After serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence, John Walker Lindh, the American captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and convicted of providing support to the Taliban, is set to be released from an Indiana federal prison on Thursday.
Lindh was 20 when he was arrested. After converting from Catholicism to Islam at 16, he left the U.S. to study Arabic in Yemen at 17. He made his way to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he was a Taliban volunteer at an al-Qaeda training camp. Because he is an American citizen, Lindh was tried in federal court, and at his sentencing decried acts of terrorism and said he was wrong to join the Taliban.
Two leaked documents show that the government questions whether Lindh has shed his extremist views, The New York Times reports. A May 2016 memo said Lindh "continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts," and a 2017 Federal Bureau of Prisons intelligence assessment states he made positive comments about the Islamic State.
Under his terms of release, Lindh will not be allowed to go online or own a device that can access the internet without permission from his probation officer, the Times reports. He also can't travel internationally or communicate with "any known extremist," and must go through mental health counseling.
Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University's program on extremism, told the Times the government doesn't have a system in place to deal with people like Lindh, and the best move would be to "team him up with a mentor, somebody who perhaps had the same experiences as he may have had and came out on the other side better off because of it."