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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


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:

Barrett Brown starts work at D Magazine

Barrett Brown, fresh out of federal prison and living in a halfway house outside Dallas, has begun writing for D Magazine’s Frontburner blog, his stories for which you can find collated here.

In his first piece, Barrett struggles to get a bus ticket and complains about the office coffee. More importantly, he touches on his post-release restrictions:

[A city council agenda] had to be printed out for me because the Bureau of Prisons claims, rather implausibly, that the terms of my probation — which does not begin for another five months and which is to be administered by the Department of Justice probation department and not the Bureau of Prisons, which has jurisdiction over me until then — don’t allow me to use a computer or anything else that can connect to the internet.

In another post, Barrett previews his coverage of tomorrow’s city council meeting:

Indeed, tomorrow’s briefing would threaten to be a rather by-the-numbers affair were it not for the fact that Mayor Rawlings will be making his case for a delay on the upcoming bond issue, to the extent that it’s possible to make a case for a move that will have the negative aspect of allowing city streets to deteriorate further in the meantime while not seeming to offer any positive aspects whatsoever, at least as far as actual policy is concerned. My understanding after making some calls to involved parties is that he’ll be fielding some rather blunt questions about this from at least one city council member, as well as a few meandering and no doubt grammatically incorrect queries from several others. I’ll be covering tomorrow’s meeting and calling in reports throughout the day, most of which will be unnecessarily mean-spirited.

See a collection of Barrett’s writing, including all of his work while imprisoned, at D Magazine and The Intercept, as well as his new pieces for Frontburner, here.

VIDEO: “Relatively Free” Barrett Brown out of prison and already hard at work

Alex Winter and production company Field of Vision have released a short documentary on Barrett Brown’s release from FCI Three Rivers and the six-hour drive to his new residence, a halfway house near Dallas. The twenty-minute film called ‘Relatively Free’ features a skinnier, longer-haired Barrett discussing his time in federal prison, the fight for press freedoms to come under a Trump administration, and why his case is a “jackpot case” for reformers, should they choose to make use of it.

In a WIRED piece featuring the video, Barrett unveils his plans to build software called Pursuant, “an open-source, end-to-end-encrypted collaboration platform anyone could host on their own server” which will be “designed to serve as a platform for coordinating activists, journalists, and troublemakers of all stripes.”

Barrett has also signed a book deal for a “combination memoir and manifesto.”

In a recent interview with Shadowproof, Barrett talked about his release and the halfway house. He also explained the computer restrictions he’ll face:

“When I’m on probation six months from now, we have very clear restrictions where I can use a laptop,” he said. “I have to bring a new laptop to the DOJ’s office, and they’ll install monitoring software and that’s it. I can use the internet just like any other civilian.”

“Until then, I’m still under BOP jurisdiction, and that’s where things get interesting. I’ve yet to get a written, any kind of written declaration of what I can’t do as opposed to other ex-convicts.”

Meanwhile, Barrett still faces an obscene fine of more than $800,000. Contribute to his fund to help make his monthly payments a little easier.

Brown reports on more instances of misconduct in the prison system

In the four years I’ve spent in federal prison for my supposedly criminal efforts to look into government misconduct in cooperation with a loose array of Anonymous-affiliated hackers, I’ve had the unique experience of investigating government misconduct from within. But although I’ve spent much of this time writing about prison life in articles for The Intercept and other outlets, I’ve generally refrained from going into the specific violations of Bureau of Prisons policy and even federal law that one witnesses on a daily basis in BOP institutions. This is largely because I prefer writing about other things, but also because there’s usually no point in reporting such matters in a nation where the press will have spent some 10,000% more time this year analyzing sexist attacks on the latest Ghostbusters film than they have the actual rape and sexual exploitation to which actual women are subject in U.S. prisons – and which could be largely ended within a month if that same degree of oh-so-fun Ghostbusters internet feud energy were to be directed at forcing the prison rape issue into prominence and shaming Congress into implementing safeguards that reformers have been proposing for years.

When I first started out as a journalist, I wrote a piece about how in the aftermath of one of the few rapes of a woman by Texas prison guards to have made the news, the Texas prison board met to enact a new policy – a rule making it more difficult for journalists to interview inmates. There are places in the world where this would have prompted civic outrage and prompt action, but the United States is not one of them. Today I’m the only journalist in the US who has no problem whatsoever interviewing inmates. But it’s hard to say that this has helped. We live in a time and place in which it’s not enough for a journalist to uncover serious and unambiguous instances of wrongdoing by the powerful, or even to get it published in a major outlet. Without some partisan hook or compelling video or a connection to whatever fun internet battle that the working press is currently big on because it’s easy to cover and can generate the clicks that now constitute our true and most revealing form of democracy, documenting wrongdoing by the state is futile. Nothing will come of it.

Still, I’m going to spend the last two months of my sentence doing just that, partly because I want to provide a more or less real-time record of the manner in which federal employees will conduct themselves when they find themselves free to act without consequences. This isn’t to say that all prison staff are bad people; indeed, at the six facilities where I’ve been held, serious misconduct generally seems to be confined to about 30 percent of staff, at least in federal prisons. The problem is that the 30 percent inevitably includes the very administration officials who are allegedly on hand to ensure that policy is followed. Thus it is that it was the prison’s internal affairs head himself, Terance Moore, who took away my access to the inmate e-mail service contrary to policy an hour after I’d used it to contact a journalist about the sort of official misconduct that Moore himself is theoretically being paid to prevent; and when I was held in the hole for two weeks last July despite no such punishment having been handed down to me – one of several incidents of retaliation I’ve noted here – it was an assistant warden, Yates, who ordered them to keep me there, apparently because I’d hurt his feelings.

All of that is incidental, though. I’m not documenting official misconduct in spite of the fact that it will lead to zero consequences for the perpetrators and will do nothing to help the victims; I’m documenting these things precisely because of it. The baroque nightmare that the US has inflicted upon millions of families for decades is certainly a story worth telling, and I’ll be telling what I can of it for years to come, but even more fundamental is the failure of our government, our press, and our citizenry to take responsibility for the institutions that it creates and thereafter forgets. To this end, each of these posts – along with other documented evidence I’ve already published to the effect that high BOP officials are actively sabotaging the ability of inmates to challenge serious instances of abuse and due process violations in court – will be forwarded to the Office of the Inspector General, which ostensibly exists to investigate these things. But, again, nothing will come of it.


Post One

Incident: When inmate Ravi Hassan, #272203-009, was placed in the hole, or Special Housing Unit, in late June of this year, ostensibly for a “custody level reclassification” that prevented him from being with other medium security-designated inmates on our prison yard until the administration signed a document that would technically allow him back in the compound, he expected to return within two days, that being about how long it usually takes the warden to handle that. Instead, he was there for 30 days, and strongly suspects that this had something to do with the fact that he’d complained about an administration member who’d failed to properly handle an issue involving his release to a halfway house. SHU inmates usually get their property within a few days of arrival in the SHU; I myself was being held in the SHU at that time, illegally, on the orders of Assistant Warden Yates, and received mine within three days, and on a prior occasion when I’d likewise been thrown in the SHU for an “investigation” an hour after giving a phone interview to a radio station, I got my stuff the next day. But for the first two weeks he was being held, Hassan didn’t get any of his property, even his legal work; a SHU property officer by the name of Gamble even taunted him about it, on two occasions cheerfully bringing property to other SHU inmates, and at one point loudly remarking while standing in Hassan’s corridor about how he’d enjoyed “killing a couple of Muslims over in Iraq.” After a series of complaints, Gamble was replaced as property officer and Hassan finally got his property. Gamble continues to work at the prison.

Analysis: Proclaiming your enjoyment of killing people of a particular religion as a means of intimidating a member of that religion while also preventing that inmate from accessing his legal papers contrary to policy is not enough to get you fired from the Bureau of Prisons. Hassan’s other, even more disturbing adventures at Three Rivers will be detailed in future posts.

Incident: A relative of Three Rivers Federal Correctional Institution inmate Saloman Bustos, #49859380, bought him a subscription to Playboy, which switched to a non-nude format some months ago and is now again being accepted in many of the prison systems that had banned depictions of full nudity back around 2000. When the first several issues arrived, Bustos received a notification from the mail room that they had been sent back due to “sexually explicit” material. I wrote a staff notification message to the mail room for Bustos pointing out that the term “sexually explicit” in the Bureau of Prison guidelines is defined very specifically in such a way that does not include the pictorials in Playboy. A staff member replied that Bustos should write a BP-8 grievance form. I had him forward the same message to the Assistant Warden for Operations, a fellow named Yates, repeating the point. Yates replied by quoting the very policy that I’d referred to: “Nudity means a pictorial depiction where genitalia or female breasts are exposed. Specifically, when the pictorial depiction of the female breast displays the areola or nipple, this material will be rejected.” I had Bustos write the BP-8 form pointing out that he understands that the policy calls for the rejection of pictures with aureolas and genitalia but that “Playboy DOES NOT run pictures with genitalia & nipples and so my three magazines were sent back contrary to policy,” offering to provide copies of news articles verifying that Playboy no longer runs such material, and asking that the prison reimburse him for the publications and refrain from further violating his due process rights by rejecting future copies of a magazine which he is legally permitted to receive. On October 3rd, the response came back from a certain F. Rodriguez: “Per 5266.11 (2), Nudity means a pictorial depiction where genitalia or female breasts are exposed. Specifically, when the pictorial depiction of the female breast displays the areola or nipple, this material will be rejected.”

Analysis: Due process is a myth.

Barrett being denied book shipments at Three Rivers

We’ve just received the following note from Barrett, who asked us to publish it:

Today I received three forms informing me that three different book shipments to me from three different Amazon processing centers had been rejected and returned, stating that inmates are not generally supposed to receive packages. In fact, the BOP mail program statement says very clearly that packages containing books shipped from bookstores are perfectly acceptable, which is why over the past four years none of the countless other packages of books I’ve received from Amazon have ever been rejected for arriving in a package, as books always arrive this way by necessity. This comes just a few days after I’d assisted another inmate in filing a complaint about the prison mailroom’s illicit rejection of magazines to which he is legally entitled, and just a few hours after I’d finished writing a post on that very topic for publication, using the inmate email system, which staff members are able to access. It also comes just days after my medication had been disrupted without explanation. As I continue to document wrongdoing at the Three Rivers Federal Correctional Institution, I expect to incur further retaliation, as I have in the past. I would simply hope that as I work to document instances of state criminality, that the press will pay attention.

Books are obviously a crucial resource for all prisoners. In the course of his incarceration, fans and supporters have ordered literally hundreds of books for Barrett through his Amazon wish list. That the prison administration continues to find new and inventive ways to retaliate against him, such as this, is astounding.