March 6, 2014. Dallas. The Dallas journalist who reported extensively on the mysterious hacker group Anonymous and faced 105 years in prison for it was given a major victory yesterday. In a surprise move, federal prosecutors moved to drop 11 of the 17 charges facing reporter Barrett Brown, including the most serious accusation stemming from his act of including a public internet link in a news article.
Journalist Barrett Brown shown here covering the Bradley Manning trial. Image courtesy of the NY Times.
Barrett Brown, the colorful 32-year-old journalist, still faces a number of other federal charges stemming from two of the three incidents federal authorities were prosecuting him for. The remaining six charges accuse Brown of obstruction of justice and threatening a federal agent. For his part, Barrett insists he broke no laws and only posted a YouTube video informing a specific FBI agent that he was going to do to him exactly what the agent did to Brown’s mother during the course of weeks of intimidating interrogation. ‘If it’s legal for him to do it,’ Barrett Brown told the world, ‘it’s legal for me to do it.’
Partial victory for Barrett Brown
Our friends at FreeBarrettBrown.org broke the news yesterday in an announcement detailing the stunning turn of events in the DoJ prosecution of the longtime journalist. “The charges against Barrett Brown for linking were flawed from the very beginning,” Kevin Gallagher, Director of FreeBarrettBrown.org said in the support group’s announcement, “In response to a rigorous legal challenge mounted by his defense, the government has finally recognized it and signaled that this is a battle they don’t want to fight.”
“Make no mistake, this is a massive victory for press freedom, for Barrett and everyone who’s supported him over the last year and a half,” Gallagher continue, “We’re grateful for the amazing legal work and research of Ahmed Ghappour, Charlie Swift, and Marlo Cadeddu, and I’d like to thank everyone who saw this case for what it is - totally bogus.”
Since Brown’s 2012 arrest, hundreds of American and international news outlets have come out in support of most of Brown’s defense, especially the charges stemming from simply including a publicly available web page link in a news article. In Barrett’s case, he published an article detailing the hacking of defense and spy contractor Stratfor by famed Anonymous hacker Jeremy Hammond. After Hammond dumped volumes of stolen data online, a number of outlets published links to it, including Brown.
After his arrest, a host of powerful news outlets eventually came forward insisting that they did the same thing Barrett Brown did and if he was going to be prosecuted, then they should be too. The publications included the NY Times, the Guardian and ProPublica. Brown has seen his support grow stemming from his past work for a number of well-known news sites including the Guardian, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, Businessweek, National Lampoon, the Onion, MSNBC, Fox News, and RT News - just to name a few. Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Journalist Barrett Brown spends 500th Day in Jail’ for further details.
The fight continues
While most of the charges against Barrett Brown were dropped, he still faces as many as 70 years in prison for obstruction and threatening an FBI agent. But if yesterday’s announcement by prosecutors is any indication, Brown’s attorneys have the momentum on their side as they prepare his defense. After the announcement, Barrett’s attorney Ahmed Ghappour told the Guardian, “I think the government did the right thing dropping the charges. We will continue to fight for Barrett every way we can.”
FreeBarrettBrown.org’s Kevin Gallagher went on to explain where Brown and his supporters go from here. “Count 2 in the second indictment remains, but we think that no jury in their right mind would convict Barrett for fraud,” he said, “It’s the only count for which the government has to prove malicious intent, which he didn’t have. Today, Barrett Brown is one big step closer to being free. His supporters made this possible, and we hope that people will continue to support him moving forward and through his trials.”
Federal prosecutors had an uphill fight from the beginning, so it’s no surprise they decided to drop most of the charges. Jeremy Hammond, the Anonymous hacker who actually broke into the Stratfor servers and published all the stolen files only received a 10 year sentence for the act. Journalist Barrett Brown had nothing to do with the crime, but was facing 105 years for simply reporting on it.
This isn’t the first example of over-zealous federal prosecutors. Last year, child genius and co-inventor of the RSS news feed at age 14 Aaron Swartz, took his own life while facing a similar life sentence for making online members-only University journals available for free to the poor.
For more information on Barrett Brown and his defense, visit FreeBarrettBrown.org.