On Thursday, John Walker Lindh, also known as the “American Taliban” fighter, will be released after serving 17 and a half years of his 20-year sentence. In response, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) demanded answers in a letter sent to the acting director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In the letter, the senators requested information about “what steps the U.S. government is taking to ensure public safety,” citing a 2017 Foreign Policy article that claims Lindh fully intends to continue spreading his terrorist ideology after his release.
The senators also mentioned that 108 other convicted ISIS, al-Qaeda, or Taliban terrorists will soon be released from prison after completing their sentences over the next few years.
“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 federal agencies are doing to mitigate this threat while the offenders are in federal custody,” the senators' letter reads.
The letter also cited a report by the chief United States probation officer, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota's Kevin Lowery, that suggests “that neither the Bureau of Prisons nor the Federal Judiciary’s Probation and Pretrial Services have sufficient nationwide programming to prevent incarcerated terrorist offenders from returning to violence upon completion of their sentences.”
The senators also cite a report from the George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, and they posit that general sharing protocols among various federal agencies, courts, states, local law enforcement branches, and local service providers are “insufficient” and lack “nationwide institutionalization.” The report suggests there is no “coordinated federal approach to preventing convicted terrorists from returning to violence.”
“Our highest priority is keeping America safe, secure, and free. To that end, we must consider the security and safety implications for our citizens and communities who will receive individuals like John Walker Lindh who continue to openly call for extremist violence,” the senators wrote.
The letter concluded with a list of questions about the reasoning behind Lindh’s release and requests for information about the release of other terrorists, risk assessment measures, intervention efforts, and reintegration policies for terrorists.
The Daily Wire previously reported that Lindh converted to radical Islam in the 1990s and remains radicalized:
Walker Lindh was discovered when the United States military captured a small force of Taliban fighters in the early days of the Afghan War. He was detained in Afghanistan for a short time, then shipped to the United States to stand trial as an "enemy combatant." He is officially listed as "Detainee 001" in the War on Terror.
At the time, Walker-Lindh, who converted to radical Islam in the 1990s and was already in Afghanistan and ready to join up with America's enemies when the September 11th attacks happened, was charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and aiding the enemy, but ultimately agreed to a plea deal, according to CNN, that earned him just 20 years in prison instead of several consecutive life sentences.
Fox News reports that Walker-Lindh was expected to serve around 17 years of that sentence, and despite continuing to pledge his allegiance to radical Islam, he will be released from federal custody in May.
"The National Counterterrorism Center penned a document dated Jan. 24, 2017 claiming the former Taliban fighter remains as radicalized now as he was in 2001," the outlet says. "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."
Lindh also reportedly hopes to obtain Irish citizenship and eventually leave the U.S.:
Although he'll be released in the United States, he's been able to obtain Irish citizenship, according to a separate Fox News report, and he plans on leaving the U.S. for Ireland as soon as he's released — a development that has global security forces very concerned.
"Moving to Ireland became an option for Walker Lindh after he obtained citizenship there, while still in prison, sometime in 2013 thanks to his family’s lineage," Fox News says. "His paternal grandmother, Kathleen Maguire, was an Irish citizen born in 1929 in a northwestern Irish town, the Foreign Policy magazine reported."
It's not immediately clear whether Ireland has officially approved the move, but it's also not clear that they have to. As long as an Irish citizen is approved for and receives an Irish passport, they can't be denied entry into the country. Walker-Lindh, according to the London Times believes that he will at least ask for asylum, since remaining in the U.S. is "practically impossible," but that he doesn't believe it's a guarantee.
"Regarding the Ireland issue, I really don’t know what to expect from the Irish government. I know virtually nothing about them. I think the only reasonable way to present my case to them is to explain my unique circumstances that make my survival in the US practically impossible,” Lindh wrote to a non-governmental organization called CAGE. “Essentially I am seeking asylum from one country where I am a citizen in another country where I am also a citizen. The worst they can do is to decline my request. I figure it is worth at least trying.”
There's also a concern that he could simply use Ireland as a clearing house, and that he could return to the battlefield in Afghanistan, or join ISIS after leaving the United States.