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.
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Chilcot ‘to spread the blame for Iraq war beyond Blair and co’: Former MI6 chief and officials in Foreign Office and MoD expected to be criticised
- Ex-foreign secretary Jack Straw expected to come under fire in report
- Others said to include Clare Short and ex-defence secretary Geoff Hoon
- Sir John told by grieving families to set publication date for his report
- 29 families desperate to know why Tony Blair took UK into 2003 conflict
The Chilcot report into the Iraq war is expected to criticise establishment figures beyond Tony Blair and his inner circle, it was reported last night.
A source said senior ministers and civil servants will come under fire including former foreign secretary Jack Straw – a key backer of the decision to go to war.
Others will include former international development secretary Clare Short – who opposed the war – ex-defence secretary Geoff Hoon and former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove, the source told The Guardian.
Killed: Private Michael Tench (left), 18, was killed by a roadside bomb in 2007, while Major Matthew Bacon (right), 34, died in a blast in Basra ten years ago
While many expected Sir John Chilcot’s long-awaited report to focus on Tony Blair and his advisers, officials within the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office will also find themselves under the spotlight.
The news emerged as Sir John was told by grieving families to set a publication date for his report today.
Lawyers acting for relatives have given him a 5pm deadline to announce that he will deliver his review by the end of December – or face a court battle.
Janice Procter, 53, whose son Private Michael Tench, 18, was killed by a roadside bomb in 2007, said: ‘I live Iraq every day, every second of my life, asking questions about what happened and I can’t get through.
‘If Chilcot does not set a date to publish the report it will be like pouring salt into our open wounds. He should not make us suffer this way.’
Inquiry chair: Many expected the report by Sir John Chilcot (above) to focus on Tony Blair and his advisers
Roger Bacon, whose son Major Matthew Bacon, 34, died in a blast in Basra ten years ago, said: ‘We feel like we have been strung along.
‘It is hurting now – it’s been going on long enough and we just want a date.’
Some 29 families are desperate to know why Tony Blair took Britain into the 2003 conflict but are frustrated at delays in releasing the £10million report – which has already taken six years.
They are preparing to launch a judicial review if the 76-year-old fails to respond by this evening.
Matthew Jury of McCue & Partners solicitors, which is representing relatives, said the families were angry at briefings from inquiry insiders to the media that Sir John was planning to urge patience.
Sir John has faced withering criticism from senior politicians, law chiefs and military top brass over his failure to publish his report.
Labour politicians: A source said senior ministers under Tony Blair (right) and civil servants will come under fire including former foreign secretary Jack Straw (left) – a key backer of the decision to go to war
He was accused by senior MPs of lacking a conscience for failing to give bereaved families the answers they had been promised.
But he has blamed hold-ups on the ‘Maxwellisation’ process, under which those who are criticised in the report are given a chance to respond beforehand.
Yesterday Lord Saville, who was chairman of the Bloody Sunday inquiry into the killing of 14 civilians in Derry during the Troubles, said letting those criticised see details before publication was a ‘very bad idea’.
The retired judge said: ‘The trouble with Maxwellisation is that… it’s never-ending. You give these people an opportunity to answer the criticism, but then what about the people who are making the criticism? It could in theory go on for ever.’
An Iraq inquiry spokesman said: ‘We intend to complete our task as quickly as possible… to ensure we deliver a report which will do justice to the gravity of the issues we have been examining.’
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