John Walker Lindh aka the “American Taliban” was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he plead guilty to supporting militants that harbored al-Qaeda as they planned the 9/11 attacks. Surprisingly he was will be released from federal prison three years early.
Lindh is not the only American in prison for terrorist-related offenses. The bigger issue is if America is ready to welcome back terrorists and are they really prepared to rehabilitate extremists.
Bennett Clifford, a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism states, “There is very close to nothing in terms of de-radicalizing programs at the federal level. The current model is hoping long prison sentences for material support of terrorism will be a deterrent.”
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has budget constraints and tends to focus more on traditional rehabilitation that is geared towards drug use and gang activity
Officials have shown interest in growing recidivism-prevention and reintegration efforts although there was only one paragraph mentioning it in the White House’s 2018 counterterrorism strategy.
One state that is taking this threat very seriously is Minnesota as they have had a surge in Islamist terrorism suspects. The U.S. District Court for Minnesota has begun efforts that include deradicalization from extremist beliefs, civic education, family involvement and mental health counseling for inmates. They were inspired by European programs and also extend to white-supremacist supporters.
Lindh will be monitored for three years by federal probation officials. He will also require permission to get on Internet-capable devices that would be monitored “continuously.” He is ordered to attend mental health counseling and is not allowed to communicate online in any other language other than English without approval. He is barred from owning a passport, accessing material that leans towards extremism or terroristic views, and from communicating with known extremists.