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. Todd A

    Havok, ever heard of a rhetorical question?

    Hint.....that was one.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nick

    It seems like the US government already knows where Osama is or that he's already dead and doesn't want to reveal it until they really need a morale boost or something. Or they just don't want to look like incompetent fools when this guy finds Osama and kills him.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Noble9

    If our intelligence agencies are doing such a good job of looking for bin Laden, why didn't they know about Gary Faulkner? It was the Pakistanis who picked him up. You'd think if they were actually watching that area they would have noticed an American traipsing around the countryside...6 times.

    June 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • daybedoe

      So true.

      June 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      if they can't find an entire taliban army, what makes you think they can find 1 dude.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michael

    While I think we all appreciate his desire to catch Bin Laden, I think its obvious that the man is mentally ill.

    He went to Pakistan no training, no leads, likely no Arabic language ability, a pistol, and a sword.

    A freaking sword.

    This guy wasn't a danger to anyone other than himself. He's lucky to be alive.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Noble9

      They don't speak Arabic in Pakistan.

      June 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bomd

    wow this guys got nut job written all over him. his trimmed facial hair and neat, pressed cloths gave it all away. this guy must be a secret spy.. lol he wishes. what's he gonna go looking for now Big Foot? "god gave me a vision, and he told me Big Foot needs to be brought to justice for scaring campers.." part of me wants him to find bin laden and pay for it.. with his..life. isn't he on his last leg... i mean kidney, anyway?

    June 26, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    What I want to know is how come this man is getting more attention than the brave men and women in our Armed Forces who put their lives on the line daily.
    I guess nutcases make for better stories...sad.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      last time i checked there's news updates on those people EVERY DAY. this guy is getting attention because noone EXPECTS the "average" citizen to actually travel to Pakistan and start looking. we kind of EXPECT our military to do that. there IS a difference.

      June 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. doofus

    uh...i highly doubt that was his apperance when traveling the deserts of Pakistan dude. that is more than likely how he cleaned up after being placed under arrest and the outfit is probably provided so he could have something clean to wear. no offense, but that isn't too hard to figure out dude. and i don't believe he ever said God told him to do it. I'm not sure where you people keep getting that. All I read was that he wasn't afraid to die because he was religious.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      sorry, this was supposed to be a reply to Bomd not a separate comment, mybad

      June 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. muchogroucho

    Its amazing to me that the people who criticize the loudest and laugh the hardest are the ones who do absolutely nothing for anyone but themselves.

    Keep laughing. This guy is an amazing guy. Why don't all you zombies ask yourselves how he was able to get in that deep? Lets see you try. You guys probably get busted by your wives for grabbing an extra piece of cake from the refrigerator while watching your stupid football game. Thats your level of your mission field.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bomd

      if he's so amazing entrust him to stay at your home with your family.. like you said he's an "amazing guy", so you've got nothing to worry about.

      June 26, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      i don't personally know the guy, but i bet i DO know crazier people.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ronnie

    Does Osama Bin Laden actually exist or is he simply a convenient boogie man created by the CIA to justify war?

    This guy could simply have been chasing a ghost created by his own government. I guess anything is good as long as it feeds the narcissistic American patriotosis. Just look at how popular and rich a numbskull like Sara Palin has become. I guess anything is possible.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. sandi

    Excellent well-written journalistic nuetrality by the writer.

    Gary is the kind of guy I'd like for a neighbor. We can all learn from his authenticity. Not to hunt terrorists, but just in living life sincerely.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. memo

    Gary is a badass. I wish I had his guts.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Norm

    I'm confused. Is this an article about Jim Spellman or Gary Faulkner?

    June 26, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      yeah, they don't really go into the interview very much. i was kinda disappointed.

      June 26, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • mister big

      Don't fret... I'm sure he'll get a full hour on Larry King... I hope! I want to hear this guy say what he has to say!

      June 26, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. daybedoe

    If this guy had done just a little research instead of towing the mass media line he never would have even bought a ticket. How many fake videos do you need to see before you start questioning the official story? How many "purported" or "alleged" videos with no movement, just a voice over, have to come out before you start to wonder what is going on? Benazir Bhutto claims that bin Laden was murdered in an interview with David Frost and she is assassinated a month later!! bin Laden is not wanted by the F.B.I for 9/11!!! No one has seen him in over 7 years. He's dead, he's dead, he's dead! This Faulkner guy is lucky to be alive. He may not be clinical, but he is crazy.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Allan Gendelman

    I went on CNN.com and I saw his picture with the corner of my eye and I thought it was Charles Manson. I thought Charles Manson died or something.LOL.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Smarter_Than_Gary

    This is simply an act of stupidity disguised as patriotism. How did this guy expect to find Bin-Laden, armed with a pistol and a sword? What tactic did this guy use that the U.S. military and intel hadn't thought of? Knocking on cave doors and ask, maybe. People who condone this type of idiocy by suggesting that we should show our patriotism by doing what Gary did, are equally moronic. Our tax money is already being used by the gov for this, and that's patriotic enough. No need to get yourself into harm's way unnecessarily.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      honestly, what i think he could do that the government couldn't? he's one single guy. don't forget the nightvision goggles people. he probably layed low during the day and moved around at night. i kind of agree, what was he expecting to accomplish with a pistol and a sword, but at least he did more than complain on CNN (not particularly directed at you)

      June 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
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