SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP/CNN) — John Walker Lindh, the Marin native who was given the nickname “American Taliban” after he was captured in Afghanistan, has been released from federal prison after serving 17 years of a 20-year term, his lawyer said.
Lindh will live in Virginia subject to the direction of his probation officer, his lawyer, Bill Cummings, tells CNN. But conditions imposed on Lindh’s release make clear that authorities remain concerned about the threat he could pose once free.
Before he was known as the American Taliban, Lindh lived in San Anselmo, went to Tamiscal High School in Larkspur, but dropped out and got his GED. He became a Muslim and attended the Islamic Center in Mill Vallley. His parents say he became very religious and eventually left for the middle east to learn more about Islam.
His father Frank did not want to talk to reporters Wednesday, but back in 2007, he insisted to CBS News that his son was not a traitor.
“We know he’s not anti-American, Frank Lindh said at the time. “We know he doesn’t have any sympathy for terrorism.”
But his family has never quite been able to explain why he was trained in one of Osama bin Laden’s training camps and ended up on a battlefield in Afghanistan at the age of 20 fighting for the Taliban against the Americans.
He was with the Taliban 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 bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda.
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 only 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.