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A subsequent flash flood complicated recovery efforts, washing away some parts of the helicopter. The military believed the mission was done by the book, General Colt told the families in Little Creek. There was no ink on most of the pages.

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Then Charlie put the CD into his computer and printed out the report. His computer crashed. A friend who works in computer security inspected the computer and told him it had been infected with a virus; the CD had been full of spyware. Charlie was grieving, of course, as he struggled to process all of this.

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He was going to AA meetings, as he had for the previous 22 years, and often spoke about Michael there. Strange Foundation, which organizes periodic retreat weekends at which families of fallen soldiers can find healing. He was expecting to see pictures of a horribly burned body, but instead, Michael seemed mostly intact, except for a badly mangled right ankle. Now, whoever said something did not have authority to say that. Charlie started having nightmares about Michael getting ejected from the helicopter, falling to the ground, in pain, calling out.

It was hard for Mary, too. The length of the report would come to have a kind of talismanic power for him: the 1, pages. It included transcripts of more than 60 interviews with commanders and soldiers, identified only by their job titles. He kept in touch with a few other parents of Extortion 17 victims, including Doug Hamburger, father of Patrick Hamburger, an Army staff sergeant, and Tracy and Alan Litman, parents of Nicholas Null, a Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician.

And it turned out that the Hamburgers and the Litmans were doing the same thing he was — reading the report, looking for answers. Although the main thrust was that the mission was sound, 1, pages is a lot of material. The families found pieces to grab onto, areas of dispute. They started sharing information, and pretty soon they felt like they were getting somewhere.

They had a whole long list of concerns, but most of them can be boiled down to one word: vulnerability. In reading about how the helicopter went in and went down, the families saw how vulnerable their loved ones had been. They were vulnerable, it seemed, because of the choice of helicopter, a bloated Chinook instead of a more nimble Black Hawk.

They were vulnerable because the helo had no countermeasures for RPGs — no military helos do.


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There was more. There also seemed to be no way for the families to learn why their loved ones had been so helpless, because the black box was nowhere to be found.


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  • In the report, one commander said the black box had washed away in the flash flood. Charlie found that unlikely: How often did it rain in Afghanistan? To Charlie, all roads seemed to be leading to the same place. No Afghan commanders had been questioned in the report, only U. If this was true, though, I once asked Charlie, why would the U. None of them had any experience with political activism. That changed when they started talking to Larry Klayman. Klayman is a famous anti-government litigant. Klayman believes, in the face of all evidence, that Obama was born outside of the U.

    President to use the term loosely , put the Quran down, get up off your knees and come out with your hands up!

    Michael Strange

    All of which is to say: Klayman is a fringe character. But the Stranges took a liking to him. More than anything, what galled them about dealing with the military was their sense that all these educated generals thought they were stupid. In May , Klayman called a press conference at the National Press Club to push for a Congressional hearing and to introduce the families to lawmakers and the media.

    Charlie spoke for 16 minutes. He said a lot of stuff. Charlie went on. They hate us. My son told me they hate us. As Charlie continued to push for answers about Extortion 17, he opened a battle on a new front. Was Charlie a Verizon customer?

    “Were our duty always pleasant to us, where would be the merit in fulfilling it?”

    Charlie said he was. Would he like to sue the government to stop this kind of data collection in the future? He said he would. The suit was a long shot. Klayman made himself a plaintiff, along with Charlie and Mary. The complaint seemed more than a bit grandiose, especially given that no judge had ever rebuked the NSA the way Klayman and the Stranges were demanding. Klayman won, though. A union dude, a blackjack dealer. Now he was Charles Strange, plaintiff. Charles Strange, the guy who took on the freaking NSA — and won.

    He was a public figure now, and getting more public all the time, because even as the NSA case was winding its way through the courts, Charlie was acting as a kind of unofficial spokesman for the families of the soldiers killed on Extortion And this was becoming an important role, because the right-wing media was chasing the story. The first to pick up on it were talk-show hosts and bloggers, mere hours after the helicopter went down. Not exactly the same men who killed Osama bin Laden, but their brothers in arms. Who tipped off the Taliban? By the Obama administration.

    Charles Strange - Extortion 17 - The Truth needs to be told

    There was, and is, zero evidence to support this absurd claim. But inflammatory words like these established the tone for what would follow. And if Charlie was sympathetic to the narrative of enemies within, you can understand why. Through and , his world was becoming more and more bizarre.

    Charles Strange View Stories - POTOSI, Missouri | DeClue Funeral Home

    He was reading documents produced by a military that had been caught lying more than once in recent years, most prominently in the sad case of Pat Tillman. At first, the military said he was hit by Taliban fire; officials promoted that heroic story for a month before finally admitting that Tillman was killed by friendly fire from his own buddies. He was mourning a cryptographer son who had worked closely with the NSA, the agency that had secretly been gathering data on all of our phone calls.

    Charlie did The Savage Nation last July.


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    The show reaches five million people on hundreds of stations. Charlie told the story of how his son grabbed his arm in June and spoke about a will. When I ask Charlie about his interactions with the media, he turns out to be conflicted and decently self-aware. He disliked Sean Hannity of Fox News, who was always bashing unions; after a while, Charlie stopped responding to Fox News interview requests. People were fast becoming invested in the story of Extortion 17, hoping to use it as a crowbar to pry loose damaging facts about their political enemies.