John Walker, US citizen, killed by
Video shows CIA threatened to let prisoner be killed
War on terrorism
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington
08 December 2001
Video evidence has emerged that CIA operatives were threatening Taliban prisoners they
would be left to die if they did not co-operate under interrogation.
In an exchange captured on video by an Afghan cameraman, two officers threatened the
American Taliban fighter John Walker, who was being held at a prison fortress near the
northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif two weeks ago. One of the officers is Mike Spann, a member
of the special activities division of the agency's directorate of operations the
paramilitary wing of the agency's secret espionage branch who was killed in an
uprising at the prison only hours later. Nearly 400 Taliban prisoners were also killed as
the uprising was put down.
The precise nature of the threat raised by Mr Spann and a CIA colleague called
Dave is unclear, but on the video Mr Spann, 32, wearing jeans and a black jumper
and with an AK47 assault rifle strapped across his back, is seen nodding towards Mr
Walker, 20, and then saying to Dave: "I explained to him what the deal is". The
video shows Mr Walker kneeling on the ground, emaciated, filthy, wearing loose black
trousers and a tunic, with his elbows tied behind his back, and cowering as Mr Spann
remonstrates with him. Mr Walker stares at the ground throughout.
"Dave" then replies: "The problem is, he's got to decide if he wants to
live or die. If he wants to die, he's going to die here. Or he's going to f****** spend
the rest of his short f****** life in prison. It's his decision, man.
"We can only help the guys who want to talk to us. We can only get the Red Cross
to help so many guys."
The mention of the Red Cross appears to be a reference to a representative of the
international charity who was trying to register the thousands of Taliban and al-Qa'ida
fighters in the prison.
Later Mr Spann is heard to say to Mr Walker: "They [the 11 September hijackers]
killed other Muslims. There were several hundred other Muslims killed in the bombing. Are
you going to talk to us?" When there is no reply, "Dave" says to Mr Spann:
"This guy got his chance. He got his chance."
Within hours of the encounter, hundreds of prisoners launched an uprising in which they
seized guns and other weapons from their Northern Alliance guards. In the initial fighting
Mr Spann was killed, while "Dave" fought his way out, shooting dead several
The exchange on the video raises the prospect that the prisoners revolted because they
feared they could be killed if they did not co-operate with the coalition forces. Mr
Walker was one of the few who survived the uprising. He was taken into custody by US
The uprising was put down by a combination of Northern Alliance fighters and American
air strikes called in by US and British special forces soldiers who were at the prison
acting as advisers and interrogating prisoners. Hundreds of Taliban fighters were killed
by the air strikes, whose use has been questioned by human rights groups. They have called
for a full inquiry into the massacre.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for Amnesty International said: "[The threats] are very
disturbing. The CIA operatives should be fully aware of the international law and that
they cannot execute prisoners. It just shows more than ever the need for a full inquiry
into what took place and that the US, UK and United Front governments cannot push the
matter under the carpet."
Kenneth Ross, the executive director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch group,
said that under international law the threat could amount to torture.
"International law is absolutely clear that any prisoner is entitled to humane
treatment and cannot be summarily executed. It's not clear what the CIA man was
threatening but if he was threatening to leave him to rot to death it would be utterly
inappropriate. Threat of execution is a form of severe treatment, if not torture."
Ari Fleischer, President George Bush's spokesman, said that America had not yet decided
what should happen to Mr Walker, who some people accuse of treason. He said the Department
of Defence was investigating the case.
The CIA said it was not ready to comment on the behaviour of its operatives on the
Saturday December 08 07:39 PM EST
Walker Talking After Move to U.S. Base
The American who fought alongside Taliban forces has been moved to a U.S.
military base in southern Afghanistan for his own protection.
John Walker Lindh, the American who fought alongside Taliban forces, has
been moved to a U.S. military base in southern Afghanistan and has begun to
cooperate with authorities, officials say.
"John Walker is being held here for his own protection, and he'll be
transferred to U.S. civilian authorities as soon as possible," said Marine
Capt. Dave Bromley, an official at the American base, known as Camp Rhino.
Pentagon officials tell ABCNEWS Walker has begun to provide information to
American interrogators. Walker had refused to speak two weeks ago, when
interrogated on camera by American CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann,
shortly before Spann was killed in a revolt by Walker's fellow prisoners.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said officials are pleased with
Walker's about face.
"We also have an interest in learning as much as we can from him about the
organization he was working with," Wolfowitz said. "He has already told us
quite a bit and that is very helpful."
Walker's move to Camp Rhino comes as U.S. authorities attempt to categorize
Walker and determine how they will treat his case.
Walker, 20, was captured with other Taliban fighters near the northern
Afghan city of Kunduz, and was among prisoners who revolted violently for
three days at a detention facility near Mazar-e-Sharif.
Pentagon officials said Friday Walker is a "battlefield detainee," rather
than a prisoner of war. And Justice Department officials explored what types
of criminal charges Walker or others in his situation might face.
The officials laid out several criminal charges that could be used against
Walker, including treason, conspiracy, providing material support to
terrorists or the murder of a U.S. agent. Officials stressed that these
charges ultimately could apply to any American found to be aiding the
Taliban or al Qaeda.
Observers believe the key to Walker's fate depends on what he did in
Afghanistan. If Walker was involved in Spann's death, he could face a murder
charge in federal court. However, some legal analysts say charging him with
treason could be difficult because there's been no American declaration of
"Mr. Walker's current legal situation can best be characterized as uncharted
waters," said Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military
Justice. "He's in a kind of legal no-man's land."
Military sources could not even provide an exact definition of "battlefield
detainee" - a classification without historical precedent - but said Walker
will be accorded rights of protection, food, clothing and medical attention
under the Geneva Convention.
However, it was not clear if the military would allow Walker access to a
lawyer, or whether the media would get access to Walker. The military can
deny press access to prisoners of war, but not to other prisoners.
Walker's attorney, James J. Brosnahan, said Friday in a statement that he
and Walker's parents had not heard from the government on their request for
information on Walker's condition and permission to visit him.
"John's parents and I will go anywhere to visit him," the statement said.
"Thus far, John's parents have received no official word as to John's
physical health, mental state or even his whereabouts. All they know about
John's condition is what they have seen on television or read in the
"Like any parents would be in their situation, John's parents are
desperately worried about their son."
Tale of Two Americans
An Afghan cameraman caught the meeting between Spann and Walker in Kala
Jangi, a prison compound near Mazar-e-Sharif. The extraordinary footage was
first broadcast in the United States by ABCNEWS and CBS News.
On the edited tape, Walker, his elbows tied behind his back and his hair
pulled back from his face, is interrogated in English and apparently another
language by Spann and another man, referred to as "Dave," but Walker does
At one point on the tape, Dave talks to Spann in English within earshot of
"The problem is, he's got to decide if he wants to live or die," Dave says
on the tape. "If he wants to die, he's going to die here. Or he's going to .
spend the rest of his . life in prison. It's his decision, man. We can only
help the guys who want to talk to us. We can only get the Red Cross to help
so many guys."
Spann then tries to appeal to Walker's compassion for other Muslims,
reminding him of the cost of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"They killed other Muslims," Spann says. "There were several hundred other
Muslims killed in the bombing. Are you going to talk to us?"
Walker refuses to answer.
Shortly after the video was shot, the riot began. Prisoners rushed their
guards, and grabbed their rifles and grenades. It took three days and U.S.
airstrikes to finally put down the revolt.
Spann was beaten and shot dead by the prisoners.
Walker was shot in both legs but survived. He was among the prisoners who