Update No. 4: My @YouTube account was suspended for uploaded/embedded portions of AQ vids used for analysis for U.S. v Pfc. Manning. It appears my Google account is also slated for deletion.

Update No. 4: Just found out Google/Youtube re-instated the third (and the most central portion of the 2011 AQ video) that they had banned. I hope these events further Google/YouTube's and the public's learning curve about these complex issues.

I have placed a thumbnail to visually provide context for the three portions of the 2011 Al Qaeda video that I had uploaded to YouTube, and embedded in my 2015 analysis of the U.S. government's case against Pfc. Manning concerning the classified 'bin Laden evidence.'

(I had previously used the description box on YouTube's platform for such context, but that apparently is not accessible on mobile devices.)

This requirement for visual context is part of YouTube's newer requirements (they are currently rolling them out) for content (of this nature) that is in the public interest, and uploaded to their platform.

These videos are in the public interest, because the portions of the 2011 Al Qaeda video that I uploaded, pertain to evidence used at PFC. Manning's court-martial for aiding the enemy (Manning was acquitted) and wanton publication (Manning was convicted).

Both charges were unprecedented. Aiding the enemy (carries a capital/life sentence), and is one of two violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) that applies to any person (not just military personnel).

One noted legal commentator remarked that even prosecuting Manning for aiding the enemy (military prosecutors were unsuccessful), when the accused lacks of intent to aid the enemy, is a dangerous precedent.

The last time someone was charged with aiding the enemy via a newspaper was during the U.S. Civil War. In that case, the accused had intended to aid the enemy.

Wanton publication, which Manning was convicted of (carries a two year maximum sentence), is not tied to any existing federal statute or existing offense in the UCMJ.

I am grateful to everyone, who helped me, or attempted to help me. So, thank you!

Update No. 3: Dell Cameron has reported on my discussion with Google/YouTube in the aftermath of my account suspension. It detailed the company's new requirements for public interest content vis a vis the roll out of its counter terrorism protocol.

I remain puzzled why YouTube has now removed one of the three videos that featured a male narrator describing and reading info in State Department cables, albeit interspersed with propaganda and pejorative epithets. At present my account has been re-established and white listed, but only two of the three videos are accessible, one is not. Yet, all three videos are qualitatively the same and in the public interest. The one video that has been removed, unfortunately drives home most clearly my 2015 analysis about the classified bin laden evidence into which these videos were embedded. The visuals of the banned video were from publicly available media (documentaries, news reports). One of the other videos that was not banned included images from a Swedish documentary on the 2007 Apache airstrike. So, this video, albeit AQ propaganda, is, more or less, no different that the other two that remain up.

UPDATE No. 2: Just had a very insightful and informative conversation with some folks at Google. Will update with details as soon as able.

UPDATE No. 1: I received an email this morning from YouTube, weirdly stating:

"Thank you for your account suspension appeal. We have decided to keep your account suspended based on our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service. Please visit http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines for more information."

It was signed "The YouTube Team."

Yet, my YouTube account and access reappeared late yesterday, and the Al Qaeda video portions in question became again publicly available.

It still remains unclear if my YouTube (and Google account) is being prepped for the dustbin. While I have no proof, I get the impression that if several prominent and respected accounts had not raised awareness about my plight, I would not have been able to have the access that I now have. So, thank you to everyone who helped me; and to anyone (who may have known a human at Google), who they contacted on my behalf.

I don't want to be reductive about terrorism and/or censorship; the rights of all peoples; and/or providers of services. One could argue that having to raise awareness (outrage) on social media is a kind of consensus or test of the notion of a "community strike." But is it practical or fair? The appeals process, i.e. the automated replies with confusing result, is frustrating (Is my account slated for deletion or not?). This issue is more acute for users, who may not have a means to reach humans at Google or to have their character/intentions vouched for. Google et al. should shed light on the processes and consequences it employs when handling these issues (at scale).

This Summer, I received two emails from YouTube stating that videos I had posted on my account were in violation of YouTube's Terms of Service.

I appealed both decisions. Those appeals were apparently rejected, (at least that is what I gathered, because the videos were removed). That the community strikes stood (despite my appeals) was not explicitly clear during the process. That is, until this morning, after Google terminated my YouTube account. I was also informed that my Google account is slated for termination (deletion). I have attempted to contact Google in the prescribed manner with no luck.

The videos were portions of a June 6, 2011 As Shahab video used as evidence against Chelsea Manning at her court martial for both aiding the enemy and wanton publication.

I uploaded and published other videos (also used as evidence at Manning's court-martial). The videos were aggregated in a playlist. These portions in question did contain Al Qaeda propaganda, but did not contain graphic violence (well, one of the video portions contained segments from the 2007 Apache airstrike in Baghdad that Manning disclosed in 2010).

In May 2015, I had published a blog post that embedded these video portions to provide a detailed account of specific evidence that the U.S. government used at Chelsea Manning's court-martial for aiding the enemy and wanton publication.

The post (with theses video embeds) was drafted in response to controversy arising from a 2015 article in the London Review of Books by journalist Seymour Hersh about the OBL raid.

I did not want to embed the entire Al Qaeda propaganda video. So I edited the material to the exact and relevant portions (related to the Manning court-martial). I then uploaded and marked those videos: identifying them as evidence in US v. Pfc. Manning, citing an appropriate source (jihadology.net), and qualifying in the description area what I was doing: "This portion of As Shahab video dated June 6, 2011 was used as evidence in the court martial of US v. Pfc. Manning... I am posting this for... etc." I then embedded them in my post.

Bear in mind that my Google account (including 'Google Drive,' maps etc.) has hundreds of hours of research (from not only the Manning trial -- like a spreadsheet that I created and published that forensically reconstruct the court-martial's once censored appellate list). But, it also contains hundreds of hours of other work (including, for example, work I conducted between 2016 and 2017, researching Oklahoma's death penalty. I have a spreadsheet that lists every person, who has ever been on death row in Oklahoma since 1980).

I need Google to understand that during Manning's court-martial the public was not granted contemporaneous access to the court record. In addition to reporting on her trial, I transcribed the proceedings, reconstructed the censored appellate list, and un-redacted any publicly available documentation, in order to foster public comprehension of her unprecedented trial.

The 'bin Laden evidence' was used to support the USG's case against Manning for aiding the enemy and wanton publication. Both charges and their application in the Manning court-martial were unprecedented. Aiding the enemy is one of two offenses that applies to "any person" (and not just military personnel). Wanton publication had never been used before, and is not tied to any existing federal statute or article in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

As a result of a lawsuit against the military judge and the Military District of Washington brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, as well as my own FOIA requests and research, an official court record for US v. Pfc. Manning was released seven months after her trial.

Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy, but convicted of wanton publication. Her sentence to 35 years in prison for her conviction to 20 offenses (including espionage, stealing U.S. government property, and failure to obey lawful general orders) was commuted by President Barack Obama (although her conviction still awaits the appellate process).

The Videos

Two days before U.S. army soldier, Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for disclosing low-level battlefield and diplomatic reporting to WikiLeaks, the military prosecutor told the presiding judge: "In this case we don't have to speculate. The information was found on the digital media of Osama bin Laden."

Statements made about the 'bin Laden evidence' by the government in a court of law have more weight than statements by Executive agents to the press. Statements made in a court of law are not more likely to be truthful, but there is at least the acknowledgement that there could be serious penalty if the court discovered perjury.

The material was and is in the public interest, and I handled the videos carefully and responsibly (excerpting, for example).

In order to make their case for aiding the enemy and wanton publication, prosecutors had to prove receipt of intelligence by the enemy. Prosecutors offered:

  • an As-Shahab video published in June 2011 featuring the reported American al-Qaeda spokesman, Adam Gadahn;
  • the January 2011 issue of Inspire magazine, reported as Al Qaeda's English magazine;
  • and classified evidence, which they said had been obtained "from several items of digital media" at the May 2011 U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound.

Acquitted of aiding the enemy, which carried a life sentence; the judge found Manning guilty of making U.S. intelligence accessible to the enemy on the Internet. The charge carried a maximum sentence of two years.

Department of State "Information" and the Gadahn Video

Prosecution claimed that "Government officials also collected Department of State information released by Manning" at the raid of Osama bin Laden.

The"information", military prosecutors, claimed bin Laden possessed was likely contained in a June 2011 As-Shahab video featuring Adam Gadahn. In the video, the narrator and Gadahn cite diplomatic reporting released by WikiLeaks, accompanied by commentary.

TRANSCRIPT:"...But, by the grace of Allah, the enemies' interests today spread all over the place and easily accessible as the leaked American State Department cable on critical foreign dependencies makes crystal clear...And I advise every brother who wants to work for this religion not to undertake any action before taking advantage of the wide range of resources available today on the Internet. Particularly the are various manuals, encyclopedias, and courses which deal with the mujahedeen’s operational and electronic security and security in general."

Military prosecutors cited two uncharged cables as the basis for the Department of State information that Manning made accessible to Gadahn and subsequently bin Laden.

The former US ambassador to Yemen, Steven Seche's, 'classified stipulation of expected testimony' (used in the prosecution's case for aiding the enemy and wanton publication) names 09STATE15113 and 09DOHA214.

By being in possession of the June 2011 As-Shahab video, prosecutors likely argued that bin Laden would have also been in possession of the information contained in the video.

TRANSCRIPT: "Here are a few examples from the revelations of WikiLeaks, which expose the subservient of the rulers of the Muslim world for their master America.

The tyrant of Yemen tells Obama's assistant secretary for homeland security, "The door is open for what you want in your fight against the mujahedeen." He tells General Petraeus that he will continue to lie to his people, telling them that it is his missiles that killed them not America's.

Thirdly, when the Americans ask for permission to participate in the war against the Muslims of Yemen with their ground forces, he said, "I fear that the American forces will be exposed harm and their will be causality amongst their ranks."

As for the Saudi kind, who cannot even speak clearly, he demanded from the Americans that they plant tracking devices similar to those planted inside wild animals inside the bodies of the prisoners in Guantanamo so that it may be possible to monitor them once they are released.

Similarly the family of Saud offered to assist America in the occupation of Lebanon in the same way that they assisted them in the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq earlier.

Among the endless scandals of the tyrants of the Muslim world is the compliance of the Pakistani government to kill and displace millions of Pakistani Muslims on the orders of the American ambassador in Islamabad, the real ruler of Pakistan.

The WikiLeaks documents expose the competition between [inaudible] of [inaudible] and Kayani to please the Americans.

In fact, some of those who portray themselves as opposition also compete with the rulers in showing servitude to America. These documents also expose the free concerts organized by American consulates in Pakistan which aim at spoiling the minds of the youth and ruining their religion and morals so that they may not divert their energies to rescuing their unmah from the catastrophic state it is in.

WikiLeaks exposed the free concerts organized in Jetta by the American consulate. Officials belonging to the department of promoting virtue and prohibiting vice turn a blind eye to these events because they enjoy the patronage of the family of Saud through the participation of its members in these events.

These documents also reveal that most of the wealth of the Muslim world is stolen through corruption and bribery, while million of Muslims live in abject poverty.

WikiLeaks also sheds light on the dubious deals with the Gulf countries for the purchase of American weapons to the tune of billions of dollars. The last of which was the current deal whose worth exceeded 60 billion dollars.

This deal was struck to rescue the American economy from the crisis it is passing through and to create 75,000 jobs for American citizens. This was done at a time when Muslim masses were suffering from hunger and most of its youth were neglected and unemployed...and if anyone protests against this situation, then the weapons obtained from these deals are used against them. These deals show clearly that the Americans and the rulers of the Muslim world are just two sides of the same coin.

Seche's classified stipulation cites 32 charged diplomatic cables, which prosecutors likely sourced for the quotes and commentary in the As-Shahab video. The 32 charged cables can be found here. Portions of five of the 32 were declassified after Manning's arrest in May 2010.

A classification review by the Department of State found that one of the 32 charged cables,07BAGHDAD64, remained classified in full because: "Department of State equities are no longer sensitive; but release would require Department of Treasury concurrence."

The June 2011 As-Shahab video also shows images of a July 2007 U.S. Apache airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq, published by WikiLeaks in April 2010:

TRANSCRIPT: "These clips released by WikiLeaks show the extent of Americans crimes against Muslims. The clips show American forces following a group of ordinary pedestrians. Among them are two journalists. American soldiers wait until a large number of innocent civilians get together and then begin their spree of cold-blooded murder. It is what follows that reveals the hideous nature of American crime. As a car belonging to an ordinary person approaches the scene one of the pedestrians asks the driver to transport the wounded to a hospital. Despite the fact that two little children can be clearly seen on the front seat, orders are issued by the Americans to kill everyone inside the car. In this massacre the only survivors where the children, who were badly wounded and continue to suffer from physical and psychological wounds of this attack to this day..."

I would greatly appreciate it, if anyone could help me get in contact with the Wizard of Google, to help me make my case; and avoid this from happening to others (I am told this phenomena of having videos of conflicts, etc. being removed from other researchers' accounts).

This post was drafted quickly, while I was at work, and updated for readability, addition of small details, and to correct typos.

Alexa O'Brien Alexa O'Brien researches and writes about national security and law enforcement. Her work has been published in The New York Times, VICE News, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Guardian (UK), The Daily Beast, NY Daily News, and featured on the BBC, PBS, NPR, Democracy Now!, and Public Radio International. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in the United Kingdom and listed in The Verge 50. In 2016, she worked at The Constitution Project in Washington, D.C. as a staff researcher and writer on an independent commission studying Oklahoma's death penalty. She also provided research support to scholars of the first cost study conducted on that state's capital punishment system.
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