Who is Adam Gadahn?
Despite a reported capture, the former South California head banger — now a spokesperson for Al Qaeda — remains at large. Who is this mystery man?
Over the weekend, Pakistani authorities announced they had captured Adam Gadahn, an American wanted since 2004 for acting as a spokesperson for Al Qaeda. As it turns out, Pakistan nabbed another US-born Al Qaeda operative, which means that Gadahn remains at large. (Watch a CBS report about Adam Gadahn's past.) Here, the basics about the man popularly known as "the American Al Qaeda":
Is Adam Gadahn his real name?Yes, but the 31-year-old has also gone by the names of Abu Yahya Majadin Adam, Adam Pearlman, Abu Suhayb Al-Amriki, Abu Suhail Al-Amriki, Abu Suhayb, Yihya Majadin Adams, Azzam Al-Amriki, Yayah, and "Azzam the American."
What do we know about his American past?Born in 1978, Gadahn was home-schooled on a rustic goat farm in Orange County, California. During his teen years, he was an enthusiastic fan of "Death Metal" rock. Although he has both Jewish and Catholic roots and was raised in a "mostly Christian household," he converted to Islam at age 17 and worshipped at the Islamic Society of Orange County until 1997, when he was expelled for attacking a mosque employee. According to the FBI, Gadahn likely moved to Pakistan in 1998. His mother claims he worked on a newspaper in Pakistan in 2001, but his exact movements since then are unknown.
When did he join Al Qaeda?Gadahn began appearing in Al Qaeda videos in October 2004, but is thought to have joined the group after the 9/11 attacks. The FBI claims he has attended training camps and acted as a translator for senior figures in the terrorist organization. The U.S. government has placed a $1 million bounty on Gadahn.
What does he say in his propaganda videos?Gadahn uses much of the same sort of rhetoric we're familiar with from Osama Bin Laden's videos. He praised the 9/11 attacks as "blessed raids" and pledged that "the streets of America shall run red with blood." Most recently, he praised Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, who killed 13 people in November. The Department of Justice believes that Gadahn is only a spokesman for the group, however, and has not played a role in planning any terror attacks.
Why did Pakistan think they'd captured him?The suspect was apprehended by local security agents in Karachi, Pakistan, on Saturday. Pakistani authorities at first said it was Gadahn, but later reversed themselves and said the suspect was actually another American-born Al Qaeda operative with a similar name: Abu Yahya Mujahideen Adam, now in custody in Islamabad, apparently hails from Pennsylvania. At this point, very little is known about him.
Has Gadahn been charged with a crime?Yes, in 2006 he was indicted in absentia for treason — "perhaps the most serious offense for which any person can be tried under our Constitution," according to former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. He would be only the 40th American charged with treason in the history of the country, and the first since WWII.
What is the penalty for treason?Treason carries the death penalty — which Gadahn will presumably face, if and when he is captured.