NEW YORK (AP) – A former news reporter and press secretary for four members of Congress was charged Thursday with being a paid Iraqi intelligence agent and trying to contact her distant cousin – the White House chief of staff – to alter U.S. policy.

Susan Lindauer, 41, was taken into custody in her hometown of Takoma Park, Md., and made a brief court appearance in Baltimore, where a federal magistrate ordered a psychiatric evaluation and released her to a halfway house, pending the posting of $500,000 bail.

“I’m an anti-war 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 everyone else said it was impossible.”

She was charged with conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of the Iraqi Intelligence Service and with engaging in prohibited financial transactions with the Iraqi government.

According to the indictment, Lindauer delivered a letter “to the home of a United States government official” on Jan. 8, 2003, in which she described her access to members of dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime “in an unsuccessful attempt to influence United States policy.”

The U.S. official was not identified.

But a government official, speaking on condition on anonymity, said the recipient of the letter was White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, a distant cousin of Lindauer.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the last time Card recalls seeing or talking to Lindauer was during January 2001 inaugural events. McClellan said the FBI interviewed Card about his contact with Lindauer and that Card cooperated fully.

Card told the FBI that Lindauer had tried to contact him on behalf of the former regime several times.

The indictment did not specify a motive.

The Iraqi Intelligence Service is the foreign intelligence arm of the government of Iraq that has allegedly played a role in terrorist operations, including an assassination attempt against former President Bush.

The U.S. government said the agency also was involved in bombings during the first Gulf War and has intimidated and killed Iraqi defectors and dissidents living abroad.

The arrest came as a surprise in Washington, where Lindauer had a long history as a journalist and a political aide.

She worked at Fortune, U.S. News & World Report and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before going into politics. Her father, John, was the Republican nominee for governor of Alaska in 1998.

She worked for Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., in 1993 and Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in 1994. She joined the office of Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., as press secretary in 1996. In 2002, she worked for Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

Lofgren said she was shocked.

“To my knowledge, this former employee had no access to sensitive information. Obviously, I had no reason to think that she was involved in this alleged activity,” the lawmaker said in a statement.

Lofgren said she had no contact with Lindauer after a two-month work stint ended in May 2002.

The indictment stems from a series of encounters and exchanges in recent years.

The government said Lindauer returned in March 2002 from a trip to Iraq with $5,000 in cash received from Iraqis agents, breaking a law prohibiting transactions with a government that sponsors terrorism.

Lindauer’s work allegedly continued through last month, when she maintained contact with an FBI agent posing as a Libyan intelligence service operative who wanted to support resistance groups in postwar Iraq.

The indictment said she met the agent last July in Baltimore, “and discussed the need for plans and foreign resources to support resistance groups operating within Iraq.” Acting on the agent’s orders, Lindauer left documents at a spot in Takoma Park last August, the indictment said.

Lindauer’s father owned newspapers in Alaska. After his defeat in the governor’s race, he pleaded no contest to two charges related to his campaign finances. He received probation and a fine.

Associated Press Writers Derrill Holly in Takoma Park, Md.; Wiley Hall in Baltimore; and Scott Lindlaw in Washington, D.C., contributed to this story.

AP-ES-03-11-04 2009EST

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