The Bin Laden Hunters Who'll Never Catch Their Quarry

A sword-wielding construction worker and publicity-seeking filmmaker tried first

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The deadly strike against Osama bin Laden last night was the culmination of ten years of work by military and intelligence agencies from around the world. For private-sector bin Laden hunters, it was a message that maybe tracking down the world's most dangerous man is a task best left to trained professionals. Among the notable individuals over the past decade who tried and failed to collect the $25 million bounty on the terrorist's head:

Gary Brooks Faulkner

Probably the most infamous of all bin Laden hunters, Faulkner (right) made six trips to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border looking for bin Laden. He was arrested last June after border authorities discovered the 52-year-old diabetic construction worker was carrying handcuffs, a gun, a dagger, hashish, Christian literature, and, most famously, a 40-inch-sword. Pakistani officials said Faulkner told them his goal was "to locate bin Laden and kill him.” (He was released several weeks later. How close he came to catching the terrorist is in doubt. Faulkner's brother Scott told Time magazine his brother claimed to have seen a "bearded man in a white robe speaking on a walkie-talkie" in the mountains on his last two visits to Pakistan, the latest intelligence suggests the terrorist had been living in the Abbottabad compound where he was killed since 2006. Maybe he was on vacation too?

Keith Idema

Before receiving a ten-year prison sentence in 2004 for running an illegal prison in Afghanistan, Idema ran his own bin Laden hunting taskforce called Task Force Saber 7. (He also had his own dummy security firm, the US Counter-Terrorist Group.) The former Green Beret claimed the task force was working with the Pentagon and CIA to capture bin Laden, and that he was an advisor to the Northern Alliance, Afghanistan's anti-Taliban resistance. In reality, he was a rogue actor, unlawfully detaining Afghan civilians and torturing them for information regarding the whereabouts of the al Qaeda leader in a rented house. (Below, the video from one of his sessions.) According to New York magazine, authorities raided the house and found "three prisoners...blindfolded and beaten and strapped to the ceiling by their feet; five others were tied to chairs with rope in a small, dark room down a hall that was littered with bloodied clothing." Of course none of the Afghan prisoners Idema detained had any connection to bin Laden, who, by that point, had already been in Pakistan for two years. Afghan President Hamid Karzai eventually pardoned Idema in 2007 and he returned to the U.S. In 2010, Idema made the news again when he barricaded himself in a house near Cancun after police arrived to question him about assault allegations.

Anonymous client of the Anderson Group

Early last month, the spokespersons for an unnamed  "Iraqi war veteran and former military sergeant" emailed The Atlantic Wire to see if we'd be interested in covering their client's mission into Afghanistan to capture bin Laden. We were! But first we wanted to know his name. They said no, because revealing his identity would endanger his life in a way that a press release, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and web site would not. He has been aggressively documenting his progress but nothing since last night. We're still fairly sure it's a hoax of some sort, but if not, hope you have a comfortable flight home!

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.