Remember Kony 2012?
The bizarre campaign to thwart and capture warlord Joseph Kony will live in infamy for the layers of lies, deceit and confusion that tarnished what was seen as a positive effort.
But did you know there was a plan to use Angelina Jolie as a honeypot? Watch on to find out how this strange story gets even weirder.
Joseph Kony is a mass-murderer, war criminal, mystic, and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militia group formerly active in Uganda. A religious fundamentalist, Kony is infamous for his mass-recruitment of child soldiers, many of whom were kidnapped from their families and indoctrinated into the LRA to fight against various African governments. Kony himself is painted as a messianic figure, blessing his soldiers with anointed oils that supposedly protect them from bullets and the influence of demonic beings.
For many internet users, his name is a familiar one: In 2012, the campaign group Invisible Children Inc. released a documentary – Kony 2012 – detailing the warlord’s many crimes in an effort to raise awareness of the LRA outside of Uganda. The documentary’s sentimental tone, overblown and unfounded statistics, and patronizing treatment of the Ugandan government soon earned it a reputation as a meme, which ultimately came to a head when Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell suffered a public psychotic episode that tragically went viral the same year the documentary was released.
However, this is not to say that Russell’s work with Invisible Children was fruitless. In bringing Joseph Kony to the national stage, Kony 2012 set in motion a chain of events that few could have predicted. This leads us nicely to Luis Moreno Ocampo, the International Criminal Court, and former Tomb Raider Angelina Jolie.
For the uninitiated Angelina Jolie is an actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian activist. Over the course of a career that spans almost four decades, Jolie has starred in Girl, Interrupted, Wanted, the Tourist, Changeling, Maleficent, and of course the Kung Fu Panda franchise. She is also a renowned humanitarian, acting as a special envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a role that has her visit refugee camps in active war zones including Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Needless to say, Angelina Jolie is an incredibly influential person, which is probably why she was almost recruited by the International Criminal Court to lure Joseph Kony from his hiding place in the Ugandan jungle in a last-ditch effort to put the war criminal behind bars.
Betcha didn’t see that coming.
Sounds far-fetched I know, but to understand this plan better we must first talk about its mastermind: former prosecutor of the ICC Luis Moreno Ocampo. Moreno Ocampo is a famously dodgy fellow. In 2017, leaked emails found evidence that he had a multitude of off-shore accounts that he claimed were all above board. Somewhat more tellingly, it was revealed that Moreno Ocampo had passed sensitive information to Hassan Tatanaki, a Libyan business tycoon suspected of supporting infamous melted candle person Muammar al-Gaddafi. Indeed, in his nine years as prosecutor with the ICC, Moreno Ocampo failed to achieve a single conviction until two months before he left. This may have something to do with the fact that he was a real-life horned up legal Wile E. Coyote.
In 2017, the same email leak that exposed his dodgy dealings with Tatanaki also revealed plans to deploy a unique honeypot operation in the Central African Republic. The target of this operation was none other than Joseph Kony. The bait was Angelina Jolie.
The plan, Moreno Ocampo outlines in one leaked email, was for Angelina Jolie to “invite Kony to dinner, and then arrest him.” Moreno Ocampo stated in other emails that the idea was largely Jolie’s: “Forget other celebrities, she is the one. She loves to arrest Kony. She is ready.” He finishes this train of thought by suggesting that Jolie’s then partner Brad Pitt would also be up for the mission.
Judging by the tone of these emails it is clear that Moreno Ocampo was smitten with Jolie. He emailed her frequently, inviting her to become his personal advisor and even seeking her counsel on the results of a three-year inquiry into war crimes in Palestine. However, his interest in her was not entirely professional. After the release of In the Land of Blood and Honey, a harrowing tale about the Bosnian War that Jolie had written and directed, Moreno Ocampo got in touch again:
“I am in LA and I watched the movie again (4th time) . . . you are a genius. You did exactly what you said: a love story showing the war horrors. xx Luis.”
This back-and-forth continued until 2012 when, no doubt inspired by the recent publicity the LRA had received following the Invisible Children documentary, Moreno Ocampo devised a new plan: Jolie was to be embedded with the special forces group that were currently pursuing Joseph Kony through the Central African Republic. “It will be great to spend more time with the American troops,” he wrote in one email. “They are eager to get Kony, but after meeting you, they will do it.” Jolie then replied “Brad is being supportive. Let’s discuss logistics. Much love Xxx.”
It is important to note that at this time the friendship was not one-sided, and I cannot stress enough – Jolie deserves each of the accolades accorded to her. She was and is a devoted humanitarian worker, and I do not wish to undercut the important role she plays in publicizing and fighting against injustice.
However: still a bit weird.
Weirder still was the string of follow-up emails. It appears that no chat about logistics was had, and Jolie’s interest in responding to the prosecutor dwindled into awkward silence. When Jolie did not respond to a request for involvement in a charity project, Moreno Ocampo wrote “Dear Angie, I hope you are well. I miss you.” Jolie did not reply. A later leaked email sent by Moreno Ocampo to Jolie’s assistant during a period of illness reads “I realise how much I love her.” We now know the reason he emailed her assistant and not the woman herself is because Jolie had changed her private email address and had not shared it with Moreno Ocampo.
So what do we have here? A smitten senior prosecutor contrives a whacky scheme in order to spend more time with the most influential female performer of the early 2000s. Cut and dry, right?
You see, this isn’t the first time the international intelligence community has attempted to use stardom for the purposes of manipulating the global scene. Sticking with our mate Moreno Ocampo for a moment, further leaked emails suggest a 2011 plan to rope George Clooney, husband of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, into a plot to spy on the aforementioned wax golem Colonel Gadaffi. When Clooney refused, Moreno Ocampo approached actor and director Sean Penn, who replied “While you make the decision on Palestine, I’m embroiled in a decision of weather [sic] or not to go to get a steam in the hotel spa. Which is to say . . . I am very flexible today and tonight.” It is not known if Sean Penn did in fact operate as a spy for the ICC.
These activities are not limited to Moreno Ocampo, either. In his 2020 podcast series Wind of Change, journalist Patrick Radden Keefe makes a compelling case that the hit song of the same name, performed by West German metal band Scorpions, was part of a CIA plot to destabilise the USSR and introduce western rock and roll to the eastern bloc. “The CIA saw rock music as a cultural weapon in the cold war,” Keefe writes. “Wind of Change was released a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and became this anthem for the end of communism and reunification of Germany. It had this soft-power message that the intelligence service wanted to promote.”
Similarly, it is now known that the CIA had its hand in soul legend Nina Simone’s 1961 tour of Nigeria. Simone, famously outspoken against the actions of the incredibly racist US government, was nonetheless poached by the American Society of African Culture – a CIA front organisation – to spread propaganda abroad. Obviously, this is a movie and film channel so I can’t go into too much detail here – If you’re more interested in the music side of pop culture, check out our sister channel at Upside Down Shark.So there we have it. A fame-obsessed prosecutor misuses his power in the International Criminal Court to rub shoulders with the star of 2007’s Beowulf. A schlocky story, to be sure, and one that whiffs more than a little of the gossip columns. However, this is an important reminder that culture and politics are in fact intertwined, and that those at the very top of the pyramid are every bit as star-struck, stupid, and horny as the rest of us.