In an explosive report, is has come to light that the US government paid a Public Relations firm from the UK, more than half a billion dollars to make fake terrorist videos spread a propaganda. In a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, it revealed, “The Pentagon gave a controversial UK PR firm over half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda programme in Iraq.” Bell Pottinger, the PR firm named, has been quite notoriously famous for its array of controversial clients which include the government of Saudi Arabia and Augusto Pinochet, the dictator of Chile. This firm has reportedly worked with the military of the United States to start a propaganda in a secret operation. With an aim to portray the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, the PR firm sent its reports to the Pentagon, the CIA and also the National Security Council.
According to the report, the company produced “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.” Lord Tim Bell, the former chairman of the firm had reportedly informed The Sunday Times, that they worked on a “covert” military operation “covered by various secrecy agreements.” The operations reportedly started just after the US invasion of Iraq and were initially supposed to work on the promotions of ‘democratic elections’. Martin Wells, a former employee of the firm, said that he joined the company as a video editor but soon had to go to Iraq to edit content for ‘psychological operations’. They made scripts of soap operas in Arab countries and the characters rejected terrorism. It also made fake Al-Qaeda videos that were planted in raided homes.
The videos needed internet to play, and the CDs in which they were put, had a code which linked to Google Analytics. This method allowed the military to track the IP address of the computers where the videos were played. The videos according to the former employee were also presented in Syria, Iran and even in the US. Though the Pentagon confirmed that it worked with the PR firm under Information Operations Task Force, it refused to comment on the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force (JPOTF). According to US law, the government is prohibited from using propaganda on the population.
According to the documents acquired by the Bureau, Pentagon paid $660 million to the PR firm in many contracts between 2006 and 2011, after which it stopped. Interestingly, the government reportedly hired another PR firm in 2009 to look at the reporting of embedded journalists to see if they are giving ‘positive’ coverage.