Pentagon paid $540m to create fake terrorist videos: Report
The Bureau reports that PR firm Bell Pottinger made "fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them."
In a shocking expose by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Pentagon was caught paying $540m to a UK-based PR firm to allegedly create fake terrorist videos in Iraq.
The Bureau reports that PR firm Bell Pottinger made "short TV segments made in the style of Arabic news networks and fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them, according to a former employee."
The firm's former chairman Lord Tim Bell had confirmed to the Sunday Times, that his firm had worked on a "covert" military operation "covered by various secrecy agreements," according to the Bureau.
He added that Bell Pottinger reported to the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Council.
Photo: Martin Wells worked for Bell Pottinger in Iraq during 2006 to 2008
An ex-employee's account
Former employee Martin Wells told the Bureau he had no idea what he was getting into when he interviewed with Bell Pottinger in May 2006. He was working as a freelance video editor when he was called for an interview. He was told, "You'll be doing new stuff that'll be coming out of the Middle East."
Much to his surprise, he was flown to Baghdad to edit content for secret "psychological operations" at Camp Victory. He later found out that the PR firm was working for a US military intelligence operation and that he would be doing much more than just editing news footage.
Photo: Martin Wells inside Camp Victory
Describing his work profile, Wells told the Bureau:
"The work consisted of three types of products. The first was television commercials portraying Al Qaeda in a negative light. The second was news items which were made to look as if they had been "created by Arabic TV". Bell Pottinger would send teams out to film low-definition video of Al Qaeda bombings and then edit it like a piece of news footage. It would be voiced in Arabic and distributed to TV stations across the region.
The third and most sensitive programme was the production of fake Al Qaeda propaganda films. I was given precise instructions: "We need to make this style of video and we've got to use Al Qaeda's footage. We need it to be 10 minutes long, and it needs to be in this file format, and we need to encode it in this manner."
US marines would take the CDs on patrol and drop them in the chaos when they raided targets. If they're raiding a house and they're going to make a mess of it looking for stuff anyway, they'd just drop an odd CD there."
In order to track the videos, the CDs were embedded with a code linked to Google Analytics. The code allowed the military to track IP addresses that the videos were played on.
Wells said, the videos were picked up in Iran, Syria and the US.
"If one, 48 hours or a week later shows up in another part of the world, then that's the more interesting one. And that's what they're looking for more, because that gives you a trail," Wells said.
According to the Bureau, the Pentagon confirmed that they took help from the PR firm under the Information Operations Task Force (IOTF) to create "truthful" content. The firm also worked under the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF).
The Pentagon reportedly took help from the outside firm as US law prohibits the government from using propaganda on its population.
(All photos sourced from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism)
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