Adam Gadahn, 28 – also known as Azzam al-Amriki or Azzam the American – "gave al Qaeda aid and comfort ... with intent to betray the United States," according to the treason count in the indictment, which a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, Calif., returned on Oct. 11.
Gadahn is the first person to be charged with treason against the United States since the World War II era. He is on the lam and believed to be overseas, according to the Department of Justice.
"The Streets of America Shall Run Red with Blood"
Gadahn appeared in several videotapes that were broadcast between October 2004 and Sept. 11, 2006. In the first tape, Gadahn announced that he had joined al Qaeda, "a movement waging war on America and killing large numbers of Americans," and that "the streets of America shall run red with blood."
In another al Qaeda videotape made in September 2005 – around the time of the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – Gadahn called the attacks "the blessed raids on New York and Washington." Discussing "jihad against America," Gadahn referenced terrorist attacks in London and Madrid and stated, "tomorrow, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing."
Earlier this summer, Gadahn appeared in another videotape that also contained statements from al Qaeda leaders Usama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, according to the Justice Department. In another videotape that was broadcast around the world on Sept. 2, Gadahn encouraged American soldiers to "escape from the unbelieving Army and join the winning side."
Recently, in a videotape released to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Gadahn praised the pilots involved in the attacks and referred to the United States as "enemy soil."
"Adam Gadahn is a U.S. citizen who made a choice to join and act as a propagandist for al Qaeda, an enemy of this country responsible for the horrific deaths of thousands of innocent Americans on Sept. 11, 2001," Deputy Attorney General McNulty said. "The War on Terror is a fight for hearts and minds, and Gadahn gave himself to our enemies in al Qaeda for the purpose of being a central part of their propaganda machine. By making this choice, we believe Gadahn committed treason – perhaps the most serious offense for which any person can be tried under our Constitution."
The charge of treason carries a range of penalties from a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in jail to a maximum sentence of the death penalty. The charge of providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization carries a potential sentence of 15 years in prison.
$1 Million Reward Offered
FBI Executive Assistant Director Willie Hulon of the agency's National Security Branch called Gadahn "a new breed of home-grown extremist, who has chosen to betray the country of his birth, and align with the al Qaeda terrorist network."
Based on the indictment, the FBI added Gadahn to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist List, Hulon said. Photographs, aliases and a full description of Gadahn can be found by visiting http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorists/fugitives.htm.
The Rewards for Justice Program, run by the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, is offering a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to Gadahn's arrest or conviction.