NEW YORK -- Former Earth Liberation Front member Daniel McGowan took the first step toward a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Tuesday, filing a $200,000 claim over an April incident in which he was jailed for writing a Huffington Post column.
On April 4, 2013, McGowan was taken from a halfway house, where he was serving out the final months of a seven-year sentence, and sent to a Brooklyn jail for roughly a day and a half. Three days before, he had published a HuffPost blog post about the years he spent in two secretive federal prison units designed to severely restrict inmates' contact with the outside world.
McGowan, 39, alleges in his Federal Tort Claims Act submission with the Bureau of Prisons that the jailing caused him emotional harm and deprived him of his liberty. The bureau has acknowledged that the move was inappropriately made on the basis of a regulation against inmates publishing under their own name that had been ruled unconstitutional in 2007.
The Bureau of Prisons has six months to respond to McGowan's claim. If he is denied, he may then file a lawsuit against the agency.
Bureau spokesman Chris Burke said the agency does not comment on the cases of individual inmates.
McGowan's April jailing was the last in a series of what he alleges were retaliatory actions the Bureau of Prisons took against him during the seven years he served for conspiracy and arson committed as an Earth Liberation Front member. He was placed in the prison system's communication management units -- which prisoners calls "Little Guantanamo" -- at least in part on the bureau's determination that he had "attempted to unite the radical environmental and animal liberation movements" through articles and interviews from prison.
"The irony is just so thick," McGowan told HuffPost for a story last week. "You're writing an article about retaliation for freedom of speech and writing, and they retaliate by throwing you in prison."