The two American al-Qaeda members killed in counterterrorism operations acknowledged by the White House this morning, Adam Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq, were the fifth and sixth Americans killed in drone strikes. Both were killed in January, according to information released so far, in two separate operations. The White House says that it “declassified” the operations and deaths because Obama felt the American people deserved to know about them, but one source familiar with the way the story played out tells me that reporters had been nosing around about American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto, two hostages who were also killed by our drones.

Although the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Gadahn and Farouq aren’t known (nor is it clear why they were kept secret for months) sources tell the Wall Street Journal that they were unwittingly killed—that is, killed in an attack on someone else. Still, keeping information on Gadahn secret makes no sense (he was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List and had been indicted for treason), so it can be assumed that he was killed as part of an operation to get someone else (Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri?). But, if it’s true that the two were unintentionally killed, that would mean that of the six Americans killed so far in U.S. drone strikes, only one—Anwar al-Awlaki—was intentionally targeted.

Nothing is known about Farouq, described by intelligence officials as a deputy al-Qaeda commander in Pakistan. Terrorism experts say that they have heard the name but have no further information. No one seems to know his ancestral country, or what else he’s been involved in.

Gadahn, on the other hand, was an American born al-Qaeda media committee member and a former metal fan from California. A protégé of Abu Zubaydah (detained) and Khalil Deek (dead), he was being sought by the U.S. on those treason charges, and was previously rumored to have been killed in the attacks that killed Abu Layth al Libi.

An intelligence document obtained by Phase Zero gives the meticulous accounting of Gadahn’s transformation from American citizen to mere number on a targeting list (number 47, to be precise, when the Obama Administration took office):

  • (S) Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) #152461
  • (S) TPN # 2562339
  • (S) Legal Authority/Warrant: W601236916

The “Legal Authority/Warrant” number may refer to the legal authority to assassinate Gadahn. Anyone know what TPN stands for?

Of course it’s interesting to note that as part of the Rewards for Justice program, the FBI says that $1 million was offered for his arrest, not his death. Can we look forward to a budget cut?