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Pentagon Spends Over 500 Million On Fake Al-Qaeda News Videos

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Pentagon Spends Over 500 Million On Fake Al-Qaeda News Videos

Pentagon Spends Over 500 Million On Fake Al-Qaeda News Videos
September 16
18:17 2019

The U.S. Pentagon awarded more than half a billion dollars to a British public relations company to wage psychological warfare in Iraq, according to two researchers who published their findings in the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in October 2016.

Bell Pottinger is the PR firm based in the UK which participated in a covert military operation “covered by various secrecy agreements,” revealed Lord Tim Bell, the outfit’s former chairman. The Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Council (NSC) received status reports on the Iraqi black operation.

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Using more than $660 million of U.S. taxpayer money, the Pentagon ordered Bell Pottinger to produce video shorts to air on Iraqi television between at least 2006 to December 2011. A former employee involved in the project said that the TV segments were “made in the style of Arabic news networks and fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them.”

The video project was authorized by General David Petraeus who was in charge of the coalition forces in Iraq at the time. In one documented case, the White House signed off on the video work product.

Bell contractors worked shoulder to shoulder with top U.S. military brass from the Camp Victory headquarters in Baghdad as violence raged outside. The company had helped craft former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s no-nonsense public image and contributed to three Conservative party wins in that country. Other high-profile clients included “repressive regimes and Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president.”

Former Bell video editor Martin Wells admitted that his experience in Iraq was “shocking, eye-opening, life-changing.” He claimed, “he had no idea what he was getting into when he was interviewed for the Bell Pottinger job in May 2006.”

The Pentagon shelled out, on average, more than $100 million annually for the production of fake propaganda news videos for broadcast in Iraq. The project began shortly after U.S. troops invaded Iraq which was suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction. In March 2004, the first PR assignment from Iraq’s interim leaders was for the “promotion of democratic elections” which was termed a “high-profile activity.”

It didn’t take long for the public relations firm’s duties to focus on producing three kinds of products:

  1. Television commercials that gave a negative impression of al Qaeda.
  2. News items fabricated to appear as if they had been “created by Arabic TV.” Bell Pottinger dispatched crews to film low-definition video of al Qaeda bombings before editing it to look like a piece of real news footage. Arabic voices were dubbed in and the completed video product was then distributed to television stations in the area.
  3. Fake al Qaeda propaganda films copied onto CDs using al Qaeda’s footage. According to Wells, Bell employees were given precise instructions:

“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.”

U.S. Marines took the fake film CDs on raids and distributed them as they passed through:

“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,” said Wells.

The independent investigators combed through U.S. Army contracting censuses, federal procurement transaction records and reports by the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General, and Bell Pottinger’s corporate filings and specialist publications on military propaganda to determine that Bell Pottinger “produced reams of material for the Pentagon, some of it going far beyond standard communications work.”

One military contractor who knew about Bell’s Pentagon job in Iraq revealed that the three types of media operations deployed there were color-coded:

“White is attributed, it says who produced it on the label. Grey is unattributed and black is falsely attributed. These types of black ops, used for tracking who is watching a certain thing, were a pretty standard part of the industry toolkit.”

Bell Pottinger is under new management, effective 2012 after a management buyout. Employees there today have “no connections with the unit that operated in Iraq, which closed in 2011.”

Playable on the streaming video app Real Player, the PR 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.” This information was delivered to only three people: Wells, a senior member of the Bell Pottinger management team, and one of the U.S. military commanders.

Bell’s fake news CDs were tracked not only in Iraq but in Iran, Syria, and America.

As many as 300 British and Iraqi staff were hard at work making fake videos at the height of the project. The investigators into Bell Pottinger’s Pentagon contract also determined that, between 2006 and 2008, the Pentagon contracted with over 40 companies for “services such as TV and radio placement, video production, billboards, advertising, and opinion polls.”

Glen Segell was employed in an information operations task force in Iraq in 2006 and said that the military hired contractors because they lacked the means to do so internally and because they knew they were straying into a legal “grey area.”

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  1. CK
    CK September 17, 18:47

    Sonds like a good concept. It’s just unfortunate that myopic “journalists” like to reveal security secrets.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Ed
    Ed September 17, 19:20

    A new take on an old concept. Propaganda has been in continuous use by the military of many countries for centuries. Now, it has just gone digital.

    Reply to this comment
  3. JoeyP
    JoeyP September 17, 20:04

    I believe in Psychological warfare, but isn’t this a BIT MUCH $$$? . . . Team Trump and his allies 2020.

    Reply to this comment

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