ALEXANDRIA, Va. – During the time American-born Taliban John Walker Lindh says he was being held in "torturous conditions" and denied access to a lawyer, he was telling his story "to anyone and everyone who would listen," prosecutors said Monday.
In opposing Walker's bid to keep statements he made to U.S. officials and reporters out of his upcoming trial, the government said Walker did not ask for a lawyer until two days after he was questioned by the FBI on Dec. 9 and 10.
Prosecutors also said there is no evidence Walker was unwilling or reluctant to speak to anyone during the first 10 days of December, after he was turned over to U.S. custody.
"Lindh chose to communicate his story to anyone and everyone who would listen, including initially the American media," the government said. "And communicate he did — calmly, articulately, consistently, comprehensively."
The government filed several hundred pages of arguments in U.S. District Court on Monday to dispute claims by Walker's lawyers that his constitutional rights were violated and federal criminal law was ignored after he was taken into custody by Northern Alliance forces and later turned over to the U.S. military.
Prosecutors cited detailed treatment records from military doctors in arguing that the U.S. military treated Walker with "exceptional regard for his health, his safety and his security."
"What Lindh never acknowledges — let alone takes responsibility for — is that it is his own astoundingly bad decisions that led to the conditions and circumstances about which he now so loudly complains," prosecutors said.
They said Walker was given "an extraordinary opportunity" to withdraw from the conspiracy he's now charged with when he was questioned by CIA officer Johnny Spann and another American at a prison in Afghanistan last Nov. 25. Walker refused to answer questions and Spann was killed shortly thereafter in a prison uprising.
"Lindh knew he was being asked, essentially, to choose sides," prosecutors said. "He could either stay silent and thereby maintain his devotion and commitment to his Al Qaeda and Taliban brothers and their despicable objectives, or he could choose to be an American. He chose silence."
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III has set a hearing for July 15 on Walker's bid to keep statements he made to military officials, the FBI and a reporter for CNN from being used at his trial. The defense maintains that his statements were not voluntary because of the "torturous conditions" under which he was being held.
Walker's lawyers contend that his statements to interrogators about his military training and his enlistment in the Taliban militia form the basis for his indictment. It would be a major victory for Walker if they were suppressed.
He is charged with conspiring to murder U.S. citizens, contributing services to the Taliban and Al Qaeda and using weapons in crimes of violence. He could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges in a trial scheduled to begin with jury selection Aug. 26.
Walker's lawyers argued last month that all his statements while being detained by the U.S. military should be thrown out because he was not promptly brought before a magistrate as required by federal criminal law. Prosecutors said those arguments ignore the differences between a civilian arrest and the detention of an enemy soldier by the military.
"The United States military's handling of Lindh was entirely consistent with its legal authorities and responsibilities and with Lindh's constitutional rights," the government said.