portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article oregon & cascadia

environment | green scare | police / legal

Prison Life: Daniel's Blog A Lack of Honesty and Integrity — On Darren Thurston

A brief overview of non-cooperating defendant Daniel McGowan on snitch Darren Thurson.
I understand my cooperating co-defendant Darren Thurston via his support person/ex girlfriend Megan Adams' blog is once again promising an essay that will somehow justify his cooperation with the US government and prosecutors in the Operation Backfire cases.

I welcome this essay and have been anxiously awaiting it for some time—since January 2007 when freedarren.org (oddly enough, hosted by an activist tech collective, resist.ca) reported that Darren and/or his one support person would address his cooperation with the investigation(s). It would be more accurate to say that I have been waiting to hear Darren's explanations since March 2006—when he abandoned the Joint Litigation Agreement (JLA) he had with my fellow non-cooperating defendant, Jonathan Paul and me.

His support person and resist.ca have both conceded that yes, Darren did cooperate but that they are 100% ok with his cooperation because:

1) Darren was facing a large prison sentence- he was facing 35 years (compare this to almost all of the other defendants who faced upwards of life in prison).

2) Well, he did cooperate but since everyone cooperated, he had no choice. Yet 4 defendants worked hard to get non-cooperation pleas which Darren could have been part of, 4 are considered fugitives by the FBI's website, 1 is going to trial, 1 resisted a grand jury and was imprisoned for 8 months and any number of people who have shut the door on investigators or made their intention of non-cooperation publicly well known.

3) And last but not least - the classic snitch enabler comment... He only told them what they knew anyway This will remind people who have been involved in the animal rights movement of the justifications used by Justin Samuel for snitching on Peter Young years ago. In fact, it's the reason pretty much always cited by people who cooperate with investigators. I can't help but wonder why Darren divulged to the government details of a conflict we had in 2001- something having nothing to do with any indictable offense.

When one side lies, obscures, hides and refuses to be forthright, resolution of these issues is difficult and next to impossible. Yet, the behavior of Darren and his support person have used these methods to postpone the inevitable conclusion. For some time, the official story from Darren's support person was that he was not cooperating. After much evidence surfaced that he was, including his departure from the non-cooperators' joint litigation agreement, his refusal to answer any questions from outside supporters about his cooperation, his letters to both the Earth First! Journal and UK ELPSN (Earth liberation Prisoners Support Network) asking for clarification about their policies on cooperation and his plea hearing taking place at the same time as other cooperating witnesses as well as his lawyers' fervent arguments for sealing his whole plea bargain, it became impossible to deny his cooperation. Then, the story changed, seemingly overnight, acknowledging his cooperation but offering support for him nonetheless (it should be noted that this article of continued support for Darren from his lone support person and resist.ca only came about due to agitation and questions being put to them by political prisoner supporters). Comments made by US attorneys, Darren's lawyer Dan Feiner and the judge all prove that not only did Darren cooperate but he was a very useful and "extraordinary" witness (some conjecture that he had lots to say about issues like computer security, past Canadian crimes and how to locate one of the fugitives- herself a Canadian and former co-defendant of Darren's).

Darren's extraordinary cooperation got him a 37-month sentence despite these issues:

1) He was arrested with his girlfriend (and cooperating witness in the same case, Chelsea Gerlach) living under false identities with many stolen fake IDs.

2) He was already banned from the US and had been deported in the late 1990's.

3) He had already done a short sentence for ALF actions in Canada in 1992.

4) He was indicted for sending razor blades to bear hunt outfitters in 2000 and charges were dropped due to the government's reluctance to identify informants.

5) When arrested, he had large amounts of illegal drugs and automatic weapons in his apartment and a cache in the Siuslaw National Forest.

It's absurd to think that Darren got a 37-month sentence for any other reason except his extensive cooperation. My co-defendant Jonathan Paul got 51 months for one arson from 1997 and hadn't been engaged in any future acts of property destruction. But, he didn't cooperate so the feds gave him 14 more months than Darren. The question remains, then, is 14 months less in prison really worth the betrayal of your friends and allies? Maybe Darren can address that in his essay.

I'm sure Darren will not deny his cooperation but I'm certain he will deflect attention by minimizing his cooperation or slogging either the non-cooperating defendants or those who snitched on him. That sort of behavior is what I've come to expect from the cooperating defendants- blame everyone else, take no responsibility for your actions and minimize your betrayal. Darren seems to think that he won't ever have to testify in open court. Maybe he thinks the so-called fugitives won't get caught but sadly, that's unlikely. Maybe he thinks that Canada will offer him protection and won't send him to the United States. The cases of Leonard Peltier, John Graham, Tre Arrow and U.S. soldiers trying to gain refuge in Canada all show that Canada is more than happy to assist the U.S. anytime. It is possible that Darren was told by the government that he won't be called as a witness but that wouldn't be legal considering that his plea bargain says he doesn't have additional agreements with the government. My theory is that he is a major witness for 3 so-called fugitives that are indicted for the 2001 BLM Litchfield horse release/arson (oddly enough, Darren did not receive a terrorism enhancement for this action despite the fact it was a government facility and the communiqué stated government policy as a rationale for the action!)

There has been much clamoring for Darren to unseal the parts of his plea agreement that covers cooperation (paragraphs 14-17). All the cooperating witnesses in the case have this section sealed and even myself and the 3 other non-cooperating defendants can only view the full, unsealed plea bargain in the company of our lawyers. What is in this agreement and 3 paragraphs? I am prohibited from sharing the specifics but I believe strongly that the public and the media need to see these sections. Darren's support person's argument for why it cannot be unsealed is that he no longer has a lawyer since he had a panel attorney (a state-funded private attorney). We will see what happens when motions are made to unseal those parts of the plea agreement. With multiple books being written and films being made, it is imperative these plea bargains be unsealed. Then, there could be some honest discussion and analysis about what happened in this case.

I challenge Darren to unseal those paragraphs in his plea bargain and the 200 pages of his 302/debrief documents which detail his cooperation. I'm sure many people in the movement would help pay for that! I have no faith he will take me up on my offer but that information would help clarify the issues many have argued over. So, it's November 2007 and I'm looking forward to seeing this promised essay. Something tells me it won't come anytime soon.

P.S.- I've referenced resist.ca, but let me explain. Recently, resist.ca has come out in support of Darren (see statement here). Whether this is a deeply held position or his ex Megan's asking for favors for her ex is unknown. Either way, it's pathetic to think a so-called radical tech collective would publicly support and provide web-space (which they always say is so limited) to a snitch. In light of this, I think now is the time to pull ALL support from resist.ca including your email accounts and websites (such as Wii'nimkiikaa and Orion from Alberta already have). Do you really want your email and website hosted on resist.ca after you have read this?

On a related note, Chelsea Gerlach's site is hosted on mutualaid.org. Now that they have been notified about this situation and her actions, I am hoping they will immediately cease their support for her and pull her site and email accounts. Continued support for cooperating defendants is an insult to all of us who did not cooperate and destructive to our movements. Please send a polite and educational email to mutualaid.org ( info@mutualaid.org or  support@mutualaid.org) asking them to end their support of activists who turn other activists in and send them to prison. My relationship with mutualaid.org was always good and I hope they make the right choice.

homepage: homepage: http://www.supportdaniel.org

Amen! 07.Dec.2007 12:47

I can't believe this is even an issue

For far to long indymedia and other alternative media outlets, have given snitches and their enablers a forum to justfy cooperation with the state. People like Darren Thurston and Chelsea Gerlach should not be giving any support by the movement. Resist.ca and other snitch apologists should be treated the same. It's time we draw a line in the sand....

I wrote my letter 07.Dec.2007 14:33

to mutualaid

Daniel is a courageous person who did the right thing, and deserves to be respected and supported. The cooperating defendants did not do the right thing. Whatever reasons they had, their actions put everyone, including themselves, in danger. We have to be able to trust each other. We have to be able to count on each other NEVER to talk. So we cannot afford to be "nice" about this, even if we may understand that there is an awful lot of pressure put on people to cooperate. It's hard, but it's the only way we can protect each other.

Regarding the "amen" comment, I was thinking "AMEN!" too, but I have no idea what you're talking about re Indymedia. Indymedia, a forum for snitches? Are you talking about Portland Indymedia??? I have to say bullshit to that. When has this site EVER given aid or comfort to snitches??? Never.

Absolutely no apologies or forgiveness for snitches 08.Dec.2007 09:15


A brief response to the righteous person known as "anon"...

First, there is absolutely no tolerance for snitches and no place for them in any progressive movement. Each and every defendant who turned out to be a snitch and fully cooperated with the federal government in these cases should never have been involved in the movement in the first place, if there was ever a chance that under some pressure they would easily crack. Their actions go against everything progressive movements stand for. Their cooperation demonstrates an immaturity, an insincerity to the cause, and a reliance upon their privilege as young "activists" from the western world. They ratted each other out, stabbed each other in the back, and brought down others in the process - all to save their own precious soles. Stopping environmental destruction and general injustice is bigger than them, yet in the pursuit of selfishness they sold their own soles to the devil - the devil being the US Government.

Those on the outside, in the so-called "free" world, who apologize for the snitches, who attempt at sticking up for the snitches by searching for and attempting to convince others of their faulty, selfish justifications, are as guilty of betrayal as the snitches - and they too shouldn't be welcomed in any progressive movement. The organizations, individuals and even web servers who continue to support these snitches should not be trusted or looked upon with any greatness, only shame.

And yes, I speak from a place of experience, from a place of risking my life and freedom, and never giving in no matter what the pressure.

Oh, anon... 08.Dec.2007 09:42


Anon said, "You strategically married a rich girl,"

Holy crap! If you actually knew the people you were talking about you would feel really stupid right about now.

Non-cooperators faced the same harsh threats Darren did 08.Dec.2007 10:55


I so admire Daniel McGowan for his integrity, courage and commitment. He's devoted years of his life to helping other people and the earth. What he writes here is all factual, based on actual events. How unfortunate that Anon posts a comment that instead relies on character assassination targeting Daniel, even going so far as to say that he chose his wife based on her finances. I can't possibly take such a comment seriously. I don't know squat about Daniel's finances nor do I care since that's no one's business but Daniel's.

Let's not obscure the issue, which is that Darren Thurston chose to help the government by naming other people and he continues to minimize that and say he really didn't. The point is that four people--Daniel McGowan, Jonathan Paul, Sadie (Joyanne Zacher) and Exile (Nathan Block)--chose not to cooperate with the government and name their friends as Darren did. As for Darren not having that same option, I want to remind Anon that just like Darren, Sadie and Exile were tossed in jail, never got bail, and were represented by public defenders. The government was threatening them with life in prison, not a mere slap on the wrist. Darren could have made the exact same choice. He chose not to.

And THAT is the issue here. Darren chose to name names and assist the government in putting other activists in jail. If Darren and his supporters are comfortable with that choice, fair enough. But it makes no sense to keep saying that this isn't what he did. The facts speak for themselves.

Solidarity is for NON snitchers 08.Dec.2007 12:36


People who have put their lives, bodies, and freedom on the line to do what is right deserve our support, respect, and solidarity. Daniel McGowan has done the right thing. He deserves respect and solidarity. Chelsea Gerlach does not.

I would like to live in a world where we could afford to be understanding with people who gave in to the overwhelming pressure put on them by the police state to turn in their comrades. But we do not have that luxury. Any compassion I may have for the human being, Chelsea Gerlach, who was not strong enough to do what was right, must be tempered by the knowledge of the impact that her choice had on other people's lives.

Peoples' lives are on the line. The lives and freedom of our comrades, the lives of animals, the life of the planet we live on are all on the line. We can only meaningfully engage in this struggle, indeed, we can only survive at all, if we have each others' backs and do what it takes. Daniel has done this. But Chelsea has not. We must use our energy and scarce resources to provide comfort and support to those who deserve it. Those who do not are on their own... as they left the people they betrayed.

If this sounds harsh, it is because it needs to be. People need to understand that the consequences of cooperation are much, much worse than the threats of long jail sentences weilded by the government. Each of these people will one day be free. But only one will be able to hold his head up in public. Only one will have friends and comrades to return to. Only one.

Not only one...there are 4 08.Dec.2007 14:31


Jonathan Paul, Sadie and Exile can hold their heads up as much as Daniel. Please don't forget the other three who are also doing long prison terms and kept complete integrity throughout this ordeal.

To all non-cooperating warriors 08.Dec.2007 15:13


Indeed, there are many brave people both inside and outside the walls of prisons all over this country who have been courageous enough to do the right thing. Jonathan Paul, Sadie and Exile, among others, can definitely be proud of their actions as well. (As can Craig, who also posted here, I see.) My apologies for sounding dismissive of them. I was speaking of Daniel and Chelsea when I said that both will one day be free, but only one will be able to hold their head up in public. Thanks for pointing that out.

i'm with daniel, sadie, exile, jonathan and non-cooperation 09.Dec.2007 17:35

enough already

Kirsten, I really wish you would cut it out. The facts in Daniel's blog should speak for themselves and its obvious that you don't know a lot about the access to support and legal help that Darren had and the money that the other defendants didn't have.

But you know what? None of that matters too much. There's no excuse for selling out your friends and your ideals for a few months off of your sentence. Sadie, Exile, Daniel,Jonathan, and everyone with principles are standing together and everyone is helping everyone. Unlike other working-class and broke activists, Darren switched sides and started helping the government lock everybody up. His ex Megan shouldn't come crying to us if people don't want to support someone who supports repression and you shouldn't come to us just cuz someone on the non-cooperating side managed to hire a lawyer. Let it go.