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Several Charges Against Walker Based on His Comments to Interrogators - 2002-01-15

The United States is charging one of its own citizens with working for terrorists in an effort to kill Americans in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taleban. Attorney General John Ashcroft has announced 20-year-old Californian John Walker Lindh has admitted to meeting with Osama bin Laden and training in terrorist camps run by bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

The charges against John Walker Lindh include conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists. They were brought in federal court more than two months after he was captured in Mazar-E-Sharif during a prison uprising, which claimed the life of an American CIA officer.

Attorney General Ashcroft told reporters the American waived his rights to have an attorney present during questioning and freely admitted to joining the Taleban, telling interrogators he was a Muslim who wanted to go to the front lines and never wavered, even after the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11.

"The complaint sets forth Walker's admission that he spent seven weeks in an al-Qaida camp, training in weapons, explosives and battlefield combat," he said. "Walker reported that Osama bin Laden visited the camp on three to five occasions. On one of these occasions, Walker met personally with bin Laden who, according to Walker, 'thanked him for taking part.'"

And, he says, the American told U.S. interrogators Osama bin Laden admitted ordering the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in what could be the most direct evidence yet linking him to the events that led to U.S. war in Afghanistan.

In California, John Walker Lindh's parents have portrayed their son as a brainwashed teenager who left a wealthy San Francisco suburb to go off to study Islam in Yemen and Pakistan. It was there, he told interviewers, that his heart became attached to the Taleban. But it's clear from Attorney General Ashcroft that prosecutors expect to paint a different picture entirely.

"That he chose to embrace fanatics and his allegiance to those fanatics and terrorists never faltered, not even with the knowledge that they had murdered thousands of his countrymen, not with the knowledge that they were engaged in a war with the United States, and not finally, in the prison uprising that took the life of CIA agent Johnny Spann."

The charges were brought after a prolonged debate within the Bush administration over whether the American should be charged with the more serious crime of treason, which is punishable by death. John Walker Lindh has been held on board a U.S. warship in the Arabian Sea. He's now being transferred from military custody to the FBI.