- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

The Justice Department is considering a wide range of possible charges against Americans who served as Taliban or al Qaeda fighters against the United States, including John Walker, the 20-year-old California man being held by the U.S. military.
Department prosecutors are preparing several options that eventually will be presented to President Bush, who will make the final decision.
Mr. Bush, according to administration officials, is "continuing to receive recommendations about the best course of action" but has made no final decision in the Walker case.
The officials said the president believes it is "important to be thorough, to be deliberative, to be judicious" before reaching a final decision.
"This is an extraordinary set of circumstances, to have an American who apparently was engaged in armed combat against the United States of America," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer last week. "There are people who have to be talked to, to determine what took place. There could be witnesses. So that's why it requires a lot of information gathering."
Walker, of San Anselmo, Calif., was taken into custody by the U.S. military earlier this month in Afghanistan. He was at a prison in northern Afghanistan at which a bloody uprising by Taliban fighters resulted in the death of CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann. He is being held aboard the USS Peleliu, an amphibious assault ship, in the Arabian Sea.
Justice Department officials have focused in recent weeks on several possible criminal offenses against American members of al Qaeda or the Taliban for engaging in an armed conflict against the United States and allied military forces.
The offenses, the officials noted, would depend on the nature and extent of the individual's involvement with these organizations. They include:
Treason, which consists of levying war or adhering to the enemies of the United States, giving them aid and comfort, by a person owing allegiance to the United States. The maximum punishment would be death; it could be imprisonment for not less than five years.
Murder of U.S. government employees, which consists of the killing or attempted killing of an officer or employee of the United States while they are engaged in their official duties. Military personnel at the Pentagon on September 11 would fall into that category. The maximum punishment, if the killing constitutes first-degree murder, is death; if the killing constitutes second-degree murder, life imprisonment; if the killing constitutes manslaughter, 10 years.
Foreign murder of a U.S. national, which consists of a U.S. national killing or attempting to kill another U.S. national outside the United States but within the jurisdiction of another country. The maximum punishments are the same as those for killing a government employee.
Foreign murder of U.S. national for the purpose of terrorism. The latter phrase is added when, in the opinion of the attorney general, the offense is intended to coerce, intimidate or retaliate against a government or a civilian population. The maximum punishments are the same as those for killing a government employee or a U.S. national abroad.
Conspiracy in relation to the other substantive crimes. The law of conspiracy requires the commission of an overt act by a member of the conspiracy. The maximum punishment ranges from five years to life imprisonment.
Providing material support or resources to terrorists. Because the al Qaeda network is a designated foreign terrorist organization, an American who gave them material support or resources would be prosecutable under the law. The maximum punishment is 15 years imprisonment per count or life sentence if death resulted from the offense. If no death resulted, the citizen would likely receive a sentence of 15 years by virtue of the terrorism enhancement to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has asked department lawyers to review crimes with which Walker could be charged. He has not made any decision in the case.

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