Posted 8:07 p.m. Jan. 22
By Patrick W. Higgins
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – The American man captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan in November was formally charged with three federal crimes, the Justice Department announced last week.
John Walker Lindh was charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, providing material support and resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, and engaging in prohibited transactions with the Taliban. If convicted, Walker could face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The criminal complaint, announced early this week by Attorney General John Ashcroft, comes just two months after Walker was captured alongside Taliban fighters at a prison uprising in which CIA agent Johnny Spann was killed.
According to the Justice Department complaint, Walker openly admitted his allegiance to the Taliban and the al Qaeda terrorist network. “We have not overlooked attacks on America when they were made by foreign nationals,” Ashcroft said at a press conference. “We cannot overlook attacks on America when they come from United States citizens.”
Walker converted to Islam in 1997 and traveled to Yemen in 2000 to study the Koran. While in Yemen, he volunteered for training in a terrorist camp run by Harakat ul-Mujahideen to fight in Kashmir. The complaint, based on FBI interviews in early December, further states that Walker chose to fight alongside the Taliban, who referred him to an al Qaeda training camp where Osama bin Laden personally thanked him for “taking part in jihad.”
According to the investigation, Walker revealed that he was aware of the Sept. 11 attacks and that he knew bin Laden was responsible. “Walker knowingly and purposely allied himself with certain terrorist organizations,” Ashcroft said. “His allegiance to terrorists never faltered, not even with the knowledge that they had murdered thousands of his countrymen.”
According to the complaint, FBI agents informed Walker of his Miranda rights and his right to an attorney both orally in and writing. Walker waived those rights on board the U.S. Navy ship Bataan.
In the Tuesday press conference, Ashcroft indicated that charges so far do not warrant the death penalty. The attorney general did not rule out the possibility, saying the death penalty was possible is depending evidence directly linking Walker to the death of Agent Spann is uncovered.
The Justice Department complaint was filed on Jan. 15 in federal court in Alexandria, Va., where prosecutors are in the midst of handling the Zacarias Moussaoui case. Moussaoui, a French national arrested before the attacks, was the first person charged in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.