- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

Tuesday's announcement of charges against John Walker Lindh was made in very un-Clintonian terms. For those who live in Marin County, Calif., from whence Mr. Walker came, Attorney General John Ashcroft's words were probably a considerable shock. He said, "Youth is not an absolution for treachery, and personal self-discovery is not an excuse to take up arms against one's country." In short, there are problems that must be solved by something other than years on a therapist's couch. Analyze this.

The FBI affidavit supporting the criminal complaint says Walker committed three offenses: conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, providing support and resources to the al Qaeda terrorists and engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban. It traces Walker's travels to Yemen, his conversion to Islam and, in May 2001, his joining a terrorist group called "Harakat ul-Mujahideen" to fight against the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. From there, Walker allegedly graduated to seven weeks' more training at an al Qaeda terrorist camp where he met, at least once, with Osama bin Laden himself. Later, the Harakat group arranged Walker's trip to Afghanistan, where he joined al Qaeda.

According to Walker's own statements, when he joined al Qaeda, he knew that its purpose was to fight America. Worse still, Walker said that in June 2001, bin Laden had sent people to America to carry out suicide operations. Walker also apparently admitted that when he heard of the September 11 attacks, it was his understanding that bin Laden had ordered the attacks and that more would follow. With this knowledge, Walker went to the front lines to protect bin Laden and to defend against anticipated U.S. retaliation. Walker was finally wounded and caught in the prisoners' rebellion at the Qala-i Janghi fortress in which CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed.

There are more questions raised than answered by the charges against Walker. Federal law says that anyone entering the military service of a state engaged in hostilities to the United States or swearing allegiance to a foreign state with the intent to relinquish his citizenship will no longer be an American citizen. If Walker were no longer a U.S. citizen, he could have been sent before a military commission, like other Taliban and al Qaeda fighters will be. When Walker was captured, he denied U.S. citizenship, insisting he was a Pakistani. Someone in the Justice Department apparently has decided that Walker, who has done so much to forfeit his citizenship, is still an American. The Justice Department should explain why.

America is entitled to protect itself, and its people, from such as Walker. He may, in some small degree, redeem himself if the information he provides leads to the capture or death of bin Laden or Mullah Omar. Otherwise, young Walker has a great deal to answer for.

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