NEW YORK, May 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Captured Al Qaeda chief Khalid Shaikh
Mohammed -- "KSM" to his interrogators -- wanted American-born terror suspect
Adam Yahiye Gadahn to join a plot to blow up fuel stations outside Baltimore,
according to a May 2003 classified FBI document obtained by Newsweek. Gadahn,
one of the seven terror suspects displayed by Attorney General John Ashcroft
last week, had a pregnant Muslim wife at the time and was not eager to
participate in "martydom" (suicide) operations, KSM reported, but he was
willing to help out. He says he had last seen Gadahn, who had taken the name
Abu Suhayb Al-Amriki, in Karachi in October 2002, Newsweek reports in the
(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20040530/NYSU003 )
KSM, who was captured in Pakistan and taken into custody in March 2003,
revealed that tightened security post-9/11 had forced Al Qaeda to rethink its
strategy for penetrating the United States. The terrorists needed operatives
with American passports and began trying to recruit native-born Americans,
looking for those living abroad who had converted to Islam or black Muslims
inside the U.S. One such American was Gadahn, a young convert and alleged
Qaeda translator, report Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas, Washington
Bureau Chief Dan Klaidman and Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff in
the June 7 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, May 31).
Last week everyone, including Gadahn's parents in California, was
wondering where he'd gone. His father, Philip Gadahn, says he had not seen his
son for five years and last spoke to him-by phone-shortly after 9/11. Gadahn
grew up "off the grid," according to his aunt Nancy Pearlman -- no computer,
no TV. "I moved out of the city and changed my life, so I changed my name,"
says Philip Gadahn, whose own father was a prominent Orange County urologist.
Philip's son Adam was home-schooled, but he rejected the hippie life as a
teenager. "I became obsessed with demonic heavy-metal music," Adam Gadahn
explained in a 1995 essay about his conversion to Islam. "I eschewed personal
cleanliness and let my room reach an unbelievable state of disarray."
Alienated from his parents by 16, Newsweek reports, he moved into the Orange
County home of his doctor grandfather and began cruising the Web, "looking for
something else to hold on to."
Gadahn found Islam and was soon working as a security guard at an Islamic
center. Fired for sleeping on the job, he was also arrested for punching a
middle-aged mosque official. After pleading guilty, he fell in with some
Pakistani men and moved to Afghanistan in 1998, Newsweek reports.
He got a job publishing an English-language propaganda magazine for the
Taliban. (Sample headline: The U.N.: World Body or American Pawn?) Gadahn
appears to have acquired his wife by blunt local methods. According to her
father, Haji Abdul Ghaffur (interviewed by Newsweek in January 2002), some
Taliban men with AK-47s showed up at his house in Kabul and essentially
requisitioned his daughter. She was not displeased. "He was a good man, He
wasn't cruel to anyone," she told Newsweek.
According to Qari Saheb, a former driver for Taliban leader Mullah Omar,
interviewed in January 2002 by Newsweek, Gadahn befriended another American-
John Walker Lindh, later known by the media as the "American Taliban" after
his capture in the Afghan war. Gadahn had offered to help Walker find a Muslim
wife-his own wife's sister. Lindh was interested, but told Gadahn that he
would marry only when he returned from the front lines. He wound up in an
It's not clear what happened to Gadahn. An Afghan fighter named Hamdullah
tells Newsweek that he had run into the American before Kandahar fell in the
winter of 2001. Hamdullah thought that Gadahn had been "in the air force."
Newsweek also reports that the White House played a role in the decision
to go public with the warning about the terror suspects planning attacks on
the U.S. in the coming months. According to a White House official, President
Bush signed off on the press conference after meeting with FBI Chief Robert
Mueller, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Attorney General John
Ashcroft. With the president's poll numbers dropping, the Bush administration
is surely eager to divert media and public attention from Iraq to the
But just because the administration may have been playing politics to
shift attention from its own failings does not mean the terror warnings are
unwarranted. As a senior administration official explained to Newsweek, "Look,
sometimes the right thing to do also happens to be the politically expedient
thing to do." In the past, the FBI has tended to be secretive about terror
suspects. But in recent months the thinking has shifted. Press conferences and
Wanted posters can help deter terrorists, the analysts believe. "We have
intelligence giving us a great deal of confidence that these kinds of [public]
activities disrupt the terrorists," said one Ashcroft aide, who added, a bit
defensively, "It's not a PR strategy. It's a counterterrorism strategy."
(Read Newsweek's news releases at http://www.Newsweek.com.
Click "Pressroom" at the bottom of the page.)