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Adam Gadahn

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Adam Gadahn, also known as Azzam the American, is an American spokesman for القاعدة‎ al Qaeda and regarded as its chief propagandist. However, his role is more rhetorical than operational and is unlikely proximate to high ranking al Qaeda personnel.


Adam Gadahn was the oldest of Phil and Jennifer Gadahn's four children and they were home-schooled at their rustic shack near the small town of Winchester in Riverside County.

Gadahn grew up on a California farm, and was home-schooled until age 17.

At 18 he moved in with his paternal grandparents, who were secular Jews.


After finding Islam on the internet, Gadahn converted to Islam at the Islamic Society of Orange County, California (a mosque in Garden Grove), but was banned from the mosque two years later after hitting its chairman, Haitham Bundjaki after Gadahn fell in with a radical sect.


Gadahn began working for a California charity suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda

Moves to Pakistan


He moved to Pakistan in 1998.

Ends Family Contact


His family has said they last heard from him in 2002.

Involvement in Plot


FBI identified him as part of an al Qaeda cell that was planning attacks aimed at disrupting that year's presidential election in the United States.

Video Appearance

2004 10 27

He began appearing in disguise in al-Qaeda videos.

Video Message

2006 09 11

Drops Disguise


Gadahn dropped the disguise in 2006.



He was indicted on charges of treason and providing material support to terrorists. The U.S. government has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Video Message


He renounced his U.S. citizenship and destroyed his passport in another al-Qaeda video.

Video Message

2009 12

Gadahn released a video message in English offering condolences to "unintended Muslim victims" killed in attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. It was a rare example of al-Qaeda offering condolences to the families of those killed in the group's own attacks.

Video Message

2010 03 07

In his video message posted online Sunday 2010 03 07, Gadahn says Muslims should emulate the alleged Fort Hood shooter. "I believe that defiant Brother Nidal is the ideal role model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes," Adam Gadahn says in English in the video. "The Mujahid brother Nidal Hasan is a pioneer, a trailblazer and a role model who has opened a door, lit a path and shown the way forward for every Muslim who finds himself among the unbelievers and yearns to discharge his duty to Allah and play a part in the defense of Islam and Muslims." Gadahn also cites in Sunday's video the U.S. and allied buildup in Afghanistan, where the United States is in the process of adding about 30,000 troops. "It is rapidly becoming clear that this already hot global battle is about to get even hotter," he says. "This is a war which knows no international borders and no single battleground, and that's why I am calling on every honest and vigilant Muslim in the countries of the Zionist-Crusader alliance in general and America, Britain and Israel in particular to prepare to play his due role in responding to and repelling the aggression of the enemies of Islam."

Not Captured

2010 03 08

Pakistani intelligence officials claimed to have captured Adam Gadahn but reversed their position later in the day, claiming to have instead captured Pennsylvania native and al-Qaeda operative Abu Yahya Mujahideen Adam (link). However, is likely in Pakistan and hiding in plain sight as did Osama bin Laden (link).

Gadahn is the grandson of Dr. Carl Pearlman, a respected urologist who moved to Santa Ana in Orange County in the 1940s link.

His father was born Phil Pearlman, but changed his name to Gadahn in the mid-1990s as a biblical reference. He was on the board of the Anti-Defamation League and in 1985 received a humanitarian award by the Orange County chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, now called the National Conference for Community and Justice. He founded a local pro-Israel peace group.