Last week, TMO reported that former CMU (Communication Management Unit) prisoner Dan McGowan was released to a halfway house in Brooklyn and had succeeded in obtaining information through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that explained why he had been moved from the general prison population to the high security prison unit often referred to as â€œLittle Guantanamo.â€
Will Potter, author of â€œGreen is the New Red: An Insiderâ€™s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege,â€ wrote in 2010 that â€œthe government is arguing two competing claims simultaneously: (1) That Communications Management Units are needed because the inmates are heightened security risks, and (2) That traditional oversight is too cumbersome because these inmates are not dangerous enough. The aim is, admittedly, to place more unchecked power in the hands of lower-ranking government officials… and to keep political prisoners with â€œinspirational significanceâ€ from communicating with the communities and social movements of which they are part.â€
McGowan, an environmental activist profiled in the Oscar-nominated documentary â€œIf a Tree Falls,â€ wrote in his Huffington Post blog on April 1, 2013 that he had been sent to the CMU in retaliation for publishing political commentaries, which included articles exposing CMU prison conditions.
Two days after McGowanâ€™s article appeared in the newspaper, he was arrested by federal marshals and re-incarcerated without explanation.
Jenny Synan, McGowanâ€™s wife asked a BOP (Bureau of Prisons) official why her husband had suddenly been re-imprisoned four months after his release. She was told that his article violated a term of his release that restricted him from interacting with the media.
The Center for Constitutional Rights stated on Thursday:
â€œWe have received information that this was triggered by an opinion piece he published on the Huffington Post Monday, â€˜Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech.â€™ 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.â€ â€œThey already have a lawsuit against them for things like this,â€ McGowanâ€™s wife said. â€œHe just posted his thing a few days ago about all this stuff — about his political beliefs and speech — and they do something to him because of his post about this. Itâ€™s crazy.â€
BOP national spokesman Chris Burke said that under a general media policy, â€œinmates cannot do interviews without permission. So if thereâ€™s some sort of a phone interview or a sit-in interview, those have to be pre-approved.â€
Tracy Rivers, a residential reentry manager for the BOP in New York, said that in general, prisoners can be punished for violating a BOP rule that prohibits giving interviews to the news media without official approval.
But that rule says nothing about prisoners writing blog posts.
On Friday, April 5, McGowan was re-released after his lawyers confirmed that McGowan had been re-imprisoned on the basis of an unconstitutional prison regulation:
â€œDaniel 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 â€˜incident reportâ€™ indicating that his Huffington Post blog post violated a BOP regulation prohibiting inmates from â€˜publishing under a byline.â€™ 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 BOPâ€™s attention, the incident report was expunged.â€
The jailing of environmental activist Daniel McGowan is under review, a Federal BOP official said Friday morning.
According to reports, McGowan has adjusted well to life at the halfway house. He has found a job with a New York law firm, and hopes that there will be no more obstacles to reporting to work. CORRECTION:
Last week, TMO reported incorrectly that former CMU prisoner and McGowanâ€™s co-plaintiff in lawsuits against Attorney General Holder and the BOP, Imam Yassin Aref was relocated to a high security prison unit under â€œSIMâ€ classification. Aref is actually residing in a low security prison under the classification â€œCIM.â€
Attorney Kathy Manley clarified by email, quoted with permission, that Aref â€œis at his second low security prison, FCI Loretto, in PA. Before that, he was at another low security one – FCI Allenwood, also in PA, but closer to his family and us. They told him they moved him because he requires CIM, or Central Inmate Monitoring. That makes no sense, for at least a couple different reasons – for one, they can monitor someone more easily if they stay in the same place. Two, they are basing this on a claim that he â€˜threatened government officials,â€™ which, like their other claim that he communicated with JEM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) is provably false – even based on information from the prosecution. (Theyâ€™ve been saying this all along and itâ€™s based on the sting operation, where all he did was witness a loan he thought was perfectly legal.) We think they are giving him what the prisoners call â€˜diesel therapy,â€™ where they move someone around a lot if they become very popular, which he has been, everywhere they have sent him.â€
Manley clarifies, â€œHeâ€™s been under CIM the whole time – they just hadnâ€™t said it to him before (although it was listed in a printout they gave him years ago). Since they moved him out of the CMU, I think the CIM hasnâ€™t affected him too much – he was transferred to a low security prison, and seems to have been treated pretty much the same as the others there. The only difference Iâ€™ve noticed seems to be that they transferred him again, and may keep doing so. (But I donâ€™t think itâ€™s really because of the CIM.)
â€œIn fact, we suspect that they moved him out of the CMU for a couple reasons. One, he was the lead plaintiff in the CCR lawsuit challenging the CMUs (Aref v. Holder) and they were trying to moot the lawsuit (luckily itâ€™s still going forward and heâ€™s still the lead plaintiff. Another plaintiff is Daniel McGowan who is now in a halfway house and just had an article on the CMUs in HuffPo which led to his briefly being locked up again).
â€œAlso, he learned in 2011 via a FOIA request from the FBI that at some point they thought he was someone in Al Qaeda named Mohammed Yassin. And we think that was the main reason they went after him with the sting in the first place. At some later point they must have realized he was not that guy, especially since a man in Al Qaeda named Mohammed Yassin was killed in 2010 in a missile strike in Palestine. And… it was soon after that that they moved him out of the CMU.â€