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.