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In the defense of John Walker Lindh, so far we’ve seen several stretches – the most indefensible being his lawyers’ unsuccessful attempt to question, face-to-face, al-Qaeda prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


Now, Lindh lawyer Brosnahan has outdone himself.


A hearing is scheduled for Monday, July 15th, at which the Lindh defense will try to suppress their client’s incriminatory statements made to members of United States Army Special Forces, and to a journalist named Robert Young Pelton. (We all remember the tape of a filthy bearded fellow, then named Walker, lying on the ground answering questions in his faux Arab accent.)


While not crucial to the government’s conspiracy case against Taliban John, his statements to Special Forces and Pelton are certainly important. If the statements are not suppressed, Lindt is certainly cooked. If they are suppressed, he is probably cooked. So the defense is smart to attack Lindh’s statements, in an effort to keep them from the jury.


In support of that effort, Lindh’s lawyers have sought Pelton’s testimony by serving him with a subpoena for the suppression hearing. That, of course, is their right, and they are entitled to his testimony.


However, while the big story in the Lindh case last week was Pelton’s attempt to quash that subpoena – and the judge’s predictable ruling that the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right to a fair trial and Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process trumped Pelton’s alleged (but non-existent) “right” not to have to testify – the important story, missed by the media, was the defense’s theory of why it wants Pelton’s testimony.


In essence, Lindh’s lawyers want Pelton’s testimony to bolster their contention that their client’s statements to him and to the Special Forces were involuntary, and thus should be suppressed. There’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong, however, is with what brush Brosnahan is tarring Pelton in an effort to suppress Lindh’s statements.


On June 21, 2002, Brosnahan [Lindh’s lead lawyer] telephoned me [said Pelton in his court papers] and told me he wanted me to be a witness for Lindh. I listened to his rendition of why he wanted me to testify. I then told him that his contention that I was a U.S. agent was utterly false, irresponsible and a threat to my personal safety. I told him that I had no interest in Lindh’s case and favored neither side. I was outraged that he would fabricate such a story that had severe consequences for me an my family outside that case; and I asked him to issue a public apology and correction to eliminate from the public record any intimation that I acted in any way for the United States government. In explaining his theory, Brosnahan told me that he would contend that I was an unknowing or unwitting agent of the U.S. military. I told him that such a theory was absurd, as well as demonstrably false. I reminded him that his making such a contention created a risk that I would be murdered just as journalist Daniel Pearl was killed because he was erroneously assumed to be an agent of the U.S. government.


Pelton’s plea fell on deaf ears, and Brosnahan subpoenaed the journalist anyhow.


Now that United States District Judge T.S. Ellis has denied Pelton’s motion to quash the subpoena, he’ll have to testify at the suppression hearing. There, Brosnahan will walk a thin line, trying to elicit from Pelton testimony that could well be both productive and counter-productive for the defense.


On the one hand, Brosnahan will try to show that Pelton was working for the United States government – Special Forces, CIA, whomever – in order to show that through Pelton the government was wrongfully interrogating Lindh. On the other hand, Brosnahan needs Pelton’s unbiased testimony to show that Lindh was in rotten shape and that thus his statements were made involuntarily.


Because both Pelton and the government deny that Pelton was working for the military, Justice Department, CIA, or any other organ of the United States, there is no way Brosnahan can prove otherwise. So he won’t be able to help his case that way.


That leaves Pelton’s testimony about Lindh’s condition, which, while it may show that Taliban John was not in great shape, will probably not suffice to show that his statements were involuntary.

v What, then will be the net result of this Brosnahan ploy, falsely characterizing Pelton as an agent of the United States government? Simply to have unconscionably jeopardized Pelton and perhaps his family – all in the name of a “fair trial” for Taliban John Walker.