FBI: ‘American Taliban’ Lindh meets with released extremist
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia man convicted nearly a decade ago of supporting the Islamic State group as a teenager has now been accused of violating his terms of release by meeting with convicted Taliban supporter John Walker Lindh.
According to court documents, the FBI photographed Ali Shukri Amin meeting withLindh on three different occasions in 2021 for about three hours. The document does not state where the meetings occurred. The meetings violate a condition of Amin’s supervised release, which bars him from meeting with known extremists, prosecutors said.
The meetings also could have constituted a violation of Lindh’s supervised release when they occurred, but now Lindh is no longer subject to supervision, as his term of supervised release expired last year.
It’s not entirely clear why authorities used the meeting as a basis to claim a violation against Amin but not against Lindh, given that they both were barred from meeting with extremists.
The court documents show, though, that authorities had reason to be concerned about Amin beyond his meetings with Lindh. Amin, who lives in Dumfries, is also accused of corresponding online with a British individual described as a “known extremist” until that person was arrested in February 2022 by British authorities.
In his conversations with the British individual, authorities say Amin provided guidance related to the teachings of two Islamic preachers considered extremists by the FBI, according to the court document.
The document also accuses Amin of using a virtual private network to conceal his online activity and evade the supervision of his parole officer.
Michael Jensen, an investigator with the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, said terrorism defendants are assigned to veteran probation officers who devote significant time and energy to helping them transition back into their communities, and it’s unusual to petition for revocation of supervised release.
“(I)f a probation officer is petitioning the court to revoke supervised release, then they have significant concerns that the individual is not reintegrating into their community successfully and that they remain a potential threat,” he said.
It is clear, though, that the FBI and other agencies also continue to harbor concerns about Lindh’s activity, ideology and continued radicalization after his release from prison in 2019. The court document describing Amin’s meetings with Lindh state that Lindh “remains a known extremist and is believed by the FBI to hold extremist ideations.”
Lindh was the first American to face major terrorism charges after the Sept. 11 attacks. He was convicted of supplying services to the Taliban after he was captured in Afghanistan in the weeks after the 9-11 attacks fighting with Taliban forces against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance.
He was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of a plea deal and was released from custody in 2019 after serving about 85% of his sentence, with the remainder reduced for good behavior.
Shortly before he was released, a judge imposed additional restrictions on his three-year period of supervised release, in addition to the original conditions that included the ban on meeting with known extremists. The new requirements included monitoring software on his internet devices, requiring that his online communications be conducted in English, and forbidding him from possessing extremist material, holding a passport or leaving the U.S.
Amin’s case was notable primarily because of his age. It’s rare for federal prosecutors to seek and obtain convictions against people under the age of 18. But Amin was 17 when he pleaded guilty in 2015 to helping the Islamic State group by using social media to provide advice and encouragement to the group and its supporters under the Twitter handle Amreekiwitness. Amreeki translates to “American.”
He also admitted helping a classmate, 18-year-old Reza Niknejad, travel to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
He was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison but later had his sentence reduced to six years. Still, he filed multiple lawsuits and petitions seeking to have his conviction overturned. In one lawsuit he accused the FBI of “manipulating his underdeveloped juvenile brain” and contributing to his radicalization by placing his online activities under surveillance at a young age.
Even though he admitted his guilt, he argued that his online activities should have been protected free speech and that he was wrongly prosecuted “based on his profession of views which do not conform to the normative scope of American bipartisan consensus.”
A hearing on whether to revoke Amin’s supervised release is scheduled for Feb. 13. Amin’s lawyer, Jessica Carmichael, declined to comment but is expected to file a motion on her client’s behalf ahead of the hearing.
Judges have the option to send defendants back to prison or to extend their time on supervision, though in Amin’s case he has already been sentenced to lifetime supervision.