Judge says U.S. doesn't have to prove Lindh killed CIA agent

Monday, April 1, 2002

Associated Press WriterALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) -- Prosecutors do not have to prove that American-born Taliban John Walker Lindh personally killed CIA agent Johnny Micheal Spann or other Americans, but only that he participated in a broad conspiracy with the Taliban, a federal judge said Monday.

Responding to defense requests for thousands of documents related to Lindh's captivity in Afghanistan, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III noted that the young man is charged with engaging in a broad conspiracy.

"You are not required to show that he shot at Americans," the judge told prosecutors at a hearing on a variety of requests for information by Lindh's attorneys.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Davis told the judge "there is no allegation of personal involvement" by Lindh in the killing of Spann, a CIA agent who was slain during a prison uprising in Afghanistan at which Lindh was present.

Lindh's lawyers have said their client was held under horrific conditions after his capture in Afghanistan, and they have argued that any statements he made during that period should not be admissible. In papers filed last Friday, the government denied this, saying that his food and medical care equaled that of U.S. soldiers.

But Ellis told both sides he would hear no arguments Monday about the question of suppression of evidence.

The defense contends that Lindh spoke to the FBI under duress because he had been blindfolded, kept in a freezing metal container and bound with handcuffs that cut off his circulation. He also was wounded in the leg during a Taliban prison uprising. His lawyers want Ellis to bar the interview as evidence.

The FBI said Lindh described his Taliban activities and admitted he had learned from an al-Qaida instructor that Osama bin Laden had sent people to the United States to carry out suicide missions.

Prosecutors argue that when interviewed, Lindh received the same quality of medical care as wounded American troops, ate the same packaged meals and was given warm comforters. They deny he was bound with extra-tight restraints.

Lindh is charged with conspiring to murder U.S. nationals, providing support and services to foreign terrorist organizations and using firearms and destructive devices during crimes of violence. Three of the 10 charges carry a maximum life sentence; the other seven have prison terms of up to 90 years.

The defense has accused the government of wrongdoing, contending that military officials altered interrogation reports so that Lindh would look guilty.

Prosecutors deny that, saying in court papers that reports in December and January "paint a similar portrait of the defendant as a man who, even after the catastrophic events of Sept. 11th ... maintained his allegiance to enemies of this country."

The government also challenges an accusation that it omitted from documents a Lindh statement that he was disillusioned after the Sept. 11 attacks -- and would have left his unit but for fear of death.

Prosecutors say Lindh did not remark that he was disillusioned. Instead, they said, the word was placed in the report by a military interrogator who gave his own interpretation.

The defense not only sought documents but also access to "CS-1," a confidential U.S. source who spoke with Lindh in Afghanistan and was present at the prison uprising that resulted in the death of CIA officer Spann. Prosecutors said they might permit access to the source but would not reveal his identity to the defense.

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