The scheduled Thursday release of John Walker Lindh, dubbed the “American Taliban” for his support of the Afghanistan-based terrorist group, has stirred questions from those concerned about what happens next.
Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, is scheduled to be released from federal prison after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence. Some fear that he may return to his former activities and that the parole system is ill-prepared to monitor him.
“We write to express concern over the anticipated release of convicted American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh and request information about what steps the U.S. government is taking to ensure public safety,” Sens. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, and Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat, wrote last week to Hugh J. Hurwitz, acting director of the Bureau of Prisons.
“Mr. Lindh was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, and the following year, he pled guilty to serving as a soldier of the Taliban. Mr. Lindh was sentenced to twenty years in prison but is scheduled to be released early from federal custody on May 23, 2019,” the letter said,
The senators voiced concern over what will happen as other jailed extremists are released.
“As many as 108 other terrorist offenders are scheduled to complete their sentences and be released from U.S. federal prisons over the next few years,” the senators wrote. “Little information has been made available to the public about who, when, and where these offenders will be released, whether they pose an ongoing public threat, and what your agencies are doing to mitigate this threat while the offenders are in federal custody.”
“What training is provided to parole officers or supporting nongovernmental partners to recognize the signs of violent radicalization and recidivism?” the letter also said.
Lindh departed the U.S. for Yemen in 1998, beginning a journey that would end in Afghanistan, where he was captured along with other Taliban members in 2001.
During his 2002 trial, he renounced terrorism and said he had erred in joining the Taliban.
But in 2017, Foreign Policy published an account quoting a recent assessment of Lindh from the National Counterterrorism Center.
“As of May 2016, John Walker Lindh (USPER) — who is scheduled to be released in May 2019 after being convicted of supporting the Taliban — continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts,” the assessment said.
One commentator said Lindh, now 38, has not changed.
After his release, Lindh will be banned from using the internet or owning anything that would allow him to do so.
If he’s eventually permitted to obtain an internet-capable device, he would be monitored and restricted to using only English to communicate, according to The Times.
He is also banned from traveling outside the U.S.
Shelby has expressed concern that Lindh has not been punished sufficiently, saying that Lindh may have been involved in the 2001 death of Central Intelligence Agency officer Johnny Michael Spann, who was killed in an uprising that took place around the time of Lindh’s capture, Roll Call reported.
That has left a bitter taste in the mouth of Spann’s father, also known as Johnny Spann.
“We’ve got a traitor that was given 20 years and I can’t do anything about it,” Spann told The Times.
“He was given a 20-year sentence when it should’ve been life in prison.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.