In an article published May 18 in The Conversation, Rebecca Adelman, an assistant professor of media and communication studies, wrote about Adam Gadahn’s complicated relationship with the U.S. government in the wake of the announcement of his death on April 23. Gadahn, an American propagandist for al-Qaida, was killed by an accidental drone strike in Pakistan on January 19. He had previously been charged with treason in 2006.
“The federal government’s decision to indict him for the capital offense of treason reveals its need to confront and contain visual threats. Like a latter-day Toyko Rose, Gadahn’s skillful use of propaganda made him a potent enemy in the eyes of the state,” Adelman wrote.
In her article, Adelman draws reference to her book Beyond the Checkpoint: Visual Practices in the Global War on Terror, in which she closely examines how the Gadahn case evolved: “I analyze the documents surrounding the case to argue that the state did not truly desire to execute Gadahn or even to try him. Neither of these actions would have satisfactorily redressed his explicitly visual crimes Instead, I suggested that the most likely outcome for a captured Gadahn would have been indefinite detention: active, perpetual disappearance in an effort to finally control his image. My hypothesis that the government would not seek to kill Gadahn was borne out by his status as an unintended casualty of this drone strike.”
To read the full article titled “What the accidental killing of an American ‘traitor’ says about the power of visual weapons,” click here.