December 15, 2014
If you don’t believe America has political prisoners, you’ve never heard of Barrett Brown. Which would be a shame on several fronts, because you’d be missing out on one of America’s most fearless and talented reporters, and on an object lesson regarding just how far the government is willing to go to suppress journalism and intimidate journalists.
I first came across Barrett in a 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, where he had written an article called “Thomas Friedman’s Five Worst Predictions.” The article perfectly showcased what I subsequently learned were the Barrett Brown trademarks: iconoclastic insight; hilarious wit, ranging from the dry to the outrageous; a broad and deep frame of reference; incisive argument; complete fearlessness about offending anyone deserving of offense; an abiding sense of citizenship and patriotism.
I was wowed by the article—both its substance, and, even rarer among political writers, its style. I sent Barrett an email telling him how much I had enjoyed it. A conversation ensued, during which Barrett asked if I’d be interested in reading the manuscript of his forthcoming book, Hot, Fat, and Clouded, with a chapter apiece on Friedman and other such bloviators. I told him it would be my pleasure. And it was—the book is a knockout, a hilarious, inarguable skewering of the self-indulgent empty-headedness and hypocrisy of Friedman and various other members of establishment punditry, the strength of whose brands somehow mysteriously manages to outpace the wreckage of all their mistaken judgments.
I told Barrett at length how much I enjoyed the book. He made a few changes, then sent me the revised manuscript and asked me to safeguard it in case anything untoward happened to him. I thought he was being melodramatic.
He was not.
In 2009, Barrett founded Project PM, “dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence, and surveillance.” He was particularly instrumental in using documents obtained by the hacktivist collective Anonymous to expose secret collaboration between the government and various contractors. The covert factions Barrett’s work threatened are powerful, and fought back. Two years ago, Barrett was arrested and threatened with 100 years in prison—yes, you read that correctly—allegedly for threatening an FBI agent, concealing evidence, and linking to a website that contained stolen credit card numbers. The allegations themselves are sufficiently preposterous, and the threatened sentence sufficiently draconian, to make it clear that Barrett, like William Binney, Thomas Drake, Daniel Ellsberg, Jeremy Hammond, Jon Kiriakou, Chelsea Manning, Jesselyn Radack, Edward Snowden, Aaron Swartz, Thomas Tamm, and many others, is in fact being persecuted as an example to anyone else who would dare challenge America’s Deep State.
Eventually, Barrett signed a plea deal on three of the lesser charges against him, the other charges were dropped, and the threatened sentence reduced from over a hundred to eight and a half years. His sentencing hearing has been repeatedly scheduled and then delayed, and is currently set for December 16.
If you agree with Martin Luther King’s dictum that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and if you believe that threats to journalists like Barrett are a threat to the dignity and freedom of all citizens, there are a number of ways in which you can make a difference:
- Follow FreeBarrettBrown on Twitter.
- Read the amazing Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters, written from Seagoville federal prison.
- Donate to Barrett’s legal defense fund.
- Buy his book. Read it. Tell others about it. All proceeds go to Barrett’s legal defense fund.
see more = Barrett Brown - wikipaedia =
Barrett Brown sentencing: Journalist faces 8 year jail term for threatening FBI agent and cyber-attack
December 16, 2014 11:46 GMT
In April 2014, Brown pleaded guilty to a reduced set of three charges which carry a maximum sentence of eight-and-a-half years in prison. Previously Brown had been facing a much longer maximum prison sentence of up to 105 years for posting a link to a file containing stolen credit card details - even though he had never opened the file in question.
While Brown's defence team will be seeking a sentence of time-served, his supporters claim the prosecuting team have asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence in sealed court documents filed last week.
"I am going to ruin his life"Brown is facing one charge of being an "accessory after the fact in the unauthorised access to a protected computer" which relates to his part in the cyber-attack on Stratfor, which was carried out by Jeremy Hammond who is currently serving a 10-year sentence for the attack.
“That's why Robert Smith's life is over. I am going to ruin his life and look into his f**king kids”- Barrett Brown
In this case, Brown offered to communicate with Stratfor's chief executive on behalf of Hammond to see if the executive had any "reasonable requests" to redact any of the information that was stolen.
The most serious charge Brown is facing however relates to a YouTube video he posted in which he threatens FBI agent Robert Smith and his children on 12 September, 2012:
That's why Robert Smith's life is over. When I say his life is over I don't say I am going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his f**king kids....how d'you like them apples?
Mother's arrestBrown was angered not only by the FBI's investigation into his work, but also the arrest of his mother on charges of obstructing the execution of a search warrant by hiding Brown's laptops from police - a charge which led to a sentence of six-months probation and a $1,000 (£640) fine.
"My better judgment was clouded by my maternal instinct," she stated in court.
Brown has been in jail since the day the video was posted online when his home was raided. He was denied bail and has remained in jail ever since, although he has continued to work as a journalist, including a weekly column for D Magazine and work in the Guardian, Huffington Post, and Vanity Fair.
Polarising figureBrown is a polarising figure, even among his supporters, and has angered and alienated a lot of people over the years.
Brown was a member of the hacktivist collective Anonymous and from the winter of 2011 through to May 2012 he was the group's de facto spokesperson. He was unique among his peers in the group in that he used his real name at all times, refusing to hide behind the mask.
Like a lot of the earlier members of Anonymous, Brown was a troll, regularly making offensive comments and "rape jokes" on live videochat websites while sitting in a bath and drinking wine.
He was however eventually kicked out of Anonymous. As Gabriella Coleman says in her book Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, Brown broke the cardinal rule of Anonymous:
Arriving with name in tow, he was informally booted with name in tow for violating an originary rule of Anonymous (hinted at by the name itself): drawing attention and fame to one's name is the ultimate taboo. Brown attempted to iconoclastically occupy a liminal zone/status. He acted like an insider but never concealed himself. He was tolerated for so long only because he poured significant work into both the network and the larger cause.More on Hacktivists
- Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous – Review
- Hacktivists Hit Back at Israel After Death of Anonymous Member in West Bank
- Inside AnonGhost: The Pro-Gaza Hacktivists Waging Cyber War on Israel
- Brad Pitt to Produce Film Based on Anonymous vs Steubenville Rape Case
- Cyber Warfare: Rise of the Hacktivist [VIDEO SPECIAL]