Congress Seeks to Stop Feds From Releasing Convicted Terrorists From Prison Early for Good Behavior

Congress aims to stop U.S. from freeing terrorists with American Taliban Lindh set for release

Tom Cotton
Tom Cotton / Getty Images
• May 24, 2019 2:30 pm


Congress is seeking to prevent the federal government from releasing Americans convicted of terrorism from being released from prison for good behavior, legislation that comes in reaction to the recent release of American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, who was let out of prison after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence.

The release of Lindh from prison for good behavior has riled GOP national security hawks in Congress and now prompted Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Republican allies to spearhead legislation to bar anyone convicted of terrorism charges from ever being released from prison for good behavior.

Lindh is one of several Americans who have been sentenced to prison on terrorism-related charges in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. If passed, Cotton's bill would ensure that no other imprisoned terrorist ever gets released early.

"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,'" Cotton said in a statement announcing the legislation, which has already garnered support from Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.). "Supporting radical Islamist groups like ISIS is savage behavior, not good behavior. Our bill would make convicted terrorists ineligible for early release."

A companion version of Cotton's bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R., Ala.).

"A convicted terrorist walking free before his sentence is completed should never happen again," Byrne said in a statement.

Byrne said that he has backed the legislation after requests from the Spann family, who's son Johnny was the first American killed in combat in the Afghanistan war, when Lindh and other militant prisoners staged an uprising at the prison in which they were being detained.

"The Spann family asked me to address this injustice, and I want to make sure no other family has to go through what the they have been through. The No Leniency for Terrorists Act will prevent terrorists from taking advantage of our laws to avoid paying their debt to society. We must ensure that terrorist will remain behind bars where they belong."

Spann's father, also called Johnny, called Lindh's release outrageous in recent interviews.

"It's not a slap in the face to me, it's a knife in the back," he was quoted as saying.

Lindh, while serving his prison terms, was unrepentant about supporting foreign terror organizations, writing as recently as 2015 that the ISIS terror faction was "doing a spectacular job."

Published under: Terrorism, Tom Cotton