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E-mail leaks in Walker Lindh case investigated

Judge stated that the e-mails were privileged

John Walker Lindh
John Walker Lindh  

From Laura Bernardini
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States government Wednesday asked for more time to investigate a leak of Justice Department e-mails withheld from John Walker Lindh's defense team.

The leak led to a Newsweek magazine article that revealed confidential e-mail correspondence within the Justice Department questioning whether statements made by Walker Lindh to military and FBI investigators in Afghanistan would be admissible in court.

In March, the government turned over the e-mails to U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis. He ruled that they did not have to be shared with the defense.

At a June 17 hearing, Ellis expressed concern that the e-mails had been leaked to the media and wanted to know how that had happened. He gave the government three weeks to file a response and take appropriate action.

Ellis stated in open court that the e-mails had been "ruled 'privileged' and were not to be produced."

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In Wednesday's filing, government prosecutors revealed that they've opened an investigation through the Justice Department's inspector general's office, with two investigators assigned to the case. The investigators have "proceeded diligently and aggressively," but need more time, the filing said.

The prosecutors assured the court in a footnote that the investigation has not been limited to people with access to the documents on the case. They promised to apprise the court of developments, should they be allowed to continue the investigation.

The statements that Lindh made to investigators are to be the subject of a suppression hearing on Monday.

The trial of Walker Lindh, a 21-year-old from California, is scheduled to start in late August.

He was among Taliban fighters taken into custody by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, and was identified as an American after a prison uprising, which began in late November. During that uprising, CIA agent Mike Spann was killed.

The defense argues that the government had a constitutional obligation to bring Lindh before a judge within 48 hours and outline the reasons to hold him. Because that didn't happen, the defense contends that Lindh's statements in Afghanistan are inadmissible in court.

The charges against Walker Lindh include conspiring to kill Americans overseas, providing support to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and using firearms and other destructive devices during crimes of violence.

If convicted of all the charges, he could receive up to three life sentences, plus 90 years in prison.




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