A new investigation by the Sunday Times and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that the Pentagon paid a PR Firm $540 million to produce fake terrorist videos as part of a massive propaganda campaign.
The U.K.-based PR firm, Bell Pottinger, was paid to create television segments in the style of Arabic news networks and to create fake insurgent videos, according to a former employee. The videos, which were approved by General David Petraeus, were used as fake propaganda to track down the people who watched them.
The firm’s former chairman, Tim Bell, confirmed the collaboration, which included the CIA, the Pentagon, and the National Security Council.
Bell said that the work was extremely secretive. The team was flown to film in Baghdad and were housed in a very secure building.
Video editor Martin Wells discussed the work with the Bureau, calling it “shocking, eye-opening, life-changing.” Wells said that they produced several different types of videos: television spots portraying al-Qaeda in a negative light, fake news segments intended to look like they were “created by Arabic TV,” and fabricated propaganda films made to look like they came from al-Qaeda.
For the third type of video, they were given very specific instructions: “We need to make this style of video, and we’ve got to use al-Qaeda’s footage,” Wells recalled. “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.”
The Bureau also stated that they “identified transactions worth $540 million between the Pentagon and Bell Pottinger for information, operations, and psychological operations on a series of contracts issued from May 2007 to December 2011.”
According to Wells, “the team embedded a code into the CDs which linked to a Google Analytics account, giving a list of IP addresses where the CDs had been played.”
The Pentagon has confirmed a relationship with Bell Pottinger, classifying their work under the Information Operations Task Force.