'American Taliban' John Walker Lindh released from prison after 17 years


This combination of pictures created on April 17, 2019 shows at left a police file photo made available February 6, 2002 of the “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh and at right a February 11, 2002 photograph of him as seen from the records of the Arabia Hassani Kalan Surani Bannu madrassa (religious school) in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Bannu. – John Walker Lindh, an American captured with the Taliban in November 2001 just weeks after the US launched the war in Afghanistan, is to be released in May 2019 after 17 years in prison.

TARIQ MAHMOOD | AFP | Getty Images

John Walker Lindh, a Californian captured fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was released from federal prison Thursday after 17 years, cutting short his sentence by three years.

A Federal Bureau of Prisons representative confirmed to CNBC that Lindh was released from a facility in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Lindh, 38, had been sentenced to 20 years after he reached a plea deal that spared him from what could have been more than three life terms. He was released early for good behavior, according to NBC News.

As conditions of his release, Lindh will spend three years on probation and will be barred from having devices that access the internet. He is also forbidden from viewing extremist videos, and probation officers will monitor his internet use.

American officials, however, are concerned that Lindh may still pose a risk for terrorism. In 2015, he wrote a letter to an NBC Los Angeles producer in which he said the terror group ISIS was “doing a spectacular job.” In a series of letters to the producer, Lindh called himself Yahya Lindh, referred to himself as a political prisoner and said he was continuing to pursue knowledge of Islam.

A person reportedly to be “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh is seen leaving the Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex early in the morning on May 23, 2019 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

John Sommers II | Getty Images

Lindh was an unlikely face of the early days of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” following the Sept. 11 attacks. Lindh, who was raised in Maryland and California, converted to Islam when he was a teenager. He said he had been fighting with the Taliban for months before he was captured in Afghanistan. Lindh was apprehended following a November 2001 uprising by Taliban prisoners during which a CIA operative, Johnny Micheal Spann, was killed.

Lindh’s release has triggered backlash. Spann’s daughter, Alison, wrote to President Donald Trump and asked him to prevent Lindh’s release. On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Lindh’s release “unconscionable.”


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