WASHINGTON — A former journalist and legislative aide with connections to the White House and Congress was arrested Thursday, accused of trying to influence U.S. policy as a paid agent of Saddam Hussein's intelligence services.
Susan Lindauer, 41, was arrested at her home in the Washington suburb of Takoma Park, Md. She was held on $500,000 bond pending her arraignment Monday in New York.
A federal grand jury indictment alleges that Lindauer provided the Hussein regime with information on Iraqis living in the United States and that she tried to contact an unnamed American official last year "in an unsuccessful attempt to influence United States foreign policy" before the Iraq war.
The 11-count indictment provides a glimpse into the workings of Iraqi intelligence in the U.S. but does not accuse Lindauer of turning over any secrets. She traveled to Baghdad in 2002 and accepted about $10,000 from Iraq for her services, the document said.
"I'm an antiwar 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 everybody else said it was impossible."
A cousin of White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., Lindauer also worked on the staffs of four congressional Democrats, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). Political sources in Washington and Anchorage said that her father was John Lindauer, an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Alaska in 1998. He could not be reached for comment.
"It's a very sad personal incident involving a distant relative of Secretary Card," said White House spokesman Trent Duffy (Card served as Secretary of Transportation under former President Bush). "The last time he recalls seeing or talking with her was during the 2001 inauguration."
Lindauer subsequently made "various attempts" to contact Card, all of which he reported to "appropriate officials," Duffy said. Associated Press, citing government sources, reported that Card was the unnamed official referred to in the indictment. Lindauer allegedly delivered a letter to the official's home on Jan. 8, 2003.
According to the indictment, Lindauer began working for the Iraqis in October 1999 after meeting with an intelligence agent in Manhattan. Also known as "Symbol Susan," she was to provide information on Iraqi dissidents and emigres in the U.S. In 2002, she spent about two weeks in Baghdad as a guest of Iraqi intelligence.
Her career as an operative began to unravel last summer, after she met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Libyan spy. They discussed "the need for plans and foreign resources to support resistance groups operating within Iraq," the indictment said. Lindauer allegedly left documents at prearranged locations for the supposed Libyan agent and kept in touch by e-mail until recently.
She was charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Iraqi government and violating restrictions on travel and financial dealings with Iraq. If convicted, she could face as much as 10 years in prison on the most serious count.
Most of her congressional and media jobs in Washington were short-lived, lasting a year or less. She seemed to hover about the edges of the capital's political and journalism circles.
Lofgren said in a statement that Lindauer was her press secretary from March to May 2002. "To my knowledge, this former employee had no access to sensitive information," Lofgren said. "If there is any way I can assist with the investigation, I will happily do so."
Lindauer served as a press staffer for Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), then Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) when Wyden was a member of the House.
As a journalist, Lindauer was employed as a researcher for U.S. News & World Report and as an editorial writer at the Herald in Everett in Washington state. She also worked for Fortune magazine and for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
"We haven't really found anybody who has got a deep recollection of her," said Richard Folkers, a spokesman for U.S. News, where Lindauer worked from September 1990 to August 1991. "That's a long time ago in this part of the world."
According to the 1994 Congressional Staff Directory, Lindauer was a graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and the London School of Economics. She listed her interests as hiking, museums, travel, antiquing and reading novels.
Lindauer's father published several small newspapers in Alaska and served as chancellor of the University of Alaska. After his losing bid for the governorship, he pleaded no contest to campaign finance violations. He received a one-year suspended sentence, agreed not to run for political office again in the state, and had to publicly apologize for his actions.
Times staff writer Jon Marino in Baltimore contributed to this report.