THE California-born son of a failed rock musician who converted to Islam and became the mastermind of al-Qaeda's video propaganda unit has became the first American to charged with treason since the Second World War.
Adam Yahiye Gadahn, 28, was indicted by a grand jury yesterday on federal charges of treason and aiding terrorists, which carry a maximum penalty of death.
The charges follow a two-year investigation that began when Mr Gadahn's former imam in California recognised him as the speaker in an alQaeda video released close to the presidential election, threatening an attack on America that would make the "streets run with blood".
Mr Gadahn, however, who is known in the videos by his nom de guerre, Azzam the American, is not in American custody and is believed to be overseas, most likely in Pakistan, where the al-Qaeda video production unit, al-Sahab, is based.
Al-Sahab is believed to be behind many of the recent propaganda videos threatening attacks on Western targets — including one made by Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, two of the perpetrators of the July 7 bombings in London.
FBI officials say that Mr Gadahn has appeared personally in at least three videos, the latest of which was posted on an Islamic website last month. "If the Zionist crusader missionaries of hate and counter-Islam consultants like the crusader-in-chief George W. Bush were to abandon their unbelief and repent and enter into the light of Islam and turn their swords against the enemies of God, it would be accepted of them and they would be our brothers in Islam," he said in English.
Mr Gadahn's journey from Californian schoolboy to video jihadi is an extraordinary one. He was born Adam Perlman, the home-schooled son of a psychedelic musician brought up on a goat farm with no running water or electricity. In his teenage years, however, he began rebelling against his Christian upbringing and developed a love for heavy metal music and exploring alternative religions.
Intrigued by Islam he began attending a mosque in Orange County, offering his services as a live-in caretaker. He befriended a small group of young Muslim immigrants from Pakistan and joined in attacks on less orthodox worshippers.
He began calling himself Adam Yahiye Gadahn and was arrested for beating up an imam and expelled from the mosque. In 1998 he fled his family home south of Los Angeles and travelled to an al- Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, three years before the September 11 attacks.
The FBI believes that Mr Gadahn first began working for al-Qaeda as a translator and offered his expertise with computers to help to put together propaganda tapes, moving to Pakistan some time during the American invasion.
His family has had no contact with him since early 2002. He married a Pakistani woman, with whom he has a son.