The Making Of John Walker Lindh

How did a quiet, bright young boy from suburban America end up alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan? This is a story of love, loathing and an often reckless quest for spiritual fulfillment

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Correction Appended: March 24, 2003

Marilyn and Frank are allowed to visit their son twice a week, approximately one hour at a time. There is always an fbi agent present. Frank says the agents are pleasant but every word uttered during their visits is recorded. Even so, Marilyn tries to fly across the continent to Washington every two weeks to see her son. They talk through Plexiglas. Neither parent has been able to embrace him. The closest they have come to physical contact was through a mesh screen when they saw him after he was first brought back to the U.S., 55 days after the world saw him on television. Lindh held his palms to the mesh, and each parent took turns holding their hands against his, palm to palm, mother to son, father to son. Frank says he could feel the "warmth" of Lindh's hands through the mesh. That was the last touch that his mother and father had from Lindh.

Since he agreed to plead guilty to "supplying services to the Taliban," Lindh has been debriefed regularly as part of the ongoing effort to gather intelligence about terror networks. "They ask him very detailed questions," says a visitor. "If he went into a room, they ask him what color is the door, the room." Though now clean-shaven and scrubbed, Lindh remains a faithful Muslim, praying toward Mecca five times a day, kneeling on a jailhouse towel that serves as his prayer mat. Lindh has access to newspapers and rues the way he feels the media has demonized Islam. Says Abdelwahab Hassan, spiritual leader for Muslim inmates at the Alexandria Detention Center: "He said the America he is reading about is not like the America that he knew when he left here." Does he worry about the long prison sentence he may face? Says Hassan: "He thinks life is of value wherever it is. In his cell he can enjoy praying and reading the Koran." He will now have time to memorize the two-thirds he had left unfinished when he headed for the mountains. --With reporting by Frank Sikora/Birmingham, Alex Perry/Mazar-i-Sharif and Hannah Bloch/Islamabad

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