Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2524

Tory PR firm made Al-Qaida videos in Iraq for US spooks

This article is over 5 years, 10 months old
Issue 2524
A US airstrike on insurgents in Fallujah during the Iraq war. PR company Bell Pottinger was hired to produce fake insurgent videos
A US airstrike on insurgents in Fallujah during the Iraq war. PR company Bell Pottinger was hired to produce fake insurgent videos (Pic: US Marine Corps)

The US military paid a British PR firm over half a billion dollars in the wake of the 2003 Iraq invasion to create fake terrorist videos in a covert operation.

The company Bell Pottinger, founded by Timothy Bell, was hired by the US military to orchestrate a huge £412 million “covert” propaganda campaign in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

Staff from Bell’s agency were based in Baghdad to disseminate pro-coalition material across the airwaves.

It was a secretive operation.

Its work included scripting soap operas and providing footage for local Arabic news networks. It also involved distributing insurgent videos used to track the individuals who watched them.

The details of one of the firm’s biggest contracts emerged in US defence and procurement documents.

One video editor, Martin Wells, said the work involved the creation of fake Al-Qaida propaganda videos that were dropped by US forces when they raided targets. “We need to make this style of video and we’ve got to use Al-Qaida’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.”

These could subsequently be tracked when they were played on a computer. It would relay the viewers’ IP address back to a secure military site.

Initially the agency’s work was to encourage a high turnout in elections with advertising campaigns and public information bulletins.

But it was also involved in a secret propaganda campaign to promote the occupation’s agenda across the media.

The Bell Pottinger team produced news bulletins for local Arabic stations.The production values were “made to look like it was Arabic”.

It was part of an industrial information campaign. The company was employing almost 300 British and Iraqi staff at one point.

There were more than 50,000 civilian deaths in the country from 2007 to 2011.

Lord Timothy Bell
  1. Bell was Margaret Thatcher’s PR guru
  2. After serving as chairman of the advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, Bell founded his own agency, Bell Pottinger Group.Tony Blair nominated him for a peerage in 1998.

  3. Clients have included the Pinochet Foundation. The Saudi government hired Bell during an investigation into arms deal bribes. Bell advisesthe Bahraini government and Asma al-Assad,the Syrian president’s wife.

For the second year running, Lord David Blunkett has told how gutted he is that Labour members voted overwhelmingly for Jeremy Corbyn to lead “the party I love”.

Last week he wrote that he was “in despair at this catastrophe”.

Not so much despair that he turned down getting paid to write about it in the Daily Mail.

Free gin is nothing to virtual grouse at

The Tory party conference brings many pleasures. A fringe event called “From Poverty to Prosperity” was cancelled before the conference even kicked off.

But happily the Spectator magazine event went ahead. The flyer for “Solving Poverty the Conservative Way” points out that “Gin and Tonics will be served”.

Behind the steel barriers you can try your hand at grouse shooting, without harming a feather on their heads.

A virtual rifle range, courtesy of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation was available for delegates.

Though the “conservation” in the name may be just for show.

For the more environmentally concerned Tories there was the chance to harvest potatoes in virtual reality.

As pictured, this special treat was sponsored by McDonalds.

The Papers like to write inside stories about polticians to show access.

So the Times newspaper wrote, “Barack Obama complimented the prime minister on the number of female advisers and cabinet ministers in her team. ‘Great gender balance,’ he told Mrs May when she arrived with her entourage at the White House.”

May has never visited the White House.

More corruption in Lawrence murder

Duwayne Brooks, the key witness to the murder of Stephen Lawrence said he felt “betrayed” by Scotland Yard after discovering that it had rejected a witness protection request for him made by the officer in charge of the investigation.

Duwayne was with Stephen when he was killed by a racist gang in southeast London in 1993.

He has obtained police records that reveal that Detective Superintendent Bill Mellish urged colleagues in 1996 to protect him as he was preparing to give evidence in a private prosecution by Lawrence’s family of the youths accused of the murder.

Mellish wrote that the accused youths were “proven violent racists who are fully aware of the subject’s [Brooks’s] identity and appearance, his associates and his haunts. We have serious concerns for his safety and wellbeing.”

The application was refused. Duwayne, who was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, waited fearfully for weeks before the private prosecution opened at the Old Bailey.

Ooh, candidate has a Porsche

A Tory council candidate bragged that locals should vote for him because he had appeared on game shows and won a Porsche in a competition.

In a letter to voters ahead of a by-election for North Norfolk District Council, Andrew Livsey wrote, “I once won a Porsche 911 Car in a beer competition beating 17,000 others!

“I have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I have appeared on game shows. Most notably ‘Blind Date’, ‘Best of Blind Date’, and ‘Crystal Maze’.”

In the byelection—as in the game shows—he didn’t win.

SNP MP tries to buy a castle

SNP MP Chris Law is at the centre of an embezzlement investigation but is set to buy the £620,000 Inverquharity castle. He was detained by police last week and quizzed over alleged financial irregularities. Law is the third SNP MP caught up in police investigations into financial irregularities.

Natalie McGarry was charged with embezzlement and breach of trust.

Meanwhile, police are investigating property deals carried out on behalf of Edinburgh MP Michelle Thomson.

Child abuse inquiry chaos

The public inquiry into child sex abuse is in chaos after losing two lawyers.

The £100 million probe has been beset by problems from the start.

The most senior lawyer working for the inquiry, QC Ben Emmerson, has been suspended.

And it emerged a second lawyer, junior counsel Elizabeth Prochaska, quit after 15 months. The spralling inquiry has lost three chairs after being set up by Theresa May.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance