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Reporter must testify in Walker Lindh case


ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- A federal judge ruled Friday that journalist Robert Pelton must testify about his interview with captured Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, now facing trial in a U.S. court.

Pelton was working as a freelancer for CNN when he interviewed Walker Lindh, who had just been captured in Afghanistan, where he was fighting for the Taliban. In the December 1, 2001, interview, Walker Lindh described being involved with the Taliban and training at a camp run by terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Walker Lindh's attorneys are trying to keep a videotape of the interview from being admitted into evidence, and subpoenaed Pelton to appear at a July 15 suppression hearing. They argued that Pelton was traveling with U.S. Special Forces troops when he interviewed Walker Lindh, effectively making him an agent of the U.S. military.

Declaration of Robert Young Pelton  
Defendant's response to Pelton's motion to quash  
U.S. response to Pelton motion  (FindLaw document, PDF format)
Timeline: The John Walker Lindh case 
People in the News: John Walker Lindh profile 
Transcript of Pelton's interview with John Walker Lindh 

Jury selection in Walker Lindh's trial is scheduled to begin on August 26. He has pleaded not guilty to 10 charges, including conspiracy to kill Americans overseas while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Pelton's attorneys argued that calling him to testify could interfere with his his rights to gather news independently and could put him at risk. CNN was among a group of news organizations that filed a brief Wednesday supporting Pelton's efforts to quash the subpoena.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis rejected that argument, saying that Walker Lindh's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial outweighed any First Amendment concerns.

"I do not see that the First Amendment gives a testimonial privilege to [journalists]," he said. Ellis said he could revisit the issue if he found the testimony to be unnecessary.

Walker Lindh survived the prison uprising at Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, where CIA agent Johnny Mike Spann was killed, but said he was not involved. He was lying on a stretcher receiving medical attention during the interview with Pelton.

-- CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken and Producer Laura Bernardini contributed to this report.




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