In a major victory for the United States and Pakistan, American born Adam Gadahn, who had become the western voice for Al Qaeda, was arrested in Karachi, Pakistan today.
Gadahn has appeared in more than half a dozen al-Qaida videos, taunting and threatening the West and calling for its destruction. A U.S. court charged Gadahn with treason in 2006, making him the first American to face such a charge in more than 50 years. Gadahn grew up on a goat farm in Riverside County, California, and converted to Islam at a mosque in nearbyOrange County. He moved to Pakistan in 1998, according to the FBI, and is said to have attended an al-Qaida training camp six years later, serving as a translator and consultant. He has been wanted by the FBI since 2004, and there is a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
His most recent video was posted Sunday, praising the U.S. Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, as a role model for other Muslims. The video released Sunday appeared to have been made after the end of the year, but it was unclear exactly when. “You shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that military bases are the only high-value targets in America and the West. On the contrary, there are countless other strategic places, institutions and installations which, by striking, the Muslim can do major damage,” Gadahn said, an assault rifle leaning up against a wall next to him.
Now, the next question is, in what setting should Gadahn be tried? He is clearly an American, so will be extradited by Pakistan. As a U.S. citizen, under the Constitution he can be tried for treason, and was charged in absentia by a court in 2006.
I have argued, from the beginning of the war on terror, that military tribunals should be used for foreign individuals. Clearly, if you are a foreign national, you have not guaranteed Constitutional rights. But a U.S. citizen is a different matter all together. Legally, do we ever want the U.S. government to have the ability to throw American citizens into military tribunals? That is a dangerous precedent, one that the Bush Administration themselves tried to avoid at all costs. You only have to look as far as the Richard Reid/Shoe bomber episode to see that.
The Constitution is clear on the treason…it is the only crime it clearly identifies, as stated in Article III, section 3:
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.
Ultimately, this is the course of action that Obama will take. Liberals and most conservatives will probably agree with that decision. It is not akin to the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial…it is a different animal all together. And it should be treated as such.
Still, historically it will set a precedent. It will be the first treason charges used since World War II. And treason can lead to the death penalty, as stated in the Constitution.
In any case, the recent uptick in Pakistani cooperation with U.S. intelligence services must be consider a positive sign in the continued war on terror.
UDPATE: Is it or is it not Gadahn? No one seems sure. Pakistanis insist it is him…US officials say it is not. Probably not, then. Too bad.