John Walker Lindh

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John Walker Lindh

John Phillip Walker Lindh (born February 9, 1981) is an American citizen who was captured in Afghanistan during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban. His capture made worldwide headlines, and the media dubbed him the "American Taliban."

Walker prefers to go by the name John Walker today, although during his time in Muslim areas, he also went by Suleyman al-Faris. He is named for John Lennon, whom his parents admired.


Youth, conversion and travels

Walker was born in Washington, D.C., to parents Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh. He was baptized Catholic and grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, until he was ten years old and his family moved to San Anselmo, California, in Marin County. In 1997, at age 16, Walker converted to Islam. In 1998, he traveled to Yemen for about ten 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, from where he left for Pakistan to study at an austere madrassa (Islamic school). He is believed to have entered Afghanistan in the spring of 2001.

Capture and interrogation

Walker was first captured on November 25, 2001, by Northern Alliance forces, and questioned by CIA agent Mike Spann and another agent at General Dostum's military garrison named Qali Jangi near Mazar-e Sharif. Later that day, the makeshift was the scene of a violent uprising, in which Spann was killed along with hundreds of foriegn fighters. Walker took refuge in a basement bunker after taking a bullet in the upper-right thigh, hiding with Saudi, Uzbek and Pakistani jihadis. He was found seven days later on December 2, 2001, when Northern Alliance forces diverted an irrigation stream, flushing out Walker and the other survivors. Walker initially gave his name as "Abdul Hamid" but later gave his real name when interviewed by Robert Young Pelton for CNN.

John Walker Lindh explained how he had trained in Osama bin Laden's camp and was a member of Al Ansar, the arabic fighters supported and paid for by bin laden. Pelton's exclusive interview was later used by the prosecution to write the indictment of Lindh.

Upon capture, Walker signed confession documents while he was held by the United States Marine Corps on USS Peleliu and informed his interrogators that he was not merely Taliban but al-Qaeda. John Ashcroft, on January 16, 2002, announced that Lindh would be tried in the United States.

His defense attorney claimed to the press that he asked for a lawyer repeatedly before being interviewed but he didn't get one, and that "highly coercive" prison conditions forced Walker to waive his right to remain silent. Although the FBI asked Jesselyn Radack, a Justice Department ethics advisor, whether Walker could be questioned without a lawyer present, her advice that this should not be done was not followed[1] (


On February 5, 2002, Walker was indicted by a federal grand jury on ten charges, including conspiring to support terrorist organizations and conspiring to murder Americans. The charges carried three life terms and 90 additional years in prison. On February 13, 2002, he pleaded "not guilty" to all ten charges.

Complicating the prosecution was the nature of the confession. Photos emerged from Lindh's captivity of him being held naked and trussed up like a trophy deer wearing an obscenity-covered blindfold. When details of the conditions of his captivity began to emerge, it was discovered that he had initially been wounded and hid for a week with limited food, water, and minimal sleep in conditions of freezing water before being captured. After being captured and taken to a room with the only window blocked off, Lindh had his clothes cut off him and was duct-taped to a stretcher and placed in a metal shipping container for transportation. When interrogated, he was denied a lawyer despite several requests, and was threatened with denial of medical aid if he didn't cooperate.

The court scheduled an evidence suppression hearing, at which Walker would be able to testify about the details of the torture to which he was subjected. The government faced the problem that a key piece of evidence—Walker's confession—might be excluded from evidence as having been forced under duress. Furthermore, the hearing would turn a spotlight on the way that U.S. soldiers had conducted the interrogation.

To forestall this possibility, Michael Chertoff, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, directed the prosecutors to offer Walker a plea bargain: He 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 twenty-year sentence, and he would have to drop 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 the other charges would be dropped.

Walker accepted this offer. On July 15, 2002, he entered his plea of guilty to the two remaining charges. The judge asked Walker to say, in his own words, what he was admitting to. "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 formally imposed the sentence: 20 years without parole.

Walker's attorney, James Brosnahan, said Walker 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, Walker agreed to cooperate "fully, truthfully and completely" with both military intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the terrorism investigation, and any profits Walker might make from telling his story will be taken by the government.


Since January 2003, Lindh has been at 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 off. Lindh suffered a bruised forehead. On July 2, 2003, Morrison was charged with a misdemeanor count of assault.

Hamdi v. Rumsfeld

The other American captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and detained by the U.S. military on the orders of the U.S. administration was Yaser Hamdi. To explain the detention, the U.S. administration announced that Yaser Hamdi was an enemy combatant. He was taken to Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but was transferred to jails in Virginia and South Carolina after it became known that he was a U.S. citizen. On September 23, 2004, the United States Justice Department agreed to release Hamdi to Saudi Arabia, where he is also a citizen, on the condition that he gave up his U.S. citizenship. The deal also bars Hamdi from visiting certain countries and to inform Saudi officials if he plans to leave the kingdom. He was a party to a Supreme Court decision Hamdi v. Rumsfeld which issued a decision on June 28, 2004, repudiating the U.S. government's unilateral assertion of executive authority to suspend the constitutional protections of individual liberty of a U.S. citizen.

External links

Template:Anb The Trials of Jesselyn Radack ( and The Woman Who Knew Too Much ( Phillip Walker Lindh he:ג'ון ווקר-לינד


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