You probably have already heard the allegations that the Reagan/Bush campaign undermined Jimmy Carter's election bid in 1980. But according to this extremely strange -- yet compelling -- story
, the first "get Carter" attempt by Bush the elder occurred at the beginning of Carter's term.
Remember, Bush was still Director of Central Intelligence during the 1976 election. As Bush vacated that position, he engineered a bizarre scheme to feed false and discrediting information to Carter -- using, as an unwitting cut-out, a young Daniel Sheehan, lawyer for the Jesuits, later to gain fame as the head of the Christic institute.
(Note: Yes, I know all about the Christic controversy, and would prefer not to rehash the details here. Today, our focus is elsewhere.)
Carter did not take the bait because the ploy involved allegedly "secret" information about flying saucers, a topic correctly seen as radioactive. But the clever, roundabout technique
of employed by the disinformationists deserves some scrutiny here. The method remains in play, and will continue to be utilized until journalists learn to recognize it on sight.
Maxwell Smart might have labeled it "The old look-but-don't-copy trick":
The tactic is simple. Colin Wallace, who used to run the trick when he was attached to the British Army’s psyops unit in Belfast back in the 1970s, called it the “double bubble.” Robin Ramsey, a British writer who has worked closely with Wallace, thus describes the gambit in his book Conspiracy Theories:
Wallace would take journalists, especially foreign journalists with a limited understanding of British politics, into a back room and show them ‘secret documents’ which they could read but not copy. Some of the documents were genuine, some forgeries. We have copies of some of the forgeries.
This is not an obscure matter for historians. The "double bubble" continues to play its part in the dissemination of false information.
(To read the rest, click "Permalink" below)
One journalist who, it has been alleged, has fallen for the double bubble ploy is Con Coughlin of the U.K. Seven years ago, the British Journalism Review described a number of stories, mostly concerning foreign affairs, affected by such ploys. That piece recounts an incident which should be more notorious, in which the Sunday Telegraph (the newspaper employing Coughlin) published a planted story about a putative counterfeiting scheme engineered by Libya's Colonel Gaddafi.
The Sunday Telegraph was served with a libel writ by Gadafy’s son. The paper was unable to back up its suggestion that Gadafy junior might have been linked to a fraud, but pleaded, in effect, that it had been supplied with the material by the Government. In a long and detailed statement, which entered the public domain in the course of a judgment given in an interlocutory appeal on 28 October 1998, the paper described how, under Charles Moore’s editorship, a lunch had been arranged with the then Conservative foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, at which Con Coughlin had been present. Told by Rifkind that countries such as Iran were trying to get hold of hard currency to beat sanctions, Coughlin was later briefed by an MI6 man – his regular contact. Some weeks afterward, he was introduced to a second MI6 man, who spent several hours with him and handed over extensive details of the story about Gadafy’s son. Although Coughlin asked for evidence, and was shown purported bank statements, the pleadings make clear that he was dependent on MI6 for the discreditable details about the alleged counterfeiting scam. He was required to keep the source strictly confidential.The beauty of a scheme like this is that when a lie is exposed as such, the public's anger goes to the journalist, not to his government agents planting the misinformation. That's why the "Look, but don't copy" rule is in place.
This portrait of Conrad Black's Daily Telegraph pictures that paper as a "serial victim" of such intelligence hoaxes:
In an equally inventive 1999 article, 'The Daily Telegraph' claimed that Osama bin-Laden was buying child slaves from Ugandan rebels and using them as forced labour on marijuana farms in Sudan in order to fund international terrorism... When asked about this claim, the British government stated they had seen no evidence for such allegations.When the histories of the Iraq war's origins are published, expect to see some spectacular examples of "double bubble" in action.