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‘American Taliban’ fighter to be released after 17 years

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    In this file image taken from video broadcast Dec. 19, 2001, John Walker Lindh is seen during an interview soon after his capture. According to CNN, the interview took place Dec. 2, 2001. Lindh is set to go free Thursday after nearly two decades in prison. CNN VIA AP, FILE

Published May 23. 2019 01:39PM

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — 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, is set to go free after nearly two decades in prison.

But conditions imposed recently on Lindh’s release, slated for Thursday, make clear that authorities remain concerned about the threat he could pose once free.

Lindh, now 38, 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. He joined the Taliban and was with them on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaida terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The U.S. attacked Afghanistan after the country failed to turn over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Lindh was captured in a battle with Northern Alliance fighters in late 2001. He was present when a group of Taliban prisoners launched an attack that killed Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, a CIA officer who had been interrogating Lindh and other Taliban prisoners.

Television footage of a bearded, wounded Lindh captured among Taliban fighters created an international sensation, and he was brought to the U.S. to face charges of conspiring to kill Spann and providing support to terrorists. Eventually, he struck a plea bargain in which he admitted illegally providing support to the Taliban but denied a role in Spann’s death.

Lindh received a 20-year prison sentence. He served roughly 17 years and five months, including two months when he was in military detention. Federal inmates who exhibit good behavior typically serve 85 percent of their sentence.

His probation officer asked the court to impose additional restrictions on Lindh while he remains on supervised release for the next three years. Lindh initially opposed but 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.

Authorities never specified their rationale for seeking such restrictions. A hearing on the issue was canceled after Lindh agreed to them.

The Bureau of Prisons said Lindh rejected an interview request submitted by The Associated Press, and his lawyer declined to comment. But there have been reports that Lindh’s behavior in prison has created cause for concern. Foreign Policy magazine reported in 2017 that an investigation by the National Counterterrorism Center found that Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.”

A former inmate who knew Lindh from the time they spent at the same federal prison said he never heard Lindh espouse support for al-Qaida or indicate a risk for violence, but he found Lindh to be anti-social and awkward around others, with an unyielding, black-and-white view of religion. The inmate spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he wanted to avoid further stigmatization from his time in Lindh’s prison unit.

Michael Jensen, a terrorism researcher at the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, said it’s clear the government has concerns about Lindh’s mindset.

“For three years he’s going to be watched like a hawk,” Jensen said.

He said Lindh represents an interesting test case, as he is on the leading edge of dozens of inmates who were convicted on terror-related offenses in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and are eligible for release in the next five years. He said there’s little research to indicate the efficacy of de-radicalizing inmates with connections to radical Islam, but he said the research shows that recidivism rates for those connected to white supremacy and other forms of extremism are high.

Lindh has been housed in Terre Haute, Indiana, with other Muslim inmates convicted on terror-related charges. The rationale was to keep those inmates from radicalizing others in the general prison population, Jensen said. Those inside the unit were supposed to be limited in their ability to communicate with each other.

“But the reality is these guys still talk to each other,” he said.

Lindh, for his part, admitted his role and his wrongdoing in supporting the Taliban, but he and his family have bristled at any notion that he should be considered a terrorist. When he was sentenced, Lindh said he never would have joined the Taliban if he fully understood what they were about. He also issued a short essay condemning acts of violence in the name of Islam that kill or harm innocent civilians.

Comments
When does Michael Spann get released? This is crazy. Terrorists look upon this with glee as America reveals compassion to the undeserving mistaken for weakness from foolish infidels.
You are wrong, again Joe. Just now, at a press conference, President Trump was asked about this. He said he asked a lawyer about this weeks ago. The lawyer said there is nothing that could be done. Trump said it is not right. Here is another example of how you jump to fake conclusions based upon hatred. President Trump abides by the law and you insult him. Also, those wrongly imprisoned will soon be released...a little inside baseball from my mil friends. Out for Memorial Day...I hear. You are always quick to criticize. It is fake to say that Trump supports the enemy over our GI’s. That position is firmly held by those with Trump Derangement Syndrome...like you.
Come on Joe, always the negative twist on everything. A President can pardon who they wish. Perhaps, in your version of “totalitarianism” a President could extend the sentence of someone indefinitely. You try and apply pressure to Trump, as you say, to get him to bend. Good luck with that so far. That is one of the many things we love about him...he is not afraid to fight. It was out of his hands Joe. You want to blame him again. Trump Derangement Syndrome is what you have. At least this time you side with Americans that want a terrorist confined forever...chalk that one up.
Fact: decision to release early was made by bureau of prisons which reports up Barr. The question isn’t why did he not stop it, why did his justice department decide to release him early?
Apparently everything from the creation of time till now is Trump’s fault. Everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will be is President Trump’s fault. Cuckoo Cuckoo Cuckoo Trump Derangement Syndrome
Come on Joe. Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Lindh was sentenced 18 years ago. For you to hang this on President Trump is crazy. I would have preferred to see Lindh fall down the back stairs and break his neck on his way out.
Served 17 of 20 years. The Fed prison bureau, under Barr, who is under Trump, approved his early release. In 2017 it was reported that Lindh continued to express support for terrorism. There should be an investigation. Was this incompetence or just lack of oversight?
Trump, like many of us conservatives, have no sympathy for this Marin County Hot-tubber.
These kind of freaks give Marin a bad name.
Lindh will probably make the talk show rounds. Then he will be a professor of Islam studies at a College. Sorry to say it, but, this is not a joke.
The golden age of trump. Treason, terrorism, lies and deviant sexuality rule the day. MAGA, the biggest lie in the history of the world.. aside from jesus....
Hey Digger... Describe deviant sexuality.
Is it like... Cobos-Perez, the suspect in a recent story of an illegal who admitted to police that he had unprotected sex with an 11 year old girl in a parked car near her school? Does that qualify according to you folks on the left? Hard to tell in that world of relativism you all live in.
You've already called me a "deviant" this or that, so, perhaps you can start with just that word. After all, you progressives use living dictionaries, you know, the words evolve and change meaning. It's hard to keep up. Hey, any other libs are welcome to give Digger a hand, this is a big assignment for it.
Good Day Digger from Digger Lane
DO, you need help. President Trump reigns over you. Trump is your Lord. You are under the command of Trump and the entire Trump family. You are being watched by your Master, Trump and his Operatives. Watch every move DO. Remember, it is not paranoia...if they are really watching you! Paintings follow you with their eyes when you walk by them!

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