In playing out her vengeful hatred of the same forces that she and her family plundered and enriched themselves off of, Sulome displayed a classic imperial pathology seen again and again.
With a multibillion-dollar CIA-backed dirty war raging against Damascus, and Hezbollah actively involved in beating back a Sunni extremist insurgency across the Syrian border, Beirut was filling up with aspiring hacks eager to serve as stenographers for the US-sponsored Syrian opposition.
It was also a mecca for trust-funded conflict tourists and Western imperial bureaucrats who considered throwing back Jaeger bombs on the edge of austere Shia enclaves an act of revolutionary transgressiveness.
“Caught up in the Beirut journo party scene—which is thriving, since nothing takes the edge off PTSD like a good bender—I had started drinking too much, smoking pot, and occasionally dabbling in cocaine again,” Sulome wrote.
Sulome thus reverted to her customary role as a human ATM machine for drug dealers, con artists, and assorted knaves.
By this point, she was forking over loads of cash to a Beirut area fixer named Dergham Dergham, whom she described as “a semigangster who’s on friendly terms with practically every shady character in Lebanon.” Sulome branded the two-bit hustler “the single most important person in my journalism career.”
Several reporters in Lebanon told The Grayzone that Dergham had been deported from the United States for an assortment of felonies including drug dealing. In Lebanon, they said he set up a lucrative racket charging Western journalistic dupes as much as $10,000 to meet local men he paid to impersonate top-level Hezbollah commanders.
According to Sulome’s memoir, she was introduced to Dergham by Mitch Prothero, a self-styled Hezbollah watcher for mainstream US outlets whom she described as one of her journalistic mentors.
Prothero has a long history of claiming access to questionable Hezbollah sources, who curiously provide him with damaging material on a highly secure, notoriously media-wary organization that he routinely denigrates as a terrorist group.
In his most transparently absurd attempt at Hezbo-ology, Prothero published a lengthy feature in Vice Magazine called “Paintballing with Hezbollah,” in which he and a few buddies from Beirut’s Western hack pack faced off with “Hezbollah fighters” at a local paintball range. (Among Prothero’s squad was Andrew Exum, a former US Army ranger who admitted to gunning down two Iraqi civilians guarding their town’s electricity generator, and who went on to work in Obama’s Pentagon.)
A local Beirut media professional blasted Prothero’s story as the fake it obviously was, and pointed to a notorious fixer known as “D” as the man behind the sham: “The alleged Paintball game with Hezbollah was all set up by D who is not a member of Hezbollah and has nothing to do with the party/resistance… What D did is use some dollars from Prothero and recruit some of his neighborhood friends to play a free unlimited shooting game of paintball, at the cost of pretending to be Hezbollah fighters… An expert on Hezbollah will never buy into this; a ten years old child from Lebanon will never buy this story.”
So who was “D”? According to Sulome’s memoir, that was the initial by which she referred to Dergham – the “semigangster” introduced to her by Prothero who, in her words, “has had a long list of questionable career choices.”
Despite Dergham’s reputation, Sulome credited the professional flimflam man with guiding her reporting: “I freely admit he opened many doors for me, and continues to do so to this day,” she disclosed.
Predictably, those doors led her down a seemingly endless corridor filled with embarrassing gaffes.
Sulome’s parachute journalism breeds a comedy of errors
In 2017, Sulome took a foray into the Yarmouk refugee camp south of Damascus, Syria, where Hezbollah has no presence. She returned with an error-laden video and print report for Newsweek on July 3, 2017 entitled “The Next Middle East War? Hezbollah May Risk Everything in All-Out Fight With Israel.”
Clearly lost in her surroundings, Sulome did not bother to – or could not – read the Arabic-language logo of Fatah al-Intifada, a Palestinian faction that is completely distinct from Hezbollah. (She previously put out a call for experts to help her identify a “badge” that a junior high geography student could have recognized as the Iraqi flag on the uniforms of Iraqi soldiers.)
Further, Sulome’s Newsweek video incorrectly translated “Ahrar al-Sham” as “Jaysh al-Islam” — two distinct Salafi insurgent groups with different foreign backers in Syria.
In a lengthy Medium post, Lebanese writer Ali Kourani exposed the gaping errors in Sulome’s article. He also consulted sources inside Yarmouk who said she and her Lebanese fixer – who was almost certainly Dergham – were denied permission to enter the camp, and forced to film outside.
Kourani noted that Sulome had completely made up the claim that Hezbollah general commander Hassan Nasrallah had threatened “retaliatory strikes” against US interests.
He concluded that Sulome “may have been duped into believing those she interviewed are Hezbollah fighters and commanders, or at worst, she is willfully misleading both her Newsweek editors and audience, fully armed with the knowledge that those interviewed are not members of Hezbollah.”
Rather than retract her bogus dispatch, Newsweek quietly issued what might have been one of the longest corrections in journalistic history: a 168-word, seven-sentence mini-essay that read as follows:
Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that Hassan Nasrallah threatened retaliatory strikes against America in a speech. It was Hezbollah media that made such a threat.
A previous version of this story also offered an incorrect casualty range for Hezbollah during the 2006 war. The group provided no official estimate of its casualties. But Lebanon’s Higher Relief Council estimated that 68 Hezbollah fighters died during the conflict. Israel claimed it killed 500-600.
A previous version of this story originally quoted a Hezbollah commander about the group’s Borkan-1 missiles. He was likely referring to the Burkan Dwarf Missile.
A previous version of this story referred to a member of Hezbollah as a lieutenant; the group does not have that rank and the term was meant as an approximation.
Lastly, a previous version of this story quoted a Hezbollah fighter mistakenly saying that someone who went to war for the group in Syria when he was 18-years-old would now be 25; he would now be 22 or 23.
Despite the embarrassing correction, Sulome managed to convince editors at The Nation to make space for another obvious snow job just months later, in April 2018. As in her previous report and virtually everything she has written about the Shia militia, her headline predicted that a massive war between Hezbollah and Israel was just over the horizon.
In this article, Sulome claimed to have interviewed four Hezbollah sources who insisted they played a central role in downing an Israeli F-16. According to the militaries of Syria and Israel, and every other report published about the incident, the Israeli jet had been struck by a missile from an anti-aircraft battery belonging to the Syrian army.
The evidence Sulome’s shady sources provided of their dramatic takedown boiled down to an online meme: “One Hezbollah captain held up his phone to show off a picture of the Israeli plane falling from the sky, which had been turned into a meme,” she wrote.
The rest of her article was padded with speculative comments from right-wing Lebanese, Israeli, and neoconservative American think tankers. Among the supposed experts Sulome consulted was Matthew Levitt, a former FBI agent from the Israel lobby’s Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), who provided since-discredited testimony in the George W. Bush administration’s Islamophobic post-9/11 terror trials.
Beyond the apparent con job Sulome’s fixer, Dergham Dergham, was running on her and droves of other Western parachute journalists, there were serious questions with her claims of access to Hezbollah.
First, why would anyone with any stature inside Hezbollah grant access to the daughter of a man kidnapped in Lebanon by Shia militants who then launched a multimillion-dollar lawfare action against the group and its Iranian ally?
Further, why would Hezbollah agree to open itself up to an American who publicly celebrated the Israeli assassination of its former general commander and most revered martyr, Imad Mugniyeh?
— Sulome (@SulomeAnderson) January 31, 2015
The answer would have to be either that Hezbollah was stupid to the point of being suicidal – an odd conclusion given the group’s survival and growth amid sustained pressure from some of the most powerful military forces on the planet – or that virtually every story Sulome wrote based on alleged sources inside the organization was a towering pile of Hez-baloney.
Blaming “Trump, Trump, Trump” for her own failures
Following her bungled jaunt into Syria, Sulome participated in an absurd PR stunt apparently designed to paper over her colossal failures. It came in the form of an article by her friend and former classmate at the Columbia School of Journalism, Yardena Schwartz, in the semi-official magazine of the elite school.
The piece opened with the following knee-slapper: “Sulome Anderson is one of the most impressive young journalists of our time.”
Painting her aggrieved multi-millionaire pal as a marginalized blue collar reporter, Schwartz quoted Sulome complaining, “I can’t make a living reporting from the Middle East anymore. I just can’t justify doing this to myself.”
In perhaps the most bizarre section, Schwartz claimed that after then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rustled up a $7 million reward for a Hezbollah commander accused of an attack in Argentina – a transparent ploy to enlist right-wing Latin American governments in the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran – Sulome pitched a story supposedly containing information that would have helped the Trump administration get its man.
“Having interviewed Hezbollah fighters for the last six years,” Schwartz wrote, “Sulome had unique access to the upper echelons of its militants, including that specific operative’s family members.”
The inane narrative didn’t stop there. According to the Israel-based Schwartz, “Hezbollah members told [Sulome] they had contingency plans to strike government and military targets on US soil and that they had surface-to-air missiles, which had not been reported before.”
Sulome the super-sleuth had therefore managed to outdo the entire US intelligence apparatus and the Mossad, penetrating Hezbollah’s upper echelons to track down one of its most wanted assets. And she was the first person to ever reveal Hezbollah’s possession of surface-to-air missiles – that is, aside from its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, who publicly stated that his organization had obtained such weapons back in 2016.
Sulome was “convinced that she had struck gold,” according to Schwartz. But somehow, a whopping nine mainstream publications rejected her pitch – one supposedly on the grounds that she “had done too much of the reporting before she was commissioned.”
Rather than reflect on why editors might not have wanted to authorize another disastrous article leading to a litany of corrections and widespread ridicule, if not a full retraction, Sulome whined to her de facto publicist, Schwartz: “Open any American news outlet and it’s just Trump, Trump, Trump. When that’s the case, there’s very limited space for news that’s not about him.”
Prevented by the Bad Orange Man from becoming her best self, Sulome packed her bags and headed back to the US to work on a book about “American radicalism.” It sounded like any centrist NPR lover’s dream read, and the perfect window dressing for any middle-brow suburban bookstore. Yet today, there is no sign of any progress on the project.
Meanwhile, Sulome was strung along by “unreliable” Hezbollah sources into what was perhaps her most consequential gaffe.
Phony Iran attack video from bogus source leads to frivolous lawsuit
On May 9, 2018, Sulome tweeted out videos sent to her “by a source in Hezbollah” that she claimed showed Iran firing missiles at the Israel-occupied Golan Heights. If the videos were real, they would have triggered a massive Israeli retaliation and likely sparked a regional war. However, Twitter users quickly pointed out that they contained none of the footage she advertised.
Sulome soon deleted her tweets in embarrassment. An archived Google search shows them in cached form:
In one of the two deleted tweets, the aspiring Middle East expert said, “Video of Iranians firing missiles into Israel just minutes ago.”
In the second deleted tweet, Sulome wrote, “Another video of Iranian missile fire at the Israeli Golan, sent to me by a source in Hezbollah.”
Sulome published a subsequent tweet admitting that her supposed Hezbollah source was about as trustworthy as any used car salesman.
“Okay folks,” she conceded, “one of my sources has proven incredibly unreliable and I apologize for the misinformation. I’m taking a break to sort out what’s real and what’s not. Mistakes are inevitable, sometimes we are misled by sources and the important thing is to correct and retract.”
Just a few months before the incident, “Trump, Trump, Trump” had been responsible for her failures. But now, in the face of derision and mockery, Sulome was making plans to file a million-dollar lawsuit blaming a couple of independent journalists from a small online publication for ruining her high-flying career.
A grave threat to freedom of speech and press
In preparing her legal strategy, a clearly desperate Sulome decided to pin her case on the completely false allegation that The Grayzone supposedly controlled its own personal Twitter troll farm, and had thereby engaged in a “tortious conspiracy” to destroy her career.
She and her lawyer seemed to believe that this claim would prompt a judge to give her discovery, thus enabling her to prove a conspiracy that existed only in their overactive imaginations.
Sulome thus accused us of direct responsibility for weaponizing a random assortment of Twitter users, or “Joe Doe’s,” which mockingly branded her a CIA and/or Mossad agent, despite the fact that we had no acquaintance or affiliation with any of them. As the court noted in its opinion, we never actually made any such assertion about the plaintiff.
One of the anonymous accused “Joe Doe’s” went by the moniker “Time Traveling Russian Hacker,” a clearly tongue-in-cheek reference to the Russian collusion drama that had consumed official Washington in Cold War paranoia. Any level-headed observer would have chuckled at the account’s name, but for Sulome and her crack legal team, this account’s activity was serious enough to cite in their complaint as evidence of a nefarious conspiracy.
As absurd as Sulome’s complaint might have seemed, its implications for press freedom were grave. If validated by a judge, it would have set the stage for a tsunami of lawsuits that could have destroyed platforms like Twitter, making users liable for retweets (whether or not they were actually endorsing those positions) and for statements by random online strangers based on an alleged common ideology.
The malicious legal campaign would have therefore made online media off limits for anyone without a billionaire or corporate backer – or a massive trust fund. Virtually any other independent journalist would be unable to pay for lawyers to fend off the inevitably overwhelming legal assault they would face from more powerful entities seeking to hold them responsible for anything and everything their audience said.
Shockingly, Sulome pledged in the Medium post previewing her McCarthyite SLAPP suit to donate all money won from us to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a billionaire-backed NGO that claims to defend press freedom – and where she once interned thanks to her father, Terry Anderson, who serves as its honorary chairman.
Whether or not CPJ or Anderson expressly approved of Sulome’s plans to muzzle and bankrupt independent journalists for criticizing her work, she was allowed to deploy the supposed press freedom group’s name and reputation as cover for a full-bore assault on the freedom of the press and attempted kneecapping of the First Amendment.
A McCarthyite smear campaign coordinated with regime-change lobbyists
In the Medium post announcing her lawfare campaign, Sulome Anderson claimed, “This lawsuit is not meant to pursue a personal vendetta but instead uncover the motives for Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Norton’s participation in a dangerous campaign of disinformation against people whose work threatens Russian and Syrian interests.”
On Twitter, Sulome freely admitted that her frivolous lawsuit was crafted as a fishing expedition to extract information that would somehow prove The Grayzone was financed by the Russian government, or by some other official enemy state, despite the fact that it is not and never has been.
“I have a feeling a little discovery on [The Grayzone’s] funding would be quite revealing,” Anderson threatened. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer soon.”
This shockingly frank admission reinforced the lawsuit’s ulterior political motive, which was totally divorced from any claim of defamation. It was textbook McCarthyism designed to force the accused to prove their innocence before any guilt had ever been established – and without any evidence against them ever provided.
Behind her, and apparently egging her on, was a network of neoconservative operatives and mainstream media hacks determined to silence The Grayzone by any means. For these cynical actors, an unhinged heiress with deep pockets, a major law firm at her disposal, and an axe to grind seemed to present an unprecedented opportunity to burn our independent news outlet to the ground. And she was eager to be their useful idiot.
Among the most deranged members of this goon squad was Omar “Oz” Katerji, an itinerant, occasionally employed British writer and pro-war activist who appears to have helped craft Sulome’s frivolous lawsuit.
On December 22, 2018, in a series of threatening messages directed at our legal counsel, Bill Moran, Katerji revealed that he had reviewed Sulome’s complaint before its publication and was planning to appear with her in court.
“Your client is a liar and a fraud who is being sued for defamation and tortious interference,” Katerji tweeted. “He has libelled countless journalists and has put the lives of others in danger. Don’t @ me, just prepare your legal defence. I look forward to seeing this play out in court.”
In a subsequent tweet, Katerji suggested that Sulome’s lawsuit was aimed at seizing Blumenthal’s home. After fantasizing about Norton suffering a heart attack, he threatened, “Save all of your replies for court Bill, you can all look forward to meeting me then.”
A ubiquitous figure in smear campaigns against anti-imperialist public figures, Omar “Oz” Katerji once attempted to forge a career as a laddie mag columnist, pumping out inane content with headlines like, “Can These Blurry Glasses Help Me Stop Perving Over Women?”, “My Friend Got Circumcised,” and “What Does Michael Fassbender’s Penis Look Like?”
As the dirty war on Syria deepened and the UK Foreign Office ratcheted up its propaganda operations in support of it, Katerji attempted a makeover as a bearded, tattooed conflict correspondent. His principal battlefield was on social media forums, where he directed a stream of toxic bile at high-profile critics of the Western dirty war on Syria.
Back in September 2016, Katerji seems to have obtained Blumenthal’s phone number and sent him a series of threatening tirades in a bid to intimidate him against publishing a factual investigative report. Blumenthal’s investigation focused on the Syrian White Helmets, the US and UK government-funded auxiliary force that explicitly promoted a regime-change war on Damascus while producing interventionist propaganda for the Al Qaeda-led armed opposition.
“Publish your pro-fascist filth, Max, we’re waiting for it,” warned a bully who appears to have been Katerji.
About a month later, Katerji and a handful of staffers from the UK government-funded Muslim think tank Quilliam interrupted a Stop The War UK meeting with Jeremy Corbyn, heckling the anti-war Labour Party leader as a genocide supporter for his opposition to Western military intervention in Syria.
Katerji later lent his name to a letter published in The Guardian that accused Corbyn of anti-Semitism – the final leg of a successful Israel lobby campaign to destroy the Labour leader and replace him with an establishment hand-puppet.
When Blumenthal was arrested and jailed in October 2019 on bogus and later-dismissed federal assault charges fabricated by a right-wing Venezuelan opposition activist, Katerji – along with many of the same figures that promoted Sulome’s frivolous lawsuit – declared his wish to buy his jailers a beer, and falsely claimed there was video of the violent attack.
Beyond the clear signs of coordination, there are indications that regime-change lobbyists attempted to spin Sulome’s lawsuit into the opening phase of a wider legal attack on critics of the Western dirty war on Syria.
In responding to a demand for a sweeping lawsuit against Blumenthal and other journalists who published critical reports on the Syrian White Helmets, Jett Goldsmith – a fanatically pro-war online troll who maintains close ties to Katerji and other neoconservative elements – revealed in a tweet, “There’s an undisclosed law firm handling @SulomeAnderson’s case to this extent.”
“Discovery in this case will lay the foundation for many things,” Goldsmith insisted.
Mainstream media pundits hype up Sulome’s McCarthyite legal campaign
In a tweet at Blumenthal’s personal attorney, Bill Moran, which could have been lifted from the outtakes of an especially awful Aaron Sorkin script, Sulome Anderson bragged, “I have a huge population of real journalists who can’t wait to take Blumenthal and his fake news machine down.”
The widespread promotion Sulome’s frivolous lawsuit received from a coalition of Russiagate-crazed Beltway press corps hacks was not only evidence of the coordinated campaign to muzzle The Grayzone; it was another deeply revealing window into the ethically deprived, imperialist culture of Western mainstream media.
Among the mainstream hacks who promoted Sulome’s legal assault was CNN’s Jake Tapper. He was joined by New York Magazine columnist and self-declared “neoliberal activist” Jonathan Chait. Branding us as “domestic extremists,” Chait seemed to suggest we should be investigated and prosecuted by federal authorities for our political views.
Alongside Tapper and Chait, the following regime-change kooks, spooks, and corporate media hacks hyped up Sulome’s frivolous suit:
● Pro-war lobbyist, Stirling University lecturer in journalism studies, and notorious social media predator Idrees Ahmad aggressively promoted the frivolous lawsuit, while defaming The Grayzone journalists as “Kremlin lackeys” and ironically falsely accusing us of using “frivolous lawsuits to try to silence journalists and intimidate publications.”
Ahmad was recorded threatening Blumenthal by phone out of the blue in an attempt to intimidate him against publishing his factual investigation of the Syrian White Helmets. Ahmad placed the call before Blumenthal’s articles were published, suggesting coordination with the articles’ subjects to bully and silence the journalist.
● Russiagate hustler and failed congressional candidate Liz Wahl praised Sulome, chirping, “Good for you! I have thought about suing Max Blumenthal too.” As Blumenthal revealed in a 2015 report, Wahl tried and failed to launch a glamorous corporate media career by resigning on-air from her job as an RT presenter in a PR stunt planned by neoconservative operatives.
● CJ Werleman, a blogger who got his start as an explicitly Islamophobic New Atheist before being exposed for rampant plagiarism, after which he rebranded himself as a staunch advocate of right-wing Islamist groups, who writes extensively for Turkish and Qatari state media.
Werleman gushed over Turkey’s military aggression against Syria, which has seen Turkish-backed forces lead a mass ethnic cleansing and rape campaign against ethnic Kurds and Yazidi, praising it as a “good war” and “humanitarian and righteous war.” Werleman’s propaganda on behalf of Western-backed Salafi-jihadist militias in Syria was so over-the-top that the media spokesman for al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrapersonally reached out to thank him.
● Self-declared anarchist Alexander Reid Ross, a thrice-retracted cheerleader of regime-change operations from Bolivia to Syria who works alongside former CIA, FBI, and DHS officials at a think tank funded by billionaire oligarch Charles Koch, poured his heart out in support of the frivolous lawsuit: “I can’t describe how deeply I respect and support the decision of Sulome Anderson to stand up against the incessant and debilitating disinformation campaigns launched by these conspiracy theorists.”
Like Sulome, Ross has a history of defaming The Grayzone with false and malicious claims, accusing us of being engaged in an invisible, Kremlin-orchestrated “red-brown” alliance with fascists. In an embarrassing journalistic faceplant that should have spelled the end of his career, the Southern Poverty Law Center removed all of Ross’ blog posts from its website, including a lie-filled article repeatedly libeling Blumenthal and Norton. The civil rights group issued a lengthy “sincere apology,” divorcing itself from Ross and disowning his statements.
● Natasha Bertrand, a White House correspondent for CNN who functions as a stenographer for US intelligence agencies. Bertrand churned out now-discredited but still-unretracted Russiagate conspiraciesclaiming Vladimir Putin had control over Donald Trump, that leaked documents exposing Hunter Biden’s suspicious financial ties to Ukraine were “Russian disinformation,” and that the Kremlin supposedly paid bounties to Afghan Islamist militants to kill US soldiers.
● Kristyan Benedict, the UK campaigns manager at Amnesty International. Benedict is a vociferous supporter of the international dirty war on Syria, and even helped organize a rally for military intervention in Syria in London under the banner of Amnesty UK.
● Liberal interventionist academic Stephen Zunes, a vociferous advocate of US government-backed color revolutions, who uses supposedly left-wing talking points that usually tend to line up with those of the State Department. Zunes is an academic advisor for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), a regime-change lobbying group funded and directed by junk bond salesman Peter Ackerman. Historian and activist Stephen Gowans detailed Zunes’ work “with dodgy U.S. ruling class foundations that hide the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy objectives behind a high-sounding commitment to peace.”
● Shane Bauer, a contributor to Mother Jones and fanatical advocate of regime change in Syria. The US government paid for Bauer to study Arabic in Syria and Yemen with a Boren Fellowship, as part of the Defense Department’s National Security Education Program, before US-led wars broke out in those countries. Recipients of these fellowships like Bauer are required to work for the US federal government for at least one year. While in college, Bauer spent not one, but two summers in Darfur, Sudan, illegally crossing the border of Chad with a group of “rebels.”
● Ramah Kudaimi, a Syrian American regime-change activist who helped divide the Palestine solidarity movement by relentlessly smearing anti-imperialists from her position at the Rockefeller Brothers-fundedUS Campaign for Palestinian Rights. Kudaimi put out a call for donations to the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) without disclosing that her mother, Randa Loutfy, was the organization’s director of programs.
SAMS has pushed for US intervention in Syria while raking in funding from USAID and pro-Israel billionaires like Seth Klarman. Ramah’s father, Muhammad Mazen Kudaimi, is a physician and Syrian opposition lobbyist who has donated to both Hillary Clinton and the Republican National Committee.
● Liberal writer Jonathan M. Katz, a “Future of War Fellow” at the Clintonite New America Foundation, which is funded by the US State Department, billionaire oligarchs, CIA-linked foundations like Ford and Rockefeller, and large banks and corporations such as JPMorgan Chase and Google.
● Prolific sender of unsolicited dick pics and former NSA spook John Schindler hailed Sulome’s lawsuit: “This is an important move to protect journalists – and everybody – who’s threatened by lies and disinformation spewed by Putin, Assad & Company. Those threats are a lot more than ‘just’ tweets. Best wishes to Sulome here, and thanks for stepping up.”
● Casey Michel, a middling DC-based writer who has worked with US government-funded neoconservative groups from Freedom House to the Hudson Institute, and previously served with the US Peace Corps on Kazakhstan’s border with Russia, avidly promoted Sulome’s lawsuit in one of his many obsessive attempts to erroneously tie The Grayzone to Russian active measure campaigns.
Michel once pointed to The Grayzone social media posts emanating from Nicaragua as evidence that the outlet was a Nicaraguan government influence operation. He was unaware that assistant editor Ben Norton lives in and therefore posts from the Central American country.
Still no idea who's funding that pro-Assad/pro-Kremlin/pro-Maduro Grayzone Project site… but someone's running their social media operations from Nicaragua. pic.twitter.com/kEbIAm70Rv
— Casey Michel 🇰🇿 (@cjcmichel) April 27, 2020
● Playboy White House correspondent and CNN analyst Brian Karem sent Anderson his “unwavering support.” Karem became a mini-celebrity after a juvenile verbal fight in which he dared former Donald Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka to take the argument “outside.”
● Far-right gamer and Donald Trump-supporting YouTube personality Ian Miles Cheong sent Anderson “godspeed.”
● Trotskyite academic and regime-change cheerleader Michael Karadjis, effused, “Good luck Sulome, they need their arses burnt on this.” Karadjis previously expressed effusive support for the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra (JaN), describing the Salafi-jihadist extremists as “decent revolutionaries” and declaring, “Attacking JaN is a way of attacking the revolution.”
● Full-time neocon online troll Ben Gidley (Bob from Brockley), a pro-Israel advocate and regime-change lobbyist who blogs and vandalizes the Wikipedia articles of left-wing, anti-war journalists and politicians under the pseudonym BobFromBrockley.
● Michael Weiss, a neoconservative regime-change operative, editor of The Daily Beast tabloid and US government-funded Coda Story, and faux Syria-Russia expert. Despite obsessing over Blumenthal’s every move, Weiss curiously did not mention Sulome’s lawsuit. However, the neocon proposed a strikingly similar legal fishing expedition against Blumenthal just days before Sulome first vowed to sue him and Norton.
While fever-brained neocon operative @michaeldweiss might know a thing or two about coordinating with governments, I can do research on my own and wouldn't even know who to ask in the Nicaraguan govt for background on an opposition publicist who'd already been widely exposed. pic.twitter.com/QXD5ipj5Fp
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) October 3, 2018
A day in court with Sulome’s ultra-Zionist lawyer
When Sulome Anderson headed from her new home base in Toronto, Canada to Washington, DC Superior Court in July 2019, she was drunk on her own sense of entitlement – and apparently a few bottles of merlot, as she tweeted about sitting up all night guzzling wine after her flight was delayed.
Sulome seemed confident her appearance would complete the threat she had previously tweeted at Ben Norton: “I’ll destroy him.”
Accompanying her in the courtroom was Stuart Newberger, a balding, gray-bearded veteran of various high-profile terrorism lawsuits sporting a rumpled jacket and hobbled by a limp.
A partner at Crowell & Moring, one of DC’s largest corporate law firms, Newberger earned renown spearheading the lawsuit by Sulome’s father, Terry Anderson, which raked in tens of millions of dollars in seized assets from an Iranian government that did not represent itself in court.
Newberger is also a member of Crowell & Moring’s Israel Practice, described on the firm’s website as “a multi-disciplinary group dedicated to facilitating the flow of Israel-related business opportunities and addressing Israel-related challenges.”
According to Newberger’s bio, “he has extensive contact with international organizations (such as the United Nations and the World Bank/IMF), executive and regulatory agencies (including the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission) and the U.S. Congress.”
Newberger had managed to prevent our friend and attorney, Bill Moran, from defending us by bizarrely naming him in the complaint. No claim or cause of action was actually alleged against Moran, who was not named a party to the suit; instead Newberger made random irrelevant and unprivileged defamatory remarks about him. So Moran’s partner, Arthur Hawgood, defended us instead.
Together with Moran, Hawgood successfully represented a Flint, Michigan mother and two clean water activists against a $3 million claim brought by a powerful public figure who sought to silence them.
Our “dimestore” legal advocates might not have enjoyed “extensive contact” with the IMF, State Department, or any other instruments of predatory American imperial power, but they were tenacious and committed to defending underdogs against powerful interests seeking to bully them into silence.
Moments before Hawgood rose to defend us in court, we whipped out a visual aid we had prepared a day before: a whiteboard displaying blown-up images of Sulome’s since-deleted tweets citing her imaginary “Hezbollah source.”
While Newberger grumbled about the display, Judge Jackson peered at it intently for a full minute, seemingly absorbing the enormity of Sulome’s gaffe.
Judge William Jackson was a veteran of the DC bench who seemed more accustomed to ruling on prosaic local disputes than frivolous, hyper-politicized media lawsuits.
As the hearing began, Jackson expressed exasperation with Sulome’s legal action, commenting, “I don’t think anyone expected to see a journalist using libel law to try to sue another journalist in a local court.”
Hawgood’s defense was a compact, clinical, and straightforward dissection of the gaping holes and contradictions in Sulome’s lengthy initial complaint, along with a recitation of the many documented errors she had made throughout her brief stint as a journalist.
It was all we needed to demonstrate that her lawsuit was about as legitimate as Hilaria Baldwin’s Spanish accent.
Newberger, for his part, descended into a rambling, angry recitation of Sulome’s bonkers complaint, which attempted to hold us responsible for tweets by an assortment of accounts we did not control and with whom we had no association.
Because he had no evidence of any conspiracy, Newberger sternly lectured a clearly perplexed Judge Jackson on the urgent need to give him discovery so he could find the proof of that which did not exist nor which he could even plausibly plead.
When Jackson pointed out that we had no acquaintance or contact with the Twitter “John Doe’s” cited in Sulome’s complaint, Newberger countered that we allegedly failed to denounce their comments, and that we should therefore be held liable for inspiring them – more McCarthyite logic.
As Newberger’s argument went off the rails, Jackson glanced again at the whiteboard display containing Sulome’s discredited claims of Iranian attacks on Israel.
“Can you not understand why people might have been upset with your client for putting out false information like this?” he asked Newberger.
During Newberger’s histrionics, Sulome sat back in the court gallery, twirling her hair with a vacant look on her face. The out-of-town heiress had wantonly abused a city court, wasting its resources to advance her personal and political vendettas. As her case collapsed in real time before her eyes, she seemed utterly oblivious.
Sulome’s December 2018 comment began to take on new meaning: “I’m not stupid enough to take it this far without legal grounds.”
While awaiting decision, more suspect sources and silly Hezbollah stories
Months went by without a decision. Then the pandemic hit, virtually grinding non-essential courtroom business to a halt. During the interregnum between our July 2019 hearing and the June 2021 decision, we continued about our business, reporting from the field, publishing investigative articles and video documentaries, and growing our audience at The Grayzone.
For her part, Sulome kept up her penchant for embarrassing gaffes inspired by her bogus sources in Hezbollah, and likely, the Lebanese “semigangster” fixer, Dergham Dergham, who arranged them for her at a high price.
As usual, Sulome claimed inside access to Hezbollah fighters boasting about their plans for an imminent war on Israel. Among her supposed sources was “the leader of a Hezbollah special forces unit active in Syria.”
Desperate to maintain her credibility, Sulome published an uncredited photo atop the article showing the supposed fighters she claimed to have interviewed. It showed four shabbily attired, masked young men seated around a hookah, with one sporting a tattoo sleeve – not exactly a sign of the piety demanded by Hezbollah’s leadership.
Rania Masri, a Beirut-based Lebanese academic, took to Twitter to challenge Sulome’s sourcing. “Those men are cousins of a friend of mine,” Masri declared. “They aren’t related to Hezbollah in any way, and were just posing for fun. PLUS they were never interviewed by any FP journalist! They were surprised to see that private picture of theirs made public!”
Lebanese paper @AlakhbarNews mocks Sulome Anderson’s latest @ForeignPolicy piece, arguing there’s no way she actually talked to (tattooed!) members of Hezbollah. People in Lebanon laugh at these western articles claiming to have interviewed Hezbollah https://t.co/uZ7awn6SRK
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) September 6, 2019
As’ad Abukhalil, a professor at California State University Stanislaus and Lebanese political commentator, noted that Sulome’s article had become a source of mockery and derision among Lebanon’s commentariat.
People in Lebanon are really making fun of this hilarious article. Look at the picture of what she calls: “A group of Hezbollah infantry fighters take a break near the group's military base in Hermel”. They swear she met hashish smokers from the area. https://t.co/kzaXg3aDhM
— asad abukhalil أسعد أبو خليل (@asadabukhalil) September 5, 2019
Following her latest journalistic debacle, Sulome signed on to teach a “master class” on “international reporting in today’s media environment” for Pandemic University, a self-described “pop-up writing school” sponsored by an assortment of mainstream media institutions.
Sulome was ultimately unable to make good on her commitment, however, and could not explain why.
In a bizarre, apparently last-minute statement announcing the cancellation of her course, Sulome conceded that she did not have “much in the way of plans, and no real understanding of how I want my life to look yet.”
Rather than fulfill her commitment to the quarantined students that had signed up for her class, she stated, “I feel the familiar nagging urge to flail about, pitch stories, find dates to pencil in my schedule—the drive to insert myself back into that low current of unease and unhappiness, which has been so familiar to me my entire working life.”
Sometime in mid-2019, Sulome inexplicably removed her name from the December 2018 Medium postannouncing her lawsuit, retitling it “A Case for Safety and Press Freedom,” and using as the new byline a dangerous firecracker that rapidly burns out: “RomanCandle.”
Perhaps after months of waiting and reflection, Sulome accepted the inevitability of the ignominious defeat that she had failed to sense at the very onset of her boneheaded lawfare campaign.
Finally, on June 16, 2021, Judge William Jackson slammed the door on Sulome’s crusade against The Grayzone with an airtight decision rejecting her complaint.
Jackson not only blasted Sulome’s desperate assertions of conspiracy as “tenuous”; in an especially ice cold passage, he implied that she was, in fact, a terrible journalist who had no basis for taking her critics to court.
“Indeed, the defendants called the plaintiff sloppy and irresponsible – but the statements that the defendants made were in response to an article which the plaintiff wrote which contained factually incorrect information. That is not and cannot be defamation,” the judge concluded.
Forged in an atmosphere of pure entitlement, where nepotism and influence can be marshaled to compensate for the absence of talent and grit, personalities like Sulome learn to view the world around them as a game rigged in their favor.
With “plenty of resources” at her disposal, and an army of “real journalists” and neoconservative operatives egging her on, she seemed certain of success, regardless of the law or the merits of her case.
In the end, the “dimestore bullshit” lawyers dealt a painful blow to her legal “big boys,” exposing her case – and her journalistic record – as a colossal sham.
We hope that this saga will serve as an example to anyone who seeks to destroy The Grayzone through similarly conniving campaigns of McCarthyite lawfare.
Featured image: File Photo
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.
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Benjamin Norton is the founder and editor of the independent news website Multipolarista, where he does original reporting in both English and Spanish. Benjamin has reported from numerous countries, including Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Colombia, and more. His journalistic work has been published in dozens of media outlets, and he has done interviews on Sky News, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now, El Financiero Bloomberg, Al Mayadeen teleSUR, RT, TRT World, CGTN, Press TV, HispanTV, Sin Censura, and various TV channels in Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Benjamin writes a regular column for Al Mayadeen (in English and Spanish). He was formerly a reporter with the investigative journalism website The Grayzone, and previously produced the political podcast and video show Moderate Rebels. His personal website is BenNorton.com, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
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