Was John Walker Lindh a scapegoat? The former Taliban soldier’s father — Marin resident Frank Lindh — joins us in the studio. Lindh believes that his son was unfairly targeted due to the nation’s anger over 9/11, and that he should be released from federal prison now that Osama bin Laden is dead.

Frank Lindh 25 May,2011forum

  • Chrisco

    Dave Iverson on the Jihad against John Walker Lindh. So hostile, at least from an overly mellow posture, and apparently so wrong.

  • John

    Ernest Hemingway never fought in the Spanish Civil war. He was a correspondent. 

  • Chrisco

    It just FEELS like he was a terrorist, it just FEELS like he must be condemned forever. It just FEELS like… he was an evil Jihadi. So I will keep asking the same question with a fallacious basis. Sounds like some heavy duty bias on the host here and not even an attempt to find anything out, just to condemn the horrible Muslim John Walker.

  • Clark

    Iverson seems visibly annoyed at any suggestion that Lindh was anything but a villainous terrorist. How people think NPR is a liberal, let alone objective news source when obviously biased, shoddy journalism such as this is broadcast is beyond me.

    • Guest

      Forum is produced by KQED, not NPR.

  • Steve wahlstrom

    The interview is TERRIBLE. I really have no strong opinions about John Walker Lindh – but I am now very sympathetic. The host doesn’t even know his facts. 

  • denise

    The host is being very inappropriately hostile. I sure hope he never replaces Michael Krasney.

    John Walker Lindh was made a scapegoat in a moment of hysteria. It was obvious then and obvious now. Dave Iverson is continuing the process. The Taliban government in 2001 was not a terrorist organization. Quit slandering this young man.

    • Bob

      The German government of 1936 had not committed crimes against

  • Tom

    Michael and Keven:  You guys need to clean this one  up.  Iverson seems to often have a definite position of advocacy on his mind, revealing it if not always in word, in his voice inflection and seeming dismissal of key points that don’t fit with where he wants to go.

  • Clreply

    I agree that Dave Iverson is belaboring a seeming bias that goes beyond a journalists role to challenge.  He is, at least, giving Frank Lindh a chance to repeatedly clarify the record. 

    • Well

      That’s a fine standard for hacks on Fox. But this is not something I expect from one of my main news sources. What is wrong with the guy?

  • Blairgersh

    Why did the LIndhs accept the plea bargain, even though there was evidence that the US government had acted in a way that could possibly have caused the judge to throw out the charges?

    • Jack

      that is the question this ignorant and biased host never asked….

    • Chrisco

      Because the publicity surrounding the “American Taliban” and the high emotions around the terror attacks of September 11th meant John Walker Lindh would have been in trouble in front of a jury. But then, couldn’t he have forgone a jury trial seems to be the next question.

  • LChen

    The whole issue surrounding John Walker Lindh and releasing him early is whether he still poses a threat to Americans. Does Mr. Lindh *still* believe in Jihad and martyrdom, and will he act against Americans in his fight to defend what he believes is right for Islam?

    • Lili

      You and others don’t get it. This thread is not about Lindh, let the courts deal with that. We have a system in this country in place to deal with this. This is about a radio station putting itself in place of courts here. What Dave Iverson did is unacceptable. I am not sure why they had him as a guest (I guess the NYT op ed) but if they decided to have him then they should have adhered to a standard of professional conduct. This has gone avry. And imo Dave should pay a price for this. The guy clearly displayed today his journalism is crap.

  • denise

    And after every single comment here is critical of the host, he starts quoting listeners who are challenging Lindt. What is going on here?

    • Stuart

      I had exactly the same question.

    • Bob

      Those listeners challenging Lindt are not permitted to air their
      comments because?

      • Mandeep Singh

        The problem is not having listeners with opposing views on air. Forum has always had that. This was a case with an unbalanced bias towards a certain viewpoint. 

  •  Dave – cut the guy some slack.  It is clear you have misinformation on this case.     The man has paid his debt to society and more so.  He is the focal point of many people’s hate of terrorism but he deserves to move on with his life. He didn’t ever pose a threat to the US and still doesn’t. 

  • Steve

    The interview continues to be TERRIBLE!!! Get this guy off the air. He seems to simply not want to listen to his guest or correct the misinformation he possesses. Maybe he should take a time out and ask his guest what actually happened.

  • Sireecurtin

    Dave: could you articulate what you would like him to apologizefor?

  • Lunarez

    Give it up Iverson…stop belaboring the mouthpiece for the American government!

  • Why did he accept the plea deal?  Because they were threatening him with a death penalty and the country was looking for blood.

  • denise

    This was the worst interview I have ever heard on NPR.

    • Chrisco

      It’s not NPR if that helps.

      • denise

        Yes, you are correct. And it wasn’t NPR that I stopped contributing to, it was KQED.

        • Chrisco

          But you didn’t stop listening apparently so that is lame.

      • Moss


        Iverson has done consulting for public television and radio stations around the country as well as the MacArthur Foundation. He’s also served on advisory panels for PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, MacNeil-Lehrer Productions and the Independent Television Service.

        • chrisco

          And I worked for the federal government one summer. Does that mean everything I do is the action of the feds?

  • Cojedoe

    I cannot believe the (il)logical leaps of the listeners and the host. Whether or not one agrees with why Lindh was in Afghanistan or not, you cannot indict him of being on a terrorist based strictly on his being there, even after September 11. 

  • Seth Munki

    Wow, Dave came off as pretty hacky.

  • Sylcatmom

    I too do not have any strong opinions about John Walker Lindt and I too this this interview is TERRIBLE.  The interviewer does not appear to be well prepared. He focused on what other newspapers and CNN reported rather than review the court transcript.  I thought the law professor stated it perfectly and then the interviewer seemed to ignore the professor.  This is not what I expect from KQED.

  • denise

    And by the way, the previous piece on entitlement reform was almost as bad. I used to contribute regularly to the station and no longer do. This is why.

    • Heather9999

      same here.  Michael Krasny certainly has some interesting guests but he often has his facts wrong.  

      • Jack

        Almost same here. Michael injects himself too much with his own angle instead of asking fair, probing questions on the behalf of all the listeners. Despite that little shortcoming, however, Michael would not have prompted me to think of stopping my pledge, but this host did it for me. So sad to see NPR/KQED declining….

  • Henry S

    Dave at Forum:

    A couple of things:

    1. Factual: Did Hemingway fight in the Spanish Civil War? I think not.
    He covered the war as a news reporter. In his novel, For Whom the Bell
    Tolls, protagonist Robert Jordan fights for the Republican side.
    Hemingway did drive an ambulance for the Italian army in WW I

    2. Bush had it right in his initial, unguarded, comment on Lindh–in
    essence he was a kid caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,

    Isn’t it obvious that JW Lindh had nothing to do with terrorism and no
    clue about 9/11? In my view, he was misguided, but he was working with
    the Taliban government at a time when the US govt was providing that
    government large sums of cash to stop growing opium poppies. US mercenaries have done far, far worse in Africa with little if any attention from the gov’t.

    Clearly, the kid has served more than enough time for whatever “crime” he committed.

    Face it, the father’s account is accurate, whether it goes down easily or not. He took Dave Iverson to school on a succession of inaccuracies.


  • Sovatar

    Dave’s way to moderate this segment was very inappropriate. Not sure where he got his preparation from, but he had almost all of his facts wrong.

    This was really not up to the standards of Forum.

    Dave, either prepare for an issue like that, or do not go on the air. Even better, leave this issue to someone who can handle it, I think Michael would have done a much better job.

  • James D Ivey

    I think I agree with the other comments here.  If Mr. Lindh has his facts right (and the law professor from my alma mater says he did for at least some of them), then there’s no need to apologize.

    The notion that we’ll accept someone back only if they admit guilt and apologize is so stupid, and I expect better from KQED.

    I suppose a more diplomatic answer for Mr. Lindt about contrition would be to apologize for David’s lending material support to a government under an economic embargo (what he was actually convicted of).  Of course, that’s malum prohibitum (evil because it’s prohibited), not malum in se (evil in and of itself).


  • Bob Koelle

    Wait – even accepting that he is ONLY guilty of violating economic sanctions imposed against the Taliban government by offering his services, that still speaks volumes.  Why the Taliban government, of all the Islamic states in the world?  I don’t think most “traditional” practicing Muslims in the US were terribly sympathetic to the medieval rule of the Taliban.

  • Bob Koelle

    Wait – even accepting that he is ONLY guilty of violating economic sanctions imposed against the Taliban government by offering his services, that still speaks volumes.  Why the Taliban government, of all the Islamic states in the world?  I don’t think most “traditional” practicing Muslims in the US were terribly sympathetic to the medieval rule of the Taliban.

  • Duane

    Unfortunate that Mr. Iverson didn’t drill down on Mr. Lindh’s assertion that his son should be released now that Osama bin Laden had been killed.  If his son wasn’t assisting a terrorist organization / movement, as he repeatedly claimed, what relevance is the death of bin Laden?!  Ironic, no?

    • Heather9999

      I know.  The whole interview was messed up.

    • Jack

      Duane, you’re right; there is no logical relevance between Osama’s death and John’s early release. But you see only the lack of formal logic (tree), not his plea (the forest) written in a way to get people’s attention (since people thinks Osama = 9/11). You’re right that it is Mr. Lindh’s PR (not logical) campaign for his son. There is no need for legal analysis here. What we need here is perhaps a moral discussion based on compassion (which is invisible for you for some reason despite your apparent intelligence). 

  • Concerned Listener

    This show was terrible, I am not sure why Dave Iverson conducted this interview, this should have been given to someone with more experience (Michael where were you?). Rather than being an informative non-biased journalistic piece as usual, this almost turned into a second trial – radio trial nonetheless. And as other listeners commented, even without doing the homework on the facts of the case. I love the show and often listen Forum. But as far as this goes, I will not be able to listen to Dave Iverson with impartiality anymore. You owe the guest, and your listeners a serious apology if you want to have a chance at being take seriously in the future. 

  • Judy V, San Rafael

    It appears that Dave Iverson hasn’t done his homework on either segment today. Re Lindh: Iverson seems to want to elicit emotional reactions regardless of facts. His personal opinion is way too obvious. Even when an “expert” caller corrected him, he could only respond “I respect your opinion.” I’m disappointed – this could have been a good discussion on the actual facts.

    • Noway

      Perhaps he’s building a career here. If he is. Well good luck. This kind of informing the public is something the USA doesn’t need more of. 

  • Jose Trabanino

    I think that focusing on when Lindh helped the Taliban is the same as
    saying that if a person went and helped the Nazis before they started
    shipping human beings to concentration camps, that person is free of any
    association with the later sins of that evil government. That person was
    part of the formation of that evil regime independently of how it was
    defined by other governments.
    Maybe legally there is a valid claim, but the moral and ethical defense of
    the father is weak especially because of the violent nature of Lindh’s

    Lindh should stay in jail as the fundamentalist and violent religious man
    he is.

    The father is delusional and apologetic about a son who was willing to
    turn to violence to “defend” fellow followers of that Abrahamic faith…

    The father is ultimately just another selfish parent thinking and
    constructing false arguments to justify why his “perpetuating genes” are
    the exception and incapable of any wrong doing.

    I hope he stays in jail.

    • denise

      In this country we imprison people for breaking the law, not for their beliefs; and if being a fundamentalist were a crime we’d have millions of Christians in prison for it. Didn’t you learn this in 5th grade?

      • Bob

        However, we do imprison fundamentalists for crimes (murder of abortion doctors, etc.).
        Fundamentalism may be a reason for action; it is not an
        excuse for criminality.  Haven’t you learned this yet?

        • denise

          “Lindh should stay in jail as the fundamentalist and violent religious man he is.”

          No, he should stay in jail if the crime he committed warrants it.

          • denise


            If the crime he was convicted of warrants it.

          • Jose Trabanino

            And a court found that the crime (or crimes) he did warrant it. He was sentenced and should finish his sentence, independently of what his daddy wants or if the “Hitler” (Bin Laden) of that organization is dead or alive.

          • Strandwolf

            At the time of the trial much of the USA was in hysterics. 9 of 10 charges were dropped in a bargain arrangement, the defense thinking, perhaps sensibly under the circumstances that this was the best that could be done under prevailing sentiments of the time. Most people (though obviously not all) have calmed down and returned to rationality during the intervening decade.

        • Jack

          Bob, I get your point (itself being a legitimate one). But let’s stick to the ordinary speech practice instead of changing the rule of the game by twisting the common definition of “fundamentalists.”

      • Jose Trabanino

        “In this country…” Why do you have to specify that since it’s obvious to any thinking human being we are talking about the USA and not Zimbabwe. Is it because of my name and assume that my country is another country (not the US) where the government imprisons people arbitrarily and not following laws.
        Be more upfront next time, Denise, or just skip the rhetoric of the sort “In this country…” used often with “perceived” foreigners. 
        AND people have been imprisoned in this country for their beliefs. Google and read about McCarthyism. Didn’t you learn that in the 4th grade?

        And if American Christians would have gone to Serbia to kill Muslims or perceived enemies of the faith or travel in the present to Sudan to the same, yes they should be judge and if found to have participating in the death of human beings they should go to jail.

        I also suggest the 5th grade to you. Re-enroll and continue your education up until 12th grade to have the equivalent of a high school education. You could finally learn how to think critically.

        Lindh should serve his sentence and he had his chance in court (under the laws of this land, in case you are thinking of Zimbabwe). Lindh’s  white, middle-class, and privilege daddy should focus on preventing people that follow Abrahamic religions NOT turn to violence (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity).

        • denise

          My choice of words had nothing to do with your name.

          Lindh was convicted of providing assistance to
          the Taliban government in violation of ECONOMIC sanctions.

          Not for his fundamentalist beliefs and not for “participating in the deaths of human beings” while fighting in a foreign civil war – neither of which are against US law.

          The issue is whether or not the sentence for the crime of which he was convicted is excessive. He is not in jail for being a “fundamentalist and violent religious man”.

          Yes, people have been imprisoned for their beliefs in the US. When it happens, it is a miscarriage of justice. That is the point.

          • Jose Trabanino

            So if he violated economic sanctions and based on that convicted, why should his sentence be reduced?

            Because of the death of their Hitler? Rather weak argument.

            And based on your own words, he was NOT convicted based on his beliefs, so that it’s not the point in this case. He was imprisoned because “of providing assistance to the Taliban government in violation of ECONOMIC sanctions.”

          • denise

            If all you did was say that you thought his sentence was appropriate, I would not have even replied to your comment. You are entitled to feel the sentence is a just one for the crime he was convicted of, as I am to feel it isn’t.

            What I was objecting to was your statements that I quoted. He is not in prison for his religious beliefs or for fighting in a foreign civil war or for killing people while fighting in a foreign war in which the US was not involved. Those things are not against the law and we do not lock people up for them.

  • Steve

    Yes – an apology is needed. The interview was a totally uncalled for attack on a man who has been in prison for 10 years. I am done listening to Dave. At least Sean Hannity is entertaining (kind of sort of)

  • Daniel

    Dave Iverson and forum should be ashamed of themselves.
    Perfect opportunity to set the record straight on the confusion over Taliban and terrorism, but chose to let his own ignorance and mis guided emotions take over.

  • Lusijah Rott

    Who was the Taliban initially?  They and Bib Laden were supported by the US to counter Soviet occupation.  The literal meaning of taliban is student.  It was a student resistant group. Many stories require some kind of historical context, this avoids a knee jerk response.  Who could have known the rest of the story for the Taliban and Al Quaida during the Soviet occupation of Afganistan? Same with Saddam Husein.  I think Lindh should be released at this point.

    • Bob

      The literal meaning of Islam is “peace”.  By this logic, the Taliban are
      peaceful students.

      • Forum fan

        “Islam” does not mean “peace.” It means “submission.” A Muslim literally means “one who submits” (that is, to Allah).

  • Davet

    I am not sure what went on this morning? Dave Iverson, you have to explain your conduct of this interview. Why did you take on doing it if you have such an obvious bias. And why didn’t you prepare yourself better for it? This looks like another piece of bad press in the making, certainly not needed by NPR.


  • Mike

    Listen folks I am going to admit I have no clue about the facts in this case. And frankly, I am not sure why its so important to be on the radio. Wasn’t the case dealt with by the judicial system? Then. What’s the point. But I do have to say, the way this interview was conducted was below any standard of professionalism, impartiality, and fact finding.

    Sad moment for NPR.

    • Guest

      Folks, KQED Forum is not produced by NPR.

  • Friarslantern

    I can’t see the comments

  • Friarslantern

    I can’t see the comments

  • Mark B.

    Really embarrassing interview, Mr. Iverson. It is amazing that this young man is still in prison. There was a time when the Taliban was fighting the Russians and they were ‘our’ guys. JWL was no more guilty than Lafayette or any of the other foreigners who came to America’s aid in all of our wars. It is certainly past time for him to come home. Facts are facts and this interview was more like what one might expect on FOX than on NPR. Kudos to Mr. Lindh for keeping his cool.

    • Olly

      Indeed FOX on KQED, what has gone wrong…?

  • Daniel

    Looks like the paranoia has not stopped. 

  • Nancy

     I heard the tail end of the interview with Mr. Lindh and was appalled by the shoddy preparation and bias of the host Dave Iverson.  I have been struggling with whether to renew my pledge to KQED because of its declining standards. 

  • Laurel

    Wow, I listened to part of this interview and missed the end, but WOW, I was so disappointed in NPR. The bias was  ridiculous! Straight out of the gate, Dave Iverson seems to have got the facts wrong, something that was CRITICAL to the rest of the conversation. Whether or not John Walker Lindh was convicted of providing services to a terrorist organization was at the very heart of the matter. The staff at NPR should have been scrambling to read the letter of the legal decision right there to clear that up.

    Can we please have a redo with Michael Krazny and get it right next time?

    • Guest

      The Forum show is produced by KQED, and has nothing to do with NPR.

      • Olly

        Its NPR in my mind.

    • Strandwolf

      Yeah. Tomorrow, Thursday, in the 10AM slot I think.

  • lindaperr

    I’m left with the impression of a very powerful show and a great respect for Frank Lindh for his clear-thinking and self-possesion.  Dave Iverson is a dependably fine host and I’m certain this breakdown in research will be a “teachable moment” for him and the producer.  My opinion on this matter is competely reversed by what I’ve learned today, so thank you, Forum.

    • Bias

      Fine host? Have you listened to the show?

      • lindaperr

        Well, yes, Fred, for many years.  I fondly recall Forum from the days when Kevin Pursglove moderated and the emphasis was more local and regional politics and I miss that still.  However, today’s show, while very upsetting because of the bad research, and the apparent rigidity discounting new and better information, was still the place to go to learn something important.  I mean, I don’t and I’m sure you don’t listen to be fed “the truth.”  We both listen to hear ideas from others and then we decide.  And Dave Iverson generally seems to be a very decent person who generally does a great job, both on Forum and on his occasional News Hour appearances.  I would imagine he and his producer are regretting relying on the Times at this moment, but in the end the abiding point for me is that many of us heard new information for the first time and that’s why we listened.

  • Anngs

    I too was rather disturbed by the interview.  I think the problem is that there has been such an identification of the Taliban government with Al Qaeda since 911, and people ignore the history of Afghanistan pre-911.  Had the Bush administration been at all diplomatic and not so vengeful after 911, they may have been able to put the right pressure on the Taliban government to hand over bin Laden and avoided all the killing, suffering, and horror that has occurred since the horror of 911.  Having done some research on the situation in Afghanistran just prior to 911, I agree with what Frank Lindh was trying communicate to Dave Iverson and also that his son should be released.

  • Aron Wells

    Cut Dave some slack folks. Everyone has the right to mess it up sometimes. He has a great journalistic record, and one show gone bad should not be used as an indicator of bias or unprofessionalism. Hey perhaps it was just a bad day, who doesn’t have them. 

  • Stuart

    I am not going to donate a penny more to public radio unless they stop using  a horrible host like this one. He is the kind of man on the jury who will convict an innocent defendant simply because he read about in the commercial media and what the prosecutor alleged. Instead of repeating the same misguided charges already dropped by the prosecution, he should have asked why we turned into a totalitarian society judging people by association. Isn’t the U.S. government guilty then by having supported Taliban far longer (with illegal taxpayers’  money) than a young soul who had an innocent spiritual motive? He is evil because he joined Taliban? Wait, we may go back into alliance with them again soon.
    Ignorant callers and this host are the real reason that the nation never understands why 9/11 happened in the first place (yes, Osama was an evil man and he did it all). I have nothing but absolute admiration for Mr. Lindh, the father, who defended his son based on facts and reason alone. I will be proud of a father like him as a son and wish to be a father like him. Blame your U.S. government’s foreign policy hijacked by special interests if you feel like you want to be a patriot weeping for the victims of 9/11. 

    • Melford

      I think Michael Krasny should have a show interviewing Iverson. There’s a winner in terms of radio audience. 

  • Misinformed

    I don’t get it, his father publishes an  op ed in the NYT, then KQED goes on a rampant attack on the guy. I thought you folks were on the same side of the coin? Wtf?

  • Claudia

    Mr. Iverson seemed completely incapable of responding to Mr. Lindh appropriately or critically. Mr. Lindh was more composed and had more control of the interview than the host. He certainly came across as more informed and more objective. Mr. Iverson’s insistence on getting a statement of contrition from JW Lindh via Frank Lindh was myopic. Mr. Lindh repeatedly acknowledged what JW Lindh was guilty of. I agree with Mr. Lindh: why should JW Lindh express remorse about the false accusations that were dropped and false impressions that people like the host have? It’s completely illogical. Iverson could have asked more critical questions: why should JW Lindh come home after one-half of his sentence was served? What does Bin Laden’s death have to do with the timing of JW Lindh’s release? I’m sure there are other questions an informed host could’ve asked and that I would’ve appreciated hearing a discussion of.
    I’ve never heard such a poorly hosted interview on NPR. But, I did come
    away from it with more thoughts on an issue I didn’t have much knowledge
    of. Question is, am I now more accurately informed or not?

  • denise

    I think for the benefit of listeners who are not online the audience should be informed tomorrow that the listener comments on this piece were overwhelmingly critical of the interview. The opposite impression was given on the air.

    • Duane


      None of us are privy to the e-mails received in the studio, however, I can attest that the vast majority of these online postings occurred after the end of the broadcast.  This forum doesn’t provide exact timestamps, but it’s 2:39pm PDT as I write this and your post was entered “3 hours ago”.  That would place it being entered well into the first hour of the “Talk of the Nation” broadcast.

      • denise

        Yes, I was posting while the show was on as were a number of other people. I didn’t realize at the time that it was emails being responded to on the air and not comments here. Next time I will email them during the broadcast.

        When I posted this comments were running about 20-to-1 critical of the way the interview was being conducted. I suppose it’s possible the emails were running differently from what was happening here. I would guess not though.

  • Mandeep Singh

    This felt more like a Fox News interview than a forum interview. Dave Iverson sounded like he came in with pre-convictions and he followed through on them. It was unbearable. 

    • Humho

      Perhaps he’s angling for a salary increase?

  • While having nothing to do with Lindh’s innocence or guilt, I take issue with John Lindh’s characterization of his son as a sweet, spiritual, intellectual kid.  He joined the ranks a a brutal, tyrannical, extreme group that murdered Afghan men for minor deviations form absurd rules and brutalized women, making them worse than second class citizens.  Cultural landmarks were destroyed, education and intellectualism was quashed.  That vision of Afghanistan that Lindh took up arms to defend does not jibe with his father’s view of his son. 

    • Lusijah

      I think it is important to look further into the rise of fundamentalism.  Karen Armstrong wrote a wonderful book that was coincidentally published right around 9/11 that gives a very intelligent assessment about the rise to fundamentalism among all religious groups. Basically fear of annihilation by the modern world.  Fundamentalism has at the heart a wish to return to a “purer” form of religion and a simpler life. It just so happened that this group served the needs of the US during the Soviet occupation, and it was supported to become stronger.

  • Bias

    Well I guess the elephant in the room here is that a “Dave Walker” turned muslim.

    • Jack

      understandable since even public radio’s host like this one is this much biased and ignorant, blindly subscribing to the Bush right-wing propaganda….

  • Duane

    I don’t fault Mr. Iverson for not having read the entirety of the court record, relying instead on the NY Times and other major media outlets.  These were vetted.  Could they have contained an inaccuracy?  According to Mr. Lindh’s strident claims, they did.  But the statements in the articles may just have been accurate, too.  

    I think Mr. Lindh would have better served his son’s cause had he provided examples of what WAS an appropriate punishment; and cited persons in similar circumstances who had faced prosecution.  That’s not Mr. Iverson’s fault.

    Mr. Lindh (father) made an assertion his son was acting as a typical young Muslim by joining the Taliban, the inference of which is that all young Muslims desire engaging in insurrection, warfare or jihad.  If this doesn’t strike the listener as rank ethnocentrism and stereotyping, I don’t know what would.  

    I believe Mr. Lindh made his point that his son entered Afghanistan in Spring 2001, months before 9/11.  Okay.  He met with bin Laden presumably without receiving any advance knowledge of the 9/11 plot.  Okay. 

    Nonetheless, his son continued to associate and train with the Taliban militia. 
    Given the Taliban resume on human rights (surely young Mr. Lindh would have seen this directly on-the-ground), it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce this might not be the best method to engage in humanitarian work.

    Whether one thinks this is an act of sedition or not; whether one thinks any given Taliban militia should be imprisoned or not; Mr. Lindh took extraordinary steps, including military training, to pursue an agenda that remains incongruent.  

    As for apologies, one is never required…  but it does provide an opportunity to express a sense of contrition – and clarify his intentions and beliefs.  Maybe he’s holding his thoughts for a book deal when he’s finally released…?  

  • gail

    This interview was TERRIBLE. I’m still so angry.  Dave Iverson appeared as anything but interested in actually asking questions and understanding the truth.  Mr Lindh did a great job remaining calm in the face of Mr Iverson’s repeated insistence on his version of the story.  It left a bad taste in my mouth and I’ll avoid Dave’s interviews from now on.
    Mr Lindh, by contrast, seemed eloquent, calm, and based in truth.  He was constantly interrupted by Dave, who clearly had an agenda to put forth to the listeners.  I felt sorry for Mr Lindh the whole time and was impressed by both his ability to hold his stance and his calm demeanor.  I would have been furious.
    Next time Mr Iverson does an interview, perhaps he should remember that the point is to go in with an inquisitive position, not a condescending tone that seeks to prove his guest “wrong”. 

    • Ann

      Well stated!!

    • Strandwolf


  • LD

    Congratulations to Frank Lindt for keeping investigative reporting alive and providing useful information. And given that he is the father I was incredibly impressed on his ability to present measured argument that met the force of each question. As for Mr Iverson, I’m sure Hollywood is looking for more story tellers.

  • aguynamedben

    I also have no specific stance on John Walker Lindh, and I agree this interview was probably one of the worst interviews I’ve ever heard on NPR.  Dave Iverson, it’s simple, read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_war_in_Afghanistan and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghanistan#Taliban_Emirate_and_United_Front

    A few hours of reading Wikipedia (instead of MSNBC new articles…) would have saved Dave from a lot of embarrassment.  He reverberated xenophobic confusion of the Taliban’s involvement with terrorism, and neglected its ambiguous and controversial role as Afghanistan’s only real means of defense during the Soviet War in Afghanistan.

    Dave connected a lot of imaginary dots with little knowledge or respect for the complexity of what was going on.  Posturing that any solidier fighting as part of the Taliban at the time of the Soviet War in Afghanistan would have knowledge of US terror attacks by Osama Bin Laden is disingenuous.  Throw a few “jihad” and “martyr” quotes in there and you have yourself a complete fail.

    jihad != terror attack
    risk your life for innocent Afghans instead of Americans… who cares?
    postring the Taliban as “bad terrorist people” instead of “ambiguous and complex government of Afghanistan” = wrong

    -Ben Standefer

  • Alan Starlin Martin

    I am writing to take issue with Dave Iverson’s unfortunate treatment of Frank Lindh during the course of this morning’s Forum interview.
    As a father, Frank Lindh can be expected to protect and defend the character and rights of his son. By all accounts, he has a full command of the facts of his son’s activities in Afghanistan and of the resulting Lindh trial and conviction for violation of the economic sanctions placed on Afghanistan by the Clinton Administration in the mid- to late-90’s. Most listeners – and followers of this story – also have an awareness of the facts and, resultingly, a great measure of compassion – and forgiveness – for the young, naive man that John Walker Lindh was. His family – and, particularly, his father – are deserving of respect and admiration for the tireless defense of their progeny’s dignity and, yes, rights as an American citizen to fairness under the law.
    Conversely, Dave Iverson’s utter lack of understanding of the nuanced facts of John Walker Lindh’s story, his seeming absence of compassion and his glaring condescension toward Frank Lindh during the course of this morning’s interview perfectly represent our larger society’s misguided judgement of John Walker Lindh in the days following his arrest and in the months surrounding his trial and conviction; a judgement that clearly continues unabated to this day as evidenced by misinformed caller comments and Mr. Iverson’s irresponsible journalism and inhumane treatment of his guest, Frank Lindh.
    I miss Michael Krasney.

    Alan Starlin Martin
    San Francisco, California

    • Fred

      I don’t want to sound unamerican, but I am appalled about the lack of geographical knowledge, let alone political, about the world at large by the majority of americans. The host reeks of lack of education, objectivity, and journalistic standards. Also he obviously thinks the show is somehow above the law. Strange for a democracy so proud.

  • Ann

    This show was a perfect example of why we need to fight for fair and public access to the airwaves for all….and to keep the profession of journalism alive.  There are not enough paid reporters anymore and that leads to shoddy writing and incorrect information in reporting. The consolidation of news to a few large monopolies leads to a host like Dave Iverson not getting accurate information from published news sources.  It also leads to news “propaganda”.  The J W Lindh was definitely used as a tool to stir our anger @ the Taliban and to take the story away from the aid our own government had previously given to the Taliban. Thanks to Dave Iverson for keeping those “propaganda” flames burning.  

    • Jack

      Ann, you have a legitimate point. In this particular case, however, the host is a 30-year professional veteran of journalism. It only shows even a professional journalist could end up subscribing to powerful (Bush) government propaganda sweeping the nation. Paid journalists failed us regarding 9/11, Iraq invasion, Afghanistan, federal deficit, Medicare, etc. Individual blogs and online discussion we share like this are the only hope we have to keep the truth alive. I do not have hope for professional journalism, even one like PBS – not anymore. 

  • Alan Starlin Martin

    I am writing to take issue with Dave Iverson’s unfortunate treatment of Frank Lindh during the course of this morning’s Forum interview.
    As a father, Frank Lindh can be expected to protect and defend the character and rights of his son. By all accounts, he has a full command of the facts of his son’s activities in Afghanistan and of the resulting Lindh trial and conviction for violation of the economic sanctions placed on Afghanistan by the Clinton Administration in the mid- to late-90’s. Most listeners – and followers of this story – also have an awareness of the facts and, resultingly, a great measure of compassion – and forgiveness – for the young, naive man that John Walker Lindh was. His family – and, particularly, his father – are deserving of respect and admiration for the tireless defense of their progeny’s dignity and, yes, rights as an American citizen to fairness under the law.
    Conversely, Dave Iverson’s utter lack of understanding of the nuanced facts of John Walker Lindh’s story, his seeming absence of compassion and his glaring condescension toward Frank Lindh during the course of this morning’s interview perfectly represent our larger society’s misguided judgement of John Walker Lindh in the days following his arrest and in the months surrounding his trial and conviction; a judgement that clearly continues unabated to this day as evidenced by misinformed caller comments and Mr. Iverson’s irresponsible journalism and inhumane treatment of his guest, Frank Lindh.
    I miss Michael Krasney.

    Alan Starlin Martin
    San Francisco, California

    • Duane



      I would suggest you (and other listeners) review Mr. Lindh’s
      Op-Ed in the NY Times, which can be accessed here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/opinion/22lindh.html


      The piece raises as many questions as it answers, and in my
      opinion, shows Mr. Lindh’s pretzel logic as seen in the following excerpts:


      1) “Like Ernest Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War, John
      had volunteered for the army of a foreign government battling an
      insurgency.”  This is factually
      incorrect about Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Iverson should have cleared this up this
      red herring. 


      2) “There was nothing treasonous in John’s volunteering for
      the Afghan Army in the spring of 2001. He had no involvement with terrorism.”
      So Mr. Lindh, how is the death of bin Laden relevant to your son if he wasn’t
      assisting a terrorist organization / movement?!


      3) “But John’s case was never about evidence…. In fact, in a
      plea deal in October 2002, the government dropped its most serious accusations
      against John, including terrorism and conspiracy to kill Americans. John
      acknowledged only that he had aided the Taliban and carried weapons. For this,
      he accepted a term of 20 years’ imprisonment.”  Mr. Lindh, if the case lacked evidence, why would your son
      accept a plea deal for 20 years? 


      As an attorney, Mr. Lindh knows more than he’s willing to
      disclose. That’s his right.


      As a father, Mr. Lindh understandably doesn’t want to see
      his son wasting away in a prison. 
      But I think beyond appealing to emotion, he’s made a weak argument as to
      why his son should be a candidate for early release. 


      John Walker Lindh would be best served speaking in his own
      voice to explain why he should be released.  

      • Stuart

        There is a Court-sanctioned gag order that prevents him from making any public statements for the duration of his 20-year sentence. How could he explain his case in his voice?

        • Duane


          Was that unilateral, or part of the plea stipulation to which he agreed?  My other points stand in regard to his father’s representation(s) of Mr. Lindh’s position, namely, his father fails to make a cogent argument.  His plea is to emotion, pure and simple.  He’s entitled to that, but being as though he’s in the legal profession, I find it curious he’s not making a legal argument regarding his son serving his sentence.

          • Jack

            Duane, your lawyerly points are perhaps legitimate if we ignore the relevant context. His father is not his defense attorney. That he is a lawyer by profession is irrelevant here. He is now fighting for his son’s earlier release as a father in the court of public opinion. Yes, they took the plea bargain. But why did government offer it? Because he was “tortured,” and their evidence, mainly his confession, was going to be thrown out. His farther is only arguing that his sentence was too harsh because of the 9/11 hysteria. I actually thought he was making his plea too much like a lawyer instead of a father who loves his son no matter what. 

          • Care

            Duane, you are in the same category as the show host. The legal system should work his sentence out. At issue here is what the heck is NPR (KQED) doing here, this is the lowest kind of journalism I have seen in years. And I have seen a lot of it. I was not expecting this from a news source I thought was impartial and sharing information, not dealing justice or obviously biased opinion. 

      • denise

        Hemingway may not have served but many Americans did. The point is the same.

  • Ronnieboy25

    A tip of the hat to Dave Iverson for being going against the politically correct types that post here.  I think this was a rare show for Focus where the interviewer actually questioned some of the parsing that the Lindh’s father was trying to do to blur the obvious guilt of his treasonous son.  

    There is no logical reason why OBL’s death should change the sentence.  

  • Concerned Listener

    Dave Iverson did a superb job handling Franklin Lindh, who strenously objected to everything Dave said.  Franklin Lindh was his own worst enemy and was strident in his concern for insignificant details.  Franklin Lindh failed to get the “whole picture” and refused to engage in serious dialogue with Dave.  That Dave kept his “cool” was quit admirable.

    • Jack

      what is your “whole picture”? American businessmen who violate U.S. sanctions against countries like North Korea got only lightly warned although they could end up in jail for 20 years if the law is strictly enforced. 

    • Chrisco

      Umm, you must be listening in one of those alternate universes. Or perhaps an Iverson family member?

  • Steve

    Prior to 9/11 John expressed to his father his support for the Cole bombing.  UBL and Al Qaida claimed responsibility for the bombing.  It is preposterous that John knew nothing of UBL’s terrorist activities when John met UBL at his training camp in Afghanistan.

    Frank Lindh will apparently stoop to any level in order to rehabilitate his son’s image.

  • sruzin

    I was appalled by Dave Iverson’s repeated disregard for the facts. Frank Lindh fought admirably to present the truth about his son’s case, while Iverson was bent on hammering his own distorted interpretation. Not a very professional interview on Iverson’s part. 

  • Forum fan

    I read this article, by the American journalist who originally broke the story about John Walker Lindh, some years ago; it is quite enlightening. He claims that he told Lindh’s attorneys *not* to ask him to testify, as he would have ended up sending Lindh to prison:


    • Strandwolf

      …and one supposes that this would be part of the testimony: US Special Forces order Northern Alliance soldiers to pour diesel fuel into the basement and ignite it. [Newsweek, 12/1/2001]
      General Dostum’s men pour fuel down several air ducts, two of which
      lead into a room where John Walker Lindh is sitting, drenching him.
      Unable to walk, he has to crawl away from the air ducts. Some minutes
      later, the fuel is lit and fire spreads quickly throughout the basement.
      “People were being burned alive,” an eyewitness will recall. Lindh
      loses consciousness in the smoke-filled air, while Dostum’s soldiers
      fire rockets amidst the surviving Taliban.

    • Jack

      Forum Fan, we are not running another trial here. What this journalist wrote is irrelevant to our discussion. No one critical of how the show was handled here is saying that John Lindh is a saint wrongly imprisoned. Even his father is not saying it. His only plea is that government went after him so harshly and politically because of the 9/11 hysteria. We need our self-reflection on our own justice system and values even if the target person is called or indeed is a terrorist. We need to ask why we even have terrors against us even in the first place. From Taiban’s perspective, our military force against them is terror. U.S. government’s prosecution is fundamentally a politically selective action. We are asking if that political action against a young man including torture was indeed just and wise – besides its legal technicality – when government does not apply the same standard against the biggest known criminals, say, on the Wall Street?

      • Jeff Roll

        No Jack, this is not what is at stake here at all. This is about whether the journalist is placing himself before the information or not. If I didn’t care about that I would have myself tuned to Fox or any number of other news lampoons. I expect more form public radio, from NPR, and from KQED (nevermind the dissasociation of NPR with KQED in this case). Frankly I think the environment in news media is pushing young people into going beyond their ballpark. Competition, audience numbers, you name it.  Moreover the academia seems quite bent on producing cocky types which think the short term flash is better for them than a long term reputation. I can’t blame them. Its a societal issue. But even with that factored, you would expect some empathy at work with journalists. Empathy alone would have prevented this. Mind you not empathy for the taliban, the politics, the sentence, but decency towards a guest in the studio. Science shows NPR listeners are above the average in many indicators, in this show, they were treated as mules. Iverson should go and have some time to think about what was this all about. 

        • Jack

          Jeff, you’re right. No offense taken. 

  • Lucinda Weisbach

    This is ludicrous:

    From 2000 through 2004, Iverson was the executive director of Best Practices in Journalism.

    Way to go Dave. Way to go.

  • Chrisco

    And on the substance, I think calling him “peaceful” is off the mark. I mean, I don’t know if Islam has a peace corps, but I can’t believe the only way for a healthy young man to serve is by picking up arms and going to defend the Taliban. The Taliban! Public executions, blowing up the Buddha! And then to go and literally pick up arms to fight on this faction’s behalf and be described as peaceful? Maybe he was peaceful at 18 but by 20 he chose to become a warrior, or was brainwashed.

    But other than that, I think Mr. Lindh made many salient points and is really an expert on the facts of his case, even though he is an advocate, too.

  • fan of kqed

    This was a show that needed to be heard—both sides of the argument have validity. Thanks to KQED for airing it. I wish more people would donate to the station.

  • Catherine Potenza

    Dave Iverson does not listen. He interrupts, presses his own opinion and only feigns understanding another view than his own.  He is a debater, not an interviewer.  When the ombudsman asked him what he thinks, he merely said “interesting”.  He was not interviewed and treated the way he treated Frank
    Lindh. I think an accounting and apology is in order. 

  • KQED listener

    I thought Dave was just fine, pressing to a point but pulling back before it got too confrontational. What I don’t understand is how the death of bin Laden would have anything to do with Lindh’s release.

    • Gsilvio

      Sounds like you have the same incapacity to listen when people are talking as Mr Iverson, listen to the interview again, Lindh senior suggested his son was been scapegoated because the Bush administration could not find Bin Laden!!!

  • Robert

    The interview didn’t strike me as much different than any of the other ones Dave Iverson has conducted. I’m trying to figure out what all the hand wringing discussion is about, including the silly pseudo contrite one with the ombudsman was today (Thursday morning). Maybe they’re trying a new approach to get more listeners while Michael Krasny is on vacation. It worked.
    Walker was probably a scapegoat for the Bush administration who have far bigger crimes in their closet that will likely never go punished. Set this kid free. The prisons are overcrowded, after all.

  • Blabajer

    Sigh…. need to do your own homework Dave… Especially when you are broadcasting information to so many people.  Misinformation on such an important subject is incredibly irresponsible. 

  • PK

    First of all, I applaud KQED devoted 30 minutes of airtime to revisit this interview the next day with Mr Iverson and the Ombudsman spokeswoman (forgot her name).    However,  the end results of both interviews were not quite satisfying.   Having just listened to the original review again in its entirety  — I only heard bits and pieces of it when it was aired originally — I have the following observations about the original interview:

    1. Although Dave Iverson attempted to appear civil and cordial towards Frank Lindh, it was obvious to me that DI, from his perspective, believed that John Walker Lindh bears some responsibility of being involved with the ‘enemies’ that, among other things, killed 3000+ people on 9/11.   Despite what FL said repeatedly, it effectively didn’t really change DL’s view by an iota — it was made evident that toward the end of show, DL was reaching for an expression of contrition from FL and, by proxy, from JWL.

    2. FL didn’t really do a good job making his case on behalf of his son.  To me, FL was so bent on the ‘facts’, he failed to take into account how high emotions on the other side need more than just ‘facts’ to clear up exactly the intent and role of JWL played by joining the Talibon.

    To me, 9/11 was such a traumatic experience and JWL’s luck and timing were so terrible (for him), that once he is attached to Al-Queda (justly or not), emotions completely cloud the facts.

    What I’d really like to hear is an interview with JWL himself.   And by somebody that has less bias than DI — or at least someone better equipped to put aside his or her bias more effectively during the interview.  Ultimately, the guilt and punishment for JWL rest entirely on his state of mind and intent.    I don’t think the original interview really got anywhere close to exposing that.   I don’t think interviewing FL the father is the way to get to it (after all, FL is expected to be biased sine he loves his son).    

    In any case, given that the government dropped all the ‘terrorist’ charges against JWL in the end, I tend to believe that JWL was simply an idealistic young man who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.   He did become the scapegoat and conduit of the collective anger and angst of our nation.  Once that stigma sticks, it became difficult to make it unstuck.

  • E.

    I thought it was a great interview and I thought Dave did a great job overall as always.  Dave was courteous while seeking to delve deep, and I think his pressing of certain points such as whether or not there was a need for contrition enabled Mr. Lindh to be eloquent in his defense for his son.

    Great job Dave.  Keep up the good work.  I enjoy your interviews and will keep listening.

  • Joseph Malloy

    I thiught Iverson treated Frank Lindh horribly. Iverson just didn’t listen to the facts that Mr. Lindh presented, and displayed a complete unwillingness to understand what Lindh was saying. I have always believed that John Lindh was a victim of the national hysteria that was fanned by the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield machine. John was a victim, and we should be ashamed  at the way he has been treated.

    • S.

      So, you’re angry because the interview was incongruent with your own beliefs?

  • Duane

    From the outset, I think the Lindh story was impossible to
    tackle in a 30-minute segment. Whoever at KQED made that decision severely hamstrung the opportunity to
    illustrate the facts and explore the nuances. To Mr. Lindh’s interview, his NY
    Times Op-Ed thesis was that his son was a scapegoat, a surrogate captured in
    lieu of Osama bin Laden, who should therefore be granted freedom in light of
    bin Laden’s death. Ergo: my son wasn’t a terrorist; wasn’t convicted of being a
    terrorist; the terrorist was killed; my son should go free. This appeal
    doesn’t ring true. Would he have been prosecuted if bin Laden was captured or
    killed at Tora Bora? We’ll never
    know, but I suspect the answer is yes.  Look, there are a lot of naïve 18-20
    year-old males who take up arms, engage in various types of illegal activities,
    are caught, prosecuted and serve time in prison. Most come from some degree of
    impoverishment. However, this is not about an impoverished kid who lacked
    access to education, health care or other resources – quite the opposite. One
    thing is for certain – we likely wouldn’t be having this conversation if the American
    military hadn’t extracted him from the Afghan warlords’ prison. 

    • Jack

      Duane, I looked at it with a more compassionate perspective partly because I am a liberal who still cannot forgive Bush (and also because I am a father who has a son). You had a more skeptical view but with a very respectable logic and analysis. I agree that a 30-minute session was too short to address this sensitive and perhaps difficult topic. 

  • utera

    Bit disturbed that michael krasney got in trouble just because a few vocal listeners weren’t happy he wasn’t just taking john walker lindhs fathers playing with semantics sitting down. Like it or not whatever they are classified for political reasons or not the taliban are the ideological enemies of reason and the west, and his stupid child decided it was right to fall in league with these people and further their horrible cause.  He should pay a price, the taliban have worked to enable and enact acts of terror and attacks on our troops, as far as I’m concerned he is a traitor.

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