June 26th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Inside the strange world of Gary Faulkner

Editor's note: CNN All-Platform Journalist Jim Spellman filed this post on his recent reporting on alleged Osama bin Laden hunter, Gary Faulkner:

For the last week or so I have been immersed in the world of Gary Faulkner, the man who went to Pakistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden.

I’ve spent time with most of his family, researched his criminal record and talked to his neighbors - but nothing prepared me to actually meet the larger than life amateur bounty hunter.

Tuesday morning, Gary’s brother, Todd Faulkner, called to tell me that the State Department said Gary would be released in a matter of hours.

The family was ecstatic.

They got to work booking flights for Gary’s long trip home from Islamabad to Denver. When it became clear the only flights available would give him a 6 hour layover in Los Angeles they decided to travel to LA to meet Gary.

I asked to tag along and the family agreed.  Watch the Faulkner interview

Todd Faulkner and I boarded our flight from Denver Wednesday morning and joined Gary’s mother and sister at the sprawling Los Angeles airport. Reporters were already on hand staking out the international arrivals area.

The family was getting nervous about all the press. They didn’t know what condition Gary was in or how he would react to the gaggle of press cameras.

I was getting nervous too. My plan was to try to get an exclusive interview with Gary during the Los Angeles layover. The Faulkner family agreed, but we didn’t know if Gary would be ready to talk.

The plan was to meet Gary after he went through customs and immigration, jump into an awaiting van and head over to a nearby hotel room CNN had booked to conduct the interview. If everything went as planned we would lose the rest of the press and Gary would have a chance to get cleaned up, reunite with his family, then sit down for the interview.

Before we made it to the van, I realized that nothing would go as planned with Gary Faulkner.

Gary emerged from a side door of the terminal flanked by TSA officers. His brother was ready to guide him straight to the van but Gary was ready to talk. He had a big smile on his face and looked to be in great physical condition.

The New York Post had reported that the Pakistani government might have shaved his beard –but he returned home with his beard, and long, flowing gray hair intact. He was wearing sandals, cargo pants and a t-shirt.

He had no interest in being whisked anywhere and immediately began talking to the press convened on the sidewalk. The click-click-click-click of the still cameras made it sound like a red carpet celebrity appearance.

Only 30 seconds in the media spotlight and he was loving it. A reporter shouted a question to Gary: "Were you scared?"

"This is not about me," he responded. "What this is about is the American people and the world. We can't let people like this scare us.

“We don't get scared by people like this. We scare them. And that's what this is about. We're going to take care of business and we will take care of business very soon!"

Bystanders and even a few reporters cheered.

Finally his brother was able to drag him away and we jumped in the van and sped away.

I introduced myself and he immediately agreed to do an interview, and in fact he was ready to do it right there in the van but everyone agreed to get to the hotel and give him a chance to gather his thoughts.

When we got to the hotel room, the Faulkners asked me and the rest of the CNN crew to give them a few minutes of privacy. We stepped out in the hall and at this point, I was wondering if the interview was going to actually happen. Then, about 20 minutes later, the door opened and we went back in. Gary was ready for the interview, but we would be limited to 2 minutes.

We get right to it. Gary plopped down on the couch and I pulled up a chair.

“I got off my butt and I put my life on the line to go out there," he said. "My life is a story that you won't believe – but you know what all that matters is I stood up for what I believe.”

Read more about what Faulkner said

We started to get into some details about his confinement when his brother Todd tried to end the interview. Gary didn’t want to stop talking but we had exceeded the 2 minutes we agreed to, so we stopped the camera.

The Faulkners have been extremely generous in allowing us access to their family and we now got a look at the kind of thing all families go through from time to time, but didn’t have reporters in the room for it.

An argument broke out between Todd - who wanted to protect his brother - and Gary, who wanted to speak for himself. I know they were a bit embarrassed to have us witness this but it really was a loving scene. Brothers who argue but never hold a grudge.

Gary won and we continued the interview.

Gary is a very passionate guy and things get a little heated in the interview. It’s what the family was worried about but it’s what makes Gary the guy he is. He speaks his mind the way he wants and he takes the actions to back up his words. Take him or leave him.

Immediately after the interview I spoke with a CNN executive to go over how we would handle the interview. He asked me the question that was on everyone’s mind: "Is he sane?"

My answer was yes, he is quite sane. Is he a conventional 9-to-5 guy? No, and he never will be.

Was his plan to capture or kill Osama bin Laden armed with a pistol, a sword and night vision goggles likely to succeed? Probably not, but every day people do risky things like climb mountains or sail around the world simply to say they have done it.

Gary’s goal was to capture or kill the most wanted man in the world. If he managed to succeed there would be a $25 million reward waiting for him.

It may not be as crazy as it sounds.

soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. Norton

    Spellman is really glad there are people out there like him. Yeah – there are like 1.4million of them. They're called the US Armed Forces. Gary is lucky to be alive and deserves nothing more than a footnote. Want to honor a hero? Say thank you to a serviceman/woman or the family of someone who's given their life defending our way of life.

    June 26, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      the difference is he's just a "regular guy." i DO honor our service men and women, but they signed up for their jobs. there's no draft in effect. all the people at home who complain about how the government is handling things, well this man DID something about it. it's something to be impressed by, not offended by. chill out.

      June 26, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dan

    When does his show on VH1 start?

    June 26, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  3. rdw

    @ Thomas Howard

    "Because he died in 2005 in Lahore of a dialise problem."

    I don't know if you were serious or just joking, but to be honest I really do believe Osama Bin Laden is dead. I mean, what? This man hunt for Bin Laden has been going on for almost 10 years now? On top of that, he has a serious medical problem as well? Yeah, I think he's dead.

    June 26, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  4. Woody

    I see people doing stranger things every day. Since when did any of us decide we were normal ? Normal is only an illusion.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. doofus

    when do we get to see the entire video interview? that small clip was bs lol

    June 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jaime Greer

    Travel to Pakistan for a Bin Laden Safari Hunt. 25 million dollar prize for the head if Bin Laden. Meet your travel guide Gary. Who's face is now known to every terrorist who has a laptop.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      i know right? they totally ruined Gary's chances now

      June 26, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jofly98

    This guy is a REAL LIFE SUPER HERO! He deserves a reward just for his personal courage.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jumba

    Less Jim Spellman (including his guitars in the background) and more Gary Faulkner would put the story where it should be focused: on the subject, not the journalist. Whatever happened to old-fashioned reporting? "If you ain't got a story, don't put your face in the camera."

    June 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tm8

    That guy is my hero. Our government must not want Bin Laden caught too badly. They haven't done it themselves. What do we pay these morons for??

    June 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lostagain

    If Our Government had half the Heart as this guy,Binladinwould have been DEAD along time ago

    June 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John Bledsoe

    My question is how long until he tries to go back to Pakistan and try again? Hope he does and kills bin Laden. Hope he shoots him between the eyes and shoots all the other damn al Qadea terrorists he can find. Good for this guy! I wish there were more like him out there!

    June 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Drew

    I agree, Norton. Thank a soldier. After all, it's not their fault they haven't had the success everyone was hoping for over seas. It's hard to do a job when you're own government, with a complete lack of any forethought, ties your hands behind your back and then asks you to take on a difficult task. This is where Michael was absolutely correct.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      i don't think anyone is saying we shouldn't thank a soldier. again, the difference is i EXPECT them to be looking for Bin Laden. Most people just comment on CNN and complain. He got off his duff and went looking. Unless you actively served in the region (entirely possible), what have YOU done? you've never said the government wasn't doing a good enough job?

      June 26, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hold Fast

    If there were more people like that dude out there, we would have found Osama Bin Laden by now.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Gary Ohio

    Bin Ladin's dead...next.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. N. Rosen

    Bin Laden COULD have been killed during the initial phase of the Afghanistan action under Bush but the order was not given when it could have been given in Tora Bora not to. We HAD him and he would have been DEAD. So why did not Bush the JERK give the thumbs up? He didn't because it would NOT have served his fabulous war in Iraq ...as long as Bin Lousy was out there the American public would support his rotten war. After he was dead then there would be no rationale. This is at least what I think.

    As the months and years went by I believe it was thought in US interests NOT to catch him because perhaps of the furor it would present in the Islamic world. BIG mistake not to get him in Tora Bora. BIG.

    I don't care what the psychology of Gary Faulkner is there is SOMETHING about him I LIKE and do I wish he were successful and could have proved it YES, you bet I do. Since 9/11/2001 I have looked EVERY SINGLE day for the news that Bin jerko was killed DEAD but no joy...people around me said don't worry we'll get him. WE never did.

    Now could he be dead of kidney failure? Absolutely he could. I don't know. But if this guy Faulker or someone like him can do it and knows that that rancid fool is alive I would STILL LOVE to see it. Go Gary but be careful. We want bin laden DEAD and you around to tell about it and reap your just reward. SHAME on the US government and ESPECIALLY Bush/Cheney who led us down this pitiful road and now Obama who is now looking at more US dead! We need more like Gary who have the know how and will to do it.

    I've been critical of Blackwater as I think they have done egregious things BUT I surely HOPE instead of killing innocents SOMEONE even THEY SHOULD get the biggest murderer of all!

    June 26, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
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