Tag Archives: FBOP

Will Potter Describes Being the First Journalist to Visit Federal Communication Management Unit

Will Potter Describes Being the First Journalist to Visit Federal Communication Management Unit

In a new TED Talk released today, investigative journalist and TED Senior Fellow Will Potter describes his experience as the first and only journalist to visit secretive prisons on U.S. soil that are referred to by prisoners and guards as “Little Guantanamo.”

Communications Management Units, or CMUs, are experimental prison units in the United States for so-called “second-tier terrorists.” There’s an estimated 60-70 prisoners in CMUs and they are overwhelmingly Muslim, along with several animal rights and environmental activists.

“According to the Bureau of Prisons, CMUs are for prisoners with quote ‘inspirational significance.’ I think that’s a polite way of saying they are political prisons, for political prisoners,” Potter says in the talk. “Prisoners are sent to the CMU because of their race, religion, or political beliefs.”

There are currently two CMUs, located within larger federal prisons in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois. Neither underwent the formal review process required by law when they were opened.

CMUs are not solitary confinement, but they radically restrict prisoner communications with the outside world to levels that meet or exceed the most extreme prisons in the country.Will Potter was allowed to visit environmental activist Daniel McGowan, who was being held at the CMU in Marion. Approval of this visit came as a shock since no other journalist has been allowed inside the CMUs and because documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that the Counter Terrorism Unit has monitored Potter’s speeches, articles, and his book Green Is The New Red. Attorneys and prisoners have said that inmates are transferred to the CMUs without notice and without opportunity to challenge their new designation, in what they say is a clear violation of due process rights.

“Three months after our visit, McGowan was transferred out of the CMU. Then without warning, he was sent back,” Potter says in the TED talk. “I had published leaked CMU documents on my website, and the Counter-Terrorism Unit said McGowan had called his wife and asked her to mail them. …For that, he was sent back to the CMU.”

Potter says CMUs are part of a dangerous post-9/11 trend that he has been documenting, in which the rhetoric of terrorism is used to justify rollbacks in fundamental rights.

“This story is not just about prisoners, it is about us,” he says. “It is about our own commitment to human rights.”

About Will Potter

Will Potter is an award-winning investigative journalist, author, and TED Senior Fellow based in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider’s Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. He specializes in civil liberties post-9/11 and how protest has been labeled as terrorism; Glenn Greenwald described Potter as “the most knowledgeable journalist in the country on these issues.” He is currently a Knight Fellow in Law Reporting at the University of Michigan.

Calling for Compassionate Release for Lynne Stewart, Activists will Pack Manhattan Federal Courthouse this Afternoon – 8/8/13

Calling for Compassionate Release for Lynne Stewart, Activists will Pack Manhattan Federal Courthouse this Afternoon – 8/8/13

[New York, NY]   Counsel for jailed attorney and activist Lynne Stewart has filed an emergency 2255 motion in US District Court asking Judge John G. Koeltl to grant Stewart compassionate release, citing that she will likely die before the Federal Bureau of Prisons administrative remedy process is exhausted.  Today, August 8, 2013, at 2pm EST Judge Koeltl is expected to hear the motion filed by Stewarts counsel.  Activists and friends of Lynne Stewart will RALLY at nearby Foley Square at 12PM and then pack the courtroom in an outpouring of solidarity during the 2pm hearing (located at 500 Pearl Street, NY).

Stewart, originally sentenced by Koeltl to 28 months in prison in 2006 for an alleged breach of Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) imposed upon her client Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, later had her sentence extended to 10 years following an appeal made by prosecutors to the 2nd Circuit in 2009.  Stewart is now 73 years old and dying of cancer in her jail cell at Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Carswell, Texas.

“Lynne Stewart is dying,” wrote her attorneys. She does not want to die in prison or become another statistic of someone who dies while the Bureau of Prisons delays its reconsideration of another application for compassionate release that she plans to file soon.

Judge Koeltl gave a directive to the Federal Attorney to set out its case this week and also to explain why the Bureau of Prisons has refused to disclose or release the records that provide the basis for its denial of Lynne Stewart’s recent application for compassionate release.

Judge Koeltl has the authority to mandate immediate conditional release to Lynne Stewart.  The activists are hopeful that he will use this authority to grant Stewart the opportunity to spend her last days with her loving family.

Lynn Stewart Family

Lynne with her son & grandchildren [left], Lynne with her husband Ralph Poynter [right].  Pictures taken at the Federal Medical Center, in Carswell, TX

Lynne Stewart’s husband, Ralph Poynter, has also organized a petition with change.org to be delivered to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director, Charles E. Samuels asking that the Bureau grant Lynne’s FBOP application for compassionate release.  You can sign and share the petition online HERE


Help The Alyona Show Find the Congressman at the Heart of Tim DeChristopher’s Isolation

Help The Alyona Show Find the Congressman at the Heart of Tim DeChristopher’s Isolation

Tim DeChristopher was thrown into the  isolation of the Secure Housing Unit or SHU reportedly because one angry Congressman complained about a letter DeChristopher sent while in low security custody in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.You can read the letter here…While our followers likely know about imprisoned environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, many do not know that he recently spent 3 weeks in isolation because an anonymous member of congress wrote a letter to the FBOP complaining about his correspondence.   For additional background on what transpired over those three weeks we encourage you to read Jeff Goodell’s comprehensive account for Rolling Stone.  Last night we were contacted by the producers of RT America’s The Alyona Show who ran a segment on Tim’s isolation.  They told us about their efforts to determine the identity of the congressperson responsible for Tim’s transfer to an isolated unit, read below to find out how you can help them, we encourage everyone reading this to get involved with their effort.

DeChristopher Letter

DeChristopher merely “threatened” to return a corporate donor’s money and wage a campaign against her/him because he found out the donor was outsourcing jobs. He did not pose a threat to anyone. Yet for exercising free speech, he was “thrown in the hole”.

Human rights groups have compared the experience of being in the SHU to torture. After a visit, DeChristopher’s lawyer said that the normally upbeat man looked visibly disturbed after just three weeks.

The FBOP throwing prisoners in isolation without due process isn’t an irregular occurrence to be sure, but in this case, it’s particularly disturbing that it came as a result of political pressure.

Although DeChristopher is out of isolation now, we’re still keen on finding out which Congressperson thought it was a good idea to put him there in the first place. So we’re asking you, the reader, to help us. …By asking, of course.

Its true that reaching out to 435 Congresspeople is a task of biblical proportions. So it would be particularly helpful if voters with representatives on the House judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security reached out. The panel is responsible for overseeing the Bureau of Prisons, after all. So feel free to ask them to investigate the matter, if they are not responsible.

Recommended directions:

1.Get in touch with your Congressperson by calling his/her office. [Don’t know how to contact your congress person?  Simply click HERE & type in your zip code]  Identify yourself as a constituent (and please, actually be one!) then inform the staffer that you are calling in response to a television program. Say that you are inquiring whether or not the Congressman contacted the Bureau of Prisons about taking punitive action, including recommending isolation, in response to a letter he sent on March 5.

You may not receive a response right away. Congressional staffers are quite busy. Be persistent. Explain to who you speak to that if you don’t receive a definitive “no” response, the lack of an answer could be construed as a passive admission. Most importantly, stress that you don’t want to hold the Congressman unfairly responsible for this. Eventually, you’ll speak to a staffer.

Once you finally speak to a staffer who works on the subcommittee issues, inquire who it is you’re talking to. Note who you are speaking to and the time of the conversation. Then ask them directly on the record: did your boss contact BOP about DeChristopher’s letter? Did he/she request that punitive measures be taken against Tim DeChristopher, including isolation?

If you don’t receive a definitive answer, ask the staffer to verify for you.

If the staffer actually says yes…don’t judge. Politely ask for an explanation.

Questions for Congresspeople on subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security:

1. Does the Congressperson plan on raising the issue of isolation without due process in a subcommittee hearing?

2. If so, when?

3. What is Rep. X’s position on the detention of Tim DeChristopher?

Once you receive answers about DeChristopher’s story and the subcommittee member’s position on putting prisoners in isolation without due process…reach out to us! [RT America in Washington, DC by emailing TASProducer@Gmail.com ]  We will keep our viewers updated on the situation as responses roll in.

Subcommittee members:
Jim Sensenbrenner, Chairman (R-Wisconsin), Bobby Scott, Ranking Member (D-Virginia), Louie Gohmert, Vice Chair (R-Texas), Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee), Boob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), Hank Johnson (D-Georgia), Dan Lungren (R-California), Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico), Randy Forbes (R-Virginia), Judy Chu (D-California), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Ted Deutch (D-Florida), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), Tim Griffin (R-Arkansas), Mike Quigley (D-Illinois), Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania), Trey Gowdy (R- South Carolina), Sandy Adams (R-Florida), Mark Amodei (R-Nevada)