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Lindh Shipped to Supermax

(AP)
Little noticed in his parents' renewed public call for clemency one week ago today was that John Walker Lindh has been moved far away from home. After spending four years with the general population at a medium security federal prison in Victorville, California, Lindh was quietly and without explanation transferred earlier this year to the nation's toughest maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado, known as the Alcatraz of the Rockies.

The news came as a surprise to Lindh's parents and longtime lawyer, Jim Brosnahan. "We didn't know where he was," Brosnahan tells CBS News. It took them three weeks to find out. "We do not know why he is there. There is even some talk they might move him farther East."

The government is mum about why Lindh was moved to Colorado on Feb 1. "That's not public info," Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Ponce tells CBS News. "We don't normally comment why one inmate is transferred from one institution to the next."

At Victorville, 85 miles northeast of Los Angeles, by all accounts Lindh was a well-behaved prisoner.

Lindh's October 2002 plea bargain – to a single count of aiding the Taliban by taking up arms with the al Qaeda ally – stated, if possible, the government would incarcerate the California native in his home state. That part of the deal was not binding, but it made it easier for his parents – Marilyn Walker and Frank Lindh – to visit. Lindh, now 26, is not scheduled for release until 2019.

Some restrictions imposed on the 473 inmates in Florence's maximum security facility have been lifted for Lindh. He is permitted visitors; his mother has been cleared to visit, and his father is applying. Most importantly, Brosnahan says, Lindh is permitted to receive information from a university and intends to pursue college degree, a path Lindh abandoned when the Muslim convert left home for Yemen at 17, destined for a training camp in Afghanistan.

"He maintains his great interest in Arabic studies," Brosnahan says.

The confusion about where Lindh is incarcerated takes a back seat to why he still is. Brosnahan won't disclose the contents of a 20-page document he filed with the Justice Department and the White House to bolster the call for clemency. "It's all the reasons why John's sentence should be commuted," the lawyer says. "We have told ourselves we are going to work toward a reduction of his sentence."