September 15, 2011
Dear Mr. Soufan,
My boyfriend made me watch “Frontline” the other night, and because of you I’m so glad I did. I know people are probably always thanking you for being such a great American, or are impressed with you for having the ultimately useless insight that could have stopped the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, or for being the only Arab-speaking FBI agent in the New York area at the time of the attacks. And that stuff’s all great. But that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing because after seeing “Frontline” (I had never heard of you before; sorry!), I listened to you on “Fresh Air,” read your Wikipedia page, Googled you several times (sometimes I accidentally type ‘Souftan’), read the transcript of all your interviews and your 2009 and 2010 New York Times editorials, then watched “Frontline” again, and then came to the conclusion that you are a stone fox.
Can we Facebook? My name’s Gideon Rayburn. Actually, that’s not my name. That’s the name of a character in a book I wrote about a kid who goes to prep school and finds that he’s totally out of his element. Then he becomes obsessed with this Argentine girl named Pilar Benitez-Jones, because she is just so hot. Like you!
I long to sit on the floor and drink tea with you and argue about religion and politics, because I have been listening and I know that’s what you like to do. I will try to let you draw me out a little but it might be hard because I just want to tell you everything.
Sarah Miller (a.k.a. Gideon Rayburn on Facebook)
September 17, 2011
Dear Mr. Soufan,
I haven’t heard from you yet. Maybe you’re in Yemen. This is so crazy, but one of my best friends, her husband wrote a book about some Al Quada (sp?) person and HE KNOWS YOU. I emailed him all these questions about you, like what kind of bourbon do you drink and did you look hot in white shirts—you always wear blue ones on TV but I bet in Guantanamo you wear white, right?, because it’s so hot there—and he hasn’t written back yet. Maybe you’re both in Yemen.
I’m really not stupid. I have a theory, actually, that middle-class, well-educated white women sometimes become stupid, especially when the only stuff they can get people to pay them to write is dumb. But I swear I went to a good college. Calvin Coolidge, Burgess Meredith and Dr. Drew all went there. (If you’re ever in a green room with Dr. Drew stay away. I did a Q&A with him once and afterwards we chatted, and he relayed to me his absolute and strangely triumphant certainty that I had contracted a deadly parasite from drinking raw milk. Seriously, the guy is bananas.)
I wanted to tell you something funny I said the other day that sort of has to do with you. I have a lot of friends who believe all kinds of conspiracy theories and the other day one of them said to me, “You know, Mohamed Atta is still alive. He lives in Tehran.” And I said, “Oh, really? What’s he do? Work at the Tehran Ikea?” I said how he would be such a genius person for them to get to work in Returns. Can you imagine saying to Mohamed Atta, “Yes, I think this Billy shelf is missing one of those little l-shaped wrenches.” He’d just stare at you, and you’d see yourself burning to death in the thicket between his eyebrows. And you’d be like, “Okay, no big deal, I’ll figure it out.”
Maybe you’re not on Facebook. I’m sarahlovescali on Twitter. It’s because Sarah Miller is such a common name, and I really love California. I never thought about what a total dipshit I was and how incredibly trivial and even sort of suburban I was until I thought of trying to get someone like you to like me. I read Anthony Trollope and Henry James novels, for fun, so why do I represent myself with a Twitter handle that’s something a thirteen-year-old girl would write on her Math Basics notebook and surround with butterflies?
I’m pretty sure the only reason I got into such a fancy college is because my dad went there. My brother went there too. I think he’s maybe even a little bit dumber than I am. We both took Spanish for twelve years and can’t speak a word of it. I once asked an editor at The New Yorker who Tony Blair was. He’d been prime minister for like a year. A couple people asked me which editor it was and what time of day it was, and when I told them they all said he was probably drunk and not to worry about it. Still, every time I think about it I feel kind of sick.
September 18, 2011
Dear Mr. Soufan,
I’m sorry, but I have listened once on “Frontline” and once on “Fresh Air” to you explaining the way that you got Osama bin Laden’s body guard to confess that the eight hijackers were members of Al-Qaeda—and I still don’t get it. This isn’t an affectation. I really don’t. I feel like all the people you’re explaining it to don’t get it either. And if I do understand it, maybe it’s not really that big a deal? I keep wanting to be more surprised by the way the conversation panned out, but the truth is, the end of The Usual Suspects surprised me a lot more. I should probably mention here that when I was in fifth grade, we had to take a state exam measuring general aptitude for various skills and levels of comprehension, and I found out that 94 percent of ten year olds in the state of Massachusetts had better space relations than I do.
I know that you’re married, but I don’t know who your wife is. I know you bought a $1.7-million apartment in NYC because I Googled your name and “wife” but that’s all I could find out. I don’t know if you have kids or not. I don’t know if she’s prettier than I am. My first husband was Lebanese. He remodeled old cars. His aunts both became addicted to Xanax during the civil wars. Do you have any aunts who are addicted to Xanax?
In case you can tell I am running out of things to say to you. My boyfriend is not like you at all. He makes a lot of fart jokes, and they’re really funny, but for some reason, seeing you on TV so much in the last few days, just really taking in the gravity of your life, well. It’s left me in a daze of both self-hatred and longing and I can’t laugh at fart jokes anymore. I haven’t been able to write a single Facebook update since I started liking you because I know you don’t write them. What would you say? “I look awesome in a thawb?” I loved the way you were so polite and restrained about George W. Bush on “Fresh Air.” Also, the way you kept distinguishing between ‘cooperation’ and ‘compliance.’ My friend’s boyfriend once was being interviewed on the radio and he promised her as a sort of secret message to her, he’d work the word ‘cleave’ into the conversation. I heard him do it, and I was so jealous. If you get this, could you do that for me next time you’re on TV or radio? But can you use the word ‘sandbagged’?
September 19, 2011
Dear Ali Soufan,
So there it is.
Charlie Rose asked you straight out, “Did you feel sandbagged by the arrival of the CIA consultant?” and you looked right at the camera and said, “‘Sandbagged’ is not the word I would use. I would never, ever use that word.”
Naturally, this is my final letter. My parents taught me not to give up, but I don’t think they meant all the time.
There is only one thing wrong with you—other than that we are not together. That is that you sometimes use the word “myself” instead of “me,” as in, “The only ones interrogating Mohammed al-Qahtani were myself and my partner.” ‘Myself’ is not a noun. It’s a reflexive pronoun.
Right before I saw you on “Charlie Rose” my boyfriend found the letters I wrote you. He was, in his own simple way, very prescient about any interest you might have in me. He demanded to know if I thought I could get you, and I cried, “I don’t know, I don’t know!” and then he said, “Do you know what Ali Soufan would say to you if he wrote back?” And I said, “No,” because I honestly didn’t, and he said, “He would say this,” and then he farted. I didn’t laugh at the time, but I’m going to laugh now. I don’t have anything else to do.