Clockwork Orange (plot)
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Clockwork Orange is the name of the secret British security services project which was alleged to have involved a right-wing smear campaign against British politicians from 1974 to 1975. The black propaganda led Prime Minister Harold Wilson to fear that the security services were preparing a coup d'état. The operation takes its name from A Clockwork Orange, a 1971 Stanley Kubrick film based on an Anthony Burgess novel of the same name.
The project was undertaken by members of the British intelligence services and the British Army press office in Northern Ireland, whose job also included routine public relations work and placing disinformation stories in the press as part of a psychological warfare operation against the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
One of the project's members, Colin Wallace, who was the press officer at the Army Headquarters in Northern Ireland, also claims that in 1973, after MI5 became the primary intelligence service in Northern Ireland, the project began giving briefings to foreign journalists against members of Wilson's government. These briefings included distributing forged documents in an attempt to show that the victims were communists or Irish republican sympathisers leading a campaign to destabilise Northern Ireland or were taking bribes.
After his resignation, Wilson claimed that he was the target of a planned military coup. He also denounced a campaign to smear him staged by members of MI5 in order to force his resignation. According to journalist Barry Penrose, Wilson "spoke darkly of two military coups which he said had been planned to overthrow his government in the late 1960s and in the mid 1970s."
In January 1974 the British Army carried out Operation Marmion, the occupation of London's Heathrow Airport on the grounds of training for possible violent non-state actor activity at the terminal, without Wilson's foreknowledge. The operation was repeated on three more occasions in June, July and September. These military deployments were perceived as a practice run for a military takeover rather than an anti-terrorist exercise.
Other than Wallace's testimony, the primary evidence for the existence of the plot consisted of a series of handwritten notes taken by Wallace in meetings with other members of the plot. Journalists investigating Wallace's story had these notes analysed by a forensic scientist, and the results were found to be consistent with the notes having been taken contemporaneously.
In the House of Commons, on 30 January 1990, junior defence minister Archie Hamilton, admitted the existence of a proposed project called Clockwork Orange, although he went on to say that the project was never approved for operation and that there was no evidence that the proposed project involved a smear campaign against politicians.
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- Hansard, 30 January 1990, Column 108