What kind of link does the government think warrants such punishment? Documents revealing the secrets-sharing relationship between government and private security companies, apparently. That was what Barrett Brown linked to, and was the root cause of his 105 year sentence. Brown is an author and activist journalist best known for his “spokesperson” role for the hacker collective “Anonymous”. He was also a close friend and associate of fellow journalist Michael Hastings, who was working on a story with Brown shortly before his death in a suspicious car explosion. In his last published article, Hastings wrote:
Transparency supporters, whistleblowers, and investigative reporters, especially those writers who have aggressively pursued the connections between the corporate defense industry and federal and local authorities involved in domestic surveillance, have been viciously attacked by the Obama administration and its allies in the FBI and DOJ.
…Barrett Brown, another investigative journalist who has written for Vanity Fair, among others [sic] publications, exposed the connections between the private contracting firm HB Gary (a government contracting firm that, incidentally, proposed a plan to spy on and ruin the reputation of the Guardian’s [Glenn] Greenwald) and who is currently sitting in a Texas prison on trumped up FBI charges regarding his legitimate reportorial inquiry into the political collective known sometimes as Anonymous.
…Perhaps more information will soon be forthcoming.
Christian Stork of WhoWhatWhy wrote a great piece on the connections between Michael Hastings, Barrett Brown, and Edward Snowden here: http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/08/07/connections-between-michael-hastings-edward-snowden-and-barrett-brown-the-war-with-the-security-state/
In 2010, Brown formed his own online collective called Project PM to investigate documents uncovered by Anonymous, Wikileaks and others. Among the documents they analyzed were ones involving the security company Stratfor Global Intelligence revealing close relationships between them, several other security contractors and several agencies of the government (including the NSA).
A recent article by Alfredo Lopez of OpEdNews.com covers the important details about the case and why it matters for all of us who believe in freedom of speech and freedom of information. The following excerpts outline why Barrett Brown’s case may also be of concern for everyone who uses the internet:
To make this personal, do you use links? Or, a less absurd question, are you sure the links you post don’t include criminal information? Today, there are an estimated 4500 federal criminal statutes and that means that, at some point in your life, you’ve probably violated federal law without knowing it. The same is true of the people who posted the material you are linking to. As ridiculous as it may seem, based on the Brown prosecution, you could be charged with a crime without having any involvement in it by linking to material posted by people who have no idea they committed a crime.
For example, here’s the link to the Stratfor files. While it indicates that these linked documents have now been cleansed of credit card information, I can’t be sure of that. Nor do I know that other information the government considers illegal (or may in the future) isn’t in there. I haven’t read all the documents. But based on what prosecutors are saying, if these files do contain information they eventually consider illegal, I could be charged with spreading it.
On the one hand, they attack privacy, which makes the Internet useful for us. Now they’re attacking links, the protocol that makes the Internet…well, the Internet. That’s something we can’t afford to lose
For those who might want to do something about this, there’s a website of people trying to organize a campaign in his support.
At Traces of Reality Radio, host Guillermo Jimenez recently interviewed Christian Stork, author of the WhoWhatWhy article about the connections between Hastings, Brown and Snowden. They discuss Brown’s work and how he became a target of the FBI, how Project PM exposed HB Gary and Romas/COIN, the State Department and their use of “persona management software” and social media “sock puppets,” among other topics: