John Walker Lindh, known as the “American Taliban” member, is a free man as of Thursday, and his early release faces mounting criticism as details of 2015 letters he wrote from jail revealed Wednesday that he praised ISIS.
Lindh corresponded via handwritten letters with an NBC Los Angeles producer, and in those letters, Lindh praised ISIS for “doing a spectacular job” and attributed his imprisonment to his religious beliefs, NBC Los Angeles reported Wednesday.
When asked if ISIS was an appropriate representation of Islam, Lindh said they were.
“Yes, and they are doing a spectacular job,” he wrote in a February 2015 letter. “The Islamic State is clearly very sincere and serious about fulfilling the long-neglected religious obligation of establishing a caliphate through armed struggle, which is the only correct method.”
Lindh, who was arrested in late 2001 among a group of Taliban militants, was released Thursday, several years short of the 20-year sentence handed down for his membership in and support of the Taliban. The reason for his early release is not clear, although some reports stated it is due to “good behavior.”
— New York Post (@nypost) May 23, 2019
“We are in prison due to our beliefs and the practice of our religion, not for committing any crime,” Lindh insisted in a March 2014 letter.
He was asked directly if imprisonment had changed his views toward jihad in March 2014, too.
“I feel honored to have been able to take part in the Afghan Jihad and to contribute to the defense of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, albeit only in a very limited capacity,” he wrote.
During his sentencing in 2002, he denounced terrorism and said the 9/11 attacks were “against Islam.” He said that terrorism is never justified. Yet his own words repeatedly countered that claim.
In May 2016, the National Counter Terrorism Center released an intelligence document that concluded Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts,” Foreign Policy reported in 2017.
The document also includes Federal Bureau of Prisons reports, including one from March 2016 that states Lindh “told a television news producer that he would continue to spread violent extremist Islam upon his release.”
John Walker Lindh, the American captured fighting with the Afghan Taliban, is set to be released from prison today amid concerns that he remains a potentially violent Islamic extremist, current and former officials told @NBCNews. https://t.co/YaJp5ot2eO
— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) May 23, 2019
Lindh was a California native who previously converted to Islam as a teenager after watching the movie “Malcolm X.” He originally traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in November 2000, trained with al Qaeda members and allegedly met Osama bin Laden, who praised his loyalty to the cause, the Washington Examiner reported.
Nearly all charges – including murder conspiracy – were later dropped against Lindh and he only pleaded guilty to disobeying an executive order that forbade Taliban support, and for weapon possession in Afghanistan. He served less than 18 years of his 20-year sentence.
Conditions of his release include monitoring of internet use, a foreign travel ban and mandatory mental health counseling.