This week, on December 7, it will be two years since federal agents arrested Daniel McGowan outside his workplace, a non-profit organization helping women in domestic abuse situations navigate the legal system. His arrest was part of Operation Backfire, an FBI roundup of suspected participants in environmentally motivated direct action. Daniel was accused of involvement with two arson attacks.
Though Daniel was not charged with injuring any human being or animal, he was threatened with a life sentence and held on 1.6 million dollar bail. Men who are prosecuted for domestic abuse–a small minority of all abusers–face dramatically less time in prison and dramatically lower bail. This disparity lays bare the values that form the foundation of the US legal system, not to mention government in general: inanimate property is more important than human and animal life.
Daniel spent a harrowing year facing the potential of life in prison; many of his codefendants had turned informant, offering to testify against him and others to try to curry favor with the government. However, when Daniel’s lawyer demanded that the government reveal whether National Security Agency wiretaps had been illegally used in the case, the government immediately came to the bargaining table, offering a plea bargain if the wiretap inquiry was dropped. If it had been revealed that wiretaps were used illegally, the entire Operation Backfire case might have been thrown out.
In the end, Daniel pled guilty on the condition that he would not offer information regarding anyone else. His three non-cooperating codefendants, Exile (aka Nathan Block), Sadie (aka Joyanna Zacher), and Jonathan Paul, did the same. He is now serving seven years in prison.
Over the past decade, Daniel has been a pivotal contributor to prisoner support work, Really Really Free Markets, aboveground environmental activism, and counter-recruiting efforts, among many other activities. He was in Seattle in 1999 at the historic shutting down of the World Trade Organization meeting; he was central to the organizing against the Republican National Convention in 2004. Throughout all this, he has been a good friend to all who have crossed paths with him. His gifts to all of us are truly beyond measure.
Even from prison, Daniel remains passionately committed and active. He is now authoring a blog from prison, which we recommend highly as a source of news and perspective on current events. In that Daniel has always done amazing things with every project he took on, this is not surprising, but it is surprising that anyone would be able to offer such timely commentary on our world from inside prison walls!
Please take the trouble to keep up with Daniel’s blog, so he will not be silenced despite being held captive.
Every one of the non-cooperating defendants in the Green Scare has a story as compelling as Daniel’s. We hope all of them will receive as much attention and support as Daniel. Please learn more about their cases, help them raise money for legal expenses, and write letters to the ones who are still in jail or prison:
The forthcoming fifth issue of Rolling Thunder will feature an extensive analysis of the Green Scare cases and what we can learn from them.