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. Swanny2070

    He's going after the wrong guy. He should be trying to find Dick Cheney, since 9-11 was an INSIDE job...

    June 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nik Green

    11 facts about "Terror Superstar" Osama bin Laden about which the media does their level best not to tell the US public:

    (1) He's not wanted by the FBI for 9/11. *QUOTE* ".... we have no hard evidence linking OBL to the crimes of 9/11 – FBI spokesman Rex Tomb, 2006.
    (2) OBL has not been indicted by US Dept. Of Justice for any crime related to the 9/11 attacks.
    (3) OBL's "confession" videotape found in Jalalabad is a proven fake, debunked by experts all over the world. And its a very poor and unconvincing one at that.
    (4) OBL was visited by CIA agents and station chief Larry Mitchell, Dubai, June 2001, while he was on the FBI's "Most Wanted" List for various bombings in Africa. He was neither arrested nor detained. (Le Figaro, 2001)
    (5) 9/10/2001: CBS News: OBL stayed at a hospital the night before 9/11/2001 in a joint Pakistan/US military/intel facility in Rawalpindi, under extremely heavy security. Again, he was neither arrested nor detained. This was the last reliable public sighting of OBL.
    (6) OBL "escaped" the US military after being "surrounded" in Afghanistan 4 times in 2001/2002. (!)
    (7) OBL's subsequent video broadcasts have all been proven as fakes.
    (8) Central Intelligence: There are no connections between OBL's personal finances, and 9/11 funding.
    (9) OBL's relatives were allowed to exit the US, on a private flight immediately after 9/11 (while private flights were grounded by the FAA)... without been questioned by the FBI.
    (10) For 10 years, there has been a $25 million reward on the head of OBL, dead or alive... and nobody in Afghanistan or Pakistan has come forward.
    (11) After 10 years, the combined might of the US and coalition military, the intelligence community and Interpol have failed to locate OBL, let alone capture him. However, ABC reporter John Milller is able to waltz into his hideout and conduct a series of interviews on camera. This was *after* the US Embassy bombings in Africa.

    No apologies to that traitor Cass Sunstein: No conspiracy theory required: All this information is factual and verifiable, but has been deemed "off message" by the corporate media.

    June 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  3. edituh

    It's worth watching the full interview (there's a link to it in the article above.) I know the reporter said he didn't thank Gary was insane, but insanity has a moving definition. I'm a caretaker for a sibling with a mental illness. Based on the video interview, it certainly appears to me that Gary suffers from some degree of a mental illness. I like the idea behind what he tried to do, on a symbolic level at least. But he's tilting at windmills in his own reality.

    June 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      Don't mean to make fun of mental illness, but I definitely sense some short-circuits in his demeanor.

      June 26, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Tilting at windmills is right.

      June 26, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      it better be. because if it's left and you touch it just right, it'll stop spinning.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Amy

    Gary Faulkner for President!!

    June 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shawna

    I have never seen such a nonesence interview. He is sick and drugged and he hoped to die so he could be a fake hero . SAD!!!! why they would let this interviews to air!!!! do we need more of this idiot to make us look like more foolish?

    June 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John

    Wanna serve your country with weapons? Then join the military or join law enforcement. Otherwise, you're just a self appointed vigilante fanatic.

    June 26, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      does he really look like he's in any condition to pass a military fitness test? let alone any specified age requirements (there are some, right?)? i get what you are saying, but i don't think that's an option. i don't understand why everyone is all urked off over this. no one cared that those kids when hiking in mountains in iraq/iran. sure, their intent was different, but their choice in traveling location is just as poor imo as this guys.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bill

    In 1962 some guy thought it would be a good idea to open a gigantic retail store in a small, rural town. Every business expert told him that it would be a financial disaster because there would not be enough customers. This guy said people would drive 50 miles or more to go to his store. The experts told him he was more than a dreamer, he was nuts. The store is Walmart.

    Mr. Faulkner, when I first heard about you I thought you were nuts. Now, I think you should go back to Pakistan, who knows the last last laugh might be made by you.

    June 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jt

    I watched the entire video interview. While I agree with his goal, he is clearly disturbed. He has a hard time staying on subject, frequently distracting himself. He is unable to easily express his thoughts without rambling on and on. Mental illness comes in many forms, but he definitely shows some of the signs. I knew someone similar to him years ago. Right after 9/11, he claimed the White House had called him to help fight terrorism. Within a few months, he had been arrested numerous times for impersonating a police officer and trying to run someone down with his car. He was eventually declared insane. The subject matter of terrorism seems to attract people who have a difficult time dealing with their own reality.

    June 26, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. q

    poor article..

    June 26, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James Bond

    Bin Laden is royal guest of Pakistan. Only by keeping him alive is Pakistan able to take away billiions of US tax payers dollars. Bin Laden gets US intelligency thru pakisani ISI upfront and faster than actions of CIA. The only option is to destroy pakistani nukes, and disintegrate pakistan like czekoslovakia. A long term peaec would be established, since neither Afghanistan, nor India support pakistani jeahd activities. But US agencies would provide more aid to pakistan, and keep shooting on its own foot, a dis-service to tax-payer.

    June 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sravana Reddy

    Jim Spellman is an idiot.

    June 26, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Silas Scarborough

    How about a pic with him wearing the aluminum foil on his head so the UFOs can guide his actions. That'd be pretty cool.

    June 26, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • doofus

      i haven't watched the entire interview yet so i might be misled, but sofar all they have said in articles is that he wasn't afraid to die because he was religious. not that god was guiding him or telling him to get binladen or where OBL was located or anything.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |


    June 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. get-to-tha-choppa

    if tommy chong gets to bin laden before the cia, it'l be the funniest thing ever. especially considering he was in jail during half the bush years.

    June 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John T

    Hats off to Gary. 1000 more like him and we'd have bin Laden and the rest of those clowns.

    June 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
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