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Bush Considers Fate of American Taleban - 2001-12-21


President Bush said he is still trying to figure out what to do with John Walker, the American citizen captured in Afghanistan for fighting alongside the Taleban. Mr. Walker is being detained on a U.S. Navy ship as his parents and lawyer ask for a chance to visit.

President Bush said he has asked the National Security Council to work-up a strategy on dealing with all of those captured during the military operation in Afghanistan. Until then, Mr. Bush said he will make no announcement on the fate of Mr. Walker. "Obviously Walker is unique in that he is the first American al-Qaida fighter that we have captured," he said. "And we will announce to the country when we have made up our mind on how to deal with a wide variety of cases. Walker himself is being well treated on a ship of ours. I suspect he is finding his berth a little better than it was when he was placed in the prison in Afghanistan."

Mr. Walker was interviewed by Central Intelligence agents at an Afghan prison in Mazar-e-Sharif. He was later moved to a U.S. Navy ship where he is being held for further questioning.

Mr. Walker's family and lawyer have tried to portray him as a young man in search of Islam who got caught up in events in Afghanistan. They want the right to visit him on the ship, but so far, that request has been denied.

Mr. Walker could face treason charges for taking up arms against the United States. Legal observers said it is more likely he will face lesser charges carrying penalties of life in prison instead of treason which could bring the death penalty.

President Bush said he has not ruled out any charges against Mr. Walker and will not decide on how to proceed until he gets results of a Justice Department review. "Obviously, every decision we make at this point will set precedent for future decisions and I want us to fully think through all the ramifications of the different options," he said.

President Bush said the administration has been in touch with Mr. Walker's lawyer and his family and will let them know at "an appropriate time" how the government will proceed with its case against the man who has come to be known as "the American Taleban."

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