This article from CJR's archives is presented as part of our 50th anniversary celebration.
As Idema was blazing a trail through the talk show circuit, Ed Artis, who felt that Idema’s actions in Afghanistan had put his employees in danger, went on a fax and e-mail blitz to alert the media that there were questions about Idema’s credibility. (Idema has since filed suit against Artis.) Several shows canceled interviews after receiving the warning, something Strong, the book’s agent, resents. “The Hunt would have made it to number one if it weren’t for that,” she says.
Around the same time, Wayne Lawley, then the president of the Special Forces Association, a fraternal organization for past and present Green Berets, sent an e-mail to association members about the book saying: “The knowledgeable reader may be irritated by fiction used to fill in research and outrageous claims by Keith Adema [sic], one of the book’s advisors.” The message was far more measured than some of the replies it prompted. Idema “is doing all he can to besmirch the name of Special Forces, and all we stand for,” wrote Billy Waugh, a former Green Beret and CIA operative, who has detailed his own experience in a 2004 book called Hunting the Jackal. “This man has lied to the nth degree, and all for self-aggrandizement.” Gradually, Moore came to see Idema in a similar light. “He wants to be the hero of every story,” Moore says. “He tries to portray himself as a hero, even ff he has to lie.”
A series of events caused the shift in Moore’s opinion. A “Hunt for Bin Laden” website registered to Idema began advertising an upcoming Robin Moore book about Idema entitled An Army of One. Moore said the site was unauthorized and that he never planned to write such a book. Idema also charged about $10,000 worth of books to Moore’s account at Random House. Moore says Idema did this without his permission and that Idema also slipped the names and post office boxes of two groups into a list of charities that appear in the back of the British version of the book (because a percentage of the royalties were to be directed to these groups). One of the addresses was for U.S. Counter-Terrorist Group (Counterr), the umbrella organization for Idema’s own Afghanistan operations. (At least one reader sent a donation to Counterr, according to Idema’s bank records.) The other address was supposed to be for a charity that helped the families of killed or wounded Green Berets, but North Carolina’s postal inspector determined that the post office box was actually controlled by Idema, and was investigating him for mail fraud before his Afghan arrest.
Moore eventually submitted a host of corrections that he wanted made to The Hunt for Bin Laden, based largely on input from Special Forces contacts, but many were never incorporated. Carol Schneider, Random House’s spokesperson, said the publisher made all changes that it received in time, but a number of them came after the deadline had passed. Then, in late October, Robin Moore gave Random House a proposal for a scathing second book on Idema, Smoke and Mirrors: Jonathan Keith Idema and his Great Media Swindle, but Random House turned it down. “I’m not going to do this,” Bob Loomis, vice president and executive editor for the publisher, said to Moore, as CJR’s reporter sat listening over a speakerphone in Moore’s living room. “It’s too negative on Jack. It reflects badly on The Hunt because of his role in it.”
Idema headed back to Afghanistan in mid-April 2004, accompanied by Caraballo, who would claim after their arrest that he was a journalist working on an independent documentary. But ac cording to bank records, Idema was paying him.