Plea for American Taliban

The parents of John Walker Lindh, the Californian found with the Taliban, complained Tuesday that U.S. authorities have not permitted the Red Cross to deliver a letter they sent to their son two weeks ago.

"It is very painful to think that John has no idea his family is sending him love and support during the most difficult time of his life," said the statement issued on behalf of his parents, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker, who are separated.

The statement, released by Lindh family lawyer James J. Brosnahan of San Francisco, marked the second time this week that the family had expressed dismay at their inability to communicate with their son, who is in the custody of the U.S. military on an amphibious assault ship near Pakistan.

Lindh, who became fascinated with Islam while a teenager in Marin County and then went to Yemen and Pakistan before going to Afghanistan, has been decried as a traitor on talk shows in this country. He was interrogated at a prison in Afghanistan by CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann, who later became the first American to die in combat there.

On Monday, Brosnahan issued a statement lamenting that Lindh "has been held in custody and reportedly subject to ongoing interrogations by various government agents for 16 days without any access to an attorney and without the ability to communicate with his family."

Brosnahan said that, "whatever the accusation" against Lindh, he "has constitutional rights. Getting to the facts, allowing an accused person to talk with his attorney, ensuring that our system operates fairly regardless of the allegation--that is what the Constitution was designed to protect."

Lindh's Legal Status in Question

Lindh's legal situation is murky, according to two criminal law professors, Charles Weisselberg of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall Law School and Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Both said there were complicated questions about the admissibility of any statements Lindh has made.

Lindh has not been charged with any crime thus far.

The Pentagon announced Friday that Lindh had been moved from Camp Rhino outside Kandahar, Afghanistan, to the assault ship Peleliu "in the theater of operations."

At a briefing Tuesday, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of Defense, said that Lindh, who was found among captives after a prison uprising near Mazar-i-Sharif in early December, is still aboard the Peleliu off the coast of Pakistan, along with four other captives.

"We're still considering what to do with him," Wolfowitz said in response to a question about Lindh. "He's being treated consistent with the Geneva protections for prisoners of war."

Asked if he believed that Lindh "is Al Qaeda and not a Taliban," Wolfowitz responded, "I don't want to make a judicial judgment here. We know that he was fighting in an area with Taliban/Al Qaeda forces."

Wolfowitz said he was unaware of whether Lindh has been providing information to U.S. authorities, as has been reported.

Later in the day, a Pentagon spokesman said that being treated "consistent with the Geneva Conventions" meant that Lindh was receiving food, proper medical attention and mail.

Brosnahan said earlier this week that Lindh's parents had received no communication from him "other than a short note they received Dec. 11, which was dictated to the International Red Cross and signed by John on Dec. 3."