Fiction delivers justice that reality rarely approaches. Victims endure suffering and emerge as victors after overcoming incredible challenges. Stieg Larsson’s gripping Millennium Trilogy weaves a story of revenge and triumphs for Lizbeth Salander, locked away in a mental institution and sexually abused for years. When Salander got out and threatened to go public about a high level sexual exploitation ring, the perpetrators sought to lock her up again. In the final installment, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Salander found some justice. (Image)
Susan Lindauer’s autobiography, Extreme Prejudice, tells a story with certain broad similarities. In her case, however, the hornet’s nest kicked back with a real vengeance. After over a decade as a U.S intelligence asset, Lindauer was privy to information about pre war Iraq that threatened to serve up a huge embarrassment to the Bush-Cheney regime. She hand delivered a letter to senior Bush administration officials in hopes of averting what she predicted would be the inevitably tragic 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Those officials, unnamed in the indictment, were her second cousin, then White House chief of staff Andy Card, and Colin Powell.
After the invasion failed to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Lindauer went to Congress offering to testify about the quality of prewar intelligence. In early 2004, she met with staffers in the offices of Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Trent Lott (R-MS) in February 2004. Shortly after those visits and other offers to testify in public, Lindauer was indicted on March 11 for serving as an “unregistered agent” for pre war Iraq and promptly arrested. .
The Crime That Wasn’t
And what did Lindauer do as an alleged unregistered foreign agent, a charge the government was never willing to try in open court? According to then US District Court Judge Michael B. Mukasey, who handled the case for a period, the “high-water mark” of government’s case was based entirely on the letter that Lindauer delivered to her second cousin, then White House chief of staff, Andrew Card. Lindauer had written Card on at least ten other occasions since the 2001 Bush Inauguration. She wrote:
“Above all, you must realize that if you go ahead with this invasion, Osama bin Laden will triumph, rising from his grave or seclusion. His network will be swollen with fresh recruits, and other charismatic individuals will seek to build upon his model, multiplying those networks. And the United States will have delivered the death blow to itself. Using your own act of war, Osama and his cohort will irrevocably divide the hearts and minds of the Arab Street from moderate governments in Islamic countries that have been holding back the tide. Power to the people, what we call “democracy,” will secure the rise of fundamentalists.” Susan Lindauer’s last letter to Andrew Card, January 6, 2003 in American Cassandra: Susan Lindauer’s Story, Oct 17, 2007
This letter was based on extensive contacts with Iraqi diplomats at the United Nations in New York and a prewar trip that she took to Iraq with the knowledge of her intelligence handlers.
Before she could stand trial, in 2005, Judge Mukasey accepted the opinions of court appointed experts that Lindauer might be delusional and ordered her locked her up for an extended psychiatric evaluation and observation. She was placed in the Carswell federal prison facility at the very secure Carswell Air Force Base in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Mukasey’s conclusion was contradicted by evidence not considered (see below) covering fourteen months (March 2004-April 2005) of court ordered evaluation and psychological services in Maryland that consistently reported that Lindauer was functioning well and not delusional. The order allowed 120 days, the legal maximum detention period. She was at detained for seven months at Carswell and another four months in a Manhattan lockup.
When Lindauer refused to take strong psychotropic medication as part of her evaluation, Assistant US Attorney Ed O’Callaghan sought a court order from Judge Mukasey to force the medication on her either orally or by injection. Remarkably, it appears that Mukasey was not informed that the professional staff at Carswell had recommended against forced medication. Based on his detailed opinion and order of September 6, 2006 denying the Assistant US Attorney’s request, Mukasey was also not aware of direct evidence from Carswell professional staff that Lindauer’s behavior was well with the normal range, particularly considering the circumstances.
Five years after her indictment, Susan Lindauer never got the trial she repeatedly requested. On September 15, 2009, Assistant US Attorney O’Callaghan convinced US District Court Judge Loretta Preska that Lindauer was not mentally competent to stand trial. Judge Preska dismissed the case at the request of O’Callaghan’s replacement on January 15, 2010. This was done against Lindauer’s wishes and ignored credible witnesses who testified to her role as an intelligence asset.
Lindauer’s second attorney, Brian Shaughnessy, a former federal prosecutor in Judge John J. Sirica’s court and distinguished Washington, DC defense counsel, noted that this was the only case that he’d ever heard of in which prosecutors argued that a defendant was mentally incompetent to stand trial
O’Callaghan went on to serve as legal advisor for then Governor Sarah Palin’s scandal defense team in Alaska. Judge Preska received an appointment from President Bush to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit six days before ruling that Lindauer was incompetent to stand trial. Andy Card pursued a successful career in the private sector. And Colin Powell retained is good name and status despite misleading the United Nations about Iraq’s alleged chemical weapons programs and his active participation in “choreographed” torture sessions for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and lesser known detention venues.
Despite her efforts and willingness to go public for the benefit of the country, Lindauer was systematically attacked by the federal government and denied her repeated requests for an open trial in federal court. For her, there were no movies or best sellers, no award or promotions, and no happy endings. She was left at the side of the road with only her story and evidence to challenge the charges that the government steadfastly refused to try in open court for over five years.
Lindauer’s case was so strong that her second and final attorney, Brian Shaughnessy, took the extraordinary step of issuing a statement that her claims were supported by the extensive evidence that he reviewed. He said, “I … assure you that Ms. Lindauer’s story is shocking, but true. It’s an important story of this new political age, post-9/11.” Her uncle, attorney Thayer Lindauer, offered an affidavit on his research which confirmed Lindauer’s role as a US intelligence asset.
What Were They Trying to Hide and How Did They Hide It
Lindauer’s career as a US intelligence asset and back channel to Iraq first came to light in 1998. She released an affidavit for the Lockerbie bombing trial recounting information provided to her by the man she described as her CIA handler, Richard Fuisz. The claim was that the bombings were carried out by Syrian operatives, not the accused Libyans. Given Fuisz’s reputed high level intelligence skills, this was a major event covered in the press. Despite the publicity and controversy surrounding the affidavit, Lindauer’s association with Fuisz continued. She was never charged or even reprimanded by the government for her role in the affair.
But when Lindauer was willing to go public with her work on Iraq with Fuisz and another reported intelligence handler, Paul Hoven, she was indicted for giving one letter to Andrew Card, a letter which proved to be very much in line with of the best advice the Bush administration received on the ill conceived, deadly invasion and occupation of Iraq. That was what the administration was so intent on hide hiding.
The information Lindauer would have released, as told in Extreme Prejudice, concerned her work with Fuisz in the months prior to 9/11 in which Fuisz and his team provided early warning about the attacks on the World Trade Center. She would have revealed Iraq’s willingness to turn over terrorists to the FBI and about her contact providing information on al Qaeda’s financial structure and funding.
The vehicle to silence Lindauer was the indictment as an unregistered foreign agent, despite the flimsy basis for the charge. Once indicted, the newly crafted Patriot Act was the clincher. The act allows charges to be levied without specifics listed in an indictment or known to the defendant. In fact, under the act, the defendant’s attorney may not have access to the charges unless certain security requirements are met.
In Lindauer’s case, her attorney had a secret briefing with US intelligence officials. Just as the Patriot Act allows, the occurrence and the content of that meeting were never revealed to Lindauer. Her first attorney, Samuel Talkin, had a met with US intelligence officials shortly after the defense psychologist, Sanford L. Drob, PhD, conducted a two hour interview with Lindauer (report reviewed by the author).. A few days after the Talkin-US intelligence meeting, Drob recommended a defense based on mental incompetence. The meeting between her first attorney’s and US intelligence officials was revealed to Lindauer only years later by her second counsel, Brian Shaughnessy, who obtained the information through pre trial discovery motions.
Psychiatric Set Up and Tear Down
The full spectrum tear down of Lindauer relied heavily on highly selective psychiatric testimony from several court appointed psychiatrists in Manhattan. None of these psychiatrists ever treated Lindauer. They all interviewed her in a forensic setting, which typically drastically limits understanding an examinee’s mental state in politically charged contexts where the examinee is not cooperative. Worse, the forensic experts hired by the state in such contexts often act as “hired guns,” and typically refuse to consider independent substantive evidence that supports the examinee’s claims.
By her report and the author’s review of interview transcripts provided by her attorney, Lindauer was not once cooperative with the court appointed forensic examiners. The dialog between her and psychiatrist Stewart Kleinman, MD, the most influential expert, was caustic and devoid of substantive content. Linder repeatedly stated that she didn’t want to be interviewed by Kleinman.
In essence, the court experts routinely refused to follow up with witnesses Lindauer offered to attest to her role as an intelligence asset and to confirm her activities related to Iraq.
Most telling, the experts, upon whom Judge Mukasey relied for his confinement of Lindauer and his later opinion on forced medication, failed to consider the twelve month record of evaluation and counseling treatment after her arrest. Psychiatrist Dr John S. Kennedy, MD of Maryland concluded that her:
“… thought content was free of hallucinations, delusions, homicidality, or suicidality. She expressed confidence in an acquittal. Judgment and insight were fair. Cognition was grossly intact. … I don not believe there are grounds for a psychosis diagnosis.” March 13, 2004
Lindauer attended 35 hours of counseling sessions between March 2004 and April 2005. You can examine the notes yourself provided by Lindauer and a part of her legal defense documentation.
There is a consistent pattern of assessed psychological stability in every single monthly summary. A frequent theme is expressed over time is that Lindauer, “appears to maintain psychological stability and shows no sign or symptom of mania or psychosis.” Her treatment was concluded on April 7, 2005 with the note, “So far she has shown no signs of mania or depression and any symptoms of psychosis that would require additional intervention.”
This information was not seriously considered or, more likely, completely ignored by the New York court appointed “experts” who labeled her delusional for maintaining her innocence. In addition, never mentioned in court proceedings was important evidence from Carswell psychiatric nursing reports. These reports document a consistent pattern of positive behavior and no signs of hallucinations or delusions during confinement. The Mukasey ruling of September 6, 2006, well referenced with the court expert opinions, makes no mention of Dr. Kennedy’s evaluation, the 35 hours of counseling provided in Maryland, or the Carswell nursing reports. This was highly relevant primary evidence by clinicians familiar with Lindauer’s day to day and week to week behavior over time.
As she tells it convincingly in Extreme Prejudice, Lindauer had to be silenced. First she was defamed publicly as someone who had worked for Iraq. Then she was diminished by the selective analysis by court appointed psychiatrists which further negated her story. Like the current Wikileaks controversy over Julian Assange, the delivery of bad news for those in power in the White House resulted in a figurative order to shoot the messenger.
Extreme Prejudice is memoir, action thriller, and cautionary tale on the risks citizens take when they go too far, know too much, and offer to tell the truth.
Disclosure: Lindauer based a chapter of Extreme Prejudice on an unpublished paper I wrote on the relationship between 9/11 and the Iraq war. I received no compensation for this.
Special thanks to Michael Green for his helpful comments
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