January 24, 2014. Seagoville, TX. Tomorrow marks the 500th consecutive day that grassroots, independent journalist Barrett Brown has spent behind bars. His crime was including a link in his article to a website that was already published online by other sources. For that, and a laundry list of lesser charges, Brown awaits trial and faces over 100 years in prison.
Tomorrow marks the 500th day journalist Barrett Brown has been jailed awaiting trial for publishing a link to a website in his article.
*1/25/14 article updated to include clarifications compliments of FreeBarrettBrown.org. Thanks!
If you think facing 105 years in prison for publishing a link to files on the internet that are already in the public domain is bad, that’s nothing. Illustrating just how bizarre authorities have been behaving in their quest to take down indy journalist Barrett Brown, they even arrested, charged and convicted his mom for doing nothing more than not knowing where her son’s laptop computer was.
“This is war”
After Brown’s arrest on September 12, 2012, he released a statement from prison detailing the harsh and cruel treatment he’d been receiving at the hands of government authorities. As just one example, with badly bruised ribs from a violent arrest and interrogation, he was repeatedly denied medical treatment. But government violence hasn’t turned Barrett Brown into a violent person. He’s still the same peace-loving person he’s always been.
"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,” Barrett Brown’s 2012 jailhouse statement reads, ‘For now, and until that time, it is war, on paper as always, but war.’ As the past year has demonstrated, Brown’s war on paper has spread. Since his arrest, hundreds of news outlets have come to his defense.
The support website FreeBarrettBrown.org begins by detailing how Barrett wasn’t just some troublesome activist with a blog. Instead, he had been reporting on the secretive and mysterious Anonymous hacker movement, writing for some of the most well known and respected news publications in the world. Brown became an expert on the group, and just like this publication, a cheerleader of their peaceful efforts to reign in government and corporate intrusions, spying and abuse.
The Free Barrett Brown website lists some of the news organizations Brown has written for or appeared on – the Guardian, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, Businessweek, National Lampoon, the Onion, MSNBC, Fox News, and RT News – just to name a few. But that small assortment pales in comparison to the endless list of news outlets supporting Brown today. As one example, editors at the New York Times have publicly explained that if Barrett Brown is guilty, then so are they. As it happens, just like Brown published a news article linking to the latest leaked dossier of hacked information, the NY Times, the Guardian and ProPublica did the exact same thing.
Barrett Brown’s crime of passion
If Brown is guilty of an actual crime, it would most likely be from when he fought back against the FBI terror tactics used against his mother over the course of a handful of months in 2012. She was repeatedly interrogated and threatened with a lengthy prison sentence if she didn’t cooperate against her son. Barrett’s mom’s only crime was that when authorities searched her home looking for her son, they found his laptop computer on the premises. Like all moms with an innocent son, she initially refused to cooperate against him and was instead sentenced to probation by a sympathetic judge for her alleged crime.
Incensed by his mom’s treatment at the hands of the FBI, Barrett Brown took his fight public. He released a YouTube video titled, ‘Why I'm Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith.’ Holding Agent Smith responsible for terrorizing his mom, Brown says in the video, “I know what’s legal. I know what’s been done to me... And if it’s legal when it’s done to me, it’s going to be legal when it’s done to FBI Agent Robert Smith, who is a criminal."
Brown never threatens the FBI agent and actually goes out of his way to stress that his fight is always a legal, non-violent fight, no matter what the cause is. But that didn’t matter to authorities who took the opportunity to pile on the charges after his 2012 arrests. Being charged for his vague threats wouldn’t have elicited such a global outcry. Instead, the bulk of Barrett Brown’s possible 105-year prison sentence is from publishing a link to leaked files stored on a publicly available file-sharing website – something millions of people do all the time.
Barrett Brown – Political Prisoner
Shortly after the charges against Barrett Brown were made public, news outlets around the world began coming to his defense. One slow and reluctant supporter was the NY Times when they wrote in an editorial about Brown, ‘Just last week, The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica collaborated on a significant article about the National Security Agency’s effort to defeat encryption technologies. The article was based on, and linked to, documents that were stolen by Edward J. Snowden.’
Northwestern University professor Peter Ludlow, via an editorial in the Huffington Post, also sided with Brown. They even went so far as to accuse the US federal government of targeting Barrett Brown for political reasons, making him no less than an American political prisoner. Ludlow and Huff Post explained, “Project PM under Brown’s leadership began to slowly untangle the web of connections between the US government, corporations, lobbyists and a shadowy group of private military and infosecurity consultants.”
Other publications have repeatedly protested that the charge and prison sentence Brown currently faces is ridiculous. They explain in the simplest terms that Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years for stealing and leaking the secret Stratfor materials. The file-sharing website is facing no criminal charges for publishing it online for the whole world to access. But Barrett Brown is facing 45 years for the single charge of publishing an article with a link to that same publicly-available file – the same thing the NY Times, the Guardian and ProPublica did. ‘How,’ they ask, ‘does that make any sense?’
Freedom of the Press hangs by a thread named Barrett Brown
Vice.com and the Freedom of the Press Foundation also teamed up to release a scathing complaint against authorities. Their statement said, “It's ironic and disturbing that in a case where press freedom is at stake, the defendant and his lawyers have been barred from talking to the press. The prosecution asked for a gag order in part because they said articles about Brown's case contained inaccuracies, but pointed to no articles to prove their point. Seemingly, the problem was the articles were too accurate, and therefore making the prosecution's case look bad. The fact remains, Brown is being prosecuted for conduct that is central to journalism, and the charges related to linking should be thrown out immediately.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation also came forward and announced, “The big reason this matters is that he transferred a link, something all of us do every single day, and ended up being charged for it. I think that this administration is trying to prosecute the release of information in any way it can.” Rolling Stone Magazine was next to step up to the plate and tee off against the Obama administration.
Rolling Stone wrote, ‘Barrett Brown faces 105 Years in Jail – but no one can figure out what Law he broke.’ In it, Brown’s attorney Ahmed Ghappour explains, “What is most concerning about Barrett's case is the disconnect between his conduct and the charged crime. He copy-pasted a publicly available link containing publicly available data that he was researching in his capacity as a journalist. The charges require twisting the relevant statutes beyond recognition and have serious implications for journalists as well as academics.’
The news shouldn't be left wing or right wing, conservative or liberal. It should be the news. It should be independent - Whiteout Press
Government vendetta against Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown currently faces 17 criminal counts comprising 3 government cases against him. They all revolve around his publishing of news articles and YouTube videos. In fact, for writing articles, Brown was denied bail. By contrast, Justin Bieber was just released on $2,500 bail for speeding 60mph on a 30mph residential street, admittedly drunk, high on marijuana and having just taken prescription drugs. On top of that, he was also charged with resisting arrest. Bieber is free after 24 hours on $2,500 bail while Barrett Brown is denied bail and celebrates his 500th day in federal prison…for writing an article.
On top of everything else, Brown and his attorneys have been saddled with a court-imposed gag order barring them from speaking to anyone about the case. That act, coupled with the blatantly political charges, officially puts Barrett Brown’s name on the list of America’s political prisoners that has grown to include widely admired activists from Jeremy Hammond and Bradley ‘Chelsea’ Manning to Leonard Peltier and Oscar Lopez Rivera.
Tomorrow marks the 500th day Barrett Brown has sat in prison and his trial hasn’t even started yet. And with the government’s vendetta against him, his lengthy potential prison sentence, the absurd charges against him, and now the government-imposed gag order, many fear something sinister is afoot in the case against Brown. For that reason, media outlets and supporters of free speech have been demanding that the journalism-related charges against him be dropped immediately.
Since Barrett Brown is pleading not guilty on all counts, his supporters are raising money to pay for his legal defense. As charted on their website, the goal is $200,000. So far, they're about 40% of the way to that goal. For more information or to make a small donation, visit FreeBarrettBrown.org.
Support Indy-Media - Support Whiteout Press