Barrett Brown

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Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown 2007.jpg
Born Barrett Lancaster Brown
(1981-08-14) August 14, 1981 (age 33)
Dallas, Texas
Education Episcopal School of Dallas

Barrett Brown (born August 14, 1981) is an American journalist, essayist and satirist. He is often referred to as an unofficial spokesperson for the hacktivist collective Anonymous, a label he disputes.[1] He founded Project PM, a research collaboration and wiki, to facilitate analysis of the vast troves of hacked emails and other leaked information concerning the inner workings of the cyber-military-industrial complex.[2][citation needed]Project PM aims to operate a wiki in order to provide a centralized, actionable data set regarding the intelligence contracting industry, the public relations industry's interface with governments, the infosec cybersecurity industry, and other issues constituting what the project's members regard as threats to human rights, civic transparency, individual privacy, and the health of democratic institutions.

He has spent over a year in FCI Seagoville federal prison and at one time faced over a hundred more as he awaited trial on an assortment of seventeen charges filed in three indictments that include sharing an HTTP link to information publicly released during the 2012 Stratfor email leak, and several counts of conspiring to publicize restricted information about an FBI agent.[3][4][5][6] Between September 2013 and April 2014 he was held under an agreed gag order prohibiting him from discussing his case with the media.[3][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Brown was born in Dallas, Texas to Robert Brown and Karen Lancaster, who divorced when he was 7. He was brought up in the affluent neighborhood of Preston Hollow, living with his mother who saw something special in her only child and took a progressive approach to his rearing. He attended Preston Hollow Elementary School (along with the Bush twins). Afflicted with ADD, young Barrett was restless in the classroom but a precocious reader and writer on his own, producing a newspaper on his home computer while still in elementary school. Early nurturing a capacity for moral outrage and quick to question authority, he embraced the writings of Hunter S. Thompson and Ayn Rand by middle school, declaring himself an atheist and founding an Objectivist club in high school; placing second in a national Ayn Rand essay contest.[8][9]

He attended the private Episcopal School of Dallas for high school but dropped out after his sophomore year. That summer, in 1998, he interned at the Met, an alternative weekly, and spent his would-be junior year unschooling in Tanzania with his father, who was trying to start a hardwood-harvesting business. While there Brown completed high school online through Texas Tech, earning college credit. He returned to Texas in 2000 and spent two semesters taking writing classes at the University of Texas at Austin. He then pursued freelance writing.[8][9]


Project PM Logo

Brown co-wrote the book Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and the Easter Bunny, a comic critique of intelligent design and creationism.[10]

He has written for Vanity Fair,[11] True/Slant,[12] Huffington Post,[13] The Guardian,[14] and other publications.

Brown served as the Director of Communications for Enlighten the Vote, an atheist PAC that provides financial and strategic assistance to political candidates that advocate strict enforcement of the Establishment Clause.[15][16]

In 2010, Brown began work on his crowdsourced investigation wiki, Project PM. Brown has written that the main goals of Project PM are to increase the positive influence of what he calls "the more capable segments of the blogosphere", while reducing the negative influence of well-regarded mainstream pundits, who may have political agendas not compatible with public interest. It was his aim that the wiki Project PM be established by way of the deliberate generation of critical mass of work and following among dependable bloggers in such a manner as that segments of the traditional media will be prompted or even forced to address critical issues in their own methods and means of reportage. A further and experimental aim of Project PM is also to develop a communicational schematic which could provide bloggers, reporters and any other concerned Citizen journalist with the best possible feed of raw information by which to produce content.

On the aim of Project PM, Brown has stated:

"The institutions and structures that have developed over the past two decades of accelerating public internet use have had what we reasonably describe as a wholesome effect on information flow. But the information age is a work in progress, and thus there are potential improvements to be made. More importantly, there are improvements that can be made by an initially small number of influential participants working in coordination. The purpose of Project PM is to implement these solutions to the extent that participants are collectively able to do so, as well as to demonstrate the beneficial effects of these solutions to others that they might be spurred to recreate or even build upon them independently of our own efforts." [17]

In June 2011, he and Project PM released an exclusive report about a surveillance contract called 'Romas/COIN' which was discovered in e-mails hacked from HBGary by Anonymous. It consisted of sophisticated data-mining techniques leveraging mobile software and aimed at Arab countries.[18][19]

In November 2011, Brown said that 75 names of members of the Zetas drug cartel would be released if a member of the Anonymous group who had been kidnapped was not set free.[20] Brown claims the member was then released and that there was a truce between him and the drug cartel for the moment. Others have claimed the kidnapping was fake.[21]

On January 18, 2012, Brown interviewed with the cable news network RT about the cyber attacks by Anonymous and the temporary blackout of the US government websites WhiteHouse.Gov, and[22]

On 6 March 2012, he confirmed on Twitter that the FBI raided his residence after receiving information from Hector Xavier Monsegur (also known by the online pseudonym Sabu), the founder of LulzSec.[23]

In early January 2014, it was announced that his second book, started in 2006, will be published. According to his legal defense website:

The book was originally titled Hot, Fat, and Clouded: The Amazing and Amusing Failures of America’s Chattering Class and consisted of his attack on the ubiquitous newspaper columnists and media pundits whom he argues are undeservedly influential and able to form public opinion. … We are excited to announce that we have rescued the book from its fate and that it will soon see the light of day. Newly titled as Keep Rootin’ for Putin: Establishment Pundits and the Twilight of American Competence, the text become available as an eBook in the spring of 2014 for donors to his legal defense fund.[24]

During his incarceration, and beginning in September 2012, Brown is writing a series of columns for D Magazine titled "The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail"[25]

Association with Anonymous[edit]

Some media outlets present Brown as a spokesperson for Anonymous.[9] He has appeared in the documentaries We Are Legion and Terms and Conditions May Apply.[26] Brown claims he renounced his links with the group in 2011.[20][27] It was also reported in 2011 that Brown and Anon alum Gregg Housh had landed a six-figure deal with Amazon for a book tentatively titled Anonymous: Tales From Inside The Accidental Cyberwar.[28]

Arrest and trial[edit]

On March 6, 2012, the FBI executed search warrants at Brown's apartment and his mother's house seeking evidence of supposed crimes. The items to be seized included 'Records relating to HBGary, Infragard, Endgame Systems, Anonymous, LulzSec, IRC Chats, Twitter,, and' Agents took possession of his laptop computers. “I suspect that the FBI is working off of incorrect information,” Brown told a reporter.[29]

On September 12, 2012, Brown was arrested in Dallas County, Texas for allegedly threatening an FBI agent in a YouTube video. His arrest occurred as he left a computer linked to Tinychat in which the raid could be heard in the background.[30] Brown has been public about his history of using heroin[27] and he was going through withdrawal[4][31] on the day of his arrest.

A magistrate ruled that he would be denied bail, and therefore would be kept in pre-trial detention, because he was "a danger to the safety of the community and a risk of flight."[32]

On September 24, 2012, a Pastebin post appeared titled "Barrett Brown – Communiqué from Prison 9/20/12", in which Brown thanked supporters, described the insufficient medical treatment he received after having his ribs injured during his arrest, and acknowledged some past mistakes. The missive concludes, "I will personally thank everyone on the outside who has helped me and this movement particularly at this critical time, when I have regained the freedom that I did nothing to lose. For now, and until that time, it is war, on paper as always, but war."[33]

On October 3, 2012, a federal grand jury indictment was returned against Brown on charges of threats, conspiracy and retaliation against a federal law enforcement officer. Various tweets, YouTube uploads and comments made by Brown before his arrest were cited as support within the indictment.[34][35] He later entered a plea of not guilty to all three counts.[citation needed]

On December 4, 2012, Brown was indicted on an additional 12 federal charges related to the December 25, 2011 hack of Austin-based private intelligence company Stratfor carried out by Jeremy Hammond.[36][37] A trove of millions of Stratfor emails from the hack, including authentication information for thousands of credit card accounts, was shared by the hacker collective LulzSec with whistleblower site Wikileaks (main article: 2012 Stratfor email leak). While Hammond pleaded guilty and received the maximum sentence of ten years in federal prison for the hack itself,[38] Brown faced up to 45 years in federal prison for allegedly sharing a link to the data as part of Project PM, after a presumed FBI entrapment maneouver.[39] Attorney Jesselyn Radack has raised connections between Brown's case, and that of her client Peter Van Buren, who the State Department sought to prosecute over a link on his personal blog to a Wikileaks document. Two online commentators on internet security issues criticized the charges against Brown.[40][41] He has entered a plea of not guilty to all twelve counts.[citation needed]

On January 23, 2013, a third indictment was filed against Brown on two counts of obstruction for concealing evidence during the March 6, 2012 FBI raid of his and his mother's homes.[42] During a brief court hearing a week later, a judge found him mentally competent to stand trial, while Brown again pleaded not guilty to the latest charges.[43]

On May 1, 2013, it was announced that Brown had retained two attorneys, Charles Swift and Ahmed Ghappour, to represent him in his legal cases.[citation needed]

As of September 4, 2013, Brown was under a federal court-issued gag order; he and his lawyers were not allowed to discuss his case with the media, lest it taint a jury.[7][44] Assistant United States Attorney Candina S. Heath (the lead prosecutor) said that Brown has tried to manipulate the media from behind bars for his benefit, that Brown's attorney "coordinates and/or approves of his use of the media," and that most of the publicity about Brown has contained false information and "gross fabrications."[45] Defense counsel maintained the gag order was an unfounded and unwarranted breach of Brown's First Amendment rights. Though forbidden to write or speak out about his case, Brown continued to pen articles from his prison cell on unrelated topics.[46][47] The gag order was lifted on April 23, 2014, and key documents were unsealed.

Brown has been in custody since September 12, 2012.[48] His mother was sentenced on November 8, 2013 to six months of probation and a $1,000 fine for a misdemeanor charge of obstructing the execution of a search warrant. "My better judgment was clouded by my maternal instinct," she stated in court. The judge said to her, "I feel for you, as a parent. I know you did the best you could."[49][50]

In March 2014, most charges against Brown were dropped.[51] In April 2014, it was reported that Brown had agreed to a plea bargain. He is awaiting sentencing.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patrick McGuire (2013-03-01). "We Spoke To Barrett Brown From Prison". VICE. Retrieved 2013-11-11. 
  2. ^ Christian Stork (2013-02-21). "The Saga of Barrett Brown: Inside Anonymous and the War on Secrecy". WhoWhatWhy. Retrieved 2014-02-16. 
  3. ^ a b David Carr (2013-09-09). "A Journalist-Agitator Facing Prison Over a Link". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-19. 
  4. ^ a b Peter Ludlow (2013-06-18). "The Strange Case of Barrett Brown". The Nation. Retrieved 2013-12-19. 
  5. ^ Kristin Bergman (2013-08-06). "Adding up to 105: The Charges Against Barrett Brown". Digital Media Law Project. Retrieved 2013-12-13. 
  6. ^ "A Dispatch From Outside the Prison Holding Barrett Brown". Vice. March 8, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Fruzsina Eördögh. "The US Government Just Upheld Barrett Brown's Gag Order". Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  8. ^ a b Alexander Zaitchik (2013-09-05). "Barrett Brown: America's Least Likely Political Prisoner". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-10-10. 
  9. ^ a b c Tim Rogers (2011-03-23). "Barrett Brown is Anonymous". D Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  10. ^ Donald R. Prothero (2007-05-16). "National Lampoon Meets Creationism". Skeptic. Retrieved 2013-10-05. 
  11. ^ "Barrett Brown". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  12. ^ "Barrett Brown". True/Slant. Retrieved 2013-10-10. 
  13. ^ "Barrett Brown". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  14. ^ "Barrett Brown". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  15. ^ Ryan Gallagher. "How Barrett Brown went from Anonymous's PR to federal target". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  16. ^ "Barrett Brown". Businessweek. 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  17. ^ Barrett Brown (2010-03-24). "The Great Pundit Hunt - Barrett Brown at True/Slant". True/Slant. Retrieved 2014-07-24. 
  18. ^ Barrett Brown (2011-06-22). "Romas/COIN". Project PM. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  19. ^ Barrett Brown (2011-06-22). "A sinister cyber-surveillance scheme exposed". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-01-31. 
  20. ^ a b Tim Rogers (2011-11-04). "Barrett Brown vs. The Zetas". D Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  21. ^ Adam Clark Estes (2011-11-04). "Anonymous and the Zetas Cartel Declare a Truce". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  22. ^ "Internet strikes back: Anonymous' Operation Megaupload explained". RT. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  23. ^ Adrian Covert (2012-03-06). "Anonymous Reacts to Sabu's Betrayal of LulzSec". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  24. ^ Rogers, Tim (2014-01-06). "Barrett Brown Book Will Be Released After All". D Magazine. Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Barrett Brown (II)". IMDB. 2014-09-29. Retrieved 2014-09-29. 
  27. ^ a b Nate Anderson (2011-05-06). "Prolific "spokesman" for Anonymous leaves the hacker group". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  28. ^ Hannah Roberts (2011-11-05). "Cashing in as the face of Anonymous: Hacking group spokesman lands a six figure book deal". Mail Online. Retrieved 2013-10-10. 
  29. ^ Michael Hastings (2012-04-24). "Exclusive: FBI Escalates War On Anonymous". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2013-12-28. 
  30. ^ "Barrett Brown Busted". YouTube. 2012-09-12. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  31. ^ Kevin Drum (2013-09-09). "105 Years in Jail for Posting a Link?". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  32. ^ Robert Wilonsky (2013-04-03). "U.S. Attorney’s Office asks judge to toss motion to intervene in the case of detained hacktivist Barrett Brown". Dallas News. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  33. ^ "Barrett Brown – Communiqué from Prison 9/20/12". Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  34. ^ Avi Selk (2012-10-04). "Feds indict self-proclaimed Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown on retaliation, conspiracy charges". Dallas News. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  35. ^ "Federal Grand Jury Charges Dallas Resident With Making An Internet Threat And Other Felony Offenses". 2012-10-04. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  36. ^ Robert Wilonsky (2012-10-07). "New federal indictment lists 12 more charges against Barrett Brown". Dallas News. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  37. ^ "Dallas Man Associated With Anonymous Hacking Group Faces Additional Federal Charges". Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  38. ^ "Jeremy Hammond, hacker for Anonymous, sentenced to 10 years". Washington Post. 2013-11-15. Retrieved 2013-12-01. 
  39. ^ Robert McMillan (2012-12-07). "Feds Charge Anonymous Spokesperson for Sharing Hacked Stratfor Credit Cards". Wired. Retrieved 2013-12-16. (Includes facsimiles of indictments.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help))
  40. ^ Adrian Chen (2012-12-07). "Former Anonymous Spokesman Barrett Brown Indicted For Sharing a Link to Stolen Credit Card Data". Gawker. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  41. ^ Paul Wagenseil (2012-12-12). "Editorial: If Barrett Brown's Guilty, Then So Am I". LiveScience. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  42. ^ Anna Merlan (2013-01-24). "Barrett Brown Was Hit With a Third Indictment Yesterday, This Time For Concealing Evidence". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  43. ^ Anna Merlan (2013-01-30). "Barrett Brown Found Competent To Stand Trial; Pleads Not Guilty On Newest Charges of Concealing Evidence". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  44. ^ Robert Wilonsky (2013-05-01). "Hours before judge hears government's case to slap gag on jailed hacktivist Barrett Brown, his attorneys strongly object". Dallas News. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  45. ^ Krause, Kevin (4 September 2013). "Gag order issued in federal cases against Dallas man tied to hacking group Anonymous". The Dallas Morning News. 
  46. ^ Ed Pilkington (2013-09-04). "US stops jailed activist Barrett Brown from discussing leaks prosecution". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  47. ^ Tim Rogers (2013-12-18). "Barrett Brown Writes From Jail About Profanity on the Airwaves". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  48. ^ Zetter, Kim (2013-01-25). "Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown faces new charges". Wired UK. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  49. ^ "Mother of Anonymous-linked Dallas writer gets probation for hiding laptops from feds". Dallas News. 2013-11-08. Retrieved 2013-11-08. 
  50. ^ Dart, Tom (2013-11-09). "Jailed activist Barrett Brown's mother given probation for helping son". Guardian. Retrieved 2013-12-27. 
  51. ^
  52. ^ Krause, Kevin (December 17, 2014). "Update: Dallas hacktivist Barrett Brown thought he would be sentenced today. He was wrong". The Dallas Morning News. 

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