People betray their country for several different reasons, most commonly money or ideology. While many traitors live deeply troubled lives, and a touch of megalomania and messianic fervor often motivates them, none of the traitors I am familiar with have been certifiably crazy. Which makes sense, since an agent worth recruiting by a foreign power needs to be lucid enough to avoid detection, and stable enough to be entrusted with enough power or responsibility to betray. That is what makes the case of Susan Lindauer so unusual.
My first venture into punditry dealt with the arrest of Susan Lindauer on various charges, amounting to her acting as a paid agent for Saddam's intelligence service. Lindauer worked for several Democratic lawmakers, including Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Peter DeFazio, and Senators Ron Wyden and Carol Moseley-Braun, and also wrote for Fortune and U.S. News & World Report. According to her indictment, Lindauer worked with Iraqi agents based in New York starting in 1999, and even met them in Manhattan on September 19, 2001. That's right: eight days after the atrocity of September 11, Lindauer was allegedly meeting with enemy intelligence agents somewhere near the ruins of the World Trade Center. (According to the New York Times, her last job with Congress ceased in 2002, so she was allegedly working for both the Iraqi government and ours at the same time.)
She is also charged with flying to Baghdad in 2002 to meet with Iraqi intelligence agents (who dubbed her "Symbol Susan"), accepting money from them, and then attempting to influence American foreign policy. Apparently she contacted a distant relative, then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, about mediating the crisis between President Bush and Saddam.
After her arrest, it emerged that Lindauer was...not all there. Two court-appointed doctors found her mentally incompetent and unfit to stand trial. She was committed to a Federal hospital in Texas last October. The New York Times quotes one doctor as finding that
Ms. Lindauer had a history of psychotic episodes going back to her childhood, possibly at the age of 7, the judge said. These include her contention that she had gifts of prophecy that allowed her to report 11 bombings before they happened, that she spoke with divine inspiration and that she was an angel.
In retrospect, that probably shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise. In a 1998 statement asserting that Syria, not Libya, had ordered the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, Lindauer asserted that she had been the victim of some rather unusual harassment:
"Someone put acid on the steering wheel of my car on a day I was supposed to drive to NYC for a meeting at the Libya House. I scrubbed my hands with a toilet brush, but my face was burned so badly that 3 weeks later friends worried I might be badly scarred," Lindauer told MEIB. "Also, my house was bugged with listening devices and cameras -- little red laser lights in the shower vent. And I survived several assassination attempts."
(Again: she said this publicly in 1998, when she also admitted to working with Libyan officials since 1995. Her last job with a Democratic congressman? 2002.)
What did come as a surprise, however, was that she was freed from custody last month. She refused to take antipsychotic medication. A judge refused to order her to be medicated forcibly, and instead ordered her set free. Another judge will decide whether and how she will stand trial.
If you read the Times account, it would seem like all this fuss was just about Lindauer's overtures to Andrew Card on behalf of the Iraqi government. It wasn't. To clarify Lindauer's intent, the FBI also ran a sting with an undercover agent posing as a Libyan Intelligence operative. According to her indictment, Lindauer met with him in June 2003 and discussed the need for foreign nations to support the Iraqi resistance against United States troops. Then, at this "Libyan agent's" request, she performed "dead drops" she thought were helping the Iraqi resistance. The timing of these alleged dead drops was as damning as that of her September 2001 meeting with Iraqi intelligence. As I wrote back in 2004:
It has not yet emerged what was in the dead drops, but the indictment alleges that she executed one of them "on or about August 6, 2003." That was one day after a "resistance group" which Lindauer supported killed an American civilian mailman in Tikrit. Her second alleged dead drop occurred "on or about August 21, 2003," two days after these "resistance groups" killed U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others with a horrific truck bomb at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. How could Lindauer not have known the malignant character of the terrorists that continue to murder Coalition forces and pro-democracy Iraqis every day? The rubble, after all, was still smoking when Lindauer made her drop.
If these charges are true they utterly destroy Lindauer's pretense of wanting peace in the Middle East. A charge of active support for Iraqi terrorist groups ought to ensure Lindauer is ostracized from political life until she can refute the charges. But this charge is not the focus of the coverage.
An essay about Lindauer's release at the left-wing website TPM Cafe quoted from my piece, but neglected to discuss the allegations of espionage for the Iraqi resistance. When I saw that, I began to wonder whether there was a groundswell to rehabilitate Lindauer's reputation as a left-wing activist. Soon another journalist for a Takoma Park, Maryland paper contacted me for an upcoming retrospective on the Lindauer case. And recently I saw an article in the Detroit News about an FBI raidlast month on the Michigan headquarters of Focus on American and Arab Interests and Relations, an anti-war advocacy group. Who should be quoted defending the charity, but...
Susan Lindauer, a Takona [sic] Park, Md., woman who has worked with [FAAIR founder Muthanna] Al-Hanooti on Muslim causes in Washington, said he met monthly with the local FBI task force in Detroit on anti-terrorism and was a liaison between Arab-Americans and the community. He's spent considerable time in Iraq since the start of the recent war acting as a bridge between the U.S. troops and Iraqi citizens, she said.
"I'm amazed, given all the excellent work he's done, that they would come after him," Lindauer said.
With a character reference like "Symbol Susan," the raid on FAAIR and a related raid the same day on Life for Relief and Development, a major Islamic charity headquartered in Southfield, actually begin to look more ominous. The reason for the raid is sealed, but the legal director for LR&D noted that the investigation was "tax-related, not terror related" -- although he told another paper that the agents "were interested in whether its aid to Iraq violated U.S. sanctions in place before the war." Why, then, does the reason for the raid remained sealed, and why was the FBI assisted by the Joint Terrorism Task Force?
LR&D has a checkered history itself, as it was supported by someone else uncomfortably close to Saddam's regime: Iraqi-American businessman and Oil-for-Food beneficiary Shakir al-Khafaji. They were the group who, with al-Khafaji, sponsored a September 2002 trip to Baghdad for (Democratic) Congressmen David Bonior, Jim McDermott, and Mike Thompson.
These connections between Saddam's stooges, Lindauer, and al-Khafaji, and this investigation suggest that an Iraqi connection may lie behind last month's FBI raids.
One hopes FAAIR and Life for Relief and Development are wise to Lindauer. On October 6 one of LR&D's humanitarian workers in Iraq, Abdel-Sattar Abdullah al-Mashhadani, was murdered (along with his driver) by "sectarian militias." Al-Mashhadani, a husband and father who directed several charity projects including a water development plant in Southern Iraq, was pulled out of his taxi at a checkpoint in Huriya, Baghdad, and executed by a "sectarian militia."
Recent clashes in Huriya between the Sunni Al-Mashhadani clan and Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite militias provide some context for the murder. Sadr's goons may have been attempting to rid the neighborhood of everyone named Mashhadani, in retaliation for a failed raid on Sadr's headquarters a week earlier. In a press release, LR&D called the murdered Al-Mashhadani "another victim of the senseless violence in Iraq."
Was this senseless violence what Susan Lindauer envisioned in her machinations on behalf of the Iraqi "resistance"? At best Lindauer is, as the court found, a deeply disturbed fantasist; at worst, she is a traitor who tried to support terrorists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in their attempts to kill American soldiers in Iraq. Either way, it will be instructive to see which groups offer her an opportunity to continue her poisonous activism.
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