Media Groups Join Fight to Oppose Subpoena of Taliban John Interviewer

Several news organizations are opposing efforts by American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh to subpoena the free-lance reporter who interviewed him in Afghanistan.

Walker's lawyers have subpoenaed Robert Pelton, a free-lancer who interviewed Walker in December at a prison hospital in Sheberghan, Afghanistan.

Walker's lawyers contend that Pelton was essentially acting as an agent of the U.S. government during the interview, and therefore Walker should have been read his Miranda rights.

Pelton has already denied acting as a U.S. agent, and is seeking to quash the subpoena. A federal judge will hear the issue Friday.

On Wednesday, a group of media organizations, including CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, Tribune Co., The New York Times and The Washington Post, filed a brief in U.S. District Court supporting Pelton's effort to quash the subpoena.

The suggestion by Walker's attorneys that Pelton was acting in concert with the U.S. government "threatens to endanger the physical safety of American war correspondents throughout the world" by fueling suspicions in foreign countries about the motives of U.S. journalists, according to the friend-of-the-court brief.

"We can't afford to have journalists being perceived as agents," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which joined in the brief. "It would be like putting a bulls-eye on the backs of journalists."

The brief says the notion that Pelton was acting as a U.S. agent is "factually preposterous."

Prosecutors also rejected the idea that Pelton was acting as a U.S. agent and said Walker's lawyers have no hope of proving such a connection, given that both Pelton and the U.S. government deny the charge.

Walker 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.

The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 26. On Monday, a pretrial hearing is scheduled on Walker's request to suppress a series of statements he made to investigators, as well as the Pelton interview.

In the interview, Lindh said his "heart became attached to the [Taliban] movement. I wanted to help them one way or another."