Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Shop the Truthdig Gift Guide 2014
December 29, 2014
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Get Truthdig's headlines in your inbox!






Living on a Dollar a Day


Truthdig Bazaar
Jazz

Jazz

By Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux
$26.37

Life and Fate

Life and Fate

By Vasily Grossman; Robert Chandler (Introduction by)

more items

 
Ear to the Ground

Barrett Brown Guilty Plea Could Chill Reporting

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Aug 30, 2014

Photo by equinoxefr (CC BY 2.0)

Hacktivist journalist Barrett Brown pleaded guilty to three charges stemming from his reporting on a high-profile hack by the group Anonymous and his long-standing conflict with the FBI. Instead of the 105 years in prison he once faced, Brown could see a maximum eight and a half years behind bars, with a chance of serving less time.

Douglas Lucas reports at The Daily Dot:

For most of the year and a half that he awaited trial, Brown was charged with threatening an FBI agent, conspiring to hide his potentially evidence-bearing laptops, and sharing a link to credit card data publicized during the hack of the private intelligence firm Stratfor. Free speech advocates, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, called the allegations payback for his journalism.

Brown’s legal troubles kicked into high gear on March 6, 2012, when FBI agent Robert Smith led a raid on his apartment and mother’s house in a hunt for the journalist’s research into contractors who spy or conduct information warfare on behalf of government and corporate clients. The agents took away his computers and other electronics.

The journalist grew more and more infuriated as the FBI refused to return his gear. The dam burst in September 2012, when Brown posted three YouTube rants demanding his equipment back and making wild, hyperbolic threats against the authorities. The government interpreted his heated words as a genuine danger to Agent Smith’s life, arrested Brown, and charged the journalist for the alleged threats. The prosecution later argued his words must be taken in the context that he and Anonymous “secretly plotted the overthrow of the government.”

Two subsequent indictments involved his refusal to hand over laptops during the March 2012 raid and what the Department of Justice insisted on calling identity theft. The latter event occurred in December 2011 when Brown posted to a chat room full of researchers and activists a link allegedly containing personal and credit card data belonging to subscribers to Stratfor. The link was obtained by hackers associated with Anonymous.

Lucas goes on to write that although a plea deal does not set a legal precedent, it does raise the question of what the Justice Department may do to other journalists who cover leaked documents or resolve to protect the identities of hacker sources regardless of official orders to release them.

Lucas quotes Kevin Gallagher, director of Free Barrett Brown Ltd., as saying: “The implications ... are worrisome in the extreme. … It must be noted that Brown’s lawyers worked painstakingly to avoid setting an undesirable precedent—one that would place other journalists at risk for dealing with hackers as sources. Yet the dangers of this novel legal construction are clear: journalists may be prosecuted for merely speaking to hackers and having knowledge of their breaches.”

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

More Below the Ad

Advertisement

Square, Site wide

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

 
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
 
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 
 
 

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Zuade Kaufman, Publisher   Robert Scheer, Editor-in-Chief
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.

Like Truthdig on Facebook