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Video: Fmr. Navy SEAL who killed Osama Bin Laden reacts to viral Bin Laden trend

Robert J. O'Neill speaking at the 2018 CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Released)
November 17, 2023

A new trend on TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned social media platform, features young people praising Osama bin Laden, the former al-Qaeda leader, for his “Letter to America,” claiming that reading the letter has forever changed their perspective of the United States and terrorism. The TikTok trend has led the former Navy SEAL who killed bin Laden to issue a scathing rebuke of those using the terrorist leader’s letter to justify terrorism.

According to The Daily Wire, bin Laden’s “Letter to America” contains a significant amount of antisemitic and anti-Western language. The al-Qaeda terrorist leader wrote the letter as a justification for the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks that caused the death of roughly 3,000 Americans in New York City, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, journalist Yashar Ali shared a compilation of TikTok videos featuring young people praising bin Laden’s “Letter to America.”

“Over the past 24 hours, thousands of TikToks (at least) have been posted where people share how they just read Bin Laden’s infamous ‘Letter to America,’ in which he explained why he attacked the United States,” Ali wrote. “Many of them say that reading the letter has opened their eyes, and they’ll never see geopolitical matters the same way again.”

Ali added that many TikTok users claimed that reading bin Laden’s “Letter to America” caused them to “reevaluate their perspective” regarding the definition of terrorism, with some users even suggesting that terrorism is a “legitimate form of resistance to a hostile power.”

In the video, one young woman claimed the letter was “wild” and urged everyone to read it. She added that the letter “left her disillusioned.” Another woman in the video said the letter caused her to have an “existential crisis. “In the last 20 minutes, my entire viewpoint on the entire life I have believed and I have lived has changed,” she said. “Please read that entire letter.”

A young man featured in the video described “Letter to America” as the “craziest thing” he had read “in a while.” He urged other social media users to stop whatever they were doing and read the letter for themselves.

READ MORE: Video: Terrorist threat in US at new alarming level, FBI warns

Finally, the man shared an X post that he said reminded him of what bin Laden said in his letter, stating, “Under settler colonialism, any kind of resistance is branded as [terrorism] because the only acceptable violence is violence by the occupier.”

In response to the new TikTok trend, Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden during a U.S. military operation in 2011, described the trend as “the positive reaction from Gen Z” toward the former terrorist leader that many young people claimed to have after reading bin Laden’s “Letter to America.”

Bluntly responding to the social media trend with a post on X, O’Neill stated, “Deceit is a mask the Devil puts over the eyes of useful idiots.”

In 2014, the former Navy SEAL first claimed to have killed bin Laden during a U.S. military operation. The U.S. government has never officially confirmed or denied O’Neil O’Neill’s claims.

After the TikTok trend quickly received widespread backlash and criticism, TikTok explained that the company was taking steps to remove the videos that praised terrorism. In a statement obtained by NBC News, TikTok spokesperson Ben Rathe said the videos praising bin Laden for his “Letter to America” and attempting to justify terrorists represent a violation of the social media platform’s community guidelines.

“Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism,” he said. “We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform. The number of videos on TikTok is small and reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate. This is not unique to TikTok and has appeared across multiple platforms and the media.”