Crazy Times

When a government uses psychiatrists to lock up dissidents you really have turned a corner towards Stalinism. But this is not a charge one would wish to make lightly. And, of course, people with psychiatric problems would say that there’s a big conspiracy against them, wouldn’t they?

So here’s another item I would have dismissed as clearly ridiculous five years ago. Now, well, one’s first reaction is doubt: could it be true? Have we sunk so low? For starters, I remember this story — Soldier Who Reported Abuse Was Sent to Psychiatrist, so as far as I’m concerned, this gang’s track record in the area of abusive psychiatry is not so good. And we won’t even talk about the mis-use of psychologists and/or psychiatrists at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and in other military prisons.

So what to make of this story about Susan Lindauer?

The Arctic Beacon: … Lindauer, 42, the cousin of former White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card, was released in September from a New York correctional facility after spending a year in jail … after Federal Judge D.J. Mukasey of the U.S. District Court, S.D. New York, ruled against the government’s motion to keep Lindauer locked away under forced medication, saying “there is simply not enough here to warrant a finding by clear and convincing evidence that Lindauer is substantially likely to be rendered competent by forced medication and substantially unlikely to suffer effects that will impinge upon a fair trial.

The ‘Arctic Beacon’ — whatever that is — reports that Ms. Lindauer made the following statement:

I was accused of acting as an Iraqi Agent for the purposes of lobbying against the War, (not spying). I am a Democrat. My cousin, Andy Card, is the former Chief of Staff to President Bush. A year ago, the Court ordered me to surrender to Carswell Prison, which sits on a military base outside of Fort Worth, Texas– one of the most god-awful places I’ve ever imagined in my life. Truly sadistic staff. Very ugly people.

There I was declared incompetent to stand trial. Please note that I was denied the most basic right to a Competency Hearing, where I could have called long-time friends and associates to testify in my defense.

Since they had no behavioral evidence, or witness testimony from friends and family to support their request for forcible drugging, they told the court that I am “secretly delusional.” Nobody knows about it, they said– not even the court-ordered psychologist in Maryland, whom I was required to see for 18 months after my arrest. (He had no idea).

They pointed to fiction writing, and old religious writings that I had used in my approach to Libya, when we were trying to start negotiations for the Lockerbie Trial in the mid-1990s. Much of that was more than 10 years old. Moreover, they had plucked paragraphs, and spliced my writing all to hell, so that it does not even read like the originals.

That’s forensic psychiatry for you, folks! it’s a scary business, apparently lacking much in the way of integrity. As “Dr.” Vas told me at Carswell. “I’m going to tell the Judge you made it all up. And who do you think he’s going to believe– you or me? I am a doctor.”

Yes, truly frightening.

Thankfully, the Judge ruled against the Prosecution last week. I was released after serving 11 months in prison. But who can say if it’s really over? For all I know, the Prosecutor is planning a new line of attack right now.

But guess what? It turns out that the claim Ms. Lindauer has delusions seems to have some real foundations, at least if From ‘Spy’ to Psychotic in the Seattle Weekly can be believed. Ms. Lindauer’s belief that the government was spying on turned out to have a basis in reality — the FBI was after her. But Ms. Lindauer’s arrest wasn’t for dissidence so much as for taking some money from the Iraqi government and playing along with an agent posing as a foreign spy — although, given her general irrelevance, it’s unclear if she actually did or even could have done the sort of things she’s charged with doing or attempting, nor is it certain what she thought she was doing.

So while the Judge’s decision releasing Ms. Lindauer is real, and it’s always possible the reporter from the Seattle paper got snookered, I’d have to say that much in Ms. Lindauer’s statement has the look of tinfoil. Which is a relief.

But I sure do miss the days when I could say that sort of thing confidently without checking first.

[timestamp corrected]

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