ELF activist rearrested for writing blog post

Daniel McGowan, recently released into a halfway house, is back in federal detention reportedly over HuffPo column

Published April 5, 2013 1:00PM (EDT)

Daniel McGowan, an environmental activist who spent seven years in federal prison after pleading guilty to arson charges relating to Earth Liberation Front actions, has been jailed again. McGowan was released into a halfway house earlier this year, but was returned Thursday to a federal detention center in Manhattan, reportedly because of a column he wrote last week on HuffPo, in which he decried his treatment in prison.

McGowan wrote about how between 2008 and 2010 he served time in the Communication Management Unit (CMU) at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Ill. The unit, dubbed "Little Guantanamo," sees prisoners isolated from other inmates and severely restricted in their contact with their families and the outside world. In his column, McGowan charged that he was put in the CMU because of his political beliefs -- a court document revealed that he was apparently transferred in part because of his communications with the outside world, writing to contacts in radical and environmentalist communities.

McGowan's wife noted Thursday the dark irony that McGowan was being punished again for writing about being punished for his writings. She told HuffPo, "He 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. It's crazy." As HuffPo noted, it's unclear whether McGowan's column should fall under general Bureau of Prison rules disallowing unauthorized media contact (although McGowan had been released into his halfway house, he was still completing his sentence and so is beholden to such rules). Via HuffPo:

The Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to a request for comment on McGowan, but national spokesman Chris Burke said that under a general media policy, "inmates cannot do interviews without permission. So if there's some sort of a phone interview or a sit-in interview, those have to be pre-approved."

But Stuart Whatley, executive blog editor at The Huffington Post, said blog posts cannot be compared to interviews.

"The HuffPost blog is a platform for contributors to share opinion, commentary and their thoughts on any topic of their choosing," Whatley said. "As our guidelines explicitly state, 'you can write about anything you want. Huffington Post does not select or approve your topics.'"

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Daniel Mcgowan Earth Liberation Front Environment Federal Prison Huffington Post Prison