TAKOMA PARK, Md. -- Charges that an anti-war activist was an agent for the Iraqi government have surprised residents of this affluent, liberal town where she lives, as well as some anti-war organizations that had already felt they were under close government scrutiny.
Federal charges brought Thursday against Susan Lindauer, a former journalist and congressional staffer, allege she accepted $10,000 from the Iraqi government and plotted to aid resistance groups loyal to Saddam Hussein. The allegations drew shock and skepticism in Takoma Park, a Washington, D.C., suburb that is home of many war opponents and declared itself a nuclear-free zone in the 1980s.
"People in Takoma Park are very committed to social justice, peace and nonviolence," said Linda Schade, member of a local anti-war group. "That is more like the type of person who lives in Takoma Park rather than a spy."
Acquaintance Kate Brown, of Chevy Chase, described Lindauer as a gentle, "earthy" peace activist who reminded her of a kindergarten teacher.
"I was really shocked to hear she was arrested," said Brown, who joined Lindauer and several other people to talk to Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Paul Sarbanes, both D-Md., about the war early last year. "If she did do anything wrong, she probably had no idea she was doing anything wrong."
Lindauer was released Friday on $500,000 bail to the custody of her father after a hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. She underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation Thursday.
She is accused of conspiring to act as a spy for the Iraqi Intelligence Service and engaging in prohibited financial transactions involving the government of Iraq under Hussein. The most serious charge carries a 10-year maximum sentence.
Lindauer said she was innocent in an interview with a television station shortly after her arrest, and said she has worked to stop terrorism and return weapons inspectors to Iraq. She has since declined to make public comments.
Lindauer is accused of trying to influence White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, a distant cousin, on behalf of Iraqi intelligence agents she met in Baghdad and New York. Card was interviewed by the FBI, telling agents that Lindauer had tried to contact him several times on behalf of the former regime, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
The charges have shaken some members of the Washington area's active anti-war organizations.
A lawyer for Pat Elder of the D.C. Anti-War Network said Elder had exchanged a few e-mails with Lindauer and was worried about being implicated in the case. Elder, a Montgomery County resident, had never met Lindauer, according to attorney Mark Goldstone.
"We don't know whether they are on a fishing expedition to go after all D.C.-based activists who raised opposition to the war," he said.
Lindauer worked in journalism during the late 1980s and early 1990s, including stints at Fortune, U.S. News & World Report, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before working in the offices of several members of Congress.
She worked at The Herald in Everett, Wash. from 1987 to 1989 as an editorial page writer, according to her former editor Louis Wein. He described her as "brilliant" but said he was unsure she had the temperament for daily journalism.
"She was erratic, had some pretty severe mood swings during working hours on the job," he said. "She was pretty bumpy at times."
Lindauer worked for Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in 1993 and Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in 1994. She joined the office of Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., as press secretary in 1996. In 2002, she worked for Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. The indictment makes no mention of her congressional staff work.