Operation Mass Appeal
Operation Mass Appeal was an operation set up by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in the runup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was a campaign aimed at planting stories in the media about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. The existence of the operation was exposed in December 2003, although officials denied that the operation was deliberately disseminating misinformation. The MI6 operation secretly incorporated the United Nations Special Commission investigating Iraq's alleged stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) into its propaganda efforts by recruiting UN weapons inspector and former MI6 collaborator Scott Ritter to provide copies of UN documents and reports on their findings to MI6.
Former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter revealed in his book, Iraq Confidential (2005), the existence of an MI6-run psychological warfare effort, known as Operation Mass Appeal. According to Ritter: "Mass Appeal served as a focal point for passing MI6 intelligence on Iraq to the media, both in the UK and around the world. The goal was to help shape public opinion about Iraq and the threat posed by WMD." MI6 propaganda specialists claimed they could spread the misinformation through "editors and writers who work with us from time to time".
Ritter, in an interview with Amy Goodman of the US news website Democracy Now!, described how he, as an arms inspector for the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction—and UNSCOM itself—became deeply involved in MI6's "Operation Mass Appeal":
I ran intelligence operations for the United Nations in regards to the disarmament of Iraq. That was my job. Part of this job in 1997 and 1998 took on a propaganda aspect, given the fact that we had launched a series of controversial and confrontational inspections in Iraq, which although successful from a disarmament standpoint in exposing aspects of the Iraqi account which were not accurate, were causing problems for the United Nations in the Security Council […] We made a decision. We, being Richard Butler, the Executive Chairman who ran UNSCOM, and his senior staff members, of which I was one, that we needed to clean up our public image, and we did a number of things […] [In December of 1997] I was approached by the British intelligence service, which I had, again, a long relationship with, of an official nature, to see if there was any information in the archives of UNSCOM that could be handed to the British, so that they could in turn work it over, determine its veracity, and then seek to plant it in media outlets around the world, in an effort to try to shape the public opinion of those countries, and then indirectly, through, for instance, a report showing up in the Polish press, shape public opinion in Great Britain and the United States.
I went to Richard Butler with the request from the British. He said that he supported this, and we initiated a cooperation that was very short-lived. The first reports were passed to the British sometime in February of 1998. There was a detailed planning meeting in June of 1998, and I resigned in August of 1998. [...] This is an operation — Operation Mass Appeal, that had been going on prior to UNSCOM being asked to be the source of particular data, and it’s an operation that continued after my resignation.
- Rufford, Nicholas (28 December 2003). "Revealed: how MI6 sold the Iraq war". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
- MI6 ran 'dubious' Iraq campaign, BBC, 21 November 2003
- Goodman, Amy (30 December 2003). "Scott Ritter: How the British Spy Agency MI6 Secretly Misled A Nation Into War With Iraq". http://www.democracynow.org. Democracy Now!. Retrieved 3 November 2014. External link in
- Revealed: how MI6 sold the Iraq war (The Sunday Times, 28 December 2003)
- Iraq confidential by Scott Ritter, Seymour M Hersh
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