When your son has been called a traitor by the Secretary of State, portrayed as a terrorist by leading military officials, and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, you might be expected to hold a grudge against the media outlets that reported these developments.
But Frank Lindh, father to famous American Talib (and native son of Marin County) John Walker Lindh, says he has good reason to be sore at the way his son's 2001 capture in Afghanistan and subsequent prosecution in America's civil courts was covered in the press.
In the latest of what has become a series of public talks at the University of San Francisco School of Law, the elder Lindh said today that his son (now serving his prison sentence in Indiana) was victimized by media outlets that blindly accepted the American government's characterization of him as a terrorist working with Al Qaeda.
Lindh asserts -- as have some other authoritative sources -- that his son was a devout (if misguided) Muslim convert who joined the Taliban's army with the intention of fighting the forces of Afghan warlords, and that he never participated in terrorism -- although he did train at a soldiers' camp funded by Osama Bin Laden. Lindh said his son, when he encountered Bin Laden, "walked away with a bad impression" and was "repelled by the man."
Lindh -- who said today his son is carrying on his Islamic studies and is staying in good spirits while in the federal pen -- described the media as "awful to my son" and "awful to my family" after Lindh's capture.
He noted in particular some media coverage, including an above-the-fold story in the New York Times, that contrasted Lindh with a CIA agent, Johnny Michael Spann, who was killed at an Afghan fortress shortly after he tried to interrogate Lindh, who was being held by the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum. ("One For His Country, And One Against It," read the Times headline.)
"The news media did not live up to the Constitutional ideal of a free press," Lindh said. "I think it's clear from the facts of my son's case they completely lost their objectivity."
Did John Walker Lyndh hate America? Many certainly think so. But given the American news media's credulous reporting in the wake of 9/11, it's not unreasonable to question whether all the facts of his case were presented in an accurate light.
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