A detailed study of such disinformation techniques routinely used in the British press came to light. Its author,a former assistant editor of the Observer newspaper, had earlier published a long article in the British Journalism Review showing that
British journalists – and British journals – are being manipulated by the secret intelligence agencies, and I think we ought to try and put a stop to it.The whole article is well worth reading for the inside background knowledge it gives about the almost institutionalized presence of the British intelligence services in the British press. It also helps to throw new light on some present-day conundrums.
The manipulation takes three forms. The first is the attempt to recruit journalists to spy on other people, or for spies to go themselves under journalistic “cover”. This occurs today and it has gone on for years. It is dangerous, not only for the journalist concerned, but for other journalists who get tarred with the espionage brush. Farzad Bazoft was a colleague of mine on the London Observer when he was executed by Saddam Hussein for espionage. It did not, in a sense, matter whether he was really a spy or not. Either way, he ended up dead.
The second form of manipulation that worries me is when intelligence officers are allowed to pose as journalists in order to write tendentious articles under false names. Evidence of this only rarely comes to light, but two examples have surfaced recently – mainly because of the whistleblowing activities of a couple of renegade officers – David Shayler from MI5 and Richard Tomlinson from MI6.
The third sort of manipulation is the most insidious – when intelligence agency propaganda stories are planted on willing journalists, who disguise their origin from their readers. There is – or has been until recently – a very active programme by the secret agencies to colour what appears in the British press, called, if publications by various defectors can be believed, “I/Ops”. That is an abbreviation for Information Operations, and I am – unusually – in a position to provide some information about it.
Now that the war on terror is an international effort, and British intelligence co-operates with its "ally", the Russian FSB, is it too much to suppose that the present spate of articles and media reports on the "secret CIA prisons" supposedly located in countries of Eastern Europe - particularly Poland and Romania - and the ABC "revelations" about the "top al-Qaeda figures" allegedly held in Poland, are in some way another manifestation of "I/Ops" - though now on an international scale? As Marius Labentowicz has pointed out: "A question should be asked: - Who's lying here and who's playing all these...political games in the media?"