RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The new al-Qaeda video features the young American Adam Yahiye Gadahn. He was born 28 years ago into a complicated religious situation. His mother was Christian, his father had converted from Judaism to Christianity and changed the family name from Pearlman(ph) to Gadahn. The FBI believes he is connected to possible terrorist threats against the United States. In the 48-minute video Gadahn calls on Americans to convert to Islam.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
We're going to learn more about him now from Evan Kohlmann. He's a terrorism researcher and consultant and he runs the web site called globalterroralert.com.
Welcome to the program again.
Mr. EVAN KOHLMANN (Terrorism Expert, Globalterroralert.com): Oh, thanks for having me.
INSKEEP: You've seen this video?
Mr. KOHLMANN: Yeah. Actually I think I was one of the first to download it this weekend.
INSKEEP: And how's it go?
Mr. KOHLMANN: It's pretty standard stuff, but there are certain aspects to it that are interesting in some ways, but disturbing. Gadahn, in this video, seems to be increasingly trying to inspire Americans within the United States to join al-Qaida. And I think that's what we have to worry about is that, you know, despite the fact Gadahn appears very clownish and it's hard to take him seriously, perhaps there are those that will be swayed by this ideology - maybe even not by Gadahn, but more generally - and will carry out deeds inside of the United States.
INSKEEP: Now, I'm looking at an FBI Internet posting about this man. It looks like the kind of poster you maybe would have seen in the past, and still, in post offices. You see a couple of photographs. In one, he's almost clean-shaven and the other, he's bearded. He's got a couple of aliases here, ranging from Abu Suhayb Al-Amriki to Adam Pearlman, and some others in between. Who is this guy?
Mr. KOHLMANN: Well, you know, he has an interesting background even for al-Qaida standards. He grew up in central California on a goat farm. When he was young he was actually obsessed with heavy metal music, to the point where his parents began, you know, sensing that this was a bit of an obsessive personality. And to try to break that, they sent him down to live in Southern California to live with his techno-wiz granny, who was living there. And this lady apparently opened Adam up to a whole new world, where he talked about going on these chat rooms on the Internet and researching about various aspects of religion and Christianity and Islam.
And eventually after reading what he found on the Internet, he decided to become a Muslim. And while living in Southern California, Gadahn came into contact with individuals, who much like him, were big on the Internet, but who also had some pretty direct connections back to al-Qaida. So Gadahn made contacts even here in the U.S. before he ever left. And as a result, I guess it's not so surprising to now see Gadahn, not just as someone who's speaking on behalf of al-Qaida, but who's someone who's obviously very involved in their presence of the Internet, their multimedia campaign.
INSKEEP: So he was raised as a Christian and now he's a Muslim?
Mr. KOHLMANN: Yeah, you know, and he's someone - if you watch his videos - he's obviously someone who knows quite a bit about the various faiths. He's obviously very well schooled. The tendency is to assume that an American who would join al-Qaida is someone that's going to be terribly unsophisticated, and I don't think that's necessarily applicable here. Again, I don't know too many Americans that would be swayed by him - he's not the most charismatic figure in the world - but he could potentially come up with something that could thwart U.S. security, and that has to be taken into consideration.
INSKEEP: Is he the only American who has been swayed by al-Qaida, who's prominent at the moment?
Mr. KOHLMANN: No. No. I mean, he's not the only American swayed by al-Qaida. And in fact, interesting enough, some of the same video he's narrated in English have also featured short narrations by another voice in English, and we have yet to identify who that person is.
INSKEEP: Well, as you know, British authorities blamed the subway bombings last year on British-born Muslims. They've had a number of arrests of British-born Muslims since then. I haven't seen as much of that in the United States, but do you think that natural born Americans are part of al-Qaida right now in some number?
Mr. KOHLMANN: Well, it's smaller numbers than what we've seen in the United Kingdom, and I think that is significant. But if you look, there are certainly cases of individuals who either have prior connections, or else are homegrown -are willing to, you know, to join al-Qaida for the cause.
INSKEEP: Evan Kohlmann, terrorism researcher with the Web site globalterroralert.com, thanks.
Mr. KOHLMANN: Thank you.
INSKEEP: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.