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(As of December 18, 2001)




Early in December, as the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces were being routed in Afghanistan by indigenous Afghans and US troops, Americans were shocked to learn that among the enemy was United States citizen John Walker.


Pieced together from press reports, statements by Walker's parents, and from Walker himself, the following is what we know as of today about his odyssey from Marin County, California, to his current confinement today on the USS Peleliu (a Marine amphibious ship) in the Arabian Sea. I emphasize that what follows are only the facts as they pertain to Walker's legal exposure. Accordingly, I am ignoring his, and his parents' backgrounds (about which much has been written), the excuses being made for him based on his age and alleged inexperience, and the uninformed cries that he be put to death. All of the above is legally irrelevant to Walker's conduct in Afghanistan, and to the potential legal consequences of that conduct.


Walker's epiphany apparently was inspired by his reading the autobiography of the radical Malcom X.


When Al Qaeda terrorists in Aden bombed the USS Cole in October 2000 - killing 17 Americans, causing millions of dollars of damage, and making the United States look like a sitting-duck - Walker voluntarily opined that the attack was justified because our ship being in Yemen's waters constituted an "act of war" against Islam.


Walker, by then a student of Islam and the Arabic language, journeyed to Pakistan to join a madrassa - an Islamic fundamentalist school - in a region known to be a bastion of Islamic extremists and to harbor supporters of Osama bin Laden. Walker adopted the Muslim name, Abdul Hamid (among others). A nom de guerre, as it turned out.


Then Walker disappeared for some seven months.


We now know where he was. According to Newsweek magazine, Walker apparently has admitted to American interrogators that he is a member of Al Qaeda, that he trained at its camps, that he learned how to use weapons and explosives, that he met with terrorist leaders (including bin Laden), and that among other "skills"he was taught how to infiltrate airports.


Walker fought with the Taliban in Kashmir in the summer of 2001.


Following the September 11th terrorist attacks and America's response, Walker was sent by the Taliban/Al Qaeda to fight in Konduz against the Northern Alliance, trekking some one hundred miles with his comrades.


Upon reaching Konduz, Walker and many of his fellow terrorists were forced to surrender. Taken to the Qala Jangi prison, they immediately began the first of two uprisings. It was put down, and the prisoners were incarcerated overnight.


The next morning, Walker was interrogated by CIA officer Johnny Micheal Spann. The prisoner gave up no information.


This is Newsweek's report of Walker's account of what happened next: Shortly after the unsuccessful interrogation by Spann, ". . . someone either pulled a knife or threw a grenade at the guards or got their guns, and started shooting." A bloody Taliban/Al Qaeda-inspired uprising broke out in which prisoners and Northern Alliance troops - as well as Mike Spann - died. Walker was wounded.


With a remainder of 85 other hard-core Taliban/Al Qaeda fighters, Walker retreated to the prison's basement where, despite entreaties and massive pressure by the anti-Taliban forces to surrender, he held out for nearly a week before he and the other terrorists were flushed out by freezing water.


Newsweek quotes Walker, then in captivity, as admitting that his "heart became attached" to the Taliban, and that he "supported" the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, where thousands of American civilians as well as people of other nationalities were murdered. CNN, citing Newsweek, quoted Walker as admitting that he was a "jihadi" - a fighter of holy wars.


Following Walker's capture at the prison, the United States Central Command characterized Walker's custody status as an enemy prisoner of war.


Walker - wherever and however he obtained his information - has since told American officials that he knows Al Qaeda's next terrorist attack will come at the close of Ramadan, and that it will be of a biological nature - "Phase II," he called it. "Phase III," according to Walker, will destroy the United States of America.


A certain confluence of events strongly suggests that Walker may soon be delivered to US civilian custody. He was originally held by Special Forces. Then he was placed in the custody of the Marines at Camp Rhino, held as a "battlefield detainee." After that, he was transferred to a Marine vessel in the Arabian Sea. Attorney General John Ashcraft has now tasked Department of Justice lawyers to analyze the federal crimes with which Walker could be charged - particularly those which, like treason, carry a possible death sentence. There are press reports that agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are on their way to read Walker his rights.


All this we know.


What is its significance?


The commentary below, and further commentary that I will provide, is designed to answer this question and the many more surely to come.