WASHINGTON — Adam Gadahn, a former Little Leaguer who grew up to become a spokesman for Osama bin Laden, was born in 1978 in Oregon as Adam Pearlman.
Gadahn, who had treason charges pending against him, was killed in a drone strike in January, the White House acknowledged on Thursday. Another January drone strike killed Ahmed Farouq, the operations leader for Al-Qaida in Pakistan, as well as an American hostage and an Italian hostage.
Gadahn’s father, a musician in California, changed his name from Pearlman to Gadahn in the 1970s. Gadahn, who was raised as a Protestant Christian, grew up and was home-schooled on a goat farm in Riverside County, California.
In 1995, at age 17, he converted to Islam at a mosque in nearby Orange County. A few years later, he moved to Pakistan, where he joined al-Qaida as a propagandist. Using the name “Azzam the American,” he appeared in numerous al-Qaida videos, denouncing U.S. moves in Afghanistan and elsewhere and threatening attacks on Western interests abroad.
His work led to Gadahn becoming the only American charged with treason since the World War II era.
U.S. authorities filed treason charges against him in 2006 and had offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction. The FBI’s Reward for Justice program, which lists wanted terrorists, said Gadahn was 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighed a little more than 200 pounds. He had brown hair, brown or hazel eyes and had scars on his chest and right forearm.
Further details about Gadahn surfaced in documents leaked by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden.
The documents show that bin Laden’s inner circle was frustrated when, in 2010, attention in the U.S. shifted to the economic downturn without linking al-Qaida to the damage. “All the political talk in America is about the economy, forgetting or ignoring the war and its role in weakening the economy,” Gadahn wrote.
The papers also showed that he was a student of U.S. media. Gadahn described ABC as “all right, actually it could be one of the best channels as far as we are concerned,” criticized CNN as being too close to the government and heaped scorn on Fox News, which “falls into the abyss, as you know, and lacks neutrality.”