In this instalment, we discuss Judy Miller & David Kelly, and we discuss the possibility of a 'Goebbels-type' propaganda unit in the US which Barton describes as "deadly serious and very very, sinister."
Luke Ryland: I presume that you came across Judy Miller
Rod Barton: Yes - I know Judy Miller quite well
LR: Your thoughts?
RB: I’d rather not comment
LR: OK... Some of my friends are curious about the relationship between David Kelly and Judy
RB: Well - they certainly met quite frequently - just as Judy and I met. You see, officially, David Kelly, Dick Spertzel, Hamish Killip and I were the team that discovered Iraq's biological program. Judith Miller was very interested in what we were doing - and the UN gave her permission to interview us - and she wrote a major front page article in the NYT about us. That's how we got to know her.
LR: When was that?
RB: 1996, I think. We discovered the biological weapons program in 1995 - and so we were told to cooperate. It was good publicity for the UN. Judith continued to talk to us on several matters after that and of course we feature in her book Germs. So we continued to have contact with her - and David became friendly with her, as did I. We were all in New York and she'd often ask us about various things - if we were working for the UN we wouldn’t tell her because we didn’t want to lose our jobs - but she'd sometimes ask us about other countries - just to seek our technical expertise - on Libya or Iran or North Korea or whatever, and we were often in a position to comment because of our technical expertise. We were often used in that way - and I think that was a relationship that continued through. Certainly with me - and I think also with David. Sometimes the two of us, David and I, we'd have dinner with her, or lunch if we were all in town together. It wasn’t uncommon - and I assume, but don’t know, that is all there was to that relationship - and I don’t know any more than that.
LR: OK - there were emails that they exchanged on his final morning - where Judy mentioned that he had some fans who were interested in how his testimony went - do you have any idea, or can you say, who she was talking about?
RB: No (laughs)
LR: (laughs) I thought that might be your answer - just thought I’d ask!
LR: OK - I presume that you followed fairly closely when those mobile trailers were found in Iraq, and some of the reporting that came out of that period. There were a lot of odd leaks regarding the White Paper and the Jefferson Project and whatnot - and Judy was trying to sell the trailers as being weapons labs and so on - do you have any comment about how the CIA could even allow that dodgy reporting to occur, and how that came about?
RB: Well.... this is a very curious thing - and it's not just about Judy Miller, but also other reporters getting information - sometimes from the CIA - both pre and post war. There was some very curious reporting - and you've got to wonder 'where does this information come from?'
Because the sort of information that comes out, I have to say, is usually supportive of the administration. Other information that is not supportive of the administration, well, you don’t see it in the reporting, and you don’t see it in the leaks from the CIA. So you have to ask yourself 'is someone orchestrating this?'
I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything - but I have to say that I have wondered about this on a number of occasions. Again it's not just Judith Miller but a number of others seem to get 'official information' from the CIA, or someone, somewhere in Washington, anonymous sources that can't be named for various reasons. But who are these people? It can’t possibly be just one person - but it seems like there are a few people orchestrating this whole thing.
I have doubts that the agency can leak like that - because there are polygraph tests and all that - you can't leak information and pass a polygraph test. You know, there are a lot of CIA agents who are anxious to show me things they shouldn’t show me - even though I’m cleared to see it - because the question may come up 'have you shown any foreign national?' - So for them to give something to a journalist, unofficially - I’m not sure that would happen.
LR: But it sure does look like it a lot, doesn’t it?
RB: Well, yes - especially when it all happens in one direction. It makes me wonder - and I’m cautiously speculating - I have no evidence - but there may very well be a propaganda unit - within the CIA and other agencies. It must be within the US administration somewhere. So it appears that there's a propaganda unit that 'leaks' selectively information to certain journalists to spin a certain line that supports the administration. If that is true, it is very, very serious.
LR: (laughs) There aren’t many who would argue with you, I don’t think
RB: Well - if it’s true, then the American people are officially being hoodwinked. This is more serious than the American president saying something with a spin on it. These papers like Washington Post, NY Times, LA Times - well known and respected newspapers are reporting something that might falsely influence the American people - that’s propaganda. And it is illegal, and it is very sinister - it must be illegal if it is true. But I have to say, I’ve watched this fairly carefully, not just with Judy Miller - but with other journalists as well and I think 'who is this source that they are quoting? Why is information of this nature coming out?' And it’s hard to come to any other conclusion - but it must be a possibility that this is true - I have to be careful about how I phrase that.
LR: Well - there was the White House Iraq Group that did a lot of that of that. They had the job of selling the war in Iraq.
RB: Was there? I don't know of them.
You know, it's one thing for politicians to come out and say various things that we might not accept as true - but at least they’re saying it publicly - they aren’t leaking it and trying to influence public opinion per se. But this is different - if they are leaking it to journalists, officially - this is trying to influence public opinion in a certain direction - it's sinister!
LR: Well - a lot of us bloggers watch it closely every day - and we have no doubt that it goes on. In fact, we watch it happen and dissect it in real-time.
RB: Well, to an innocent like me, and I've been in the system for a long time, it's a shock! I dare say you may believe it - but I’m also coming to that conclusion myself. I'm deeply suspicious that it is true. And if it is true, then why aren’t more people writing about it? Why aren’t more people concerned? It’s very weird - I don’t think it occurs in Australia, for example, and probably not in the UK. If it occurs in the US, the American people should be very, very concerned about this. If there's actually a propaganda unit, you could almost say a Goebbels type unit, but I prefer not to use that analogy, influencing American public policy and opinion - this is deadly serious and very, very sinister - and they should all be very concerned if that is true.
LR: Of course - and the same message gets cycled around the world.
RB: Especially when it comes through prestigious newspapers like the NYT and Washington Post and LATimes - people listen when those newspapers report something...
Look, there are legitimate things that can be done to influence public opinion, and then there are things that are flat-out wrong. And selective leaking of bits of information, especially when it is dodgy information, and it's presented as being from some deep source within the CIA, that is just plain wrong. It's different if you are open and transparent about it, for example a politician speaking in public - that’s what politicians do - but what I'm talking about is a lot more sinister than that.
LR: Right - we came to this propaganda discussion when I asked about how the reporting was rolled out about those mobile trailers, and how they were able to go through two or three different iterations in which the trailers were positively ID'd as being for WMD - which enabled George Bush to say "We have found WMDs" and then the White Paper was post-dated for the following day so that his statement was somehow 'technically true'!
RB: These trailers make me so angry. As you know there were opposing views from the different teams that investigated them - but you don’t need to be an expert to know that they had nothing to do with biology. I first saw them on TV - and I was immediately suspicious. The whole thing looked very, very odd to me. You don't need to be an expert to very rapidly come to the conclusion that they weren't for biological weapons. There was also a mountain of paperwork that demonstrated that they had nothing to do with weapons - there is an operators manual about how to produce hydrogen, there is the contract for the manufacture of the trailers which specifies that they were to produce hydrogen and so on. There’s no question that is what the trailers did, and if you turned the trailers on, guess what, they produced hydrogen!
My friend Hamish Killop said 'We shouldn't even be having a discussion about what they are for - it's bleedingly obvious'
LR: You mentioned that there were in fact some opposing views though.
RB: Well, there were some people who wanted to believe that they were biological, and they wrote the report that way, but everyone very quickly realised that they were not. This is even before they had the benefit of seeing the documentation. Once you have the documentation, you can convince anybody. In fact, I did - I convinced General Dayton. There was a lot of conflict between the CIA team leader and the engineers on this.
The team leader - who had no experience in any of this technology - she was not even an engineer, she said "I don't know what they are for, therfore I can't dismiss the possibility that they are not hydrogen generators."
I said "This is absurd. You acknowledge that you aren't an expert, you are not an engineer, and the engineers are saying that this is nonsense"
She finally acknowledged that to me, privately, that it was almost impossible for her to say that the trailers were not biological. She said "I just can't say that" - and I told her that I couldn't really understand why it was so difficult.
LR: Right - she was obviously just buying time - and in the meantime these trailers were still being identified as biological on the front pages of the newspapers, as well as in speeches by key members of the administration.
RB: As I say, the whole thing is outrageous. I discuss this episode in detail in my book.
Astute readers will note that I have previously quoted the last bit of that interview about the Mobile Labs in Part Three of the interview. It seemed to make sense to include it here as well.
For the record, I will also note that the UK did indeed have a propaganda unit called Operation Mass Appeal. From DefenseTech:
"And as a bonus at the end of this short paper, Leitenberg reveals that Scott Ritter was pulled into a British intelligence op called "Operation Mass Appeal" run by MI6 in 1997. The purpose of "Operation Mass Appeal" was to leak weak and not "actionable" data about Iraq's WMD program to the media, who would fall upon it like hungry wolves and keep alive the public impression that Saddam had an active WMD program, despite the lack of official government endorsement. Leitenberg notes that the disinformation operation functioned similar to the DOD Office of Special Plans, but didn't involve disinformation regarding the Iraqi mobile BW production vehicle"And if I'm not mistaken there was another UK propaganda unit to sell the 2003 Iraq invasion, but the name escapes me at the moment. called Operation Rockingham. see below.
update from the comments:
Operation Rockingham (or the Rockingham cell).
From a Guardian interview with British Member of Parliament Michael Meacher:
In an interview in the Scottish Sunday Herald in June, Ritter said: "Operation Rockingham [a unit set up by defence intelligence staff within the MoD in 1991] cherry-picked intelligence. It received hard data, but had a preordained outcome in mind. It only put forward a small percentage of the facts when most were ambiguous or noted no WMD... It became part of an effort to maintain a public mindset that Iraq was not in compliance with the inspections. They had to sustain the allegation that Iraq had WMD [when] Unscom was showing the opposite."