- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

The Tuesday indictment of John Walker Lindh formalized the charges against the 24-year-old. Attorney General John Ashcroft characterized these charges as the outline of a "timeline of terror" in which Lindh was "an active, knowing participant." Most importantly, the indictment alleges, for the first time, that Lindh used and possessed firearms and grenades in furtherance of other crimes, including conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals. Those "U.S. nationals" are not named, but it may be that Lindh has been linked to the murder of CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann.

In the original charges filed against Lindh, the FBI alleged he had conspired to kill U.S. nationals while abroad, provided material support and resources to al Qaeda and another terrorist group known as Harakat ul-Mujahideen, and had engaged in prohibited transactions with the Taliban. The indictment repeats these charges and adds three more. Lindh is charged with two additional counts of conspiring to contribute services to al Qaeda and the Taliban. In addition, he is now specifically charged with carrying firearms and explosive devices while committing crimes of violence, which carries a mandatory 30-year jail term that would run consecutively, after sentences he may receive for other crimes.

Lindh's defenses appear to be limited. First, Lindh will say his serial confessions to CNN and the FBI were coerced, and he was denied counsel when he made them. Second, inevitably, there will be an insanity or "brainwashing" defense. Lindh's statements at least up to the time the FBI began interrogating him were on the battlefield at Mazar-e-Sharif. This was the site of the prison revolt in which Lindh apparently participated and the time and place Spann was murdered by prisoners just like Lindh. No U.S. court has so far extended the requirement to read someone his "Miranda rights" to the battlefield. Those rights arise later, in custodial interrogations by law enforcement. We expect the courts will reject this absurdity. Nevertheless, Lindh's written waiver of the right to counsel seems conclusive. The brainwashing defense may be a hard sell to a jury outside of Marin County, Calif. Wednesday, the court rejected Lindh's motion to be released on bail arguing, to no one's surprise, that Lindh might flee if released.

The crimes Lindh is charged with are acts of barbarism, helping outlaws who intend to destroy the nation that bore him in privilege and comfort. When he meets his maker after many years in prison to reflect on his acts, hopefully he will be judged by the universal standards which condemn al Qaeda and its ilk before man and God.

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