A former congressional press secretary and distant cousin to the White House chief of staff was arrested at her Takoma Park home yesterday on charges that she acted as an agent of the Iraqi intelligence agency, collecting $10,000 and allegedly plotting to help resistance groups loyal to Saddam Hussein.
Susan P. Lindauer, 40, who was also known as "Symbol Susan," and has claimed in the past to be the target of covert surveillance and death threats, was released to a halfway house with orders from a magistrate judge in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
A White House spokesman said last night that Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. has cooperated with authorities investigating Lindauer, including reporting attempts by her to contact him in recent years.
According to the indictment, Lindauer delivered a letter "to the home of a United States government official" on Jan. 8, 2003 - about two months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq - in which she described contacts she had within Hussein's regime "in an unsuccessful attempt to influence United States foreign policy."
The Associated Press last night quoted an unnamed government source who identified Card as the recipient of the letter. White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Card does not remember seeing or talking to Lindauer since inaugural events in early 2001.
Appearing in Baltimore's federal courthouse yesterday, Lindauer smiled broadly at the prosecutor and at a gallery packed with reporters. When FBI agents led her to a waiting car earlier in the day, she announced to the TV cameras that she was not guilty.
"I'm an anti-war activist, and I'm innocent," Lindauer said. "I did more to stop terrorism in this country than anybody else. ... I'm proud of what I've done for the security of this country."
Her detention status is expected to be reviewed at a hearing in Baltimore today. She is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in the federal courthouse in Manhattan, where federal prosecutors yesterday unsealed the indictment against her and two men, both sons of a former Iraqi diplomat.
Lindauer was charged with acting, and conspiring to act, as an unregistered agent of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and with engaging in prohibited financial transactions with the Iraqi government. Lindauer was not charged with espionage, which can carry a possible death sentence.
She faces up to 25 years if convicted on all counts against her.
The indictment alleges that Lindauer accepted $10,000 for working for the Iraqi Intelligence Service from 1999 to 2002, including payments for meals and trips to the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan and a trip to Baghdad, as a guest of the intelligence agency, from Feb. 23, 2002, until March 7, 2002.
Federal authorities described the Iraqi Intelligence Service as the foreign intelligence branch of the former government in Iraq. The agency has been accused of playing a role in terrorist operations, including an assassination attempt against former President George Bush and attempted bombings during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The U.S. government said the agency has intimidated and killed Iraqi defectors and dissidents living abroad. Lindauer's co-defendants - Raed Rokan Al-Anbuke and Wisam Noman Al-Anbuke - both are accused in the indictment of providing officers of the Iraqi Intelligence Service with the "location, employment and family status of Iraqi expatriates in the United States" in October or November 2001.
The indictment does not describe what relationship, if any, existed between Lindauer and the two brothers.
Prosecutors said Lindauer returned from her trip to Baghdad in early 2002 with $5,000 in cash from Iraqi agents, a violation of a federal law prohibiting monetary transactions with governments that sponsor terrorism.
The indictment alleges that Lindauer's activities continued last summer, when she met twice in Baltimore with an FBI agent who was posing undercover as a member of the Libyan intelligence service, seeking to support resistance groups in postwar Iraq.
Lindauer and the undercover agent met on June 23 and July 17, and each time "discussed the need for plans and foreign resources to support resistance groups in Iraq," the indictment said.
Twice in August of last year, Lindauer left packages for the undercover agent at pre-arranged "dead drop" locations in Takoma Park, according to the indictment. It was not known yesterday what information was included in the packages. The indictment said Lindauer maintained regular contact with the FBI agent, via e-mail, until last month.
During at least part of the time frame of the indictment, Lindauer was working on Capitol Hill as a press secretary. In 2002, she worked for Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat. Lindauer also had worked as a press aide during the mid-1990s for at least three other Democratic members of Congress - Oregon Reps. Peter A. DeFazio and Ron Wyden, now a senator, and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois.
In a statement, Lofgren said that Lindauer worked in her office only for eight weeks in 2002 and "had no access to sensitive information."
Electronic news archives show that Lindauer worked as a journalist with U.S. News & World Report and with the business magazine Fortune. Her family has ties to both politics and the press - Lindauer's father, John Lindauer, was the Republican candidate for governor in Alaska in 1998.
He lost the race and later pleaded no contest to charges related to campaign finance violations, receiving probation and a fine as punishment.
Susan Lindauer has found herself caught in other political debates. In the late 1990s, she was a minor figure in the running debate over who was responsible for the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. She argued that Libya had been unfairly accused and that Syrian agents were to blame.
The Libyan government has since admitted involvement by Libyan nationals. But in the July 2000 edition of the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Lindauer claimed that she was subject to surveillance, threats and attacks after she began meeting with Libyan officials to discuss the bombing case.
"Someone put acid on the steering wheel of my car on a day I was supposed to drive to [New York City] for a meeting at the Libya House," Lindauer was quoted as saying. "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. Also, my house was bugged with listening devices and cameras - little red laser lights in the shower vent. And I survived several assassination attempts."
Lindauer also gave the publication an affidavit describing her contacts with a man described as a Syrian CIA operative during the 1980s who allegedly told Lindauer that the culprits in the bombing were based in Syria.
In the sworn statement, which she mistakenly called a deposition, Lindauer said: "I hear by inform the court and all interested parties at the United Nations that I have never accepted any financial compensation from any of the individuals, or governments involved in this case, in any form of cash or non-cash payment."
Sun staff writer David L. Greene and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.