- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 13, 2002

A federal judge said yesterday that attorneys for accused Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh will be allowed to use a CNN reporter's testimony in their move to have Lindh's statements after capture in Afghanistan thrown out of court.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III will convene a hearing Monday on the efforts of Lindh's legal team to prevent jurors at his trial in the fall from hearing interviews the former Maryland and California resident gave the FBI after he was captured in December.
Lindh's attorneys believe that Robert Pelton, a CNN free-lancer who interviewed Lindh at a prison hospital shortly after U.S. special forces took Lindh into custody, is a material witness to events at the heart of their case.
They intend to prove that Mr. Pelton was complying with the government when he got Lindh to describe on videotape his allegiance to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, whose al Qaeda terrorist network was behind the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Pelton has argued he shouldn't be forced to testify because it would violate his First Amendment rights as a journalist, but Judge Ellis ruled that such privileges are allowed only in circumstances involving protecting confidential sources or harassment.
A silence washed over the proceedings as Lindh, 21, walked into U.S. District Court in Alexandria. He was wearing a green prison-issue jumpsuit.
He nodded and smiled at his defense team, which greeted Lindh with handshakes.
Lindh was indicted in February by a federal grand jury in Alexandria on 10 counts of conspiring with al Qaeda terrorists to fight Americans as a member of the Taliban. Jury selection for the trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in late August.
The government said he agreed orally and in writing to be questioned in Afghanistan and that what he told the FBI during interviews Dec. 9 and 10 led directly to charges that could land him in prison for three life sentences plus 90 years.
Lindh's San Francisco-based defense team has argued that the interviews should not be allowed in court because he was delirious and debilitated when interrogated and was not advised of his rights as an American citizen.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, along with U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, whose office is prosecuting the case, have steadfastly rejected the arguments. Court papers filed by Mr. McNulty contend that Lindh "chose to communicate his story to anyone and everyone who would listen, including initially the American media."
During other pretrial developments this week, prosecutors asked Judge Ellis for more time to investigate whether Justice Department authorities leaked to the media e-mail messages the court sealed in March.
The e-mail is reported to suggest that Lindh had a good argument in his motions to suppress statements he made to FBI agents shortly after U.S. forces captured him.
Newsweek reported that the e-mail showed that Justice Department advisers believed that FBI plans to interrogate Lindh without the presence of a lawyer would violate the department's ethical guidelines in a manner "not authorized by law."
Last month Judge Ellis gave prosecutors three weeks to find out how the media obtained the e-mail. Investigators since have taken "signed, sworn statements from numerous individuals" who had access to the e-mails, but they need more time to determine where the leaks occurred, according to court papers filed Tuesday by Mr. McNulty.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide