LOS ANGELES - The charge of treason was used for the first time in the United
States' war on terrorism Wednesday, filed against a California man who appeared
in propaganda videos for al-Qaida.
These undated, handout file photos
provided by the FBI shows Adam Gadahn, who is suspected of attending an
al-Qaida training camp and working as a translator for the terror group.
The 28-year-old Californian, who joined al-Qaida and appeared in
propaganda videos for the terrorist organization, was indicted Wednesday,
Oct. 11, 2006, on federal charges of treason and providing material
support to terrorists, a U.S. Justice Department official said.
Adam Yehiye Gadahn, 28, could be sentenced to death if convicted of the
charge, which has been used only a few dozen times in U.S. history and not at
all since the World War II era. He also was indicted on a charge of providing
material support to terrorists.
Gadahn "knowingly adhered to an enemy of the United States, namely, al-Qaida,
and gave al-Qaida aid and comfort ... with intent to betray the United States,"
according to the indictment, handed up by an Orange County grand jury.
The suspected al-Qaida operative has been sought by the FBI since 2004. Based
on the indictment, the FBI added Gadahn to its list of most wanted terrorists
and offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest or
Gadahn, who is believed to be in or near Pakistan, is suspected of having
attended the terrorist group's training camps in Pakistan and serving as one of
its translators. He has become known by his nom de guerre, Azzam al-Amriki, or
"Azzam the American."
Gadahn appeared last month in a 48-minute video along with al-Qaida's No. 2
leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, calling on his countrymen to convert to Islam and for
U.S. soldiers to switch sides in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
It was the second time he appeared in the same video with al-Zawahri. In a
July 7 video marking the one-year anniversary of the terror attack on London
commuters, Gadahn appeared briefly, saying no Muslim should "shed tears" for
Westerners killed by al-Qaida attacks.
Beyond that, authorities believe he is the masked figure who appeared in two
previous videos from al-Qaida, one given to ABC television in 2004 and another a
few days before the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
According to the indictment, Gadahn announced in the 2004 video that he had
joined al-Qaida, "a movement waging war on America and killing large numbers of
"Fighting and defeating America is our first priority," he said, according to
the indictment. "... The streets of America shall run red with blood."
The treason charge carries penalties ranging from a five-year prison sentence
to the death penalty, while the charge of providing material support to a
designated foreign terrorist organization carries a possible 15-year sentence.
Raised in Southern California on a Riverside goat farm, Gadahn converted to
Islam and worshipped at the Islamic Society of Orange County in 1997 before
being expelled for attacking one of its leaders.
His mother last spoke to him by phone in March 2001. At the time he was in
Pakistan, working at a newspaper, and his wife was getting ready to have a
Gadahn's aunt, Nancy Pearlman, declined to comment.