- Of so-called "eco-terrorism" in his case, a
term believed coined by Ron Arnold, executive director of the Center for
the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE), a radical right wing group established
on July 4, 1976 "to continue (the) Revolution of liberty, free enterprise
and individual initiative....without hindrance by government."
- According to Sourcewatch:
- "Arnold blurred the boundaries between nonviolent
civil disobedience and more contentious tactics such as vandalism and sabotage,"
(mostly rejected by environmentalists) by equating property damage to "terrorism
as a societal threat."
- More recently, he linked up with self-styled "eco-terrorism"
expert Barry Clausen and Nick Nichols, retired chairman of the PR firm
Nichols-Dezenhall. They were instrumental in initiating the (stalled in
committees) 2004 Ecoterrorism Prevention Act that led to the passage of
the 2006 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). In broad and vague language,
it criminalizes First Amendment activities advocating for animal rights
like peaceful protests, leafleting, undercover investigations, whistleblowing
and boycotts, and made it easier to call civil disobedience "eco-terrorism"
with far stiffer penalties for comparable offenses under other laws.
- In the late 1980s, Arnold also founded the so-called
Wise Use movement - a pro-business funded anti-environmentalist group,
mainly involved with western timber and mining issues.
- In December 1991, he told New York Times reporter Tim
Egan: "We want to destroy environmentalists by taking away their money
and members." Days later, to Toronto Star writer Katherine Long, he
said "Our goal is to destroy, to eradicate the environmental movement.
We're mad as hell. We're not going to take it anymore. We're dead serious,
we're going to destroy them. We want to be able to exploit the environment
for private gain...."
- Environmental studies professor Bron Taylor contends
that "Radical environmentalism is best understood as a new religious
movement that views environmental degradation as an assault on a sacred,
natural world." Nonetheless, he concluded in a 1998 Terrorism and
Political Violence journal paper that:
- "there is, even after 18 years of radical environmental
action, little evidence that radical environmentalists intend to maim and
kill their adversaries or foster 'terror' among the general population."
- Fronting for corporate America, right wing groups like
the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, Wise Use, the Competitive
Enterprise Institute, and their lobbyists and PR flacks claim otherwise
in their relentless war on the greens, backed by federal and state authorities
calling saving the earth "eco-terrorism" and managing to get
activists like Daniel McGowan sent to prison.
- Some Brief Background on McGowan
- Born in Queens, New York, he was active in sports in
high school, then attended the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo
where he received a BA in business administration and Southeast Asian studies.
After several months in Asia, he worked in New York as a paid and volunteer
for various environmental and non-profit organizations, then in 1998 relocated
to the Pacific Northwest to continue his environmental and social justice
- Back home in 2002, he worked as a web and office administrator
for Rainforest Foundation US and became active in projects for rainforest
preservation, national forest protection, and biodiversity.
- In 2005, he entered a Tri-State College of Acupuncture
graduate program to become a healing practitioner, to be able to offer
it free or at low cost to make it affordable for everyone. At the same
time, he worked for Womenslaw.org, a non-profit organization helping battered
women through legal recourse. His activism also included support for political
prisoners, human rights, social justice, and involvement in numerous local
events, dedicated to helping people.
- Those who know him say he's one of "the most wonderful,
expressive, caring, thoughtful and compassionate people in this world"
- yet Bush prosecutors targeted, incarcerated, and made him a political
prisoner through a gross miscarriage of justice.
- The Support for Daniel McGowan Web Site - A Resource
for Information on His Case
- McGowan was victimized by "green scare," a
term likely first used in 2002, referring to legal and extralegal government
actions against animal liberation and environmental activists. The Spirit
of Freedom prisoner support network defines it as "tactics the government
and (their enforcement agencies use) to attack ELF/ALF (Earth Liberation
Front and Animal Liberation Front members) and specifically those who publicly
- The term also refers to the 2005 arrests, indictments
and convictions from the FBI's Operation Backfire (OB) against alleged
ELF/ALF activists - charging them with damaging property, conspiracy, arson,
and using destructive devices. The FBI included these organizations among
their top domestic threats, calling them "eco-terrorists."
- The 2001 USA Patriot Act created the federal crime of
"domestic terrorism," broadening the definition and applying
it to US citizens as well as aliens. It let OB target McGowan on December
7, 2005 when federal agents arrested him at the WomensLaw.org office, then
imprison him in the "terror wing" of lower Manhattan's Metropolitan
Correctional Center (MCC).
- On the same day, New York Indymedia reported:
- "Federal marshals arrested six environmental activists
(today) in a series of coordinated raids in four states in apparent response
to a string of arsons in Oregon and Washington attributed to the Earth
Liberation Front (ELF), including simultaneous attacks in 2001 at the University
of Washington's Urban Horticulture Center and the Jefferson Poplar Farms
in Clatskanie, Oregon. Daniel McGowan, 31, was arrested in New York City.
Authorities also stated that there will be more arrests, with at least
one indictment immediately outstanding."
- McGowan was held pending his extradition to Eugene, OR
for his arraignment. Without evidence, prosecutors alleged he was an ELF
member, a group dedicated to saving the earth pro-actively. More recently
it abandoned arson as "a dangerous and irrational strategy,"
and now works "within the system (to) "build consensus and public
support (for) a better world and future." Its unofficial motto: "ELF
Resistance Forever....Live on....No Evil."
- The evening of his arrest, agents raided McGowan's apartment
seizing computers, personal photographs, tax records, textbooks, school
work, videotapes, DVDs and more. The next day, he appeared in US District
Court for the Eastern District of New York, after which he endured a two
week odyssey taking him to federal detention facilities in Oklahoma, California
and Sheridan, Oregon.
- After his January 25, 2006 hearing, he was released on
$1.6 million bail, spent the next seven months under house arrest, on November
9 pled guilty to minor charges, then on June 4, 2007 was sentenced (without
trial) to seven years in prison - for offenses warranting no more than
a fine and suspended sentence.
- Charges in "United States of America v. Daniel Gerard
McGowan" and Twelve Other Defendants
- After initially being charged on December 19, 2005, a
superseding May 18, 2006 indictment (against him and 12 others) accused
them of "willfully and knowingly conspir(ing) and agree(ing) to commit
the following offenses against the United States:"
- Count 1
- -- "On or about January 2, 2001, at Glendale, Douglas
County, Oregon," four of the defendants, including McGowan, "unlawfully
and willfully caused and aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced,
and procured the malicious damaging and destroying, by means of fire and
an explosive, of a building and other real and personal property used in
interstate commerce and used in activities affecting interstate commerce,
namely, a building and its contents located at Superior Lumber Company
(in) Glendale, Douglas County, Oregon;"
- -- these same defendants "traveled in separate vehicles
to a predetermined staging area....where they dressed in dark clothing
and put on their radio earpieces and masks;"
- -- they "traveled to Superior Lumber Company building,
set up lookouts, positioned the 'pick-up' vehicle, placed the time-delayed
incendiary devices, and returned to the staging area;"
- -- there they disposed of their dark clothing; and
- -- McGowan and seven others "unlawfully and willfully
caused and aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, and procured
the malicious damaging and destroying, by means of fire and an explosive,
of buildings, vehicles and other real and personal property used in interstate
commerce....at Jefferson Poplar Farm (in) Clatskanie, Columbia County,
- Count 2
- Said defendants, including McGowan, conspired "to
commit arson and destruction of an energy facility" by the manner
and means so outlined, "to influence and affect the conduct of government,
commerce, private business and others in the civilian population by means
of force, violence, sabotage, mass destruction, intimidation and coercion...."
By so doing, they endangered "human life and property that constituted
violations of the criminal laws of the United States and of individual
- Counts 3 - 13
- Excluded McGowan of charges for various other incidents.
- Count 14 and 15
- Pertained to the January 2001 Superior Lumber Company
- Counts 16 - 52
- Excluded McGowan.
- Count 53
- Charged him with "using and carrying a destructive
device in relation to a crime of violence (pertaining to) Jefferson Poplar
- Count 54
- Charged him with arson at the Jefferson Poplar Farm Vehicle
- Count 55
- Charged him with arson at the Jefferson Poplar Farm shop
- Count 56
- Charged him with arson of a Jefferson Poplar Farm vehicle.
- Counts 57 - 65
- Charged him in more detail for the vehicle arson.
- Kirk A. Engdall
- Assistant United States Attorney
- In total, McGowan was charged with two counts of conspiracy
to commit arson, 14 counts of arson, and two counts of use or possession
of a destructive device. If tried and convicted of the latter two, he faced
a minimum 30 year sentence. For all counts, he faced a mandatory life sentence
- even though he neither hurt or intended to hurt any person or animal
and acted only to defend the earth against real environmental terrorists
against whom no charges were brought.
- Given the possibility of life in prison, McGowan pled
guilty to minor arson offenses against Jefferson Poplar Farm and Superior
Lumber in return for the Justice Department dropping the more serious charges,
including using destructive devices.
- He did so on condition that he wouldn't implicate or
identify anyone but himself. Three other co-defendants did the same. In
his statement to the judge he "accept(ed) full responsibility for
(his) actions and at the same time remain(s) true to (his) strongly held
- He said his "actions were not those of (a) terrorist
but of a concerned young man who was deeply troubled by the destruction
of Oregon's beautiful old-growth forests and the dangers of genetically
modified trees." Yet he realized after participating in two actions
that "burning things down (violated his) visions or belief about how
to create a better world. So (he) stopped committing these crimes."
- He "never intended to hurt people (and expressed)
great remorse....for the harm that (he) caused." He then thanked the
court for letting him express his thoughts and feelings. His role was to
be a lookout on one of the incidents. On the other, he helped set the fire.
- His lawyers asked for a maximum 63 months imprisonment,
or no more than 18 months higher than for another co-defendant. On June
4, 2007, McGowan was sentenced to seven years, and is now at the newest
Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the US Penitentiary (USP), Marion,
- US Federal Prison Communication Management Units (CMUs)
- Several times, this writer addressed the Federal Correctional
Institution (FCI), Terre Haute, IN's CMU, most recently on March 18, and
described it as a facility for so-called "high-security risk"
Muslim and Middle Eastern prisoners in violation of federal law that prohibits
severely limiting or cutting them off entirely from other inmates as well
as outside contacts and communications.
- US Prison Bureau regulations ban the practice, and so
did the Supreme Court in Johnson v. California (February 2005). Nonetheless,
it exists. The Bush Department of Justice established it. Obama's has done
nothing to address it.
- In early 2007, it was learned that FCI Terre Haute had
a CMU. Now, so does US Penitentiary (USP), Marion, IL. Because they're
illegal, they're kept secret so perhaps others also exist in federal and/or
state facilities. And for cover, they include one or more non-Muslims like
McGowan, briefly held at Terre Haute and since early February at Marion.
He, like them, was investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and interned as
a political prisoner. They for being Muslims at the wrong time in America.
He as a victim of USA Patriot Act "justice" that established
the crime of "domestic terrorism" and included "eco-terrorism"
as an offense.
- At Marion, like at Terre Haute, he's segregated from
the general prison population and treated like a terrorist, which he is
not, nor is he violent. He also comes under special rules for CMU prisoners
that violate Federal Bureau of Prison regulations.
- He's subjected to severe communication restrictions -
with family, friends, and, at the discretion of prison authorities, other
inmates, as follows:
- -- all communications are monitored and copied;
- -- outgoing and incoming mail and emails are delayed
- -- visitations must be approved, are non-contact only
through a glass partition, and restricted to twice monthly two hour sessions
compared to other prisoners getting weekly or bi-weekly all-day visitations;
according to McGowan, "The most depressing part of the CMU is not
being able to hug and kiss your wife" and, of course, children and
other loved ones;
- -- other prisoners are allowed 300 phone minutes a month;
CMU inmates only one 15 minute call a week on weekdays between 8AM - 2PM
(when children are in school) with no exceptions made for holidays, birthdays
or other special occasions;
- -- communications must be in English;
- -- prisoners sleep on thin mattresses atop concrete slabs;
- -- prison officials have ad hoc authority to bend rules
as they please, be more or less lenient, but generally impose added hardships
or punishment for any reason or none at all;
- -- according to Eugene Weekly's Camilla Mortensen, McGowan
was the first environmental activist in a "terrorist" unit where
he was transferred for stating his beliefs at the low security FCI Sandstone,
MN prison. Also for being the subject of a documentary film and appearing
on a calendar featuring political prisoners; she also reported that media
access to him was denied, including from the LA Times;
- -- CMU conditions are harsh with regard to rules and
punishment imposed, food quality and amount, medical care, and the ability
of prison officials to do as they please in an environment conducive to
- -- according to McGowan, "I object to the way I
was sent here (in the middle of the night with no notice); I object as
well to the institution itself, as I find it to be either a Muslim unit
and we are there to give them some credibility in denying it or it's just
a plain old political prison." Correct on both counts and the reason
these units are secret and illegal.
- Readers are encouraged to visit the supportdaniel.org
web site for photos and more information about him, his case, and how to
help. US federal and state prisons are full of inmates like him, interned
for their beliefs, activism, and commitment to social justice, not their
- Given the severe economic crisis, its toll on growing
millions, and likely civil disobedience in response, the nation has been
militarized with combat troop readiness and over 800 FEMA detention camps
in every state. It means defending our rights or the earth is now hazardous
and a crime at a time we're all Daniel McGowans.
- A Personal Note and Related Comments
- In October 2008, I wrote about Seyed Mousavi: Guilty
of Being Muslim in Police State America. Until late March, he was incarcerated
at Terre Haute federal prison's CMU. He's now in Marion's segregated facility
along with other Muslims and McGowan. He's innocent, a "war on terror"
victim, and my friend since we established regular contact and now exchange
emails as prison officials allow.
- Recently, a group of supporters came together in his
behalf. Below are edited portions of his response:
- "My dear friends and Justice Seekers
- Thank you very much for coming together and supporting
me and my family. This gives me hope and makes me believe the truth will
come out and justice will take place.
- Our message today is very clear.
- The government must know:
- -- You reject what they did to us and our families;
- -- They must stop setting up plots and terrorizing people;
- -- They must stop framing innocent people and destroying
- -- They must stop politicizing the justice system;
- -- They must stop targeting the Muslim community and
its organizations, centers and Mosques;
- -- They must stop jailing peaceful family men for election
- -- They must stop wasting your tax money by following,
watching and wiretapping law-abiding people.
- There is no room in this country for secret courts and
- It's the duty of government to protect citizens and legal
residents; to protect the law and Constitution; protect peoples' rights,
freedoms and property.
- Muslims must have the right to practice their religion
freely and not live in fear.
- The courts must remain independent and protect people,
not be government tools; they must correct their mistakes for the sake
- We must renounce war; all nations must live together
in peace; America must lead by example, not force.
- Again, thank you very much for your time and support.
Please stay committed for freedom and justice.
- May Allah bless you all."
- Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre
for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday
- Friday at 10AM for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests
on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.