For his part, Pelton insisted, "I have never had any connection with any U.S. government agency." Rather than trying to incriminate Lindh, he said, he only wanted to make sure the American received medical care and that he wouldn't be killed. He suggests the tape has been misused by prosecutors whose case against Lindh relies heavily on TV interviews, instead of facts provided by firsthand sources. Instead of using the CNN interview to turn Lindh into a convenient "symbol of hatred," Pelton said, the Bush administration should be focusing on Saudi and Egyptian terrorist suspects currently at large in America.
But Pelton doesn't just blame the government. He said the pundits (including certain guests on Larry King Live and myself) have twisted the facts of the case, using it for target practice, while Lindh has done nothing but tell the truth so far.
Pelton said he shares Lindh's devotion to the truth."I'm not a journalist," he said, "and I have no interest in sensationalized stories. What I do is meet with combatants on each side, try to understand why they're doing what they're doing, and let the readers make up their own minds." He said that initially, he was glad CNN "was running a raw, gritty tape and trying to get some insight" into Lindh, because "as long as we demonize the phenomenon of young jihadis, they're going to be angry and do violent, irrational things."
Of course, these questions may soon be moot. If prosecutors can get other prisoners to testify, they may never formally introduce the CNN interview into evidence, in which case the defense will never have an opportunity to investigate its provenance. If that happens, the government and CNN will once again come out aheadand Lindh will once again be the loser.