Political prisoner Daniel McGowan's voice not buried in the hole

Daniel McGowan Letter

Daniel McGowan is serving a seven-year-sentence for charges relating to two arsons, one at the Superior Lumber and the other at Jefferson Poplar in Clatskanie, Oregon. Jefferson Poplar was doing research on genetically modified trees. The experiments were centered on creating more branches on trees to increase production for pulping. Despite the fact that no human beings were harmed in these actions, the government originally sought terrorism enhancement on the charges as a part of their Operation Backfire–the Green Scare. Daniel took a plea bargain, but refused to cooperate in the government’s attempts to persecute others in the movement. Daniel is housed in the notorious Marion Prison, which saw inmat’s in 1972 unite across racial lines to challenge the “form of permanent living death” that define the conditions there. Sadly those conditions have become more oppressive since then.

By Daniel McGowan

I am writing to you today from Lil’ Guantanamo–better known as the CMU or Communication Management Unit at United States Prison Marion.

For those who don’t know, the Bureau of Prisons operates two known CMUs — one here within the medium security prison in Marion, Illinois and the other at FCI Terre Haute, Indiana. (Information is scarce and secretive–you won’t find anything on the Bureau of Prisons or Department of ‘Justice’ websites either. I have heard of a female CMU at the medical center in Fort Worth, Texas, but it is presently unconfirmed.)

I am here with 19 other men — a majority of those who are Muslim and/or with “terrorism” cases (overwhelmingly, complex conspiracy cases you have read about in the news). Despite the fact that the US considers myself and many of my fellow prisoners “terrorists” or violent, peace is the norm here.

The unit itself is completely segregated from the 900+ men imprisoned at the medium-security prisons to the point of absurdity. For instance, when we go to medical, all other prisoners must be locked out of our sight to prevent any contact. We live on four ranges with a small recreation yard. However, it’s the limiting of our communication with the outside world that is most egregious and damaging to our well-being. We are afforded one phone call a week (compared to 300 minutes per month at all other federal prisons) and one four-hour non-contact visit per month (at the last prison I was at, we got up to eight days or 56 hours of contact-visit a month. Contact with our family, friends and communities is what makes doing time easier and more bearable. It allows us to actually see a healthy future for ourselves after release. The restriction of contact–for no disciplinary reason whatsoever–is appalling. Given this, the question is “What’s the purpose of the CMU”?

It is probably safe to say that being housed at the CMU accelerates the isolation, frustration and alienation that prisoners feel. The BOP claims I am here because of my offense conduct–not my behavior in prison–and that I am here for “better communication management”, not disciplinary reasons. Is this a political prisoner or “terrorist” unit? Is it legal or appropriate to segregate prisoners based on their religion? Is my identification with the social justice, prison reform and environmental movement the real issue here? One can guess, but the BOP isn’t being clear on this (big shock!).

That brings me to my final points. As you certainly know, President Obama has vowed to close the prison for ‘terrorist’ suspects at Guantanamo Bay. The backlash occurring right now in the media is all too predictable. Yesterday I read an article about the NIMBY (not in my backyard) approach being taken by legislatures all over the country. No one wants these scary, super-evil ‘terrorist’ suspects (remember’–they are not convicted of anything) in “their” state. What was ironic is that some of politicians are from Kansas, Indianan and Colorado–which already have large federal institutions housing ‘terrorists’. In fact, FCI Terre Haute in Indiana has a CMU with 52 prisoners operating in secret for two years now. Colorado has the lone ‘Supermax’ prison in Florence which houses many prisoners convicted of terrorism charges. I wonder–are the CMUs so secret that politicians from Indiana and Illinois don’t even know they exist or are they just hypocrites? According to the director of the BOP (in testimony given before a congressional subcommittee in July 2008), the BOP houses just over 1,200 terrorists (of which 200 are international). Yet–I don’t hear anyone complaining.

The US government is operating two known secret units in their system, completely in violation of federal law. No prisoner at the CMU was afforded due process through a hearing to contest placement here nor were our lawyers or families told when we disappeared. Knowing the plan would be wildly unpopular, former president Bush and Attorney General Gonzales just went ahead and implemented these units. Will Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder live up to their promises to not only close Guantanamo Bay but also, act in a just manner and close Lil’ Guantanamo? It’s time to make amends for the mistakes of the Bush administration–please spread the word on this and don’t let us wallow in secrecy here. Thank you for your support and care.

Daniel McGowan #63794-053

USP Marion

PO Box 1000

Marion, IL 62959

PS: consult my supersite for updates www.supportdaniel.org