Barrett Brown Loses Email Access For A Year After Using Email To Complain About Prison

from the that's-ridiculous dept

Last week, whistleblower Chelsea Manning was able to start tweeting from prison, while at nearly the same time reporter Barrett Brown lost his email access for an entire year for daring to email a journalist about bad prison conditions. If you don’t recall, Barrett Brown is the reporter who was recently sentenced to more than five years in jail for reporting on the hacking actions of Anonymous. Bizarrely, the length of the sentence hinged on Brown’s sharing a link in a chat room, even though the Justice Department dropped that particular charge. We also found it ridiculous that during the course of his trial, Brown was ordered by the court not to talk to journalists.

It appears that, once again, that was a part of the problem here. The judicial and correctional systems apparently really don’t like it when you talk to journalists:

An hour or so after having used the system to contact a journalist about potential BOP [Bureau of Prisons] wrongdoing, Barrett Brown?s access to the TRULINCS prisoner e-mail system was restricted, for a full year until April 2016, without explanation.

This is contrary to the BOP?s own policy on several points, as noted in their 2009 documentation ? the administration is only allowed to remove access to TRULINCS for thirty days pending an investigation of any potential misuse, and the inmate is supposed to be informed in writing of the reason for that.

But despite all of that, prison officials don’t seem to care. They made it clear they just wanted to shut up Brown:

Barrett spoke to a supervisor this morning who told him that he lost his e-mail access because he was ?using it for the wrong thing?. This refers to his contacts with the press. A review of his e-mail activity had been made, Barrett was also told by this person that he ?wasn?t supposed to have? e-mail, when there?s been no such order or determination that we?re aware of.

Apparently, Brown had been talking to Glenn Greenwald about writing some articles for The Intercept, and that’s what set off the Bureau of Prisons into a full-fledged lockdown on Brown’s email account. Brown himself was later able to provide more details, suggesting a completely arbitrary process by a prison official:

Failing to find Mr. Coleman, I met that afternoon with Unit Manger Ivory, who checked my files but could find no reason why my access should have suddenly been suspended and also advised me to meet with Mr. Coleman. At some point that day, my attempts to log in started to prompt a different message stating: ?This account is on suspension until 4/1/2016 11:59:59 pm (from portal 16)?. At the next lunch period on Thursday, April 2nd, I was unable to locate Mr. Coleman, but laid out my problem to the associate warden who told me to return in five minutes, when Mr. Coleman would be present.

I did so, and when I asked another group of prison officials if they knew where I could find Mr. Coleman, another individual came up to me and said that he was the person I was looking for. He pulled me aside and told me that he was the one who had cut off my email, as I wasn?t supposed to have access to it in the first place due to my charges. I noted that I had three charges and asked which one precluded me from using the email service. He told me to list my charges and I did so. He then added that he had done a review of my email correspondence and found that I had ?been using it for the wrong thing.? I replied that I had simply been using it to communicate with the press. He confirmed that ?that was the wrong thing.? I asked him his name, which he gave as ?Moore?.

Yes, when you go to prison, you have given up a lot of your rights and freedoms. But this seems like a purely arbitrary decision to punish Brown for criticizing the prison system. And, it appears to be backfiring, only driving that much more attention to the issue.

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Comments on “Barrett Brown Loses Email Access For A Year After Using Email To Complain About Prison”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So now the possible wrongdoing he was speaking about is not confirmed, wrongdoing of punitive punishments is now the newest focus on a case that was punitive and wrong to begin with. Dare to challenge the system and they will throw out all of the rules to silence you is the lesson we’ve learned. Violating his rights, playing hide the reasons, and no one to hold them accountable when they are clearly violating the policies because they can.

I guess he is living up to his letter.

Anonymous Coward says:

*sigh* Times like these make me want to give up...

“And, it appears to be backfiring, only driving that much more attention to the issue.”

At this point in the game, what does that even matter? I’m sorry to sound so defeatist, but after years of being on the losing end of fighting just to keep our existing rights (let alone fighting to restore those we’ve already lost), I can’t see anything but defeat anymore.

Sure, to use Mike’s infamous colloquialism, this is causing a Streisand Effect on the problem. But to what end? Undeniably, those in the justice and prison systems already know this: What does it matter if this gets blasted on every network and website and such, when it will yield literally nothing? We are such an apathetic society anymore, in that not enough people care about these injustices, and when enough people do it doesn’t fucking matter (e.g. shutting down the friggin’ Internet over SOPA or CISPA, only to have it return the next effing year). The money in politics or wherever else just waits patiently and forces it through over and over until they inevitably win. We tire and we bore, they just keep spending. And if we complain, even several million strong, it just happens anyway (or stays status quo), and we are utterly powerless to stop or reverse it unless we want to go to the unthinkable extreme of armed revolt.

Please, please, someone show me how this isn’t so goddamn bleak? Because I just cannot see it anymore…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The only battles that will ALWAYS be lost are the ones never fought

Look at it this way: You can either fight, and spend hours upon hours protesting, and spreading the word, and making the subject matter as public as possible to get more people aware and angry over it, and maybe change it or keep it from happening altogether…


You can assume that you’ve already been beaten, do nothing as a result, and all of the terrible stuff will happen without so much as a moment of pause or consideration of ‘Maybe we should rethink this?’. Not only that, but your lack of resistance, you disinclination to fight back, will only embolden those proposing such nasty laws and acts, and they’ll use it as an excuse to go even farther in their efforts.

‘They people didn’t protest when when did X, so they must be fine with it, and if they’re fine with us going this far, then clearly it would be acceptable to go a little farther.’

You can take the tough road, the difficult road, and maybe lose, or you can take the easy, defeatist road, and definitely lose.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The only battles that will ALWAYS be lost are the ones never fought

I definitely get all that — and thanks for replying by the way — but surely you understand where I am coming from. I’ve fought the civil rights fight for so damn long, and it has taken so much out of me, that it’s difficult to keep going on. Sure, others have fought longer and harder, but I’m not others. I’m just some poor schmuck who for some infinitely stupid reason decided to become informed and became infinitely miserable as a result.

But the worst of it is when that “and maybe lose” becomes “and always lose .. eventually, one way or another” that I truly become broken. Aside from pushing for gay marriage equality rights, literally every issue I have fought on — of which there are thousands, and I’ve actively fought beyond just using a keyboard, including going to capitol complexes and lobbying politicians in person, one by one, many times over — I have failed due to big money interests always eventually winning. This includes everything from local issues in my own city council to senators in D.C.: nothing seems winnable anymore.

I guess what I was hoping for was more of a “here’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” rather than “you gotta keep fighting, solider!” I just wish I could see some light at the end of any tunnel, but all I keep seeing is “keep up the good fight” perseverance with nothing really gained. When you lose about 98.5% of the time for nearly two decades, it’s hard to keep playing the game.

sigh Maybe I’m just in a rut and need to take a break. I dunno…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The only battles that will ALWAYS be lost are the ones never fought

“I’m just some poor schmuck who for some infinitely stupid reason decided to become informed and became infinitely miserable as a result.”

I know exactly how you feel for I have reached the same point in my life. I apologize but unfortunately – I don’t know the answer.

You have to weigh the risk to yourself (and family if it’s a factor) because I learned the hard way – looking for truth makes you a target.

The powers that be don’t necessarily need to lock you up either. They can simply disrupt your life and cripple your ability to make a livelihood as well. They can and will ruin your life and laugh about it at the water cooler. It also doesn’t take an entire agency – a single agent that takes an “interest in you” has enough power to set in motion enough “difficulties” in your life without violating internal policy.

You have to ask yourself – is it worth it? You and I may care about these issues and rights but the majority population does not – it’s not even a lack of information – they simply do not care. Edward Snowden is a shining example – for all the good that he did – the majority of citizens don’t even know his name.

I have failed my principles, my children, and this country.. For I have surrendered to defeat. I admit my cowardice and regret having ever informed myself.

I find myself envious of the ignorant and truly understand the bliss.. My life was effectively stalled and there’s no recourse for me, no news articles, and no light at the end of the tunnel that I can see..

And the worst part is knowing that it was all because I cared.. Smh.

Whatever you decide – know that there’s no real wrong answer for you. Even if you decide to quit.. These are extremely powerful entities and individuals with near limitless power. They cannot last forever – and their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness.

I own my cowardice but am somewhat comforted knowing that sooner or later they will fall and it will be a thousand times worse than what they have done to others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The only battles that will ALWAYS be lost are the ones never fought

Indeed… I kind of see it like the guy pushing the boulder up the hill in purgatory.

It’s not that these issues are winnable — it’s that if we stop fighting (and getting at least two other people during our lifetime to fight with us), then things will get worse than if we stopped. The real solution is to change societal expectations so that people don’t consider surveillance OK, and are more fully aware of when it’s happening. If we get enough people in government and corporations with this attitude, these ideas would never make it to policy guides in the first place.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: *sigh* Times like these make me want to give up...

Please, please, someone show me how this isn’t so goddamn bleak? Because I just cannot see it anymore.

You’re just using the wrong mindset. Think about Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men (and at least one woman). Their antics made King John and The Sheriff of Nottingham a laughingstock.

If that doesn’t work, remember the bums will one day be dead. Better late than never, and if our side outlives them, we write the history and they’ll have no say in it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: *sigh* Times like these make me want to give up...

Perhaps, but the closest thing to that analogy would be Anonymous and the now defunct LulzSec. Robin Hood was a bandit and constant law-breaker, but did some good things by breaking the laws. Same can be said about Anonymous. You don’t see that anywhere else in activism, save for sporadic bits of protesting in Ferguson or Zuccotti Park that eventually and always die down into submission with enough lack of media attention.

Perhaps if instead of armed revolt, Americans (or, indeed, the world at large) took up digital arms and fought for their rights that way, things could get better. But with the inhumane punishment hackers get anymore for even legal things (weev with AT&T, Swartz with legal document dumps, etc.), the likelihood of that is basically none as far as I can see.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: *sigh* Times like these make me want to give up...

I think the inhumane punishment for hackers and whistle-blowers is meant to serve as an example, because these are the kinds of actions that truly terrify our administration.

It also makes it clear that they are afraid. The attitude among our authorities has been for a while now that messengers are worse than those who commit the wrongs in the first place. This indicates that they’re still doing the wrongs.

Moreover, they’re doing a lot of them. Terrible things that, if revealed, could drive the common people to take up arms and break out the guillotines, if the bastards are still worthy of a clean death.

So yes, a campaign of transparency by force may be just the ticket.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: A more Martinian example.

John would continue his brother’s campaign to take back continental lands, but failed miserably, and had to sue for peace and pay tribute.

And in 1215, England was just fucking tired of taking John’s shit. John liked to exercise his divine right of kings (though in his day it was called vis et voluntas, or “force and will” which sounds too close to “shock and awe”). John would do whatever he pleased even if contrary to English law, and his squeeze for new taxes to buy off the damn French was the last straw.

And he almost went to war with his own nobility, even hiring French mercenaries to fill out his ranks. But with much sword rattling the barons presented him with the Magna Carta (first the Articles of the Barons), offering that he can have his taxes and pay off the French if he’d agree to and sign the Magna Carta.

So yeah, thinks have to often get bleak before means and opportunity kick in for belligerents to act to set things right.

In the meantime despite Emperor Napoleon’s efforts, centuries later, we’re still having to deal with people who think they’re above the law, and they’re no longer even kings.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I lost my segway...

Robin Hood’s campaign of outlawry and rebellion is typically placed in the end of the 12th century, when Richard, done crusading, was wandering around Europe, imprisoned in Austria or taking back English land in the continent.

In the meantime Prince John was squeezing England with excessive taxes to finance Richard’s adventures, including his ransom for release.

Also bleak times which would culminate to a great social step forward about twenty years later.

Anonymous Coward says:

As someone who was in BOP custody for awhile, this sounds exactly like how they would operate: Retaliate for something protected, then try to justify it after the fact and keep making things up as you go until the person goes away or files a lawsuit.

It’s clear that the BOP’s policy on TRULINCS (which stands for Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System, btw), available at, and their Correspondence policy, available at, don’t provide justification for this.

Fun fact: Letters to the media are treated as “Special Mail” (i.e. mail that can’t be opened).

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Fun fact: Letters to the media are treated as “Special Mail” (i.e. mail that can’t be opened).

Maybe in a century or so, the authorities will be forced to accede to the fact that email == mail (ask the USPS how they’re doing these days), and this !@#$ wouldn’t happen. I hope Brown and his lawyer enjoy rubbing this mess in the BOP’s face for the next year (at least).

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