Former journalist and congressional press secretary Susan Lindauer, who was arrested yesterday on charges she acted as an Iraqi spy before and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, came to the forefront of politics in 1994 over a controversial meeting she had with an alleged CIA operative based in Syria.
Susan Lindauer leaves federal court in Baltimore. (Photo: Baltimore Sun)
That meeting resulted in her giving a deposition in the Lockerbie bombing trial that suggested Libya was innocent of the bombing. The 1994 deposition received worldwide attention and led some to charge Libya was being framed for the bombing.
On Dec. 4, 1998, Lindauer, who has worked for four Democratic lawmakers, filed a formal deposition that detailed her conversation with Dr. Richard Fuisz, described by media as a multi-millionaire businessman and pharmaceutical researcher who was the CIA’s main operative active in Damascus, Syria, in the 1980s. Fuisz had business interests in Damascus.
The operative allegedly told Lindauer, then a congressional staffer, that he had personal knowledge that the perpetrators of the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, were based in Syria and that no Libyans were involved in any part of the attack.
The Clinton administration soon placed a gag order on Fuisz to prevent him from publicly discussing the issue.
Lindauer’s deposition was submitted to the court in which two Libyan suspects were on trial and to U.N. officials, who attempted to persuade the Clinton administration to lift the gag order on Fuisz.
In the deposition, Lindauer told the court she had “never accepted any financial compensation from any of the individuals or governments involved in this case.”
Her reason for coming forward, she said, was a “sense of obligation to the cause of international peace and security.”
Lindauer said she had been invited to meet Fuisz by a mutual acquaintance because of her position as press secretary to former Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and because of her “known longstanding interest in the Middle East.”
Said Lindauer, “Wyden is now a United States senator, and I have continued my career in TV journalism and public affairs.”
In the deposition, Lindauer stated, “At one point, I said to [Fuisz], ‘Oh yeah, everybody knows Syria did it, and the U.S. repaid them for supporting us during the Iraqi war by shifting the blame to Libya.’”
She describes Fuisz’s response, including this statement: “Susan, if the (United States) government would let me, I could identify the men behind this attack today. I could do it right now. You want a police lineup? I could go into any crowded restaurant of 200 people and pick out these men.”
Lindauer responded, “For God’s sakes tell me, and I’ll get my boss to protect you.”
Fuisz then allegedly became angry: “No, no. It’s so crazy. I’m not even allowed to tell you, and you’re a congressional staffer.”
Lindauer continued, “Then he repeated his story about the Terex lawsuit against both him and New York Times reporter Seymour Hirsch [sic] (the famous Pulitzer Prize winner), whose only crime was reporting Dr. Fuisz’s testimony at the congressional hearing.”
Lindauer’s deposition ended with, “For shame on all of you!”
She published her email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, along with the deposition so “journalists, researchers and others interested in learning more about the issue” could contact her.
The deposition created worldwide reaction, including in Britain where Sir Teddy Taylor, a member of Parliament, said, “Clearly such arguments which were made to a congressional aide in the U.S.A. called Susan Lindauer should have been considered by the police, by the foreign offices and the court authorities.”
Lindauer also told the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin that she had been subject to intense surveillance, threats and attacks since she began meeting with Libyan officials in 1995 to discuss her purported knowledge of the Lockerbie bombing.
“Someone put acid on the steering wheel of my car on a day I was supposed to drive to NYC for a meeting at the Libya House,” Lindauer said. “I scrubbed my hands with a toilet brush, but my face was burned so badly that three weeks later friends worried I might be badly scarred.”
Lindauer told the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin: “Also, my house was bugged with listening devices and cameras – little red laser lights in the shower vent. And I survived several assassination attempts.”
Yesterday’s arrest of Lindauer was based on an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and alleges Lindauer made multiple visits from October 1999 through March 2002 to the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan.
Lindauer allegedly met there with several members of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the foreign intelligence arm of the government of Iraq that allegedly has played a role in several terrorist operations, including the attempted assassination of former President George H.W. Bush.
The indictment states Lindauer 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 early 2002.
Lindauer is also accused of meeting twice with an undercover FBI agent who posed as a Libyan intelligence representative who was seeking to support resistance groups in postwar Iraq. Lindauer allegedly discussed the need for plans and foreign resources to support the groups.
Before Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched, Lindauer was one of thousands who signed a Peace Pledge opposing the “spread of anti-terrorist war to Iraq.”
The Associated Press reported that on Jan. 8, 2003, Lindauer allegedly 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.
Lindauer previously worked as a journalist for U.S. News & World Report in 1990-91 before beginning her career in politics. She also worked for Fortune and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
In 1993, Media Watch reported that three West Coast Democrats had tapped “media veterans” to fill press secretary slots in their Capitol Hill offices, including U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who chose Lindauer.
In March 1994, Lindauer switched Democratic offices within the Oregon congressional team, jumping from the office of DeFazio, where she had been press secretary, to handle the same duties for Wyden.
In 1996, Lindauer became spokesperson for Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill.
She was back working in the media in 1998 when she became spokesman and executive producer for political affairs for the “Information Superstation” (channel 29) a new TV channel that was designed to broadcast “unfiltered, uneditored coverage of White House and federal agencies all over Washington.”
The Information Superstation was founded by Dennis Dunbar, the owner of Wireless Data Systems, a videoconferencing and multi-media network provider.
It had its debut in February 1998.
“We’re bringing down the walls of government,” said Susan Lindauer, who was in charge of getting agencies on the program schedule. “Government executives will be able to watch the president, watch other agencies and watch themselves.”
The alleged spy also had a short stint as an aide to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., in 2002.
Lindauer, 41, was arrested in her hometown of Takoma Park, Md. She made a brief court appearance in Baltimore yesterday, where lawyers argued over whether she should be granted bail, AP reported.
I’m an anti-war activist and I’m innocent,” Lindauer told WBAL-TV 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.”