By: Larry Neumeister, Associated Press Writer
(AP) A former journalist and one-time press secretary for four members of Congress was arrested Thursday on charges she served as a paid agent for the Iraqi intelligence service before and after the U.S. invasion.
Susan Lindauer, 41, was arrested in her hometown of Takoma Park, Md., and was to appear in court later in the day in Baltimore, authorities in New York said.
She was accused of conspiring to act as a spy for the Iraqi Intelligence Service and engaging in prohibited financial transactions involving the government of Iraq under dictator Saddam Hussein. Prosecutors say she accepted $10,000 for he work.
“I’m an anti-war activist and I’m innocent,” Lindauer told WBAL-TV as she was led to a car outside the Baltimore FBI office. “I did more to stop terrorism in this country than anybody else. I have done good things for this country. I worked to get weapons inspectors back to Iraq when everyone else said it was impossible. I’m very proud and I’ll stand by my achievements.”
Lindauer worked at Fortune, U.S. News & World Report and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before beginning her career as a political publicist.
She worked for Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. in 1993 and then Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in 1994 before joining the office of former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun as press secretary in 1996. From March to May 2002, she worked for Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.
“Her position was eliminated in the downsizing following the 1994 elections,” said Josh Kardon, chief of staff for now-Sen. Wyden. “She worked for us a short period of time.”
Braun’s current spokesperson, Loretta Kane, said the former senator does not remember Lindauer.
According to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Lindauer made multiple visits from October 1999 through March 2002 to the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan. The indictment makes no mention of her congressional staff work.
There, she met with several members of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the foreign intelligence arm of the government of Iraq that allegedly has played a role in terrorist operations, including an attempted assassination of former President George H.W. Bush, the indictment alleged.
The government said she accepted payments from the Iraqis for her services and expenses amounting to a total of $10,000, including $5,000 she received during a trip to Baghdad in February and March 2002.
Her acceptance of the money and her willingness to bring it home from Iraq violated a law prohibiting transactions with a government that sponsors international terrorism, the government said. The indictment did not specify a motive.
The charges against Lindauer were included in an expanded indictment in the case against Raed Rokan Al-Anbuge, 28, and Wisam Noman Al-Anbuke, the sons of Iraq’s former liaison with United Nations weapons inspectors.
The brothers were charged last year with acting as Iraqi government agents and conspiring to do so, prosecutors said. The indictment said Lindauer conspired with the brothers.
On Jan. 8, 2003, prosecutors said, Lindauer tried to influence U.S. foreign policy by delivering to the home of a U.S. government official a letter in which she conveyed her access to and contacts with members of Saddam’s regime. The official was not identified in the indictment.
The United States invaded Iraq in March of last year, and the government fell the following month.
The indictment said she met on two occasions in Baltimore in June and July with an undercover FBI agent who posed as a Libyan intelligence representative who was seeking to support resistance groups in postwar Iraq. It said she discussed the need for plans and foreign resources to support these groups.
According to the indictment, she continued to correspond with the undercover agent until last month and followed the agent’s instructions to leave packages on two occasions in August in “dead drop” operations.
Lindauer, who was not immediately assigned a defense lawyer, faces up to 10 years in prison on the most serious charge and five years on the lesser charge if she is convicted, prosecutors said.
More than a half dozen FBI agents could be seen searching Lindauer’s residence in Takoma Park, a city known for its liberal views. Her neighbors recalled her as friendly.
Joao Luiz Vieire de Castro, 39, described Lindauer as “a regular American who walks her dog in the mornings and the afternoon.”
“It’s a big surprise. Who would think that it’s (espionage) in your neighborhood?” said Dean Paris, 45, who sometimes greeted Lindauer on the street, which is less than a mile from the District of Columbia line. Paris said he never saw anything suspicious.
But Malvina Lacey, who lives next door to Lindauer, added, “She lives in a fantasy world.”