American al Qaeda Charged with Treason

American Taliban spokesmanAdam Yahiye Gadahn has been indicted for treason.

American al Qaeda spokesman Adam Yahiye Gadahn has been indicted on treason charges, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said Wednesday. The 28-year-old California native who has appeared in five al Qaeda videos is also charged with offering material support for terrorism, McNulty said.

American Taliban Charged With Treason Adam Gadahn was seen in a September al Qaeda video inviting Americans to join Islam Gadahn is the first American to face the charge since the World War II era and McNulty called the treason charge “exceptionally severe. ” “This is the right case for this charge,” he said.

Nicknamed “Azzam the American,” Gadahn is not in U.S. custody and McNulty said he is believed to be living overseas.

McNulty said he believes that Gadahn has been involved in issuing propaganda but not in carrying out any terrorist attacks. ( Watch: How Gadahn came to be indicted for al Qaeda ties — 1:59 Video )

Gadahn has appeared in several al Qaeda messages speaking English and appealing to Americans. In a recording released in September, he called for the world to convert to Islam, and in a videotape posted on the Internet, he hailed the 9/11 hijackers. “All the brothers who took part in the raids on America were dedicated, strong-willed, highly motivated individuals with a burning concern for Islam and Muslims, and they had to be chosen for such a difficult mission. They were definitely not failures looking for a way out,” he said in the video.

While the word “treason” is grossly overused by pundits like Ann Coulter, this is a textbook case.

Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution defines the term incredibly narrowly to avoid its abuse by politicians:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

Given that Gadahn is working for a group that has declared war against the United States, perpetrated acts of war against the United States, and has himself made videos calling for war against the United States, this would seem to be a rather simple case–presuming he can actually be arrested and brought home for trial.

FindLaw has an excellent discussion (as always) of the case law surrounding this section.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. are extremely serious and have a very high potential for abuse. That is why the Constitution imposes such a high burden for proving it and independently imposes such rare restrictions on Congress’ power to legislate in this area. As Find Law notes (h/t James Joyner): The treason clause is a product of the awareness of the Framers of the ”numerous and dangerous excrescences” which had disfigured the English law of treason and was therefore intended to put it beyond the power of Congress to ”extend the crime

  2. American indicted on U.S. federal charges of aiding al-Qaeda…

    A 28-year-old Californian who joined al-Qaeda and appeared in propaganda videos for the terrorist or…

  3. geezer says:

    Why do these guys all look like they couldn’t get a date even with a foot-long extension sewed to their tongues? I’m seeing a connection here.

  4. Adam Gadahn, Azzam The American, Charged With Treason…

    Adam Gadahn AKA Azzam the American AKA The American Al Qaeda has been charged with treason, the first person in the US in 50 years. It only took the US two years from the time of his first video calling……