Barrett Lancaster Brown is a writer and 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.
Brown has now served over two years in federal penitentiary without bail and his sentencing is tomorrow. He faces 10 years in jail for basically exposing the shady relationship between intelligence contractors and the U.S. government.
On December 16th, the journalist Barrett Brown will be sentenced before a judge in Dallas, Texas.
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.
Personally, I had 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 Jedi of the Republic, 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.
If you need to get caught up, here are a few previous articles I wrote on the topic:
Free Barrett Brown.