John Walker Lindh's attorney

NPR July 16, 2002, listen from npr.org

"It used to be that you had to have evidence against somebody before you could make an accusation. But I am a little concerned that we are not quite as free as we were before September 11." - James Brosnahan

NPR: James Brosnahan is John Walker Lindh's attorney, good morning.

A: Good morning

NPR: Why did you make the deal?

A:Well, we didn't make it in its final form until late Sunday night. The papers were signed at 1:30 in the Alexandria jail but we have been working on it intensely since late Friday evening all the way through the weekend.

NPR: But why did you make the deal?

A: We made the deal when the government made it clear that they would drop all the terrorism charges against John and they would drop the conspiracy to kill Americans and they would drop those things that had made the largest sound in the immediate declaration of the indictment when the Attorney General first spoke and he played out John as a terrorist. John is not a terrorist. This plea makes that quite clear.

NPR: When this case began was this realistically your goal, the best you can hope for?

A: I practice a long time, I had only one goal and that was to try to give John a future. He is a very positive young man. I like him a lot. I know America's not quite ready for that appraisal but it's true, he's a good fellah.

NPR: Well, then what was he doing with the Taliban?

A: He has gone out to fight the Northern Alliance, a renegade group of former Russian communists, warlord characters who grow opium, and that's what he did.

NPR: But the Taliban made no secret of their hostility toward the United States?

A: The Taliban is to be distinguished from al-Qaeda. John is nothing to do with al-Qaeda. Really the Afghanis have no hostility particularly toward the United States. Osama bin Laden and his bunch are the ones that have hostility. The Taliban were just trying to finish off a civil war. And John for religious reasons was in that when 9/11 occurred and couldn't get out. He was afraid he'd be killed and it was a very legitimate concern.

NPR: When did he hear about that, and what was his reaction?

A: His reaction was to be very, very upset by it. Suicide is against the Koran, attacking civilians is against the Koran. At 21 years of age John's beliefs are pretty literal. He reads the Koran and he does what he thinks is in there. And contrary maybe to the American perception at the moment, there are some wonderful things in the Koran.

NPR: He said he carried a gun but never shot anyone. What was he doing there if he was not fighting?

A: He was being a soldier. You know, any army would have a lot of soldiers who would not fire a gun. The hill he was on was never attacked. And so there were really not much military engagement that he was involved in. Then of course in the retreat, see he thought he was going home. And he was betrayed by the Taliban leaders and they put them all in this jail, and then he was wounded, and was down in the basement for a week, and finally he surrendered, so as not to commit suicide because the Koran forbids it.

NPR: What about the comments of the family of the CIA agent who was killed who said that your client could have saved his life.

A: That is just not correct. It is not in the facts. I think that one of the things that bothers me about our mood in America is we don't need the facts anymore. It used to be that you had to have evidence against somebody before you could make an accusation. But I am a little concerned that we are not quite as free as we were before September 11.

NPR: Thank you very much

A: Thank you

NPR: James Brosnahan, attorney for John Walker Lindh

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