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'Two Decades Is Not Nothing,' Rumsfeld Says of Lindh Deal

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2002 – The American people will eventually see John Walker Lindh's deal with federal prosecutors as an appropriate outcome, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here July 15.

Rumsfeld discussed the Lindh case with CNBC television reporter Brian Williams. As part of his plea bargain with federal prosecutors signed early that day, Lindh, 21, agreed to cooperate with U.S. military officials to combat al Qaeda terrorists in exchange for a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

"Well, I am delighted that he is going to be off the streets for a good, long time," Rumsfeld said of Lindh's deal. "Two decades is not nothing."

The "American Taliban" pleaded guilty to two of 10 charges against him: aiding the Taliban and possessing explosives in the commission of that crime. Had he been convicted of all 10 charges, Lindh could have spent life in prison.

Rumsfeld noted that Lindh also withdrew charges that he was mistreated while in U.S. military custody in Afghanistan.

Northern Alliance forces captured Lindh Nov. 25, 2001, in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, following a Taliban-al Qaeda prison riot.

Justice Department officials said Lindh's plea bargain also calls for him to cooperate "fully, truthfully and completely" with the United States, and to testify at grand juries, trials or other proceedings, including military tribunals.

He agreed to participate in debriefings conducted by law enforcement and intelligence officers and will be available for pre-trial meetings with U.S. government attorneys. He also agreed to take lie detector tests.

Commenting on the plea bargain, Rumsfeld noted Lindh "was a relatively low-level person in the al Qaeda, or Taliban, depending on what one wishes to say."

When captured by Northern Alliance troops, Lindh was armed and had been in a battle that took place in a prison in Mazar-e Sharif, Rumsfeld remarked. The Defense Department, was consulted in the Lindh proceedings, but had no part in decisions regarding the plea bargain, he added.

When Lindh's plea agreement is fully and publicly aired, Rumsfeld said, most Americans will agree as to its fairness. "People will look at the elements of it and nod and say, 'Well, that's appropriate. That's about right,'" he concluded.

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