Barrett Lancaster Brown

Barrett Lancaster Brown is a patriot.

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:

Good news!

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!

Additional Information

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.

Additional Information

Click here to read about the treasonous Judge Sam A. Lindsay that sentenced Barrett Brown.

Updated Information – December 20, 2016


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.”

Edward Joseph Snowden

Edward Snowden is a patriot.

Edward Joseph Snowden is a patriot.

Edward Joseph Snowden is a patriot.

The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is an American hero. Every American should wish we had many more people like him (including Bradley Manning and Julian Assange), not fewer. He is a genuine patriot. He has done far more to bring accountability to government than ANY current Republican Congressman or Senator who sticks his chest out and says he believes in “limited government” and “the Constitution.”

Of course, there are many who hold the exact opposite view, that he is a traitor and not a hero. Such people include conservative commentators, retired military officials, and a number of Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Trying to understand their objections to the invaluable service Mr. Snowden provided our country, they just don’t make any sense.

Here, in no particular order, are the most pointed arguments his critics have leveled at him:

1. “He’s a high school dropout.” This is just ridiculous, and a blatant personal attack. And this is only said to distract the listener or reader from learning about what it is Snowden really did. If it is wrong to drop out of high school, why didn’t these guys criticize Princess Diana? What about Thomas Edison? Benjamin Franklin? Albert Einstein? All these people dropped out of high school too, and that had no long-term effect on their character now, did it?

2. “He has endangered national security.”

Keep in mind that “national security” is an ambiguous phrase that is nowhere to be found in the Declaration of Independence or our Constitution. It pretty much means whatever a fearmongering, warmongering politician (like Lindsey Graham or John McCain) wants it to mean. In other words, it is a term that can easily be used to manipulate people into giving up their freedom. For over a decade, the American people (probably one of the most gullible in the world) have happily traded their liberty for security. And to quote Benjamin Franklin (one of my favorite Founding Fathers): “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Personally, I would much rather die a free person from terrorists than live under a tyrannical, fascist government that knows my every move.

3. “He has broken the law. He violated his agreement/oath to keep this information secret.”

One must ask a question for the people who make this claim: What if a law is unjust? Were abolitionists wrong to hide slaves just because slavery was the law of the land in America in the 1800s? Was Oskar Schindler wrong to hide Jews just because Adolf Hitler said that to do so was wrong? Was Sophie Scholl wrong in exposing the horrors of the Nazi government with her fellow patriots in the White Rose non-violent resistance group? I do fear that many of the authoritarians calling for Snowden’s head (who essentially believe anything the government says no matter what it does) would support the Nazis and the pro-slavery politicians if they lived in a different time. Obey the powers that be, right guys?

Another question: What about Mr. Snowden’s oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America (specifically the Fourth Amendment, which states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”)? Turns out Edward was just following this oath and did not forget it, unlike 99.99 % of the other people (it seems) who “take” the oath.

Oh, and the government violated ITS agreement (the Constitution) with the American people first! Why don’t Snowden’s critics stand up for the rule of law? Why is it his defenders who are doing so instead?

UPDATE: June 23, 2013

ACLU to Obama: “We are tired of living in a nation governed by fear”.

Under President Obama, the United States is “a nation governed by fear,” the American Civil Liberties Union says in an open letter that echoes the criticisms Obama has made of George W. Bush’s national security policies.

“We say as Americans that we are tired of seeing liberty sacrificed on the altar of security and having a handful of lawmakers decide what we should and should not know,” the ACLU writes in a statement circulated to grassroots supporters and addressed to Obama. “We are tired of living in a nation governed by fear instead of the principles of freedom and liberty that made this nation great.”

It’s strange to read in light of Obama’s disavowal of Bush. “Too often — our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions,” Obama said in 2009. “Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens — fell silent.”

The ACLU is circulating that statement in response to the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute Edward Snowden, who leaked information about the National Security Agency’s data collection programs before fleeing to Hong Kong (and now, Russia).

“We stand opposed to any attempt to treat Edward Snowden as a traitor,” the ACLU writes. “Snowden is innocent until proven guilty before a court of law and he must be afforded all of his rights as an American citizen. If he is brought to an American court, he must be afforded every opportunity to defend himself and convince a judge that what he did was justifiable and patriotic, even if he is charged with violating laws that themselves pose a threat to our democracy.”

UPDATE: August 3, 2013

NSA leaker Edward Snowden has been granted one year asylum in Russia.

Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said we “should be grateful” to Snowden for exposing the government’s “massive violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

Napolitano went on to say that “Snowden’s behavior is not always easy to defend,” and added that should the NSA leaker ever return to the U.S., his case would “absolutely” end up in the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: January 2, 2014

Edward Snowden Clemency: The New York Times, The Guardian Urge Obama To Help NSA Whistleblower. . .

The editorial boards of The New York Times and The Guardian published editorials on Wednesday (January 1, 2014), urging the Obama administration to treat Edward Snowden as a whistleblower and offer him some form of clemency.

Seven months ago, the former National Security Administration contractor stole as many as 1.7 million highly classified documents about the U.S. government’s surveillance program and released the information to the press. The files revealed how the NSA forced American technology companies to reveal customer information, often without individual warrants, and how data from global phone and Internet networks was secretly intercepted.

While the release of these documents forced Snowden to flee the U.S. and move to Russia, it also alerted the American public — and many U.S. allies — of the government’s intrusive, unethical and possibly unlawful spying efforts.

Beyond sparking public debate, Snowden’s actions have prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the NSA. The suit aims to force the U.S. government to disclose details of its electronic surveillance program and describe what protections it provides to Americans whose communications are swept up during the search for terrorist suspects, Reuters reported.

Eight major technology companies — including Google, Facebook and Twitter — have also joined forces to call for tighter controls on government surveillance.

In November, the White House rejected a clemency plea from Snowden, and told him to return to the U.S. to face trial.

UPDATE: March 2, 2015

DoD Releases “Evidence” of Snowden’s Damages to National Security… and It’s COMPLETELY Redacted.

Per a Freedom of Information Act Request lawsuit filed by Vice News, the Department of Defense has released a report on the damaging effects of Edward Snowden’s 2013 NSA leaks. The only problem? It’s redacted. Entirely. Not a crumb of evidence was present in the “evidence” the government released.

The “assessment” is made up of multiple reports collectively over 100 pages long and was released by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a wing of the Department of Defense. It was made by two dozen DIA analysts and is fully blocked out, save for several headings. For example:

  • “Assessment”
  • “Talking Points”
  • “Compromised Information”
  • “Background”
  • “Recommendations”

The redacted reports were constructed from September 2013 to April 2014. According to a declaration signed by the DIA’s FOIA office chair, Aleysia Williams, it was used by DOD “leadership” to “mitigate the harm caused to national security” by Snowden.

David Leatherwood, the DIA’s director of operations, said that to do this, secrecy must be employed (as usual). He alleged:

“To accomplish this goal, the reporting of the task force focuses entirely on identifying the magnitude of the harm. Much of that reporting, for very legitimate reasons, remains classified.”

Further, at a conference on Monday (February 23, 2015), NSA chief Mike Rogers claimed of the Snowden leaks:

“Anyone who thinks this has not had an impact… doesn’t know what they are talking about.”

Since Edward Snowden exposed the expansive spying practices of the federal government, authorities like Rogers have claimed that the former CIA and NSA analyst compromised national security. However, they are yet to provide a single instance of their claims. They have not even been able to prove that the NSA’s bulk data collection has an effect on terrorism whatsoever.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (of the same name as the NSA chair), who had the privilege of reading a different-and apparently less redacted-report last year, insisted,

“[That] report confirms my greatest fears — Snowden’s real acts of betrayal place America’s military men and women at greater risk… Snowden’s actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field.”

Rather than focusing on what Snowden’s actions have allegedly done to “troops in the field,” it would be more productive to acknowledge other revelations: America is spying on world leaders, its military has murdered journalists and raped boys in front of their mothers, the CIA botched an attempt to give fake nuclear plans to Iran and later launched a cyber attack while the NSA hacked North Korea long before the Sony scandal. This is but a handful of the egregious crimes committed by the federal government. They have compromised national security and the safety of American troops exponentially more than Snowden’s revelations ever could. They create ill-will and terrorists through corrupt meddling and violence.

The government’s attempts to deflect the realities of its illegal spying are growing increasingly desperate and pathetic. Those at the DIA and DOD have no evidence to offer of their claims but stacks of blacked out pages and the tired talking point that they are “here to help.”

UPDATE: March 4, 2015

Snowden indicates he wants to come home.

NSA whisteblower Edward Snowden’s lawyer says that his client wants to come back to the United States as long as he can receive a fair trial.

Snowden has been in Russia since 2013, living under a three year residency permit after having been granted asylum.

It’s not clear what charges Snowden would face. He apparently won’t come back if he faces espionage charges.


“We’re certainly happy for him to return to the United States to face a court in the very serious charges” he faces, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

“So he absolutely can and should return to the United States to face the justice system that will be fair in its judgment of him,” she said. “But he is accused of very serious crimes and should return home to face them.”

Kucherena said Snowden has so far received a guarantee from Attorney General Eric Holder that he will not face the death penalty — but that Snowden also wants a guarantee of a “legal and impartial trial.”

Such a trial, Snowden’s legal advisers have said, would mean he wouldn’t face charges under the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that was used to charge Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

Snowden’s lawyer said he’s allowed to travel outside Russia now under a three-year Russian residency permit, but that he believes Snowden would be taken immediately to a U.S. embassy as soon as he leaves the country.

“With a group of lawyers from other countries, we are working on the question of his return to America,” Kucherena said.

The government just slapped former General David Petraeus on the wrist for leaking a couple of sensitive documents to his mistress. Does Snowden hope he will get similar treatment?

It’s hard to see how leaking thousands of NSA documents could be considered anything but espionage. Whether that was his intent or not, Snowden’s actions revealed secrets that the enemy could use to avoid detection. Even many Snowden defenders acknowledge this, but believe he should receive whistleblower protection because ot the importance of the programs he exposed.

The political climate has changed since 2013, with people being less upset about Snowden and angrier at the government for theiir illegal snooping. That may play into some kind of plea deal where Snowden would plead guilty to a lesser charge and perhaps avoid jail time altogether, or receive a minimum sentence.

Would he accept any jail time at all? Or would he take his chances in court? The best guess is that he won’t want to risk a long prison term and will accept a deal only if he can serve his time at a minimum security facility. Otherwise, he’ll stay put, hoping the political winds continue to blow in his favor.

UPDATE: June 2, 2015

Snowden awarded freedom of expression prize in Norway.

Oslo (AFP) – Former security contractor Edward Snowden won a Norwegian prize for freedom of expression Tuesday and received yet another invitation to leave his exile and receive the award in person.

The Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression said the 31-year old fugitive had won the Bjornson Prize — named after a Norwegian Nobel literature laureate — “for his work protecting privacy and for shining a critical light on US surveillance of its citizens and others.”

Snowden, a former analyst at the US National Security Agency, has lived in exile in Russia since 2013 after revealing mass spying programmes by the United States and its allies.

The US administration has branded him a hacker and a traitor who endangered lives by revealing the extent of the NSA spying program.

The academy requested assurances from the Norwegian government that Snowden would not be extradited to the US if he travelled to Norway to receive the 100,000 kroner ($12,700, 11,500 euros) prize money in person on September 5, 2015.

Norway’s justice ministry said it was up to immigration authorities, who indicated they would consider any entry request when and if they received one.

Snowden was awarded Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award in 2014 but chose to accept it by video link rather than leaving his exile in Russia.

He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the second year in a row. The Nobel will be awarded in Oslo on October 9, 2015.

UPDATE: June 23, 2015

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has adopted a resolution calling on member and observer states to improve the protection of whistleblowers. It also urged the US to let Edward Snowden return without fear of criminal prosecution.

The resolution adopted at the council’s meeting on Tuesday called for its member states and observer states to “create an appropriate normative, judicial and institutional framework for the protection of whistleblowers.”

It urged the states’ governments to “enact whistleblower protection laws also covering employees of national security or intelligence services and of private firms working in this field.”

PACE said that the states must also grant asylum to whistleblowers threatened by retaliation in their home countries “as far as possible under national law” if their “disclosures qualify for protection under the principles advocated by the Assembly.”

The 47-nation body upholding human rights and democracy also set up special “guidelines” for staff members on “reporting wrongdoing.”

“The Assembly stresses the importance of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, upholding the right to privacy, freedom of speech and the protection of whistle-blowers, including in the fields of national security and intelligence.”

In a separate paragraph, the resolution called on the US, a PACE observer state, to allow the the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden to “return without fear of criminal prosecution under conditions that would not allow him to raise the public interest defense.” Snowden faces up to 30 years in prison in the US on charges of espionage and theft of government property.

PACE stated that the US 1917 Espionage Act under which he has been charged, does not allow for any form of public interest defense.

Snowden spoke to council members on Tuesday via video-link from asylum in Moscow shortly after the resolution was voted on.

“We need to set an international standard of protection from retaliation which can be made greater by national governments, by institutions, by organizations,” he said.

He noted that the resolution would help whistleblowers around the world. “If you can’t mount a full and effective defense – make the case that you are revealing information in the public interest – you can’t have a fair trial,” he said.

The resolution backed up the May report made by PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights’ rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt.

The issue of whistleblowers’ safety was raised following the disclosures made by Snowden in 2013 concerning mass surveillance and intrusions of privacy carried out by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. Public concern was also raised following charges brought against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who found asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK. He has been residing there for three years, fearing extradition to the United States where he could face espionage charges.

UPDATE: October 5, 2015

Edward Snowden Says He’d Go to Prison to Come Home

Speaking to the BBC, the NSA whistleblower said his lawyers were still awaiting a plea deal from the U.S. government.

Edward Snowden isn’t the spy who came in from the cold, but he might be edging slowly toward the warmth.

In an interview with the BBC, the beloved and reviled whistleblower said he’d presented concessions to the U.S. government in an attempt to return to his home country from Russia. “I’ve volunteered to go to prison with the government many times,” Snowden said, according to The Guardian. (The BBC program is not viewable in the U.S.) What I won’t do is I won’t serve as a deterrent to people trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.”

But his overtures haven’t been met with any concrete plea offers: “We are still waiting for them to call us back.”

Former NSA boss Michael Hayden gave the BBC a typically hardline answer, saying, “If you’re asking me my opinion, he’s going to die in Moscow. He’s not coming home.” But there are signs both sides have softened a bit. Shortly after leaving office, former Attorney General Eric Holder told Michael Isikoff that Snowden had sparked an important discussion about surveillance. Holder seemed to signal the Justice Department might be thinking about some sort of plea deal for Snowden: “I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with. I think the possibility exists.” However, Holder’s successor Loretta Lynch said the U.S. government hadn’t altered its position.

The position Snowden laid out to the BBC would appear to represent a softer view, too. After Holder’s comments in July, Snowden’s lawyer Ben Wizner applauded Holder for his openness, but rejected even his hypothetical ideas. Wizner said Snowden wouldn’t accept any deal that involved a felony plea and prison time. “Our position is he should not be reporting to prison as a felon and losing his civil rights as a result of his act of conscience,” he said.

In March 2015, former General David Petraeus struck a plea deal with prosecutors in a leak case, derided by many observers as evidence of a double-standard for different kinds of leakers. At the time, another of Snowden’s lawyers, Jesselyn Radack, said her client would accept a similar deal.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Snowden’s remarks. While it’s hard to parse these lawyerly statements and bluffs, one could easily read the last few months as having brought the two sides closer together on a possible arrangement. But closer and close enough are not the same thing.

UPDATE: October 29, 2015

European Union tells countries to protect Snowden as human rights defender.

The European Parliament on Thursday (October 29. 2015) voted to encourage its member countries not to extradite Edward Snowden to the U.S., in a decision that the government leaker called a “game-changer.”

The nonbinding resolution, narrowly approved in a 285-281 vote, acts as a symbolic blow to the Obama administration’s calls for Snowden to be returned to the U.S. and face criminal charges that could land him in jail for years.

The resolution calls for the European Union’s 28 member states to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender.”

Snowden has spent the last two years holed up in Russia, on the run from U.S. espionage charges filed against him following his theft of vast amounts of secret government documents.

Though he has repeatedly expressed a desire to come back to the U.S., he has refused to do so unless granted a fair trial. Advocates of Snowden say the charges against him make it likely that he would be prevented from fairly giving his side of the story in court, should he return.

In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S.’s position “hasn’t changed a bit.”

“He needs to come back to the United States and face the due process and the judicial process here in the United States,” Kirby said. “That’s been our position from the beginning.

“It’s our belief that the man put U.S. national security in great danger and he needs to be held to account for that.”

Earlier Thursday, a federal appeals court refused to immediately shut down a National Security Agency surveillance program revealed by Snowden in 2013, since it is already due to be wound down later this year.

UPDATE: December 22, 2016

Snowden Responds To Declassified House Report Alleging He Has Ties To Russian Intelligence

On Thursday (December 22, 2016), the House Intelligence Committee released a declassified report into former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden that alleges he has maintained ties with Russian intelligence agencies.

The 37-page report —some of which remains classified—includes a detailed report of his career as a government worker, and how he managed to extract millions of documents from the NSA without being detected by exploiting a vulnerability the agency was unaware of. The exploit itself is redacted in the report.

At the heart of the report is the conclusion that Snowden is not a whistleblower and did harm to national security. Several serious charges are made against the former NSA worker, including a claim he “has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services” since taking asylum in Russia after fleeing the United States.

The report—which lawmakers noted is a “review” and not a formal investigation—cites classified information to support the claim, making the evidence of it unavailable to the public. The document also contains 20 specific accounts of apparent damage Snowden’s actions have caused, but those too have been redacted.

Snowden, who remains in Moscow, took issue with the report. He refuted its claims on Twitter, arguing the document is rife with “ obvious falsehoods.”

The former NSA contractor dismissed the claim he is working with Russian intelligence by attempting to discredit the source of the information.

The House Intelligence Committee’s document points to an NPR interview with Frants Klintsevich, a senator in Russia and deputy chairman of the country’s defense and security committee, in which he claims Snowden has shared intelligence with Russia.

Snowden pointed out that Klintsevich said in that interview audio he was “only speculating.” He also noted earlier this week Klintsevich claimed NATO was behind the assassination of a Russian ambassador in Turkey despite there being no evidence to support the claim, indicating the Russian senator may be making politically motivated claims in both cases.

Many of the charges made in the report were dismissed out of hand by Snowden, who refuted a claim he went to a hacker convention and met Chinese hackers as “ false and insane ” because he “never went to any hacker con during my time in government.” He also dismisses an argument he should have gone to the NSA’s Inspector General George Ellard by noting Ellard was recently removed from his post for retaliating against whistleblowers.

Snowden called the document “an endless parade of falsity so unbelievable it comes across as parody,” but noted it unintentionally exonerates him by documenting his many attempts to report waste, fraud, and abuse to his superiors.

“Bottom line: this report’s core claims are made without evidence, and are often contrary to both common sense and the public record,” Snowden concluded.

UPDATE: September 17, 2019

“Full Interview: Edward Snowden On Trump, Privacy, And Threats To Democracy | The 11th Hour | MSNBC

On the eve of his memoir ‘Permanent Record’ being published, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden talked at length from Moscow with MSNBC’s Brian Williams in an exclusive interview. This is their discussion in its entirety, edited down slightly for clarity.
Aired on 9/17/2019.

UPDATE: March 12, 2021

The REAL Reason Edward Snowden Hasn’t Been Pardoned