Daniel McGowan’s recent Huffington Post blog post about the secretive federal Communications Management Unit that he was held in might have landed him back in prison, the Huff Po is reporting.
McGowan’s wife Jenny Synan “told HuffPost that she asked a BOP official why her husband had been re-imprisoned after his release to a halfway house in December. She said the official told her that the HuffPost article violated a term of his release that restricted him from interacting with the media.”
McGowan was sentenced in 2007 to seven years in prison for participating in ecologically motivated arsons in Oregon as part of what the FBI called Operation Backfire, which involved property destruction across the Northwest. No one was injured in any of the actions, but McGowan and others were given terrorism enhancements on their sentences.
In late August 2008 he was transferred from FCI-Sandstone, a low security prison in Minnesota, to the CMU at USP-Marion, which was created to monitor so-called terrorist prisoners. McGowan had issued updates from prison speaking out on environmental issues, appeared on a calendar featuring political prisoners and was the subject of a then in-progress documentary film. If a Tree Falls went on to garner an Oscar nomination.
McGowan’s April 1 blog post, written while in a Brooklyn halfway house, details his time at the CMU. He writes:
The units are designed to isolate prisoners from the rest of the prisoner population, and more importantly, from the rest of the world. They impose strict limitations on your phone calls home and visits from family and friends — you have far less access to calls and visits than in general population. The communications restrictions at the CMUs are, in some respects, harsher than those at ADX, the notorious federal “Supermax” prisonin Colorado. Also, unlike ADX, they are not based on a prisoners’ disciplinary violations. When my wife and loved ones visited me at the CMUs, we were banned from any physical contact whatsoever. All interactions where conducted over a telephone, with Plexiglas and bars between us. Until they were threatened with legal action, CMU prisoners were only allowed one single 15-minute phone call per week.
McGowan’s attorneys released a statement on the The Center for Constitutional Rights‘s website saying
Daniel McGowan is back in BOP custody. He was taken by federal marshals from his halfway house this morning, and brought to the Metropolitan Detention Center. We have received information that this was triggered by an opinion piece he published on the Huffington Post Monday, and we are currently trying to confirm this and learn more about the situation. We were unable to meet with him today because, we were informed, he was being processed. We will seek to meet with him tomorrow and follow all avenues to secure his release. The name of the piece is “Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech.” If this is indeed a case of retaliation for writing an article about the BOP retaliating against his free speech while he was in prison, it is more than ironic, it is an outrage.
McGowan is part of the lawsuit Aref v. Holder, which challenges the violation of CMU prisoners’constitutional rights, such as the right to due process. The case argues that transfers to a CMU” are not based on facts or discipline for infractions, a pattern of religious and political discrimination and retaliation for prisoners’ lawful advocacy has emerged.” The CCR says that “recently amended the complaint to include claims of retaliation for First Amendment protected speech.”