IamA Barrett Brown, journalist and activist who faced decades in prison after an FBI investigation into my crowd-sourced research project into the state-linked private intelligence sector. I did four years in prison, where I continued to write for...
My short bio: I was a freelance writer for outlets like Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Skeptic, and Huffington Post when I was invited to assist a faction of Anonymous that was assisting with the Tunisian revolution. Shortly afterwards Anonymous hackers stole 70,000 e-mails from an "intelligence contracting" firm that had put us under surveillance, thus exposing the Team Themis conspiracy whereby Palantir, HBGary Federal, and other firms with "black propaganda" capabilities had proposed hacking, disinformation, and intimidation of activist groups like Code Pink as well as Wikileaks and even its supporters, including Glenn Greenwald. Although one CEO had to resign, a Congressional investigation was quickly derailed and no one suffered any consequences (despite having planned DOS attacks, the exact thing for which Anonymous participants had been pursued for via heavily armed FBI raids after they took down MasterCard and Paypal websites for a few seconds in protest of their refusal to process donations to Wikileaks).
Thereafter I repurposed my online "think-tank," Project PM, to continue researching these firms and others like them, compiling our research on a wiki called Echelon2.org (since moved). The FBI eventually raided my home and my mom's house, with the search warrant listing our website and group as subjects of interest. Thereafter they threatened to indict my mother if I failed to cooperate; instead, I threatened to "ruin" the life of the lead agent, using the same tactics that HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr had planned to use against activists with the DOJ's blessing. Separately, I vowed to defend myself against any further raids. The two statements were conflated by the DOJ and used to indict me for threatening a federal agent, which actually requires one to make a violent, non-conditional threat, whereas I'd made one non-violent threat and one conditional threat.
Later, I was charged with 11 counts of aggravated identity theft for having copied and pasted a link from one chat room to another that I believed contained more e-mails, but which in fact included credit cards. I faced 22 years for that link alone, in addition to other charges. The DOJ later had to drop those and other charges, and I plead guilty to one count of internet threats, one of interference with a search warrant, and one of accessory after the fact (I called Stratfor, a company that had been hacked, and offered to help redact any e-mails that could put someone in danger). I was also ordered to pay over $800,000 in restitution to Stratfor.
There are several documentaries covering much of this, including Hacker Wars, We Are Legion, and Alex Winter's 18-minute film Relatively Free, as well as some pretty good articles at WhoWhatWhy and The Nation describing the other plots we uncovered and documented.
While imprisoned, I continued writing, doing a column called The Barrett Brown Review of Arts & Letters & Prison that was later picked up by The Intercept, and for which I won the National Magazine Award for commentary/columns in 2016.
I was released November of last year, and am now preparing a new project, called the Pursuance System, by which to build up a cohesive yet agile network of opposition to criminalize institutions while also helping activists and non-profits to cooperate more efficiently. You can read more about it here.
EDIT 5:34 CST I'm going to run down to the store, but will be back in fifteen or twenty minutes to answer more questions.
EDIT Am back, and will continue to answer questions sporadically through the evening.
EDIT 9:00 PM EST I'm going to play some Team Fortress 2 for a bit and relax and whatnot but I'll be back to answer more questions later tonight, and will get to more tomorrow as well.
EDIT 1:53 am EST Well, my Facebook account has suddenly been disabled without explanation, in case anyone's wondering why the link above no longer works.