Thursday, March 11, 2004

A former congressional aide for several Democratic lawmakers was arrested yesterday as a spy and agent of influence for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Susan Lindauer, 41, was arrested at her home in Takoma Park. She was charged in an indictment unsealed yesterday for conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent for Iraq from October 1999 until February.

As she was led to a car outside the Baltimore FBI office, Miss Lindauer shouted: “I’m an antiwar activist and I’m innocent.

“I did more to stop terrorism in this country than anybody else,” she said. “I have done good things for this country. I worked to get weapons inspectors back to Iraq when everyone else said it was impossible. I’m very proud and I’ll stand by my achievements.”

An intelligence official said Miss Lindauer was first detected by U.S. counterintelligence methods, including surveillance of Iraq diplomats in New York.

Details of the effort were also disclosed in documents uncovered in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in April, the official said.

The official declined to reveal any damage from the case.

“She was more of an influence peddler,” the official said.

From March to May 2002, Miss Lindauer worked as a press secretary for Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat. Mrs. Lofgren, a Judiciary Committee member, said in a statement, “To my knowledge, this former employee had no access to sensitive information.”

Miss Lindauer joined the staff of then-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun in January 1996 as a press secretary. Mrs. Moseley Braun said she does not remember the suspect, a spokeswoman said.

In 1994, Miss Lindauer was a press aide to Rep. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, who is now a senator, and Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, also a Oregon Democrat.

Before working on Capitol Hill, Miss Lindauer was a reporter for Northwest News Service, U.S. News & World Report, Fortune magazine and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. She earned a bachelors’ degree from Smith College in 1985 and a master’s degree in public policy from the London School of Economics in 1986.

Jay Levy, the city-appointed chairman of the Takoma Park Nuclear Free Zone Committee, telephoned The Washington Times last night to insist that local peace activists know nothing about Miss Lindauer.

Mr. Levy, who also co-founded the Takoma Park Peace and Justice Committee, said he had been in contact with five of his colleagues on that panel and “no one has ever heard of this woman, let alone had any contact with her.”

He said his group has organized at least 10 public events against the Iraq war in the past two years, and “it would have been very easy for her to have made contact with us.”

In Takoma Park, Miss Lindauer’s neighbors on Manor Circle were shocked to learn that their neighbor of four years is accused of being a spy.

“It’s very surprising,” Tom Kaufman said. “It’s very hard to believe that anything they’re alleging can be true.”

Mr. Kaufman, along with his wife and two children, has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years.

“She’s a very nice lady, very pleasant and gracious,” he said, adding that he remembers Miss Lindauer attending parties at his house and letting his son play with her dogs.

“It makes me feel that a mistake has been made,” Mr. Kaufman said.

Neighbors said that Miss Lindauer was usually home during the day, was renovating the house, and could often be seen walking her two dogs. But some thought she was distant.

“She was really not interested in anybody,” Dean Paris said, who lives a block away from the suspect.

According to court papers filed in the case, Miss Lindauer met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Manhattan, N.Y., on Oct. 14 and Oct. 19, 1999, and “accepted a task” from the Iraqi agent.

Under an alias, Miss Lindauer supplied the Iraqis with the location, employment and family status of Iraqi expatriates in the United States, including the son of an Iraqi diplomat, the documents state.

She also accepted payments of several hundred dollars on several occasions from Iraqi intelligence officers as reimbursement for meals and travel.

According to the indictment, Miss Lindauer traveled to Baghdad several times, including a February 2002 trip when she was a “guest” of the Iraqi intelligence service. During the visit, she met several Iraqi intelligence officers in the Al-Rashid Hotel and received cash payments of about $5,000.

In all, prosecutors charge that she received about $10,000 from the Iraqi intelligence service.

In January 2003, Miss Lindauer delivered a letter to a U.S. government official that said she had “established access to and contacts with, members of the Saddam Hussein regime, in an unsuccessful attempt to influence United States foreign policy,” the indictment states.

Charges against Miss Lindauer include conspiracy, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, taking money from a government designated as a terrorist sponsor and making false statements to investigators. If convicted of all counts she could face 25 years in prison.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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