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Barrett Brown introduces Pursuance System in new VICE column

Barrett Brown’s newly renamed column, the Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Civil Strife, has moved to VICE’s Motherboard. In his first piece for VICE, ‘What is to be done?’, Barrett introduces his new project, the Pursuance System, his answer to the headline’s question.

“It has become more and more difficult, as the years proceed, to maintain the fiction that the American republic is fundamentally sound,” Barrett writes. “[T]he consequences of a morally failed American republic, continuing on its present course for even just another decade, would be irreparable.”

Barrett recounts his crowd-sourcing journalism effort Project PM, his work surrounding Anonymous, and his arrest and case. In reviewing these efforts as we attempt to create something new, he writes, “Anonymous is important to my case not as a model to be replicated, but rather as a proof of concept; its successes demonstrated the potential of net-driven mass collaboration, while its failures give us clues as to what a superior framework might require.”

“It is an absolute certainty that, with sufficient thought, a new mechanism may someday be designed, capable of integrating thousands of talented individuals and existing organizations into a sort of parallel civic ecosystem . . . . I propose that such a thing be built now.”

The basic structure of the Pursuance System

Barrett just so happens to have been working on such a system, something that could expand “into a vast and formidable new force in world affairs, capable of advancing reform and confronting criminalized institutions across the globe”

The Pursuance System, the culmination of eight years of thought and refinement, will be launched later this year, operating under a basic software framework explained at our website and overseen by a non-profit that we’ve set up for the purpose. The board of directors includes Icelandic Member of Parliament, poet, and Pirate Party stalwart Birgitta Jonsdottir; actor and filmmaker Alex Winter; CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou; former Columbia Journalism Review board member, author, and WhoWhatWhy founder Russ Baker; Professor Mano Singham of Case Western University (retired); Professor Robert Tynes of Bard University; author, intelligence critic, and former CIA Directorate of Operations covert asset Barry Eisler; activist-focused criminal defense attorney Jay Leiderman; and Pirate Party International board member Raymond Johansen. Our project manager Steve Phillips, a security researcher, occasional Def Con speaker and open-source software developer, has a long history of running hackerspaces and overseeing collaborative projects with others in the privacy and crypto communities, and has recruited additional programmers for this effort. Other of our core participants, such as Kevin Gallagher and Devin Balkind, have similarly prolific histories of involvement with some of the more effective activist and reform movements, and both have worked for foundations and non-profits.

Read here for more information on the project, how to get involved, and how to stay updated on the Pursuance System’s developments.

FreeBarrettBrown.org founder explains suing the DOJ for uncovering donors’ identities

The DOJ illegally obtained the identities of donors to a legal defense fund I started 5 years ago. Here’s why I’m suing them now and felt strongly motivated to become a plaintiff.

by Kevin Gallagher

I once heard or read from someone close to him that Aaron Swartz didn’t want a defense fund or advocacy campaign for his own situation back in 2011 because he was afraid it would embolden or anger the prosecution and make matters worse, and plus he was embarrassed to ask for help. Incidentally, after some friends and supporters publicly questioned the legitimacy of the prosecution, Stephen Heymann retaliated by adding further charges. Unfortunately, Aaron’s no longer with us. His family characterized his death as “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”

In late 2010, an early organizer of the Bradley Manning Support Network by the name of David House was detained and questioned at Chicago O’Hare airport upon returning from an international trip, with his laptop confiscated by the Department of Homeland Security. By May 2011, the ACLU had lodged a complaint against officials of the DHS, CBP and ICE containing the following important language:

That case resulted in a settlement. Far more recently, the DOJ requested from DreamHost all information about an anti-Trump protest website, including the IP addresses of 1.3 million visitors. Sounds familiar, huh?

To be sure, there’s a multitude of alike cases on the books, and while U.S. courts seem to be decided on many points, those charged with enforcing the mythical “rule of law” don’t always agree and often have other, more clandestine motivations in mind: what you’d refer to as a fishing expedition.

And then there was the extra-legal banking blockade of WikiLeaks. I recall a conspicuous detail which emerged in February 2011 out of the project known as Team Themis — a DOJ-linked conspiracy involving federal contractors which was being looked into by Barrett Brown just as the FBI began examining him. HBGary Federal’s then-CEO Aaron Barr suggested tracking and intimidating donors to WikiLeaks, in this particular e-mail:

“Also need to get people to understand that if they support the organization we will come after them. Transaction records are easily identifiable.”


Yesterday the defendants in my lawsuit replied to our arguments against dismissing the case, via the state lawyers of the DOJ Torts Branch / Civil Division. I’ve not much substantive commentary on their latest filings, as it’s the same old obscurantism, legal deflection and avoidance of responsibility that we’ve already seen. This is ultimately a matter for the courts to decide.

However, as exhibits and attachments, they included old screenshots of @FreeBarrett_’s Twitter feed, and the WePay legal defense fundraising page which I created in September 2012. I’m personally aggrieved and offended that they were monitoring and capturing all of this activity in the first place. I am shocked that these screenshots of sites which I set up, some of which I don’t recall ever appearing within filings in the earlier derivative case, have still been retained for so long. I wonder, does the FBI/DOJ alsocollect [and store] it all” — the declared approach of former NSA chief Keith Alexander?

Their investigation should’ve remained focused upon the person under indictment.

There is a hearing scheduled for September 28th before Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James, in Courtroom B, 15th floor, 450 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco, CA at 10AM PST. I do freely invite anyone who is in the area and interested to attend.

Here is a link to Candina Heath and Robert Smith’s latest reply brief in support of their motion to dismiss my complaint. As technically the US government constitutes another defendant, here is theirs. Both are embedded in this page:

Case 3:17-cv-00586-MEJ Document 38Case 3:17-cv-00586-MEJ Document 38
Case 3:17-cv-00586-MEJ Document 38Case 3:17-cv-00586-MEJ Document 39

What we’re asking for is pretty simple, and outlined below. And they struggle to explain why they aren’t able to do it.

First cause of action (First Amendment)

Second cause of action (violation of Stored Communications Act)

Third cause of action (California Constitutional Right to Privacy)

We are also seeking a jury trial for Donor #1 on the first and third causes of action.


With these latest efforts to have our case dismissed, their arguments are still flawed. Although in announcing the defense fund we initially considered that funds might potentially be used to supplement the public defender who’d been assigned with additional resources (witnesses, travel, outside research, etc.), subsequently Barrett Brown was indicted a second time on several counts carrying severe maximum sentences — a significant change in circumstances to say the least, which obviously would require competent and specialized representation. At all times, I promised to maintain confidentiality regarding our donors, and I even drew up transparency reports which were given to anyone who requested accounting.

I originally collaborated with Brown’s mother to create the donation page, so that all of my work would occur with the consent of his family, and at first we linked it to a joint bank account she’d had with her son. WePay had a feature allowing secondary users with the same permissions, and Karen had her own pending case (for the seriously criminal act of placing a pair of laptops in a kitchen cabinet from whence they were easily acquired during the execution of a 2nd search warrant). For all purposes and appearances I was the sole administrator, and eventually Free Barrett Brown Ltd. became an LLC which opened its own bank account. Naturally, organizing and facilitating legal defense efforts, not to mention finding a suitable lawyer, is a difficult process which takes time.

For the first few months after his arrest, I sought to remain behind the scenes, because I was not motivated by recognition. Ultimately, as it became clear that his mom had her own legal problems and few others were willing to publicly speak in his defense, I had to step out which raised my profile considerably.

Long before the “WePay subpoena” was issued on January 23rd, our intent to raise enough money to hire private representation had been stated clearly multiple times. A third indictment then arrived. Fortunately, we’d found Ahmed Ghappour and he’d agreed to take the case sometime in March, although our agreement with him and co-counsel Charlie Swift was not yet finalized on paper, and their official notice of appearance wouldn’t be filed until later. Then in mid-April the government requested an astonishing and unprecedented order for the court to seize $20,000 dollars which had been raised, much of which came in as a result of a Guardian article written by Glenn Greenwald, whose opinion was popular and well-received.

I didn’t discover that a subpoena existed until early 2015 around the time of Brown’s final sentencing hearing. When I realized that an infraction had occurred and privileged information could’ve been acquired, I immediately began looking into possible remedies. I owe the Electronic Frontier Foundation and their cooperating attorneys referral program for helping me locate the fine services of Eric DiIulio at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP.


Barrett Brown is a prolific and brilliant writer, who I first became aware of nearly 7 years ago. He pleaded guilty to his crimes and he’s served his time — 63 months. He’s received prestigious journalism awards and honorable mentions for his writing with The Intercept and D Magazine. Presently he’s working on a memoir slash manifesto for Farrar, Straus & Giroux while organizing the Pursuance Project, and just started doing a regular podcast for WhoWhatWhy. My motivating principle when I decided to advocate for him upon his arrest is that every person deserves access to competent legal defense, and I thought his collaborative research into surveillance issues was important — indeed it’s since been massively vindicated.

In what most Americans imagine and grew up being taught about our country and what was intended by James Madison in his authorship of the U.S. Bill of Rights, I never imagined that my own organizing efforts would become targeted by law enforcement. With Barrett’s support network, which has been stewarded by the Courage Foundation since July 2015, I prided myself upon operating professionally, diplomatically, and transparently. I devoted at least three years of my life to the cause of his legal issues with any spare time I had, and wasn’t paid for any of it.

The information sought by Heath and Smith from WePay, Inc. was not at all relevant to their case or trial preparation. I believe that if procedures and tactics like those employed by them are able to be repeated in other criminal cases, there will definitely be a chilling effect and people will be afraid to contribute for fear of ending up on a list somewhere. It doesn’t matter whether it involves security researchers, journalists, street activists and organizers, those who’re so-called “hacktivists”, or even ordinary criminals. Those millions of people being herded daily through the glacially slow justice system for whatever reason are often people who desperately need counsel, possess no meaningful access to due process from within prison, and most aren’t as fortunate, notorious or lucky to have a media platform as Barrett does.

It could be someone you love and admire or sympathize with, a member of a family or an important figure to a community. New legal defense funds appear continually and often face challenges in merely establishing legitimacy, acquiring attention or reaching a target goal, so they shouldn’t have the extra worry of having to protect their donor list from possible warrants and subpoenas. And those who’re willing to become public proponents on behalf of others should not be dissuaded by fear of reprisal. I’ve occasionally offered advice based upon my own experience to others who’ve found themselves in similar situations.

Personally I can’t just let this slide… but I’m not the only one affected. Hundreds of persons donated to Barrett’s defense, not just through WePay, but also PayPal or through checks in the mail or during a benefit event. Journalists wrote about what was happening to him. Designers and artists created images, artwork, info-graphics, leaflets, even performed songs about his case. Many prominent people spoke out, as did several non-profits, digital rights and press freedom groups. The judge Sam Lindsay received one hundred letters requesting leniency. Could all these be considered targets? Cloudflare did the right thing in providing notice to Sebastiaan Provost, whose account there was subpoenaed over the Project PM domain name, giving him an opportunity to intervene and quash. I never had such an opportunity.

I am pursuing this because I believe that financial donations to any cause, political or otherwise, are protected speech and free association. I think that supporters and donors to those who are jailed or under indictment are outside the scope of any legitimate criminal investigation; their identities essentially sacrosanct. As a country founded upon the U.S. Constitution, this should be understood as one of our most basic rights which shouldn’t be transgressed. Of course I’d like the court to find the case in my favor and for these people to admit they broke the law, but I’m also interested in finding out what else they might’ve done. Many have observed a consistent pattern of abuse of prosecutorial discretion, by no means limited to this specific case, which transpires unaccountably and without consequence. It’s been years since the events at issue in my case, but the core of the complaint, which alleges violations of the First Amendment, Stored Communications Act and California’s Constitutional Right to Privacy is worthy of serious consideration.

Organizations who crowd-fund for whistle-blowers or adversarial journalists, like Freedom of the Press Foundation who assisted Nicky Hager’s defense and Chelsea Manning’s appeal, or the Courage Foundation which has developed a roster of beneficiaries, not all of whom are entirely uncontroversial or well-liked by those in government, have good reason to be concerned and to be following this. Supporters of pro-bono efforts like those routinely performed by the ACLU and EFF are not excluded from the threat at hand. Not to mention various independent law firms which require money in exchange for their services… especially in the era of Trump, a president who openly wages war on the media.

For anyone interested in further background on this, please see:

During the course of Barrett’s case, I wrote multiple articles for outlets like The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, New York Observer, The Daily Dot and more:

I’m not able to speculate upon the outcome at this moment, but it will surely be interesting to see what happens henceforth. If anyone out there agrees with the sentiments I’ve expressed here, then please help spread the word, and feel free to cross-post my writing. This text is hereby released under a Creative Commons license requiring proper attribution only. (CC BY 4.0)

Lawyers counter gov’t motion to dismiss lawsuit over illegal surveillance of donors

At the end of last week, the distinguished attorneys representing us in our case against USAA Heath and FBI Special Agent Smith filed our response to their motion(s) to dismiss the complaint.

For those unfamiliar with the background, shortly after Barrett Brown was arrested back in September 2012, we established a fund-raising campaign on the website WePay.com by which we solicited donations that were specifically earmarked to help him obtain quality private legal representation, rather than having to rely upon the court’s appointment of a federal public defender.

Around the time of Brown’s sentencing in January 2015 we were shocked to learn a subpoena had been sent to WePay. This had already happened earlier, in January 2013, without our knowledge. As it turned out, the subpoena was deployed beyond the usual channels, and demanded not only information on how much the account held, but also details about everyone who had donated to the fund.

"any and all records and information"As set forth in the lawsuit we filed earlier this year, this unusual move to identity contributors to a political cause that both Heath and Smith virulently opposed happens to be unconstitutional; courts have established very clear First Amendment rights to engage in political speech via financial donations to causes while remaining anonymous. And it was particularly disturbing in light of the broader pattern that the two went on to engage in throughout Brown’s case, during which they argued for a gag order on Brown due in part to an article he’d written for The Guardian that was, as Heath put it in open court, “critical of the government.”

"The tone of the article was problematic."They also sought and obtained the identities of everyone who contributed to Brown’s crowd-sourced website, Echelon2.org (now wiki.project-pm.org), despite never alleging any crime that might have been committed in the course of this journalistic effort, and also despite continually denying that Brown’s prosecution – which began with secret search warrants weeks after his involvement in exposing a Department of Justice-linked criminal conspiracy by federal intelligence contractors – had anything to do with his journalism and activism efforts, but was instead centered entirely on his supposed involvement in credit card fraud (those charges were later dropped). Their position was weakened further by the fact that the original search warrant listed Echelon2.org as well as two firms that had been involved in the DOJ scheme, popularly known as Team Themis, whereas the company they later accused him of defrauding, Stratfor, was not even mentioned.

"Records relating to echelon2.org"In this context, Heath, Smith, and the high-end federal lawyers who are running their case out of D.C. have struggled to explain the purpose of seeking out everything they could on Brown’s legal donors – especially since their stated intent was merely to assess how much money Brown had received for the purpose of obtaining private counsel, in turn so that they could ask the court to seize it to offset the cost of the public defender he’d never asked for. This, they claim, was an effort to save the government money – even though seizing the money that individuals had donated to acquire Brown a lawyer would obviously prevent him from doing that and force him to rely on the public defender at vast cost to the state itself.

Another argument by Heath — that this money had not been listed on Brown’s financial disclosure form shortly after his arrest, and thus it was necessary to subpoena WePay to determine how much money had been raised on his behalf – has likewise come under fire from our legal team. Free Barrett Brown was established independently as a private entity, and was not a party to the case, so its assets were not subject to reporting, and the court should have no power to direct such funds.

Opposition to Individual Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Opposition to Motion to Dismiss

All this transparently amounts to an attempt to deny access to private legal representation — even if the government would love to claim otherwise in their filing, that they were making sure state money would not be wasted… However many similar transgressions against Brown were made under the guise of it being for “his own good”. They argued that he must be gagged in order that court may hold a fair trial. But if the government were supposedly so concerned with Brown’s due process rights, then why does their behavior so blatantly display otherwise?

Retaliation continues on the regular, with the latest incidents including an arbitrary re-arrest by the Bureau of Prisons, along with inappropriate subpoenas concerning wage garnishment mailed to The Intercept and Writers House, a literary agency. Brown is still being held responsible for $890,000 in damages mostly in relation to the hack of Stratfor, which he did not even commit.

The convict / former defendant himself, now a winner of the 2016 National Magazine Award, columnist with The Intercept, and currently working on a memoir slash manifesto for Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, said:

“The filing very thoroughly debunks the bizarre claims originally set out by prosecutor Candina Heath and her somewhat more capable Washington-supplied lawyers while noting the various ways in which the case law they cite often ends up supporting our own position rather than theirs. Naturally, the defendants – I love being able to refer to Heath and her FBI buddies as defendants, by the way – do not even attempt to explain why the government would have needed to know the identities and amounts given by anonymous donors to my legal defense fund if they merely needed to know how much was in it. Nor have they gotten around to making sense of their own stated reasons for trying to seize the money to begin with; this filing makes nonsense of their heavily nonsensical claim that they simply wanted to save the government money by seizing funds raised to get me a private lawyer and giving that money to the public defender I didn’t want, even though that would have forced me to continue to rely on the public defender for the remainder of a major case and thus obviously cost the state vast amounts of additional money, rather than the zero additional dollars the state would have had to pay were the donations to be used to allow me to pay for my own lawyer (as eventually happened). Essentially, Candina Heath and the North District of Texas’ Office of the District Attorney has built its defense on the implication that they don’t know the difference between ‘zero additional dollars’ and ‘vast amounts of money.’ And even if they were to get past that, they’d still have to explain how tracking down donors to a cause to which they were personally and professionally opposed, and doing so in an irregular way before apparently holding back some of the illicitly-obtained information from the court that this was supposedly intended for, was some sort of cost-saving measure. Good luck with that, Candina.”

The class representative for our donors remains anonymous, as revealing their identity would cause the very harm that this complaint seeks to redress. The primary plaintiff Kevin Gallagher, a technologist and privacy/transparency activist now based in San Francisco, who started the defense campaign for Brown and directed its efforts for years, said:

“It’s telling that the defendants in this case; officials who’ve been nominally entrusted to uphold the “rule of law”, have turned to several high-powered attorneys from senior DOJ divisions based in Washington, D.C. to handle their defense. However, there’s no getting around the fact that such donations as those at concern here are unambiguously acts of political expression which are explicitly covered by the Bill of Rights. Without a doubt, this case is still moving forward and we eagerly await to hear the judge’s perspective on the substantive issues raised.”

You can read the documents in their entirety below or download them here and here.


Barrett Brown receives second post-release subpoena

Less than a month after the US Attorney’s office sent a subpoena to The Intercept, demanding records of communication and payment between Barrett Brown and the news outlet, Barrett has received another subpoena, this time addressed to Writers House, his literary agency. As noted upon his release, Barrett signed a book deal for a forthcoming “combination memoir and manifesto.”

Barrett has summarized this development:

The Department of Justice has now sent a subpoena to my literary agency, Writers House, making a series of confusing demands pertaining money that they claim to be outstanding, and otherwise ordering them to provide all documents. The filing claims that “More than 30 days has elapsed since demand for payment was made,” a demonstrable falsehood; no demands were ever received by either myself or Writers House, and a similar subpoena sent to The Intercept last month was a demand for information, not money. Indeed, I wrote an e-mail to this office at that time, which I cc’d my probation officer and others on, asking for an explanation, which I naturally never received.

Barrett called the USDA to discuss the matter and spoke to Emily Shutt:

Here is the newest subpoena:

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US government moves to dismiss our lawsuit on behalf of donors

As we noted previously, we are seeking to hold the government accountable in court for the illegal and improper seeking of information concerning donations to Barrett Brown’s legal defense fund back in 2013.

Today, the US government, and the Assistant U.S. Attorney Heath and FBI Special Agent Smith as defendants have respectively filed motions to dismiss the complaint.

The relevant documents are embedded below.




Barrett Brown is home again

As D Magazine reports, Barrett Brown — who was re-arrested last week on the widely criticized basis that he flouted alleged BOP restrictions on speaking to the press — is again out of jail and back at home.

“I got to go back to Seagoville and see some of my old buddies,” Barrett said. “Then today, they came in and told me, ‘You won. Get your stuff ready.’ An assistant from the halfway house had to come and pick me up in his car.”

D Magazine credits newly hired attorney David Siegal with Barrett’s release. Siegal gave a written statement on Barrett’s re-imprisonment:

The treatment of Barrett Brown by the Bureau of Prisons was unjustified and in violation of his First Amendment Free Speech Rights. Unfortunately, Barrett was forced to spend three days in a federal penitentiary when he should have been out living his life. We are happy we were able to work with Barrett and his family to achieve his return home today.

Barrett will soon have pieces in D Magazine and The Intercept.

 

Statement from Barrett Brown on being re-arrested

STATEMENT FROM BARRETT BROWN

Federal Correctional Institution

Seagoville, Texas

April 30, 2017

Last week I was re-arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service on the orders of the Bureau of Prisons, which still technically holds sway over my life until May 25th when my sentence officially ends. Contrary to BOP policy, and indeed federal law, I was not provided a written infraction report, much less given the disciplinary hearing that normally precedes punishment. When one is taken back to prison or put in the hole, the institution has 24 hours to give you the infraction sheet detailing your offense. After 72 hours, I have still received nothing.

Luckily, in the days leading up to my arrest, I managed to make audio recordings of BOP regional chieftain Luz Lujan and two halfway house staffers threatening me with a “refusal” or “refusing an order” charge if I did any further media interviews without seeking Lujan’s prior approval; Lujan also demanded that outlets seeking interviews first fill out and submit to her a form which is in fact only required for news representatives seeking to actually enter a federal prison. As I explained to Lujan and the halfway house staffers in those recordings, there is nothing in the BOP media program statements that requires even actual inmates to seek permission to communicate with press, much less those like myself, who have already been released to home confinement; as the policy is publicly available, anyone may verify this for themselves.

Anywho, D Magazine Publisher Wick Allison has been kind enough to enlist the services of David Siegal of the Haynes and Boone law firm for my defense; my attorneys Jay Leiderman and Marlo Cadeddu are also involved. In the meantime, I have agreed to briefly revive the Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail for D Magazine, and as The Intercept editor Roger Hodge has noted, I will have a column in to them presently, as well, IF ONLY I CAN THINK OF SOMETHING TO WRITE ABOUT.

Barrett Brown re-imprisoned for speaking to the press

Barrett Brown was re-arrested and taken into custody by Bureau of Prison officials today for speaking to the media. He is currently being detained at RRM Dallas. UPDATE: in an email to Reason, the BOP says that Barrett is now at FCI Seagoville in Texas.

Barrett’s mother provided this information earlier today:

Barrett was re-arrested during routine check-in this morning and is being transferred to a BOP facility that is unknown. He has not missed a check-in over the last five months of his early release. He has not failed any of the random drug tests administered. He has been on home confinement status since February and has been home each and every time they called the landline at 1:00 to 2:00 a.m. for “bed check.”

He believes this is only because of his refusal to get “permission” from crews to film and interview him. He has had many interviews since his early release, on November 29, both by phone and in person. Last week VICE had a group in to film him for two days, and he was scheduled to be interviewed tomorrow by a group working on a documentary for PBS.

Ms. Luz Lujan, his BOP contact, refused to provide him with copies of program statement rules saying this is a requirement during halfway house and/or home confinement status. The forms that they finally came up with yesterday, after he had been requesting documentation for the past two weeks, are forms offered to media when requesting a visit with an inmate in a federal prison setting.

There was never any mention of these rules during the past four months of his federally approved employment at D Magazine when he was working with media and involved with a range of interviews.

Back in November, Alex Winter and his crew filmed Barrett being transferred from prison to his halfway house for a short film called ‘Relatively Free’, and Barrett has given multiple film, radio and print interviews since, with no word of an issue from the BOP. The Freedom of the Press Foundation tweeted, “This is a ridiculous violation of free speech and he should be released immediately.”

Follow @FreeBarrett_ on Twitter and check back here for further updates.

Free Barrett Brown donors sue DOJ, FBI for right to give anonymously

After learning that a payment processor which was used to collect money for the legal defense of the recently freed journalist Barrett Brown had been subpoenaed for “any and all records”, we began a process to ascertain what had happened, whether it was legal, and what remedies were available to us.

The next step in that process occurred yesterday when we filed suit against the government, specifically the United States Assistant Attorney and FBI Special Agent involved with the subpoena which sought the identities of our donors and the amount of each donation. Those are details which we have always sought to keep strictly confidential. Yet, in this case, the government requested this information from the payment processor without an appropriate search warrant or notice to the affected donors.

The subpoena was irrelevant to the actual charges against Barrett Brown. It was part of an egregious surveillance program and fishing expedition directed at Brown’s supporters and collaborators, including Project PM contributors—recall that the feds also sought information about a public wiki created by Brown which leveraged leaks and openly available information in order to facilitate crowd-sourced investigation of the burgeoning private intelligence contracting industry.

Donations made in support of litigation and other causes are acts of political expression and free association, which are rights guaranteed to citizens under the United States Constitution. So, we have filed this complaint under the First Amendment, the Stored Communications Act, and the California Constitutional Right to Privacy.

There is no reason that like-minded, law-abiding citizens should have been mixed up in the FBI’s investigation of the criminal conduct which Brown eventually pleaded guilty to. In particular, the lawsuit is a class action demand for a jury trial on behalf of all anonymous donors to Brown’s legal defense fund.

Free Barrett Brown’s former director, Kevin Gallagher, commented: “Learning that these records were sought and obtained was highly unsettling, and I felt that I had to do something about it. If we don’t send a message to the government that it’s not okay to target private legal defense efforts, then they will continue to get away with these sort of things.”

Here is a copy of the filing. Stay tuned for further developments.

For more information contact:
admin@freebarrettbrown.org