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U.S. says Walker Lindh treated well

Walker Lindh in Afghanistan captivity  

From Bob Franken
CNN Washington Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was treated with "exceptional regard for his health, his safety and his security" while he was held in Afghanistan, prosecutors said Monday.

The comments came in response to defense efforts to suppress Walker Lindh's alleged confessions because of the way he was treated while being held by U.S. forces after his capture.

Defense attorneys argued that statements made by Walker Lindh should be suppressed at his trial because he was not read his Miranda rights while he was interrogated in what they called torturous conditions, including being blindfolded and bound.

Walker Lindh, a U.S. citizen, is accused of fighting against the United States while a member of Taliban forces.

Responding Monday to defense filings, prosecutors argued that because "interrogators understood they had a suspected al Qaeda terrorist on their hands, binding and blindfolding were appropriate safeguards under the circumstances."

They argued that contrary to being denied his "Miranda rights" to avoid self-incrimination as he spoke to an FBI agent, "we expect the evidence at the suppression hearing to show that Lindh never expressed a reluctance to speak with the agent, never requested counsel, voluntarily waived his Miranda rights and did so in a knowing and intelligent manner."

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U.S. opposition to changing venue  (FindLaw documents, PDF format)
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Other statements made by Walker Lindh, they continued, were spoken when "the purpose of the interrogations was to gather military intelligence, not to acquire evidence for the purpose of a criminal prosecution."

At the time, they argued "this was a battlefield detainee in a time of war" in military custody, not civilian.

"Miranda," prosecutors contend, "was never intended to govern the conduct of members of our Armed Forces in overseas military operations" which would be "staggeringly impractical. How could Miranda work in Afghanistan," they asked.

Walker Lindh's lawyers also asked that a tape of an interview he made with CNN reporter Robert Pelton be tossed out as evidence.

The government opposed that, arguing "Pelton is a private citizen who was not acting on behalf of any United States agency, civilian or military when he interviewed Lindh."

Another tape shows Walker Lindh silent during brief questioning by CIA agents, including Johnnie Spann, who later died in a prison insurrection by Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners.

Prosecutors called "preposterous" Walker Lindh's claim he feared being killed or turned over to Northern Alliance troops if he answered their questions.

Prosecutors blame Walker Lindh for his "astoundingly bad decisions that led to the conditions and circumstances about which he now so loudly complains. ... For someone with Lindh's upbringing and opportunities, they were as far from inevitable as one can conceivably imagine."

A court hearing on the defense motions to suppress Lindh's statements is scheduled for July 15.




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