Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Fun and profit when one of your zine writers joins Al-Quaeda

Okay, things have been weird here lately. Let me explain, although this story doesn’t have much of an ending.

I got home from work on Wednesday and had a message on my machine, which was from a reporter at Knight-Ridder. He wanted to ask me how I felt about “having one of my writers be a member of a known terror group”. My initial reaction to this was “what the fuck is he talking about?” Then he mentioned the name Adam Gadahn, and I hit the computer, firing up google in one browser window, CNN in the other.

John Ashcroft and crew had released a new terror warning that afternoon, and that included a list of seven people wanted or wanted for questioning, along with a group of seven headshots that were immediately glued all over the usual news sites. I didn’t recognize any of them, but the newest addition to the list was a US citizen by the name of Adam Gadahn, and I knew where the reporter’s call came from, and why I was associated with the guy. I immediately checked to see how bad the damage would be and exactly where I might have mentioned his name.

Here’s the deal: I used to run a music fanzine called Xenocide. It was a photocopied pile of pages stapled together, filled with music reviews, interviews, and other news about underground heavy metal bands, particularly Death Metal bands, which were big at that time. In addition to trading and selling these zines through the mail, I also posted ASCII copies to various heavy metal newsgroups on the internet, in hopes of meeting new people, and mostly to get more free stuff from bands are record labels.

Back in 1993, as I was preparing for the fifth issue of the zine, I started to get mail from this guy named Adam. I don’t remember much of the exchanges, and I don’t have copies of anything but two paper letters, but he did send me some record reviews for some of his favorite stuff, and I folded them into the rest of my other writing. He seemed like a cool enough guy, not overtly into the whole campy Satanism thing, not too weird, and he always sent me artwork, like little scribbled or doodled zombies or demons or whatnot.

We traded mails a few times, and I printed about six of his reviews in Xenocide 5. I also mentioned his name there, and used some of his artwork. The copy went out to usenet (but not the art), and I didn’t hear much more from him. I never did another issue of the zine, out of general lack of momentum, and two years later I graduated and moved to Seattle. I actually heard from Adam again in November of 1995 at my new job and new email address, except he was calling himself Yahiye then. (He’d always signed his artwork “yagadahn”, but I figured he had dumb hippy parents that named him “Yellowsun” or something, so he just went by Adam.) I exchanged a couple of emails with him then, mostly on the “hey, what’s been up” level, but they didn’t mention terror camps or Islam conversion.

And that’s it. He didn’t seem like a nutjob, he didn’t send me a giant diatribe on the teachings of Muhammed, and I never met him in person or talked to him. But, that issue of Xenocide lingered in Google, and when the story broke on Wednesday, I was the only search result in Google that wasn’t some Islam web resource.

So, in the last few days, I’ve heard from Time, Fox News, AP, and a couple of independent reporters. I also got a call from the FBI, following up on the whole thing. There’s not much to say about it though: we traded some mails, he wrote some reviews, but I could not vouch for his personality, explain his motives, or give any details on his whereabouts.

Normally, I’d be much more sarcastic about this, or try to twist the story a bit to get a laugh or two, but it’s hard to be anything but serious when you come home from work and you have a message from the FBI on your answering machine. Do I think Adam is a terrorist? I don’t know. Do I think that the evils of heavy metal caused him to pick up an AK-47 and praise Allah? Probably not. Most people who fall out of heavy metal when they end their teen rebellion years usually cut their hair and go back to a Christian lifestyle, so it’s weird to hear of someone who turned to Islam, especially since most headbangers are white and conservative and would probably just call Muslims towelheads or worse.

If anything, I am relieved that the FBI did call. That means at least they are checking leads and doing work and not just sitting around with their thumbs up their butts, which is what most people think they do. It shows that federal law enforcement is trying to do something to find out more about these seven, and stop them if they are involved in criminal activities.

Okay, I am at work and get out of here early today, and I will hopefull get in a weekend of no distractions, other than the DVD-related ones I create for myself…