Gary Brooks Faulkner: quixotic bounty hunter, secret agent, or hero?

Gary Brooks Faulkner was detained in Pakistan Tuesday, and is undergoing psychological tests today. He said he was there to assassinate Osama bin Laden. Some Pakistanis wondered if he was working for the US government or Blackwater. His brother defended him as a 'man on a mission.'

David Zalubowski/AP
Dr. Scott Faulkner talks about his brother, Gary Brooks Faulkner, during a news conference outside the studios of a television station in Denver on Tuesday. Gary Brooks Faulkner, an American detained in Pakistan after local authorities found him carrying a sword, pistol and night-vision goggles on a mission to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden.

Gary Brooks Faulkner, an American detained in Pakistan, on a personal mission to kill Osama bin Laden, will face psychological testing before authorities decide whether to prosecute him, says an intelligence official.

One day after his arrest, officials and analysts are pondering what to make of Mr. Faulkner, a Colorado construction worker taken into custody in northern Chitral district carrying a gun, a 40-inch sword, night-vision goggles, Christian literature, and, according to an unnamed security official cited by the Pakistani daily, Dawn, a “small amount of hashish.”

“He’s quite likely a loner, an adventurer who thought he could accomplish what others could not,” says Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst. “With all the resources at [the United States] disposal they would not require his services.”

Faulkner, according to his brother, Scott, has not served in the US military. But he told that his brother is in "great shape" and has been trained in hapkido, a Korean martial art.

Most likely, he adds, Mr. Faulkner will be deported.

Escaping security

The middle-aged man, who is currently being held by intelligence officials in Peshawar, had given the slip to security officials assigned to protect him by telling them he wanted to go for a walk. After a 10-hour manhunt, Faulkner was caught nine miles from the Afghan border. He told authorities that he wished to cross the border to kill the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and to join US forces fighting the Taliban there.

Police officials reported that Faulkner suffers from high-blood pressure and is a kidney patient.

Despite the $25 million US reward on Mr. bin Laden’s head, Faulkner is so far the only known would-be assassin to have been detained.

‘A man on a mission’

Faulkner’s younger brother, Scott, refuted claims at a press conference Tuesday in Colorado that Gary was mentally unstable, saying instead he was motivated by a desire to avenge the Americans killed in 9/11 and as a result had visited Pakistan six times.

“He's not crazy, he’s not a psychopath and he’s not a sociopath,” Scott Faulkner, a medical intern in Colorado, said. “He's a man on a mission and believes that God's got his back.”

According to Scott, Gary, who has lived in Colorado since 1968, believed he knew the whereabouts of bin Laden’s hideout and planned to use the reward money to help people in Central America. Bin Laden is widely believed to be hiding somewhere in the 1,500-mile mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office in Port Collins, Colo., released two mug shots of Gary Faulkner, dated from 1997 and 2006. In the latter he had gray hair, a beard, and glasses. He had served multiple terms in jail, for burglary, larceny, and domestic violence, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records cited by the Denver Post.

Acting solo?

Pakistani analysts caution against reading too much into Faulkner’s target area, Chitral, insisting that the trail for bin Laden is still cold.

“No one has been able to locate and kill bin Laden, despite all the war machinery the US has been using for nine years, daisy cutters, drone attacks, secret missions involving special ops. How could this individual have come any closer?” says Abdul Basit, a security analyst at the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) based in Islamabad.

In Pakistan some speculation has arisen that Faulkner may be tied to the Central Intelligence Agency or to a private security firm such as Blackwater (renamed Xe), which has gained notoriety in Pakistan.

The weaponry that Faulkner carried, though difficult to obtain legally, is readily available on the black market in parts of northwest Pakistan. Peshawar is famous for its Smugglers’ Bazaar, where all manner of small arms are readily available. Weapons bazaars also thrive along the tribal belt.

As for the 40-inch sword, such an item could have been procured “in any antiques shop in Islamabad,” says Mr. Basit.

As of early afternoon, the US embassy had not been in contact with Faulkner, according to spokesman Richard Snelsire.


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