Thursday, October 12, 2006

Local Islamist Radical Charged With Treason

This morning's Los Angeles Times reports that an Orange County Muslim has been charged with treason under federal law. This is a compelling national story with troubling local implications for residents of the O.C.:

A Southern California convert to Islam who has appeared in five incendiary Al Qaeda videos became the first American since the World War II era to be charged with treason, authorities announced Wednesday.

In a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday in Orange County, Adam Yahiye Gadahn, 28, also was charged with providing material support to the terrorist organization, which has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks, including the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults in New York and Washington, D.C.

"The crime of treason is perhaps the most serious offense for which any person can be tried under our Constitution," Deputy Atty. Gen. Paul J. McNulty said at a Washington news conference to announce the charges. "It is not a crime only against the American people but against America itself."

Gadahn, who is believed to be living in Pakistan, has emerged in recent months as the most significant American involved in radical Islam. Though originally seen as little more than an English translator for Al Qaeda, he began showing up on videotapes for the organization two years ago. His recent video appearances with Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, have cemented his reputation as a significant new propagandist for terrorism, U.S. counterterrorism officials say.

The nine-page indictment lists five separate instances, from Oct. 27, 2004, to Sept. 11 of this year, in which Gadahn allegedly gave "aid and comfort to Al Qaeda" by appearing in videos with the intent "to betray the United States."

In the first of those videos, the indictment says, Gadahn acknowledged that he had "joined a movement waging war on America and killing large numbers of Americans." Wrapped in a head scarf that covered everything but his eyes, Gadahn also declared that the Sept. 11 attacks on Washington and New York "notified America that it's going to have to pay for its crimes and pay dearly."

In the most recent videotape, the indictment adds, Gadahn referred to the U.S. as "enemy soil."
The article's conclusion quotes a local Muslim cleric who denounces Gadahn's actions as "painful and disturbing." Still, I remain bothered by the fact that we've got home-grown terrorists in our midst. According to the article's sidebar:

As a teenager, he had a period of obsession with demonic music, then started a spiritual journey that took him to the Islamic Center of Orange County, where he was influenced by Khalil Deek and Hisham Diab, followers of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. Abdel Rahman, the so-called blind sheikh now serving a life sentence for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, would call Diab and others in Orange County on Sundays and deliver fiery sermons.

Haitham "Danny" Bundakji, president of the Islamic Society of Orange County, said he barred Diab and Gadahn from the mosque. "They believed that Muslims like me who reached out to Christians and Jews are infidels," Bundakji said.

Deek and Gadahn traveled separately in 1998 to Pakistan, where Gadahn found his way to Al Qaeda training camps and ultimately to the jihadist network's top leaders. He served as a translator before becoming a key propagandist for the group.
Although liberals routinely pooh-pooh the possibility of home-grown Islamist terrorism, the United States faces significant counterterrorism challenges domestically,
as this Council of Foreign Relations report indicates. The Gadahn case is particulary disturbing, on a personal level as a threat orginating close to home, but also nationally in the intense anti-Americanism expressed in Gadahn's statements.

It will be interesting to see how this case plays out. The article notes that there has not been a treason conviction in the U.S. since 1952. However,
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for treason in 1953 (after a 1951 conviction), and perhaps a Rosenberg-like outcome in Gadahn's case might send a message of national resolve on counterterrorism to other American Muslims intent on the destruction of the United States.

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