Daughter of American man killed after interviewing John Walker Lindh calls for early release ‘a slap in the face’

Johnny “Mike” Spann’s daughter Alison, who was the first American killed in the war in Afghanistan soon after the interview of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh
(Spann family/AP)

It was a text message that, for the 26-year-old, Alison Spann, tore open old wounds of grief.

“My grandfather wrote that he needed to talk to me about the news of an early version of John Walker Lindh,” Spann told Fox News on Friday, two days after that dread message ping. “It floored me. This man sat in front of my father, and killed him. The fact that he is now able to get out early is unacceptable. It feels like a slap in the face.”

Alison was only nine years old when her father, Johnny “Mike” Spann, a U. S Marine turned CIA paramilitary operative, became the first American to be killed in combat in Afghanistan, in the middle of the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September.

In November 2001, U. S forces learned that an American Lindh was among the cluster of Taliban fighters left in limbo after their leader, surrendered to the Northern Alliance in northern Afghanistan province of Mazar-i-Sharif. Spann was the first time in the compound, serve as a prison for an interview Lindh, peppering him with questions about where he was and what he was doing. But Lindh refused to respond.

“In those moments, when he chose to remain silent, he sealed his fate as a traitor to the United States,” Spann said. “At any moment, he warned him that something was being prepared.”


Hours later, Lindh fellow inmates erupted in a violent uprising that left Mike Spann’s death.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Lindh – who is currently behind bars in Terra Haute, Indiana – will be discharged on May 23, a few years in advance of his first 20 years in jail. The first charges against the 20-year-old Lindh in 2002 included a murder conspiracy for the role he played in the killing of Americans, including Spann, in prison for rebellion.

John Walker Lindh

However, nine of the ten counts in the indictment were dropped and he ended up pleading guilty to disobeying an executive order to prohibit aid to the Taliban, and for possessing a weapon in Afghanistan.

It is not clear why Lindh, now 38, to be eligible for early release, the BOP does not respond immediately to a comment request. Nevertheless, the judge reports indicated that “good behavior” can serve as justification.

“I was so young when it happened, but I knew that there was a man named John Walker Lindh, who was an American and had been at the prison when my father was killed,” Spann said. “I saw his image on the television, but my family tried to protect me from too many details. When I became older, I began to ask questions, and to understand what has happened.”

In Spann’s view, 20 years was a “paltry” sentence to begin with, but the understanding that is reduced is heartbreaking.

The upcoming release of Lindh, however, has prompted steep concerns about the safety. In 2017, the National counter-Terrorism Center, according to the documents in the Foreign Policy, stresses that he is continue to “advocate for global jihad and the writing and translating of violent extremist texts.”

He is also alleged to have told a TV producer last March that he would continue to spread violent extremism Islam after his release.”

In 2013, the designated “prisoner number 001 in the war against terror, was able to obtain Irish citizenship from behind bars as a result of his father’s lineage, and is reported to have expressed an intention to move to Ireland after being freed.


A convert to Islam, and is originally from northern California, Marin County, Lindh made the journey to Afghanistan after Yemen and Pakistan as a 19-year-old shortly before the attacks of 11 September. He underwent training in Kandahar, where he met with mastermind Usama bin laden on at least one occasion.

While Lindh was quickly labeled as the “American Taliban” in western media, a researcher and documentary filmmaker who interviewed the young jihadist in the north of Afghanistan, Robert Young Pelton, stressed that he very much belonged to the outfit that “ran planes into our buildings.”

“John Walker Lindh was al-Qaeda, and that was the reason why we are in Afghanistan,” Pelton said. “And now, we are struggling with the same thing about what to do with the American ISIS. These are the same kind of people.”

Nevertheless, the beginning of the release of the news has led to a renewed wave of emotion and frustration for the Spann family.

“He is as much responsible for Mike’s death, the people who beat him and shot him,” Spann’s father, Mike, said a local Alabama outlet this week, despite the fact that if Lindh had identified himself as a fellow citizen of the V. S., and revealed that a prison revolt was orchestrated, his son never lost his life.

In addition, Alison Spann is also the preparation for the sending of a letter to the White House, requesting the Executive to seize power and put an end to the beginning of the release. In the letter, viewed by Fox News, Spann asks that her father’s sacrifice “not be in vain.”

“He must be made to complete his sentence – one that pales in comparison to the one that so many American families have to pay in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism,” she writes.

Alison Spann, 26, wants the White House to stop the release of John Walker Lindh
(Spann family)

In contrast, in the years since the war in Afghanistan was ignited, Lindh’s father, Frank, has rejected many of the terrorist characterization of his son. On the contrary, he painted him as a spiritual young person that a “rash and blindly idealistic” decision, but was not “sinister or insidious” in its intentions.

Spann not to buy.

“If John was so innocent, why didn’t he jump at the chance to be saved or drawn by another American? Instead, he refused to speak. I find it hard to believe that he does not have a role,” she said. “This is not only a slap in the face for me and my family, but to the U.S. military and others who have sacrificed their lives in the war, as well as the victims of 9/11 and to the millions of Muslims around the world that are not radical.”


Johnny Spann, a resident of Winfield, Alabama, and the father of three children, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, at the end of 2001, where he was honored by then-CIA Director George Tenet as a person dedicated to the building of a “better, safer world” and that it was his “quest for right” that led him to Afghanistan.

Johnny “Mike” Spann with his three children
(Spann family)

Spann’s star is the 79th one chiseled on the Agency’s Memorial Wall.

“Our family is serving a life sentence. We are always affected by what happened. John Walker Lindh is 38, the age of my father never got to live. John Walker Lindh gets to go on and have a life, regardless,” Alison Spann added. “Why are we him an extra year of freedom?”

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