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26 Aug, 2010 20:52

Faux commando vigilante wanted in Mexico

Jack Idema went to Afghanistan, told people he was Special Forces, sold video footage to the media and opened a private prison where he tortured innocent civilians he called terrorists. Now he's wanted in Mexico.

Idema was not Special Forces. He was a fraud and was later arrested. However, he was later pardoned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He is wanted in Mexico for the rape and torture of a woman.

Chris Tomlinson, a journalist and a fellow at the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law met Idema at a bar in 2001 in Tajikistan where journalists would wait before going into Afghanistan.

Even then he struck us as a very odd fellow. His mannerisms, dark sunglasses at night, his military haircut; he was trying to project the idea that he was some sort of secret agent,” said Tomlinson.

Tomlinson said he doesn’t doubt the Mexican authorities have a legitimate case to investigate. He explained that Idema is very good at manipulating people.

He convinced a Mujahedeen militia commander to lend him 18 solders for six weeks. So, I’m sure that down in Mexico he is trying to continue this mercenary fantasy of his,” said Tomlinson.

Early on in the Afghan war the media considered Idema a hero. He spoke on CBS with Dan Rather and used CBS video feeds to transmit his footage. The media even paid him thousands of dollars for footage of an alleged Al-Qaeda training facility.

Idema manipulated young and inexperienced journalists by convincing them he was Special Forces. He offered them safe passage in inside knowledge based on his created persona, said Tomlinson. He used his manipulative abilities on Afghan militia men, telling them he would train their troops, instead he used them to protect the journalists he made earlier promises too.

He was very effective during the Afghanistan earthquake in 2002 when he showed up at one of the major points where there was a lot of damage and a lot of injured people and he was providing aid. So, a lot of journalists looked at him and saw him doing good work, humanitarian work and basically took the bait,” said Tomlinson.

The Idema story is a symbol of just how gullible the media can be.

“You had a lot of people who were coming from the United States who never worked overseas, never worked in a war zone and they did, they were desperate, they wanted to make a big story, they wanted to make a splash with their organization and they were willing to believe him because it was convent for them, and so they cut corners,” said Tomlinson.

Tomlinson said he is unsure why so many were unable to see through his façade. He was a strange individual and stood out. Tomlinson explained that many hired him and began to doubt him later.

I can’t explain why more people didn’t see through it,” said Tomlinson.