Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet Kola Boof has been an agent for Sudan’s SPLA and was the National Chairwoman of the U.S. Branch of the Sudanese Sensitization Peace Project. She has written for television and her many books include, “Flesh and the Devil,” “Long Train to the Redeeming Sin,” “Nile River Woman” and “Virgins In the Beehive.” She blogs at Kola Boof. com
There’s a line in one of my most famous poems that goes “America is my husband now, and he is good to me”. I recall feeling whimsically patriotic and grateful when I first wrote it, but now nearly twenty years later, as I add myself to a growing list of public figures who’ve admitted to experiencing some form of warrant-less surveillance by agencies of the United States government, I am reminded of yet another famous saying; a more ominous one that my Nilotic ancestors have passed down for centuries—“an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile…hoping it will eat him last”.
Please understand that as I use this opportunity to discuss my personal experiences with surveillance-harassment and what I consider to be attempted mind manipulation by Federal agencies, I am in no way reneging on my love or allegiance to the American government or to America as a nation. I would gladly die for this country, because this country not only saved my life, but has given me a voice. As well, I am in no way withdrawing my previous warnings to the American people about the realities of Arab Muslim terrorism and the fact that I believe as someone from the Afro-Arab world that there are serious and absolute orders for malicious devastation aimed at this country via various modes of foreign terrorism. If I sound like Bush and the Republicans, sorry—but regarding terrorism, that is what I believe.
What I am doing is what I have always done as a bestselling novelist, poet, memoirist, critical thinker and public speaker on women’s and poor people’s issues—I am leaving a record of what I witnessed, the things that happened to me in my life, as I do feel that I have a responsibility to legitimize what are often considered “laughable” or “paranoid” claims of N.S.A. surveillance and continued F.B.I. “Cointelpro” by other less powerful citizens, because I do know their claims to be true and to have merit.
First understand that I came to the United States from Sudan as a child orphan in December 1979, adopted by an African American family in Washington D.C., and that I became a U.S. citizen as an adult in 1993 before returning to North Africa in 1994 where I ended up living a very sinful life in the arms of very dangerous men (more on that in a minute). I eventually stopped partying and appearing in Arabic B-films around the end of 1996 and found my calling as an anti-slavery activist and writer in 1998, at which time I returned to the United States, married a wonderful Black man, gave birth to two sons and began to receive notoriety for my published works.
In early 2002, after the leaders of my homeland’s government in Sudan (specifically Hasan al Turabi and Gamal Ibrahim) put a fatwa (order for assassination) against my life due to the anti-Arab, anti-Muslim content of my novels and poems I was placed under protection of U.S. Federal agencies and given a multitude of “alternative identities” to live under. I went to the bank with one legal name; the library with another name; paid taxes with yet another legal name—all synchronized by the U.S. To my horror, I found out that a few of the “identities” I had been assigned are dead people.
So you see, unlike most people who have come forward about NSA harassment, Cointelpro and warrant-less surveillance, I was actually being “protected” by the government and had no reason to fear that I would be invaded or compromised in any way.
But in late 2002, my whole world came crashing at my feet when journalists at England’s London Guardian newspaper contacted the U.S. State Department about a story they were planning about me and revealed what was then my darkest secret—a secret that out of shame and embarrassment I had hoped I would take to my grave—the fact that I had once been the mistress of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. Even worse than that, I had been, before Bin Laden, the mistress of Sudan’s Vice President Hasan al Turabi, the mentor of Bin Laden. I had also worked at the Palace in White Bride for Moamar Khadafi and for Egypt’s President Mubarak at the resort Sharm el Sheik as a “paid party girl.”
In 2002, these kinds of revelations absolutely terrified the American government. Immediately my children and I were threatened with deportation. We were placed on the Patriot Act’s “Suspected Terrorists” list; I was debriefed in Washington, D.C. as to any and everything I could possibly tell them about Osama Bin Laden. But because I had not realized that he was a terrorist during the six months I had lived with him in Morocco in 1996, I had no information that was useful.
With great fatigue, I even began the process of being deported. Then suddenly during the government’s investigation of the estate turned hotel where Osama and I had lived (La Maison Arabe), they interviewed the estate’s owner, Prince Fabrizzio Ruspoli, and the Prince not only remembered me, but remembered feeling very strongly that I had been held there against my will by Osama’s men and that I had not been happy to be Osama’s mistress. As more and more information about my past was pieced together, the authorities saw that I was not a threat to American security and that I had simply been a naive young woman caught unawares by the numerous sink holes that await struggling model-actresses in any booming society be it western or Arabic.
I was allowed to keep my American citizenship, stay on my husband’s ranch in California (as well as several “safe houses” the government provided), and although I was then and still am on the “Suspected Terrorists List” and was still being given a new identity card every six months by one of the Witness Protection agencies, I was gradually allowed to see my level of federal protection lessened so that my children and I could resume a normal existence. Their father and I split up during the interim, because of all the publicity and scandal. The children and I, however, were being protected. I found myself stuck on the internet all day because I couldn’t go anywhere. I can honestly say that during that period of roughly four years, it was a pleasant experience that was mutually agreed upon and featured none of the down-right illegal horrors that were to come later at the hands of what I am convinced is the NSA (National Security Agency).
You should realize that it was also during this time that I was becoming something that the government and especially the men at Witness Protection were totally against—famous.
They warned me that if I was famous, then they’d have a terrible time protecting me due to freedom of the press. Though I did initially try to cooperate with them, my very public activism against the genocide in Sudan coupled with the American release of my books, the internet craze and the breaking news of my past involvement with Osama Bin Laden spun me into a web of sudden and uncontrollable attention from the media and various political groups. Before I knew it, I was at terrible odds with the Tom Brokaw-looking government people who were not just protecting me, but had become some type of honorary family members.
I asked to be given more rights and freedom so that I could “manipulate that sliver of power that fame bequeaths” and do what I could for the people of South Sudan and promote my books affirming black women’s lives and the myriad social messages that embolden my literature. But the authorities weren’t interested in my work or in me as a person or in anything I believed in. They merely seemed, in my estimation, to be bored with their own lives and to always have glum faces. With their white cold hands deep in the pockets of their slacks; whenever they did get excited—it was about an I.R.S. case or illegally reading someone’s private bank or medical records—you know that kind of power that men join the police force or a local gang to attain? When I jokingly referred to them as my “extra husbands”, they never smiled. But then again, that was their life, having power and managing it like bullies, so they were bored with themselves, too.
Don’t get me wrong, these were very friendly men (and a few women) in a sad, pitiful sort of way. But they were also helplessly cold—or rather, their spirits lay deep and invisible even while being fished by eyes as warm and soulfully penetrating as mine. Finally, I told them that I needed to be let loose as Kola Boof and that they were “stopping my spirit” by holding up my life. So they did a ton of paperwork (which they shred after taking weeks to write it all up because they’re going to relay it by notes to “High Command” who’s going to re-write it anyway), and they nodded me farewell, and supposedly, pulled out of my life.
It was the sweetest moment.
I suddenly could smell fresh air again. I felt free and light and very enthusiastic about my work. For a whole year and a half—I wasn’t being monitored, watched or protected. For the first time in a long time, I began to feel like a normal person again.
But then out of the blue one afternoon, a very shocking and unexplainable thing happened.
In my home, the government had installed a special telephone years earlier that was to be used whenever I did radio or press interviews. It was an unusual phone in that it immediately “traced” and attached itself like a parasite to the phone line of anyone who called it. It couldn’t be used by me unless I contacted authorities in Washington, D.C. and told them what time to turn on the phone for whatever interview I would be doing. I’ve had conversations on that phone with people like Tiki Barber, Alan Colmes, Rita Cosby, Carl Nelson, Joe Madison, Colin Powell’s office at the State Department, the New York Times, countless literary agents and even friends like Theo Van Gogh , Ajowa Ifetayo and Keith Boykin. Along with that “tentacle” phone, the government had issued me a special computer that allowed them to read my email and my writings as I composed them. Since I had nothing to hide, it had not previously bothered me that I was being bugged. In fact, I had accepted back then that it was for my own protection—but now that I had been free and on my own, I didn’t want to be bugged any longer. For the whole year and a half since my federal protection ended, that phone had sat in my office “dead” with the wires chopped off at the back.
The only thing is—it rang.
Even with the wires chopped off and the promise from Washington that I was no longer being tapped it started ringing one afternoon while I was fixing lunch for my sons.
I was stunned, but not shocked. Not yet anyway.
I entered the office slowly and picked up the receiver. When I listened in, there was suddenly the most disgusting sound of a man grunting and cursing as he was having sex with a woman.
After a few moments, I realized who the man was and I also realized that the woman he was having sex with was me.
In shame and horror, I felt the wind knocked out of me, because the man wasn’t my children’s father. He was the husband of a very famous and powerful black woman erotic novelist who’d invited me to an event of hers months earlier and failed to tell me that the man she’d designated to escort me around town was her husband.
I’d been melancholy over the separation from my children’s father and suddenly found myself insatiably liberated by her husband’s sexual desires. But had I known he was her husband and that they both were setting me up for a “threesome” that never took place, I would never have done it.
Still, how could that night be coming through a government telephone that had its wires chopped off the back?
I contacted everybody—the FBI, the State Department, Witness Protection—but they all told me I was crazy and that they neither had interest in or knew anything about my personal life or the utilities in my home.
The man in Washington, D.C. had me to get a screw driver and take the phone apart while he waited on the other line, but when I did—there was nothing inside! No battery, no wires, no modules or anything. All I saw were red plastic prongs and grain-sized crystal-like chips. He assured me that I was delusional and that there was no way my phone could be working or that I could have heard a real life sex act being broadcast through the receiver.
In total confusion and exasperation, I refused to be afraid or to be shaken by the incident, and I believed that the truth would eventually prevent itself, so I just let it go.
Gradually, I started to notice that whenever I went to the supermarket or the post office or to pick up my kids, there would be these people discreetly following me from a few paces behind. They weren’t Fed-looking agent types, but were civilians—civilians !—often a dad and mom with children in the back seat or a group of teenagers bopping to their heads to the radio. In the beginning, they would be following me to my destination and then back to my property as far as the gate on the dirt road to my ranch. But as time progressed, they began to intimidate me by doing odd little things like profusely waving and smiling to me as if they knew me. Many times, they would drive up and get in front of my car instead of behind, and once in front, they would slow down so that I could only drive my car a certain speed.
Although someone as respected as the activist-writer Angela Davis just released a press release complaining of the very things I’m citing here, it’s very hard to tell other people these experiencing without them thinking you’re crazy.
I put off telling my family and friends. Even I thought that it might just be some bizarre coincidence. But then as time progressed, I wondered how it could be that every time I went into town to do something—a car got in front of me and slowed down to a ridiculously low speed. Then if I passed using the other lane, I would get five or ten miles before yet another strange civilian’s car did the same thing. It couldn’t be a coincidence! But at the same time, I would feel like a total nut-job trying to tell someone what I was experiencing.
At around the same time, I began to notice very odd little electronic “noises” around my house, but I went into total denial about it. There were some new neighbors, a friendly Latino family, who moved into the property that skirts my property beyond a meadow just a few hundred yards from my house, and as though a lavish practical joke were being played on me, this family had the annoying habit of incessantly slamming their car doors as loud as they possibly could. Eventually it got to be so bad I had to report them to the local Sheriff (a long time friend of my husband’s) because of the disruption it brought to my livestock.
Luckily, because I had so much clout in my area with land owners because of my cooking and my love for the environment, I was able to pressure the new family to either quiet down or move out. But then again, when I shared my fears of “government harassment” to the Sheriff, he pointedly reminded me that my children’s father works for the U.S. State Department so why would my former protectors be terrorizing me?
I didn’t have any answers and I went back to the FBI building in downtown Los Angeles.
Unexpectedly, I ran into a slim white female agent who had encountered me many years earlier, but hadn’t kept up with my history. When I told her of the types of bizarre things that were going on, she grinned as though my experiences were perfectly normal. You could tell she sympathized with me and wasn’t surprised! She said, “Sounds like the National Security Agency. Look, make Agent ________ aware of what’s going on by putting it in writing and mentioning the NSA by name so he’ll drop them a note asking them to leave you alone. They’re just bored over there and they get a kick out of harassing people.”
And that was the first time that I had ever heard of the NSA. Someone else explained that they had been created as a response to 9-11 and terrorism and that they had full access to conduct unwarranted surveillance on any person they wanted to.
“They’re more powerful than the government itself”, another person at the FBI told me in a low voice. “They specialize in mind control and physiological impulse mechanisms—with air sprays they can make you have pregnancy symptoms, make you think bugs are crawling on you, make you think you’re tired.”
I did as I was told; I filled out a written report to my long term “guy” at the FBI. He dropped a note to someone at the NSA, but things didn’t change—they got worse.
Along with the strange automobile choreography on the streets and freeways, I began to acknowledge the strange “twinkling” noises that I originally thought were coming from my cell phone. On thorough inspection, I realized they were not coming from my cell phone but seemed literally airborne and without a source.
My children and I would mainly hear these noises very early in the morning around six or seven. They sounded like parts of songs being played underwater—very warped, but very musical and high pitched—and after I’d been made aware of the NSA, I began to believe that these strange sounds were directly related to a spate of nightmares I’d recently been suffering (those who’ve read my autobiography are familiar with the details). I checked with my boys, but they weren’t having any nightmares or strange thoughts. They did, however, notice the unexplainable “twinkling” sounds, these little sudden clips of air music that would erupt out of nowhere (usually waking me in the mornings) and then subside as you tried to listen for (pin-point) the source of them. The more you thought about the fact that you were hearing the sound, the quicker it faded, but then later when you were in the midst of taking a shower or thinking about something else that occupied your mind, you would suddenly realize…“oh there it is again”—that strange music—humming next to you, but the harder you tried to catch the melody, the faster it went away.
My youngest son would point in the air and call out “a music box, mommysweet.” But what really shocked me was when I discovered that none of us were hearing the sounds at the same time or at the same volume.
This is when I realized that the sounds did indeed have something to do with brain waves and air signals being transmitted from outside our home. How else could my oldest son describe the sound as “faint” while my youngest thought it was “loud”, and how else could we be in the same rooms and hallways and each of us hear the sounds at different times, independently, even in the presence of each other?
I tried to tape record the twinkling sounds, but all that played back was the sound of my sons and I breathing in our sleep.
My adoptive mother came to visit from back east and she not only heard the sounds, but she pointed out something else that I had not noticed from my side of the house—strangely brisk traffic on the front road in front of the house in the mornings.
“Nobody even lives out here”, my mother said, “But you’ve got all these cars going back in forth in front of this house at the crack of dawn, then again at noon, and then again when night falls, and I’ve noticed it’s the same cars in shifts. Somebody’s watching this house, Kola.”
Being that the kitchen and my bedroom are on the back of the house and that it’s such a large property, I had never noticed it, but once my mother verbalized a complaint about the twinkling noises and the traffic—the sounds mysteriously disappeared, and for her entire three week stay, there were no more signs of what I increasingly realized was illegal and unwarranted surveillance.
But then, after she left, it started back up.
I gave up. I decided, out of defeat, that I would just have to accept the NSA’s bullying and learn to live with it.
After all, I told myself, my life wasn’t too bad. My autobiography, a book that the government had expressed deep displeasure about (due to what they termed “excessive Afrocentrist, racially paranoid and feminist propaganda”), had been released to critical acclaim, my other books were selling well and I was featured in interviews on MSNBC, CNN, Harper’s Magazine, TIME magazine and would be hired to write for the daytime soap opera that I’d learned English watching as a child, “Days of Our Lives”.
My career was taking off, I was a citizen of the freest nation on earth, and I was healthy and had my sweet babies, so that’s all that was really important, I told myself.
But then one Saturday afternoon when the boys were gone to visit their father, the worst of all my worries happened when I suddenly kept getting these urges to taste salt, fish and corn meal. And please understand, what’s striking is that the combination kept coming to my mind in that exact order, not just “I feel like having some fish”, but more prescribed and methodical as “salt…plus fish…plus corn meal.” So after doing some gardening and making a few attempts at working on my latest novel, I finally went to the kitchen and pan-fried some red snapper filets that I’d taken from the refrigerator, rinsed, briskly salted and rolled in corn meal. Immediately afterwards, I fell into the most unconscionable world of deep sleep that I’ve experienced in my life.
It would turn out (as far as I’m concerned) that I’d been poisoned with a drug called Ketamine Hydrochloride…and not only that, when I woke up the following Monday (almost forty-eight hours after eating the fish), I felt very strongly that a large number of people had been in my bedroom. In some other part of my mind I even remembered the loud voices and the shoes walking around, but it all was so hazy that it could have been a dream or something I was imagining, I wasn’t so sure. So since I really didn’t know what was going on, but believed in my gut and in my intuition that I had been poisoned, I threw my “watchers” off the track by flying to a doctor in San Diego to confirm that I’d been tranquilized (which is how I learned about the Ketamine Hydrochloride). While awaiting confirmation that my salt and corn meal had been laced with the drug, I went to my children’s father and told him what had happened.
Beam by window seal, we tore my bedroom apart until we found the hidden cameras and other surveillance equipment that had been laced throughout the upstairs, but when we took this evidence to the FBI, they merely stared at us poker-faced and then had us take it to some friends my ex-husband knew at the State Department.
“This isn’t our stuff”, the guy at the State Department said. Then they suggested that with me being so heavily involved with Bin Laden and other terrorists in my youth, it could be me who was setting all this up to get attention and cause publicity for my career—in short, there was no way for me to prove that I hadn’t poisoned myself or that I hadn’t instructed people to set up the cameras!
“You love attention Ms. Boof and you have a wild imagination! This could be a publicity stunt.”
My mouth hung open in shock. I acted very ugly.
“The NSA motherfuckers did it, you sneaky Caucasoid son-of-a-bitches!” I kept demanding, but no one responded with belief, disbelief or action. It was as though they expected I was telling the truth, but that their hands were tired.
Finally, my children’s father told me, “If the State Department and the FBI can’t help you, then you can’t be helped.”
And he was right.
There was nothing I could do.
I told a few people what was going on—I told friends on a message board called “Thumper’s Corner” that I was being watched by the FBI and harassed by the NSA, but they didn’t believe me. I told my sisters and brothers what was happening. But because I didn’t want my adoptive parents to worry, I made everyone promise to keep the “escalation” of it from my mother and dad.
Somewhere I learned that the prize winning literary novelist Gloria Naylor had experienced similar harassment and had written a book about it called “1996.” But as soon as I looked up her story online, I saw that she had been met with exactly the taunts I had feared would come from people when trying to share these facts—disbelief and accusations of “being crazy”.
Hell, if people couldn’t give credence and consideration to someone as well educated and respected by the American literati as Gloria Naylor (and just yesterday, Angela Davis), then why in the world would they listen to someone like Kola Boof?
I am already a very “weird” and fiery personality to many people. Because of my cultural beliefs (for instance, my insistence that I be photographed topless, African-Nilotic style, for the back covers of my books), there was cynical Americanized doubt about my credibility as a public figure—a prime example being the time that a powerful journalist and Bin Laden expert named Peter Bergen attempted to discredit my autobiography by attacking me as a fraud. Notice that even after the comments he wrote about my autobiography were proven incorrect, mean-spirited and baseless, the press had still respected his word more than they did mine—even after his claims were proven to be inaccurate. On top of that, I had actually spent time during my late childhood in psychiatric care because of having witnessed my birth parents slain in my presence, and several of my enemies in the media had begun using my childhood against me.
It is common for people having disagreements with me to say “Oh Kola Boof’s mentally unstable; she’s crazy” as a way of silencing me. So as you can see, just the thought of telling my story made me get a lump in my throat.
But then finally, somewhere around May 2007 when I’d agreed to headline a reading at the Schomburg Center, there began to be the most ridiculous attacks on my character by the famous black woman writer back east whose husband I had slept with. She wasn’t upset that I’d slept with her husband, but rather was insulted that I had not taken part in the threesome that she had envisioned us having, and after she’d used her considerable weight in the publishing industry to cause a manuscript I’d written to be rejected by a smaller imprint within the publishing house that she used to write for, she began publicly trading emails and backroom notes assassinating my character and asking others to boycott my works.
I thought it was nothing, but then these hideous rumors that I had either attempted suicide or had admitted on a radio interview that I might kill myself. A speciously stupid YouTube propaganda video claiming that I was an “angry black woman” who hated black men and was being mind-controlled by the Federal Government suddenly became popular among my enemies. The video presented me as a modern day Mata Hari and suggested that I was on prescription drugs—something I’ve never taken in my life.
It was then that I feared…and perhaps I’m being paranoid about this…but I feared that one of the groups out there who hates my work and hates my politics—maybe the various Arab-Muslim businesses that pay reporters to make up stories about me or the NSA itself might be planning to kill me and might have wanted to first plant the seed that I was delusional and suicidal so that the public would think nothing of it.
But the fact is, I would never ever commit suicide, and I want my fans and supporters to know that as long as I have breath in my body, I will endeavor against all odds to provide a happy and healthy life for my children, as well as to fight for and affirm the things I believe in, both socially and politically.
I have not been mind-controlled, my thoughts and my actions are my own, and I would not ever think of killing myself. What I have been—is harassed by either the NSA or the FBI.
Ironically, when I contacted Cheryl Welsh about writing this article around late July 2007, the incidents appeared to have subsided dramatically, and for a few months, I went into a state of semi-peaceful, guarded limbo. Now it’s 2010 and I recently got a strange visit by the FBI claiming that photos of me had been altered and that I might be in danger of Arab Muslim groups I fight with regarding the Sudan. This was followed by someone illegally videotaping me in Pomona, California and then out of nowhere the wire-tapping bug sounds in both my cell and house phones. All I can do is sigh. I don’t trust the FBI or the NSA yet I can’t prove it’s them, but in my gut, I feel like it is.
On the other hand, it’s a fact that Arab Muslim businessmen, the Oil companies in Sweden and Canada whose fields I helped blow up in Sudan and other Pro-Palestinian political factions have been threatening my life and my children’s lives since 2001. I have had producers at Al Sharpton and The Tavis Smiley Show call me a “Jew Lover” and “traitor” because I support my own African best interests in placing the South Sudanese above the “wet hair” brown-brother slave-owning, genocide-committing Arabs of Palestine and the Middle East. People in America despise any Black person who doesn’t believe in their strategically evil one-drop rule or doesn’t support Palestine (because its “cool” to be down for the poor mistreated Muslims as “mean bully” Israel gives the Arabs a taste of what they’ve given us Africans for a thousand years—African eye roll as I mouth the words: “Go Israel!”). I love me some Israel. So in going to bed at night, that leaves me in a position of not knowing who to load my guns for—the U.S. agencies or my enemies from back home?
What I do know is that I am still proud to be an American, I still love this country, and I still support the United States government and believe that out of all the governments on earth, this one is the lesser of many evils.
God help the planet.
To read more than 30 of Kola Boof’s more controversial essays, check out the collection, “Unplugged & Uncut: The Essential Kola Boof Anthology” (Atlantic Library), which is now available on Kindle