Adam Yahiye Gadahn, born Adam Pearlman, September 1, 1978) is an American-born English-speaking senior operative, cultural interpreter, spokesman  and media advisor for the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda. From 2004 to 2006 he appeared in a number of videos produced by Al-Qaeda as "Azzam the American" ('Azzām al-Amrīki, عزام الأمريكي, sometimes transcripted as Ezzam Al-Americee). He is believed to have inspired bin Laden's September 2007 video.
In 2004, he was added to the FBI Seeking Information - War on Terrorism list. On October 11, 2006 he was removed from that list, and placed on the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Rewards For Justice Program list of wanted criminals. On the same day, Gadahn was indicted based on the testimony of the FBI case agent E.J. Hilbert II, in the Southern Division of the United States District Court for the Central District of California by a federal grand jury for the capital crime of treason for aiding an enemy of the United States (i.e. Al-Qaeda). Gadahn is the first American charged with treason since 1952.
Background and childhood
Gadahn's Jewish paternal grandfather, Carl Pearlman, was a prominent surgeon and on the Board of Directors of the Anti-Defamation League; his paternal grandmother, Agnes Branch, was an editor for The Chronicle Christian Newspaper.
Gadahn's father, originally Phil Pearlman, grew up in Orange County, California. He was involved in the counterculture movement at the University of California at Irvine, and before Adam's birth became a self-styled religious Christian. He and his wife Jennifer changed their name to Gadhan, after the Biblical warrior Gid'on or Gideon.
Gadahn was born in Oregon and raised and homeschooled through high school by his parents on an isolated farm in Southern California. He played Little League baseball and participated in Christian homeschool support groups. As an adolescent he became very involved in the death metal community, making contact with fans and musicians through alternative magazines. During the summer of 1993, he formed his own one-man band called Aphasia. Gadahn contributed music reviews and artwork to a zine called Xenocide.
Conversion to Islam
While living with his grandparents in West Floral Park, Santa Ana, Gadahn described himself as having a "yawning emptiness", and he sought ways "to fill that void." He explored Christianity on the Internet, radio, and locally, but later said that he found evangelical Christianity's "apocalyptic ramblings" to be "paranoid" and hollow.
In 1995, at age 17, Gadahn began studying Islam at the Islamic Society of Orange County. Members of Gadahn's study group were young fundamentalists who "targeted the mosque's chairman, Hitham 'Danny' Bundakji," whom they referred to as 'Danny the Jew' for his practice of "wearing Western clothes and being overly friendly with Jews."
According to his parents, Adam was "arrested and convicted of assaulting his former mentor Haitham Bundakji in May 1997", he served two days in jail, but his failure to do 40 hours of community services leaves a warrant for his arrest active.
Move to Al-Qaeda
During 2003, Adam was asked by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to participate in a suicide attack in Maryland, but Adam decided against it citing "he had recently married and his wife was pregnant." However, a CIA official added that: "Gadahn participated in a number of 'face-to-face brainstorming sessions' with Mohammed."
Summer 2004 warning
On May 26, 2004, United States Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced that reports indicated that Gadahn was one of seven Al-Qaeda members who were planning terrorist actions for the summer or fall of 2004. Gadahn's name was the only new name released by Mueller in this warning. Two of the other alleged terrorists named on that date were Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Those two had been listed as FBI Most Wanted Terrorists since 2001, indicted for their roles in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. The others, Amer El-Maati, Aafia Siddiqui, Abderraouf Jdey, and Adnan Gulshair El Shukrijumah had all been on FBI wanted lists for some time. Jdey had been on the FBI's "Seeking Information" wanted list since January 17, 2002, to which Gadahn was added with the other three as well.
Appearances in Al-Qaeda videos
In late October 2004, ABC News broadcast a 75-minute videotape of a man who identified himself as "Azzam the American" threatening the United States with terrorist attacks. After the network played excerpts of the video someone from one of Gadahn's mosques told law enforcement officials that he believed the man in the video was Gadahn.
In 2005, on the fourth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, an eleven minute videotape message purportedly from Al-Qaeda was broadcast on the ABC News program Good Morning America. The American English-accented speaker, a man whose face was partially concealed, was identified by U.S. intelligence officials as Gadahn. The speaker praised the "echo of explosions and the slitting of the throats of the infidels"and attacked U.S. foreign policy and military activity, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. He predicted that there would be future attacks in Los Angeles, California and Melbourne, Australia: "Yesterday, London and Madrid. Tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, God willing. At this time, don't count on us demonstrating restraint or compassion."
Around the same time, he also appeared in the popular Al-Qaeda-produced American documentary film "Knowledge is for Acting Upon", a film which traces the organization from its genesis among the anti-Soviet Mujahaddin in Afghanistan through its establishment of training camps around the world to its defining moment, the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Gadahn provides Western viewers with an expository look at the group's ideals, philosophy and goals as well as a retrospective look at their perspective on the geopolitical situations which led to their decision to execute the attack. The film culminates with Gadahn's description of the events' aftermath, pre-attack martyrdom videos filmed by the hijackers, and finally a montage of videos portraying the attacks themselves. The high production-value film, completely captioned for both English and Arabic-speaking audiences, is widely regarded as a tool intended to motivate and attract other Western-born Muslims.
On July 7 2006, Gadahn appeared unmasked on an Al-Qaeda tape made public on the internet. On the tape he denounced the United States military presence in Iraq and alleged killings and rapes committed by American soldiers. Gadahn's family, who had previously said that they could not tell whether or not it was Gadahn who appeared in the Al-Qaeda videos, did not immediately respond to the new tape.
On September 2 2006 a video called "Invitation to Islam", features a lecture by Adam Gadahn for approximately 44 minutes of its 48 minutes with a lesser part given to Al-Qaeda theorist Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the video, Gadahn stated "If the Zionist crusader missionaries of hate and counter-Islam consultants like Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer, Michael Scheuer, Steven Emerson, and yes, even the crusader-in-chief George W. Bush were to abandon their unbelief and repent and enter into the light of Islam and turn their swords against the enemies of God, it would be accepted of them and they would be our brothers in Islam." Both Pipes and Spencer have publicly declined to accept Gadahn's invitation to convert to Islam. Gadahn praised British politician George Galloway and journalist Robert Fisk for expressing their "respect and admiration for Islam" and for "acknowledging that it is the truth" and for "demonstrating their sympathy for Muslims their causes", but added "I say to them, isn't it time you stopped sitting on the fence and came over to the side of truth?" Gadahn urged American soldiers to "surrender to the truth" and "escape from the unbelieving Army" and "join the winning side."
On May 29 2007 Gadahn again made headlines when another video "Al-Qaeda Video Warning to US by American Adam Gadahn" was released on the internet. In this video Adam Gadahn listed five actions that Bush and America must take in order to prevent future terrorist attacks.
- "Pull every last one of your soldiers, spies, security advisors, trainers, attachés, … out of every Muslim land from Afghanistan to Zanzibar …"
- End "all support and aid, military, political, economic, or otherwise, to the 56-plus apostate regimes of the Muslim world, and abandon them to their well-deserved fate …"
- "End all support, moral, military, economic, political, or otherwise, to the bastard state of Israel, and ban your citizens, Zionist Jews, Zionist Christians, and the rest from traveling to occupied Palestine or settling there. Even one penny of aid will be considered sufficient justification to continue the fight."
- "… impose a blanket ban on all broadcasts to our region …"
- "Free all Muslim captives from your prisons, detention facilities, and concentration camps, regardless of whether they have been recipients of what you call a fair trial or not."
"…your failure to heed our demands and the demands of reason means that you and your people will – Allah willing – experience things which will make you forget all about the horrors of September 11th, Afghanistan and Iraq and Virginia Tech".
Gadahn is felt to have inspired bin Laden's September 2007 video, in which bin Laden, among other things, made reference to the subprime mortgage crisis. M.J. Gohel, chief executive of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London-based security-studies organization, found bin Laden's video "very reminiscent of [Gadahn's] messages in terms of style and content."
Involvement with As-Sahab
As-Sahab's first production was believed to have been in 2001 with the involvement of Adam Yahiye Gadahn. U.S. and British intelligence officials believe it to be run by former Orange County California resident Adam Gadahn, who left America to join Al-Qaeda in Pakistan, as first reported by ABC News last year. Although, since his alleged death in February 2008 (see below) it has been reported that the media production of these messages has had a notable decrease in quality.
Rumors of death
In February 2008, Pakistani news sources reported rumors that Gadahn was killed by a missile fired by a MQ-1 Predator drone in the strike that killed Al-Qaeda leader Abu Laith al-Libi. On March 2, an Al-Qaeda spokesperson claimed that Gadahn was alive, but some doubt has been cast on this, particularly since the quality of recent Al-Qaeda videos from As-Sahab has declined considerably.
On June 2, 2008, ABC News reported that the U.S. Is Stepping Up Efforts to Capture California Boy Turned al Qaeda Operative, and MSNBC on June 13 reported that 'U.S. tries to smoke out accused terrorist Adam Gadahn', although Associated Press reported that 'Pakistani news sources reported in February that Gadahn was killed in a missile strike, but the FBI has not received conclusive evidence of his death, Eimiller said.'
Laura Mansfield has stated that "Normally important messages from Zawahiri contain linguistic indications that they were translated by Adam Gadahn. Gadahn’s translation style is noticeably absent from this video, giving more credence to open source reports from Pakistan regarding the possible death of Gadahn in an American air strike. (However, there are other plausible explanations for Gadahn’s absence from the scene—including his quip in his January video tape that ripping up his passport would not hinder his ability to travel.)"
On 7 September 2008, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Gadahn may have been killed by a Predator attack in January 2008 in Waziristan. This was also reported by The Orange County Register, KABC TV in Los Angeles,  and other news agencies.
- Khatchadourian, Raffi (2007-01-22). "Azzam The American: The making of an Al Qaeda homegrown". The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/01/22/070122fa_fact_khatchadourian?currentPage=all. Retrieved 2007-01-22.
- Whitlock, Craig (September 15, 2007). "Converts To Islam Move Up In Cells : Arrests in Europe Illuminate Shift". Washington Post: p. A10. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/14/AR2007091402265.html?hpid=topnews. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- Seeking Information Alert for Adam Yahiye Gadahn, FBI Seeking Information - War on Terrorism, Internet Archive Wayback Machine, June 6, 2004
- Wanted: Adam Yahiye Gadahn. Up to $1 Million Reward. Rewards for Justice. Retrieved on 2008-06-13.
- American to Be Indicted for Treason, Fox News, October 12, 2006
- Ancestry of Adam Gadahn
- Bernhard, Brendan, White Muslims : From LA to New York … to Jihad?, Melville House Publishing, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2006, p. 54-5
- Gadahn, Adam Yahiye (1995). "Becoming Muslim". University of Southern California.
- Transcript: Ashcroft, Mueller news conference, CNN.com, Wednesday, May 26, 2004 Posted: 8:19 PM EDT (0019 GMT).
- Ross, Brian (28 October 2004). "Alleged American Al Qaeda Warns of U.S. Attacks". ABC World News Tonight
- LaJeunesse, William et al (29 October 2004). "Officials Believe 'Azzam' Is Gadahn". Foxnews.com.
- Bernhard, Brendan White Muslims : From LA to New York … to Jihad? Melville House Publishing, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2006, p.57
- Ross, Brian (11 September 2005). "Alleged American Al Qaeda Warns of U.S. Attacks". ABC World News Tonight.
- MEMRI: Special Dispatch Series - No. 1201
- Al-Qaeda Invites Me to Join Its Ranks [Weblog] - Daniel Pipes
- Jihad Watch: "To Americans and the rest of Christendom we say, either repent … or … suffer the consequences in this world and the next…"
- Al Jazeera English - Archive - Al-Qaeda Urges Americans To Convert
- American Al-Qaeda Warns of Worse Attacks, CBNNews.com
- Shipman, Tim (2007-09-10). "US loner helps bin Laden to taunt Bush". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/09/wladen109.xml. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- Adam Gadahn (Azzam al Amriki): An Invitation for Reflection and Repentence
- Family Security Matters » Publications » Where's the Beef? Mystery Grows Surrounding Whereabouts of Adam Gadahn
- The Blotter: Al Qaeda Leader on the Web Again - Instant Messaging Next?
- The Jawa Report: Dead or Alive? US Looking for Adam Gadahn
- Counterterrorism Blog: Where's the Beef? Mystery Grows Surrounding Whereabouts of Adam Gadahn
- The quiet American - tracing the whereabouts of Adam Gadahn subscription required
- American al-Qaeda leader also killed?
- American al-Qaida member missing?
- Americanthinker.com Where in the World is Adam Gadahn?
- The Jawa Report: American al Qaeda, Adam Gadahn, Dead?
- ThreatsWatch.Org: RapidRecon: Adam Gadahn Killed in Pakistan?
- Bad News: Al Qaeda Claims Traitor Adam Gadahn is Alive
- in a higher position?
- The Nation article
- Sauer, Maddy. The Hunt for American al Qaeda ABC News, June 2, 2008.
- U.S. tries to smoke out accused terrorist Adam Gadahn - Deep Background - msnbc.com
- Associated Press
- LauraMansfield.com - Strategic Translations Subscribers Area
- Meo, Nick. Al-Qa'eda's American-born propaganda chief may have died in predator attack, 7 September 2008.