STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

John Walker Lindh, the man convicted of serving in Taliban army, released from prison

John Walker Lindh, the young Californian who became known as the American Taliban after he was captured by U.S. forces in the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, was realeased after nearly two decades in prison.

Posted: May 22, 2019 12:19 PM
Updated: May 23, 2019 12:12 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - The California man who became known as the “American Taliban” after his battlefield capture in Afghanistan in 2001 was freed early from his federal sentence on Thursday, despite official concerns that he retains a radical ideology and still poses a risk to U.S. interests.

John Walker Lindh, now 38, was released Thursday from the federal prison in Terre Haute under a series of post-release restrictions recently imposed by a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia. He served more than 17 years after pleading guilty to providing support to the Taliban. The plea deal called for a 20-year sentence, but Lindh got out early for good behavior.

His early release was opposed by the family of Mike Spann, who was killed during an uprising of Taliban prisoners shortly after interrogating Lindh in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it “unexplainable and unconscionable” in a Fox and Friends interview, and called for a review of the prison system’s early release policies.

Concerns that Lindh still harbors radical ideology prompted a judge to impose additional restrictions on Lindh’s post-release supervision. Lindh eventually acquiesced to the restrictions, which include monitoring software on his internet devices; requiring that his online communications be conducted in English and that he undergo mental health counseling; and forbidding him from possessing or viewing extremist material, holding a passport of any kind or leaving the U.S.

Wabash Valley residents say they were also concerned about Lindh's release.

"Actually, I think it's kind of pathetic, with us uh, with his organization he belongs to. The Taliban...I think he probably should have maybe done a little time down at Gitmo after he left here," Prairieton resident Tom Moore said.

"I just live down the road. What's he gonna do when he gets out? Is he gonna do the same thing? He knows how to make bombs, maybe the next time it might be worse than he did this time," Harold Poulter, another Prairieton resident told us.

Probation officers never explained why they sought the restrictions but it is clear that authorities retain misgivings about Lindh. In 2017, Foreign Policy magazine cited a National Counterterrorism Center report that Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.”

On Wednesday, NBC reported that Lindh, in a letter to a producer from Los Angeles-based affiliate KNBC, wrote in 2015 that the Islamic State is “doing a spectacular job” and “is clearly very sincere and serious about fulfilling the long-neglected religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle.”

Lindh converted to Islam as a teenager after seeing the film “Malcolm X,” and went overseas to study Arabic and the Quran. In November 2000, he went to Pakistan and from there made his way to Afghanistan and joined the Taliban. He met Osama bin Laden and was with the Taliban on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Lindh was captured in a battle with U.S.-allied Northern Alliance fighters in late 2001. He was present when a group of Taliban prisoners launched an attack that killed Spann.

Alison Spann, now a journalist in Alabama, posted a letter on her Twitter page that she said she had sent to President Donald Trump. In it, she called Lindh’s early release “a slap in the face” to everyone killed on Sept. 11, 2001 and since then in the terror wars, all their loved ones, and “to the millions of Muslims worldwide who don’t support radical extremists.”

Lindh was initially charged with conspiring to kill Spann as well as providing support to terrorists. He denied any role in Spann’s death, and eventually pleaded guilty to illegally providing support to the Taliban. He ultimately served 17 years and five months, including the two months he spent in military detention. Federal inmates who exhibit good behavior typically serve 85 percent of their sentence.

Mike Spann’s mother, Gail Spann, once said that Lindh could have saved her son’s life had he warned him about the looming prisoner revolt, but “chose not to because he was a Taliban.”

“He’s a traitor to our country. He could have had an opportunity to save a great man that actually saved a lot of lives that day,” she said.

Republican Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan also expressed concern, in a letter last week to the Bureau of Prisons.

“We must consider the security and safety implications for our citizens and communities who will receive individuals like John Walker Lindh who continue to openly call for extremist violence,” they wrote.

The bureau defended itself Thursday in a statement that said Lindh’s release followed federal laws and guidelines. It said the bureau doesn’t discuss specific inmate release plans. But in general, it said the bureau works closely with outside agencies “to reduce the risk terrorist offenders pose inside and outside of prisons,” and said that no radicalized inmate has returned to federal prison for terrorism-related charges.

___

Barakat reported from Falls Church, Va. Contributors include Associated Press writers Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, and Kimberly Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama.

Terre Haute
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 41°
Robinson
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 45°
Indianapolis/Eagle Creek
Clear
42° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: °
Paris
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 40°
Mattoon/Charleston
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 41°
Terre Haute
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 41°
Terre Haute
Clear
45° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 41°
A Clear Night
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

All You Need to Know for Tuesday

Image

Severe Weather Preparedness Week for Illinois

Image

Rise in cases of child abuse and neglect

Image

Tuesday: Mostly sunny, cool. High: 47

Image

Two women facing charges in Capitol violence appear virtually for court

Image

Offering women the much needed care they deserve

Image

House passes stimulus bill

Image

Overnight: Clear and cold. Low: 22°

Image

Recent Trends in the Local Real Estate Market

Image

Dangers at Wallace Ave.

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1187757

Reported Deaths: 22759
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook4748859369
DuPage768711196
Will65092894
Lake59589923
Kane50800717
Winnebago28351440
Madison28026455
St. Clair25497467
McHenry24336265
Champaign18115126
Peoria16906262
Sangamon16152218
McLean14621157
Tazewell13538240
Rock Island13069286
Kankakee12502189
Kendall1107786
LaSalle10810219
Macon9461185
Vermilion8568116
DeKalb8276112
Adams8006114
Williamson6800121
Whiteside5930147
Boone592671
Clinton557189
Coles520391
Grundy512563
Ogle502173
Knox5018132
Jackson461160
Effingham449469
Macoupin435279
Henry433057
Marion4262111
Livingston420677
Franklin414666
Stephenson409875
Monroe406683
Jefferson3980115
Randolph396378
Woodford367960
Morgan358876
Montgomery350068
Lee335343
Logan330953
Bureau330873
Christian330568
Fayette306452
Perry305857
Fulton285344
Iroquois277161
Jersey249646
Douglas245033
McDonough232840
Lawrence230024
Saline229847
Union218537
Shelby214034
Crawford200723
Bond191024
Cass189022
Pike169250
Clark168630
Wayne167448
Hancock167229
Warren166444
Richland163538
White160925
Jo Daviess160522
Ford158745
Washington158423
Carroll157634
Edgar154337
Moultrie149424
Clay142941
Greene137932
Johnson134712
Piatt132814
Wabash130012
Mason128641
De Witt128022
Mercer128033
Massac127233
Cumberland119218
Jasper111017
Menard10388
Marshall83915
Hamilton78815
Schuyler6775
Pulaski6696
Brown6636
Stark54122
Edwards52310
Henderson49814
Calhoun4782
Scott4491
Alexander4488
Gallatin4374
Putnam4163
Hardin34512
Pope2823
Out of IL00
Unassigned02223

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 662213

Reported Deaths: 12595
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion907061645
Lake48425878
Allen35861636
Hamilton32099397
St. Joseph29996512
Elkhart25386415
Vanderburgh21247378
Tippecanoe20024201
Johnson16349360
Porter15975270
Hendricks15825300
Clark11965181
Madison11746318
Vigo11612229
Monroe10333161
Delaware9838179
LaPorte9772196
Howard9056197
Kosciusko8562110
Bartholomew7456147
Warrick7416151
Hancock7409131
Floyd7207169
Wayne6633191
Grant6427157
Morgan6092125
Boone609088
Dubois5910111
Dearborn547467
Cass544499
Marshall5425104
Henry542393
Noble509378
Jackson464767
Shelby460690
Lawrence4184112
Gibson401281
Harrison399864
Clinton395853
Montgomery387083
DeKalb385278
Knox357485
Miami357463
Whitley349436
Huntington344476
Steuben338355
Wabash331476
Putnam330559
Ripley327161
Adams323549
Jasper316143
White297352
Jefferson294973
Daviess285396
Fayette271956
Decatur270888
Greene261280
Posey260931
Wells258275
Scott250350
Clay241444
LaGrange240870
Randolph225576
Spencer217330
Jennings215244
Washington211227
Sullivan203439
Fountain201542
Starke188151
Owen182153
Fulton178237
Jay177828
Carroll176518
Perry173235
Orange171250
Rush164822
Vermillion160542
Franklin159435
Tipton146441
Parke139316
Pike127632
Blackford120627
Pulaski106444
Newton96531
Brown95039
Benton92013
Crawford90713
Martin80114
Warren75814
Switzerland7548
Union67110
Ohio53711
Unassigned0433