During the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, the CIA considered plans to secretly distribute videos of a Saddam Hussein look-alike having sex with a teenage boy. The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reports that the tape, which was never made, would have been designed to look like a hidden camera recording to discredit the Iraqi leader in advance of the U.S.-led invasion. Stein also reports, "The agency actually did make [but never released] a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests with boys, one of the former CIA officers recalled, chuckling at the memory." Pundits are understandably agog at the plans. Here are the details and the reaction.

  • More U.S. 'Homoerotic Tactics' Wired's Noah Shachtman points out, "it wasn't the only time American operatives attempted to use homoerotic tactics against its enemies in the Middle East. There were the nude human pyramids at Abu Ghraib. And before 9/11, the CIA tried to recruit a gay agent who could penetrate and compromise Al Qaeda's inner circle." He muses, "I wonder if that's how the rumor surfaced in the British press of al-Qaeda chiefs 'raping young male converts to shame them into becoming suicide bombers.'"
  • Why Plans Were Dropped   The Washington Post's Jeff Stein explains, "The ideas were patently ridiculous, said the other former agency officer. 'They came from people whose careers were spent in Latin America or East Asia' and didn't understand the cultural nuances of the region. 'Saddam playing with boys would have no resonance in the Middle East -- nobody cares,' agreed a third former CIA official with extensive experience in the region. 'Trying to mount such a campaign would show a total misunderstanding of the target. We always mistake our own taboos as universal when, in fact, they are just our taboos.'"
  • Were Other Tapes Faked?  Steve Watson of the conspiracy theory website Information Wars speculates, "This latest revelation bolsters evidence that the intelligence agencies, and perhaps more significantly, the military have been engaged in creating fake Bin Laden videos in the past."
  • Two Plans That Were Enacted   Jeff Stein reports: "Inserting fake 'crawls' -- messages at the bottom of the screen -- into Iraqi newscasts." And: "The single most effective 'information warfare' project, which originated in the Pentagon, was to send faxes and e-mails to Iraqi unit commanders as the fighting began, telling them their situation was hopeless, to round up their tanks, artillery and men, and go home. Many did."
  • What Was This Supposed to Accomplish? Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner rolls her eyes, "That way, there'd be no way the fascist dictator would ever get enough popular support to win a rigged election in which he was the sole candidate! There'd just be no way. Other ideas included fake news reports, fake news crawls, fake resignations, and actual wars."