John Walker Lindh, the federal prisoner dubbed the "American Taliban," is due to be released Thursday—but federal authorities believe he could still be very dangerous, sources tell NBC. Lindh, who grew up in California and was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, said joining the Taliban was a "mistake" during a sentencing hearing in 2002, but he changed his tune in later years, telling NBC Los Angeles in a 2014 letter that he was proud to have been "part of the Afghan jihad." In a 2015 letter to a producer at the station, he praised ISIS, saying: "The Islamic State is clearly very sincere and serious about fulfilling the long-neglected religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle, which is the only correct method." He said the group was doing "a spectacular job."
A leaked 2017 report from the National Counterterrorism Center says that as of 2016, Lindh "continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts," the New York Times reports. "From all I’m hearing inside of government, he is still as radical as he went in," says Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s program on extremism. The 38-year-old Lindh, who is being released from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence, will face strict probation conditions including monitoring of his Internet usage and a ban on foreign travel. The father of Mike Spann, the CIA operative killed in an Afghanistan prison riot a few hours after questioning Lindh, says he is a "traitor" who should have been sentenced to life, not 20 years. (Read more John Walker Lindh stories.)