John Walker Lindh and the First Step Act

John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, was released from prison last week. He served 17 years of his 20 year sentence. He got out of jail early because he received “good conduct” credits.

The First Step Act — the “jailbreak” legislation pushed by the Trump administration, the Heritage Foundation, and prominent GOP Senators like Charles Grassley and Lindsey Graham — expands the credits that Lindh used to get out of jail. However, as I understand it, this expansion hasn’t been implement yet. Thus, First Step did not cause or contribute to Lindh’s early release.

However, once implemented later this year, the First Step expansion will enable thousands of other violent felons, including terrorists and sex offenders, to be released early. Thus, it is only happenstance that Lindh did not benefit from First Step.

Sen. Tom Cotton has proposed legislation that would prevent the early release for good conduct of Americans convicted of terrorism. He explained:

Our safety depends on keeping dangerous terrorists where they can’t harm Americans, but right now even unrepentant terrorists are eligible for early release from prison, sometimes for so-called “good behavior.” Supporting radical Islamist groups like ISIS is savage behavior, not good behavior. Our bill would make convicted terrorists ineligible for early release.

Cotton’s logic seems unassailable. The more a prisoner is committed to terrorism, the more likely he will behave himself in prison so as to become free to engage in new terrorist acts.

From all that appears, Lindh remains committed to terrorism. As recently as 2015, he wrote that ISIS is “doing a spectacular job.” It seems odd, to say the least, that he could be deemed in “good behavior.” Maybe he participated in some of the “evidence-based” rehabilitation programs that Team Leniency endlessly touts.

I hope the Trump administration, the Heritage Foundation, Sens. Grassley and Graham, and the rest of the center-right leniency gang will have the decency to support Sen. Cotton’s “No Leniency for Terrorists” legislation.

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