Washington (CBS) - Adam Gadahn, an American-born convert to Islam, has become the first American to be charged with treason since World War II.
Gadahn has appeared in terrorist videos, including at least one released by al Qaeda.
The crime of treason is laid out in the Constitution. It requires either testimony of at least two witnesses or an in-court confession for a conviction. No American has been charged with treason in the past 50 years.
Deputy Atty. General Paul McNulty is set to announce the indictment at 4 p.m. at the Justice Department, CBS News reports. The indictment stems from officials' worries about the "propaganda effect" of Gadahn's threats and did not want them to go unanswered, CBS News' Stephanie Lambidakis reports.
Adam Yahiye Gadahn was born in California, the son of son of musician Phil Pearlman, who also is reported to have changed his surname to Gadahn. The son grew up raised on a halal farm and converted to Islam in his late teens.
Gadahn is believed to be overseas, not in U.S. custody. But it has been reported that the FBI has sought Gadahn for questioning since 2004. Gadahn now tends to call himself Azzam the American, Lambidakis reports.
According to family members, he moved to Pakistan in 1998. He first showed up in an al Qaeda video in October 2004 and called himself "Azzam the American."
The treason charge would be based on recent videos in which he has made clear his calls for attacks on the United States and his allegiance to al Qaeda.
Gadahn was featured in a 2004 video warning that "now it's time for Americans to die."
In a 41-minute video, posted on an Islamic militant Web site and discovered in September, Gadahn appeared in a video that also featured Iraqi terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"We invite all Americans and unbelievers to Islam," Gadahn said, dressed in a white robe and turban with a long, thick black beard and a computer terminal in the background.
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