John Walker: Traitor, Heretic, Sacrificial Lamb?
By Jim Scanlon
Over the past twenty years, a succession of men have grievously betrayed the United States of America by stealing highly secret information for agents of foreign powers. Invariably they plead guilty to one or two of a list of charges, after negotiating arrangements with the Justice Department in secret, out of public view. There may be some public record of the judge's formal acceptance of the deal, but little of the actual details of what happened and why. The reason usually given is that secret intelligence information and methods are protected, but what actually happens is that the full damage done by these men, and the official negligence that allowed that damage, is also protected and the negligence continues.
A few recent cases are instructive. Aldrich Aimes and Robert Hansen, both high officials, the former with the CIA, the latter the FBI, brazenly stole US secrets undetected for years, causing incalculable harm. The depraved Aimes' betrayed the names of dissident Russians cooperating with US officials, resulting in their being apprehended and executed. He was allowed to plead guilty for a life sentence, there was no trial, and the Justice Department agreed not to prosecute his wife, a Colombian citizen. Why should she have been spared for her part?
Hansen crippled the FBI's counter intelligence activities for two decades until he was himself betrayed by a Russian KGB official who sold Hansen's original KGB file to US officials. Hansen, a seemingly devout Catholic, attended the same church as the FBI director Judge Louis Freh, and was a member of "Opus Dei" a secretive Catholic organization that originated in Fascist Spain. He was beyond suspicion. He too was allowed to plead guilty and the government also agreed not to prosecute his wife, who also knew what he was doing. His wife and children receive part of his pension as part of the deal. Why are these apparently guilty women spared? Ethel Rosenberg was executed in 1953 during the Korean War, for her small part, if any, in her husband's spying for the Soviet Union. Their children were raised by foster parents.
Jonathan Pollard, a US Navy Terrorist Analyst, betrayed his country by stealing an enormous volume of US military technical information for Israeli Intelligence. His case is somewhat different, in that, although he accepted money from his Israeli handlers, his loyalty was divided. He claimed he passed on vital information being deliberately withheld from an ally.
Pollard plead guilty and, in an apparent betrayal of the deal, received a life sentence. His wife Ester knew what her husband was doing, and helped him do it. She was jailed for a time, but proved troublesome to her jailers due to her medical problems and was released. She immigrated to Israel where she, other Israelis, including three Prime Ministers, and major American Jewish organizations, have relentlessly lobbied for Pollard's release. What did this man really do? Why have high US officials threatened to resign if he were released? Since there was no trial, one can only guess from governmental "leaks" and Esther Pollard's claims of anti semitism. What is being hidden? Is "Israel" being blackmailed with what Pollard did?
While the word "treason" is very narrowly defined by law and would be difficult to prove in court, there is little doubt that these men and women betrayed their country, and might, with justice, be called "traitors," even though they are usually referred to as "spies." It seems safe to say however, that no man in US history has ever been called a traitor, or caused more outrage, than John Philip Walker Lindh, also known as Suleyman al Haris, Abul Hamid, "Johnny bin Walker" and , commonly in US media speak, "The American Taliban."
Walker's story is well known. He converted to Islam as a teenager after reading novelist Alex Hailey's book, "The Autobiography of Malcom X." He went to Yemen to further his religious studies and then to Pakistan and to Afghanistan to fight on the fundamentalist Pakistani Islamic side of the long drawn out civil war, arriving just days before Islamic fanatics destroyed the World Trade Center in New York. A few months later he was discovered wounded and half dead, among Taliban survivors of a rebellion and massacre. The prisoners had surrendered their arms, were allegedly mistreated, rebelled, beat a CIA officer to death, were trapped and mostly killed inside the prison. He was lucky to be alive.
Walker was moved to a US Navy ship at sea and held incommunicado for over a month before being returned to the US to face a series of criminal charges in Virginia. In October 2002, he plead guilty without a trial, to two charges (see below) and received a sentence of 20 years in prison. Reading the transcript of Walker's emotional statement at his sentencing, it seems clear he is actually denying the charges. Yet, he pled guilty in a "deal" with restrictions that last his "natural life" and requires twenty years imprisonment!
It is hard to imagine any experienced defense attorney agreeing to such a deal! Walker was tried and found guilty by an outraged public, the national press, TV media commentators and radio talk show hosts. The Attorney General of the US, the highest official of the Justice Department, condemned him on national TV, with inflammatory, derogatory, judgmental statements---all this while being held incommunicado before any charges were filed. When your client has nothing to gain by a deal, you "pick twelve" and let the jury decide. Walker had been charged with ten counts and plead guilty to carrying an AK-47 and two grenades "while in the service of al Qaeda" (as distinct from "The Taliban").
Were Walker's interests served by his being represented by a corporate attorney, a friend of his father, a man from whom he was so alienated he rejected his name? His parents seem to have had a definite conflict of interests. Walker's personal and religious rebellion was directed against them. Personal statements from e-mail and letters to them were used by the Justice Department as material facts supporting his indictment and detention. His semi comatose statements to CNN reporters were also used. Defense lawyers in Criminal Court usually salivate, lick their lips and rub there hands in anticipation of tearing apart this kind of evidence. Think OJ.
Walker said he wanted to be a martyr and so he has become one, although not in the way he perhaps thought. He will have plenty of time to think this one over.
What is bizarre about the "facts," purporting to underlie, and support, the indictment is the Justice Department's contention: "... on July 4, 1999 President Clinton declared a national emergency ... to deal with the threat posed by al Qaeda ... and that on June 30, 2000 President Bush continued and extended this to ... the Taliban ... [who allow]... Usama bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization ... to commit acts of violence against the United States and its nationals." In other words that everyone knew, or should have known, in 1999 that it was against the law to have anything to do with "the Taliban" which was/is synonymous with "al Qaeda."
What is so strangely inconsistent with the above is that during May 2001 Secretary of State Colin Powell gave the Taliban $43,000,000 in appreciation for efforts to curb cultivation of opium poppies. Did Walker know of this? It seems more likely he heard of this, than the Clinton order of 1999. The money was no doubt useful to the now forgotten Mullah Mohammed, more surely, than foot soldier Walker with his rifle and two grenades! But, Walker was found guilty by John Ashcroft. His corporate attorney, his dazed and confused family and he agreed. There was no trial, no rebuttal, no explanations.
Laili Helms, the niece of Richard Helms, the head of the CIA who directed the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran and Chile, and the abortive "Bay of Pigs" invasion, was the long time lobbyist and apologist (i.e. blowing up the statues of the Buddha) for the Taliban up until at least September 11, 2001. Did she provide a service more valuable than foot soldier Walker?
How different the plea bargain deal of right wing extremist and international terrorist Michael Townley, a US citizen who, was a secret agent in the military government of General Augusto Pinochet. He personally placed a bomb in Orlando Letelier's car which exploded in Washington DC, killing the former Chilean Ambassador and Ronni Moffitt a young American who worked with him at a the Institute for Policy Studies. Her husband in the back seat survived.
Although Townley apparently threatened and insulted the African American Judge hearing his case (using the "N" word) in a long distance telephone call to one of his friends in Chile, the judge did not suspend proceedings or recuse himself, or even take the threat seriously or punish him. (The same judge that settled Richard Helms' case for lying to congress.)
In so acting, the judge, now deceased, committed a foolish, grievous act of misconduct. The tape of the conversation and the transcript and translation are not in the court file, although both are referred to several times. There is also no probation report with background analysis, or prior record to assist the judge in making a reasonable decision.
In pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to murder a foreign official, a violation of Section 1116 of the United States Code, Townley received a 10 year prison sentence. But --- the agreement noted that a person convicted of that charge would be eligible for parole in 3 years four months and the Justice Department agreed to inform the parole board, if he cooperated, making it a certainty that he would serve less than three years for two cold blooded, calculated murders and an attempted murder in downtown Washington.
He was also granted Protected Witness Status and immunity from any crimes he committed in the US. Not only was Townley's wife not prosecuted, but she too was granted Federal Protection and so was his father, his mother, his brother and his sister. The whole family would be protected (presumably from the Cubans he betrayed) and supported at government expense. How long did, or will this still go on? It's secret.
It is not known exactly how much time he served, but Townley is known to have testified in court hearing in Argentina in 1998 regarding a double political murder he and his wife committed, and in Italy in 1995 regarding an arrangement he negotiated with violent right wing Italian extremists to commit political murder (the victims there did not die from their bullet wounds).
There is no way that this man himself could negotiate these court appearances without the highest levels of cooperation and coordination with US and foreign officials, most likely the CIA, and also the Justice Department. A Chilean newspaper reported that Townley made a statement in a television interview (not specified where and when) that Carmelo Soria, a Spanish Diplomat and United Nations Human Rights worker was interrogated, tortured and murdered in his (Townley's) house in Santiago. Soria's body was found in 1976 in a canal. Townley said Soria was killed with sarin nerve gas by a chemist named Eugenio Berrios, who worked with him on the gas.
The Berrios case is currently (2002) in the news in Chile. He was kidnapped in 1992, taken to Argentina, and then to Uruguay, where he was held by army officers. He was last seen alive when he burst into a police station claiming he had been kidnapped. He was apparently not taken seriously and was released back to military officers and that was the last time he was reportedly seen alive. His body was found in 1995. An investigation has recently been opened in Uruguay.
In a speech before the Chilean Senate two years ago, Senator Carmen Frei, the daughter of the President of Chile just before Salvador Allende and the sister of the second President after Pinochet, revealed her family's long standing suspicion that her father had been murdered in 1976 with an unusual bacterial agent named "proteus." There is circumstantial evidence linking Berrios to the deaths of several imprisoned communists who died from a rare bacterial infection similar to her father's.
In yet another murder case, Chile has requested the extradition of Armando Fernando Larios, Townley's partner in their mission to murder Letelier in 1976. Larios, a Chilean citizen, lives and works in Miami and is also a US Federal Protected Witness. A judge in Argentina has now requested the extradition of General Pinochet for the murders Townley admits he and his wife committed, but strangely, no one has requested Townley. He is generally referred to as "a former CIA agent." Is he untouchable?
At his sentencing in the plea bargained case of Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1979, Townley said he considered himself a Chilean. When the judge asked him how he felt then about killing Letelier he said, according to the transcript:
MR. TOWNLEY: .".. If one could turn back the clock and relive an experience, I would voice my objections, and I would find some excuse not to comply. I would not repeat the act.
THE COURT: Very well. MR. TOWNLEY: My intentions at this time are to serve my sentence, to better myself as much as I can during the time that I serve. Once upon completing sentence and being released on parole, I intend to return to Chile, which I consider my home land, at that time to assume some proper pursuit to further my life and that of my family.
THE COURT: All right"
When the judge asked him about how he felt about the death of Ronni Moffitt (whose murder is still unadjudicated) he said:
MR. TOWNLEY: "Yes, Your Honor, I feel a great sense of remorse and regret, especially for the death of Ronni Moffitt, who I considered an innocent person who was unjustly affected in this crime." (She certainly was unjustly affected!) He still refers to himself as a) "soldier" even after having turned state's evidence and testifying against the Cuban hit men, the foot soldiers he and Larios recruited.
Townley was born and raised in the US. At 14 years of age, he moved to Chile, where his father headed Ford Motor Company's subsidiary. When still a teenager he married an older Chilean woman and became involved in a violent extremist right wing organization. In 1970 this group killed the Commanding General of the Chilean Armed Forces because he would not take part in the coup d'etat being promoted by Henry Kissenger and Richard Nixon to keep the newly elected president, Salvador Allende, from taking office
Townley repudiated and rejected the country of his birth, the United States of America in a US court. His statements are in the stripped down court record ---73 pages. He testified in Rome in 1995, stating in Spanish, "Chile es mi Pais" (Chile is my homeland.) One assumes the Italian Court has that on record too.
When one compares what John Walker did and what (little) we know of what Michael Townley did --- the tearful, sobbing, wretched Muslim convert from Ross Valley and the unrepentant Townley, it is hard to believe that anything remotely like justice was served in either secret plea bargain.
There is no comparison: Walker DID NOT DO ANYTHING TO HARM HIS COUNTRY! He is a sacrificial offering to appease American anger. He is a confused and now traumatized young man. Some time ago, this writer saw Walker twice in his Pakistani Muslim Halloween costume on 4th Street in San Rafael. This narcissistic schlemiel of a Taliban is locked up, while genuine international terrorists serial killers are coddled by the hidden, Dark Side of our government. How many Townleys are we supporting? To protect whom?
Walker is now the 21st Century version of "The Man Without a Country." There will be no early release for Walker, the man, or better, the boy without a country. It's over. Case closed. Twenty years. He was a Muslim warrior a few years too late.
The latest of the monsters created by the CIA have turned, as they always do, against their creator. Everything changed after September 11th --- and everything is still the same. Maybe even worse.
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