May 11th, 2006

Was Congress Misled by "Terrorist" Game Video? We Talk to Gamer Who Created the Footage

Was an elite congressional intelligence committee shown video footage from an off-the-shelf retail game and told by the Pentagon and a highly-paid defense contractor that it was a jihadist creation designed to recruit and indoctrinate terrorists?

It's looking more and more like that is the case.

The bizarre story began to unfold last week when Reuters reported that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was shown video footage of combat action which was represented as a user-modified version (or "mod") of Electronic Art's best-selling Battlefield 2, a modern-day military simulation which features combat between U.S. forces and those of the fictitious Middle East Coalition (MEC) as well as the People's Republic of China.

Reuters quoted a Pentagon official, Dan Devlin, as saying, "What we have seen is that any video game that comes out... (al Qaeda will) modify it and change the game for their needs."

The influential committee, chaired by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), watched footage of animated combat in which characters depicted as Islamic insurgents killed U.S. troops in battle. The video began with the voice of a male narrator saying, "I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in Blackhawk helicopters..."

Several GP readers immediately noticed that the voice-over was actually lifted from Team America: World Police, an outrageous 2004 satirical film produced by the creators of the popular South Park comedy series. At about the same time, gamers involved in the online Battlefield 2 community were pointing out the video footage shown to Congress was not a mod of BF2 at all, but standard game footage from EA's Special Forces BF2 add-on module, a retail product widely available in the United States and elsewhere.

GamePolitics has been seeking comment on the video from the Pentagon and Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), a defense contractor based in San Diego. Committee chair Hoekstra's office referred GP back to the committee for comment. A call there had not been returned by press time.

According to Reuters, the U.S. government is paying SAIC $7 million to monitor Islamist web sites, which is where they apparently discovered a copy of the footage. However, the video can also readily be accessed via links found in the user forums of the popular Planet Battlefield site, operated by IGN Entertainment of Brisbane, California.

It is unclear whether SAIC vetted the origin of the video before showing it to key members of Congress and representing it as a terrorist recruiting tool.

But GP correspondent Colin McInnes has investigated the origin of the video. On behalf of GamePolitics, Colin tracked down "Sonic Jihad," the creator of the video for this revealing interview, conducted via e-mail. The video creator's screen name is apparently a tribute to an album called Sonic Jihad, by an American rapper who performs under the name Paris.

CM: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

SJ: I am Samir. I was born and raised in Holland. But my parents are from Moroccan origin. I'm 25 years old. I have a master degree in management, economics and law. I work for a hospital as a quality manager implementing the ISO quality certificate. My hobbies are Battlefield 2, movies and Thai-Boxing.
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Louisiana Video Game Bill Clears Committee, Heads to House Vote

A video game bill before the Louisiana House of Representatives edged one step closer to passage yesterday.

As reported by The Advocate, Rep. Roy Burrell's HB421 passed on an 8-0 vote by members of the House Criminal Justice Committee.

Burrell, a Democrat, said, "This is the type of stuff that is being fed to our children and we say it is OK. This is a detriment on our society. We need to do something to protect our children."

Testifying on behalf of HB421 was anti-game attorney Jack Thompson (seen at left, seated with Rep. Burrell). A lobbyist representing the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) testified against the bill, as did a representative who appeared on behalf of Louisiana retailers.

The bill, which has been renumbered to HB1381, will now proceed to the floor of the Louisiana House for a vote.

GP: Readers can watch video of the Criminal Justice Committee hearing here. Scroll down to the May 10th agenda and click on "Criminal Justice."

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