Barrett Lancaster Brown is a patriot.
Barrett Lancaster Brown is a patriot.
Barrett Lancaster Brown is a writer and patriotic activist who possesses a unique combination of ability, courage, wit and determination. This resume of personality traits turned him into a threatening individual once he decided to direct much of that energy against the prevailing corrupt status quo. This is also why he’s one of the roughly roughly 2.4 million Americans locked up within these United States; many of them for non-crimes.
The Feds went after Barrett Brown in the same manner in which they went after Aaron Swartz (tactics that led to the suicide of the latter). They came out with a bunch of trumped up charges, including that of copying and pasting a link (that charge was later dropped), and threatened him with 105 years in jail.
As of December 2014, Brown has now served over two years in the federal penitentiary without bail or sentencing. He faces 10 years in jail for basically exposing the shady relationship between intelligence contractors and the U.S. government.
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.
All of this makes little sense unless you’re familiar with what Barrett Brown did. He spent the beginning of 2011 advocating for the effectiveness of Anonymous as a force that could bring transparency to institutions and governments through digital protest. He took the thousands of e-mails that were hacked by Anonymous, first from HBGary Federal, and later from Stratfor, and enlisted others to help search through them for revelations of journalistic import.
What was uncovered was startling: a disinformation campaign against WikiLeaks and its supporters, large-scale monitoring of social networks, a capability for one analyst to control multiple online sock-puppets, and surveillance systems that seemed far-fetched until you read the e-mails for yourself and grasp the magnitude of the “cyber-intelligence complex” involved.
Brown was still sounding the alarm about one particular firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, when he was arrested on September 12, 2012. Later, a Booz Allen employee named Edward Snowden would famously come forward to confirm the company’s involvement in NSA surveillance operations. At that point, Brown’s warnings seemed prescient, although he is still one of a very small number of journalists who write about private intelligence contractors, an issue which has frankly not received the attention that it deserves.
Most people have never even heard of Booz Allen Hamilton before Barrett Brown highlighted them. A so-called “private” company that earns 99% of its revenues from the U.S. government.
In the last of a series of videos uploaded to YouTube that day, Brown threatened the FBI agent in charge of his case. His grievances against the FBI – besides their threats of prosecution towards his mother – had to do with his property being taken from him, and the harassment he’d been experiencing at the hands of online actors who were ostensibly either federal informants or connected to security contractors.
He was taken into custody that night in a heavily-armed FBI raid of his Dallas apartment, and has been jailed without bail ever since – over two years now. After several delays, his case concluded in a plea agreement, where he faces 8½ years maximum for (1) transmitting a threat in interstate commerce (2) accessory after the fact in the unauthorized access to a protected computer and (3) interference with the execution of a search warrant and aid and abet.
While the government works feverishly to keep him behind bars, the occasion of Barrett Brown’s sentencing is a worthwhile moment to reflect on whether the United States has regressed back to the political repression of the 1960s – or the methods of Russia – in the way the law is being used as a blunt instrument against whistleblowers and information activists, and on issues such as prosecutorial discretion.
Barrett is a patriot, a relentless investigative weapon of status quo destruction who presents a serious threat to the corrupt and criminal American crony “elite.” That’s why the system wants him locked up in a cage, and it’s precisely why we need him back on the streets.
Updated Information – January 22, 2015
After years of legal battles, Barrett Brown’s legal saga has finally come to a close. Today, the independent journalist has been sentenced to 63 months in prison and ordered him to pay nearly $890,000 in restitution, after pleading guilty to charges of transmitting threats, accessory to hacking charges, and interfering with the execution of a search warrant. As Brown’s legal team described the charges in the run-up to sentencing, “This breaks down to uploading YouTube videos that contained unfortunate statements, efforts to redact sensitive e-mails that had been procured by hackers, and hiding laptops in a kitchen cabinet.”
Brown had closely followed Anonymous during the Stratfor hack and drew the attention of law enforcement when he shared a link to an IRC channel where Anonymous members were distributing stolen information from the hack, including credit card details. That led to identity theft and fraud charges, as well as subsequent legal and evidentiary battles with the FBI, which led to the ancillary charges adjudicated today.
Brown is still best known for the fraud charges, which became a controversial example of the government crackdown on suspects connected with Anonymous. According to the Department of Justice, sharing the hyperlink was a crime because “by transferring and posting the hyperlink, Brown caused the data to be made available to other persons online, without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor and the card holders.” Still, many argued it was absurd use a single hyperlink as grounds for identity theft, and pointed to the case as a prime example of prosecutorial overreach in computer crime cases. Many of the charges were dropped as part of a series of plea deals, which resulted in Brown’s guilty plea in April.
In a sentencing statement this morning, Brown described the Stratfor hack and the shared link as still central to the government’s motives in the case. “The fact that the government has still asked you to punish me for that link is proof, if any more were needed, that those of us who advocate against secrecy are to be pursued without regard for the rule of law, or even common decency,” Brown told the judge.
After receiving the sentence, Brown released the following statement:
The US 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 wrongdoing 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 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!
Clarification: While Brown faced a number of charges, he was not convicted simply for sharing a link. In fact, the government’s case against Brown treated the link sharing more aggressively until last spring, when the Department of Justice dropped many of the charges related to his sharing a link to the hacked material. Brown was left with a charge for accessory after the fact for helping a Stratfor hacker evade authorities and one for obstructing a search, as well as charges in a separate case for threatening a federal officer.
While the charges Brown faced evolved over the course of his lengthy trial, the prosecution ultimately removed the charge related to linking to hacked material. Meanwhile, a massive campaign to free the 33-year-old ensued. Brown has already served 31 months in prison, though activists maintain that a judge has set a “dangerous precedent” by slapping Brown with an aggressive sentence and a massive fine. Actually, Brown only has to pay $225 in actual fines. The remaining $890,250 will go directly to Stratfor and its clients as, ummm, pay back.
Want to hear something even more insane? Originally, Brown faced 105 years in prison for “linking to hacked material” and his various other offenses. Now, nobody is really saying that Brown didn’t do anything wrong. But the government’s increasingly aggressive posture against hackers—or rather, anybody that it decides is a hacker—is pretty scary.
The United States government’s definition of hacking is pretty broad, and the punishments are pretty severe, as the world learned after Aaron Swartz’s suicide. Just recently, however, President Obama put forth a set of cyber security proposals that would actually broaden the government’s definition of hacking and increase the penalties, which would make matters worse.
This sucks because it’s more clear than ever that the government is fine interpreting hacking laws that were written in the 1980s however it wants. If this continues, it’s possible that the average citizen could get thrown in jail by simply clicking or retweeting a link to hacked material. Does this sound like a country you want to use a computer in? Think about that pretty hard as Congress considers Obama’s new cyber security proposals. Barrett Brown surely will, as he’s sitting in prison for the next few years.
Click here to read about the treasonous Judge Sam A. Lindsay that sentenced Barrett Brown.
Updated Information – December 20, 2016
OUT OF PRISON, BARRETT BROWN RECOMMITS HIMSELF TO AGITATING AGAINST EXISTING ORDER
After four years behind bars on hacking-related charges, journalist and activist Barrett Brown, still plans a global platform by which to generate real, cogent, viable opposition to the state of things.
“I was picked up by my parents and Alex Winter and his camera crew,” Brown told Shadowproof. “They filmed me on the six-hour drive over to Dallas. We had to get to the halfway house by 4:00 pm, or it would be an escape charge. So, we barely made it.”
“[The Bureau of Prisons] originally gave me less time than was necessary to get there, and I had to go in there and forcibly get them to give me an hour more,” he said. “They also told me falsely that I could go in any car, and it wouldn’t be any problem, when in fact I could actually go back to jail for not being in a registered car.”
Brown faced 100 years in prison in 2013 for charges stemming from the hacking of the private intelligence firm Stratfor the year before. The hack—of which the hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec took credit—revealed Stratfor was hired to spy on activist groups for corporations, such as Dow Chemical.
He was pegged as a spokesperson and co-conspirator for Anonymous despite renouncing ties with the group in 2011, and the most controversial charge brought against him by the Department of Justice was for linking to hacked data. That charge was eventually dropped.
Brown accepted a plea deal, under which he pled guilty to lesser charges for threatening an FBI agent in a YouTube video after the FBI raids. He also pled guilty to being an accessory to a cyber-attack and to obstruction of justice for putting his laptops in a kitchen cabinet. After over two years of pretrial incarceration, he was sentenced to 63 months in prison.
While incarcerated, Brown wrote award-winning columns, where he documented prison life and administration. He wrote about an endless stream of abuses and misconduct by BOP officials seeking to silence him and violate his rights and the rights of other prisoners. This includes multiple stints in solitary confinement and restrictions on his access to the press and use of email.
The Halfway House
The halfway house Brown currently calls home is operated by the nonprofit Volunteers of America under BOP jurisdiction. While halfway houses are supposed to help people get jobs and reintegrate into society after prison, Brown said the BOP “has a number of regulations that kind of get in the way.”
“Until recently, [halfway house residents] weren’t allowed to have cell phones,” he said. “Now they can have cell phones, but they can’t have iPhones or any phones with cameras or web access, which rules out 99.9% of phones. So people have to sort of scramble around. People have to find these phones that are allowed.”
Such hurdles are “pretty typical,” he said. “There’s some bureaucracy and some requirements. There’s rules that make those requirements hard to deal with.”
Brown said the director of his halfway house is “actually a pretty good guy; very, very dedicated to what he does. The assistant director, a guy named Woody something-or-other, he’s a wacky little rat creature that sort of runs around, a hyperactive bureaucrat.”
He shared he was written up the day before for smoking outside the facility. “Everyone goes out and smokes in the front area, they really don’t screw with you. But, me being who I am, I’m always subject to scrutiny,” Brown said, adding, “It really didn’t mean anything but I did had to get a 5 minute lecture about propriety from this rat creature.”
“A lot of my bandwidth has gone toward nonsense here, but at the same time, I’ve been able to get a lot done. I’ve got some projects. I hit the ground running on getting things launched, and that’ll be made public fairly soon.”
After his stay at the halfway house, Brown will be confined to his home, which he said is “not very restrictive in terms of what I do.”
Computer Restrictions & Employment
“When I’m on probation six months from now, we have very clear restrictions where I can use a laptop,” he said. “I have to bring a new laptop to the DOJ’s office, and they’ll install monitoring software and that’s it. I can use the internet just like any other civilian.”
“Until then, I’m still under BOP jurisdiction, and that’s where things get interesting. I’ve yet to get a written, any kind of written declaration of what I can’t do as opposed to other ex-convicts.”
Brown explained he was planning to bring a Playstation 4 to the halfway house “so everyone could have video games,” but “the assistant director, this Woody something, said, oh, let me go check on that. And, of course, if you ask the BOP if I can have something, they‘re going to say no.”
“In this case, they said I could turn it into a microcomputer. I don’t know what a microcomputer is exactly. Even the DOJ doesn’t say I’m a hacker.”
Brown renounced his ties to Anonymous in 2011, and while he was previously labeled as a spokesperson for the group, it was established at his trial that he is not a hacker.
He did not participate in the Stratfor hacking for which he was incarcerated. Yet, even before the Playstation 4 incident and despite his trial, the BOP labeled him as someone who should not be allowed around computers.
For example, Brown said federal prisons typically circulate lists of around 15 inmates once a month, which include their pictures and information about them. Staffers are supposed to memorize the information. “I was informed by a couple of staff members that I had been sort of cultivating that I’m on that sheet at Three Rivers listed as a hacker,” he said. (Federal Correctional Institution Three Rivers is where Brown was imprisoned for part of his sentence.)
Brown feels the DOJ’s probation officers are on his side, agree he’s been wronged, and understand he shouldn’t be under constraints except as provided for by law. “They’re trying to accommodate me,” he said.
The DOJ’s probation officers sent emails to BOP requesting clarification on what kinds of jobs he is allowed to have, but Brown said the BOP has not been responsive or helpful.
“I’m trying to get a job, a physical, 9-5, 40 hour week job at D Magazine down in Dallas,” he said. However, it is unclear what he’s allowed to do under the conditions of his release. “Can I touch a computer? Can I look at a monitor?” Brown asked.
“I had Tim Rogers, the editor down there, call the BOP representative down here and she said, I can’t give information about that case. Keep in mind, this is my employer trying to find out what I can do.”
“It’s not her this is coming from,” Brown said, again noting the absurd bureaucracy that not only frustrates him but obscures who it is within the BOP that he can hold accountable for such a decision.
“She is just passing on something from someone. That’s why I went in there to the director first couple days I was here and said, look, I need something in writing. Tell me exactly who is saying I can’t have a Playstation because that has implications about whether or not I can have a computer or touch a computer or be in a room with a computer.”
The BOP has not answered Brown’s questions, and he vowed to more forcefully ask “for them to explain what their authority is for making these declarations” and show in writing “exactly what they think my stipulation should be under BOP jurisdiction.”
Brown questioned whether the BOP was setting a dangerous precedent with their treatment of him, noting his columns had “already exposed a lot of the BOP’s activities and have already sort of made formal complaints of retaliation against me.” His email access was previously revoked for a year by the BOP.
Another obstacle Brown faces is the more than $890,000 in restitution he must now pay, the vast majority of which is owed to Stratfor.
“My restitution was $200 a month for a while, then $100, and it’s based on how much money I brought in previously. That was determined by the case manager at the prison. Now that I’m out under a halfway house for the next few months, I don’t have to pay anything and then it goes back up to be calculated based on my income.”
When he begins probation, he will have to pay Stratfor and his the other “victims” a percentage of his income in restitution, and if he is compensated through a bequest or an award, he has to pay half of it.
“The bottom line is I do owe over $800,000 to Stratfor, Combined Systems, and the nonexistent law firm of Puckett and Faraj, which was quite literally destroyed by [Jeremy] Hammond. That’s still the case, and we’re going to make as much of that as we can.”
“The way I see it is we’re paying a bit of a price each month in order to remind people of what these firms are doing,” Brown argued. “That’ll stay in the news as long as we can keep it, and it’ll be a monument to the age we live in and to the injustice of the system. I think eventually Stratfor may decide they want out of that. We’ll see what happens.”
A Real, Cogent, Viable Opposition To The State Of Things
Assessing his plans now that he’s out of prison, Brown said his main objective is the same as it was around the time he started Project PM in 2008-2009: “to launch a global platform, a method by which to generate a real, cogent, viable opposition to the state of things; opposition to the nation state, corporations, the existing order.”
“At this point, it’s more viable for me to get something like that launched and make it quickly viable than it would have been years ago. Because at this point, I’ve got a degree of respect from the activist community and even establishment figures, who I think years ago would not have been as interested in radical solutions as they are now.”
“Obviously, the election results sort of sealed the deal in terms of getting people to realize there’s a problem here,” he said. “The grown ups are not in charge.”
“The greatest, most important fact of the 21st Century will be that any individual can collaborate with any other individual,” he explained. “That’s vaguely obvious now, but […] you’re going to see, on a global scale, an unprecedented non-state opposition grow up as little entities develop and evolve and start connecting with each other. That’s the period we’re entering. We’re entering a period of conflict.”
He described the first phase of this as “the last six years of Wikileaks and Anonymous and these different groups challenging the system.” Brown pointed to Wikileaks’ role in the 2016 election, saying they scored “sort of an unfortunate success to the extent that the election was somewhat thrown by [Julian] Assange.”
“It’s not the way I would have wanted it to be, but it does go to show that this is the age of non-state actors,” he said.
Brown said he would soon make an announcement with more concrete details about his upcoming projects. But for now, what is important is to understand the most pressing issues facing society “have to be addressed by outside forces, well organized systems in which we channel dissent.” His goal is to “channel peoples’ capabilities and skills and resources in a way that they don’t have to work through the Democratic Party, for instance, which is an organization in which scum rises to the top.”
“You look at someone like Dick Morris and then you think about all the twenty-something kids out there, who are actually very, very talented, very knowledgeable, they’re honest. But they have no viable way, for the most part, to get involved and bring their talents to bear and bring their honesty to bear.”
“If we give them something where they can rise, where they can channel those talents, if we create something for them and say, there’s no more excuses, here it is, here is your ability to change the system, and we do it in the right way and we provide charismatic leadership and an ethos that works to burn off this morass—this ridiculous over-entertained culture, then we will finally see results.”
Brown asked people to “start thinking about what obligations they have to the civilization they’ve been born into. Think about the people who have come before us, who have made sacrifices, much more considerable sacrifices than we’re asking of anybody. We’ll be asking people for their time and for their efforts without any real risk.”
“Just think about if they are going to take and enjoy the fruits of our liberty and this civilization or if they feel that they have a moral obligation to put something back into it,” he said.
News Update – September 21, 2021
Dallas Journalist Barrett Brown Went to the U.K. Now, He Wants Asylum.
To a great extent, Barrett Brown is fueled by cheap tobacco and vengeance. The embattled journalist wants to inflict as much damage as possible on America, and recently, he’s broadened his scope to include the United Kingdom. There, Brown is attempting to claim asylum, largely because he says he’s been persecuted for his journalism in the U.S. But now, he’s facing yet another stint behind bars, this time in Britain.
Over the past decade or so, Brown has crafted a reputation as an impassioned reporter with a serious rap sheet. His “bad boy” bravado and ties to the international hacktivist movement Anonymous have earned him nods on popular television shows and a legion of faithful followers. He’d previously allied — then fallen out — with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and journalist Glenn Greenwald. One person even threatened to blow up D Magazine if it published more of Brown’s columns.
These days, Texas-born Brown is living on a canal boat in England with his girlfriend Sylvia, a former teen model with a penchant for engineering. Even though she doesn’t smoke, she’ll roll cigarettes for Brown, who was once known to always have a Marlboro in hand. Lately, though, it’s cheap European package tobacco. “Because when one is on the run from all these different things, one has to save money,” Brown explained.
Earlier this summer, the Observer caught up with Brown on a call via Signal, an encrypted messaging app. He’d recently been charged in the U.K. on public order and incitement offenses and had just wrapped his first court appearance in front of the Crown Prosecution Service, a British agency that conducts criminal prosecutions.
News Update – Novemeber 26, 2021
Journalist Barrett Brown Convicted in U.K. for Holding ‘KILL COPS’ Banner
Journalist Barrett Brown Convicted in U.K. for Holding ‘KILL COPS’ Banner
On Friday, nearly six months after his arrest by U.K. police, Dallas-born journalist Barrett Brown was convicted of “causing ‘alarm and distress.'”
“The illicit pirate kingdom of Britain has seen fit to find me guilty of having caused ‘alarm and distress’ among its emotionally fragile police force,” Brown told the Observer. “Rather than add to the already extensive list of documented irregularities that have accompanied this case from the beginning, I will merely point out that the English are an obnoxious and tiresome people that we should have finished off after we were done with Germany.”
Brown is an award-winning journalist and media critic who’s been associated with the Anonymous hacktivist movement. In 2012, he was indicted on charges related to the hacking of intelligence firm Stratfor; that year, the FBI also raided his house, as well as his mother’s. Brown was eventually sentenced to 63 months in federal prison.
Earlier this year, Brown was targeted by British authorities after he was pictured helping to hold a banner at a London protest. The two-part sign originally said “COPS KILL,” but later on, the words were rearranged to read “KILL COPS.”