AMERICAN TRAITOR: The rise and fall of Al-Qaeda’s U.S.-Born Leader Adam Gadahn

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The War on Terror started on 9/12/2001. Terror had a face, and it was mainly seen with Osama Bin Laden. However, Osama Bin Laden was the financial backer of terror, not so much the ideologue of terrorism and its brazen acts. Ayman Al-Zawahiri served as the charismatic spokesperson of Al Qaeda. Any organization looking to have an impact needs followers, those willing to listen and those willing to act. Adam Gadahn had a mind willing to be swayed by the warlike words espoused by Al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden. Adam Gadahn was born in September 1978. His parents brought him and his siblings up in a spartan existence in California, forsaking creature comforts as well as basic things. Adam was raised a Christian, though he didn’t take to it with much fervor. Gadahn displayed a love of Death Metal music, writing reviews for trade magazines. He would shock some in his family when he converted to Islam in 1995. His family’s dysfunction overshadowed Adam’s alienation. Adam would shrink away from the Christian ideals of his parents and his paternal grandfather’s zionist zeal. The roles played by Muslims he roomed with in Orange County have been viewed with suspicion.

Gadahn would make his way to the Middle East, arriving in Pakistan in 1998. His indoctrination into the warlike ways of Al Qaeda would develop over time, with Gadahn emerging as a spokesperson, championing the jihad against the West. His family would be questioned post 9/11, their answers to their last contacts with Gadahn varying with time. The family seemed to have as many questions as authorities. Where and when did Gadahn stray? Where did this seething rage and hatred come from? Gadahn’s image would fill the screens on Al Jazeera as he cheered the latest terror attacks and clamored for the head of George W. Bush and later Barack Obama. He would become a public enemy of the United States, his name mentioned with those of notorious John Walker Lindh and Anwar Al Alaki. Rumors of Gadahn’s demise would surface, only to be quashed with the latest propaganda piece appearing online or on Al Jazeera. Gadahn’s notoriety rose until his end, brought about by a drone strike in Pakistan in 2015.

Steven Stalinsky has his hands full with a subject like Adam Gadahn. The biography is mostly told by Gadahn’s interviews with Al Qaeda-friendly publications or FBI write-ups. Gadahn’s family’s interviews portray Gadahn as soft spoken, well mannered. They saw some internal trouble but not the whole picture. Gadahn’s early life is more shaded than his outlaw existence. A very interesting take on a mouthpiece for extremism. Do not miss a chance to read!


Read San Francisco Book Review’s interview with this author.

This page was created by an SFBR staff member.


Reviewed By:

Author Steven Stalinsky
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 491 pages
Publisher MEMRI Books
Publish Date 2017-Nov-25
ISBN 9780967848020
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue March 2018
Category Current Events & Politics
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