WVU grad key in war on terrorism

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – As a law school student at West Virginia University in the late 1980s, Anne Asbury would never have envisioned she would someday be on the frontlines of one of the biggest battles America has ever fought: the war on terrorism.

In the thick of it. Now an agent with the FBI in Washington, D.C., Asbury finds herself involved in perhaps the most intense and far-reaching investigation ever undertaken by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Her assignment: counter-terrorism and the investigation of John Walker Lindh, the California native accused of conspiring to kill Americans as a member of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Despite the high profile mission, the Huntington native has not forgotten where she came from.

Her background. Asbury, 37, graduated from Barboursville High School in 1982, and earned an undergraduate degree in political science and a minor in criminal justice in 1986 from Marshall University. She enrolled that fall at the WVU College of Law.

Just before beginning her final year of law school, Asbury joined the Navy in hopes of becoming a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.

After graduation in 1989, she attended officer’s training school before returning to West Virginia to study for and take the bar exam.

While temporarily assigned to the Naval Legal Service Office in Norfolk, Va., she learned she had failed the exam. After stints at a local surf shop and a Norfolk law firm doing research, she applied for a job with the FBI.

Hired by FBI. Four months later, Asbury was accepted by the Bureau, and in January 1991, began New Agent’s class in Quantico, Va.

After graduating from FBI training, her first assignment was in Philadelphia working white collar crimes, drug arrests and bank robberies.

In April 1997, Asbury was temporarily assigned to Washington, D.C., to investigate campaign financing activities during previous presidential elections.

In November of that year, she was transferred to the FBI’s Washington Field Office and assigned to the National Security Division, counter-terrorism branch.

Much of her work involved events surrounding the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassy in East Africa. Then came Sept. 11, 2001.

First-hand account. “I was actually driving by the Pentagon when the plane hit,” Asbury said. “I, along with some other FBI agents, assisted in traffic control and listened as the local police announced over a loudspeaker to motorists that another plane was headed for Washington. To say the least, it was very surreal.”

When Asbury finally reached her office on that unforgettable day, a command post had already been set up and people were in action. Her role in counter-terrorism had taken on a new, much more significant meaning.

New duties. Since Sept. 11, Asbury’s duties have taken her to Afghanistan as one of the lead investigators in the United States’ case against Walker Lindh.

It was Asbury’s affidavit that was filed in federal court in support of the criminal complaint and an arrest warrant against Lindh.

The U.S. military took the 20-year-old into custody last December after a bloody prison uprising in northern Afghanistan. Walker Lindh made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Virginia in January.

Among the charges against him: providing material support or resources to terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda; engaging in a conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad; and engaging in transactions with the Taliban. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment.

Once in a lifetime. While she can’t discuss specifics of the case, Asbury says “being a part of this investigation, to include the Lindh case, has been emotional, educational and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Like so many others, Asbury says her life will forever be changed by the events of Sept. 11.

“I don’t think anyone in law enforcement, especially in counter-terrorism, will ever look at their job in the same way,” she said.

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