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 ( firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) 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.
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