John Walker Lindh in a police department photo released in 2002. (Photo: Alexandria County Sheriff's Department/Getty Images)

John Walker Lindh of Marin, sometimes called the “American Taliban,” is currently serving a 20-year sentence for violating an Executive Order prohibiting aid to that group. His father, Frank Lindh, has been making the case that his son should be freed. From his May 21 op-ed in the New York Times:

John’s case was never about evidence. It was based purely on emotion — shock and anger over 9/11, compounded with a deep frustration that Bin Laden was able to escape from American forces. During the prison raid in which John was captured, another young American, a C.I.A. officer named Johnny Micheal Spann, was fatally shot. Mr. Spann’s father has pushed for harsh punishment. I respect his grief, and his son’s heroism. But his belief that John somehow was responsible for, or could have prevented, the death of his son is mistaken.

In fact, in a plea deal in October 2002, the government dropped its most serious accusations against John, including terrorism and conspiracy to kill Americans. John acknowledged only that he had aided the Taliban and carried weapons. For this, he accepted a term of 20 years’ imprisonment. He turned 30 in February…

John was a scapegoat, wrongly accused of terrorism at a moment when our grieving country needed someone to blame because the real terrorist had gotten away. Now that Bin Laden is dead, I hope President Obama, and the American people, can find it in their hearts to release John, and let him come home. Ten years is enough.

Not everyone agrees with this. Conservative columnist Debra J. Saunders, for instance.

…Lindh admits to having trained in a camp run by Osama bin Laden and having fought with the wonderful Taliban — apparently the Taliban, with its mistreatment of women and slaughter of Muslims not even worth mentioning, is not a problem for Frank Lindh. The son also admitted that he carried an AKM rifle and grenades.

Frank Lindh appeared on KQED’s Forum radio program yesterday, and the show generated extensive listener response, much of it critical. (See a Forum message board on the segment here.)

So Forum revisited the show with NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard and listeners who called in. You can listen to that show below:

And you can listen to the original show with Frank Lindh below:

Finally, you can hear Frank Lindh speak at the USF School of Law in 2008, where again he portrayed his son as a “scapegoat for the faults of the U.S. government.”

More on John Walker Lindh:

The John Walker Lindh Controversy 26 May,2011Jon Brooks

  • Tom Hart

    I think it’s great that Dave is presiding over his own rebuttal or retraction and that KQED is doing this. However, not to lose sight of the issue of John Walker Lindh’s imprisonment:
    Was it false?
    Should he be pardoned and released, or was the conviction valid if not 100% on the right grounds?


    • Tom Hart

      …and does the Obama administration have an opinion on this?


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor