The Pentagon has been exposed as having paid a PR firm $540 million to manufacture fake terrorism videos from Iraq, it has been revealed.
An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that PR firm Bell Pottinger – who has previously worked on behalf of the Saudi government and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s foundation – worked with the US military to create the propaganda in a secretive operation.
Bell Pottinger worked alongside the CIA, the National Security Council and the Pentagon on the project in order to portray Al-Qaeda in a negative light and track suspected sympathizers.
Furthermore, it was reported that both the White House and General David Petraeus, the former general who shared classified information with his mistress, signed off on the content produced by the agency.
Bell Pottinger was reported to have started its propaganda work for the CIA soon after the invasion of Iraq.
The firm also created fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos, which were then planted by the military in homes they raided.
Former employee of Bell Pottinger, Martin Wells used to work as a video editor for the firm and told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that those working on behalf of the firm were given specific instructions to create the videos.
“We need to make this style of video and we’ve got to use Al-Qaeda’s footage,” Wells was told. “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 fake terrorism videos were created to play on Real Player which needs an internet connection to run. This was so that the CDs could be embedded with a code linking to Google Analytics, which then enabled the military to track the IP addresses that the videos were played on.
The videos were picked up in Iran, Syria and the US. Documents show the Pentagon paid $540 million to Bell Pottinger in contracts between 2007 and 2011, with another contract for $120 million in 2006.
The Pentagon confirmed the PR firm did work for them under the Information Operations Task Force (IOTF) creating content but claimed the content was ‘truthful’.
However, this is not the only time that the US has been exposed as using PR firms to further its agenda.
In 2009, it was reported that the Pentagon had hired PR firm, The Rendon Group, to monitor the reports of journalists to assess whether they were giving “positive” coverage to its missions.
Furthermore, in 2005 PR company the Lincoln Group, had been placing articles in newspapers in Iraq which were secretly written by the US military. A Pentagon investigation cleared the group of any wrongdoing.
The firm also created fake Al-Qaeda propaganda videos, which were then planted by the military in homes they raided. At the same time, they would regularly send crews of cameramen to film bombings and edit it to make it look like news footage. These videos would then be broadcast on US and Arabic television.
US law prohibits the government from creating fake propaganda videos, which is why it used an external PR agency.
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