A federal grand jury has indicted Barrett Brown, an activist from Texas with links to the Anonymous hacktivist movement, on a dozen federal charges for sharing a hyperlink inside of an Internet chat room.
Brown, 31, had been in federal custody for nearly three months awaiting trial for unrelated crimes when the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, unsealed a new grand jury indictment against him on Friday, December 6.
Brown was arrested in September and charged with making online threats against a federal officer after posting a series of YouTube videos and tweets sharply criticizing an FBI agent. Now he has been charged with 12 unrelated counts stemming from his alleged involvement in the high-profile hack of Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, late last year.
On top of his previous charges, Brown now faces decades of additional prison time if convicted on the newest crimes, including one count of traffic in stolen authentication features, one count of access device fraud and 10 counts of identity theft.
According to the indictment, Brown is at fault not for hacking into Stratfor during a massive security breach in 2011, but for posting a link to the hacked files while in an online chat. Prosecutors say that during last Christmas, Brown affected interstate commerce by knowingly trafficking without authorization the credit card information of 12 subscribers to the Stratfor global intelligence company’s newsletter, information authorities say he knew “were stolen and produced without lawful authority.”
Although Brown is not being pegged with personally hacking Stratfor or obtaining, collecting and categorizing the credit card data in question, the Justice Department is attacking the hacktivist for copying a link to a downloadable archive of the compromised data from one Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel and pasting it into another.
“Brown transferred the hyperlink ‘http://wikisend.com/download/597646/Stratfor_full_b.txt.gz’ from the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel called ‘#AnonOps’ to an IRC channel under Brown’s control called ‘#ProjectPM,” the authorities charge, which in turn provided access to stolen Stratfor data including “in excess of 5,000 credit card account numbers, the card holders’ identification information and the authentication featres for the credit cards known as the Card Cerficivation Values (CVV).”
“[B]y transferring and posting the hyperlink, Brown caused the data to be made available to other persons online without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor Global Intelligence and the card holders,” the indictment continues.
Although Brown is only being charged with transferring the credit card data obtained in the Anonymous-led assault on Stratfor, his alleged role is but a very miniscule one in the grand scheme of the hack. While Brown is being charged for sharing a dozen credit card numbers, the information obtained by Anonymous included in all thousands of sensitive information as well as a trove of millions of emails from within Stratfor. That collection of correspondence was handed over to the website WikiLeaks after the hack and has been steadily published by the whistleblower site in the months since as part of the “Global Intelligence Files.”
As RT reported last month, 27-year-old activist Jeremy Hammond of Chicago has been charged with a direct role in illegally accessing Stratfor’s servers and has been told by the court that prosecutors could seek a life sentence if he’s convicted. That future of that case has been put in the air, however, after details emerged recently that the presiding judge is married to one of the thousands of Stratfor customers whose credit cards information was compromised.
When RT reported on developments in the Hammond case last month, we indirectly linked to an archived copy of the very files that Brown is alleged to have shared in an IRC channel. Further research reveals that the archive of Stratfor data has been shared countless of times since publicized last September, and is easily available across the Web without any warning that extracting the data contains information obtained without authorization and therefore in violation of federal law. Absent from the indictment, even, is a tweet from Brown sent on December 29, 2011 linking to a copy of the files hosted on Megaupload.com. As of this writing, that message has been re-tweeted dozens of times and word of his latest indictment has spawned a “RightToLink” campaign on Twitter.”
“Link Barrett accused of sharing was also posted on Cryptome + several blogs. Will these websites be indicted for ‘transferring link’ too?” UK journalist Ryan Gallagher asked on Twitter over the weekend.
When Anonymous went public with the Stratfor hack last year, Brown published a statement regarding the compromise while on his part never citing any role he may have had.
“In the wake of the recent operation by which Stratfor’s servers were compromised, much of the media has focused on the fact that some participants in the attack chose to use obtained customer credit card numbers to make donations to charitable causes. Although this aspect of the operation is indeed newsworthy, and, like all things, should be scrutinized and criticized as necessary, the original purpose and ultimate consequence of the operation has been largely ignored,” Brown wrote.
“Stratfor was not breached in order to obtain customer credit card numbers, which the hackers in question could not have expected to be as easily obtainable as they were. Rather, the operation was pursued in order to obtain the 2.7 million e-mails that exist on the firm’s servers. This wealth of data includes correspondence with untold thousands of contacts who have spoken to Stratfor’s employees off the record over more than a decade.”
“Although Stratfor is not necessarily among the parties at fault in the larger movement against transparency and individual liberty, it has long been a ‘subject of interest’ in our necessary investigation,” he wrote. “The e-mails obtained before Christmas Day will vastly improve our ability to continue that investigation and thereby bring to light other instances of corruption, crime and deception on the part of certain powerful actors based in the US and elsewhere.”
The earlier federal indictment against Brown, unsealed in early October, charges him with Internet threats, conspiracy to make publicly available restricted personal information of a federal employee and retaliation against a federal law enforcement officer.
In that case, he is alleged to have made threats against FBI Agent Robert Smith, one of the officers involved in a March 2012 raid on Brown’s residence that coincided with an international crack-down on alleged Anons with roles in the Stratfor hack from only a few months prior. Although Brown was not charged with any crimes related to the hack at the time, his computers was taken into custody and in the days before his September arrest he demanded they be returned to him.
During that March 2012 raid, the FBI executed a search warrant for all evidence relating to Anonymous, the LulzSec offshoot and IRC and Twitter logs stored on his computers.
Barrett Brown – Communiqué from Prison 9/20/12:
It is hard for me to express how much I appreciate your letter, which is the first I have received here, along with the support I’ve reportedly gotten from others so far. Before I forget, let me request that you also send a tweet of support to Jenna, @ElviraXMontana on Twitter; as my girlfriend, she had to watch as the FBI crushed my ribs (which I believe will be healed in time even if I’ve had trouble acquiring medical attention due to me under Geneva; put in formal request for X-ray last night here at Mansfield, whereas last week at Lew Sterrett I was sent to medic by an officer Tamer before being instead re-directed to what is intended as a temporary holding cell for those about to be released on bond, this change of plan being instigated by an officer Roeun (sic?) whom I have since reported to the proper authorities. Despite my having explained her mistake politely twice over the course of the next seven hours, and despite my condition having been serious enough to have prompted other inmates to suggest I check for internal bleeding, I was screamed at and then later simply ordered to lay down, all of which was witnessed by two other inmates, one of whom promised to inform Tim Rogers of D Magazine that I was potentially dying and needed intervention ASAP as soon as he himself was released a few minutes hence (again, this was the temporary outgoing holding cell, not meant for housing inmates for anything longer than an hour or so as their bond is processed; as such, I was not fed, either, much less given my medication, suboxone. Note that none of the treatment I received at Lou Sterrit had anything to do with who I am or what I am accused of, – it is simply the natural result of the inhumane and degenerate mentality found within the Texas “corrections” system, something I first described in a 2005 article for Towards Freedom. It is something we will have to address more firmly over the coming years, just as we have addressed North Africa and the intelligence contracting industry since late 2010. And I note all of this not merely to complain—although to complain is among the few vices I have been left aside from bragging to my fellow inmates – but to illustrate the fundamental problem that so many of us have sacrificed or risked to combat. This problem, which even Richard Nixon recognized and spoke about on that famed evening at the Lincoln Memorial, is that a republic built with the blood of giants has since become a “wild animal.” – one that now feeds upon us all.
I try to avoid metaphors, which can illuminate but in practice are too often used to obscure. Like many aspects of language, the false metaphor kills and enslaves. And at any rate, there will be time to discuss these broader issues later. For now, I must ask you to publish this on pastebin, Anonpaste, piratepad.de, and all other available venues, and that you also send it to some of the journalists that have been kind enough to follow my work as well as the consequences thereof, particularly my friend Michael Hastings, Barry Eisler, Michael Riley (Bloomberg), Ryan Gallagher (Guardian), and Josh at Daily Caller (forgot his last name) – plus the former editor of The Yemen Times who’s now at Global Times or some such and who, along with a certain Washington Times correspondent known to Gregg Housh, plus one or two others that I know of, who are now looking into Romas/COIN due in part to my release of the NYT e-mails earlier this month. Along with others in both the mainstream and independent media, these are most likely to report accurately on this matter. Having been mischaracterized at least a hundred times by “professional” journalists since I first appeared on Fox News in January 2009 to denounce Obama’s association with the goofy fascist Rick Warren – and was introduced as being spokesman for the non-existent “American Atheist Society” rather than GAMPAC. This would be a good time to note, particularly for the benefit of certain journalists, that I am not and never have been the spokesman for Anonymous, nor its “public face” or, worse, “self-proclaimed” “face” or “spokesperson” or “leader” (as the CIA-funded Radio Free Europe called me last year when I felt compelled to “quit” the non-group that I’d never technically joined in the first place, but rather gradually attached myself to as Wikileaks and Tunisia went down in December of 2010). Anyone who cares to learn what happens to a person who decides to help deal with such issues at the request and with the knowledge of active Anons can search my name in conjunction with those terms, and then see the article “Barrett Brown is Anonymous” from April 2011 in which I explain clearly, as I have countless times since, that no one has the authority to designate me as such. It is known to some of those who worked out of Anonops or were otherwise particularly active in the beginning of 2011 that I wrote or edited a number of the press releases of that time, and that the al-Jazeera article written in the first few days of January and which appeared later that month under the title “Anonymous and the Global Correction” was also my work – something I revealed privately to the brilliant cyberpunk essayist Bruce Sterling after he openly speculated as to the author’s background in Wired, noting the sentiments to be that of a true revolutionary. Among those who now agree with him are the FBI, which has since responded accordingly – and unethically.
Contrary to the countless claims to the effect that I hold some official role in Anonymous, I can think of only one occasion in which any Anon has come close to actually deeming me as such, that being the day on which HBGary was hacked in retaliation for HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Baar’s claim – shown to be entirely false – that he had identified Anon’s “lieutenants” and “co-founder” and that he had been contacted by the FBI about this. In fact, he had conflated three different people including a professional gardener and, as shown in the notes Anon released along with the e-mails taken from HBGary Federal, had made a huge number of additional mistakes – something since confirmed by everyone concerned including Barr himself. (That the Financial Times writer who had bought Barr’s self-promotion would again essay to write about Anonymous months later, this time taking the claims of a Dutch kid at face value in the course of “reporting” various negative things about how the movement operates, is only one of numerous bizarre and depressing twists to this story; I myself would later encounter him on Canada television as a panelist during a discussion in which he accused Anon of being particularly anti-“American interest”, to which I responded that it is difficult to avoid stepping on the empire’s toes when one assists North Africans in fighting off dictatorships that the US has supported for years.) (Oh snap!) On that day, as recorded on pastebin from the discussion on the #OPHBGary channel at Anonops, I was referred to in passing as “our public face” to a journalist. I was on the phone to HBGary President Penny Hoglund at the time, apologizing that HBGary’s e-mails had been seized by Sabu in addition to HBGary Federal’s, instructing her on how to get on IRC in order to make her case directly to the hackers, and promising to remove the link I had put up to the 70,000 e-mails acquired in the operation, a link I had placed upon a Daily Kos post put up to explain the situation to the great many who would miss the “makeover” done to HBGary.com. Had I known that Penny was lying to me about what she and husband Greg Hoglund had known about Barr’s irresponsible attempt to save his own career at the expense of the innocent and heroic alike, I would have simply hung up. Instead, I was polite – but I recorded the call, just as I recorded the next call with Barr, the next call with HBGary exec Jim Butterworth, and finally the drunken call I received months later from Greg Hoglund himself. “Trust but verify,” as Reagan said in the context of a different set of villains.
With the exception of the ten minute convo I released between myself and Aaron Barr, all of the other recordings – and plenty of others – are in the possession of the FBI, which raided my apartment as well as my mother’s home on March 6th. For more on those events, as well as the criminal conspiracy to which I have been subjected by elements of the FBI, HBGary, and paid informant/contractor Jennifer Emick (among other parties both known and undiscovered), please see the last 3 videos I uploaded to my YouTube account, as well as documents I linked to on my Twitter account @BarrettBrownLOL in the final days before my most recent (and dramatic!) arrest. Not everything is released; I was interrupted by armed, mediocre federal agents and DPD officers (“No complicity in assassination of a chief executive since 1963!”) before I could finish making my case, which was to be done over several days before the entirety would be sent to the FBI and the judge who signed my March search warrant. This was to be followed by the instigation of a civil suit against HBGary and other parties to be named in the next 2 months. My plan has been disrupted – plans often are, as history tells us – but it has not been rendered obsolete. It will evolve, just as ProjectPM itself has evolved steadily since 2009, when this war became evident to me, when I first realized that my future as a political satirist would have to be abandoned in favor of this dirty, grueling struggle.
But why was I arrested this time? I would love to tell you. But the prosecution wouldn’t like that. I, and everyone else in the court room, were ordered to refrain from discussing the complaint, affidavits, and warrant, all of which are sealed at the request of the author, one FBI special agent whom I shall not name lest I give him cause for fright (or pretend fright – I am allegedly a danger to one especially skittish special agent whom I shall be careful not to name again until such time as I am prepared to list him in the civil suit I’ve been preparing for weeks now). Frankly, I do not blame this other special agent for requesting that the document be sealed – if I had written something of such low quality and demonstrable untruth, I would burn it and ask forgiveness of every deity invented by man and the higher apes/dolphins/whales. Likewise, if I were the US attorney who signed the Motion for Detention dated September 13 2012 – the document that, after having been approved by Judge Paul D. Stickney, ensured I would not only be prevented from discussing what I’m being accused of but also made a prisoner of the state until such time as a trial or some such can be concocted out of the jurisprudential magick I struggle to follow, in my innocence. Apparently I am not just a danger to the fragile FBI agents who have taken to threatening my mother and fracturing my ribs in the course of heavily-armed raids on my uptown Dallas apartment, but must be prevented from explaining to my associates, followers, and even enemies why I have again been subjected to violence and indignity.
I explained the first raid against me (March 6th, 6:30 a.m. CST) and the second against my mother (about six hours later) in several pastebin messages at that time. It was not until 2 months ago that I learned how a judge had been tricked into permitting this raid on me – how the disgraced contracting firm HBGary hired the paid FBI informant Jennifer Emick to, in their words, “find something to get [me] picked up on,” even as this bizarre former Anon made public accusations against me under both her real name and her adopted contractor persona: “FakeGreggHoush” on Twitter (now “AsherahResearch”) and Asherah on IRC – particularly the 2600 server where she frequented the #jester channel alongside various ex-military men and current “security’ contractors who all found themselves inclined to associate with the admitted criminal hacker th3J35T3R, one of several parties who have taken credit for DoS attacks on Wikileaks. I should not have to remind anyone that 40 U.S. homes were raided in January 2011 due to a similar but less effective series of DDoS attacks on Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and Amazon which were clearly an act of protest against an unprecedented economic blockade ordered by the U.S. regime. 14 of the “criminals” in question are being charged such that they face up to 15 years in prison. Thanks largely to Jay Leiderman the California attorney and John Penley the NYC activist and veteran, many of them are being represented for free. Likewise, I will seek and accept only pro bono assistance from this point on, though with the stipulation that I will pay any such lawyers what I can from the defense funds that have been set up for me thus far by well-wishers. As of this writing I dismiss Tom Mills, whom I retained for $3,500 after receiving bad advice from a well-meaning person. I will also expect that money returned within 60 days of the publication of this missive online (ProjectPM participants, please ensure that he receives this message, which I have also delivered through my mother – whom he falsely claimed to be representing on the matter of the FBI threats against her despite having been paid by me, not her). And as I had noted both publicly and privately earlier this month, I am still seeking additional attorneys with skill in civil litigation to pursue at least two suits I’ll be filing by the end of the year. Those interested may write to me at my new home, Some Jail in Texas. I am able to arrange for phone conversations with any applicants (or anyone else who is either especially interesting or who is able to accept a collect call or contribute $5 to my commissary/phone fund, that being the cost of a 15-minute call instigated by me). Anyone who writes me without us having been formerly introduced, I will guarantee a response if you send self-addressed stamped envelope. Also I believe that only mail with a return address will be delivered to me, though I’m not sure.
I hate that I have spent so much time in conflict over the past two years, and that so much of this has involved my fellow American citizens rather than the Middle Eastern dictators that I got involved in this to combat. I feel sorrow at the lost opportunities, and as for the way it has changed me as a person… I like to think that I am wiser and less naïve than I was, but I know too well how foolish and unsophisticated I was to begin with. I cannot excuse the mistakes I myself have made on both the strategic and tactical levels in my short career. I shudder when I look back on some of the things I wrote or said when I got my first real taste of power at the dawn of 2011, and I continue to bring shame upon myself and upon my family and work by some of the things I say even lately. In particular I have made comments about the U.S. military that I do not mean and which are obviously not entirely accurate. Along with other nonsense I have said, felt, written throughout my life, many of these things originate from my own fears and weaknesses. I am humiliated at not being able to protect my own mother from the FBI, or to shield my own girlfriend from watching heavily-armed men step on my spine as I scream in pain. I cannot forget how my mom cried on March 6th after the FBI had left with my equipment and hers, and how she whispered through tears that she wanted to be able to protect me from prison but couldn’t; I will never forget the look on Jenna’s face as the federal thugs swept through my efficiency apartment with guns drawn and safeties off, in search of hidden assailants and non-existent weapons. That these things are unjust and increasingly insane does not change the fact that they are the result of my own behavior, my own miscalculations, my own choices.
Having said that, I regret nothing. For the last week I was denied opiates and thus forced to feel not just rage, hatred, all the primal things, but forced to endure them while sicker than most humans can imagine and in a jail that is overcrowded and filled with common criminals. I have gained something extraordinary in that process, which ended this morning when I was given the first of 30 days of suboxone. 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.
Mansfield Law Enforcement Center
1601 Heritage Parkway
Mansfield, TX 76063
[redacted], if you are able to relay this message to the Anons, my ProjectPM people, journalists, etc, you will have done me a finer deed than most men ever have occasion to do for another. I am transmitting a copy of this to another individual to ensure that the FBI does not manage to silence me on this (incidentally, the local jail here in Mansfield has proven to be run by honorable, trustworthy, even friendly people, but it is nonetheless subject to the Yankee boot (no offense)). Tell journalists, etc that they may contact [redacted]. My future and that of ProjectPM depends on you and a handful of others. Thank you for your loyalty at this time. Finally, please include this PS when forwarding and ask people to see my original search warrant as published on Buzzfeed a few months back. Echelon2.org is part of the key to this affair, but not all. More to be revealed when all is prepared. Good luck to you.
WikiLeaks Stratfor Global Intelligence Files on Barrett Brown
Barret Brown Videos:
The Ballad of Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown Hit With Third Indictment, This Time for Concealing Evidence
Barrett Brown Pleads Not Guilty on Newest Charges of Concealing Evidence, Faces Up to 100 Years in Prison