11 July 2013 — Democracy Now!
Journalist Barrett Brown spent his 300th day behind bars this week on a range of charges filed after he used information obtained by the hacker group Anonymous to report on the operations of private intelligence firms. Brown faces 17 charges ranging from threatening an FBI agent to credit card fraud for posting a link online to a document that contained stolen credit card data. But according to his supporters, Brown is being unfairly targeted for daring to investigate the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors.
Using information Anonymous took from the firm HBGary Federal, Brown helped discover a secret plan to tarnish the reputations of WikiLeaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Brown similarly analyzed and wrote about the millions of internal company emails from Stratfor Global Intelligence that were leaked in 2011. We speak to Peter Ludlow, professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, whose article “The Strange Case of Barrett Brown” recently appeared in The Nation. “Considering that the person who carried out the actual Stratfor hack had several priors and is facing a maximum of 10 years, the inescapable conclusion is that the problem is not with the hack itself but with Brown’s journalism,” Ludlow argues. He adds that the case against Brown could suggest criminality “to even link to something or share a link with someone.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As NSA leaker Edward Snowden remains at a Moscow airport, Army whistleblower Bradley Manning is on trial, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, today we look at the strange story of another man tied to the world of cyber-activism who faces over a hundred years in prison. His name is Barrett Brown. He’s an investigative reporter with ties to the hacking collective Anonymous. He has spent the past 300 days in jail and has been denied bail. He faces 17 charges, ranging from threatening anFBI agent to credit card fraud for posting a link online to a document that contained stolen credit card data. But according to his supporters, Brown is being unfairly targeted for daring to investigate the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors.
AMY GOODMAN: Before Brown’s path crossed with the FBI, he frequently contributed to Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, The Guardian and other news outlets. In 2009, Brown created Project PM, which was, quote, “dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence and surveillance.” He was particularly interested in the documents leaked by WikiLeaks and Anonymous. In the documentary We Are Legion, Barrett Brown explains the importance of information obtained by hackers.
BARRETT BROWN: Some of the most important things that have been—have had the most far-reaching influence and have been the most important in terms of what’s been discovered, not just by Anonymous, but by the media in the aftermath, is the result of hacking. That information can’t be obtained by institutional journalistic process, or it can’t be obtained or won’t be obtained by a congressional committee or a federal oversight committee. For the most part, that information has to be, you know, obtained by hackers.
AMY GOODMAN: In 2011, the group Anonymous hacked into the computer system of the private security firm HBGary Federal and disclosed thousands of internal emails. Barrett Brown has not been accused of being involved in the hack, but he did read and analyze the documents, eventually crowd-sourcing the effort through Project PM. One of the first things he discovered was a plan to tarnish the reputations of WikiLeaks and sympathetic journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Brown similarly analyzed and wrote about the millions of internal company emails for Stratfor Global Intelligence that were leaked on Christmas Eve 2011. Shortly thereafter, the FBI acquired a warrant for Brown’s laptop and authority to seize any information from his communications—or, in journalism parlance, his sources. In September 2012, a troupe of armed agents surged into Brown’s apartment in Dallas, Texas, and handcuffed him face down on the floor. He has been in prison ever since.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for more, we’re joined by Peter Ludlow, professor of philosophy at Northwestern University. He has written extensively on hacktivist actions against people—against private intelligence firms and the surveillance state. His recent article for The Nation is called “The Strange Case of Barrett Brown.”