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Barrett Brown raided by FBI, indicted
October 7, 2012 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Barrett Brown (previously), journalist, researcher, and activist formerly associated with Anonymous, was raided at his Dallas home on September 12 and brought into Federal custody in Texas. Video and audio of the raid exist, as Brown was hosting a video chat at the time of the raid. (Brown's girlfriend was present during the raid and has published a partial account.) Brown now faces indictment on counts related to his comments about an individual FBI agent in three Youtube videos he had posted in the day before his arrest, and to some of his recent tweets (including a retweet of a Fox News commentator's 2010 remark about Julian Assange).

Brown became the "public face" of Anonymous in the wake of the HBGary Federal hack of February, 2011 (previously), appearing on NBC at one point as an "informal spokesman" for the hacktivist collective, though he later publicly distanced himself from Anonymous. Brown continued his internet activism with ProjectPM, a "distributed think tank" devoted to researching companies holding U.S. government contracts for development of "persona management" cyberwarfare and surveillance technology. Brown's interest in the subject had been spurred by revelations about proposals to discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald in the wake of the Wikileaks releases of 2010. Most recently Brown had been researching a form of surveillance technology known as Trapwire, a "'Pre-attack Terrorist Detection System For Protecting Critical Infrastructure."
posted by FrauMaschine (40 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Last I saw of Barrett Brown, he was openly taunting FBI agents by name on Twitter, which reveals a certain degree of poor judgement on his part...
posted by Jimbob at 7:32 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


According to the YouTube vids, he expected to get his property back.

So, yeah, poor judgement I guess.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:49 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Predictably, a website (includes links to video and audio files of the September 12 raid, as well as a partial transcript of one of Brown's videos), Facebook page, Youtube video, and Twitter account for supporters appeared online within days after the raid.
posted by FrauMaschine at 7:50 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is he trying to win a darwin award? He taunted and threatened FBI agents, some of them by name. Said state law gave him the right to shoot fbi officers who came near his property as trespassers. He suggested/urged his followers to shoot government agents and prepare for a violent uprising, and issued threatening ultimatums / statements to the FBI.

Dude does not strike me as the sharpest tool in the shed.
posted by zarq at 7:51 PM on October 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


The Lulzsec "team" that hacked HBGary imploded with various members turning in other members and some reported to be FBI informants:

Publicly, the hacking of Hoglund's server was the work of a "16 year-old girl," with Kayla habitually claiming to be a female teenager. In chatlogs leaked by Wesley "Laurelai" Bailey and published by Backtrace Security (the group that successfully named Sabu months before he was arrested), however, Sabu claimed responsibility for the entire attack.

Interestingly enough one of the HBGary hackers who is named in the linked article above as turning in members to the FBI now functions as a moderator on the Reddit subforum /r/Anonymous so I am not surprised that this offshoot, branch, whatever you call it ,of Anonymous keeps getting busted.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 7:55 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Lulzsec "team" that hacked HBGary imploded with various members turning in other members and some reported to be FBI informants.

Man, this is a sad, decades-old story regarding (apologies for use of the term...) "hackers". Everyone immediately turns informant to strike a bargain with the authorities, or immediately finds someone to brag to about what they did. Has anyone, ever, doing this kind of stuff, ever managed to just shut the hell up?
posted by Jimbob at 7:59 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Anonymous" is becoming an ever more ironic catchphrase
posted by silby at 8:02 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Comment below the third video:

I can't really stand to watch this video because he is so clearly in the midst of a fucking trainwreck of a meltdown, due to withdrawal from Suboxone and other prescription medication he was on.

Skipping around in that one, it's easy to believe the above.
posted by mediareport at 8:05 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's a timestamp to what I gather is the specific kind of threat that got him arrested.
posted by mediareport at 8:08 PM on October 7, 2012


Jimbob - Presumably only people we've never heard of.
posted by Artw at 8:12 PM on October 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Looking at the videos, you can't help but get the impression of moderate to worse mental illness afflicting Mr. Brown. I hope he somehow gets real help rather than get locked away in a cell somewhere :(
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 8:12 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is a problem with hackers. You want to know all the secrets but you also want adulation. If you keep your secrets to yourself the adulation never comes. These guys who do it for the lulz or adulation or even activism will always get caugh. The professionals, that do it for money, who may be state sponsored are the scary ones. They stay off YouTube. The stuff they steal will be worthless if everyone knows it was stolen. They steal it quietly and nobody will ever know.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:21 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Man, this is a sad, decades-old story regarding (apologies for use of the term...) "hackers". Everyone immediately turns informant to strike a bargain with the authorities, or immediately finds someone to brag to about what they did. Has anyone, ever, doing this kind of stuff, ever managed to just shut the hell up?

Yep, anybody who does it for serious money. Not a whole lot of credit card # thieves getting arrested...
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 8:21 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, if you do it for glory, you probably want to get some glory at some point. Hard to keep quiet.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 8:22 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone, ever, doing this kind of stuff, ever managed to just shut the hell up?

Maybe the hacker "community" needs to emulate organized crime? Snitches get stitches!

looooool
posted by palidor at 8:23 PM on October 7, 2012


Snitches get stitches!

What century are you living in? Body bags have zippers these days.
posted by Goofyy at 8:45 PM on October 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


These guys who do it for the lulz or adulation or even activism will always get caugh.

I do remember a disaffected Anon member complaining that the "Adults" would give the "Kiddies" bad advice, presumably so that the kids would draw the heat.

There are several parallels to "Real World" tactics there.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:45 PM on October 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I agree that the ones doing for money not lulz manage to keep quiet - but there's a whole social and technical infrastructure built up for this now. I thought the idea of Anonymous was, you know, being Anonymous?
posted by Jimbob at 8:46 PM on October 7, 2012


What is Anonymous anymore but a place to cordinate take-down DoS attacks with user-friendly software marketed to the part time wannabe hacker. Which combined doesn't even compare to the power of a single botnet under the command of a single person.

The Lulzsec "team" that hacked HBGary imploded

Read/listen to the book We Are Anonymous, it tells their story, it's great.
posted by stbalbach at 8:49 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't have more links handy, but from what I recall reading online, Brown has always maintained that he is not a hacker and has no hacking skills whatsoever; his role with Anon was always and solely about writing manifestos, doing research, and giving interviews.
posted by FrauMaschine at 8:50 PM on October 7, 2012


or immediately finds someone to brag to about what they did. Has anyone, ever, doing this kind of stuff, ever managed to just shut the hell up?

Sure. A bunch of guys I knew in high school and college used to play merry hell with local ISPs, government, whatever. They were up inside the regional Serious Crimes division's computers for at least three years undetected, access to computers connected to controllers that ran local civil infrastructure. No-one ever got caught, eventually we all grew up. Two of those guys work for Google and Microsoft now.

A friend of mine sold fake IDs in high school. He got started altering scans of passport photocopies (widely accepted as proof of ID around here at the time). Eventually got a really good printer, card blanks and an embosser, made fake foreign driver's licenses so that people could get into bars while under the legal drinking age. American ones were the best because each state has its own, there's no way the bouncers know exactly what a South Dakota license is supposed to look like. He eventually started a carding ring and got involved with fraudulent HELOCs when he went back to the US for university. Last I heard, he grew up, got out of anything illegal about a year after graduating. Never got caught.

A while ago he started his new job as a lecturer in mathematics at an English university. Plenty of people have got away with all kinds of things, they just keep their mouth shut about it.
posted by atrazine at 9:06 PM on October 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if he has some underlying plan or if the crazy bastard missed his buprenorphine dose, went off the rails and got his ass locked up. Judging by the rambling incoherent videos, I have a suspicion.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 9:40 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I made the post in the first 'previously' link and have been following this story not because I have some great interest in 'hacktivism' (lord how I loathe that term), but rather Brown and I have run in circles that have very slightly overlapped in the past. Let's face it: the kid's got some intense issues that he needs to work through and instead of dealing with them he plummeted down into an increasingly deep pit of addiction and paranoia. I only hope he hasn't fucked himself so badly that he can't get off with a slap on the wrist and some much-needed court-ordered mental health maintenance.
posted by item at 10:10 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that a comment about Julian Assange from a Fox News talking head could be part of an indictment against someone if mistakenly thought apply to someone else.
posted by delmoi at 10:39 PM on October 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


atrazine: but you just made the mistake of talking about it on here.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:26 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The framing of this FPP seems pretty distorted, especially this:
Brown now faces indictment on counts related to his comments about an individual FBI agent in three Youtube videos he had posted in the day before his arrest, and to some of his recent tweets (including a retweet of a Fox News commentator's 2010 remark about Julian Assange).

All of the tweets and youtube comments were death threats or threats to punish a particular FBI agent. It wasn't Assange that got him indicted, as you imply, but saying “A dead man can’t leak stuff… Illegally shoot the son of a bitch.” Sure, it was crazy that a Fox News guy said that, but come on....
posted by msalt at 12:30 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


atrazine: but you just made the mistake of talking about it on here.

Sure. Years later, in the most general possible terms. Big difference between that and bragging about an ongoing or very recent crime in very specific terms.
posted by atrazine at 2:56 AM on October 8, 2012


Did he break the law? If so, which one(s)? Last I heard, stupidity or taunting government agencies were not sufficient causes for arrest and detainment. If that is what has happened then it says volumes about the state of our freedom and democracy.
posted by nowhere man at 6:32 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Threatening the government officials of the United States
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 6:58 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Update. According to this blog post (by an attorney who does not represent Brown), a competency hearing has been scheduled for later this month. The author also states that Brown "is known to be an on and off heroin addict, and has mentioned use of 'Special K,' or ketamine, a highly potent hallucinogen. He stated online that he was taking suboxone to try to get off heroin. He was also said to be taking paxil and then abruptly stopped. He was also apparently drinking strong alcohol. In addition, there is the possibility of an underlying mental condition. [...] For those who have seen the youtube videos that are the subject of the indictment, it is reasonable to assume that trying to carry on a rational conversation with Barrett, as he is seen in the video, would be nearly impossible. He seems manic, jumps from topic to topic, and seems to have very little grip on reality."
posted by FrauMaschine at 8:03 AM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a 100% chance that someone going through cold-turkey Paxil withdrawal, Heroin detox/withdrawal AND binge drinking will require immediate medical treatment.
posted by basicchannel at 11:12 AM on October 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


So did he actually threaten (whatever the definition of that term is in legal speak) a government official? I didn't get that from the post. If so I suppose he's probably screwed. But not being of sound mind at the time of any such ill advised pronouncements should be taken into account. But my gut feeling is that there is little of this sort of mercy left in either America's culture or justice system anymore.
posted by nowhere man at 12:06 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


nowhere man, I expect that that is, at least in part, what Brown's attorney(s) will argue at the 10/18 competency hearing. Rumors among the YouTube and blog comments on this have it that Brown had quit both Paxil (an antidepressant) and suboxone (similar to methadone, prescribed to ex-heroin users) cold turkey not long before the videos and subsequent raid.

I found Brown's ProjectPM wiki about cyberwarfare and surveillance contractors to be the most interesting and least crazy thing he has published (on the internet, anyway).
posted by FrauMaschine at 12:31 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really like Barrett Brown. This does not change that, except that I now like him a little bit more.
posted by broadway bill at 1:31 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Trapwire previously.
posted by homunculus at 1:44 PM on October 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rumors among the YouTube and blog comments on this have it that Brown had quit both Paxil (an antidepressant) and suboxone (similar to methadone, prescribed to ex-heroin users) cold turkey not long before the videos and subsequent raid.

I make no comment about his mental state based on his comments, but he showed no physical signs of opiate withdrawal in any of the YouTube videos.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2012


I can't tell if Barrett Brown reminds me of the guy who shows up at activist meetings, says stuff like "Let's burn it all down!" as everyone else rolls their eyes, and then nips off to the bathroom to consume various mystery pills and have loud sex with his girlfriend he met while train-hopping

OR

if he reminds me of the guy who shows up at activist meetings, says stuff like "Let's burn it all down!" as everyone else rolls their eyes, and oh by the way nobody else has seen him before and he's wearing brand-new boots and Carhartts.

Either way he strikes me as being a major liability for any movement.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:48 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


You forgot to share Barrett Brown's final chat logs from the session he was hosting just prior to his arrest:

"I, I don't care if they, if they lay me off either, because I, I told Bill that if he moves my desk one more time, then, then I'm quitting. I'm going to quit. And I told Dom too because they've moved my desk four times. I used to be by the window, where I could see the squirrels and they were merry. But then they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline. They have my staples for the Boston and I kept the staples from the Swingline stapler. And if, if they take my stapler, I will, I will set this building on fire."
posted by markkraft at 1:09 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dallas Observer, October 18: Is Barrett Brown The Threatening One, Or Is It The Guys Locking Him Up?
posted by FrauMaschine at 4:07 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Update 2 [pdf]. Brown has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
posted by FrauMaschine at 12:06 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


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