Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Politicizing the Justice Department: Remember Susan Lindauer?

In the run-up to the 2004 campaign, sensational news stories convinced much of the public that "Democratic activist" Susan Lindauer, a former aide to Carol Moseley Braun, had conspired with two Iraqi agents to pass secrets to Saddam Hussein.

Cue the sirens! The right-wing media machine went on the attack. Hadn't Ann Coulter predicted that we'd soon have evidence that Saddam kept key Dems on the payroll? Now l'affaire Lindauer proved the point.

In early 2004, this country was a very different place.

That was the season of Coulter's Treason, the era of a revived McCarthyism. All liberals, we heard, possess an ineradicable predisposition to collude with the enemy. Susan Lindauer exemplified her traitorous breed. (For a particularly ripe example of this sort of attack, see here.)

Then the actual indictment against Lindauer appeared on The Smoking Gun. I gave that cunningly written document a close reading, and discovered that all this "Mata Hari" talk was nonsense.

She had no relationship -- zero -- to the other two Iraqis. Two utterly separate cases had been conflated in order to make her seem like a spy.

Yet she did not spy. No charges of espionage were ever leveled against her, even though the media tried hard to convey the opposite impression.

As it turned out, her cousin was Andy Card, who was, at this time, Bush's Chief of Staff. Lindauer thought that she could act as a "back channel" between Card and certain Iraqi scientists. Her rather naive hope was to stave off war by providing proof that Saddam possessed no weapons of mass destruction. W got his war nonetheless, and Lindauer was charged with acting as an "unregistered agent."

I spent a lot of time on the Lindauer case as this blog was a-borning, and I was (a-hem!) pretty much the first writer to say out loud that the media's accusations against her were nonsense. If this lady were an Iraqi spy, why did she let Andy Card know every move she made? Rather poor tradecraft!

In my view, "useful idiot" Susan was manipulated into position by right-wing schemers who had one main motive: Propaganda. They wanted a poster girl for their Dems-are-traitors campaign. The meme needed a face.

They waited until the time was right, then sicced the Justice Department on her. The DOJ was subverted to do political work.

Back in early 2004, such ideas were considered conspiracy buff stuff. Today -- thanks in large part to the work of Josh Marshall -- we know about Karl Rove's heavy-handed interactions with the DOJ. I believe, but cannot prove, that Rove played a role in engineering the Lindauer "scandal."

Lindauer was led down this path by a spooky individual named Richard Fuisz, who may be CIA. At least, she says he said he was CIA. I did a lot of research into this fascinating man (who had previously come to the attention of Sy Hersh), and the resultant posts introduced many of this blog's recurrent themes. Fuisz links up to a host of neocon worthies -- Michael Ledeen, Eleanor Benador, Daniel Pipes, and those right-wing Lebanese expatriates I have since labeled "the seedy of Lebanon." For more (and there is a lot more), see here.

I don't know if Fuisz is really CIA. (Similar accusations have been leveled against Ledeen; I've never seen proof.) But the guy is definitely tied into a network of people who merit little trust.

Poor Susan! They played her like a violin.

All of the foregoing functions as an introduction to Michael Collins' study of the Lindauer Affair, which comes to us by way of Scoop Independent News. I've privately described to Collins my view that Lindauer was deliberately set up to play the fall girl in a Rovian "theater piece." Collins replied that this theory explains why the Republicans did nothing about Lindauer until election season rolled around -- even though her activities had occurred much earlier, and even though she had made sure that Andy Card knew about every move she made.

The words that follow (first of a two-part series) belong to Michael Collins.

* * *

American Cassandra - Susan Lindauer’s Story
Above all, you must realize that if you go ahead with this invasion, Osama bin Laden will triumph, rising from his grave or seclusion. His network will be swollen with fresh recruits, and other charismatic individuals will seek to build upon his model, multiplying those networks. And the United States will have delivered the death blow to itself. Using your own act of war, Osama and his cohort will irrevocably divide the hearts and minds of the Arab Street from moderate governments in Islamic countries that have been holding back the tide. Power to the people, what we call “democracy,” will secure the rise of fundamentalists.
-- Susan Lindauer’s last letter to Andrew Card, January 6, 2003*
Susan Lindauer sent her eleventh and last letter on the Iraqi political situation to then Bush chief of staff Andrew Card on January 6, 2003, just two months before General Franks gave the command to invade on March 20, 2003. She’d sent ten other letters on Iraq to Card, her second cousin, over a two year period.

In her final letter she made a prophetic plea to head off the war. Through Lindauer’s back channel contacts at the Iraqi United Nations mission, Lindauer said that she’d gathered a great deal of information. She had good reasons to believe that the Iraqis were ready to offer huge concessions on inspectors and on other United States demands.

As the opening quotation shows, she correctly predicted what other knowledgeable observers believed. While the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan had al Qaeda on its knees, an Iraqi military defeat would lead to a civil chaos. This would provide the basis for a resurrection of bin Laden’s operation and then revive the al Qaeda terrorist risk to the United States.

Lindauer was arrested on March 17, 2004, fifteen months after the last letter to Andy Card and two years after the trip to Baghdad referenced in the indictment. She was charged with “conspiring to act and acting as an unregistered agent of the government of Iraq” and “forbidden financial transactions” with Iraq totaling $10,000 relating to those acts. The charges cover the period of October, 1999 through February 2004.

She denies acting as an Iraqi agent and says that she’d been recruited by the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency to open a back channel for contact with Middle Eastern nations that lacked formal diplomatic ties the U.S. She asserts that CIA was overseeing her contacts with Iraq and that the U.S. government was fully informed of her activities.

(To read the rest, click "Permalink" below)

She was very specific when she said that she had no knowledge of or contact with the two Iraqis named in her indictment. In his final ruling on the case, Judge Mukasey observed that:
It bears emphasis here that it was never the government's theory that Lindauer participated in such conduct, or indeed that she even knew the Al-Anbuke brothers. Rather, she and they were charged together only because both allegedly conspired with IIS. Judge Michael B. Mukasey, Opinion and Order, September 6, 2006.
At her preliminary hearing, she was remanded for trial in federal court, Southern District, New York, and placed on $500,000 bail

Another 18 months passed without action until the prosecution requested that Lindauer undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The prosecution argued that she was unfit to stand trial for two reasons: she believed that she was not guilty and she was therefore unable to contribute to her defense since she didn’t understand that she might be convicted. Her failure to accept guilt by denying what the prosecution called delusions somehow proved mental incompetence.

Based on the psychiatric evaluation, Judge Mukasey ordered Lindauer to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Federal Medical Center (Carswell FMC), Ft. Worth, located on the grounds of Carswell Air Force Base. Lindauer reports considerable distress at confinement and the condition of her fellow female inmates.

Lindauer has consistently maintained her innocence throughout this entire affair. After seven months at FMC Carswell, she had a hearing with Judge Mukasey in early May 2006. The psychiatrists at the federal prison facility wanted to force her to take psychotropic medication, a position strongly supported by the U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case. She vigorously objected to this, which was the basis for the May hearing. The government’s rationale for forced medication and the treatment at Carswell FMC will be discussed in more depth in the second part of this series.

Rather than being sent back to the prison facility, she spent four months at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. Finally, on Sept. 8, 2006 she was released by order of Judge Mukasey. He flatly denied the U.S. Attorney’s request for forced medication, noting contradictory opinions on diagnosis and poor support for the efficacy of the medication recommended by court appointed and prosecution experts.

His opinion and order implied that there was not much of case against her: “There is no indication that Lindauer ever came close to influencing anyone, or could have.” Opinion and Order, Judge Michael B. Mukasey, Sept. 6, 2006

The Judge ordered that Lindauer be released from jail. She remains free to this day. Through former U.S. Attorney Brian Schaunnessy of Washington, D.C., she is seeking a trial on the charges levied and sees that as a public forum to verify her story and clear her name.

Susan Lindauer’s Story

After seeing an article I wrote on Attorney General nominee Mukasey, Susan Lindauer emailed Jeff Tiedrich, publisher of the political web site that carried the story. She complimented my analysis of Mukasey, which had mentioned her case. I received the email, contacted her, and requested an interview. She agreed.

Susan Lindauer and I met on two occasions for a total of about six hours. In addition, there was an additional two hours of phone contact to assure that I accurately represented her story. She says this is the first time anyone contacted her for an in depth interview on her story and experience.

She was engaging, articulate, and energetic during the interviews and follow up calls. In this article, I present her story as she told it to me. In part two of the series, I cover her confinement at FMC Carswell, examine how the initial round of her case was handled, including Judge Mukasey’s dismissive remarks about the merits of the case against her. I will also present information from individuals who support her character and knowledge of Lockerbie and Iraq and offer some speculation on motives and handling of her arrest.

What follows is neither a brief in favor of her case, nor is it a fishing expedition to generate cheap shots regarding her claims. It’s simply her story.

Susan Lindauer seeks a trial on the charges to prove her innocence.

She says that:
Lindauer reports that her role as a back channel operative for the U.S. resulted from a 1994 meeting with Dr. Richard Fuisz in Chantilly, Virginia. He approached Lindauer who was then on the staff of Representative Ron Wyden (D-OR), now a U.S. Senator. She says that Fuisz, reportedly a CIA operative, wanted to get out information on terrorist threats from Syria and its proxies who he said were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. Fuisz claimed that he could identify the specific culprits behind the Lockerbie – Pan Am 103 bombing.

She noted that her knowledge of Arab culture and her positions as an anti sanction, pro peace advocate positioned her for service as a conduit to nations hostile to United States. This put her in a position, “to open a back channel to receive terrorism information from those nations under sanctions.”

Lockerbie, Scotland and the Bombing of Pan Am 103

The Clinton administration was interested in using her as an entrée to communicate with Libya officials, according to Lindauer. Her specific task was to help obtain the hand over of two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing to stand trial for the destruction of the Pan Am flight and deaths of 259 passengers and 11 Lockerbie citizens

Lindauer described playing an instrumental role in negotiating the handover of the two suspected bombers from Libya through her Libyan contacts at the U.N. mission. She performed the liaison role through the Libyan mission at the U.N. As a result of her work and other efforts, she reports that Libya turned over two male suspects, al-Megrahi and Fhimah, to Scottish authorities. They were indicted and tried for the bombing and 270 deaths. Scottish prosecutors convicted Al Megrahi but not Fhimah.

During the lead up to the trial, Lindauer had serious questions about the guilt of the Libyans that she helped secure for trial. She says, “Other Arab contacts told me that Mohammed Abu Talb, Abu Nidal, in addition to Ahmed Jibril were the key to this awful crime.”

In 1998, she provided U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan with a deposition containing information that she obtained from Dr. Richard Fuisz. This was prior to Annan’s visit to Libya which Lindauer says was for a meeting to discuss the Lockerbie trial with Gadaffi. In the deposition, she offered this: “(Fuisz) says freely that he knows first hand that Libya was not involved in any capacity whatsoever. It's my understanding that he can provide further details regarding his part in the investigation, or details identifying the true criminals in this case.”

However, Fuisz was the subject of a 1990’s gag order and required specific permission from the U.S. in order to give a sealed deposition for the Lockerbie trial.

Lindauer’s statement on Lockerbie caught the attention of the Scotland’s Sunday Herald:
[In 1994] One month before a court order was served on him (Fuisz) by the US government gagging him from speaking on the grounds of national security, he spoke to US congressional aide Susan Lindauer, telling her he knew the identities of the Lockerbie bombers and claiming they were not Libyan. Sunday Herald May 28, 2000
The Herald discussed her role in negotiations with Libya:
Congressional aide Lindauer, who was involved in early negotiations over the Lockerbie trial, claims Fuisz made "unequivocal statements to me that he has first-hand knowledge about the Lockerbie case". In her affidavit, she goes on: "Dr Fuisz has told me that he can identify who orchestrated and executed the bombing. Dr Fuisz has said that he can confirm absolutely that no Libyan national was involved in planning or executing the bombing of Pan Am 103, either in any technical or advisory capacity whatsoever.” Sunday Herald May 28, 2000
Her position was not that different than an analysis offered in Time Magazine in 2002. Both she and Time speculate that Ahmed Jibril, a Palestinian resistance leader allied with Syria, was responsible for the bombing. Time magazine even suggested that the terrorist act was a “hit” on a special U.S. military group seeking to free American hostages held in Lebanon.

Just recently, Time ran another article on findings by investigators raising factual questions that cast doubt on the guilty verdict of the one suspect actually convicted in the case.

On June 28, 2007, Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) made a referral of the al Megrahi conviction for further review due to a critical flaw in the case. Evidence from a Maltese shopkeeper that helped convict al Megrahi was accepted by trial judges without a “reasonable basis”. The SCCRC is empowered to refer flawed decisions to Scotland’s Supreme Court, which must hear the case.

Just recently, October 2, 2007, The Scotsman reported that “Fresh doubt has been cast over the conviction of the Lockerbie bomber after it emerged a document containing vital evidence about the bomb timer has never been shown to the defense.”

In addition, The Scotsman, Oct. 6, 2007, reported that two key witnesses, the Maltese shopkeeper and the head of the company that manufactured the timing devise for the bomb, were offered $2 million and $4 million respectively by U.S. officials to tilt their testimony for a conviction of al Megrahi.

Lindauer said that her work on Lockerbie started in 1995, “I was being used aggressively at this point for positive things.” She didn’t see any inconsistency between her activism and her work with the intelligence community. She opposed both sanctions by the United States and violence by terrorist states.

Thus, by her logic, her work for U.S. intelligence was no different than her activism – the goals were the same. She said, “From the perspective of my life, I was able to work against sanctions” and also work against terrorism emanating from rogue states. Noting the global reach of the events and the stakes, she now says, “This work makes you know how small you are.”

An Opening to Iraq

After Lockerbie, Lindauer says her work focused exclusively on Iraq, although she’d started contact with Iraqi diplomats at the U.N. in August, 1996. She followed her previous approach and sought out diplomats at the Iraq mission to the U.N. Her assignment was to help gain a resumption of weapons inspections based on the rigorous standards outlined by the U.S. She also made a trip to Iraq one year before the U.S. invasion.

During 2000, Lindauer began her efforts to cultivate Iraqi contacts for better relations with the U.S. She described an extraordinary opportunity that might have changed the entire direction of U.S. - Iraq relations. As the secular dictator of an Arab state, Hussein was not fond of Islamic terrorists. Lindauer reported to her U.S. contacts that the Iraq government would welcome an F.B.I. taskforce into Baghdad. She reported further, that “The F.B.I. would be able to interview witnesses and make arrests.” Further, she says that:
Iraq also offered banking records and proof of financial transfers that would prove Middle Eastern involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing and the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
The program met with a frosty reception from the newly installed Bush administration. Lindauer said, “I was told that the new administration was evaluating its position on Iraq, in light of collapsing international support for sanctions.” There was no action on the plan. In fact, based on what we know now, improved relations with Iraq were not on the agenda from the beginning of the Bush-Cheney era.

This leads to the second phase of her activities regarding Iraq, the events that ended with Lindauer’s arrest, indictment, and incarceration at FMC Carswell, Ft. Worth, Texas.


A year before the invasion, in March 2002, Lindauer took a trip to Iraq to meet with government officials. She smiled broadly as she affirmed the value of that mission: “It would be regrettable if the US government lied about its knowledge of this trip.” She paused and smiled again, “We can prove their total awareness.”

Lindauer sent 11 letters to Card staring in 2001 leading her to pose this question: “If he wanted to discourage me to stop talking to the Iraqis, all he had to do was say so.”

In the final letter sent to Card, Lindauer delivered her accurate prediction of the results of the invasion she worked to avoid – a disaster in Iraq fueling resistance groups hostile to the U.S. along with a revival of al Qaeda.

She accurately estimated the true value of the exile groups cultivated by the Bush administration and, in the case of Ahmed Chalabi, used almost exclusively by New York Times writer Judith Miller as the basis for her discredited claims in New York Times that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
Once U.S. bombing starts, the Iraqi exiles will have no credibility as leaders. None whatsoever. They will be hated as pawns of the United States, and my God, let me tell you Arabs can hate. A U.S. victory will never be sweet for long. Lindauer letter to Card, January 6, 2003*
She argued passionately, with dramatic emphasis, that there was a deep well of hostility towards the U.S. as a result of deaths caused by U.S. supported U.N. sanctions from 1990 through March 22, 2003. This is a story not well covered in the U.S. press but one with palpable results for the people of Iraq.
That hatred has kindled deeply because of the sanctions, Andy. Sanctions have killed 1.7 million human beings, including almost one million little children. Stop and think. What would an American father do to the man who killed three of his children, once that father could finally lay hands on the aggressor? Would he throw candy in the streets? No, he’d beat him to death and stab him 100 times until his arms were sore. And then he’d look for the next man, stalking until the right moment. In Baghdad, I met a man who lost 8 members of his immediate family in one year. That’s right, eight dead in ONE year. Multiply that by 20 million people.” Lindauer letter to Card, January 6, 2003*
While the Department of Justice questions Lindauer’s role as a cooperator with U.S. Intelligence and a question was raised about her ability to “influence anybody,” there can be little doubt about her analysis and predictions concerning post-war Iraq. Just in this final letter, she nailed down the myth of the exiles and their role in building a new Iraq, the extreme hostility of Iraqis toward the U.S. presence and personnel, and the resurrection of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Whatever her sources and inspiration, Susan Lindauer is truly an American Cassandra.
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At this moment I'm watching Michael Mukasey's confirmation hearing on C-SPAN3, but I started watching late (during Sen. Hatch's questions); so I don't know if anyone raised the Susan Lindauer case. They're breaking for lunch now and will reconvene around 2:30 EDT, maybe by then someone will have read and digested this blog's fine reportage (even if it is always 3 hours late).

Susan's horror story ought to become a major movie; we need IMPORTANT political mass art more than the consumer-interest stuff about CBS/tobacco whistle-blowing or Erin Brockovich. (But time is of the essence so that we don't get something like the fool's version of what happened to Flight 93 and how it went down in Shanksville, PA.)

I'm bothered about the recent confessions that our invading Iraq was "about oil". Of course it's about oil, but it's very misleading. It's less misleading to say the breakup of the USSR was "about oil". Prior to the USSR collapse, the USSR held more oil reserves and natural resources (coal, natural gas, copper, iron ore, and so on) than most of the rest of the world combined (exclamation point). But the USSR couldn't trade its resources because it lacked a warm-water port.

It has been well-known, though obfuscated, that the cold war strategy's 2 prongs consisted of the USSR's attempts to secure a warm-water port and the US/NATO attempts to prevent it. The keystone had always been Iran.

Since the end of the USSR, the oil/gas pipelines have dramatically altered the "warm-water port" issue to the extent that 'nuclear' issues have been used to obfuscate the hidden-but-not-secret strategic planning. There will always be a huge military presence for the security of the network of pipelines.

The US version of oil's vital importance invariably emphasizes 'consumers', but the military are the big consumers in mind-numbing amounts. Let's not forget that the second-largest air force in the world (after the USAF) is the US Navy.

Hey! C-SPAN3 is now repeating the hearing from the beginning.
Joseph, thanks so much for carrying the article and for your theory on the delay between supposed acts and an indictment. I think this comment by Susan Lindauer explains a great deal:

"If he (Card) wanted to discourage me to stop talking to the Iraqis, all he had to do was say so."

Letters one through ten were received and read by one or several people with the might of the Secret Service at hand. Nothing was done; the dog didn't bark. At least not until it was convenient, by your theory, which makes sense. Get it going long enough before the election to percolate.

Ironically, Mukasey foiled the plans. In my opinion (strongly held), he erred in allowing her to be sent to FMC Carswell, part of the Bureau of Prisons. But the error was corrected when the whole case was blown out of the water September 6, 2006, right at the start of the slander/libel phase of the presidential election. In essence, he said, (my script) 'While I shouldn't pre judge this case, I must say it sucks. There's no way I'm going to have them hold down this citizen and let them pump drugs into her.' Besides, the Swift Boating already had traction.

Susan Lindauer says now as she did then, give me my day in court. That would be quite a day. We already know that her judgment on Iraq was right up there with others who saw the inevitable. As for Lockerbie, we don't know the full story (well, I don't;) but we do know that many objective observers think that the conventional (lack of) wisdom doesn't hold water. One defendant was found not guilty. The guilty verdict for the other defendant is in question due to the prosecution having withheld "critical" evidence.

Lets have a day in court for Susan Lindauer and see what happens. She seeks this and has hired an attorney to represent her, yet her court appointed attorney is challenging his replacement. That barking dog, so to speak, tells us a great deal, doesn't it?

Part 2 will be out shortly. Thanks for your contribution. The Lindauer case is an exemplar that explains a great deal about how this most brutal of U.S. governments operates.
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