What would you say if I told you that over $500M worth of American taxpayer money went to create fake terrorist propaganda? You might think that would make a great movie, but this is real life and that’s exactly what happened.
The Pentagon hired the PR Firm, Bell Pottinger, right after the US invasion of Iraq to conduct Psychological Operations. The firm ended up creating fake Al-Qaeda videos in Iraq in a secret propaganda campaign, among other work. Bell Pottinger is a controversial firm out of the UK who has clients such as Saudi Arabia, Pinochet’s foundation, and the wife of Syrian President Assad. The purpose was Psychological Operations. In some cases they produced videos showing Al-Qaeda in a negative light. In other cases they wrote scripts for Arabic television shows in which main characters rejected forms of terrorism and then had positive outcomes. In their more controversial work, they created fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos on CDs and soldiers would drop them into homes when conducting home searches. These CDs would use real-player, which needs an internet connection to play. When these videos were played, the code embedded in them would alert a US military run Google Analytics account that would let the military know the IP address and location of the individual viewing the CD. Some of these CDs even found themselves in the United States.
Bell Pottinger reported to the CIA, National Security Council, and the Pentagon on their secret projects. However, it was General David Petraeus that signed off on content produced by the firm, with the White House sometimes approving if the General didn’t. The Pentagon confirmed that Bell Pottinger was and is still a contractor but declined to comment because of the sensitive nature of the firm’s activities. However, they did say that the firm is contracted for the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force.
There’s been no confirmation on which videos are fake and which are real. The Middle East is ripe with conspiracy theories, with the idea that terrorist videos are produced by American intelligence being a long held one. How can we know which videos are real? Egyptian Christians being killed, Jihadi John cutting off heads, Arab Christians drowned in cages, terrorist training camps, even Bin Laden videos. Can we trust their authenticity?