Courage our network

Barrett Brown

Barrett Brown is an American activist, author, and freelance writer/journalist. His work has appeared in the Guardian, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, Businessweek, True/Slant, Skeptical Inquirer and many other outlets. He has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, Fox News and Russia Today and as an interviewee in three recent documentary films: We Are Legion, Future Radicals, and Terms and Conditions May Apply.

He is the founder of Project PM, a distributed think-tank which researches and reports on matters related to the intelligence contracting industry. More recently, he has been misrepresented in the media as a spokesperson for the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous. He’s a co-author on Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and the Easter Bunny, and had been working on additional books, with topics such as the failures of American media punditry and the early history of Anonymous, while maintaining a blog. Previously, Barrett had served as Communications Director for Enlighten the Vote.

Although Barrett has a serious side, he is also noted for his irreverence and use of humor, satire and hyperbole, demonstrated through writings for National Lampoon and The Onion and is often described as a modern-day Hunter S. Thompson.

On 6 March 2012, the FBI raided both Barrett’s and his mother’s homes, seeking “Records relating to HBGary, Infragard, Endgame Systems, Anonymous, LulzSec, IRC Chats, Twitter, wiki.echelon2.org, and pastebin.com,” and agents seized his laptop.

On 11 September 2012, Barrett posted videos to YouTube entitled “Why FBI Agent Robert Smith Has Two Weeks To Send my Property Back 1/3” and “FBI Ultimatum Pt 2” and the next day he posted “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe.” Later on 12 September 2012, Barrett was raided again and arrested by the FBI in Dallas. His arrest was captured live on TinyChat video. He was subsequently denied bail and detained without charge and adequate medical treatment for over two weeks while in the custody of US Marshals. In the first week of October 2012, he was finally indicted on three counts, related to alleged activities or postings on popular websites such as Twitter and YouTube.

On 4 December 2012 Barrett was indicted by a federal grand jury on twelve additional counts related to data from the Stratfor breach. Despite his lack of direct involvement in the operation and stated opposition to it, he faced these charges simply for allegedly pasting a hyperlink online. On 23 January 2013, he was indicted a third time on two more counts, relating to the March 2012 FBI raids on his apartment and his mother’s house. As of 4 September 2013, Barrett was placed under a gag order, which his defense challenged and which was lifted on 23 April 2014.

In his sentencing allocution statement, Barrett explained why he didn’t take an initial plea deal:

I’ve tried to protect my contributors, Your Honor, and I’ve also tried to protect the public’s right to link to source materials without being subject to misuse of the statutes. Last year, when the government offered me a plea bargain whereby I would plead to just one of the eleven fraud charges related to the linking, and told me it was final, I turned it down. To have accepted that plea, with a two-year sentence, would have been convenient—Your Honor will note that I actually did eventually plead to an accessory charge carrying potentially more prison time—but it would have been wrong. Even aside from the obvious fact that I did not commit fraud, and thus couldn’t sign to any such thing, to do so would have also constituted a dangerous precedent, and it would have endangered my colleagues, each of whom could now have been depicted as a former associate of a convicted fraudster. And it would have given the government, and particularly the FBI, one more tool by which to persecute journalists and activists whose views they find to be dangerous or undesirable.

The government eventually dropped some of the major charges, which amounted at the time to over 100 years in jail, including the ‘linking’ charge. However, as Barrett explained in an article entitled “My Post Cyberpunk Indentured Servitude” following his eventual sentence, “Despite having dropped the notorious “linking” charges, the government still managed to convince Judge Lindsay to hold me responsible for the act of copying and pasting a link—a link that was already public, and which led to a file which was already itself public, and to which other journalists had also linked without being prosecuted for it—by way of a sentencing mechanism known as ‘relevant conduct.’

After the initial linking charge was dropped, Barrett agreed to a plea bargain. In January 2015, Barrett was sentenced to 63 months in jail and ordered to pay $890,250 in fines and restitution. He continues to write a column for D Magazine [LINK WITHIN SITE?], ‘The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail.’