Daniel McGowan Imprisoned for Speaking Out

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This morning, environmental activist Daniel McGowan was taken back to jail despite his exemplary parole record, presumably in retaliation for his recent article on the secretive Communications Management Units the US prison system uses to silence political prisoners.

Daniel’s article cites court documents confirming that, during his incarceration for environmentally motivated direct action, Daniel was moved to a CMU to punish him for expressing his political views. Despite first facing the threat of a life sentence, and then serving years in the CMU with very little contact with the outside world, Daniel has never cooperated with efforts to incriminate other activists, nor ceased to speak his mind. The US government is determined to make an example of Daniel for this. We too might hold him up as an example, showing that no amount of threats and coercion can break the spirit of a person determined to stand up to oppression.

There are two and a half million people in prison in the US, more than there were in the gulags at the height of Stalin’s reign in the Soviet Union. As in the Soviet Union, the authorities do everything they can to keep this population invisible: to prevent them from communicating with the rest of society so most people never learn how much violence and coercion are necessary to maintain this social order.

We should respond to attempts to silence Daniel and others like him by listening to what they have to say about what is going on in America’s prisons–and by doing our part to make it impossible for the authorities to silence anyone.

Background

Daniel’s original article from within the CMU, “Tales from Inside the US Gitmo”

Our overview of Operation Backfire, in which Daniel was arrested, “Green Scared?”

Update

Daniel’s attorneys at the Center for Constitutional Rights just released this statement:

Daniel McGowan has been released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where he was taken into custody yesterday and is back at the halfway house where he has been residing since his release from prison in December. Yesterday, Daniel was given an “incident report” indicating that his Huffington Post blog post, “Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech,” violated a BOP regulation prohibiting inmates from “publishing under a byline.” The BOP regulation in question was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007, and eliminated by the BOP in 2010. After we brought this to the BOP’s attention, the incident report was expunged.

One thought on “Daniel McGowan Imprisoned for Speaking Out

  1. April 8, 2013, New York – Today, attorneys for activist Daniel McGowan at the Center for Constitutional Rights released the following update on his situation:

    Daniel McGowan is back at the halfway house where he has been residing after a week that was by turns difficult, disturbing and ridiculous. To recap: on Monday, April 1, Daniel published an opinion piece on the Huffington Post titled “Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech.” On Thursday, April 4, Daniel was picked up by U.S. Marshals from the halfway house and taken into custody at Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. He was issued an “incident report” indicating that his Huffington Post blog post violated a BOP regulation prohibiting inmates from “publishing under a byline.” The BOP regulation in question was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007, and eliminated by the BOP in 2010. On Friday, April 5, after we brought Daniel’s unjust detention to the BOP’s attention, he was released from MDC, and the incident report was expunged.

    That same day, Daniel was provided with a list of prohibited activities by halfway house staff, which he was required to sign. The list forbids him any media contact without BOP approval, though BOP regulations only require preapproval of in-facility interviews. It also prohibits him from publishing any writing of his own without prior BOP permission. As far as we know, this is a made-up rule applied only to Daniel, in a further attempt to chill his freedom of speech.

    McGowan, who was released from prison in December and is serving out the last six months of his sentence at a halfway house, is a plaintiff in a Center for Constitutional Rights lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, challenging the constitutionality of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) experimental Communications Management Units (CMUs) where he was kept for four years. New documents uncovered in the case indicate he was placed in these highly restrictive experimental units as retaliation for his political writings on current events and issues while he was in prison.

    Aref v. Holder challenges the violation of prisoners’ fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to due process. Attorneys say that because transfer to CMUs are not based on facts or discipline for infractions, a pattern of religious and political discrimination and retaliation for prisoners’ lawful advocacy has emerged. Daniel McGowan recently amended the complaint to include claims of retaliation for First Amendment protected speech.

    For information about CCR’s federal lawsuit challenging CMUs, visit the Aref, et al. v. Holder, et al case page orwww.ccrjustice.org/cmu.
    The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher are co-counsel in the case.
    The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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