Symbol Susan -- "Though this be madness..." [Reposted from archives]

This article is reposted from the original publication located in the current Scoop archive. The timestamp of the original publish date has been preserved. - GH


Hat tip to Avahome for the tip and all her research, which made this possible.

On Thursday, 11 March 2004, forty-one year old Susan Lindauer -- a former Congressional Aide and reporter -- was arrested and charged with conspiracy, acting as an unregistered agent of the government of Iraq, and engaging in illegal financial transactions.  According to the entry in Wikipedia, the bare-bones of Susan's case are this:

The prosecution claims that she accepted $10,000 for the work. The exact charge was that she acted as an unregistered agent of Iraq, something akin to an unregistered lobbyist. Although news headlines frequently refer to her as "accused spy", more precise journalists note that the actual charges carefully avoid accusing Lindauer of espionage.

On Friday, 8 September 2006, "Symbol Susan" was released from prison after a federal judge ruled that she could not be forced to take antipsychotic medication in an effort to make her competent to stand trial.  She is free on bail.  

And now it gets interesting.


According to the article in the NY Times, she's incompetent to stand trial.  Prosecutors wanted to have her forcibly medicated with antipsychotic drugs to enable her to stand trial.  Was there any question as to her competance in absence of the drugs?  No.

At least a half dozen doctors for both the defense and the prosecution have found that Ms. Lindauer suffers from delusions of grandeur and paranoia, which makes her incompetent to stand trial, the judge said.

Judge Michael Mukasey of Federal District Court in Manhattan not only doubted that the medication would have enough of an effect to enable her to stand trial, but also expressed his opinion that the government's case did not merit the standard of proof necessary to warrant forcible administration of medication.

Aside from the fact that the judge noted that even lay people could recognize that Lindauer was disturbed, he also expressed humanitarian concerns about forcing Ms. Lindauer to take medication, which, he said, "necessarily involves physically restraining defendant so that she can be injected with mind-altering drugs."

I think he had a good point there.

She was initially branded as a reputed traitor and alleged spy for Saddam Hussein, then her name appeared to vanish from the main headlines.  But, was she a spy, or merely misunderstood?

Or -- perhaps even worse -- a scapegoat?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". -      -- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

According to the Seattle Weekly [From 'Spy' to Psychotic: The latest on the very strange story of former Seattle journalist Susan Lindauer, By Rick Anderson (February 15, 2006)], Lindauer has not been specifically charged with spying or espionage.  Lindauer herself insists that her efforts to act as a back-channel diplomat and get sanctions against Iraq lifted were simply misunderstood.

The Justice Department claims that "Symbol Susan" was unsuccessfully attempting to influence United States policy.  Lindauer had sent at least two letters to her second cousin as part of her efforts to ease sanctions and get weapons inspectors back in.  The second one is being used to prosecute her. (Side note: isn't "attempting to influence United States policy" exactly what we're doing, too, when we blog and write letters to our Congressfolk?)

Oh -- perhaps I should let you in on a little family secret of hers: her second cousin is  White House chief of Staff Andrew Card.

In a letter written to her second cousin, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, two months after Sept. 11, 2001, Lindauer made no secret about her activism or her emotional mission to aid Iraqi citizens. The letter, a copy of which she gave to basement tenant Fields, is apparently one of at least two she sent or gave to Card in 2001 and 2003. The undisclosed second letter, mentioned in the indictment, is being used to prosecute her. In the first letter, written Dec. 2, 2001, Lindauer indicates she was working back channels of government and meeting with officials at the Iraqi embassy, which prosecutors say she in fact did.

Andy wouldn't say whether or not he'd turned over any letters to the FBI, but -- seeing as this was yet another potential contact point from Iraq that could have paved the way toward avoiding such a nice successful war -- who could blame him if he did decide to rat out his own family?  After all, she was only a second cousin -- and she was apparently a bit nuts, too.

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't."
     -- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene II

Ah, yes -- a method to the madness.  A famous quote, and like a two-edged sword, it can cut both ways.  The successful execution of the "War on Terror" depends on keeping the boogie men alive and under the bed while creating a perception of progress.  (We've nailed how many number-two Al Quaeda operatives now?)  The successful conviction of anyone tied to the Axis of Evil would be a feather in the collective caps of those who are so successfully prosecuting this war.  

It's a study in madness all by itself.  But what of poor Susan?  What is the nature of the madness that has taken her, and how does it figure in here?

The bigger question, however, was always her sanity. She had a history of mood swings and paranoid fears. People were watching her, she often said, although, as it turned out, federal agents indeed had set up surveillance and tapped her phone. Still, if she betrayed her country, did she do so knowingly?

Aye, there's the rub -- if she's so nutty, then how crazy is she if she's told she's paranoid for claiming that she was being watched and that her place was bugged -- regardless of the fact that she was under FBI surveillance and they had tapped her phone?

Nutty as a fruitcake, apparently.  From the same Seattle Weekly article:

"I got a call from her Feb. 4," says renter Fields. "They are talking about forcibly medicating her. She sees women around her, in Carswell, who can't hold their own silverware to eat because of medications, and she doesn't see how such treatments make anyone more fit for trial. Seems a lot like the way the Soviets used to treat dissidents." Lindauer told another friend she was being guarded like a terrorist at Carswell, and a relative of Lindauer who recently attempted to visit her was turned away, Fields says. He supports Lindauer but isn't convinced of either her guilt or innocence. "I wonder what she really did--what evidence there might be that I don't know about. But I sure would like to see due process observed."

Now, Susan did have an apparent history of people thinking she was just a tad "touched" -- to the point where she'd apparently also claimed to be an angel.  So, with half a dozen doctors saying that she's not competent to stand trial, it's understandable that the prosecution would want to try and find a way to put the capper on all their hard work.  Forcibly medicating her seemed just a bit of reach, and was rejected.

But, why was she such a prize to the DOJ, that she could be considered so important as to suggest such a method even in light of slim ground for such action?  Perhaps she just ticked them off when she suggested that Iraq might be willing to "play ball" in order to avoid catastrophic conflict with the US:

In contrast, the December 2001 letter from Lindauer to Card, a copy of which Fields has now posted on his personal Web site (, seems rational. She said Iraqi leaders hoped to demonstrate their good faith to create a climate for talks with the U.S. and were willing to allow resumption of weapons inspections. They'd also cease firing on U.S. aircraft patrolling the No-Fly Zone and would cooperate "on terrorism issues per specific requests made by President Bush." The situation offered a potential foreign-policy victory for Bush, she wrote, noting "his praises would be sung wildly in the Arab Street." Iraq, she concluded, "has to accept its responsibilities, and I'm trying very hard to help achieve that goal, with the greatest hope that the regional insecurities and instabilities of the Middle East will become more diminished if my efforts succeed." Fields says, "It must have crushed her when Bush went to war" 15 months later.

[Emphasis mine.]

Yeah -- diminish the insecurity and instabilities of the Middle East.  That's crazy-talk.  No wonder the DOJ was concerned about her running around loose, with direct access to the Administration.  Fortunately, as her "spycraft" evolved, her sense of discretion apparently did not.

Within 10 years, by 2004, she had allegedly become something of a spy, or, as the government nebulously defines it, worked in concert with others to "act" as one. If so, it was unconventional spycraft. She had disclosed her Iraqi connections directly to the White House through the letters to Card, she openly discussed some of her intentions with friends, and met in New York with Iraqi agents, presumably some of the more intensely surveilled operatives on U.S. soil.

So, she's a little unstable, and indiscreet.  And dangerous enough to suggest drugging for trial.  (How's that hunt for Osama coming along there, George?...just thought I'd ask.)

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions"
     -- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene V

Let's review the NYT piece again.  

Although he was reluctant to analyze the government's case before trial, the judge said, "There is no indication that Lindauer ever came close to influencing anyone, or could have." The indictment, he said, describes an attempt to influence an unnamed government official as unsuccessful.

Presumably, that unnamed official is Card.  Her efforts could be described as either "misplaced" or "patriotic" -- I'm not so sure that they qualify as "spying."  Apparently, the judge wasn't convinced either.  But there is something important to keep in mind here -- back-channel diplomacy can have serious repurcussions when sensitive matters are being discussed.  An article posted on 22 March 2004 for the National Review (Armchair Diplomat, Back-Channel Baathist: Duped by the enemy, by Clinton W. Taylor) cites some specific examples of how former "back-channel" efforts by "armchair diplomats" have had significant impact in our history.

Go read the whole article -- you may find the specific examples enlightening.  For our purposes, I'll simply quote Taylor:

The sad but true history of back-channel diplomacy is a similar tale -- one of enemy intelligence agencies showing gullible American presidents only what they want them to see.

Sort of sounds like "cherry-picking" to me. [Or perhaps "stovepiping"?]

Taylor's article makes a case for why back-channel diplomacy is inherently untrustworthy (...did I hear someone say "Chalabai"...???).  He does go on to attempt to paint the White House as actually having an idea, a grasp of why such diplomatic efforts are risky, and crediting the White House with making the choice to avoid such potential "pipelines of disinformation" -- essentially, convicting Symbol Susan in his article before all the facts of the case were known, the most important of which dealt with her psyche.

Given today's Administration, the history of failed initiatives and a growing quagmire in both Afghanistan and Iraq as the great "Global War On Terror" spirals to earth in flames, I wonder if the near desperation of the prosecution to get Susan to trial isn't a rather indicative symbol of the overall sickness that has permeated our nation.  A sickness of paranoia, perpetual fear and warmongering that can't be fixed through forced medication, but through democracy instead.  

Remember to get out and vote in November.  Speak out against doublespeak and propaganda.  Let your voices be heard, and do not under any circumstances go quietly into the night.

Thank you.

Crossposted on DailyKos, Booman Tribune and StreetProphets.

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