JOHN PHILLIP WALKER LINDH (born February 9, 1981) is a U.S. citizen
who was captured as an enemy combatant during the United States' 2001
Afghanistan in November 2001. He was captured and detained
Qala-i-Jangi fortress, used as a prison. He took part in the Battle
Qala-i-Jangi , a violent uprising of the
Taliban prisoners, during
CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed, together with
all but 86 of the estimated 300–500 prisoners. Brought to trial in
United States federal court in February 2002, Lindh accepted a plea
bargain; he pleaded guilty to two charges and was sentenced to 20
years in prison without parole.
A convert to
Sunni Islam in
California at age 16, Lindh traveled to
Yemen in 1998 to study Arabic and stayed there for 10 months. He later
returned in 2000, then went to
Afghanistan to aid the
Taliban . He
received training at Al-Farouq , a training camp associated with
al-Qaeda , designated a terrorist organization by the United States
and other countries. While at the camp, he attended a lecture by Osama
bin Laden . After the 9/11 attacks , he remained there to join
opposing military forces after he learned that the U.S. was allied
with the Afghan
Northern Alliance . Lindh had previously received
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen , an internationally designated
terrorist organization based in Pakistan.
Lindh went by the name SULAYMAN AL-FARIS during his time in
Afghanistan, but prefers the name ABU SULAYMAN AL-IRLANDI today. In
early reports following his capture, when the press learned that he
was a U.S. citizen, he was usually referred to by the news media as
just "John Walker".
* 1 Youth, conversion and travels
* 2 Capture and interrogation
* 3 Trial
* 5 In popular culture
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 External links
YOUTH, CONVERSION AND TRAVELS
Lindh was born in
Washington, D.C. , to Marilyn Walker and Frank
Lindh. He was baptized a
Catholic , and grew up in Silver Spring,
Maryland . When he was 10 years old, his family moved to San Anselmo,
California . Lindh suffered from an intestinal disorder as a child.
At age 14, his health improved. He enrolled at Redwood High School as
a freshman. He then transferred to Tamiscal High School in the
Tamalpais Union High School District , an alternative school offering
self-directed, individualized study programs. While there, he studied
world culture, including
Sunni Islam and the Middle East. Lindh left
the school and eventually earned an equivalent of a high school
diploma by passing the
California High School Proficiency Exam at age
As an adolescent, Lindh participated in
IRC chat rooms with the IRC
nickname "Mujahid". He became a devoted fan of hip hop music and
engaged in extensive discussions on
Usenet newsgroups , sometimes
pretending to be an African-American rapper who would criticize others
for "acting black".
Spike Lee 's film Malcolm X impressed him deeply
and sparked his interest in Islam.
Although his parents did not divorce until 1999, their marriage was
in serious trouble throughout Lindh's adolescence. His father often
left their Marin residence for extended periods to live in San
Francisco with a male lover, as he had acknowledged he was homosexual.
Frank Lindh said he and Marilyn had been effectively separated since
In 1997, at the age of 16, Lindh formally converted to Islam. He
began regularly attending mosques in Mill Valley and later in nearby
San Francisco. In 1998, Lindh traveled to Yemen and stayed for about
10 months to learn Arabic so that he could read the Qur\'an in its
original language. He returned to the
United States in 1999, living
with his family for about eight months.
Lindh returned to Yemen in February 2000 and left for Pakistan to
study at a madrassa . While abroad, Lindh sent numerous emails to his
family. In one, his father told him about the
USS Cole bombing , to
which Lindh replied that the American naval destroyers being in the
Yemen harbor had been an act of war, and that the bombing was
justified. "This raised my concerns", his father told
Newsweek , "but
my days of molding him were over."
At the age of 20, Lindh decided to travel to
Afghanistan to fight for
Taliban government forces against Northern Alliance
fighters. His parents said that he was moved by stories of atrocities
allegedly perpetrated by the
Northern Alliance army against civilians.
He traveled to
Afghanistan in May 2001. Tony West, his lawyer,
explained it as follows: "One of the first things he told Army
interrogators when they questioned him on December 3, 2001, was that
after 9/11 happened, he wanted to leave the front lines but couldn't
for fear of his life. John never wanted to be in a position where he
was opposing the
United States (and never thought he would be), and in
fact he never opposed any American military."
CAPTURE AND INTERROGATION
Lindh was captured on November 25, 2001, by Afghan Northern Alliance
forces after his foreign fighters unit surrendered at
retreating from Takar. He and other fighters were to be questioned by
CIA officers Johnny "Mike" Spann and Dave "Dawson" Tyson at
General Dostum 's military garrison,
Qala-i-Jangi , near Mazār-e
Sharīf . During the initial questioning, Lindh was not advised of his
rights and his request for a lawyer was denied.
After being detained, Lindh first said that he was Irish. While being
interviewed by the CIA, he did not reveal that he was American.
Spann asked Lindh, "Are you a member of the IRA ?" He was asked this
question because, when questioned by Spann, an Iraqi in the group
identified Lindh as an English speaker. Lindh had been told to say he
was "Irish" in order to avoid problems. Moments later, around 11 am,
the makeshift prison was the scene of a violent
which became known as the Battle of
Qala-i-Jangi . Spann and hundreds
of foreign fighters were killed; only 86 prisoners survived. According
to other detainees interviewed by the journalist Robert Young Pelton
CNN , Lindh was fully aware of the planned uprising, yet remained
silent and did not cooperate with the Americans.
Sometime during the initial uprising, Lindh was shot in the right
upper thigh and found refuge in a basement, hiding with a group of
Arab, Uzbek, and Pakistani detainees. On the second day, the Red Cross
sent in workers to collect the dead. As soon as they entered, the
workers were shot by the prisoners, who killed one. The Northern
Alliance repeatedly bombarded the area with RPG and grenade attacks,
and set alight fuel it poured in. Finally, on December 2, 2001,
Northern Alliance forces diverted an irrigation stream into the middle
of the camp to flush the remaining prisoners out of their underground
shelters, drowning many in the process. Lindh and about 85 survivors
from the original 300–500 were forced out of hiding. Northern
Alliance soldiers bound Lindh's elbows behind his back.
Shortly after his recapture, Lindh was noticed and interviewed by
Pelton, who was working as a stringer for
CNN . Lindh initially gave
his name as "Abd-al-Hamid" but later gave his birth name. Pelton
brought a medic and food for Lindh and interviewed him about how he
got there. During the interview, Lindh said that he was a member of
al-Ansar, a group of Arabic-speaking fighters financed by Osama bin
Laden . Lindh said that the prison uprising was sparked by some of the
prisoner guards smuggling grenades into the basement, "This is against
what we had agreed upon with the Northern Alliance, and this is
against Islam. It is a major sin to break a contract, especially in
military situations". A U.S. Army
Special Forces operator, fresh from
three weeks of combat, gave up his bed so that the wounded Lindh could
sleep there. Pelton repeatedly asked Lindh if he wanted to call
his parents or have the journalist do so, but Lindh declined. Pelton
knew Lindh was receiving his first medical treatment since being shot
in the leg more than a week prior and had been given morphine by a
medic prior to Pelton's interview. Lindh's parents maintain that
Pelton acquired footage that was prejudicial and manipulative, and
that Pelton contributed to the poor image of their son by sharing the
footage with the world community without context. Lindh
photographed after being transported to
After capture, Lindh was given basic first aid and questioned for a
week at Mazār-e Sharīf. He was taken to
Camp Rhino on December 7,
2001, the bullet still within his thigh. When Lindh arrived at Camp
Rhino, he was stripped and restrained on a stretcher, blindfolded and
placed in a metal shipping container, which was procedure for dealing
with a potentially dangerous detainee associated with a terrorist
organization. While bound to the stretcher, he was photographed by
some American military personnel. At Camp Rhino, he was given
oxycodone/paracetamol for pain and diazepam .
On December 8 and 9, he was interviewed by the FBI and was
mirandized on December 9 or 10. He was held at
Camp Rhino until he
was transferred to the USS Peleliu on December 14, 2001 with other
wounded detainees, where his wound was operated on and he received
further care. He was interrogated before the operation on December
14. While on the Peleliu, he signed confession documents while he was
held by the
United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps . On December 31, 2001, Lindh
was transferred to the USS Bataan , where he was held until January
22, 2002. He was flown back to the
United States to face criminal
charges. On January 16, 2002, Attorney General
John Ashcroft announced
that Lindh would be tried in the United States.
In 2002, former President
George H. W. Bush referred to Lindh as
"some misguided Marin County hot-tubber". The comment provoked a minor
furor and prompted a retraction of the statement by Bush. Lindh's
attorney told the press that his client had asked for a lawyer
repeatedly before being interviewed by the FBI but he did not get one,
and that "highly coercive " prison conditions forced Lindh to waive
his right to remain silent . Although the FBI asked
Jesselyn Radack ,
a Justice Department ethics advisor, whether Lindh could be questioned
without a lawyer present, they did not follow her advice to avoid that
On February 5, 2002, Lindh was indicted by a federal grand jury on
* Conspiracy to murder US citizens or US nationals
* Two counts of providing material support and resources to
* One count of supplying services to the Taliban
* Conspiracy to contribute services to Al Qaeda
* Contributing services to Al Qaeda
* Conspiracy to supply services to the Taliban
* Using and carrying firearms and destructive devices during crimes
If convicted of these charges, Lindh could have received up to three
life sentences and 90 additional years in prison. On February 13,
2002, he pleaded not guilty to all 10 charges. The court scheduled an
evidence suppression hearing, at which Lindh would have been able to
testify about the details of the torture to which he claimed he was
subjected. The government faced the problem that a key piece of
evidence – Lindh's confession – might be excluded from evidence as
having been forced under duress (i.e. torture).
Michael Chertoff , then-head of the Criminal Division of the U.S.
Department of Justice , then directed the prosecutors to offer Lindh a
plea bargain . Lindh could plead guilty to two charges: supplying
services to the
Taliban (50 U.S.C. § 1705(b), 18 U.S.C. § 2, 31
C.F.R. 545.204, and 31 C.F.R. 545.206a) and carrying an explosive
during the commission of a felony (18 U.S.C. § 844(h)(2)). He would
have to consent to a gag order that would prevent him from making any
public statements on the matter for the duration of his 20-year
sentence, and he would have to drop any claims that he had been
mistreated or tortured by U.S. military personnel in
aboard two military ships during December 2001 and January 2002. In
return, all other charges would be dropped. The gag order was said to
be at the request of Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld .
Lindh accepted this offer. On July 15, 2002, he entered his plea of
guilty to the two remaining charges. The judge asked Lindh to say, in
his own words, what he was admitting to: "I plead guilty. I provided
my services as a soldier to the
Taliban last year from about August to
December. In the course of doing so, I carried a rifle and two
grenades. I did so knowingly and willingly knowing that it was
illegal." Lindh said that he "went to
Afghanistan with the intention
of fighting against terrorism and oppression," fighting for the
suffering of ordinary people at the hands of the Northern Alliance.
On October 4, 2002, Judge
T.S. Ellis, III formally imposed the
sentence: 20 years without possibility of parole.
The government invoked the
Son of Sam law and informed Lindh that any
and all profits made from book deals or any movies about Lindh's
experience would be automatically transferred to the federal
government. Lindh, his family, his relatives, his associates and his
friends will be unable to profit financially from his crimes and/or
experiences. Lindh's attorney, James Brosnahan, said Lindh would be
eligible for release in 17 years, with good behavior. This is because,
although there is no parole under federal law, his sentence could be
reduced by 15 percent, or three years, for good behavior. Lindh agreed
to cooperate "fully, truthfully and completely" with both military
intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the terrorism
In January 2003, Lindh was sent to the U.S. Penitentiary, Victorville
, a high-security facility northeast of Los Angeles. On March 3, 2003,
Lindh was tackled by inmate Richard Dale Morrison. He assaulted Lindh
at prayer, causing bruises on his forehead. On July 2, 2003, Morrison
was charged with a misdemeanor count of assault.
Lindh was held in Federal
ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado
for a short time. He is currently serving his sentence, with a
projected release date of May 23, 2019, at the Federal Correctional
Terre Haute, Indiana in the Communication Management
In April 2007, citing the reduced sentence for the Australian
David Matthew Hicks , Lindh's attorneys made a public plea
for a Presidential commutation to lessen his 20-year sentence. In
January 2009, the Lindh family's petition for clemency was denied by
President Bush in one of his final acts in office. According to the
U.S. Department of Justice, all "special administrative measures " in
place against Lindh expired on March 20, 2009, as part of a gradual
easing of restrictions on him.
In 2010, Lindh and the Syrian-American prisoner
Enaam Arnaout sued to
lift restrictions on group prayer by Muslim inmates in the
Communication Management Unit. On January 11, 2013, a federal judge
ruled in their favor, saying that the government had shown no
compelling interest in restricting the religious speech of the inmates
by prohibiting them from praying together.
According to an internal report by the National Counterterrorism
Center , Lindh told a visiting television news producer that he has
not renounced extremist violence. Lindh secured Irish citizenship in
2013 through his paternal grandmother, Kathleen Maguire, who was born
IN POPULAR CULTURE
This article NEEDS ADDITIONAL CITATIONS FOR VERIFICATION . Please
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* In a National Geographic documentary,
Taliban Uprising, the only
video of Lindh speaking since his capture is shown.
* The documentary Good Morning,
Afghanistan by Damien Degueldre
features the Battle of Masar-el Sharif, where John Walker was being
held and later transferred by the
Northern Alliance to US Special
DJ Krush and
Anticon recorded the song "Song for John Walker" for
the 2002 album
The Message at the Depth .
Steve Earle recorded a song about Lindh entitled "John Walker's
Blues". It was released on his 2002 album Jerusalem .
* The 2003 graphic novel Johnny Jihad by Ryan Inzana is based
loosely on Lindh's story.
* The 13th-season premiere of Law and Order is based on Lindh case.
* In episode seven of the first season of the TV series Entourage
Vince is offered a role in a fictitious movie based on "the John
Walker Lindh story".
* Biography portal
United States portal
Detention of five Americans in Pakistan (Dec. 2009)
Adam Yahiye Gadahn
Yasser Esam Hamdi
Bryant Neal Vinas
* ^ Original Indictment
John Walker Lindh
John Walker Lindh Indictment
* ^ Statement of Facts U.S. Department of Justice
* ^ Truth About John Lindh (speech) Frank Lindh
* ^ Mayer, Jane (2008). The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the
War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. New York, NY:
Doubleday. p. 73. ISBN 978-0-385-52639-5 .
* ^ "Cageprisoners: The Ballad of the Fleas". pub. September 24,
2010. Retrieved September 25, 2010.
* ^ A B C Tyrangiel, Josh (December 8, 2001). "The
Door". Time magazine . Retrieved August 1, 2009.
* ^ A B C D E F G Frank Lindh (July 10, 2011). "America\'s
\'Detainee 001\'". The Guardian. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
* ^ Best, James (September 3, 2003). "Black Like Me: John Walker
Lindh\'s hip-hop daze". East Bay Express. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
* ^ John Lindh
Usenet Postings John Lindh
* ^ Backer, Larry (2005). "EMASCULATED MEN, EFFEMINATE LAW IN THE
UNITED STATES, ZIMBABWE AND MALAYSIA". Yale Journal of Law and
Feminism. Yale. 17 (1): 8–9. SSRN 618863 .
* ^ "Liberal Parents, Lost Children". American Enterprise Institute
Public Policy Research. American Enterprise Institute: 7. March 1,
2002. Retrieved November 14, 2009.
* ^ Rico, John (April 2009). "Can
John Walker Lindh
John Walker Lindh Go Home Now?".
GQ Magazine. p. 2. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
Josh Tyrangiel (December 9, 2001). "The
Taliban Next Door".
Time magazine. Retrieved May 26, 2008.
* ^ Thomas, Evan (December 16, 2001), "A Long, Strange Trip To The
Newsweek , archived from the original on May 7, 2012,
retrieved May 7, 2012
* ^ A B "John Walker Lindh\'s Parents Discuss Their Son’s Story".
Democracy Now. July 31, 2009. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
Tom Junod (July 1, 2006). "Innocent". Esquire. Retrieved
January 30, 2010.
* ^ "John Walker Lindh\'s plea with Tony West, Defense Attorney and
Co-counsel", Washington Post, 18 July 2002.
* ^ Buncombe, Andrew; Penketh, Anne (2004-06-10). "Rumsfeld \'told
officers to take gloves off with Lindh\'".
The Independent .
Washington: Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
* ^ A B C D Truth About John Lindh Robert Young Pelton, As shown on
British Channel 4 news.
* ^ "
United States of America v. John Philip Walker Lindh
- Grand Jury Indictment". findlaw.com.
* ^ "3 Relief Workers Shot in Riot Aftermath". LA Times. Retrieved
6 December 2012.
* ^ A B
Taliban Uprising National Geographic Documentary
* ^ Lucas, Dean. "Famous Pictures Magazine – American Taliban".
Retrieved June 26, 2012.
* ^ "Walker: Prison uprising was \'a mistake\'". CNN. December 20,
* ^ A B "Government\'s Opposition to Defendant\'s Motion to Compel
Discovery of Documents Filed In Camera" (PDF). Findlaw News Document
* ^ A B "Report of Proceedings by Investigating Officer, AR 15-6"
(PDF). DOD. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
* ^ EXCLUSIVE: "John Walker Lindh’s Parents Discuss Their Son’s
Story, from Joining the US-Backed
Taliban Army to Surviving a Northern
Alliance Massacre, to His Abuse at the Hands of US Forces", Democracy
Now, July 2009
* ^ "U.S. denies torturing American Taliban". Japan Today. August
1, 2007. Retrieved August 1, 2007.
* ^ A B "Lindh\'s rights were violated, lawyers say". IOL. 2000.
Archived from the original on January 23, 2008. Retrieved August 1,
* ^ Tony West Attorneys for defendant
John Walker Lindh
John Walker Lindh (June 13,
2002). "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs JOHN PHILLIP WALKER LINDH –
CRIMINAL NO. 02-37-A" (PDF). UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT. Retrieved
August 1, 2007. By the time Mr.Lindh arrived at
Camp Rhino , it was
night and the temperature was cold. Immediately upon arrival, soldiers
cut off all of Mr. Lindh's clothing. He developed frostbite.
Completely naked, wearing nothing but his blindfold and shaking
violently from the cold nighttime air, Mr.Lindh was then bound to a
stretcher with heavy duct tape wrapped tightly around his chest, upper
arms, ankles and the stretcher itself. Next, he was placed in a
windowless metal shipping container, about 15 feet long, 7 feet wide
and 8 feet high, but not before military personnel photographed Mr.
Lindh as he lay naked on the stretcher.
* ^ Asbury, Anne (2002-01-15). "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. JOHN
PHILIP WALKER LINDH". justice.gov. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
* ^ PAUL J. McNULTY UNITED STATES ATTORNEY (April 2, 2002). "UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA vs JOHN PHILLIP WALKER LINDH – CRIMINAL NO.
02-37-A" (PDF). UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT. Retrieved August 1,
2007. On December 14, 2001, Lindh was flown from
Camp Rhino to the USS
Peleliu where he received the following treatment: 12 days after his
US capture in
Afghanistan , he was operated on by the Peleliu’s
senior surgeon to remove the bullet lodged in his leg; he received
daily medical treatment for the bullet wound as well as mild frostbite
on his toes; he received various forms of medication including Motrin
and Keflex (an antibiotic ). He and his fellow detainees were advised
five times per day as to the time for prayer and the brig supervisor
called up to the deck to ascertain the location of
Mecca so that he
could advise the detainees in which direction to pray. He and his
fellow detainees were provided Quorans to facilitate their prayers. He
was permitted to shower twice a week and to wash his feet every day.
He was given meals and unlimited water, was permitted to talk with his