American Taliban John Walker Lindh
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GWEN IFILL: Today’s bail hearing took place at a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Katharine Seelye of The New York Times was there, and she joins us now from the paper’s Washington bureau.
GWEN IFILL: Katharine, are you with us?
KATHARINE SEELYE: Yes, Gwen, hi.
GWEN IFILL: Great. Take us inside what happened today at the courthouse. What was the argument that John Walker Lindh’s attorneys were making in favor of granting bail?
KATHARINE SEELYE: This was a plea by John Walker Lindh’s attorneys and his family to release him pending the trial. We don’t have a date for the trial, but they said essentially he has not been charged with any violent actions himself, that he doesn’t done anything against any United States military organizations or against any civilians.
GWEN IFILL: What the government’s response to that?
KATHARINE SEELYE: The government said this guy is extremely dangerous; at every option he had a choice he took the option to join the Taliban, to join terrorists fighters. They said he is a committed terrorist.
GWEN IFILL: Tell us about the evidence or whatever they used to back up this case. They introduced some e-mails?
KATHARINE SEELYE: Yeah. This was interesting Gwen. We didn’t actually see the e-mail. This is evidence that will be introduced in the trial that there’s no need to put it out now, but there are papers filed this morning, the government referred to a number of e-mails. I have a copy a couple of the them, the charges I want to read to you, to give you a flavor of what the government was arguing today.
They said in… actually this was a letter he had written his mother after the bombings of the embassies in East Africa. He said in the letter to his mother that these bombings seemed far more likely to have been carried out by the American government than by any Muslims. In an e-mail later to his mother he was trying to convince her to move to England, he wrote to you “I really don’t know what your big attachment to America is all about. What has America ever done for anybody?”.
GWEN IFILL: Now these two letters show some skepticism toward America and Americans on the part of John Walker Lindh but what do his attorneys say about what else they show?
KATHARINE SEELYE: Well, they also show that he has not just a hostility toward America but a hostility toward his parents. I think there’s an undercurrent here that the parents are probably the most sympathetic aspect of John Walker Lindh, and I think these e-mails show that in fact he was somewhat defiant of his parents and would not be able to obey them and so if the judge released John Walker Lindh into their custody, there would be no guarantee that he would be kept safe at home and without getting involved with anything.
GWEN IFILL: Were his parents in court today?
KATHARINE SEELYE: Yes, they were. They were in the second row. Again, he came into court just as he did a couple weeks ago — same olive drab jumpsuit. He’s very thin, pale; his hair had grown out a little bit. And he just sat at the defense table for most of the hearing.
When he left the courtroom, he seemed to kind of glance at his parents very briefly, but there was no emotion or gestures or any expression on his face. He and his parents have visited a number of times, however in the detention center where he is being held and they visited him this afternoon.
GWEN IFILL: Are his lawyers… More than just about bail, are his lawyers attempting to make any kind of case about the kind of representation he was able to get while in custody — whether he really waived his right to counsel, for instance?
KATHARINE SEELYE: This is still a mystery. We don’t have a clue. Well, we know that the government says he orally and in writing waived his rights. His defense lawyers say that’s not the case. So we’re going have to let a… A federal judge will have to decide that.
GWEN IFILL: Was there any indication sitting the courtroom today that this judge, this federal judge ever had any plan even for a second to let John Walker Lindh walk today?
KATHARINE SEELYE: It really didn’t seem like it, Gwen. He listened to the arguments for 45 minutes and then without taking a breath said no.
GWEN IFILL: Also the defense lawyer, the one defending Lindh also came outside the courtroom and kind of went on the attack against the attorney general — kind of unusual.
KATHARINE SEELYE: He did. He did. I think he was taking advantage of the fact that the attorney general has made some statements very prejudicial against John Walker Lindh.
And he said the government is it taking a cannon to a mouse in this case. And he said he thinks the government is really just acting out its frustration that Osama bin Laden has not been caught.
GWEN IFILL: The attorney general responded by going out having another press conference.
KATHARINE SEELYE: Right. He was pretty curt this time. He just said, you know, we’re glad for the ruling.
GWEN IFILL: And there will be an arraignment Monday?
KATHARINE SEELYE: That’s the plan. It’s possible it will be put off, but it will be at least next week. And in that arraignment John Walker Lindh will plead innocent his lawyers told me today and they expect a court schedule… a trial schedule to be set.
GWEN IFILL: Okay. Kit Seelye thank you very much for joining us.
KATHARINE SEELYE: Thank you Gwen.