During my Skype interview, there was music was blaring in the background. He pointed out that he was eating pork and just "chilling, having a beer and listening to music." Despite his cool demeanor, his meeting at the consulate had obviously rattled him.
Harroun was slowly coming to terms with the fact that he had linked up and fought with a group that had been declared terrorists just a few weeks before he entered Syria. He told me he was going back to the consulate again.
"I may not be a fighter anymore. After speaking with the FBI guy. If it's illegal, I'm not fighting anymore.... If he says I can't go back.... I'm not going back."
But he thinks it's "bullshit" that an American can't fight in Syria. He particularly did not like the "CIA lady from upstairs," who he said played bad cop. To mess with her, he asked her for Stinger missiles. "She didn't exactly say no. She gave me the name of a guy in Turkey who is supplying weapons to the rebels," he said.
Harroun described the FBI guy as "nice," but still told him it is against the law for him to fight in Syria. "I don't know why they would want to prosecute me.... I mean we're killing the same people. They should give me medal for this shit."
He asked me many times about whether he would be on the no-fly list, and if he could sneak back into the United States through Mexico. He wasn't aware of the constantly evolving laws against using weapons in a foreign country -- nor did he seem entirely clear on Obama's declaration of Jabhat al-Nusra as a terrorist group one month before he joined the fight.
The FBI officials would be able to exploit that lack of knowledge to extract from Harroun a complete description of his actions while in Syria. On March 18, Harroun went back to the consulate -- in a 10-hour marathon session, he admitted he had spent 25 days with Jabhat al-Nusra and that the men around him in the Youtube videos were members of the organization.
On March 20, Harroun's new FBI "friends" obtained a search warrant for his Facebook page, where he had posted photos of himself and friends posing with an RPG and an AK. He returned to the consulate again on March 25 and admitted to the FBI that the photos were taken inside Syria, and that he did fire an RPG. They had what they needed -- but did not tell Harroun that he had just incriminated himself.
On March 27, Harroun flew back to the United States into Dulles Airport in Virginia, and once again engaged in a voluntary discussion with FBI agents who were waiting for him there. The federal agents were able to get him to admit that he knew that Jabhat al-Nusra was a terrorist organization, because the fighters would ask Harroun why they United States would label them when they were trying to overthrow Assad. Charges were filed against him in U.S. federal court the very next day, and on April 8 a federal magistrate will hear evidence about whether he should remain jailed as his trial proceeds.
The bright days of the Arab Spring have turned dark for Eric Harroun. A man who got caught up in the enthusiasm and the adventure of battle got brought down by social media and the ugly reality of fighting someone else's revolution.