The Guardian deletes Osama Bin Laden’s 2002 ‘Letter to America’ explaining his 9/11 attacks and war on the United States after it went viral on social media ‘without the full context’
- Newspaper published terrorist’s anti-Israel letter as part of an article in 2002
- TikTok users have been sharing the video in the context of the Israel-Hamas war
The Guardian has deleted a letter written by Osama Bin Laden in 2002 outlining his hatred for the United States and its support of Israel after it began trending on social media ‘without the full context’.
The ‘Letter to America’ was circulated amongst British Islamic extremists in 2002, a year after the 9/11 terror attacks, and saw the al-Qaeda leader attempt to justify the murderous acts in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia that killed nearly 3,000.
It was published on the Guardian’s website in full, based on a translation it obtained, under a link titled ‘Read the Bin Laden letter in full’ – but the newspaper has now removed it after people began sharing it in the context of the Israel-Hamas war.
Bin Laden – who was killed by US troops in a Pakistan operation in May 2011 – espoused deeply anti-Semitic views and conspiracy theories in the letter, and said that the American army was ‘shamelessly helping the Jews fight against us’.
He also sought to justify the indiscriminate slaughter of American citizens because they indirectly fund American military efforts through paying taxes.
Osama Bin Laden wrote his ‘letter to America’ in 2002, using it in a twisted attempt to justify the 9/11 attacks
At Bin Laden’s direction, nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on 9/11 in New York City, Washington DC and Pennsylvania on September 11 2001
The Guardian’s website now displays this notice in place of the letter, which had previously been published in full
He wrote: ‘The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq.
‘These tax dollars are given to Israel for it to continue to attack us and penetrate our lands. So the American people are the ones who fund the attacks against us, and they are the ones who oversee the expenditure of these monies in the way they wish, through their elected candidates.’
The Guardian’s digital edition of the letter was shared to TikTok by a number of users – seemingly deliberately ignoring Bin Laden’s role as a terrorist warlord responsible for instigating, and inspiring, atrocities across the world.
Nor do most users make any comment on the most extreme comments Bin Laden makes in the manifesto, including calls for the ‘rejection’ of homosexuality and a claim that AIDS was a ‘satanic American invention’.
The letter also perpetrates a long-running antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jewish people, claiming that they ‘have taken control of your economy (and) your media…making you their servants’.
These points are largely not being discussed by those sharing the letter on TikTok and elsewhere on social media, where video creators appear to have equated the 9/11 mastermind’s views on Palestine with showing solidarity with Palestinian people in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.
One video, which features the text of the letter in full, was tagged #freepalestine.
The trend appears to have originated with influencer Lynette Adkins, who told her 177,000 followers: ‘I need everyone to stop doing what they’re doing right now and go read “Letter to America,” I feel like I’m going through an existential crisis right now.’
‘Be forewarned, this has left me disillusioned,’ one user said.
Another video was captioned: ‘Disclaimer: I do not agree with every single thing written on that letter. However, he made some good points.’
TikTok has also come under fire because its algorithm selectively ‘boosts’ content that is going viral, making it visible to more users.
The #lettertoamerica hashtag has been viewed 12.5 million times on the site, according to its own statistics, while some of the videos have been ‘liked’ over 100,000 times.
The US continues to hold memorial ceremonies for the victims of 9/11, 22 years after the tragedy (pictured: the US flag is unfurled at the 2023 memorial ceremony)
Countdown mathematician Rachel Riley hit out at social media firms for ‘popularising’ terrorist manifestos
Writer Frances Weetman claimed that the version of the letter published by the Guardian – which is littered with anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist views – was ‘sanitised’
Countdown mathematician Rachel Riley, who is Jewish, said on X, formerly Twitter: ‘If social media companies think algorithms popularising this level of terrorist propaganda is OK, prioritising profits over people, then humanity, we have a problem.’
Signing off with a ‘mind blown’ emoji, she added: ‘No, Osama Bin Laden is not misunderstood.’
Writer Frances Weetman, however, had another take – claiming the Guardian version of Bin Laden’s extremist letter, was ‘sanitised’ to remove the most extreme anti-Semitic elements.
She wrote: ‘The real question isn’t why idiot leftist children indoctrinated on Tiktok are agreeing with Osama Bin Laden but why the guardian had originally published a sanitised version of his words that erases the references to Jewish world power / capital.’
Some TikTok users have shared their discomfort at sharing the views of an infamous terrorist leader.
One user commented on a video: ‘There are literally so many other ways to promote Palestinian liberation than boosting bin Laden.’
MailOnline has contacted TikTok for comment.
In its 2002 article accompanying the letter, The Guardian said the text had been published in Arabic on a Saudi Arabian website used by al-Qaeda to disseminate messages to followers, and was sent to British extremists via email.
Visiting the page the letter was published on, the following message is now displayed: ‘This page previously displayed a document containing, in translation, the full text of Osama bin Laden’s “letter to the American people”, as reported in the Observer on Sunday 24 November 2002.
‘The document, which was published here on the same day, was removed on 15 November 2023.’
The Guardian said in a statement on the removal of the letter: ‘The transcript published on our website 20 years ago has been widely shared on social media without the full context. Therefore we have decided to take it down and direct readers to the news article that originally contextualized it instead.’
However, the newspaper has also been criticised by some who claim that removing a manifesto littered with anti-Semitism, racism and homophobia was a form of ‘censorship’.
Lynette Adkins, who is believed to have been among the first to share the letter on TikTok, said in a later video: ‘The Guardian taking that post down is actually one of the worst things she could have done.’
Frederick Joseph, an author of books on racism, claimed it was an act of ‘narrative control’, adding: ‘They’re afraid of people having information so they decided to take it down.’
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