The American who has been helping make propaganda videos for al Qaeda, Adam Gadahn, has been charged with treason in the first such charge since the World War Two era.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A California-born convert to Islam, accused of making a series of al Qaeda propaganda videos, became on Wednesday the first American charged with treason since the World War Two era, U.S. Justice Department officials said.
Fugitive Adam Gadahn, 28, who is believed to be in Pakistan, was accused of treason, which carries a maximum punishment of death, and providing material support to al Qaeda, they said.
According to the charges, Gadahn appeared in five videos broadcast between October 2004 and September 11, 2006, giving al Qaeda "aid and comfort … with the intent to betray the United States."
"Gadahn gave himself to our enemies in al Qaeda for the purpose of being a central part of their propaganda machine," Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty told a news conference.
"By making this choice, we believe Gadahn committed treason — perhaps the most serious offense for which any person can be tried under our Constitution," he said.
McNulty acknowledged that Gadahn appeared to be involved only in propaganda for the Islamic militant group, not in planning any attacks.
Gadahn converted to Islam from a Jewish-Christian family when he was 17 and a few years later moved to Pakistan. He was previously known as Adam Pearlman and grew up on a goat ranch outside Los Angeles.
The charges were contained in an indictment handed up in a federal court in California by a grand jury. The evidence against him in the indictment consisted entirely of the videos.
The indictment is moot until the actually get their hands on Gadahn, of course. The actual treason charge is a bit of a surprise.