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Lawyers threaten lawsuit to block 'American Taliban' book

By The Associated Press

03.20.02

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SAN FRANCISCO — Lawyers for John Walker Lindh have sought to block publication of a book about his life, calling it "grossly and outrageously false and defamatory."

"Publication would be at your peril," Attorney George Harris wrote in a letter faxed to the book's publisher, San Jose-based University Press.

Copies of the legal threat were sent to Amazon.com, Borders Inc. and Barnes & Noble, all of which were still taking orders March 15 for John Walker Lindh: American Taliban.

"They might not like it but I don't think there is anything they can sue us for," said the publisher, Rhawn Joseph.

Lindh, 21, who spent his teen-age years in Marin County, is awaiting trial in Virginia on charges he conspired to kill Americans abroad by aiding terrorists in Afghanistan.

A pre-publication copy sent to the Associated Press appears to be a compilation of unattributed quotes and information two authors took from news reports and government case documents, with significant editorializing, little sourcing and no footnotes.

"It's not hard cold facts," Joseph said. "It is more like circumstantial evidence."

Joseph declined to provide résumés or biographical information for the two authors, who he claims did some investigative reporting. He said he had offered Lindh's lawyers an opportunity to add 50 unedited pages to the manuscript.

Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith said pre-orders for the $14.95 book rank it in the top 5,000 books sold on the Web site.

"We go by whatever the courts determine," Smith said. "The threat of litigation is no reason to take off a book."

Joseph said the book was expected to be published next week.

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