The Making of an American Jihadist

ByABC News via logo
July 9, 2006, 7:55 AM

July 9, 2006 — -- Adam Gadahn, al Qaeda's English-speaking spokesman who calls himself Azzam al-Amriki, or Adam the America, has become a powerful propaganda tool for the terror organization.

Gadahn resurfaced this week in an al Qaeda video released on the anniversary of the London bombings.

"No sane Muslim should shed tears for them," he said of al Qaeda's Western victims. "And they should blame no one but themselves because they are the ones who started this dirty war."

Gadahn's career as a jihadist seems to be taking off, and his prominent role may signal a change in strategy by al Qaeda as they seek to exploit mistakes by the West and gain new recruits among populations in Europe and the United States. In his last video, Gadahn was filmed without a mask, unlike previous propaganda tapes.

"It shows that they're getting more sophisticated," said Jessica Stern, author of "Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill." "They're getting better at propaganda. That's bad news. The absence of a disguise, to me, shows a new media savvy. It's a transformation in the type of recruit they're aiming at."

Gadahn was last seen in September 2005 when al Qaeda released a video to mark the 9/11 anniversary in which he made threats against Melbourne, Australia, and Los Angeles. Although he is not wanted in connection with any terrorist acts, he is wanted for aiding al Qaeda.

In 2004 former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller put him and seven others on a "most wanted list" of people plotting terrorist attacks to upset that year's presidential election.

Gadahn's militancy and hatred of his native country and culture makes many people wonder how a man raised in California became one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists?

Raised on this goat farm near Orange County, he was born Adam Pearlman in 1978. His Jewish father changed the family name to Gadahn when he converted to Christianity.

As a teenager, family members say Adam struggled and turned first to heavy metal music, then to Islam.

Haitham Bundakji, an elder at the Orange County mosque where Gadahn studied his new faith, recalled how the young convert fell in with a group of other men at the mosque who may have been affiliated with al Qaeda.