Barrett Brown

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Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown 2017.jpg
Barrett Brown in Denton, Texas, 2017
Barrett Lancaster Brown

(1981-08-14) August 14, 1981 (age 38)
OccupationJournalist, Activist
Known forProject PM

Barrett Lancaster Brown (born August 14, 1981) is an American journalist, essayist and satirist. He founded Project PM, a research collaboration and wiki, to facilitate analysis of the troves of hacked emails and other leaked information concerning the inner workings of the cyber-military-industrial complex.[1]

In January 2015, Brown was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison for the crimes of accessory after the fact, obstruction of justice, and threatening a federal officer stemming from the FBI's investigation into the 2012 Stratfor email leak. Prosecutors had previously brought other charges associated with his sharing of an HTTP link to the leaked Stratfor data, but those charges were dropped in 2014.[2][3][4][5] As part of his sentence, Brown was also required to pay almost $900,000 to Stratfor.[6]

Prior to 2011, Brown had ties with the hacktivist collective Anonymous.

Early life and education[edit]

Brown was born in Dallas, Texas, to Robert Brown and Karen Lancaster, who later divorced.[7] He grew up in Dallas and exhibited an early interest in writing and journalism, creating his own newspapers on his family's computer while attending Preston Hollow Elementary School.[7][8] He went on to contribute to his school newspapers, and interned at several weekly newspapers during his teenage years.[7][9] He attended the Episcopal School of Dallas through his sophomore year of high school, then spent his would-be junior year in Tanzania with his father who was residing there on business. While in Africa, Brown completed high school online through a Texas Tech University program, earning college credits as well as his high school diploma.[9] In 2000 he enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin and spent two semesters taking writing courses before leaving school to pursue a full-time career as a freelance writer.[7][9][10]


Brown served as the director of communications for Enlighten the Vote, a secularist PAC that provides financial and strategic assistance to political candidates that advocate strict enforcement of the Establishment Clause.[11][12]

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.[13]

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.[14][15]

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.[16] Brown says the member was then released and that there was a truce between him and the drug cartel for the moment. Others have said the kidnapping was fake.[17]

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

On March 6, 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.[19]

In early January 2014, it was announced that his second book, begun 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.[20]

From September 2012, during his incarceration, Brown wrote a series of columns for D Magazine titled "The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail".[21] In 2015 he transitioned from D to The Intercept.[22][23][24] In 2016 The Intercept won a National Magazine Award for three of Barrett's columns.[25]

He has written for The Daily Beast,[26]Vanity Fair,[27] True/Slant,[28] The Huffington Post,[29] The Guardian,[30] and other publications.

Association with Anonymous[edit]

Some media outlets have presented Brown as a spokesperson for Anonymous,[9] which he disputes as libel.[31] He has appeared in the documentaries We Are Legion, Terms and Conditions May Apply, and The Hacker Wars.[32][33] Brown has said he renounced his links with the group in 2011.[16][34] It was also reported in 2011 that Brown and Anon alumnus Gregg Housh had landed a six-figure deal with Amazon for a book tentatively titled Anonymous: Tales From Inside The Accidental Cyberwar.[35]

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 alleged 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.[36]

On September 12, 2012, Brown was arrested in Dallas County, Texas for 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.[37] Brown has talked publicly about his history of using heroin[34] and he was going through withdrawal[38][39] on the day of his arrest.

A magistrate denied bail, and therefore he was kept in pre-trial detention, because he was "a danger to the safety of the community and a risk of flight."[40]

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."[41]

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.[42][43] 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.[44][45] 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,[46] 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 maneuver.[47] Attorney Jesselyn Radack has raised connections between Brown's case, and that of her client Peter Van Buren, whom 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.[48][49] He 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.[50] 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 additional charges.[51]

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.[52][53] Assistant United States Attorney Candina S. Heath (the lead prosecutor) said that Brown 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".[54] 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.[55][56] The gag order was lifted on April 23, 2014, and key documents were unsealed.[citation needed]

Brown had been in custody since September 12, 2012.[57] 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."[58][59]

In March 2014, most charges against Brown were dropped.[60] In April 2014, it was reported that Brown had agreed to a plea bargain.[61]

In January 2015, Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay $890,250 in fines and restitution.[62] Journalist Janus Kopfstein said she believed the government considered Brown to be a threat and suggested that prosecutors made false allegations that were used to increase the length of his sentence.[63] Supporting this theory, much of Brown's December sentencing hearing was spent in drawn-out arguments over the definitions of Project PM and Brown himself.[64][65]

Brown was released from prison on November 29, 2016, and moved into a halfway house with five drug dealers close to downtown Dallas, Texas.[66][67][68]

On April 27, 2017, Brown was arrested and held on unknown charges for four days.[69] After he was released, he gave an interview to Democracy Now! while under house arrest, despite pressure from the government not to speak to the media.[70]

Brown has expressed a desire to move to Iceland or Germany when possible, telling Truthout in an interview, " I can't stay in the US because I can't get work done if I'm always subject to these little gusts of bureaucracy, which I am. It won't be for another year or so. I'm on probation for another two years. That generally goes down to one year if you don't act up. So in a year from now I'll be in a position to leave."[71]

Surveillance of contacts and sympathizers[edit]

In 2017, lawyers for donors to Brown's legal fund filed suit[72] against Assistant United States Attorney Candina Heath for filing a subpoena against WePay that resulted in divulgence of their identities. The lawyers argued that the irrelevance of donor information to the case against Brown and the provision of the information directly to Special Agent Robert Smith of the Federal Bureau of Investigation rather than to the prosecutor or judge in the trial led to donors' belief that the information was intended to surveil and harass the donors for activity protected by the U.S. constitution, and filed for destruction of the data and monetary damages.[73][71] On October 2, 2017, Judge Maria Elena James denied a motion to dismiss the case introduced by the Department of Justice.[74]

In his sentencing statement, Brown alleged that, despite the denial of a subpoena by the judge to which he was making the statement, the identities of all contributors to the public Wiki had been obtained "by other means", and that "now the dozens of people who have given their time and expertise to what has been hailed by journalists and advocacy groups as a crucial journalistic enterprise are now at risk of being indicted under the same sort of spurious charges that I was facing not long ago, when the government exposed me to decades of prison time for copying and pasting a link to a publicly available file that other journalists were also linking to without being prosecuted."[75][71]

In the press and the arts[edit]

Relatively Free is a documentary film released in 2016 by Field of Vision about Brown's drive across Texas to a halfway house after he was released from prison.[76]

Barrett Brown's case was included as a plot point in Season 2 of the U.S. TV series House of Cards.[77]

Brown serves on the advisory board of the International Modern Media Institute.[78]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zaitchik, Alexander (September 5, 2013). "Barrett Brown Faces 105 Years in Jail". Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  2. ^ David Carr (September 9, 2013). "A Journalist-Agitator Facing Prison Over a Link". The New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  3. ^ Peter Ludlow (June 18, 2013). "The Strange Case of Barrett Brown". The Nation. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  4. ^ Kristin Bergman (August 6, 2013). "Adding up to 105: The Charges Against Barrett Brown". Digital Media Law Project. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  5. ^ "A Dispatch From Outside the Prison Holding Barrett Brown". Vice. March 8, 2014.
  6. ^ Barrett Brown (January 31, 2015). "My Post Cyberpunk Indentured Servitude". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d Alexander Zaitchik (September 5, 2013). "Barrett Brown: America's Least Likely Political Prisoner". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  8. ^ Rogers, Tim. "Barrett Brown is Anonymous." D Magazine. April 2011. Retrieved on May 30, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d Tim Rogers (March 23, 2011). "Barrett Brown is Anonymous". D Magazine. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  10. ^ Hellender (May 19, 2015). "The Authoritarian Government's Maligning of Journalist, Polemicist Barrett Brown". Discomfit Magazine. Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  11. ^ Ryan Gallagher. "How Barrett Brown went from Anonymous's PR to federal target". The Guardian. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  12. ^ "Barrett Brown". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. August 1, 2012. Archived from the original on August 18, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  13. ^ Barrett Brown (March 24, 2010). "The Great Pundit Hunt – Barrett Brown at True/Slant". True/Slant. Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  14. ^ Barrett Brown (June 22, 2011). "Romas/COIN". Project PM. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  15. ^ Barrett Brown (June 22, 2011). "A sinister cyber-surveillance scheme exposed". The Guardian. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Tim Rogers (November 4, 2011). "Barrett Brown vs. The Zetas". D Magazine. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  17. ^ Adam Clark Estes (November 4, 2011). "Anonymous and the Zetas Cartel Declare a Truce". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  18. ^ "Internet strikes back: Anonymous' Operation Megaupload explained". RT. January 20, 2012. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  19. ^ Adrian Covert (March 6, 2012). "Anonymous Reacts to Sabu's Betrayal of LulzSec". Gizmodo. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  20. ^ Rogers, Tim (January 6, 2014). "Barrett Brown Book Will Be Released After All". D Magazine. Retrieved January 8, 2014.
  21. ^ "The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail". D Magazine.
  22. ^ "Announcement: Barrett Brown is Courage's fifth beneficiary".
  23. ^ Tim Rogers (July 10, 2015). "Barrett Brown Gives D Magazine the Middle Finger, Leaves FrontBurner for More Fertile Greenwald Grounds". D Magazine.
  24. ^ Barrett Brown (July 16, 2015). "A Visit to the Sweat Lodge". The Intercept.
  25. ^ "Ellie Awards 2016 Winners Announced". American Society of Magazine Editors. February 3, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Barrett Brown". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  28. ^ "Barrett Brown". True/Slant. Archived from the original on August 17, 2013. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  29. ^ "Barrett Brown". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  30. ^ "Barrett Brown". The Guardian. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  31. ^ Patrick McGuire (March 1, 2013). "We Spoke To Barrett Brown From Prison". VICE. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  32. ^ "Barrett Brown (II)". Internet Movie Database. September 29, 2014. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b Nate Anderson (May 6, 2011). "Prolific "spokesman" for Anonymous leaves the hacker group". Ars Technica. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  35. ^ Hannah Roberts (November 5, 2011). "Cashing in as the face of Anonymous: Hacking group spokesman lands a six figure book deal". Daily Mail. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  36. ^ Michael Hastings (April 24, 2012). "Exclusive: FBI Escalates War On Anonymous". BuzzFeed. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
  37. ^ "Barrett Brown Busted". YouTube. September 12, 2012. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  38. ^ Gerry Smith (September 13, 2012). "Barrett Brown Arrested: Former Anonymous Spokesman Taken Into Custody After Threatening FBI Agent". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  39. ^ Kevin Drum (September 9, 2013). "105 Years in Jail for Posting a Link?". Mother Jones. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  40. ^ Robert Wilonsky (April 3, 2013). "U.S. Attorney's Office asks judge to toss motion to intervene in the case of detained hacktivist Barrett Brown". Dallas News. Archived from the original on June 5, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  41. ^ "Barrett Brown – Communiqué from Prison 9/20/12". Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  42. ^ Avi Selk (October 4, 2012). "Feds indict self-proclaimed Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown on retaliation, conspiracy charges". Dallas News. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  43. ^ "Federal Grand Jury Charges Dallas Resident With Making An Internet Threat And Other Felony Offenses". October 4, 2012. Archived from the original on September 1, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  44. ^ Robert Wilonsky (October 7, 2012). "New federal indictment lists 12 more charges against Barrett Brown". Dallas News. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  45. ^ "Dallas Man Associated With Anonymous Hacking Group Faces Additional Federal Charges". Archived from the original on August 25, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  46. ^ "Jeremy Hammond, hacker for Anonymous, sentenced to 10 years". The Washington Post. November 15, 2013. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
  47. ^ Robert McMillan (December 7, 2012). "Feds Charge Anonymous Spokesperson for Sharing Hacked Stratfor Credit Cards". Wired. Retrieved December 16, 2013.)
  48. ^ Adrian Chen (December 7, 2012). "Former Anonymous Spokesman Barrett Brown Indicted For Sharing a Link to Stolen Credit Card Data". Gawker. Archived from the original on September 20, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  49. ^ Paul Wagenseil (December 12, 2012). "Editorial: If Barrett Brown's Guilty, Then So Am I". LiveScience. Archived from the original on October 3, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
  50. ^ Anna Merlan (January 24, 2013). "Barrett Brown Was Hit With a Third Indictment Yesterday, This Time For Concealing Evidence". Dallas Observer. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  51. ^ Anna Merlan (January 30, 2013). "Barrett Brown Found Competent To Stand Trial; Pleads Not Guilty On Newest Charges of Concealing Evidence". Dallas Observer. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  52. ^ Fruzsina Eördögh. "The US Government Just Upheld Barrett Brown's Gag Order". Archived from the original on September 5, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  53. ^ Robert Wilonsky (May 1, 2013). "Hours before judge hears government's case to slap gag on jailed hacktivist Barrett Brown, his attorneys strongly object". Dallas News. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  54. ^ Krause, Kevin (September 4, 2013). "Gag order issued in federal cases against Dallas man tied to hacking group Anonymous". The Dallas Morning News.
  55. ^ Ed Pilkington (September 4, 2013). "US stops jailed activist Barrett Brown from discussing leaks prosecution". The Guardian. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  56. ^ Tim Rogers (December 18, 2013). "Barrett Brown Writes From Jail About Profanity on the Airwaves". The Guardian. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  57. ^ Zetter, Kim (January 25, 2013). "Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown faces new charges". Wired UK. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  58. ^ "Mother of Anonymous-linked Dallas writer gets probation for hiding laptops from feds". Dallas News. November 8, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  59. ^ Dart, Tom (November 9, 2013). "Jailed activist Barrett Brown's mother given probation for helping son". The Guardian. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  60. ^ Mullin, Joe (March 5, 2014). "Feds drop most charges against former Anon spokesman". Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  61. ^ Krause, Kevin (December 17, 2014). "Update: Dallas hacktivist Barrett Brown thought he would be sentenced today. He was wrong". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on December 16, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014.
  62. ^ Woolf, Nicky (January 22, 2015). "Barrett Brown sentenced to 63 months for 'merely linking to hacked material'". The Guardian.
  63. ^ Kopfstein, Janus (February 25, 2015). "Will Matt DeHart be the next victim of the war on leaks?". Al Jazeera America, Al Jazeera.
  64. ^ Garcia, Michelle (January 22, 2015). "Barrett Brown Sentenced to Five Years, Vows to Keep Investigating Government Wrongdoing". The Intercept. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  65. ^ Crain, Zac (January 22, 2015). "Barrett Brown Sentenced to 63 Months In Prison". D Magazine. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  66. ^ @FreeBarrett_. "Free Barrett Brown on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  67. ^ Brown, Barrett (December 1, 2016). "I, Barrett Brown, Have Returned". D Magazine. D Magazine. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  68. ^ Greenberg, Andy. "Anonymous' Barrett Brown Is Free—and Ready to Pick New Fights". Retrieved December 24, 2016.
  69. ^ Emmons2017-04-27T17:59:41+00:00, Alex EmmonsAlex. "Formerly Imprisoned Journalist Barrett Brown Taken Back Into Custody Before PBS Interview". The Intercept. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  70. ^ Goodman, Amy (May 12, 2017). "Jailed Reporter Barrett Brown on Press Freedom, FBI Crimes & Why He Wouldn't Do Anything Differently". Democracy Now!. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  71. ^ a b c Candice Bernd (June 3, 2017). ""We Don't Have the Rule of Law": Barrett Brown on Incarceration, Journalism and His Next Steps".
  72. ^ Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP (February 6, 2017). "Class-action complaint for violation of right to speak and associate anonymously under the first amendment of the United States Constitution; the Stored Communications Act; and the California constitutional right to privacy: demand for jury trial" (PDF).CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  73. ^ "US government moves to dismiss our lawsuit on behalf of donors". The Courage Foundation.
  74. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (October 4, 2017). "Judge: Barrett Brown donors can sue government over subpoenaed records". Ars Technica. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  75. ^ Xeni Jardin (January 22, 2015). "Read the statement Barrett Brown read to the court in his sentencing hearing".
  76. ^ Field of Vision - Relatively Free. 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  77. ^ Pearlman, Alex (February 18, 2014). "Why is Barrett Brown being mentioned on 'House of Cards'?". BDCWire. Retrieved December 23, 2016.
  78. ^ "Advisory Board". International Modern Media Institute. Retrieved December 23, 2016.

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