Pentagon pays U.K. PR firm $540 million to create terrorist propaganda

A United States marine drapes the face of a statue of Sadaam Hussein with an American flag April 2003.

Photo courtesy of sfgate.com

A United States marine drapes the face of a statue of Sadaam Hussein with an American flag April 2003.

Crystian Mendoza, Sports Editor

The United States Pentagon is currently under fire for allegedly spending $540 million on fake terrorist propaganda videos that were being made by a European public relations firm which were then used by the media to propagate terrorism.

Investigations by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) revealed Oct. 2 that the U.S. Pentagon paid over half a billion dollars to a British public relations firm who offered the service of providing fabricated media of terrorist propaganda.

The stories emerged through the work of the non-profit news organization that published a report regarding an investigation into the matter.

The report contained information on a “top secret” propaganda program in Iraq during the U.S. led war, which included videos produced by the London-based public relations firm, Bell Pottinger.

After this was discovered, it prompted an investigation into how much money was used on behalf of the Pentagon for the particular services for which they contracted the European public relations firm.

“Some of these activities involved contracting communications firms, [that] include Bell Pottinger, to produce media products to advance these objectives,” as stated by a U.S. defense official who chooses to remain anonymous.

The media that was being produced was everything from billboards, public service announcements, television news programming, and newspaper articles that were intended to negatively portray al-Qaeda to the Iraqi people.

The TBIJ based their report on over half a dozen interviews they had with former officials and contractors involved in intelligence operations in Iraq, as well as interviews with Bell Pottinger employee, Martin Wells.

Other sources the news organization used were the standard U.S. Army contracting consensus, federal procurement transaction records, reports by the Department of Defense Inspector General, and even Bell Pottinger’s own corporate filings and specialist publications on military propaganda.

These interviews revealed that Bell Pottinger was to create three different types of videos. The first were commercials that were used to make Al-Qaeda appear to be extreme terrorists.

The second were news pieces that were produced to look like they were “created by Arabic TV,” Wells said.

He told TBIJ that Bell Pottinger would send out teams to shoot footage of Al-Qaeda bombings and then edit them to look like news pieces. Teams went as far as to voice the videos in Arabic to give the impression that they were from a legitimate news source.

Most of the news articles produced were kept secret, but in 2005 it was revealed that the public relations contractor, the Lincoln Group, helped the Pentagon place the articles in Iraqi newspapers.

This ultimately led to a DoD investigation on the manner, because the articles were being placed in Iraqi news and they were often presented as unbiased when in actuality they were the exact opposite.

The third and final product produced by Bell Pottinger was probably the most expensive, and most controversial: the production of Al-Qaeda short films.

Wells told the TBIJ that he was given precise instructions on how to create the videos, with directions going as far as requesting a 10-minute time frame, a specific file format, and it even needed to be encoded a certain way.

According to Wells, U.S. Marines would take the films that were made and they would drop them in areas they were patrolling and intentionally leave behind a CD to be found containing “terrorist” activities.

“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.

Through the TBIJ’s report, they were able to identify that $540 million was paid to the firm for “informational and psychological operations” between 2007-2011.

This report states the U.S. spent nearly $120 million a year for the services that Bell Pottinger was providing for the Pentagon.

The TBIJ’s report on the manner cannot confirm that the U.S. actually paid $540 million to Bell Pottinger, because a U.S. government database puts that number more along the lines of $279,206,834 between 2008 and 2011.

Though not able to pinpoint the exact amount of money that was spent on these propaganda videos, the report, interviews with Wells and other former officials and contractors clearly prove the Pentagon is spending a vast amount of taxpayer money.