A Drop in the Bucket
An exclusive interview with Barbara K. Janik, Author of "Chasing bin Laden". A non-fiction suspense filled page turner that will keep you wanting more. Ms. Janik is the one who really found Bin Laden.
Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing Barbara K. Janik, Author of Chasing Bin Laden. It’s new as it just came out in May. She’s a historian and a computer wiz. She reveals the secret truth, in her non-fiction book. On the early morning of August 16, 2006 Bin Laden was arrested in Brooklyn, NY by the New York FBI’s Terrorism Task Force. They were acting on a tip called in by Ms. Janik. Her memoir, Chasing bin Laden, takes readers along with her on an emotional and intense journey through the hidden world of lay investigations, which is charged with high-stakes puzzle solving, Arabic message boards, and anxiety-provoking collaborations with the FBI.
Amazon carries the book in all it’s formats, Barnes and Noble, Target, and on-line as well as in book stores. Many vendors have it Apple, Toto, Scquib… just about anywhere.
So here it goes:
When you were writing the book what was the hardest thing to write about?
Barbara: “The entire book is very emotionally taxing. The hardest part was after I found Bin Laden and I was cyberbullied. A lot people refused to believe me. They assumed, or thought that I was either making it up or out of my mind. That was the hardest part. It had the most devastating impact on my life. I went into hiding for 8 years because of it. Writing about it was just excruciating. Probably the worst trauma I ever suffered.”
Me: I’m really sorry to hear that. When I read it, it was really interesting, but also emotional. I can just imagine. On the flip side of that what was your favorite part of writing the book?
Barbara: “Do you mean what chapter or the book in general?”
Me: Both, actually.
Barbara: “Well, I liked reliving memories of my kids and my partner. And you know, it’s just so natural. It’s the writing of dialogue. When you’re recreating the conversation you had with your kids or your partner there’s a certain amount of creativeness you have. With memoirs there’s a certain amount of recreating that goes along with it. But, also, I will say this… every moment with the FBI, every element was exactly as I remember it… word verbatim. But, when you’re talking about family conversation you’re not going to remember every word of every conversation. It was kind of like reliving it. That creative aspect of rebuilding the scene and detailing every aspect of it. Like the snicker wrappers, and the mountain dew cans, and I remember that exactly, and it’s so fun describing all that stuff.”
”But my favorite Chapter… you’d think it would be the monster trip… but explaining my family or yeah, I know what Southern California’s like. It’s the least exciting chapters for me. I know what Yosemite is like. That stream of information. But my readers love that chapter. When I read it through it’s like I’m really dragging. You know what I mean?”
“My favorite Chapter to write was the “Walmart Trip” believe it or not. Yeah. I love the Walmart Trip because it’s just so real. Everything about it, what it was like to be in Walmart back then. And that’s what happened. I just started hyperventilating and I had to gather everybody up and we’re outta here. Usually I just sit on a bench or just hide in the car. But, this time is was so bad… I had to know where the kids were. As in all situations, I needed to know that they’re safe. You know in your head your okay, but with an anxiety attack you don’t know that. You got to gather all your little ducks like now. It’s my favorite because it was so intensely real.”
Me: Does this happen only at Walmart?
Barbara: “It happens everywhere… Kroger, Walgreens. And it happened when I was investigating Bin Laden because I was under such a great amount of stress.”
“My favorite scene in the whole book is when Grandpa, Grandma, mom, Roy, and Roger and I we’re just sitting around and having buffet at Caesar’s Apollo and that’s my favorite scene because it’s multi-generational. My mother is chastising my grandmother and I’m just observing it all. You know what I mean? It’s like that ‘joy club’ moment. It’s one of those slice of life things where I really, really enjoy the dynamics… it captures it. Especially my mother being embarrassed by her mother because I think it’s something I can relate to… we all can.
Me: What is one thing you edited out of the book? Or wished that you put in the book, but forgot about?
Barbara: “The only regret I have is that I didn’t do a section on my cousin Clyde. Because he is very close to me. The reason he got left out is because I didn’t talk to him at all about the Bin Laden stuff and he wasn’t on my call list. He wasn’t somebody I called all the time, but I feel a little guilty that I left him out. That’s my major regret that I didn’t do any connecting with him.”
I wished I spent a lot more time with Anne, my other sister, even though, I wasn't talking to her about the Bin Laden stuff. She didn't know anything about it. She would never answer the phone that's kind of why she got mostly left out. But, there is kind of this amazing part where her and Brandi and they were arguing and that happened. It was so real and we all remember it. She passed now. She died of Brain Cancer a few years ago. I wish I'd spent more time with her as a tribute, but you know she's there.
Me: What would you like us to know about Anne now?
Barbara: I did mention a lot about her personality. She was kind of crabby. We used to call her magpie. Jerry was the biggest tease, you know. And, he would call her magpie and she would get really mad. She would get so really angry. So when she got teased she would be hilarious. She would get so spicy. She had so much personality and life. Now, the parties are just so boring without her. Sometimes, I just... we all miss her for adding to the family dynamic. She was this really smart computer programmer. She paved the way for my little brother to go into computers. For me to going into studying computers for awhile. She was just a ground breaker, you know.
At the same time she reflected the family anxiety. In one of the chapters she's terrified of me writing. That's typical Ann right there. Like Ann had extreme OCD. All the women in the family are high strung. They have high anxiety. In Brandi it shows very well her high level of anxiety. Even Grandma when she'd get flipped out and whip out her rosary. It's basically what one would call 'high strung Janik,’ basically. Amazing! so much fun. I love her. She was a character. Always a laugh.
Me: If you were able to go back and tell yourself about writing, what would that be like?
Barbara: "How far back are we talking? Are we talking about my young self when I was in my twenties, or when I was searching for Bin Laden?"
Me: Both. Let's do both. They're both interesting.
Barbara: "Okay, which do you want to hear? Which one are you asking about?"
Me: Before Bin Laden.
Barbara: "I always tell myself hang in there. So... things are going to get a lot better... You're going to have some hard times. Like stuck a lot, but hang in there because you're going to have some really good times. Hang in there because something really important is going to happen with your life and like you're going to make a big difference for the world. And, I don't want you to ever forget that."
Me: Now what about the Bin Laden part? What about that part?
Barbara: "I would talk to me after all the cyberbullying was over.. I would say: 'It's gonna be okay. You're gonna go through a lot over the next several years and when you're ready you're gonna write an amazing book that everybody loves and a there's so much to this story that's gonna come out to the world. Don't give up that shred of hope. But, at the same time you're not brave, you never were."
Me: When you were researching all this what’s your favorite part of the research?
Barbara: "Researching what?"
Me: Bin Laden and all the computer stuff?
Barbara: "The missing pregnant woman part was one of my favorite parts. When I pulled her out of hundreds. Finding the location was... that MY SPACE woman was amazing like I was on fire like, ya know! I felt so incredibly smart and so enthusiastic. But, part I felt most clever was when I decided to search for the word 'seahorse' in Arabic. That for me was an 'Ah-Ha' moment, ya know. One early morning, I woke up and realized I dreamt it.' I woke up and I was like... Oh my gosh, I should search for 'seahorse' in Arabic.
Me: So are you thinking about doing another book?
Barbara: “Yes, I’m thinking about it, but I’m afraid to put myself out there. I don’t want to discredit myself. I can dig deeper though. You say, it’s well researched and honest. It’s honest and researched, but I could dig deeper. It's a little terrifying."
Me: So if you were to write another book would it be a non-fiction historical, or would it be something completely different?
Barbara: “It would be a memoir, but it would not be historical. It would be based on my life. My life is multifaceted. The next book title would be: ‘Tomboy’. A book about my gender identity issues and about being a young, budding lesbian. And another book would be about being ‘gifted’ as we all know people who are ‘gifted’ have their own set of problems to deal with as people expect more of them. Along with that comes a lot of anxiety, a lot of emotional problems, a lot procrastinating, always feeling they have to prove themselves. I haven’t figured out a title yet. Something like ‘Gifted yet Bitter’, or more like ‘Square Pegged, Growing Up Gifted.’ I haven’t figured it out quite yet. I don’t know, I’ll think about that more. Another book may be about ' binging disorder' something I had to deal with all my life.
As a young adult I had always been heavy and gaining weight. I've always had food issues. I've had special treatment for that for about 10 years. I've been weight stable for about 5 years now. And, I diet. I don't exercise, I should. I don't binge. I try to balance my carbs. I have diabetes. I occasionally see a dietician. It's something I'm very well versed in and I could write a book about that, too. So I have a lot of choices so. I'm also a very spiritual person. I don't want to go into that too much because voodoo does not sell much on credibility. So I'm just very multifaceted.
Me: It sounds good. Now about your family, how are they involved? Now that your book is out have they read your book?
Barbara: My mom's forced herself to read through it. She's maybe a third of the way through... she basically got to the part where I'm looking for Bin Laden and she's really struggling. She says it's because she knows me so well and she feels my emotions and, yet, she's my mother. But, I also think they're really afraid that I'm just coocoo for cocoa puffs and when they're going to read it they're gonna be like 'wow, she's really embarrassing us' and no one's going to believe this crap.' But, had they read it, they would see it's worth.
Me: I think you bring up a good point because your information is well documented and provides corroborative evidence. That's not made up. It's all in chronological order.
Barbara: "The e-mails that I sent to the FBI and all my phone records, the FBI phone numbers, sometimes 20 minute FBI conversations, are all documented. It's all under my website under research tab. Anyone can download it and see it. I have a internet support called: 'Top Secret.com.' In 2007, I told the whole story there. I'm not making this stuff up out of thin air. The worst thing is that someone would think I misinterpreted what the FBI meant. I think I went into it in the book at how ludicrous that whole idea is. Brandi was like: 'I know they were all just joking with you." New York, Texas, Houston, Texas City all in cahoots messing with me. Just to play a nasty joke on someone who said she had found Bin Laden. It doesn't make any sense at all.
Me: You know one would think that someone in the FBI would get fired for treating you like that...
Barbara: "Well, you know there's no accountability in the government. No one would get fired. But, that's just not how the FBI behaves. They're very bland most of the time. Like when they were celebrating in the first chapter. I mean, they were like... you never see anything like that with an FBI agent. They don't laugh and joke. They don't celebrate. They're all business all the time. That' s when I knew something big had happened because, OMG, this is not normal. They were like cheering and joking around... they were just happy. The word I would use would be: ecstatic. They were ecstatic. (when I tracked the exact location of Bin Laden for them.)
Me: Now were you ever afraid when you were doing the research and stuff?
Barbara: "The only time I got scared was when I realized that they weren't going to make the announcement and I was like, holy sh**t there's something they don't want me to know cause I knew they found Bin Laden and arrested him. I was privy to that information and I didn’t know what they were going to do with it. I thought they might come after me. I was, also, scared of Al Qaeda because I had taken out their main guy. I didn't know what to expect from them either. I thought they might come out after me so I was terrified right after it happened. I mean, I calmed down after a few weeks, but you know from the story, I ran away to Austin and hid out. In reality, I'm sure the FBI knew where I was and could have come out and gotten me any time they wanted.
Me: Yet, you did not get the 25M dollars you were expecting. Till this day does this bother you a lot?
Barbara: "It's not something I think a lot about anymore as it would drive me crazy. I've given up on it... kind of. I mean, there's still this hope that someone from the FBI will come out and tell the truth and eventually I'll get the 25M. I have hopes of giving some of that money towards 9/11 victims. Charities are near and dear to my heart. But, I wouldn't give it all out. I'm not stupid. But, I do need the money, you know. Right now, my big hope is that the book does well. And, that I make good money with the book sales and that they 25 M will just be irrelevant.
Me: These days I'm thinking about the anniversary of 9/11. Did you think about your book coming out during that time, or was it just a coincidence?
Barbara: "It's a total coincidence. But, I had sort of a waking dream about the pandemic in 2007. I took my kids and myself to immediately get a Flu shot. I had this waking dream about a pandemic and I thought it was past. And, all the problems I had with cyberbullying I was going to talk about it. I thought this pandemic happened half aware/half asleep, ya know. And, so here it is: 2021 and we're in the middle of a pandemic so this is a little more expected. It didn't even occur to me that the premonition I had and with my book coming out and all. But it seems everything is laying out the way it was supposed to happen. So, it’s kind of wild. But, actually, 2 anniversaries, the 10 year anniversary of the Bin Laden raid and it's the 20 year anniversary of 9/11. I didn't plan on it, it just sort of happened.
Me: I listened to Obama's 60 Minutes interview about Bin Laden dying and that whole thing about them finding Bin Laden in Pakistan and that whole bit about shooting him with 1 bullet. What do you think about all that?
Barbara: I don't want to go into it too much because it just may attach itself to some conspiracy theory, so I just want to stick with my experience. But, I did a lot of research into the raid and according to Seymore Hersh, he said that Bin Laden was under house arrest beginning in 2006. Well, 2006 is when I'm saying that Bin Laden was arrested, August 16th, 2006. Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He is very, very well respected and he's saying that Bin Laden was arrested as of 2006. And, there's also, Dr. Raylee Hillhall who said: Bin Laden was under house arrest. So they both said that Bin Laden was arrested during a raid. Either he (Bin Laden) was a sitting duck and they shot him right on the spot, or they moved him first and he wasn't killed in the raid. I think there was a raid. So, although, well respected they were sort of ridiculed for it.
Me: So that's you're corroborating evidence?
Barbara: "Yes, that's all I have. Though, I haven't talked to intelligence, they back me up more than anyone else. And, then there's Dr. Amaki Amed. He said that he acted as a mole and commanded the troops, sort of, when he was under house arrest. And that they could arrest Al-Qaeda any time they wanted because they knew where Al-Qaeda was going as they were using Bin Laden because he was under their control. Nafeez Ahmed also reported a lot to Intelligence, but he was not of main stream media.
Me: There was a lot of reports which talked about the connection between the Bush's and Bin Laden's brother.
Barbara: "I don't really care about the Bin Laden's family. He basically is the black sheep of the family. If Bush had ties to the family it really doesn't make any difference. I don't care about all that. Although, they may have given him a softer touch if Bin Laden's family had thrown their money around asking, 'Hey, don't kill him.' But, I don't know any about that and those conspiracy theories."
Me: Let's switch gears here. I want to ask you a couple of questions about your personal life. Who's your favorite author, do you have one? Do you read a lot?
Barbara: "My favorite is J. K. Rowling. I know it's boring but She's the most fun. You know, like I like a really simple read in which you can go through it really fast. I really like fiction and fantasy. I also like Terry Goodkind and his 'Sword of the Truth', I read one Stephen King book and it brought such a bad taste. I'd rather write than read. I'm a little lazy when it comes to reading. I get sleepy so I like to read things that are easy."
Me: So that's good. Now, so what's your favorite thing to do?
Barbara: "Board games. Not the vanilla ones like Monopoly. I like Dungeons and Dragons and Solomon Kane, but not video games. None of those. They're called: Table Top games."
Me: If there's one or two things that you'd want your readers or audience know about you, what would that be?
Barbara: "Hmm. That you don't know? Honestly, there's a lot of stuff about me that you don't know and I just want to keep it that way as it might come out in one of my other books, but right now, you got it. That's all I'm saying."
Barbara: "I mean the books pretty revelatory it tells a lot about me. It mentions I have an eating disorder. I'm a lesbian. It talks about my spirituality. You get a lot of pieces of everything. The rest of it is going to come out in memoirs. And I'm just not ready to reveal everything about me, yet."
Me: When you're writing, what is your surface area like? How long does it usually take you to write? Do you do it in spurts here and there? How long does it take you?
Barbara: "It took me 6 years to get to this point. Probably 4 years to write the book. Another year to reach out to editors, agents, and publishers and another year editing the hell out of it. It was just like pulling teeth, ya know? I'm not one of those people who sit down and write for hours and hours at a time. It's not really my thing. It's just something I do. I like to write but it doesn't have to be my whole life, you know what I mean? And, so like sometimes it was just so painful and I didn't want to deal with it and like my editor and I would meet 2 times a month and she would give me assignments. She would really have to shove me sometimes. She would have to give me assignments like: 'Here's a story starter and like I want you to write some fiction.' And, I would be like 'what?' It would just get me moving again. Sometimes I didn't want to emotionally deal with it and I would have to like block out the Internet.
Here's a funny story: 'I bought an Internet blocker and it's something I actually paid money for and it superblocks everything. I had to set up to work around it immediately. Since I repaired computers, I had all these steps I would have to go through before I could get on the Internet. So I wouldn’t get distracted by Twitter, or the Internet, or Facebook because that would take me from doing the writing I was set out to do. Or I would open up Excel and start working on my finances. Or, I would get on cleaning out my files on my computer. Anything not to write. So on days like that I would only get about 10 minutes of writing in. It would be like: 'Woo I wrote for 10 minutes!' It was like a lot of mind tricks I had to play on myself. Sometimes, I could sit like 2 or 3 hours and write. I would be on a roll, but I couldn't pull the old nighters like I use to when searching for Bin Laden. I never reached that level of obsession which is why it took me 4 years to write. Because it was just hard."
Me: When you were researching and looking for Bin Laden that took a lot of all nighters, didn't it?
Barbara: "I'm 52 years old, I started writing when I was 48. When I was hunting for Bin Laden I was 38 years old. I had a lot more energy. I wasn't sleeping right. I mean my anxiety was way more amped. I'm much calmer today than I used to be back then. I was just young and stupid. And, I didn't know that I shouldn't be able to do this. I didn't know that I couldn't do it, so I did it. Like if I tried to do something like that today I'd say: 'Nah no way!' I was just too young and naïve that I couldn't do it."
Me: Well, you did a good job! Now getting back to you personally, what was the first book that ever made you cry?
Barbara: " I don't know. I had some that touched me emotionally. I don't know if they actually made me cry. 'Hotaru no haka" ('A Grave of Fireflies') comes to mind by Akiyuki Nosaka. I cried 5 times though that. I'm more responsive to shows and movies. What touched me deeply was 'With God and Russia' by Walter Ciszek. In high school I was totally into God and stuff like that. Ciszek gave up his entire life. He was arrested during Stalin era like 1940's and spent his life in Russian labor camps and stuff like that. He gave up everything, yet, he would give Communion and hearing confessions. He got executed so that guy was like a real saint for me. I don't remember physically crying; although, I think I did. I just don't remember.
Most of the books I read are fantasy and science fiction so I don't get too emotional. Although, I like to escape when I read... I probably cried when Cedrick died. Let's get real. Yeah, in the Harry Potter book. I think I did cry after reading a few of the Harry Potter books now that I think about it.
Me: What book that you read you felt was underappreciated, but you really liked?
Barbara: "Yes!!! Oh 100 %. I mention her in my book. I think it's Leslie Wagner-Wilson, it's called 'Slavery of Faith'. I read it in like 2 nights. And, that's not normal for me. That book is amazing! It's about this woman who narrowly escapes Jonestown with her and her son. Like they were some of the few survivors. And, she left the morning it happened just before everyone killed themselves, or were shot, or whatever. You know, the mass death. And she got away and that was thrilling and I could never put it down. Yet, it never made it big. She hasn't pulled that much. She has a website and she responds to e-mails. I was going to order it, but I didn't want to wait to read it so I just got the pdf. I mentioned it in my book. I'm hoping to give her a plug. I thought it might help her. I really do admire her. She has amazing tenacity, ya know? Getting herself out of there. Pretty amazing story."
Me: Thank you for sharing that. So what does success look like to you?
Barbara: "Success? I hate to say it, but it comes with dollar signs. I mean... I mean some respects I'm already successful. I've finished a book, I've got a house, a couple of cars, a partner, I've got 2 amazing children. Certainly I'm living the American Dream, ya know? But, I look around me and I've got family and they all have lots of money. They got very nice houses. What's up with all that? I'm just saying like... 200 thousand is moderate success. But you know... it all points to dollar signs, I hate to say it because it's not a very spiritual outlook, but ya know?"
Me: It's honest.
Barbara: "Ya know, How many books get sold? How far does this go? How does this get out? Do people know my name?
Me: Very good we'll see. I have about a 100 questions to ask, but I'm not going to ask them all.
Barbara: "You can ask me whatever you want. You're doing great."
Me: Let's see. How important were your personal ethics in writing the book?
Barbara: "What you mean my personal ethics?
Me: What do you want people to know about the ethics that went into writing the book?
Barbara: "I actually did a little write-up on the copyright page. It tells you what I actually did. There are certain scenes where I didn't remember verbatim but I remember this happening but I don't remember when and where. There's a little bit of creative license when it comes to writing a memoir because it makes it more interesting, because if you just write everything down exactly as you remember it it becomes boring, but for me where the ethics lie is where I didn't put words in the mouths of FBI agents. Especially when it came to things like: 'You're a gifted researcher. You're a true patriot.' When it comes to all the important facts are exactly as I remember them. I backed everything up with the information I put on 'the Top Secret' web site, my notes, my telephone logs. That's the ethics of it. I was very careful to make sure my timeline aligned with my phone records, I would go back and find myself saying, 'Oh yeah, I remember that one that when they called me a true patriot and a gifted researcher’. And, I remember that one when they were celebrating and they asked me for the lottery pick. I was able to go through that I made sure that everything in my book points you to the correct records so that anybody who wants to can go through the book and follow the time line and go through the phone records and go: 'Holy Sh**t that matches exactly!' I was very meticulous in documenting everything just like a historian would, except, in my case I'm also the subject of the history.”
Me: I've enjoyed your book tremendously and I noted that you're very precise and concise and makes it even more of a treat as it adds to the authenticity of it. I think people respect that and I hope more people will buy and read your book.
Barbara: "I'm not gonna lie my main goal was not to make money; but to make my case. I've had 15 years to think about this. And, I wanted the truth to come out for so long that I thought how am I going to make this book more convincing? The truth of the matter is: I'm not a liar, I'm not crazy and this is the truth.
Me: So do you have any bitterness about all this at all?
Barbara: "I have bitterness about the cyberbullying. I can say that I was pissed at Bush. I think the PTSD that I got was described in the book, but I would say the worst, the worst was that they got Bin Laden and then they kept us in a war for another 15 years. They said they were going to go in get Bin Laden and get out, but that's not what they did. They got Bin Laden IN BROOKLYN and then stayed in Afghanistan for another 15 years. You hear people saying: 'Biden, we should have never gotten out of Afghanistan.' Well, BULLSH**T. We should have never stayed in there after Lin Laden's arrest. We should shame the Obama administration and the Trump administration. This should have been over a long time ago. And, I don't hold Biden accountable during the Obama administration because he was the Vice President and he couldn't pull strings. And, Biden only started his administration earlier this year and already his administration and here it is September 2021 and he's done more in this administration than any of the other jokers in their administrations. Don't get me wrong. I love Obama, but should have never, he should have just come clean. And, I'm salty about that I really wished that had come clean."
Me: One thing in your book I'd like to mention is about that reporter from CNN calling you and asking you if you were psychic. It made me think that maybe she was part of the FBI. I keep wondering about that. Whether she had a double role or something like that. Or that she knew something more.
Barbara: "Oh I'm sure she did! Here's what I honestly do think. I think there were rumors floating around. The FBI was talking because nobody knew it was going to be kept secret. And CNN heard rumors and even talked to some inside sources in the FBI, but nothing they could verify, but rumors around the FBI and CNN and whatever press had heard that I was psychic and that I found Bin Laden. But, it wasn't that. I was doing research and searching."
Me: Is there anything you'd like to add?
Barbara: That it was such a huge honor to me to help find some justice for 9/11 victims and the United States because it was just so devastating for our country and I feel so strongly for the people that are still suffering and it's been my honor and privilege to offer an ending to this monster and all the horrible things that he did to all our friends and to the American people. Bin Laden changed everything for the worse. I loved to do such research and serve my country.”
Me: One last question: If you were to invite 3 people to a party, not including family, or current friends, living or dead, who would you invite?
Barbara: “I’d invite: Melissa Etheridge, Kate D. Lang, and Linsey Wagner-Wilson. Melissa because I think she’s cool, Kate because of her voice, and Linsey because I think she’s interesting.
Me: So there were have it folks… For all women out there and the men who love them, you may wish to buy this book as it is an incredible story of a woman who’s drive, determination, and ambition to find the notorious monster: Bin Laden. Her actions helped America become safer. These days when women are being bashed down by wiping out their rights to equal pay and equal employment. We need to elbow Ms. Janik’s story to the top so that it’s not swept under the rug. The truth is out there just read her book. Thank you.
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