As a 32 year old former US Department of Justice ethics adviser, Jesselyn Radack spent three years telling other government lawyers how to stay out of trouble. But since her objection to government tactics over John Walker Lindh, she’s in the midst of a personal and professional cauldron.

Since her objections to the Lindh case she’s lost two jobs — pushed out of her Justice post and then fired from the firm that had taken her in — and now finds herself unemployed and in limbo. Her personal challenges are daunting: under criminal investigation, ailing from multiple sclerosis, and expecting a third child in January.

But far from singing the victim’s song, Radack appears composed and stalwart, telling her story with short, chopping hand strokes and near-encyclopedic recall.

And her story grows more ominous as new details emerge about how far the government will go in pursuit of one of its own.

Radack’s troubles began in December 2001. She was working in the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office, a special branch created by the department in 1999 to advise on potential ethics conflicts. The government in Afghanistan had just captured Lindh, the “American Taliban.”

In a series of e-mails, Radack advised John De Pue, a counterterrorism prosecutor, that since Lindh’s father had hired James Brosnahan of Morrison & Foerster, she didn’t think the Federal Bureau of Investigation could question Lindh alone. Others at Justice disagreed, and Lindh’s statements became the basis of a 10-count indictment.

When Radack argued that her e-mails should be disclosed to the judge hearing Lindh’s case, she and her bosses ended up at odds. In April 2002 Radack quit the Justice Department and joined the D.C. branch of New York’s Hawkins, Delafield & Wood.

Two months later her e-mails showed up in a story by Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff. And about two weeks after that, she got a call from Ronald Powell, a special agent for the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General. And that’s when her troubles started.

Radack says she felt Powell became antagonistic, trying to pin her down on the specifics of her contacts with the reporter.

Radack hired Frederick Robinson, a partner in the Washington office of Fulbright & Jaworski. That’s when Powell put on the squeeze. In mid-August, four weeks after the Lindh case settled in a plea agreement, Powell called Hawkins’ offices and began questioning staff and lawyers, saying Radack was under criminal investigation. Powell wanted the firm to turn over Radack’s phone, fax and e-mail records.

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