New revelation: Disgraced spy Jim Nicholson sought to kill Osama bin Laden

Jim Nicholson wrote to an old comrade in the CIA back in 2005. He was looking to cut a deal, perhaps a life for a life.

The disgraced CIA officer, serving 23 years in federal prison for espionage, wanted the U.S. spy agency to free him long enough to send him to the Middle east. His assignment: kill Osama bin Laden.

Here's an excerpt from the new Afterward of The Spy's Son, culled from FBI records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act:

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A Rabbi at the Christian Pulpit

Forgive me, but I typically dread public worship. I grew up Southern Baptist, which meant fire and brimstone sermons and the oh-so-literal fear of God. I grew up scared of the Big Skipper and have spent much of my adulthood ducking church and talking to my Creator in private.

Every now and again, I find myself in church as the guest of someone I love. There I sit, a backsliding Baptist, ill at ease and terribly unschooled in such matters as “kneelers,” the giving of the peace, and actual wine in the communion chalice.

For years I’ve waited for someone to stand at the pulpit and declare there is only one God, the God of all people, the God of every denomination of every faith in the world. And then, just last Sunday, it happened, an interfaith miracle in a Christian cathedral in downtown Portland, when a rabbi came to the pulpit.

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My letter from the Unabomber

Sixteen years ago, I wrote to convicted serial killer Theodore Kaczynski seeking an interview. It wasn’t my proudest moment as a journalist, as I’ll explain below. But my interest in talking with the Unabomber was serious and heartfelt.

At the time, I was working for The Oregonian newspaper. I had just co-authored a multi-part series on ecoterrorism, a subject I knew would be near and dear to Kaczynski. His anarchistic manifesto on industrialized society heralded a wave of firebombings by the Earth Liberation Front and its like-minded cousins.

Last Thursday, I got an email from my former editor at The Oregonian with an intriguing subject line: “You have a letter here from Ted Kaczynski.”

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NPR's Snap Judgment features The Spy's Son (with a stranger-than-fiction backstory)

The hottest radio show in America is NPR’s Snap Judgment, which broadcasts long-form stories better than anybody.

I worked closely over the last few months with one of the show’s producers, Nancy López, to help her tell the father-son spy drama that formed the backbone of my book, The Spy’s Son.  I gave Nancy some FBI wiretaps, and my former employer, The Oregonian, gave her permission to use portions of my original eight-hour interview with the protagonist of the story, Nathan Nicholson.

As Nancy put it, the tale “just really had the plot and the twists and turns to make a good Snap story.”

She talked me into a sound booth at Oregon Public Broadcasting for a couple of recording session to lend my (not-so-hot) voice to the narrative. Nancy’s narration, not to mention her spare but telling script and a haunting musical score, far exceeded my own high expectations.

But there’s a really cool back story, and here it is:

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Radio Tower

In early 2001, I moved into a tiny basement apartment in Portland, Oregon. I was separated, nearing divorce, with shared custody of my three-year-old son, Holden. I told him he’d spend half his nights with his Mom, half his nights with me in what we came to call The Writing Room.

I was still trying to sort through the wreckage of my marriage, unable to grasp what it meant to be divorced (again).

So I wrote myself a prose poem:

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Here's my piece in The Irish Times on a comic irony in The Spy's Son

In one of the most bizarre twists in America’s war on terrorism, the CIA assigned veteran operations officer Harold James “Jim” Nicholson to run a counter-terrorism branch in the heart of its Virginia headquarters. This was in 1996, more than five years before the attacks of September 11, 2001, as the Central Intelligence Agency worked around the clock to draw beads on disparate cells of Middle East terrorists - groups that would later coalesce into al-Qaeda.

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