John Walker Lindh
"American Taliban" John Walker Lindh is treated at an Army hospital in Sheberghan, Afghanistan, Dec. 2, 2001. CNN via Getty Images

John Walker Lindh, the 38-year-old California man known as "the American Taliban," has spent 17 years in an Indiana federal prison and on Thursday is expected to be released.

What many may not know or remember is Lindh was never convicted of alleged crimes against the U.S., and instead pleaded guilty to avoid the threat of life in prison, during the highly charged political climate following the 9-11 attacks.

After being found injured, disheveled, and dehydrated in the basement of an Afghan fortress in Masar Al-Sharif in December 2001, just over three months after the 9-11 attacks, Lindh became the "poster boy" for the Bush administration’s "War on Terror," according to Mark Kukis, author of “My Heart Became Attached,” a 2003 book that traced Lindh’s interest in Islamic faith and his travels to the Middle East as a teenager to learn the Arabic language and study the Koran.

Kukis is one of a number of journalists and former Department of Justice attorneys featured in an upcoming documentary film about Lindh by Emmy Award-winning San Francisco-based producer Mark Stanoch.

“I think this is a profoundly interesting subject to explore in greater detail,” Stanoch told International Business Times in a phone interview Wednesday from Indiana.

At the time Lindh was found in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden remained at-large and the U.S. was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of anyone being held accountable for the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.

While Lindh was still at Masar Al-Sharif, a rebel uprising occurred and former Marine-turned CIA officer Johnny Michael Spann was killed. Spann’s parents have blamed Lindh for their son’s death but given Lindh's own injuries, many have speculated he had nothing to do with the uprising and he has steadfastly denied knowing anything about the impending revolt.

Alison Spann, the daughter of the slain CIA agent and a news anchor for WLOX in Biloxi, Mississippi, wrote to President Trump asking that Lindh’s early release be stopped since, she said, he continues to “advocate for global jihad.”

Stanoch’s film retraces the experiences of journalists in the field, as well as authors who sought to make sense in the aftermath of the capture of a Marin County, California 20-year-old apparently taking sides with a U.S. enemy.

In an article published in the Guardian in July 2011, Lindh's father, Frank Lindh, noted that "a commentator at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University called [John Walker Lindh's incarceration] 'a petty prosecution' that was 'unworthy of a great country.' But it was more than petty, in my view; it was brutally inhumane."

Many of the techniques later known and eventually banned as enhanced interrogation were used on Lindh. He was isolated, sleep-deprived and photos of the day showed him blindfolded, strapped to a board with duct tape and barely clothed. He has had no contact with media outlets since shortly after his apprehension by U.S. authorities.

Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft initially charged Lindh with 11 criminal counts that, if sustained, resulted in a life sentence for Lindh. Instead, Lindh opted for a plea agreement that sentenced him to 20 years in federal prison. As a result, Americans have never heard his side of the story. Based on prison reports of good behavior, Lindh will be released under a strictly supervised three-year probation but many are unhappy with his impending release.

Fox News host Sean Hannity posted on Twitter: “Villain of the Day! This is terrible!”

Sens. Richard Shelby, R-AL, and Democratic colleague Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire said Wednesday that Lindh remains a danger to society, basing that assessment on government documents leaked in 2017, characterizing Lindh as unrepentant, and still radicalized.

President Trump and all of the Democratic presidential candidates have not taken to the social media to weigh in on Lindh’s release.