Daniel McGowan Forbidden From Publishing Articles Without Permission

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Daniel McGowan has been forbidden from publishing anything without the permission of the Bureau of Prisons.
After more than seven years, the stack of dehumanizing and seemingly unconstitutional interactions between Daniel McGowan and the American prison system is now piled so high it is teetering over into a recursive mess of bleak and Kafkaesque absurdity.

Last Monday, McGowan published a piece on the Huffington Post that laid out much of his situation to date. After years in prison for his role in environmentally motivated property destruction that was prosecuted as acts of terrorism, he wrote, he was finishing up the remaining months of his sentence in a halfway house in Brooklyn.

The various perversions of the case that sent McGowan away are well documented in the documentary (streaming on Netflix!) If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front. But, as McGowan wrote, less publicized is what happened to him a year into his prison term: Despite a flawless disciplinary record, McGowan was transferred to an experimental new Communications Management Unit, a supermax-like extreme-isolation facility some have dubbed a "Little Guantanamo."

Why was McGowan transferred to a CMU? He never got a good answer to that question, even after a Freedom of Information Act request, so, along with other CMU inmates, he filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the CMUs and alleging that they are effectively political prisons designed to silence the voices of people whose message the government doesn't like. As it turned out, McGowan was right: Bureau of Prisons memos discovered through the lawsuit appear to link his transfer to the CMU to the fact that he continued to write things the government found politically objectionable.

"While incarcerated and through social correspondence and articles written for radical publications, inmate McGowan has attempted to unite the radical environmental and animal liberation movements," one memo states, before dilating on other political statements McGowan made in interviews and his own writing.

McGowan wrote about all of this in his Huffington Post piece last Monday. Two days later, the staff at the halfway house to which he had been assigned told him that his work permit had been revoked on order of the Bureau of Prisons. The next morning, federal marshals arrived and brought him to the Metropolitan Detention Center. Once there, he was presented with a document explaining that he had violated the terms of his release to the halfway house. Specifically, the incident report stated that McGowan had violated a prison regulation that stated "an inmate currently confined in an institution may not ... act as a reporter or publish under a byline."

That's right: McGowan was sent back to jail for writing about how he'd been imprisoned in a CMU for writing things.

There's more: The regulation that the Bureau of Prisons cited to justify returning him to jail had actually been declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007, and the Bureau of Prisons had finally taken it off the books in 2010. McGowan's lawyers mentioned this to the bureau and to the lawyers representing the government in his lawsuit, and he was re-released to the halfway house on Friday.

But that's not the end of it. Back at the halfway house, staff presented McGowan with a document and directed him to sign it. The document stated that "he is not permitted to have any contact with the media without approval from the BOP's Residential Reentry Manager. Accordingly, Resident McGowan was advised that writing articles, appearing in any type of television or media outlets, news reports and or documentaries without prior BOP approval is strictly prohibited."

It's worth noting that McGowan hadn't been asked to sign this document when he first arrived at the halfway house, nor, as far as his lawyers can tell, has anyone there been asked to sign it. In fact, there's nothing in the Bureau of Prison's published media policy that requires pre-approval before publishing anything.

"There is no national prohibition on publishing," Chris Burke, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons, confirmed this afternoon.

"I thought I had lost my ability to be surprised by what the Bureau of Prisons does years ago," said Rachel Meeropol, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights who's representing McGowan. "But restricting an individual's freedom of speech in this manner is truly surprising. It's beyond ironic that Daniel was retaliated against and returned to prison for publishing a blog about being retaliated against for speaking out in prison."

Here's the incident report explaining McGowan's return to prison:

Daniel McGowan Incident Report

And here's the statement McGowan was required to sign upon his return to the halfway house:

Daniel McGowan Halfway House statement

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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24 comments
commuted
commuted

I've heard of physicists being required to get approval before publishing.

athonwy
athonwy

Prisoners should have full First Amendment rights. This is just more fascist heavy-handedness by the corporate controlled government. What are they afraid of, that a prisoner will say something that will convince other people to take illegal actions? There are already laws against those illegal actions. This is shameful behaviour by our government, and should be condemned as such by any freedom-loving person.

RichAveteran
RichAveteran

Grassroots people, keep this story moving. I may not agree with what Daniel did (honestly I have no idea what he ended up in prison for, probably deserves it, whatever.) however the way he was treated after the fact is inexcusable. Not being able to write or publish articles and having to sign something to be able to go back to the halfway house is absurd. Convicted terrorist or not I served this great country to protect his rights and those of others. If they want to burn the flag and write about overthrowing the government so be it. I have a choice because of the laws and rights i chose to defend, and I choose to ignore and not read the bull that he writes. But when I ignore the rights he does have being stepped on then I have a problem because soon I might not have a choice. Everyone's legal rights need to be protected remember that. 

hakon39
hakon39

Just more federal bullshit.  The Alphabet Soup Gang, whether the BoP, the ATF. FBI. HSA, ETC, are ALL corrupt, venal, organizations dedicated to maintaining power for the Oligarchs running the country, using violence, terror, and intimidation.

Hopefully, CONVICT McGowan will triumph over the pig-farmers in green suits running the BoP.

FTF/FTP

TOSIAR

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

Inmate McGowan was aware of the special conditions for his release to the halfway house. He knowingly violated the rule restricting him from publishing without prior approval. This is what happens when an inmate breaks the rules. S/he gets sent back to the institution. It is neither cruel nor unusual for that to happen. When his BOP time is up he will again be released to the halfway house and the same special rules (in addition to Standard Conditions as written in the Judgment and Confinement Order, among them no drinking or doing drugs) will apply. My advice to him is to follow the rules, all of them, until he is "off paper."

abcd
abcd

It hardly seems surprising that the government would seek to restrict the communication of a convicted terrorist.  

younismourabi
younismourabi

@eric.nelson745  Just because some Federal peon makes a decree does not mean that the decree is Constitutional.  Resistez!

kc1776
kc1776

@eric.nelson745  As much as parole officers might want to make up their own rules, that's really not the way it's supposed to work. The right of an inmate or parolee to publish has been well established. McGowan's parole officer was wrong.  

skr213
skr213

@eric.nelson745 You obviously did NOT read the article.  Why are you trying to sound authoritative when stating a slew of incorrect statements?  Maybe you should stick to your job (presumably some sort of prison/law enforcement position I'm going to assume).

acab
acab

@eric.nelson745 Not true. Did you read the article? The "rule" was deemed unconstitutional years ago so they took him back to the halfway house. As for what he was just given, this was made up after the fact.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

@kc1776 @eric.nelson745 You may of course be right... But you see this guy is a convicted felon, and dangerous one at that. Convicted felons don't have the same rights and privileges as you and I have. He will appeal the decision of the hearing officer. His appeal will go up and down the chain. If he doesn't get the decision he wants, then he can pursue his issue in the courts. In addition, he signed those conditions of confinement, meaning that he agreed to follow them. We'll just have to wait and see what happens and we will. This thing has legs.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

@skr213 @eric.nelson745 Maybe you're right about the rule being unconstitutional. I honestly don't know. I was merely relying on my knowledge and experience as a correctional counselor. I will propose the following, however: Is it logical that the BOP would treat McGowan this way if it knew that said rule could not pass constitutional muster?

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

@acab @eric.nelson745 All I can say to that is that said rule was included in the Special Conditions on the Judgment and Commitment order issued by the judge. There are Standard Conditions and then there are Special Conditions related to the nature of his crime.

JSC-NYC
JSC-NYC

why not 20 years?...pretty standard employment period for Gov pension.......fired for making this crap

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

@what @eric.nelson745 That's the sentencing document. It specifies how many months he's up for. It also specifies what kind of education and therapy or other services he's supposed to receive while he's behind the walls. Standard conditions are the same for every inmate. No drugs, pay restitution, etc. Special conditions are related to his offense. Say he was a hacker who got into one of the computer systems at the Pentagon. One of those special conditions would be that he have no access to computers. You're correct that he is not under supervision of a PO. That's because he's still serving his prison sentence. While in prison federal inmates accumulate good time at the rate of 54 days per year. The majority of them are sent to halfway houses to help them get reintegrated into normal society. They must get jobs, substance abuse education and stay out of trouble. When that time is up he will be supervised by a probation officer. That amount of time varies according to the seriousness of his crime. A sex offender usually has lifetime supervision. And just how do I know all this stuff? I was a correctional counselor in halfway houses for nearly 15 years.

what
what

@eric.nelson745 What are you even talking about? Yeah, he's so dangerous writing well-researched articles online. Also, "appeal the decision of the hearing officer"? Are you just stringing words together til you think it makes sense? There is no hearing for this.  Are you referring to the lawsuit that has been around for years (which McGowan discusses in his blogs). That is completely different. For clarification's sake, McGowan also is not under a probation (not parole) officer's supervision until he is out of the halfway house.  And one more thing (!) you mention "Special Conditions on the Judgment and Commitment order issued by the judge" - please show us what/where this is. You <3 making shit up.

JSC-NYC
JSC-NYC

logical?........no

typical?.....absofuckinglutely........don't be coy.........it's not befitting a man with so much control over the incarcerated

dov0
dov0

@eric.nelson745 Wow obviously YES!! they DID!!! so whats your salary as a media rep for the prison system LOL

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