One Person’s Terrorist Is Another Person’s Freedom Fighter
One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter
Discussing this quote can be done in a lot of ways, and it can have a lot of different opinions to it. It's rather the different approaches on a case that can define the difference. Since the attacks on 11/9 the world's eyes opened even more for what really terrorism is. One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter is pointed out to the difficulty of defining, who is more right than the other?
This sentence can be of use for two main reasons. The motives and methods of the terrorist and freedom fighter may often be separable.
People thinking about terrorism would very often mention 9/11 attacks, Al-Qaida, bombing and killing civilians. We hear every day by reading newspapers, watching television of issues regarding from terrorism. These acts of terrorism make us fear. Make us think what is going on in this world. All terrorist acts involve in one or other way violence or-almost as important- threat of violence. Terrorism systematically uses terror as a use for their own freedom or personal opinions. Terrorism can be defined as justified reaction to oppression. They have a combination of goals to achieve, either political, power or the rule of areas. Terrorism use much fear to achieve. They make people fear them, not for whom they are, but for what they can do to them.
Every man wants to achieve freedom in one way. For terrorists that might mean by achieving extreme goals, for others it's far less things. As a simple definition of what freedom is, you can say that it's a principle of self-control, self-ownership. In a freedom society every person has ownership and control of their own mind and body. A certain type of political empowerment. Equal empowerment. So a freedom fighter would be someone fighting for these rights.
The only difference is...
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In December, 2012, an itinerant American named Eric Harroun checked into a youth hostel in Istanbul. A thirty-year-old U.S. Army veteran with sandy-blond hair, Harroun had left the service in 2003, and since then he had travelled everywhere from Lebanon to Thailand. He was living out of a green duffelbag and a tan camouflage backpack, navigating the world one Lonely Planet guidebook at a time.
At the hostel, Harroun, who made friends easily, met a liberal Syrian activist from Aleppo. “We were hanging out every night, drinking until morning, and talking about the revolution in Syria,” the activist said. The revolt against Bashar al-Assad was approaching its third year, and the activist lamented that Assad was bombarding his people with tanks, jets, and poison gas. Human-rights organizations had accused Syrian soldiers of war crimes, including raping prisoners and massacring children. “The atrocities that were being committed by that totalitarian regime, it made me mad,” Harroun later recalled. “It made me very angry to where I wanted to pick up arms and actually fight against people who would do that.”
On December 5th, Harroun called his mother, Ann, who lived in Phoenix, and informed her that he was going to war. Through the activist, he had met a commander from the Free Syrian Army, which opposed Assad; Harroun had immediately joined the cause. In a message over Skype, he wrote to Ann that, because he was a “qualified expert with an M-16,” he had been placed in “a squad that has scopes, aka sniper rifles.” Harroun assured Ann that he would be fighting alongside honorable men, because “the USA is secretly supplying the FSA.”
Ann urged him to reconsider. She admired his desire to express solidarity with the Syrian opposition but didn’t want him to risk his life. “Can’t you help these people more from the outside, trying to get food and water to them?” she wrote. But Harroun had made up his mind. When his ex-girlfriend Teresa Richard, a Spanish yoga instructor he’d met in Beirut, told him that he would be “crazy” to fight in Syria, Harroun replied, “You have to break an egg to make an omelette.”
The U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has called Syria “an apocalyptic disaster.” The U.N. estimates that nearly two hundred thousand Syrians have died since 2011. The mayhem has forced virtually all foreign diplomats and intelligence officers to flee; very few journalists continue to report inside Syria, and those who dare to enter become kidnapping targets. (Eighty reporters have been killed.) Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told me that Syria has become a “black hole.”
And yet, to a certain kind of person, the extreme danger made Syria only more enticing. Harroun spent the next few weeks preparing for battle. “I am bringing multivitamins and medicine, and I am bringing a rucksack of canned food and bread,” he told Ann.
Harroun and the activist planned to fly to the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep and then cross the border into Syria, where the activist would arrange to leave Harroun with another Free Syrian Army commander. (The activist, whose family remains in Syria, asked for his name to be withheld.) On January 4, 2013, Harroun told his mother, “I will be in Syria for 1 month, then take a break for a couple weeks.” He was bringing his iPhone but doubted that he would find a reliable Internet connection. He warned her that it might be a while before she heard from him.
“Stay safe,” she wrote. “i do not want to lose any of my children before me!!!”
Harroun had caused his mother worry long before he set off to fight in a foreign land. Growing up, he was rarely cowed by authority, and in his teen-age years she was the only one at home to challenge him: Ann had divorced Harroun’s father, Darryl, a truck driver, when Eric was nine.
In the ninth grade, Harroun was arrested for robbery, and found with knives in his sock. When Ann reprimanded him, he tried to choke her. She called the police. Not long afterward, Ann found Harroun asleep on the dining-room floor, near a pistol. She tiptoed across the room, hid the weapon, and contacted the authorities again.
That summer, Ann moved Harroun and his younger sister, Sarah, to Oakes, North Dakota, a small town southwest of Fargo. Ann had a sister who lived there, and she hoped that family support and a tight community would temper her son. But he was picked on as an outsider, and acted up at school. Harroun had multiple piercings, and he shaved his hair on the sides, combing back the rest with gel. Kids called him Slick 50, and, to press the insult, someone poured motor oil on Ann’s car in the middle of the night. Harroun’s grades suffered, and Ann eventually enrolled him in a Christian vocational center for troubled youth. Darryl, who lived in Phoenix and spoke to Eric on the phone several times a week, told me, “He was just lost.”
Eventually, Harroun earned his G.E.D. and enlisted in the Army. In 2000, he went to boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. “That was the best place for him,” Darryl said. He attended Harroun’s graduation ceremony and recalls the day as “probably the proudest I ever was of him.” Harroun had an uneventful soldiering career, never deploying overseas. He wanted to become an infantryman but trained instead as a mechanic. A fellow-recruit, Jason Craig, served with Harroun at Fort Riley, Kansas, and said that the two of them were “inseparable.” Though Harroun enjoyed the camaraderie of the Army, Craig said, he lacked discipline. “We got punished quite often,” Craig added. “Lots of pushups.”
Harroun suffered from depression and mood swings, and his military records indicate that he had a “personality disorder.” According to Craig, Harroun was “about a week away from receiving a full-blown dishonorable discharge” when, one Saturday in April, 2003, they left the base to hang out with friends at a waterfall near Manhattan, Kansas. After hours of drinking, Harroun rode back to Fort Riley in a truck with a woman who was, as Craig put it, “tanked.” She crashed into a tree and Harroun’s head hit the dashboard, fracturing his skull. He was medevaced to a nearby hospital, where a surgeon inserted a steel plate in his head.
A few weeks later, Harroun was given a medical waiver with an honorable discharge, entitling him to full benefits. He also began receiving a monthly disability check of about twenty-five hundred dollars. Doctors prescribed antidepressants, and narcotics to manage residual pain from the accident.
Harroun moved back to Arizona. He cycled through jobs: brokering mortgages, waiting tables, selling cars. He dated a student at Arizona State University named Melissa Hutton. After they split up, she told me, he turned “borderline stalkerish” and begged her to take him back; when she refused, he shot himself in the abdomen. On another occasion, Harroun tried to punch a friend of Hutton’s, and he was arrested for disorderly conduct. Subsequently, he was arrested twice for driving under the influence.
While Harroun awaited various court hearings, he began following the news, and developed a fascination with the Middle East. He wondered how his old Army friends were faring in Iraq, and wanted to make a contribution. In 2005, he boarded a commercial flight to Kuwait. He assumed that, with his background, a military contractor would hire him upon arrival. He even brought a gun, stashed in a checked bag. But, when he landed, authorities in Kuwait questioned him and put him on the next flight home. The experience left him feeling dejected but undeterred: if he couldn’t tap into someone else’s adventure, he would create his own.
In the summer of 2008, Harroun flew to Lebanon. He intended to take courses at the American University of Beirut, but he never signed up. Instead, he enjoyed Beirut’s night life and befriended backpackers and foreign journalists. That September, he accompanied a Japanese photographer to Shatila, a refugee camp in Lebanon for Palestinians. Around this time, Harroun started introducing himself as part Lebanese, though his ancestry was European. He began advocating for Palestinian rights and eventually travelled to Gaza, where, he told Ann, “children on the streets” were “being shot.”
In October, 2008, Harroun returned to the United States. Eight months later, he converted to Islam, in a small ceremony at the Islamic Center of Tucson. He was hardly committed to the religion’s core tenets, however: Harroun celebrated his conversion by getting drunk in a bar. He didn’t pray, or abstain from eating pork, or fast during Ramadan. When he discussed religious matters, he sounded unsophisticated. In 2013, a reporter from Phoenix’s ABC affiliate interviewed Harroun, and the subject of jihad came up. “People throw that word around like you’re a bin Laden,” Harroun said. “ ‘Jihad’ means struggle, actually. You have jihad of the tongue—like, if I try to make a point and argue with you about something.”
Robert Young Pelton, the author of the book “The World’s Most Dangerous Places,” wrote about Harroun last year for Vice. “Eric was a Muslim in much the same way someone who moves to a new city becomes a fan of a sports team in that city—it’s a way to fit in and relate to those around you when you’re in a strange place,” Pelton wrote. Harroun’s attitude toward Islam mirrored his feelings for the Army: he couldn’t handle the rigor, but he revelled in the brotherhood. He had the word “Allah,” in Arabic script, tattooed in red ink on his right forearm; he later told U.S. investigators that it symbolized the spilled blood of Muslims.
In December, 2010, Harroun went to Egypt. That month, protests erupted in Tunisia. It was the start of the Arab Spring, and Egyptian demonstrators soon gathered in Tahrir Square to unite against Hosni Mubarak. Harroun moved into a hostel near the square. “Stuff started popping off,” he recalled, during the ABC interview. “The police were just shooting at random people. I saw a kid, an Egyptian kid, shot, and I helped carry people to this field hospital. It just pissed me off, so I started rocking the police with them. I was like, ‘Hell, yeah, let’s do this, let’s overthrow this government.’ ”
During one clash, Harroun fractured his wrist, and during another he was briefly arrested. He was detained again a few months later: he and Thomas Wood, a British college student, were kept inside a police vehicle for several hours while riots raged nearby. Wood recalled, “I was worried we might be burned alive.” Harroun and Wood were moved to a police station and left in a locked room. They stayed up all night, chain-smoking, and at one point Harroun removed a Xanax from his shoe and swallowed it. “The Middle East is a drug, in its own way, and Eric had a perplexing draw to it,” Wood told me. Harroun spoke passionately about Syria, arguing that America needed to do more to help the protesters. He also told Wood that he was part Lebanese. Though Wood admired Harroun’s convictions, he thought that his drug use and his dubious claims about his ancestry spoke to “some kind of existential crisis.”
They were released the next day. Harroun left Egypt, and spent the rest of the summer touring Cyprus, Jordan, and Lebanon. In Beirut, he began dating Teresa Richard, the yoga teacher. In October, 2011, Harroun returned to the U.S. and moved in with an Iraqi-American friend in Sacramento. But he soon yearned to go abroad again. “I don’t like living in America,” he told Richard, in a Facebook message. Richard said to me that Harroun reminded her of Don Quixote: “He always wanted to have a cause, to fight situations that he found unjust.”
That December, she flew to California to visit him for the holidays. When she arrived in San Francisco, Harroun seemed distant and “half asleep”—totally unlike the man she knew in Beirut. Eventually, he admitted to being hooked on heroin. He promised to get help, and, in mid-January, after Richard had gone home, he wrote to her and said that he was going to rehab, adding, “Wish me luck.”
In 1999, Anthony Loyd, a war correspondent for the London Times, published “My War Gone By, I Miss It So,” a raw meditation about war reporting, post-traumatic stress, and heroin addiction. “The shrink is right: I feel sane as anything in war,” he wrote. “It is peace I have got the problem with.” Although dope softened the crash of coming home, it plunged him into a whole other kind of combat. Loyd compared quitting heroin to “trying to beat yourself at chess.”
After completing rehab, Harroun told Richard that he was still struggling to feel like himself: “The Dr. said even though I quit H, it can take months for the serotonin, I think it’s called, to get better.”
In June, 2012, he travelled to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In Ho Chi Minh City, he contracted a parasite. Ann received a message from Harroun’s Skype account. The manager of his hotel had signed in under his name and written, “Your son in hospital he passout and worms on his brain and in body he had fever for few days but it was infection from worm parasites you call me for question.” Two weeks later, Harroun sent an update: “It looks real bad, they said I have months to live.”
But he slowly recuperated in his hotel room, spending hours a day tracking developments in Syria on his laptop. He told Ann that one of his friends had lost “everything” in the war. “I feel so bad for him,” Harroun said. He didn’t want to sit back and watch any longer. He contacted his friend in Sacramento and asked to borrow two thousand dollars. He claimed that he needed the money to fly home. Instead, he used it to buy a plane ticket to Istanbul.
Harroun is hardly the first man to have set out to join a foreign war. In April, 1777, the Marquis de Lafayette, then a twenty-year-old military officer, left his home in Paris and sailed across the Atlantic to participate in the American Revolution. “Such a glorious cause had never before rallied the attention of mankind,” he said. In the eighteen-twenties, hundreds of Europeans, including Lord Byron, joined the Greek struggle for independence. Tens of thousands of foreigners flocked to Spain in the nineteen-thirties to resist the Fascist regime.
Recent conflicts have mobilized a new generation of international fighters. Often, their politics are muddy, their motivations inchoate. In the nineteen-nineties, when Anthony Loyd set off for the Balkans, he went intending to fight, though he was unsure which side to take: “I did not necessarily think that it mattered for whom or what you fought, just as long as you got into a uniform and fought bravely. Inevitably I was in love with the idea of war without even knowing what it was.” In the years after September 11th, Matthew VanDyke, an adventurous Georgetown University graduate, rode a motorcycle across the Middle East, reported from Iraq for the Baltimore Examiner, and travelled to Libya to join the revolt against Muammar Qaddafi. He called the experience a “crash course in manhood.”
A disturbing number of Americans have joined jihadist groups abroad. In 2000, John Walker Lindh, a Marin County teen-ager, travelled to Yemen and Pakistan, and then to Afghanistan, where he trained with terrorists; in November, 2001, he was captured by American soldiers near Mazar-i-Sharif. (He is currently serving a twenty-year prison sentence.) Another Californian, Adam Gadahn, went to Pakistan and became a spokesperson for Al Qaeda. (He has been indicted on terrorism-related charges but remains at large.) Omar Hammami, an Alabaman, attended Bible camp and served as the president of his sophomore class before going to Somalia to support Al Shabaab, the militant organization that attacked a Nairobi shopping mall in 2013. (That September, Hammami was killed—by Al Shabaab.)
Since 2011, according to the Washington Post, as many as fifteen thousand foreigners have joined the conflict in Syria. Last year, in testimony before Congress, Matthew Olsen, then the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, called Syria the “preëminent location” for “Al Qaeda-aligned groups.” isis, in particular, has attracted thousands of volunteers from abroad. One of its top military commanders is an ethnic Chechen from Georgia named Tarkhan Batirashvili. A man who appears in isis beheading videos speaks English with a British accent. The French government recently confirmed that several former soldiers had defected and joined isis.
Harroun, who described himself to others as a “drinking, womanizing American,” wasn’t a jihadist, and he had no desire to blow himself up. His politics were crudely romantic. Later, when he was asked why he had ventured to Syria, he said, “For them to have freedom, you know?”
On January 5, 2013, Harroun and the activist went to the Istanbul airport to fly to Gaziantep. Harroun had loaded his backpack with canned food and medical supplies. Nina Filinovich, the activist’s girlfriend, saw them off, and told me that Harroun was excited to be finally seeing “everything with his own eyes.”
After arriving in Gaziantep, they took a bus to Kilis, a Turkish town on the Syrian border. They entered Syria on foot, and then the activist hired a taxi to take them a few miles south, to the town of Azaz, where they met an F.S.A. commander named Abu Kamel. Harroun knew very little Arabic, so the activist did the talking. Harroun was handed two weapons: a Dragunov sniper rifle and a Kalashnikov. When he stepped outside to test-fire them, the activist told me, “it was obvious that he had taken some training.”
As planned, the activist returned to Turkey. Harroun was left with a group of fighters who, as far as he could tell, were mostly farmers with no military experience. Syrian warplanes sporadically dropped bombs. Three days after Harroun arrived, Abu Kamel announced a plan to ambush a Syrian Army camp near Idlib, sixty miles to the southwest.
The fighters set off in a convoy of pickups. Along the way, another rebel brigade joined them. They struck Harroun as more professional-looking than Abu Kamel’s men. They travelled in vehicles mounted with black flags.
In the summer of 2013, the deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, David Shedd, estimated that at least twelve hundred groups were fighting in Syria, many of them holding “far extreme” beliefs. It has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between radical groups and avowedly moderate ones like the Free Syrian Army, whose commanders have admitted to collaborating on the battlefield with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria. (In a recent Times Magazine article, Theo Padnos, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria for twenty-two months, claimed that the F.S.A. handed him over to al-Nusra.) Somar Rahmooni, a former staff sergeant in the Syrian Army who defected in 2012 and now lives in Gaziantep, told me, “You don’t know who’s loyal to whom anymore.”
Snow was falling as Harroun’s convoy neared the camp, he later told U.S. investigators. The fighters ditched their trucks in a forest, sneaked the rest of the way on foot, and opened fire. Harroun didn’t trust the scope of his sniper rifle, so he just aimed and shot at opposing muzzle flashes. The Syrian soldiers soon forced the rebels to retreat.
Harroun raced back through the forest as bullets ripped into tree bark. He climbed into the bed of the first familiar truck he saw. It belonged to the convoy’s more hardened fighters. Harroun, in broken Arabic, asked them to take him to Abu Kamel’s group, but instead they brought him to a safe house, stripped him of his weapons, and held him as though he were a prisoner of war.
A few days later, his captors were preparing to raid a militia loyal to Assad and decided to enlist Harroun as an extra gunman. In the battle, a bullet pierced the leg of one fighter. Harroun, who had received combat medical training in the Army, saved the man’s life by applying a tourniquet. After that, the group accepted him.
On January 14th, a week after Harroun entered Syria, a video surfaced online of him in a room with four men who appeared to be rebel fighters. He was dressed in a tan jacket, with a checkered kaffiyeh draped over his right shoulder. Looking into the camera, Harroun said, in the taunting tone of a prizefighter, “Bashar al-Assad, your days are numbered. You’re going down in flames. You should just quit now, while you can, and leave. You’re going to die, no matter what. Where you go, we will find you, and kill you.” The clip originated on an Islamist Facebook page and spread to YouTube. Law-enforcement agencies and media organizations tried to identify the swaggering, fair-skinned American. Later, Harroun said that the rebel group wanted him to be “their version of Adam Gadahn.”
Harroun and his comrades set up a base near a rural intersection twenty miles south of the Euphrates River. Roman ruins overlooked the intersection, and the crumbling gypsum ramparts provided ideal cover for ambushes. One night, the rebels established a checkpoint. While searching a bus, they singled out a man, in plain clothes, whom they suspected of belonging to the Syrian military. They tied his hands, and Harroun filmed the captured man on his iPhone. “Bashar al-Assad, this is your government,” Harroun said, reaching to grab the prisoner’s hair. Harroun later said that he wasn’t sure of the man’s fate, but assumed that he had been killed. (Harroun filmed more than a dozen episodes in Syria. Ann let me extract the files from his iPhone; geolocation data embedded in the videos, and in dozens of photographs, enabled me to plot his wartime activities.)
Six days after filming the video of the prisoner, Harroun aimed his camera at a rocky landscape dotted with concrete homes. A fire from an explosion smoldered on the horizon. He began narrating the scene, in the grave tone of Captain Benjamin L. Willard, from “Apocalypse Now”: “The Syrian Air Force just dropped some bombs pretty close to us. It’s like eight in the morning and it’s fricking cold.” He then focussed the camera on his rifle: “I got my A.K. all ready. This fucking place is hell. . . . Had one guy die in my arms and had to help one guy tie a tourniquet around his leg to stop the bleeding so far. I’m sure there will be more to come.”
By January 27th, Harroun’s brigade had ventured farther north, to the outskirts of Tabqa, a city by the Euphrates. That afternoon, as the sun was casting long winter shadows, Harroun and the other men came under heavy fire. He took shelter in a shack with broken windows and bare floors. He was sweating and out of breath when he switched on the camera. “I’ve been separated from my squad—I’ve been hit by shrapnel,” he said, as gunfire crackled in the background. “I came in this old building. I don’t know if this is going to be my last fucking video or not. I’m getting blasted at in here. I got three full clips left and a grenade, so—” His eyes popped at the sound of a metal door budging open. “Fuck,” he said. “Bye.”
Harroun survived the battle—it’s unclear how—and the next month he returned to Turkey. In a text to his sister Sarah, he wrote that he had become a marked man: “I killed an Iranian Officer with my sniper rifle so Iran Government, Syrian Government, and Hezbollah in Lebanon wants to kill me.” He discouraged Sarah from taking pity on his enemies: “Those guys we killed murdered women and children. . . . I piss on their graves.”
Back in Gaziantep, Harroun logged on to the Internet for the first time in weeks, and wrote to Teresa Richard: “I am not religious but if you saw how many times I almost died in Syria. . . . I heard sniper’s bullets past my head [that] hit and killed the guy in front of me. . . . I swear I was never afraid. Something always kept me calm and relaxed. It was like I was invisible to death.”
In late February, Harroun flew to Istanbul, intent on meeting with intelligence officials at the U.S. consulate. He felt that he had critical knowledge to share: he had come to believe that the men he had fought alongside in Syria belonged to Jabhat al-Nusra, which the State Department had recently classified as a terrorist organization. It was risky, even foolhardy, for Harroun to reveal this association. A U.S. law prohibited any form of support to designated terrorist groups. Violating that law could lead to a lengthy prison sentence.
Harroun may have assumed that infiltrating a brigade of militant Islamists in Syria and then reporting that information to the consulate would be enough to shield him from prosecution. Normally, access trumps other concerns when it comes to intelligence. Harroun knew this well, because he had spied for the U.S. government before.
In the autumn of 2008, Harroun contacted the Central Intelligence Agency. He was living in Tucson at the time, having recently returned from his first trip to Lebanon. On October 21st, he received an e-mail from a Gmail address with the handle travelingcocina73: “Eric, You recently reached out concerning your recent trip to the Middle East. We’d like to get together and speak with you concerning your trip. I liked some of your myspace page photos from there. Wayne.”
Harroun eventually met with him. He later told Vice that Wayne was an African-American who dressed in Hawaiian shirts and sandals. Wayne didn’t offer a last name. Bob Baer, a former C.I.A. case officer, told me that the name Wayne and the e-mail address he had provided were most likely “throwaways”: identities used to communicate with a source, then discarded. A former analyst at the National Security Agency, who now works for a cybersecurity firm, searched for the Gmail address in several publicly available databases, and told me, “There’s no online profile or history for that address.” He added, “It appears that the account was set up specifically to communicate with Eric.”
Recently, Ann gave me access to Harroun’s e-mail account. I discovered more than forty e-mails between Harroun and Wayne. The messages do not provide a full picture of their relationship or contain specific references to the C.I.A. But they reflect a dynamic particular to handlers and their assets.
Three days after Wayne’s October 21st e-mail, Harroun wrote back. His reply suggests that an off-line conversation had occurred in which Harroun had offered to coöperate. Harroun’s message included some of his correspondence with the Japanese photojournalist, Hidetsugu Suzuki, who had taken him to Shatila, the refugee camp in Lebanon. “I will get more info and names and emails #s etc to you soon,” Harroun wrote to Wayne.
“Thanks brother appreciate the help,” Wayne replied.
Harroun noted that he had pressed Suzuki for details about Shatila. “I told him it’s for a school paper,” Harroun added. I recently asked Suzuki about the e-mails. He forwarded me his exchanges with Harroun. Their e-mails initially dealt with prosaic matters—Suzuki was robbed at the hostel where he and Harroun had met. Then Harroun seemed to be homing in on something: “Do you know any info on activities or groups that might pose a threat to American interests inside Shatila? Or any other Palestinian camps you went to? I know when we went to Shatila there was alot of ex Iraqi fighters in there, just out of curiosity.”
“Are you sure that you found ex Iraqi fighters in Shatila?” Suzuki responded. “I didn’t know that.”
“Yea, remember that one guy at the playground he had an Iraqi tattoo? I have seen that tattoo on lots of people when we were there, plus he had that poster of Saddam Hussein remember?” Harroun said. “I was just curious anyway I am writing a story on it for school and thats why I was asking. If you could tell me more info on activities or daily life or on how the camps operate independently etc it would help.” Suzuki sent him some paragraphs offering general impressions of Palestinian sympathies for Iraq. A few weeks later, Harroun wrote back, “I have to go to jail soon for that DUI”—one of the arrests that had occurred before his first trip to the Middle East. “LOL. It sucks but I can’t wait to get it over with so I can move to Beirut.”
With Wayne, Harroun was less nonchalant about facing jail time. He wrote to him, “I sometimes feel like saying fuck it and just go”—leave the country. Wayne discouraged him from acting rashly, as fugitives can be problematic collaborators, even for intelligence agencies. “Dude, don’t screw up your potential with a charge for flight from the U.S. Sometimes you gotta wait it out so its sorted out, even if its some bullsh*t,” Wayne said. “We will get together dude and talk, think you could help while you are here because of your skill set.”
In February, 2009, Wayne proposed a meeting: “There may be some stuff here u could help with just by ur willingness to mingle with people.” Six weeks later, Harroun sent Wayne what sounds like a plan to learn Arabic and convert to Islam—both of which would be useful for someone living in the Middle East at the behest of an intelligence agency.
“When I get . . . my 20 days in jail out of the way I will look into Arabic classes,” Harroun wrote to Wayne. “I have most of my GI bill left, would you recommend classical or modern Arabic? Also I spoke to Hamdi”—a Syrian friend of Harroun’s—“last night and I mentioned converting to Sunni Islam. He said he would love to help me with that when I get back to Damascus. So I told him about some Somalians I know here and would most likely convert in AZ”—Arizona.
“Modern Arabic is probably better,” Wayne replied. “Your thinking is on point brotherman. Sorry didn’t get back to you sooner. Believe you will be able to kick some A$$.”
In June, 2009, Harroun apprised Wayne of his recent activities: “I contacted the Islamic Center of Tucson about conversion and to speak to the Imam, no word back yet. . . . There is a ton of shady history at that Mosque during the late 80’s and 90’s, I am sure you know about that though.”
Wayne recommended they chat over a “nice good American meal,” and suggested a restaurant across the street from the Tucson Mall. Six days later, Harroun sent a note implying that his interest in the Islamic Center of Tucson was a ruse to spy on the imam, a native of Peshawar, Pakistan, named Farid Farooqi. “With 6 million Muslims in America, what is the chance Imam Farheed is an extremist?” Harroun said. “I would like some motivation here. This is going to be a tedious process. I understand you cant tell me everything but what info you can give me if any on this guy? I am walking into this blind. Thx Bro.”
“Chances are strong he could be, at least know those who are,” Wayne responded. “The majority are not, but at the same time learning who is what is one of the most important aspects. Expect him to be subtle as it could be a while before he or others had trust in u.”
The tempo of their e-mail correspondence slowed after this, and it is unclear if Harroun’s monitoring of the Islamic Center of Tucson progressed. Farooqi told me that Harroun looked “familiar” after I sent him a photograph, though he claimed no specific recollection of him. Farooqi is now employed by the Department of Justice, as a Muslim chaplain. The C.I.A. declined comment, and numerous attempts to contact Wayne at the Gmail address and via a phone number included in the e-mails were unsuccessful.
Harroun clearly believed that Wayne was a C.I.A. officer. In late 2009, a triple agent working for Al Qaeda detonated a suicide vest inside a C.I.A. base in Afghanistan, killing seven U.S. intelligence officers and contractors. “Are you alive?” Harroun wrote to Wayne. “Sorry to hear about your fellow agents in Afghanistan. Did you personally know any of them?”
“Yeah, that sucked in Afghanistan,” Wayne responded.
Over the next few years, Harroun periodically contacted Wayne. In December, 2010: “What’s up Bro? I am in Cairo.” In March, 2011: “Are you in Beirut by chance?” In that message, sent from Lebanon, Harroun explained that he had just met an American of Indian origin who had converted to Shia Islam and now had ties to Hezbollah, not to mention “very very anti American” views. “LOL he needs to be extraordinary renditioned,” Harroun wrote. Wayne did not respond, at least not by e-mail.