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Pentagon Says Walker is Providing Useful Information

Aired December 9, 2001 - 17:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: He fought with the Taliban, but today officials say that John Walker is providing some useful information to the U.S. Authorities took the 20-year-old into custody following a prison uprising in Mazar-e Sharif. Now detained in Afghanistan, Walker waits to hear what his future will hold. Here is CNN's Kathleen Koch with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Walker is the sole detainee at the Marine base in Afghanistan, an American held by Americans. Military officials say the 20-year-old that fought with the Taliban and surrendered has been reasonably cooperative and talkative.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: I know when he was first interviewed he told us quite a bit that was of some value.

KOCH: Walker told reporters last week he had attended two of Osama bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan. How vigorously he's prosecuted may depend on how much he tells investigators.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHMN. JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: All that will be taken into consideration. Right now he is a detainee.

KOCH: Senior Pentagon sources tell CNN, Walker will likely be turned over to the U.S. Justice Department. Six charges from conspiracy to treason or murder could potentially be brought against him with penalties ranging from imprisonment to death. A new "Newsweek" poll shows 41 percent of Americans believe Walker should be charged and tried; 40 percent say he should be only if there is evidence, and only 3 percent want him released.

Lawmakers debated whether taking up arms with the Taliban makes Walker a traitor.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: If I had to make the decision now on the evidence I have, I would at least put him in the slammer for a long, long time.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That fits the definition of treason. And so, yet at the same time he is 20 years old, probably brainwashed. SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MO), MINORITY LEADER: With the knowledge that Americans were involved in what happened there, if he continued to participate with these people, and with the things they were doing, that's pretty treacherous and treasonous in my opinion.

KOCH: But defense attorneys point out, treason is generally difficult to prove, and this case is no exception.

JOHN ZWERLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He was taken along with his group back to Afghanistan to support the Taliban. When that happened, we don't know. Did he have much choice in the matter at that point, we don't know.

KOCH (on camera): For now, Walker remains in military hands, but his case is so high profile, that the Pentagon, the Justice Department, and even the White House may weigh in on how to proceed.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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