The best book so far about Special Forces in Afghanistan is Robin Moore's Hunt for Bin Laden. It will probably stand for a long time as the definitive book on that campaign.
But the guy on the cover isn't an active-duty Green Beret, nor is he National Guard. He's a "former" Special Forces operator, who goes by the nom de guerre "Jack." On the cover he's striding across the desert, flanked by two mujahideen, the jacket of his desert uniform open, to catch the breeze, checked kafiyah knotted around his neck, AK-47 swinging loosely in his hand. He stares at the camera through the darkest shades. He is one bad motor scooter, and he is one of my dearest friends.
Perhaps I should pause and explain that the expression "former" Green Beret is essentially meaningless. They don't take out your brain, and they don't take out your heart when they let you out of the Army. If you travel this world, looking in all the wrong places, everywhere you go you'll find guys -- maybe toting guns, maybe wielding scalpels, maybe getting it all down on a laptop -- who have an old, faded, dirty, worn, rat-bites-on-the-sweatband green beret in their suitcase, or maybe at home atop a bust of Beethoven on the mantel. They're doing pretty much the same work they always did, without the encumbrance of a military chain of command or the advantage of U.S. supply lines, medevac, air support; they're proud owners of their very own foreign policy.
It would be easy to do a book about the exploits of "ex" Green Berets, most good, some not so good.
But, even in this rarified atmosphere, my man "Jack" stands out. The list of people who hate his guts is long and scary. It includes some other Green Berets, both former and active. It includes the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Justice, Russian intelligence agents, and absolutely everybody, anywhere, who ever tried to cross him.
He's all over Moore's book. No active-duty SF guy gets the number of mentions "Jack" does, primarily because SF works in teams, and Jack was on his own. There he is, mortaring the Taliban, single-handedly breaking up a mob scene (Afghans storming the quarters of international-aid workers), debriding (cutting away traumatized flesh) and stitching gunshot wounds, breaking up a traffic jam in a tunnel through a mountain in the Hindu Kush, which saved about 200 people from freezing to death when night fell.
He swears he was once within hours of encircling Bin Laden, when a CIA drone fired its Hellfire missile at OBL's meeting. That broke up the meeting and Osama got away.
Remember the tapes of Osama's terror school, the tapes Dan Rather broke on CBS? Jack captured them. They showed the usual Arabs going through the confidence course. They also showed a rehearsal for an assassination of "world leaders" on a golf course. It was actually kind of funny, this bogus golf course set up in the middle of the desert, and guys in camouflage Arab dress playing "golf" with sticks, when suddenly their caddies rip AKs out of the golf bags and hose their customers down, then jump in the getaway jalopy, which steams up by prearranged signal and whisks them away.
Not so amusing if they use these skills to break up your game.
On these tapes Osama said flat-out that he was the prime mover in 9/11. Rather interviewed "Jack" and alluded to his "murky" past. "Murky" is a euphemism for four years in the federal pen, framed like a Picasso by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for a crime he did not commit, and which they knew he did not commit. The FBI agents who helped frame him were KGB moles Earl Edwin Pitts and Robert Philip Hanssen.
I first heard of "Jack" in 1986, when I was editing an adventure mag in New York, a Soldier of Fortune clone called Eagle. Jack was running a school for SWAT and commando tactics. Most of his clients were U.S. government agencies, police agencies, or foreign-government agencies who had been referred to him by the Department of Defense. But he also took private clients and needed publicity. He sent me great color photos of a live-fire reaction course in a swamp, stuff that I could use to illustrate a lot of stories. All he wanted was a credit for his company. Whatta guy!
We didn't actually meet until 1993, when I went to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to produce a television documentary on Special Forces. When I met him he had a beer in his hand and a tracking device on his ankle. He was out on bail.
In 1991 Jack had gone to Lithuania to train their federal police commandos. He has never admitted working for the Department of Defense, but they were aware of the operation and approved it at the highest level. He won the heart of the Lithuanian cops by outshooting their national champion after a formal dinner, which is to say a lot of vodka with some food on the side.
They shot in a basement under police headquarters. It was neck and neck until Jack suggested they fire the last order in total darkness. In that environment he creamed the guy.
They liked and trusted him so much that they let him in on their best case. They had busted some former KGB and GRU (Soviet military intelligence) types smuggling enough fissionable material to make six "suitcase" nukes. That they caught them was the good news. The bad news was that this was the third shipment. Nobody knew where prior shipments had gone, but the leading contenders were Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.
With Lithuanian help he also went to Moscow to talk to friendly elements within what was now the former KGB, the FSK. They confirmed what the Lithuanians had told him. They did this at the risk of their lives, because those complicit in the smuggling went high in the FSK.
Jack brought this information back to the States, and the Department of Defense hosted an interagency meeting to discuss the matter. Jack had brought with him from Lithuania Major General Jouzas Rimkevicius, head of the federal police commandos.
CIA counterintelligence, under the traitor Aldrich Ames, was the first U.S. action agency. Naturally enough, in hindsight, they almost got Jack's agents killed. The case was tossed to the FBI.
Jack's agents asked for his promise not to reveal their names. They told him that CIA and FBI counterintelligence were penetrated by the former KGB. This was true, but nobody in the American government believed it.
The FBI insisted that Jack tell them the names of his agents, and he refused. So, to make a very long story short, they framed him for wire fraud, and he went to prison for four years.
And about once a week he was told, "Give us the names and you're outta here."
I can't prove his innocence, but I can tell you why I believe in it. I wrote a three-part story about him for Soldier of Fortune. When I turned it in, I said, "You better have your lawyer check this out. It's potentially libelous, and the people libeled would be FBI agents, if this isn't true."
They failed to have the lawyer check it out. In those stories I accused FBI agents of perjury, by name. I accused the FBI crime lab of falsifying evidence. If I hadn't been right, I could have been ruined. We never even got a phone call.
At the same time, Jack's cause was championed by Gary Scurka, a television producer who had worked for every major magazine show on the air, had 10 Emmys and 70 other major awards to show for it. The guy was big-time. He invested over a quarter of a million dollars of his own money into three trips to Lithuania and Russia, tracking the story.
He says he knew for sure it was true when Fawn -- Jack's first wife -- stuck with him through almost all of it. She was convicted as an accomplice and got 17 months in women's prison. She lost custody of her son from a previous marriage. She was stand-up until she got out.
Fawn likes guys. She found one, a young sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division.
After it all shook out, Jack and Fawn were not friends. But when Gary asked her outright, she said, "He's a son of a bitch, but he wasn't lying about that. He's not guilty." She'd served her sentence. She had nothing to gain, and she really wanted to hurt him. But she wouldn't lie.
One night in prison, Jack refused to leave the TV room until he saw the news. He knew it was coming. He saw Earl Edwin Pitts, the man who had orchestrated his persecution, led away in handcuffs. Jack did a little dance on the table in the TV room.
But the FBI has never admitted the mistake nor apologized.
Nonetheless, when President Bush called on all Americans to do everything they could in the fight against terror, Jack bought a ticket to Tajikistan, skipped over the border, and became senior military advisor to the Northern Alliance.