Skip to comments.Susan Lindauer's Mission to Baghdad ["spy" story -- long, strange]
Posted on 08/29/2004 12:38:16 PM PDT by 68skylark
In the morning of March 11, 2004, Susan Lindauer woke to find five F.B.I. agents at her front door. After reading her her rights, the agents took Lindauer from her home in Takoma Park, Md., to the F.B.I. field office in Baltimore, where she was charged with having acted as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government and otherwise having elevated the interests of a foreign country above her allegiance to the United States. ''The only visible sign of stress is that I'm chain-smoking,'' she said when I met with her recently. Forty-one and free on bail, she wore a red cotton shirt, shapeless khaki pants and battered white leather sneakers. With her casual manner, she could pass for an ordinary resident of Takoma Park, where ''War Is Not the Answer'' signs are available free at the local co-op.
Seated on the shady porch of her tumbledown cottage, overlooking a purple azalea bush, Lindauer was alternately pensive and bubbly as she talked about her encounter with the F.B.I. On her knees, she balanced a photo album, which contained photographs of her wild years in Alaska, where she grew up, and her time as an undergraduate at Smith College, where she majored in economics. She showed me pictures of her mother, Jackie, who died of cancer after Susan graduated from college, and her father, John, an academic economist who once ran on the Republican ticket for governor of Alaska. The youthful beauty of Susan's features in her early photographs has been transfigured over time into a middle-aged balance of beatitude and stubbornness. When she gets angry, a storm cloud passes over her face. When the storm cloud breaks, her expression becomes even and calm, like that of a child who has freshly emerged from a bath.
Having grown up in a household in which public policy was frequently the stuff of dinner-table conversation and impassioned family arguments, Lindauer wanted to help change the world. The way she chose to do so, however, was not by signing petitions or marching in demonstrations, but by engaging in the kinds of clandestine encounters that you read about in spy novels -- meeting foreign diplomats, passing along secret messages and engaging in other activities that would eventually lead to her arrest. ''I'm what they call a useful idiot,'' she said with a laugh. According to the federal charges filed against her by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Lindauer repeatedly violated U.S. law beginning in 1999 by meeting with Iraqi diplomats at the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations in New York and with agents of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Intelligence Service (I.I.S.). She was also indicted for accepting money from the Iraqis and traveling to Baghdad, where she met with Iraqi intelligence agents, in violation of federal law. ''From on or about Feb. 23, 2002, through on or about March 7, 2002,'' the indictment charged, ''Susan Lindauer, aka 'Symbol Susan,' met with several I.I.S. officers in Iraq, including at the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, and received cash payments of approximately $5,000.00.'' The press was quick to identify Lindauer as an Iraqi spy.
''I'm an antiwar activist, and I'm innocent,'' Lindauer told WBAL-TV as she was led to a car outside the F.B.I. field office in Baltimore. ''I did more to stop terrorism in this country than anybody else.'' In a moment of crisis, it seemed, having just been fingerprinted and charged with betraying her country, Lindauer was acting the way a person might act in a dream, blurting out the constituent parts of her fractured reality into a waiting microphone.
The substance of the government's case against Susan Lindauer is contained in the indictment. Both the F.B.I. and the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the case, and no date has been set for the trial. While Lindauer was not accused of espionage, as initial reports of her arrest suggested, the government did charge her with a serious crime, even if the charge itself may seem like a technicality. By failing to register herself formally as a lobbyist and by supposedly following instructions from Iraqi diplomats and intelligence agents at the United Nations, the government charged, Lindauer had been acting as ''an unregistered agent of a foreign government,'' a violation of federal law that is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Lindauer acknowledges that the meetings detailed in the federal indictment took place, but denies acting as an agent of Iraq or any other country.
On paper, at least, there is little to distinguish Lindauer from hundreds of other bright young people who come to Washington in the hope of making a difference. She graduated from Smith in 1985 and then went to the London School of Economics, where she earned a master's degree and developed an interest in the Arab world. In 1990, she went to Washington, where she briefly worked as a journalist and then as a press secretary for liberal Democrats in the House and Senate, including Ron Wyden and Carol Moseley Braun. None of her jobs lasted more than a year. Her most recent job on Capitol Hill, as a press secretary for Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, ended in May 2002.
Writing press releases often seemed less important to Lindauer than her own one-woman campaign to advance the cause of nonviolence in the Muslim world. Lindauer's highly individual brand of politics combined passions that were commonly identified with opposite poles of the political spectrum during the 90's. While she opposed sanctions on Libya and Iraq, she was also eager to awaken the West to the gathering threat posed by Middle Eastern terrorist organizations. In pursuit of her ideals, she says, she began traveling to New York as often as twice a week, meeting with diplomats from Muslim countries, including Yemen and Malaysia, as well as representatives of Libya and Iraq. Her aim, as she explained it, was to function as a handholder and cheerleader, an unofficial go-between who could help break the cycle of isolation, paranoia and suffering created by sanctions.
''U.S. intelligence knew what I was doing,'' she said when I asked her about the precise nature of her contacts with the Libyans and the Iraqis. ''You see, the thing is, it's very hard to have these relationships, and so, when you have them, there are people who are very interested in the fact that you have them, who also want something from them, too.''
To demonstrate her commitment to nonviolence, Lindauer also shared with me portions of the evidentiary material contained on a stack of compact disks turned over to her by the government. The evidence against her, which includes wiretapped conversations with friends, neighbors, foreign diplomats and fellow activists, is currently in the hands of her new court-appointed attorney, who was not representing Lindauer at the time I spoke to her. Among the documents Lindauer showed me was a transcript of a telephone conversation with Muthanna al-Hanooti, the president of Focus on American and Arab Interests and Relations, a nonprofit organization in Southfield, Mich., dated July 30, 2003, two days before the Arab-American activist made one of his frequent trips to Iraq. During the call, Lindauer praised al-Hanooti for being a ''man who believes in peace'' and exhorted him to ''stay with God -- just stay with God.'' As the conversation continued, al-Hanooti seemed to hover between impatience and boredom. ''Other people are doing bad things, and they may try to use you as cover for bad things,'' Lindauer said. ''So don't let them.''
''It's a very delicate balance, as you know,'' al-Hanooti replied. ''But, ah, we'll do our best, you know. We'll do our best.''
That transcript, and others she gave me, support Lindauer's contention that she is opposed to violence. There were also other conversations the F.B.I. recorded that seem to suggest that Lindauer had other motivations for pursuing the work she did. ''He does not know about my visions -- he will never know about my visions, O.K.?'' she said, speaking to an undercover F.B.I. agent about another acquaintance. ''You're probably the only person you're going to meet other than my closest friend at the Iraqi Embassy who knows these things, O.K.? So don't ever talk about it with anyone.''
usan Lindauer said she started making visits to the Libyan Mission to the United Nations in 1995 and started meeting with Iraqis at the United Nations in 1996. The F.B.I. first began tapping Lindauer's phone and intercepting her e-mail in July 2002, she said. A year and a half earlier, Lindauer contacted Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, with letters containing what purported to be secret diplomatic communiques from the government of Iraq to the incoming Bush administration. Lindauer reached out to Card, she explained, because he is a distant cousin on her father's side of the family. She said she believed that the fate of the world depended on the sensitive communications she dropped on the doorstep of his house in suburban Virginia.
One of Lindauer's earliest notes was left at Card's home on Dec. 23, 2000, a decade after sanctions were imposed on Iraq and a month before George W. Bush took office. Along with some of the transcripts of her wiretapped conversations, Lindauer gave me this letter to support her contention that she was working as a ''back channel'' between the governments of Iraq and the United States. The letter was addressed to Vice President-elect Cheney, and in it Lindauer presented the fruits of what she described as a private Nov. 26, 2000, meeting with Saeed Hasan, then the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations.
''Ambassador Hasan has asked me to communicate to you that Iraq most vigorously wishes to restore healthy, peaceful relations with the United States, including economic and cultural ties,'' Lindauer wrote. ''At our meeting, Ambassador Hasan demonstrated a pragmatic understanding that the United States requires the reinstatement of weapons monitoring in order to lift the sanctions.'' Ambassador Hasan, she said, had ''also emphasized that Iraq is ready to guarantee critical advantages for U.S. corporations at all levels.''
It is possible that Lindauer's account is delusional. It is also possible that Lindauer's account is accurate. Iraq certainly tried to use other back channels to try to reach U.S. officials, including a Lebanese-American businessman, Imad Hage, who conveyed messages to Richard Perle in the run-up to the war. For her part, Lindauer says that she was unaware that her activities required her to register as a lobbyist -- a formality that, to her mind, seemed quite absurd. ''Everything that I did that was quote 'lobbying,''' she said, ''I was giving to the chief of staff of the White House.''
The winding path that led Lindauer to the door of the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations began in November 1993 at a diner in Virginia, where she met a friend of her father's, a woman who worked as the chief of staff for a Republican member of Congress. Worried that Lindauer was lonely, her father's friend brought another lonely guest, Paul Hoven, a gentle Army veteran who had piloted attack helicopters in combat in Vietnam. He was interested in spies and spying.
'''You guys say you're peace activists,''' Lindauer recalled Hoven telling her that night. '''You say you're liberal do-gooders. What exactly are you doing? You do nothing. You're not active. You're passive.' And that conversation was probably one of the most important dinner conversations of my life.''
It was Hoven who gave Lindauer the nickname Snowflake, which was quick to catch on among an informal circle of Capitol Hill staff members and intelligence-community enthusiasts who gathered every Thursday night at a Hunan restaurant across the street from the Heritage Foundation. ''I'm the one who named her Snowflake, because she's from Alaska and she's nuts,'' Hoven told me. In addition to feeling sorry for Lindauer, he was taken with her unusual mind. ''She seems to have the ability to take unrelated facts and string them together, to the point where you're left with, Gee, it probably happened that way.'' For her part, Lindauer says that she enjoyed leading a double life, working for liberals during the day and hanging out with conservatives interested in counterterrorism at night.
Not long after their first dinner, Hoven introduced Lindauer to his friend Dr. Richard Fuisz, a globe-trotting Virginia-based businessman whom Lindauer described to me as ''my contact in the C.I.A.''
Lindauer's first meeting with Fuisz plunged her into a thicket of conflicting theories about the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The government blamed Libya for the bombing, and Libya later agreed to pay $2.7 billion to the families of the victims. There were others in the Washington intelligence community who said they believed that the real culprit was the terrorist Ahmed Jabril, who was based in Syria. Lindauer says that Fuisz told her at that first meeting that he knew who was responsible for the bombing. ''Dr. Fuisz has said that he can confirm absolutely that no Libyan national was involved in planning or executing the bombing of Pan Am 103,'' she later wrote in an account of their initial meeting. ''If the government would let me,'' she quoted Fuisz as saying, ''I could identify the men behind this attack today. I was investigating on the ground, and I know.''
Several months after she first met with Fuisz, Lindauer met with Libyan diplomats in New York in order to share with them the story she claims she got from Fuisz. She says she hoped her story would clear Libya of responsibility for the attack.
Lindauer's decision to drive to New York and visit the Libyans, she says, was also motivated in part by her deep personal faith in God, ''the all-powerful, all-encompassing spirit'' that she had known since she was a child. After adolescent years of drug use and casual sex, she says, she found God again during the weekends she spent at the Victory Bible Camp in Alaska. The God she found there was not partial to any religious philosophy.
''God is not a man,'' Lindauer explained. ''God is this supreme, magnificent force, intelligent, gorgeous beyond any description. If you've seen Alaska, you've seen the face of God.''
ucked away behind a mixed-use town house development, Kosmos Pharma, Richard Fuisz's place of business, is part of a Pynchonesque landscape in Northern Virginia where anonymous front offices and brass nameplates give few clues as to the actual nature of the businesses within. When I showed up at his office, Fuisz graciously invited me inside to talk.
A dark-haired, handsome man with a soigne charm, Fuisz, 64, who went to Georgetown Medical School and did postgraduate work in medicine at Harvard, was trained as a psychiatrist and has more than 200 patents listed under his name. According to its Web site, Kosmos Pharma specializes in making oral-drug-delivery systems. He has also run a modeling agency for Russian women and worked briefly in the White House under Lyndon Johnson. During the 70's and 80's, he says, he did business around the world -- in the Middle East, the Eastern bloc, the Soviet Union.
Citing unnamed sources, The Sunday Herald, a Scottish newspaper, reported in 2000 that Fuisz had been the C.I.A.'s most important agent in Damascus during the 80's. ''This is not an issue I can confirm or deny,'' Fuisz told The Herald. ''I am not allowed to speak about these issues. In fact, I can't even explain why I can't speak about these issues.''
Fuisz confirmed that he saw Lindauer about once a week on avearage between 1994 and 2001 and that she would drop by to talk to him about her personal life as well as about her contacts with the Libyans and the Iraqis. He agreed to talk to me about Lindauer after requesting that his son, Joe, a lawyer, be present for our conversation.
''Susan, to me, is one of those people who drift into your life,'' Fuisz said, after offering me a seat on his couch. ''She would drift into the office fairly often, or call. Usually those weren't just social calls. Those were calls about what she was doing, or trying to do,'' Fuisz explained. ''In the early years, her activism generally took an approach which was Arabist, but Arabist from the standpoint of trying to lift sanctions, so that children would do better, and trying to get medicines into countries -- principally I'm talking about Iraq and Libya.''
After Sept. 11, 2001, Lindauer was no longer a welcome visitor to his office. ''Susan, in her discussions, went from benign, in my opinion, to malignant,'' he said. ''These discussions changed and now involved a very strong seditious bent.''
Fuisz did not comment on the specifics of the conversations that Lindauer claimed to have had with Middle Eastern diplomats or whether he passed on the specifics of those conversations to anyone else. But he, like others who have known Lindauer over the years, had clearly thought long and hard about the perplexing geometry of her mind.
''I'd put it this way,'' Fuisz explained, cupping his palms like a collector presenting a rare species for inspection. ''She's daft enough that we could be sitting here, like we are now, and she might see a parrot fly in the window, flap its wings and land right here on the table,'' he said. ''But she's also smart enough not to necessarily say anything about it.''
When I asked whether, in his opinion, Lindauer could have been recruited by an intelligence service, he paused for a long time before he responded. ''I would say that's a hard question to answer. If you're looking at it from the standpoint of an intelligent intelligence agency, absolutely not. She'd be the worst person you could ever recruit. If you're looking at it from the standpoint of my knowledge of Mideast intelligence services, are they dumb enough to recruit her, the answer is yes.''
To understand Lindauer's unlikely walk-on role in the history of the Iraq war, it is necessary to reverse your normal angle of vision and to imagine how she might have looked through the eyes of the diplomats and intelligence operatives who staffed the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations under Saddam Hussein. While Lindauer may have struck Ambassador Hasan and other Iraqi diplomats as strange, she had solid credentials to recommend her. An aide to congressmen and senators who held a graduate degree from the London School of Economics, she was also the cousin of the White House chief of staff.
Lindauer's letters on behalf of the Iraqis, which she sent to Bush financial backers, including Ken Lay, urging them to support the lifting of sanctions, were written in clear, confident prose. But there were also other letters whose odd details suggested that the Iraqis might have been more discerning in their choice of secret emissary.
''I am deeply proud of my expertise on international conflict resolution, and my regrettably extraordinary gift for counterterrorism,'' Lindauer wrote in a letter addressed to President-elect Bush on Dec. 22, 2000. ''I have identified a dozen bombings before they happened with a high degree of accuracy and a number of assassination attempts on world leaders.''
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Lindauer became a frequent visitor to the Iraqi Mission in New York. During a Sept. 18, 2001, trip to the mission, she had what she described in a letter to Card, the White House chief of staff, as a ''short, tense'' conversation with Hasan's successor, Ambassador Mohammad Al-Douri, in the embassy foyer. ''There's starting to be talk in Washington about Iraq's possible involvement in this attack,'' Lindauer told Card she said to Al-Douri.
''It is not possible,'' Al-Douri is said to have replied. ''It is the Mossad who says this.'' The ambassador, she wrote, sounded ''abrupt and confident and stern.'' When Lindauer warned him not to do anything that would jeopardize the lifting of sanctions, the ambassador seemed surprised.
''Of course!'' she recalled him as saying. ''We are ready for talks at any time.''
In that same letter, she described coming back to New York to ''receive a communication from Baghdad addressed to me'' -- a message saying that the panic-stricken Iraqis were willing to ''meet any American official in a covert or incovert manner to discuss the common issues.''
In October 2001, according to the federal indictment, she met with officers of Iraqi intelligence in New York. On Dec. 2, Lindauer wrote to Card again, to convey further news: The Iraqis were willing to permit the return of weapons inspectors and offered other concessions. ''These are not intended to limit the universe of possibilities, Andy,'' she wrote.
The picture that emerges from Lindauer's letters is of Iraqi diplomats trying to feel their way through a fog. It is hard to judge what any of her messages from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry might mean, however, since they could be read only through the haze of Lindauer's naive and self-aggrandizing personality. In February 2002, soon after President Bush delivered his State of the Union address naming Iraq part of an ''axis of evil,'' the Iraqis invited Lindauer to Baghdad.
''It was beautiful,'' she said of Al Rashid Hotel, where she stayed between her meetings with Iraqi officials. ''I had a suite, so it was very nice.''
She wouldn't tell me who she met with or why, but she did describe what it felt like to be inside the room in which the meetings took place. ''When I first got there, I had the sense that -- I don't know how to put this, this is a very weird thing, it's like your imagination-working-kind-of-thing,'' she explained. ''I was in a room, and there were these mirrors, and I had this sense of Saddam Hussein being on the opposite side of the mirror looking in at me. Now I'm not saying that Saddam Hussein actually was there, but I had this very strong sense of presence, which was unlike anything I'd ever felt before, that was scrutinizing me up and down, ripping me apart. It was palpable.''
After Lindauer's visit to Baghdad, there were no more secret messages from Iraq for Andrew Card.
John Lindauer, Susan's younger brother, is used to his sister's unlikely stories -- about dating Arab arms dealers and late-night attempts on her life and her contacts with the C.I.A. A Harvard graduate, and now a successful commercial and music-video director in Los Angeles, he says he thinks that a strain of playacting and deception runs in his family. One of his most powerful childhood memories, he told me, is of watching his father, then 38, grow a mustache and dye his hair gray before being interviewed for the job of chancellor of the University of Alaska at Anchorage. ''Weaving a story to make contact with you, and making you want to be interested in that person, is not a cry for help,'' he said. ''It's just a way of reaching out to say: Remember me. I'm with you. Be interested in me.''
One conversation John had with his sister in the summer of 2001 stuck in his mind for a different reason. ''So she goes, 'Listen, the gulf war isn't over,''' he told me over dinner at a sushi place on the Sunset Strip. '''There are plans in effect right now. They will be raining down on us from the skies.''' His sister told him that Lower Manhattan would be destroyed. ''And I was like, Yeah, whatever,'' he continued. When he woke up six weeks later to the news that two planes had crashed into the twin towers, and watched as ash settled on the window ledge of his sublet in Brooklyn, he had a dislocating sense of having his reality replaced by Susan's strange world -- an experience he would have again when he learned that his sister had been arrested by the F.B.I.
Parke Godfrey, a close friend of Lindauer's for the last 15 years, is a professor of computer science at York University in Ontario. He says that Lindauer warned him not to take a job at N.Y.U. the summer before the Sept. 11 attacks. That Lindauer's outlandish predictions actually came true, Godfrey suggests, further encouraged the exalted sense of personal mission that brought her to Washington in the first place.
''Susan is perfectly capable, in certain ways, to live a reasonable life, to take care of herself, to get around, and at any localized time, sitting at dinner, she's completely coherent,'' he said, skirting the blunt layman's question of whether his friend is playing with all her marbles. ''It's in these longer-term views of memory, in what she remembers, in how she's pieced the world together, that she functions unlike the way anyone else does,'' Godfrey concluded. ''It's not the same mental model that you and I use.''
"There is now a jihad,'' Susan Lindauer told me, rocking peacefully back and forth in her chair overlooking her untamed garden. ''Tragically, stupidly, we started it. We launched the first attack, which was unrighteous, and vicious and sadistic, and we are going to pay for this mistake. I think the Islamic world now is going to burn.''
Sipping lemonade on her front porch in Takoma Park, I found myself sharing her paranoid landscape, observing a beige car pass by her house four times in the space of two hours, as the birds twittered in the trees and Lindauer's girlish voice detailed ''the horrific abuses, the sexual torture'' being visited on innocent Iraqis by coalition troops. That is why, she explained, in June 2003 she met with an F.B.I. agent posing as a Libyan intelligence officer who, according to the indictment, purported to be ''seeking to support resistance groups in postwar Iraq.'' Lindauer said that in those meetings she was seeking financial backing for a lawsuit against the United States and British governments for crimes she claimed they committed during the occupation of Iraq. She continued to exchange e-mail with the undercover agent until she was arrested.
On my way back home to New York from Washington, I found a cellphone message from Ken Lisaius, a White House spokesman. While Andrew Card declined to speak to me directly about his cousin's letters, Lisaius said, Card did have a statement that might answer at least some of my remaining questions about Lindauer's case.
''This was a very sad and personal incident involving a distant relative of Andy Card,'' Lisaius said in the carefully calibrated cadence that is meant to assure worried citizens that the world remains a more or less rational place, no matter how weird the circumstances. ''He in turn reported various attempts by her to contact him to appropriate officials, and he has cooperated fully with appropriate officials on this matter.''
David Samuels is a contributing editor at Harper's.
Christoph Klauke for The New York Times
Susan Lindauer, accused of being an agent for the Iraqi government, tells the press it isn't so, outside the federal courthouse in New York in March.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Surely a Kerry supporter.
Obviously she has moments of clarity.
Sec. 953. - Private correspondence with foreign governments
Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
she sounds as delusional as King Kerry - they were both useful idiots in the hands of professional anarchists and spys.
too bad she doesn't have a lot of dough...sKerry could look her up after MamaT cuts him loose in December 2003.
She's like a "child who has freshly emerged from a bath.". How could I have ever doubted this angel?
>>''I'm an antiwar activist, and I'm innocent,'' Lindauer told WBAL-TV as she was led to a car outside the F.B.I. field office in Baltimore. ''I did more to stop terrorism in this country than anybody else.'' <<
Actually she misspoke. . she meant to say, "I did more to ABET terrorism in this country than anybody else."
Don't these rules, and laws apply to Kerry - who, while a navy Officer, went to aid the enemy of Vietnam?
hey troll...go back to du to spout your ignorant bovine secretion....
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