CIA special operations officer Johnny “Mike” Spann was killed during a prisoner uprising at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress just after interrogating Lindh.
Every year we remember Johnny “Mike” Spann, the CIA special operations officer who was the first American killed in Afghanistan after 9/11.
Each year we discover new facts and stories, including the letter from Afghan warlord Abdul Rahdis Dostum and the memorial he dedicated in Spann’s memory, interviews with his oldest daughter Alison, and the family’s reaction to the release of Bowie Bergdahl.
Spann was killed during a prisoner uprising at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress
Spann interrogated so-called ‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh at the prison.
It’s not clear if Lindh played a direct role in Spann’s death, but he was present during the uprising. This 2004 L.A. Times article, Detainees Describe CIA Agent’s Slaying:
Captives from Afghanistan have told FBI agents that CIA officer Johnny “Mike” Spann became the first American to die in a clash in Afghanistan after he shot to death a prisoner who was attempting to attack him, possibly sparking the prison riot that claimed his life.
The events surrounding Spann’s death three years ago have never been fully explained by U.S. officials. Government accounts have said he was swarmed by angry Taliban soldiers at the prison and crushed or beaten to death, but his father has suggested that his son may have been shoved to his knees and shot execution-style.
No concrete details on the death emerged in the court case of John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban from Marin County, who had been interrogated by Spann shortly before the CIA agent died. The Afghan prisoners said Lindh shouted out around the time of the prison uprising that he was “an American and spoke English,” in an attempt to escape harm from U.S. and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces.
The newly public FBI reports, released Tuesday along with several hundred pages of other documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit against the U.S. government seeking information on the treatment of detainees, do not indicate whether the detainees’ accounts were considered believable by U.S. officials.
In our post in November 2017, we noted that Lindh might receive early prison release, Remembering CIA Officer Johnny “Mike” Spann as John Walker Lindh release date nears:
When Lindh leaves prison in less than two years, he will be unrepentant, as a June 2017 Foreign Policy article documents:
Now 36 years old, Lindh is set to be released in less than two years. And he’ll leave prison with Irish citizenship and a stubborn refusal to renounce violent ideology, according to the U.S. government. Foreign Policy obtained two government documents that express concerns about Lindh: One details the communications of Lindh and other federal prisoners convicted of terrorism-related charges, and the second, written by the National Counterterrorism Center, addresses the intelligence community’s larger concerns over these inmates, once released.
“As of May 2016, John Walker Lindh (USPER) — who is scheduled to be released in May 2019 after being convicted of supporting the Taliban — continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts,” reads the National Counterterrorism Center document prepared earlier this year.
The report, marked “For Official Use Only” and dated Jan. 24, 2017, provides a window into how the intelligence community looks at the prospect of releasing American citizens still considered potential threats. The document indicates that intelligence and law enforcement agencies are already worried that “homegrown violent extremists,” like other criminals, could have high rates of recidivism.
The document, which cites various Federal Bureau of Prisons intelligence summaries, claims that in March of last year, Lindh “told a television news producer that he would continue to spread violent extremist Islam upon his release.”
As predicted, Lindh’s release date is scheduled for May 2019, and he remains unrepentant. Fox News reports:
John Walker Lindh, a former American Taliban militant convicted in 2002 for supporting the terrorist organization and due to be freed in May, has obtained Irish citizenship in 2013 thanks to his family’s ancestry — and he plans to live in the country when he leaves lockup….
Walker Lindh’s release has prompted security concerns, as he’s expressed wishes to travel to Ireland while also not denouncing radical Islamic ideology, including allegedly making pro-ISIS comments to journalists….
The National Counterterrorism Center penned a document dated Jan. 24, 2017 claiming Walker Lindh remains as radicalized now as he was in 2001.
“As of May 2016, John Walker Lindh (USPER) — who is scheduled to be released in May 2019 after being convicted of supporting the Taliban — continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts,” the document said.
But despite that, the Irish government won’t follow the example of the British government — which rescinded a Jihadi bride’s British citizenship — and won’t stop Walker Lindh from entering the country.
Spann’s father understandable is angry at the early release, as AL.com reports:
Seventeen years have passed since Johnny Spann stood in front of a federal judge in Virginia and implored him to impose upon John Walker Lindh a sentence longer than the 20 years he ultimately gave Lindh for serving those who sheltered Osama bin Laden….
On Tuesday, Spann learned Lindh, a man he holds as responsible for his son’s death as those who physically ended his life, will be released from prison in May, years short of his full 20 year sentence….
“This is, of course, for the family disturbing news,” Johnny Spann said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “We never thought 20 years was a long enough sentence.”
If Lindh had identified himself as an American and revealed there was an uprising planned, Spann believes his son would still be alive. Lindh, who ended up in Afghanistan as a 20-year-old from California, did not.
“He’s as much responsible for Mike’s death as the people who beat him and shot him,” Spann’s father said.
Spann’s mother also still feels the pain, as Stars and Stripes reports:
Lindh could have warned her son, Gail Spann said.
“John Walker Lindh had the opportunity to tell Mike right there, ‘You’re an American, I’m an American … We’ve got weapons in this building and we’re going to overtake this fort,’” she said. “He chose not to because he was a Taliban. He’s a traitor to our country.” …
Mike Spann’s mother tries to live a “normal life” and the family has not sought publicity for her son, declining film and book rights requests, she said.
“The things that are important to me are the same things that were important to Mike,” she said. “America’s the greatest country in the world.”
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