I’m really fascinated with the Keith Idema story. I’ve written about it twice before (here and here). But Stacy Sullivan’s extended New York magazine profile is truly devastating.
Idema was more than simply obsessed with the Afghan war—he was, as other journalists on the scene have recounted, absurdly keen to capture dramatic war footage, even if it meant fudging the record of events. On November 11, Idema and his three companions, Scurka, Long, and the cameraman, were scouting for war footage on a hill near the Taliban front lines. Idema left the group, again hoping to find Northern Alliance troops to hang out with. In the meantime, Idema’s entourage, which had met up with reporter Tim Friend, then with USA Today, and a freelance TV journalist named Kevin Sites, started drawing fire from the Taliban. Scurka was hit with shrapnel in his right leg. As the group helped Scurka down the hill, and set about dressing his wound, Scurka’s cameraman was capturing the scene on film. And this was when Idema returned, trailing clouds of camera-ready military glory: “Just when we finished [dressing Scurka’s leg], Keith runs up screaming,” Friend recalls. “He rips off the bandages and redresses the wounds. Basically, he was acting in front of the camera.”
… Before long, Idema was turning up regularly, via satellite telephone, on American television. He would occasionally call himself a Green Beret, clearly implying he was on active duty. And sometimes he would claim, falsely, to be working for Partners International, which, like Knightsbridge, had severed all ties with Idema. Mainly, though, he characterized himself in tellingly vague terms, even as he boasted about his high-octane military credentials: “You must be held in high regard,” he told Fox News host Linda Vester via sat phone in November 2001. “Because I think you’re the only person ever to get an interview with a Special Forces–qualified guy inside this country.”