Free John Lindh?

The quality of mercy is in the news these days, with the commutaion of Scooter Libby’s jail sentence. Today, the Los Angeles Times urges clemency for John Walker Lindh, in an editorial titled “Free Our Talib”. Lindh is serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison as a result of a plea bargain. The Times argues that Lindh never took up arms against American soldiers and didn’t, really, do anything seriously wrong:

Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft called him an “Al Qaeda-trained terrorist,” and the charges against Lindh originally included conspiring to commit terrorism. Those charges were dropped, however, and Lindh today is serving time not for any act committed against the United States, but for violating a Clinton-era presidential order that prohibits providing “services” to the Taliban. Lindh, who converted to Islam as a teenager, joined the Taliban before Sept. 11, not after; he did so to fight the Northern Alliance, not the United States. Lindh never took up arms against this country. He never engaged in terrorism; indeed, his commitment to Islam leads him to oppose the targeting of civilians.

This is the version of the facts that Lindh’s family has promoted in its campaign to get him released from prison. The Times swallows it whole; but it is misleading at best. The grand jury’s indictment of Lindh is here. The charges against Lindh included the following:

* In or about June and July 2001, LINDH remained at the al-Farooq camp and participated fully in its training activities, after having been told early in his stay at the camp that Bin Laden had sent forth some fifty people to carry out twenty suicide terrorist operations against the United States and Israel.
* In or about June or July 2001, LINDH met personally with Bin Laden, who thanked him and other trainees for taking part in jihad.
* In or about June or July 2001, LINDH swore allegiance to jihad.
* After learning about the terrorist attacks against the United States on or about September 11, 2001, LINDH remained with his fighting group. LINDH did so despite having been told that Bin Laden had ordered the attacks, that additional terrorist attacks were planned, and that additional al Qaeda personnel were being sent from the training camps to the front lines to protect Bin Laden and defend against an anticipated military response from the United States.
* From in or about October through early December 2001, LINDH remained with his fighting group after learning that United States military forces and United States nationals had become directly engaged in support of the Northern Alliance in its military conflict with Taliban and al Qaeda forces.
* In or about November 2001, LINDH’s fighting group retreated from Takhar to the area of Kunduz, Afghanistan, and ultimately surrendered to Northern Alliance troops. On or about November 24, 2001, LINDH and other captured fighters were trucked to Mazar-e Sharif, in Afghanistan, and then to the nearby Qala-i Janghi (“QIJ”) prison compound.
* On or about November 25, 2001, LINDH was interviewed in the QIJ compound by two Americans, CIA employee Johnny Micheal Spann and another United States Government employee, who were attempting to identify al Qaeda members among the prisoners.
* On or about November 25, 2001, Taliban detainees in the QIJ compound attacked Spann and the other employee, overpowered the guards, and armed themselves. Spann was shot and killed in the violent attack. After being wounded, LINDH retreated with other detainees to a basement area of the QIJ compound. The bloody uprising took several days to suppress.
* From on or about November 25, 2001 though on or about December 1, 2001, LINDH remained in the basement area of QIJ with other Taliban and al Qaeda fighters until their recapture. (In violation of 18 U.S.C.


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