Archive | Barret Brown

Barrett Brown back in custody

Journalist and writer Barrett Brown, who was imprisoned after exposing private sector surveillance – has been detained again. The Intercept:

Brown quickly became a symbol of the attack on press freedom after he was arrested in 2012 for reporting he did on the hacked emails of intelligence-contracting firms. Brown wrote about hacked emails that showed the firm Stratfor spying on activists on behalf of corporations. Brown also helped uncover a proposal by intelligence contractors to hack and smear WikiLeaks defenders and progressive activists. (…)

According to his mother, who spoke with Brown by phone after his arrest, Brown believes the reason for his re-arrest was a failure to obtain “permission” to give interviews to media organizations. Several weeks ago, Brown was told by his check-in officer that he needed to fill out permission forms before giving interviews.

The Intercept: Formerly imprisoned journalist Barrett Brown taken back into custody before PBS interview »


Internets imprisoned and fallen

I feel that I ought to pay tribute to Ian Murdock, father of Linux Debian, former Sun VP and Linux Foundation CTO. And I do, by linking to this piece at ArsTechnica, painting a much better picture than I ever could:

Ian Murdock, father of Debian, dead at 42 — Former Sun VP and Linux Foundation CTO died under suspicious circumstances »

As this, according to Murdock’s tweets appears to be a suicide and me not knowing anything much about the circumstances, my first thought was to leave it there. But the Internet led me on. Apparently there had been some confrontation with the police. (Murdock’s tweets ») And that is a red flag.

Back to Ars Technica:

On Monday at 2:13pm Eastern Time, Murdock apparently posted that he was going to kill himself:

» I’m committing suicide tonight…do not intervene as I have many stories to tell and do not want them to die with me #debian #runnerkrysty67 «

Also on Monday, Murdock wrote a string of posts that indicate he had a confrontation with police. Inquiries to the San Francisco Police Department by Ars went unanswered. Update: Public records indicate Murdock was arrested in San Francisco on December 27 and released on bail, but no details were available on the charges.

Of course, I know nothing about the circumstances. And I shouldn’t speculate. But the story of Aaron Swartz falls into one’s mind. He was a champion for a free and open internet, who actually managed to accomplish things and who stopped harmful political bills. He was prosecuted in a very strange federal case of possible copyright infringements and faced $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. He declined a plea bargain and shortly after that he killed himself. (Also see the documentary: The Internet’s Own Boy The Story of Aaron Swartz ») There are some disturbing similarities with the Murdock case.

But it might just be similarities. And people do fall over the edge sometimes. But standing eye to eye with the judicial system and the police definitely can push someone over that edge. Trust me on that one.

Do you remember Michael Hastings, the successful investigative reporter? His car mysteriously ran into a palm tree and exploded in LA, shortly after he had told his associates that he was on to something big, once again. And his targets were usually the darker side of government and its functionaries.

Journalist and internet activist Barrett Brown clearly was pushed into a corner by the authorities, resulting in him currently spending 63 months in federal prison. It all happened when he was working on ProjectPM, investigating outsourcing of government intelligence operations to private contractors — and the inner workings of the cyber-military-industrial complex.

Chelsea Manning is spending 35 years in prison, basically for having exposed the truth about the government’s politics and actions to the public. This imprisonment is right out offensive.

Wikileaks editor in chief Julian Assange is confined to the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where his freedom of action is quite limited. This following a European Arrest Warrant after some rather vague accusations about sexual misconduct in Sweden. And NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is stuck in Russia, after the US retracted his passport. In both these cases it’s about people who have made information public — that the people in a democracy ought to have the right to know about anyhow.

There is a disturbing pattern emerging. If you push the envelope too far, bad things happen to you.

No, I am not a conspiracy theorist. Clearly Brown, Manning, Assange and Snowden had it coming. Murdock and Swartz obviously were under harrowing pressure. And there is no hard evidence of foul play in the Hastings case, just strange circumstances. But still, it’s all very troublesome and sad.

Are journalists, internet activists and whistleblowers the imprisoned and fallen political dissidents of our time? Is the truth and a free flow of information really that dangerous to the Establishment? If so, what kind of a society is this?

Our thoughts are with Ian Murdock’s family and friends.



Barrett Brown sentenced today: 63 months in prison

After a month long delay, today U.S. journalist Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison. He should be released in the spring of 2017.

This is a disappointment as there where hopes that he would be released today, after time served.

Barret Brown is the journalist who used material obtained by the Anonymous network to start an investigative project about outsourcing of U.S. intelligence operations to private contractors: Project PM.

He was supposed to be sentenced back in December last year, but there was a delay until today. Here you can read the blog post I wrote about the case back then.

And here you can read the speech Brown gave in court today.

This is not the rule of law, Your Honor, it is the rule of Law Enforcement, and it is very dangerous.

This is a very disturbing affair–with far reaching implications for journalism and transparency. It is a part of a pattern where the U.S. Government is hunting down journalists, to prevent them from exposing the truth.



After receiving his sentence Barrett Brown released the following statement:

“Good news! — The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrongdgoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system. I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into in bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. — Wish me luck!”


16 December: Sentencing in the Barrett Brown Case

Today–Tuesday December 16–a Dallas federal court will deliver its sentence in the Barrett Brown case. It all started with copy-pasting a link.

Writer, journalist and hacktivist Barrett Brown was the leading force in Project PM–a journalistic project scrutinizing private intelligence and security firms running outsourced contracts for the US Government.

The material came from a data dump retrieved by hackers said to belong to the Anonymous network. Even though Brown did not take part in this operation himself, he had access to the site where the information was stored.

His problems started when he copy-pasted a link to this site to Project PM. As the data dump contained all sorts of information (e.g. credit card information) it was possible for the authorities to go after him. From the Free Barret Brown website

“Having previously been raided by the FBI on March 6, 2012 and not arrested or charged, on September 12, 2012 Barrett Brown was again raided and this time arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation while he was online participating in a Tinychat session. He was subsequently denied bail and detained without charge and adequate medical treatment for over two weeks while in the custody of US Marshals. In the first week of October 2012, he was finally indicted on three counts, related to alleged activities or postings on popular websites such as Twitter and YouTube.”

“On December 4, 2012 Barrett was indicted by a federal grand jury on twelve additional counts related to data from the Stratfor breach. Despite his lack of direct involvement in the operation and stated opposition to it, he faces these charges simply for allegedly pasting a hyperlink online. On January 23rd, 2013 he was indicted a third time on two more counts, relating to the March 2012 FBI raid(s) on his apartment and his mother’s house.”

After that, everything was blown out of proportion. The Daily Beast reports…

“The government’s actions in this case have been extreme. Prosecutors in the Northern District of Texas have written that Brown, along with the activist group Anonymous, sought to overthrow the U.S. government. They tried to seize funds that were raised for his legal defense. They obtained a gag order against the defendant and his lawyers restricting what they could say about the case for several months. They sought to identify contributors to a website where Brown and others dissected leaks and researched shady links between intelligence contractors and governments. Perhaps most egregious of all, they pursued a case against Brown’s mother, who was forced to plead guilty to a misdemeanor related to a separate FBI raid on her home, resulting in six months probation and a $1,000 fine.”

This far into the case, Brown faced a life time prison sentence and accepted a plea agreement.

Dallas Morning News describes what happened next…

“But the U.S. attorney’s office asked Lindsay to drop those charges in March. The charges, which were dismissed, accused Brown of trafficking in stolen data and aggravated identity theft.”

“The most serious charge remaining against Brown was the one involving threats to the FBI agents. Brown made some of the expletive-laced threats in a YouTube video he posted in which he said he would shoot any federal agents who came for him. Brown also said in a video that he would ruin one FBI agent’s life and look into his kids.”

Today we will know the outcome of this affair. Prosecutors seek a 8.5 year prison sentence. And the defence is going for time served.

Governments (not only the US Government) outsourcing intelligence and security operations to private companies is a problem–as it withdraws information about what is going on from democratic oversight.

The Barrett Brown case also is a matter of freedom of the press.

In the wake of the Snowden files exposing NSA mass surveillance, one should be extra vigilant. From the Project PM we already have had a glimpse of what is going on. For instance private US intelligence contractors have been involved in secret operations to discredit and damage Wikileaks and its editor in chief Julian Assange.

On a tragic side note–renowned US national security journalist Michael Hastings was about to dig deeper into the Project PM material (and the Barrett Brown case)–when he reportedly found himself being investigated by the FBI. Unfortunately Hastings died when his car exploded in a single car crash in Los Angeles, in the early morning hours of June 18, 2013.

This really is an intriguing and disturbing affair.

Free Barrett Brown | Project PM | Barrett Brown on Wikipedia

(proud contributor to the Barret Brown defense fund)

Some additional links:
Peter Ludlow: Barrett Brown case smacks of oppression »
Sentencing Looms for Barrett Brown, Advocate for “Anonymous” »
Why everyone should care about journalist Barrett Brown’s sentencing today »
Journalist Barrett Brown Faces Sentencing on Tuesday After Two Years Behind Bars »

Update: Barrett Brown sentencing delayed until January 22, 2015 »

Update 2: The Intercept–The Latest Twist in the Bizarre Prosecution of Barrett Brown »