This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.
In 2000, Idema hooked up with CBS again. This time he and Scurka served as consultants to 48 Hours, then anchored by Dan Rather. They worked on an investigative story about Colonel George Marecek, a highly decorated Special Forces officer accused of murdering his wife, Viparet. But the two were eventually fired from the project. “48 Hours determined they had taken on an advocacy role for the defense,” explains Edwards of CBS. Indeed, Idema and Scurka had opened a “Free Marecek” office in Wilmington, North Carolina, where the trial was taking place, and one witness alleged that Idema and another man came to his house to harass him the night before he was slated to testify. Idema also told several associates he was detained for impersonating a police officer in an effort to get into a Detroit prison and convince a convicted serial killer to confess to Viparet’s murder. Despite concerns about Idema and Scurka’s objectivity, in December 2000, 48 Hours ran a story on Marecek, with much of the exculpatory evidence drawn from their research.
After being sacked by 48 Hours, Idema and Scurka launched a website called Point Blank Network News, or PBN, where they ran their own version of the Marecek story. The piece won a 2001 National Press Club award for online journalism. Despite the media attention, Marecek was convicted.
If the coverage of the Al Qaeda training camp tapes lent Idema credibility and renown, his old friend Robin Moore further lionized him by making him one of the lead characters of his block buster book, The Hunt for Bin Laden, published by Random House
Moore, a seventy-nine-year-old with clear blue eyes and bushy eyebrows, wears houndstooth blazers and leans on an ivory-handled cane. Like Idema, he has long straddled the divide between the media and military camps. To get access for his first best-seller, The Green Berets, he went through the grueling Special Forces qualification course, something no other civilian has ever done. He later covered the Vietnam War for Hearst Newspapers, and, because of his combat skills, was allowed to travel with operational detachments that were closed to other reporters. This meant he was sometimes forced to fight. On his living room wall Moore has hung a black-and-white photo of himself gripping the sagging body of a Vietnamese boy he had killed.
It was after seeing The Green Berets, a 1968 film based on Moore’s book, that twelve-year-old Keith Idema decided he would join the Special Forces. But it wasn’t until years later, when he was peddling special operations equipment, that he actually met Moore. Over time, a deep bond developed between the two men. “Robin is not only my friend,” Idema wrote Scurka while he was imprisoned on fraud charges. “He is my idol, almost my creator in a way.”
Idema got involved in the Hunt for Bin Laden book project in July 2002, not long after returning to the United States. Moore said he asked Idema to help with the book because at the time he was one of the few people in the United States with up-to-date knowledge about the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. Idema, he says, was only supposed to help ensure the book’s accuracy. But he soon started adding information.