NSA Leaks Bring New Attention To DOJ Piling On Charges Against Barrett Brown

from the it-all-comes-around dept

A few months back we wrote about the DOJ’s overprosecution of Barrett Brown, who helped publicize some of Anonymous/Antisec’s hacks that revealed just some of the dirty underbelly of the intelligence-industrial complex, whereby private contractors working with the government would resort to various dirty tricks to try to “expose” Anonymous and destroy the careers of journalists like Glenn Greenwald. The charges against Brown seemed fairly ridiculous. He was charged with “concealing evidence” because he hid a laptop in his mother’s dish cabinet. He was charged with threatening law enforcement agents for an admittedly ill-conceived video he posted online, in which he ranted angrily about law enforcement persecution, where he did say that he would shoot those who came after him (as I said, extremely ill-conceived). However, his main “crime,” it seems, was to have been closely associated with those involved with the HBGary, Booz Allen and Stratfor hacks that helped to expose some of the tricks pulled by private contractors. And, for that, the feds just kept piling on charge after charge.

With the focus on Ed Snowden suddenly drawing a lot more attention to the role that Booz Allen and other contractors play within and around our intelligence community, some are once again remembering Barrett Brown, and how he was associated with a bunch of hacks that helped expose some of that way before all of this broke — but mainly because all Brown really seems to have done was help draw the attention of the world to the results of those hacks. And now people are wondering why he’s been sitting in prison all this time.

Ahmed Ghappour, attorney for Brown, calls the charges “prosecutorial overreach”, and maintains most are related to legitimate journalistic practices, such as cutting-and-pasting a link and refusing to give the FBI access to his sources on a laptop, “a modern-day notebook”. In contrast to the FBI’s aggressive pursuit of Brown, no probe of the Team Themis project was launched – despite a call from 17 US House representatives to investigate a possible conspiracy to violate federal laws, including forgery, mail and wire fraud, and fraud and related activity in connection with computers. Ghappour asks:

“What length will the government go to prosecute journalists reporting on intelligence contractors? Brown was one of the first to report on the plan to take down Glenn Greenwald.

“It was clear Booz Allen Hamilton [whistleblower Edward Snowden’s former employer] was consulting with the NSA, at least supporting their mass-surveillance program, and this was one of the leads Barrett was chasing at the time of the arrest.”

Obviously, there are many who will argue that Brown was not a “journalist” and that he must have been much more involved, but it’s not clear if that’s the case at all. What is clear is that he did help draw attention to a problem that is just now getting a bit more sunlight, and the response of the feds was to throw every possible book they could find at him.

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Companies: booz allen, hbgary federal, stratfor

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Comments on “NSA Leaks Bring New Attention To DOJ Piling On Charges Against Barrett Brown”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Journalist – n. Once a powerful species, they have subjugated themselves to those they once held in check. In return for looking the other way they get soundbites to feed to the 24/7 news cycle and score points with a public they keep uninformed. Recent attempts by nature to spawn a new breed has resulted in coordinated efforts to drive them to extinction.

Anonymous Coward says:

this is an excellent example of why ‘whistle blowers’ cant trust the system like Rogers insists they should follow. if you knew that as soon as you made ‘the powers that be’ aware of some mal-practices you would be locked up, would you be prat enough to do so? you would either keep quiet and hope that no one got hurt because you kept quiet or do similar to Snowden. what is going on here is the same thing. find a problem, tell someone and pay the price, while the actual wrong doers, because they then violate their positions of power, get away scot free! it’s even worse when the actual top dog says he will protect you for speaking out and then does the exact opposite. that makes you the sucker for believing who turned out to be just another lying politician, and him for being even more than that. another politician who cant be trusted!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Don't Ask

Maybe it stuck in your head after I posted it here: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130515/18051923103/footage-lethal-beating-deleted-seized-phone-sheriff-asks-fbi-to-take-over-investigation.shtml#c91

Although, I could care less if you give him credit for it, I just wanted the credit myself for (possibly) getting it into your unconscious.

Nigel (profile) says:

Easy now… I get the subject matter here but I wouldn’t necessarily be so quick to shine the same light on Greenwald as I would Brown.

Glenn Greenwald is a damn good journalist and should be commended. Barrett Brown is a self important idiot. I was fairly surprised to find he had published anything, anywhere of note.

Should he be in prison? I highly doubt it.


Jackk says:

I hated you

Hey Mike,
A mea culpa… I used to despise you. Like you really pissed me off. I used to be a lobbyist and I used to represent the entertainment, music, movie guys. I argued with you right here on occasion.

The funny thing is that the angrier I got at you, the more I read, and the less certain I became of the propaganda and bullshit that came from my corporate masters.

You have to realize that for many of us who made our lives and careers inside the beltway you and others like you were an existential threat to our survival, comfort and security. That’s why we hated you.

At the same time, while well compensated, we’re a pretty fucked up bunch. At least I was. Trying to justify my actions and what I did for a living — defending a bunch of amoral sociopaths — takes a huge emotional and mental toll after awhile. Many thought I was the luckiest guy in the world (great career, tons of money, hobnobbing with the rich and powerful) but I grew increasingly miserable.

The greatest irony: Most of us (at least most of the lobbyists I knew) started off as idealists. We believed in good politics, good government, good policy. We started off wanting to make a difference and ended up being consumed by a system that is so corrupt and immoral. We traded our principles and idealism for money and power. That’s how it works and it’s extremely difficult to resist.

2008 did it for me… The criminality of our government and corporations in the financial fraud of the century hit me like a ton of bricks. I was an anti-government guy but came to realize quickly that big business and government are BOTH out to screw you.

The Edward Snowden saga proves just how far we’ve fallen. Sociopaths from BOTH political parties representing the perks and privileges of the elite once again have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that we’re toast as a nation.

Bottom line: All of your warnings came to pass.I quit my job and moved as far away from DC as possible. You were right… I was wrong. Now I have to do what I can to pick up the pieces.

The Real Michael says:

“The charges against Brown seemed fairly ridiculous. He was charged with ‘concealing evidence’ because he hid a laptop in his mother’s dish cabinet.”

Ooh, what a horrible crime. I’m to take it that putting your property somewhere in your house besides out in the open is now a crime?

“He was charged with threatening law enforcement agents for an admittedly ill-conceived video he posted online, in which he ranted angrily about law enforcement persecution, where he did say that he would shoot those who came after him (as I said, extremely ill-conceived).”

I haven’t heard his rant, so I cannot make an ‘educated’ comment.

“However, his main ‘crime,’ it seems, was to have been closely associated with those involved with the HBGary, Booz Allen and Stratfor hacks that helped to expose some of the tricks pulled by private contractors. And, for that, the feds just kept piling on charge after charge.”

IOW, they’re locking him up because he offended private contractors. More and more, law enforcement is arbitrarily going after persons of interest who offend the elitists, whether by exposing corruption to the public eye or disrupting their business model. This shift cannot be attributed to mere coincidence.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He had gone off medications before the video and they were pressing huge charges against his mother when he made the video. I can understand it happening.

LulzSec is in ruins right now because it embarrassed those with power. They told the media nothing was damaged, nothing was gotten, but the charges they are all facing is for huge damages. Who is lying? If we had a media or people who investigated on their own maybe we could find out. Except people who look into these things keep turning up arrested, or dead.

horse with no name says:

Another day of censorship

Just a nice little post to remind everyone that Techdirt is still censoring my posts. Well, I am not sure everyone will see this, but I am sure that rat fink Leigh will, and will likely delete it. I think Leigh is pissed off because I caught him out lying about NIN, and since then, it’s been censhorship city for me.

Meanwhile, on this story: More often than not, people are charged with many things and found guilty on lesser charges. While there is often a little over-reach, you have to remember that charges are just that, charges, not guilty verdicts. It’s why we have court cases, innocent until proven guilty, and all that stuff. You defend yourself against the charges brought against you.

While you may find that hiding a laptop is a long way from “concealing evidence”, the intent is there – to make it so that authorities might not find the laptop in question. You may not like it, but it isn’t much of a reach at all to show what his intentions were. He may say “I was just scared”, but really, it comes to the same thing. Would you feel the same if he hid the laptop in a hole in the ground in the back yard, or perhaps taped it inside a chimney? The location “dish cabinet” is there to inflame readers into thinking it was innocent, but the act is the same regardless of location – he put the laptop where he hoped it would not be discovered.

You must also remember that hacking cases are still relatively new in the court system, and as such, many legal theories will be tried. Those who go first may face a bigger push to find applicable statutes to apply, looking for which specific laws have been in fact broken. Does scrambling your hard drive just before the police seize it constitute concealing evidence? I am sure that someone will try that one at some point, and they will be charged accordingly.

What is overreaching here is the censorship on Techdirt. It’s incredibly sad to see how low Mike Masnick and crew have sunk, using the very tools that they claim to despise to shut down comments they don’t like. You talk a good game, but in the end, you play just like those you hate the most. That is truly sad.

anonymouse says:


I think there should be a law that anyone releasing data that proves a crime should be allowed to go about there business with no prosecution or retaliation accepted by the courts. It is important for a free society that all underhanded illegal practices are seen as crimes and punished, what is happening now is that the people outing the criminals are being punished, and that is due to the criminals having too much power.

The problem we have is that the government with their control of the media are attacking the whistleblowers and trying to make them look like career criminals or uneducated fools, they are successfully keeping the peoples attention on the whislteblower and not the criminal element in the government and it’s agencies.

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