May 23 2019

Shelby, Cotton, Byrne Introduce No Leniency for Terrorists Act of 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today joined Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in unveiling legislation that would make anyone convicted of a terrorist offense ineligible for early release from federal prison for “good behavior.”  Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.  This action came following today’s early release of convicted American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh.  The bill text can be found here. 

“The early release of convicted terrorists sends the wrong message to those who have fought against terrorism and those who want to cause us harm,” said Senator Shelby.  “This legislation will help us prioritize the safety and security of our nation above all else. Today’s early release of John Walker Lindh is disheartening and unacceptable, and I am proud we are taking this step to make terrorists ineligible for early release.”

“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,” said Senator Cotton.

“A convicted terrorist walking free before his sentence is completed should never happen again,” said Byrne.  “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.”

This morning, John Walker Lindh, the first person convicted of terrorism charges in the War on Terror, was released early from prison.  An American citizen who left to join the Taliban, Lindh was caught on the battlefield by U.S. military forces.  He had been convicted of providing material support to the Taliban and sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Lindh only served 17 of those years, getting out three years early for “good behavior.”  In prison, Lindh continued supporting the actions and missions of ISIS and the Taliban.  In a letter from prison, Lindh wrote as recently as 2015 that ISIS was, “doing a spectacular job.”  This legislation would prevent supporters of ISIS and other radical terrorists from qualifying for “good behavior” in the future.

Senator Shelby sent a letter to President Trump in March 2019, highlighting his concerns with Lindh’s early release, and later spoke to him on the phone regarding the situation.  Additionally, he joined Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) last week in sending a letter to the Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Hugh Hurwitz, to express alarm over the anticipated release of Lindh and other terrorist offenders.  In the May 17 letter, Shelby and Hassan also requested further information about what steps the federal government is taking to ensure public safety upon the release of these individuals.