Barrett Brown, who originally faced over 100 years in prison for the crime of being a journalist, was sentenced to an additional 33 months in prison earlier today. Brown was also ordered to pay $890,000 to a number of companies that were hacked in 2011 – despite having no direct connection to the hack. Brown has already spent 30 months in prison.
The founder of Project PM, a WikiLeaks-like website which dares to investigate “the intelligence contracting industry” and more, Brown was officially charged with 1) transmitting a threat in interstate commerce, (2) obstructing the execution of a search warrant, and (3) being an accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access to a protected computer. He was initially prosecuted for sharing a link to his website that contained leaked documents.
As PINAC reported earlier, Brown’s act of journalism is the reason for the Draconian punishments levied against him.
Judge Lindsay sided with the government in their argument that “Brown’s role was more than merely reporting on the hacked account.” The judge stated that Brown considered himself a member of the hacker collective Anonymous, collaborated with them, identified targets, and provided advice.
Unlike the recent U.S. ruling that it is legal to give cops the finger, the ruling in Brown’s case is a travesty of the justice system, and more in line with a government like Saudi Arabia – where a person was arrested for recording a public beheading this week – than the First Amendment. Upon release from prison, Brown cannot handle credit cards, checks, or bank accounts. He will be on parole for at least 2 years and will only be allowed to use an approved computer which will monitor all of his activity.
While he was being investigated by the FBI, which had already raided his apartment and his mother’s home in March 2012, Brown posted three Youtube videos, ranting against the feds at how they dragged his mother into the investigation even though she had nothing to do with the case, using her only to place pressure on him.
In one video posted September 12, 2012, titled, “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe,” he stated the following, which prompted the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office to raid his home for allegedly threatening an FBI Agent. The alleged threat begins after the 10:30 mark.
“So that’s why Robert Smith’s life is over. When I say his life is over, I’m not saying I’m going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids. Because Aaron Barr did the same thing and he didn’t get raided for it. How do you like them apples?”
That video is posted below along with the two other videos where he describes in-depth the case against him.
Before the sentencing, Brown made a statement to the judge that all journalists, free speech supporters and U.S. residents should take note of:
Every journalist in the United States is put at risk by the novel, and sometimes even radical, claims that the government has introduced in the course of the sentencing process. The government asserts that I am not a journalist and thus unable to claim the First Amendment protections guaranteed to those engaged in information-gathering activities. Your Honor, I’ve been employed as a journalist for much of my adult life, I’ve written for dozens of magazines and newspapers, and I’m the author of two published and critically-acclaimed books of expository non-fiction. Your Honor has received letters from editors who have published my journalistic work, as well as from award-winning journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, who note that they have used that work in their own articles. If I am not a journalist, then there are many, many people out there who are also not journalists, without being aware of it, and who are thus as much at risk as I am.
Your Honor, it would be one thing if the government were putting forth some sort of standard by which journalists could be defined. They have not put forth such a standard. Their assertion rests on the fact that despite having referred to myself as a journalist hundreds of times, I at one point rejected that term, much in the same way that someone running for office might reject the term “politician”. Now, if the government is introducing a new standard whereby anyone who once denies being a particular thing is no longer that thing in any legal sense, then that would be at least a firm and knowable criteria. But that’s not what the government is doing in this case. Consider, for instance, that I have denied being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, both in public and private, ever since the press began calling me that in the beginning of 2011. So on a couple of occasions when I contacted executives of contracting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton in the wake of revelations that they’d been spying on my associates and me for reasons that we were naturally rather anxious to determine, I did indeed pretend to be such an actual official spokesman for Anonymous, because I wanted to encourage these people to talk to me. Which they did.
Of course, I have explained this many, many times, and the government itself knows this, even if they’ve since claimed otherwise. In the September 13th criminal complaint filed against me, the FBI itself acknowledges that I do not claim any official role within Anonymous. Likewise, in last month’s hearing, the prosecutor accidentally slipped and referred to me as a journalist, even after having previously found it necessary to deny me that title. But, there you have it. Deny being a spokesperson for Anonymous hundreds of times, and you’re still a spokesperson for Anonymous. Deny being a journalist once or twice, and you’re not a journalist. What conclusion can one draw from this sort of reasoning other than that you are whatever the FBI finds it convenient for you to be at any given moment. This is not the “rule of law”, Your Honor, it is the “rule of law enforcement”, and it is very dangerous.”