John Walker Lindh

John Walker Lindh

Infobox Criminal
subject_name = John Walker Lindh

image_size =
image_caption = John Walker Lindh
date_of_birth = birth date and age|1981|2|9
place_of_birth = District of Columbia, USA
date_of_death =
place_of_death =
charge = supplying services to the Taliban, and carrying weapons during crimes of violence
penalty = 20 years imprisonment
status = imprisoned in FCI, Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana [ Federal Bureau of Prisons ] ]
occupation =
spouse =
parents = Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh
children =

John Phillip Walker Lindh (born February 9, 1981) is an American who was captured during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan while serving in the Taliban army. He was subsequently sentenced to twenty years in prison, which he is currently serving.

Lindh prefers to go by the name Hamza Walker Lindh today, although during his time in Afghanistan, he went by Sulayman al-Faris.cite web |date=7/1/2006, 2:00 AM |url =|title = The State of the American Man:Innocent|format = HTML |publisher = pub| accessdate = 2007-09-15 | last= Tom Junod |quote=]

Youth, conversion and travels

Lindh was born in Washington, D.C., to parents Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh. He was baptized and raised Roman 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. After briefly attending several middle schools his family opted to homeschool him starting in 1993, when he was 12.Fact|date=April 2007

As an adolescent, Lindh participated in IRC chat rooms. He became a devoted fan of hip-hop music, and engaged in extensive discussions on Usenet newsgroups, sometimes pretending to be African American. [ Black Like Me: John Walker Lindh's hip-hop daze, by James Best] The Spike Lee film "Malcolm X" impressed him deeply and sparked his interest in Islam.

At age 14 Lindh's health improved and he enrolled at Redwood High School as a freshman. After five months he left the school for an independent study program, eventually earning a GED at age 16.

Although his parents did not officially divorce until 1999, their marriage was in serious trouble throughout Walker's adolescence. Frank Lindh stated that they had been effectively separated since 1993.

In 1997, John Lindh officially converted to Islam and began regularly attending mosques in Mill Valley and later San Francisco.cite news
title=The Taliban Next Door
publisher=Time magazine
author=Josh Tyrangiel
date=Sunday, December 9, 2001
] In 1998, he traveled to Yemen for about 10 months, to learn Arabic so that he would be able to read the Qur'an in its original language. He returned to the United States in 1999, living with his family for about eight months before returning to Yemen in February 2000, whence he left for Pakistan to study at a madrassa.

Capture and interrogation

Lindh was captured on November 25, 2001, by Afghan Northern Alliance forces, and questioned by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Mike Spann and another officer at General Dostum's military garrison near Mazari Sharif. As shown on British Channel 4 news, Spann asks Lindh "are you a member of the IRA?" and hit Lindh's head. Later that day, the makeshift prison was the scene of a violent uprising, in which Spann was killed along with hundreds of foreign fighters. However, Spann's companion, another man in U.S. Military uniform without any identifying insignia, just like Spann, was filmed speaking on a satphone complaining that a U.S. airstrike on the scene had probably cost some American lives. The air strike injured five U.S. Marines who were a few yards from the Lindh interrogation scene.

Robin Moore alleges in his book "The Hunt for Bin Laden" that Lindh was affiliated with Al Qaeda. Moore also wrote that it was "commonly believed" that Lindh was not only present during the killing of Michael Spann, but that he "most likely" participated in the affair that "may" have lasted as long as 12 hours. However, Jonathan Idema, who actually wrote most of Moore's book on his behalf, was later discredited. Moore himself eventually disavowed "The Hunt for Bin Laden" and the book remains out of print.cite web | last =Blake | first =Mariah | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Tin Soldier: An American Vigilante In Afghanistan, Using the Press for Profit and Glory | work = | publisher =Columbia Journalism Review |date=2005-01 | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate =2006-12-18]

After the initial uprising Lindh found refuge in a basement bunker after taking a bullet in the right upper thigh, hiding with a group of Saudi, Uzbek, and Pakistanis. He was found seven days later on December 2 2001, when Northern Alliance forces diverted an irrigation stream, drowning many, and eventually flushing out Lindh and about 80 survivors from the original 300. The Northern Alliance captors then pinned Lindh's elbows behind his back.

Lindh initially gave his name as "Abd-al-Hamid" but later gave his birth name when interviewed by Robert Young Pelton for CNN. Pelton brought a medic and food for the American and interviewed Lindh about how he got there. 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,". cite web | last = Lucas, Dean|title =Famous Pictures Magazine - American Taliban|url=| accessdate =2007-06-26

Upon capture, Lindh was given basic first aid and then questioned for a week at Mazari Sharif, before being taken to Camp Rhino on December 7, 2001, the bullet still within his thigh. cite web |date=Wednesday, August 1, 2007| url =| title = U.S. denies torturing American Taliban| format = HTML | publisher = Japan Today| accessdate = 2007-08-01 | last= ] cite web |date=2000 | url =| title = Lindh's rights were violated, lawyers say| format = HTML | publisher = IOL | accessdate = 2007-08-01 | last=By Deborah Charles ] When Lindh arrived at Camp Rhino he was stripped and he was restrained to a stretcher, blindfolded and placed in a metal shipping container. While bound to the stretcher his picture was taken by American military personnel.cite web |date=June 13, 2002| url =| title = UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs JOHN PHILLIP WALKER LINDH - CRIMINAL NO. 02-37-A| format = PDF| publisher = UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT| accessdate = 2007-08-01 | last=Tony West Attorneys for defendant John Walker Lindh |quote=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.] While at Camp Rhino he was heavily medicated. He was later to complain that as military personnel passed the echoing cargo container around each 24 hour cycle, they hammered on its metal sides and shouted abuse and threats. He remained in severe pain from the bullet that remained in his leg. The photograph of him naked was cropped so as not to show his leg wound. On at least one occasion he was interrogated while naked, drugged and with the bullet still in his leg. On December 8th and 9th he was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He was held at Camp Rhino until he was transferred to USS "Peleliu" on December 14, 2001cite web |date=April 02, 2002| url =| title = UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vs JOHN PHILLIP WALKER LINDH - CRIMINAL NO. 02-37-A| format = PDF| publisher = UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT| accessdate = 2007-08-01 | last= PAUL J. McNULTY UNITED STATES ATTORNEY|quote=

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 fellow detainees; and he was repeatedly queried by "Peleliu" personnel whether there was anything else he needed.] .

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 and informed his interrogators that he was not merely Taliban but al-Qaeda, though his father later asserted he was not involved in, and unaware of, al-Qaeda. On December 31, 2001, he was transferred to the USS "Bataan", where he was held till January 22, 2002, when he was flown off the "Bataan" to begin the journey back to the United States to face criminal charges. While on the USS Bataan, Attorney General John Ashcroft, on January 16 2002, announced that Lindh would be tried in the United States.

His attorney claimed to the press that he asked for a lawyer repeatedly before being interviewed 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, her advice that this should not be done was not followed. [ [ The Trials of Jesselyn Radack] and [ The Woman Who Knew Too Much] ]


On February 5 2002, Lindh was indicted by a federal grand jury on ten charges: [ Transcript of John Ashcroft - February 5, 2002] ]

*Conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals
*Two counts of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations
*Two counts of providing material support and resources to terrorist organizations
*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 of violence

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.

A photo emerged from his captivity of him being held naked and bound, wearing a blindfold. [ [ U.S. troops took photos of blindfolded Walker Lindh April 12, 2002] ] When details of the conditions of his captivity began to emerge, it was discovered that he had initially been wounded and hidden for a week with limited food, water, and minimal sleep before being captured. After being captured and taken to a room with a single, sealed-off window, Lindh reportedly had his clothes cut off him and was duct-taped to a stretcher and placed in a metal shipping container for transportation. Lindh was reportedly not allowed release from the stretcher when he needed to urinate. While being interrogated, Lindh allegedly was repeatedly denied access to a lawyer and was threatened with denial of medical aid if he did not cooperate. Lindh was held for over a week in U.S. custody before his wound was treated and the bullet removed. [ [ Walker's Transcript of the his time in US custody]

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.

To forestall this possibility, Michael Chertoff, then-head of the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, directed the prosecutors to offer Lindh a plea bargain, to wit, Lindh would plead guilty to two charges: — serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons. He would also 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 Afghanistan and aboard two military ships during December 2001 and January 2002. In return, all other charges would be dropped.

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. Lindh's allocution went as follows: "I plead guilty", he said. "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." On October 4, 2002, Judge T.S. Ellis, III formally imposed the sentence: 20 years without parole. [ - 'I plead guilty,' Taliban American says - July 17, 2002 ] ]

As another result of Lindh's plea bargain, a Son of Sam law was invoked. Any and all profits made from book deals or any movies about Lindh's experience will be automatically handed over 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. In addition, Lindh agreed to cooperate "fully, truthfully and completely" with both military intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the terrorism investigation.


In January 2003, Lindh was sent to a medium-security prison in Victorville, northeast of Los Angeles. On March 3 2003, Lindh was tackled by inmate Richard Dale Morrison, who hit him while screaming obscenities before running away. Lindh suffered a bruised forehead. On July 2 2003, Morrison was charged with a misdemeanor count of assault.

Lindh was held at ADMAX in Florence, Colorado, the federal Supermax facility for a short time but he's currently serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Terre Haute at Terre Haute, Indiana. In April 2007, citing the reduced sentence for the Australian prisoner David Hicks, Lindh's attorneys made a public plea for a Presidential commutation to lower his twenty year sentence.

Media references

*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. [ [,7369,756219,00.html From hot tub to hot water | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited ] ]
*Steve Earle recorded a song about Lindh entitled "John Walker's Blues". It was released on his 2002 album "Jerusalem".
*Hot Buttered Rum String Band, several of whose members hail from Marin, released a song about the Lindh's trial, "The Trial of John Walker Lindh", on their 2002 album "Live at the Freight and Salvage".
*Alternative hip-hop group/label anticon. appeared on a DJ Krush song about Lindh named "Song for John Walker", released on Krush's 2003 album "The Message at the Depth".
*Lindh was the subject of a musical, "John Walker: The Musical," in the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival and was covered in "The New York Times", [] New York Post and CNN.
*An episode of "Law & Order" was based on Lindh's story. The main character was a young man from a middle-class background who converted to militant Islam allegedly due to his fear of women.

ee also

*List of notable converts to Islam
*David Matthew Hicks
*Yasser Esam Hamdi
*Adam Yahiye Gadahn


External links

* [ John Walker Lindh Profile] at the NNDB
* [ The Lindh indictment]
* [ Free John Walker Lindh] – Unofficial website.
* [ "The case of the Taliban American"] , "CNN: People in the News".
* [ "Profile: John Walker Lindh"] , "BBC News" (online), January 24, 2002.
* [,8599,197611,00.html "Interview: John Walker Lindh's Lawyer"] by Christopher John Farley, "Time", January 26, 2002.
* [ "Black Like Me: John Walker Lindh's Hip-hop Daze"] by James Best, "East Bay Express", September 3, 2003.
* [ "Chertoff and Torture"] by David Lindorff, "The Nation", January 27, 2005.
* [ "The Crimeless Crime: The Prosecution of John Walker Lindh"] by Frank R. Lindh, "Washington Lawyer", May 2005.
* [ "The Real Story of John Walker Lindh"] by Frank Lindh, "AlterNet", January 24, 2006. – An address to the Commonwealth Club of California by John Walker Lindh's father.
** [ Audio file of above speech] (in RealAudio format)
** [ "The Truth about John Walker Lindh"] , by Robert Young Pelton, January 24, 2006. – Reply by CNN journalist Robert Young Pelton, the first journalist to interview Lindh.
** [ "False and misleading statements by Mr. Frank Lindh omits many known facts: Article of appeal"] by Johnny Spann, "", February 01, 2006. (PDF file) – Response by Mike Spann's father.
* [ "The new Malcolm X?"] by Philip Sherwell,"The Daily Telegraph", April 08, 2006.
* [ "A Portrait of the Jihadist as a White Negro"] by Gary Dauphin, "Bidoun", Summer 2007.

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