Google’s al Qaeda Connection Redux

According to the New York Times, the US-backed (as far as we know) Free Syrian Army struggled to take control of the airport at Aleppo, Syria and laid an months-long siege to the airport that was broken this week when the FSA got some help.  More US aid?  No…this time not.  This time from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  And who might they be?  The Long War Journal tells us:

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, one of al Qaeda’s two official affiliates operating in Syria, led a recent decisive rebel assault on a Syrian military airbase in the north. The group used a suicide bomber from “the Arabian Peninsula” to detonate an armored personnel carrier on the base, which was under siege for eight months before falling two days ago. Eight other groups, including the Al Nusrah Front, the Muhajireen Army, and Free Syrian Army units also took part in the joint operation.

According to the New York Times reporting on the same event adds some context:

In Raqqa recently, a commander of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria sipped coffee after breaking the Ramadan fast, wearing a Pakistani-style outfit. The commander, Abu Omar, was Syrian, a member of a tribe in the area, but he described his movement’s goals as reaching far beyond the country’s borders.

He did not speak of attacking the United States. But he threatened Russia, and he spoke of a broad-based battle against Shiite-led Iran and its quest to dominate the region, and said Sunnis from across the world were justified in flocking to Syria to fight because of the government’s reliance on Shiite fighters from Lebanon and Iraq.

So how else do we know this happened?  The usual way all good jihadis get their message out.  According to the Times, the victors posted a video on YouTube.

After the battle, Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Okaidi, the head of the United States-backed opposition’s Aleppo military council, appeared in a video alongside Abu Jandal, a leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [aka the Levant].  In camouflage, Colonel Okaidi offered thanks to “our brothers al-Muhajireen wal Ansar and others,” adding: “We’re here to kiss every hand pressed on the trigger.” He then ceded the floor to Abu Jandal and a mix of jihadist and Free Syrian Army leaders, who stood together, each praising his men, like members of a victorious basketball team.

And here it is:

Here’s another interesting attribute of the Free Syrian Army–they appear to be a YouTube partner and their videos are “monetized”, meaning that Google sells advertising against their videos and very likely splits the revenue with “them.”  And of course, as we all know, if the Free Syrian Army reaps the benefits of the untold riches awaiting anyone posting a video on YouTube (as we are repeatedly told by Google), then Google sends them–or somebody–an IRS Form 1099 to document the YouTube partner’s revenue share.

Free Syrian Army Youtube

And of course, because YouTube sells everything, what do we find on this rather grisly subject?  Advertising, and not just any advertising, either.  See that paid ad for the video “RGIII Beatbox Remix”?  Guess where that comes from?
YouTube’s Gatorade partnership:
And whose banner is featured across the Free Syrian Army video?  Why YouTube partner ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, of course.  “Every Coach Needs a Quarterback” is a major campaign of ICMA, but is a rather grisly irony when splashed across this particular video, putting the ICMA’s money into the pockets of the FSA right alongside of Gatorade in all likelihood.
How did these ads come to be on a video celebrating the alliance of jihadi forces and their great victory?  Well…the ICMA slogan has the word “quarterback” in it, and RG III is a quarterback.  Unfortunately, the keyword “quarterback” does not have much if anything to do with the FSA video.  Unless, of course, someone in YouTube’s sales force decided that it did.
And then of course, there’s the small business “Dancemakers of Texas” offering dance lessons in Ft. Worth.  They, too, are doing their part to support Google’s connection to the Middle East.  This has the look of a remnant ad of some kind unless you can find a connection between a Ft. Worth dance studio and a jihadi video.  Where is Jared Cohen when you need him, eh?  I’m sure he could explain the connection to all of us who lack his brainpower.
Little did the fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant at the Aleppo airport know that their exploits would be making money for Google, Gatorade and the ICMA, much less a little dance studio in Texas.  The video also provided a little but of intel according to LWJ’s Threat Matrix:

Note that while talking with the ISIL’s Abu Jandal, the FSA colonel also thanks the “al-Muhajireen wal Ansar,” or Muhajireen (Emigrants) Army. This group is led by a Chechen commander known as Abu Omar al Chechen, and is a mix of fighters from the Caucasus and Europe as well as Syrian Islamists. It seems that the FSA colonel is indicating that the Muhajireen Army is part of the ISIL. If true, this certainly wouldn’t be an earth-shattering revelation, but it is interesting nonetheless.

So while I get that there could be some value that Google could bestow on their buddies in the intelligence community from posting jihadi videos, it’s not like YouTube is the only place where these videos would appear, just the only place that they are likely to go viral given Google’s monopoly over video online.  So I think it’s really all about the money.  Do we have to force Gatorade and the others to associate their brands with the process?  Do we have to let Google make money from jihadi videos?

Google Chrome Ad on Terror Video
But then, it’s all about monetizing the merch:
John Perry Barlow wearing his Osama “He’s Still Free” T-shirt at the 23C3 hacker convention. Photo by Joi Ito under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License, no endorsement implied.

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