The CIA believes that the masked man who made threats against the United States in a suspected Al Qaeda videotape last month may be a Southern California native who is wanted by the FBI, U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday.
A U.S. intelligence official said the CIA had “some confidence but not certainty” that the speaker on the tape was Adam Yahiye Gadahn, who grew up on a goat farm in rural Riverside County and allegedly attended Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.
Although the speaker on the tape sought to conceal his identity by wearing a head scarf that covered all but his eyes, CIA analysts say the voice on the tape appears to match that of Gadahn.
If that assessment is accurate, the tape could be the first significant clue to the whereabouts and activities of Gadahn, 25, who has been the subject of an FBI manhunt since spring, when he was publicly identified by the bureau as being linked to Al Qaeda and a potential threat in the United States.
On the hourlong tape, the speaker identifies himself as “Assam the American” and warns of a wave of violence against America, saying U.S. “streets will run with blood.” The speaker also describes Al Qaeda organizers Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri as “our leaders” and refers to a series of recent events, including bloodshed in Sudan, same-sex marriage legislation in the United States and the Sept. 11 commission.
The tape was obtained late last month by ABC News in Waziristan, a remote region along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
When the FBI announced in May that it was seeking information on Gadahn, the bureau said it had no information connecting him to specific terrorist activities, but that he “should be considered armed and dangerous.” The FBI also said that Gadahn was known to have performed translation services for Al Qaeda figures, and to have associated with senior Al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubeida in Pakistan. Zubeida is now in U.S. custody.
An FBI official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Associated Press on Wednesday that the bureau had not drawn a conclusion about the identity of the man speaking on the tape.
Gadahn’s aunt, Nancy Pearlman, a Los Angeles Community College District trustee, told Associated Press that relatives could not tell if the speaker on the tape was her nephew. “It could or could not be him. We could not tell,” Pearlman said.
Gadahn, who has used a string of aliases and at one time was known as Adam Pearlman, was arrested in May 1997 on charges of attacking a well-known leader at the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove.
Gadahn lived in Garden Grove in the 1990s. FBI officials have said he converted to Islam as a youth and left the United States about 1998. Several of Gadahn’s relatives still reside in Southern California.
Gadahn’s brother, Omar Gadahn, said in an interview last May at his Santa Ana home that he did not believe the allegations against his brother, but said: “Anything is possible. He wanted to follow what he believed.”