Barrett Brown Is Bored Out of His Mind in Jail
Earlier today, Barrett Brown’s legal counsel sent us this letter on behalf of their imprisoned client. They’ve told us to expect more writing from Barrett Brown in the near future.
Like a lot of pompous, insufferable people, I didn’t watch television when I was previously “out in the world,” as my fellow inmates say. And if I were being held in a regular federal facility like a normal detainee, I wouldn’t be exposed to it while incarcerated if I preferred to avoid it. This is because federal prisons (along with holding facilities where inmates await trial) are relatively humane affairs equipped with separate areas for various activities—for instance, sleeping and watching television are done in distinctly different rooms. The problem is that all the federal facilities here in the Northern District of Texas were filled up with inmates awaiting trial or sentencing when I became incarcerated. This isn’t simply because Texans are an inherently criminal bunch—although of course they are—but rather because, in addition to prosecuting actual crimes against property and persons, the federal government is also in a great big contest with the Chinese to see who can imprison the most people for bullshit non-crimes like selling drugs.
At the same time, Congress has decided that the best way of dealing with illegal immigrants from Mexico who threaten to increase our GDP is to imprison them at great expense to the public. There are other factors at play here, all of which point to the ongoing degeneracy of the American people. Suffice to say, because of Texas’ booming incarceration industry, I was not one of those lucky-ducky federal inmates who got to kick back in a real live federal facility—because these babies are filled to the brim. Rather, I’m “housed,” as they call it, in a privately-run city facility used for government overflow. And this place is filled up, too. Nor was it built to house people for more than a few days or perhaps weeks; until a couple of years ago, it functioned as a lock-up for area arrestees while they awaited transit elsewhere. As such, my fellow inmates and I spend our time in cramped eight-man cells opening on to a day room the size of the cheapest Manhattan apartment that’s shared by 24 men. A few times a week we get to go outside onto a caged concrete strip and walk back and forth for an hour. This comprises our world, and is where I’ve spent most of the past year.
Anonymous Failed to Bring Down the British Government with Fireworks
Last night was fireworks night, which meant that members of Anonymous descended upon London once again to take part in their global Million Mask March. The event invited everyone to a “tea party,” the purpose of which was “to remind this world what it has forgotten, that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than just words.” Other Anonymous bugbears included the mainstreammedia blackout and the whitewashing of world issues—legitimate, if fairly nebulous, concerns.
I didn’t know of any other tea parties where everyone wears masks and remains nameless, unless it’s the kind where you end up covered in a bunch of semen, so I decided to go and check it out.
According to the plan, Trafalgar Square was the launchpad for a march bound for Westminster, where everyone would shout at Parliament. Rather than going home when they got cold, the idea was that everyone would stay for an entire day. At least, that seemed to be the idea from the Facebook call out, which said, “NOTE: This will be a 24 hour event, please be prepared to peacefully assemble for up to 24hrs.” (Spoiler: This didn’t happen.)
Amid the throng, I was a little disappointed when I asked Jerry here what he hoped the march would achieve. “Nothing,” he replied. “It needs a lot more people. That’s why I go around with the billboard. Most people don’t understand what’s going on in the world.” His friend Mindy butted in. “We want to make a loud noise,” she said. “We want change—genuine change!”
Already it seemed clear that the marchers were operating at cross-purposes.
The Government Wants the Media to Stop Covering Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown has been sitting in prison, without trial, for almost a year. In case you haven’t followed his case, the 31-year-old journalist is facing a century of prison time for sharing a link that contained—within an archive of 5 million emails—credit-card information stolen from a hack of a security company called Stratfor (Jeremy Hammond, the actual hacker, is going to prison for ten years), threatening the family of an FBI officer who raided his mother’s home, and trying to hide his laptops from the Feds.
The flood of NSA leaks from Edward Snowden has placed extra attention on Barrett, who focused on investigating a partnership that many people are incredibly uncomfortable with—the connections between private security, surveillance, intelligence firms, and the US government.
Barrett’s website, ProjectPM, used a small team of researchers to pour through leaked emails, news articles, and public corporate information to figure out what this industry does exactly, and how they serve the White House. It’s partly because of Barrett that we know about things likepersona management, a technology used by the US government and its contractors to disseminate information online using fake personas, also known as sock puppets.
He also helped the world learn about TrapWire, a surveillance program that’s built into security cameras all over the world and “more accurate than facial recognition technology.” When it was made public in the pre-Snowden era, most media outlets played it off as not being a big deal. We still don’t know exactly how powerful TrapWire is, but, because of the Strafor hack and Barrett’s research, at least we know it exists.
Barret Brown on Reading ‘Born Again’ in Jail
I’ve spent the last year or so in a federal lock-up awaiting trial on charges that have been dulyanalyzed elsewhere. Long story short: I’m facing decades in prison. This is inconvenient in some respects, but there are perks. Had I not been imprisoned, I probably never would have gotten around to reading the book that’s been a beloved staple of the US Corrections System since it was first published in 1975: Born Again, by Nixon aide Chuck Colson, who famously found Jesus before his brief incarceration on Watergate-related offenses. Christianity is popular among inmates—almost as popular as crime—and Born Again has plenty of both. As for me, I’ve always fancied myself an aficionado of flailing, nonsensical political prose, which is why I once read a whole book by William Bennett. Colson’s volume didn’t just scratch my itch; it taught me a great deal about American civic life in the 60s and 70s, to boot. I’d like to pass on some of what I learned, even if most of it is terribly inaccurate.
The introduction to Born Again, added after the wild success of its first few printings, is largely given over to explaining that Colson didn’t mean to make the great deal of money off of it that he was making at the time. “I had received lucrative offers to write political memoirs, but I felt compelled to tell people the simple story of what God had done in my life … I had no idea there even was a Christian publishing industry.” But, oops, it turns out there is, and so Colson accidentally made a whole lot of money anyway.
Inside Anonymous’ Operation to Out Rehtaeh Parsons’ Alleged Rapists
The late Rehtaeh Parsons. via Facebook.
In the days following the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons—the teenage girl from Halifax who committed suicide after being gang raped, photographed, and harassed—the hacktivist group Anonymous is playing a game of chicken with the authorities in Nova Scotia. Anonymous says they have the names of four suspects, and are threatening to release that information if justice is not delivered. Those names have in fact been circulating in small online circles, but the information has been withheld from publication on Anonymous’s largest social media channels. All of this has caused a storm of negative feedback from those who view Anonymous’s actions as destructive “vigilantism” while Anonymous maintains they are only involved because “several crimes have been committed in Nova Scotia. A 17-year-old girl killed herself because the police failed to do their jobs.”
I spoke with a member of Anonymous who is directly involved with the operation to bring Rehtaeh’s rapists to justice, in order to get a better handle on their motivations.
VICE: How do you go about sourcing the information that has led to naming the four suspects?
Anonymous: The information we have gathered comes from a combination of internet research and informants. It’s a lot more like being a journalist than it is being a detective. We use advanced search techniques to comb the internet for statements, photos, videos, whatever we need. We can locate statements by suspects made years ago on accounts they may not even know still exist. We’ve also developed a level of trust with our online community and they feel comfortable speaking with us because they know we’ll protect their identities. We validate their information in the same way the police might, by cross referencing stories and doing background checks on the individuals who are providing the information. There’s also a psychological factor. It’s important to recognize the motives behind the person who is providing you the information. Some people just want to be involved so they’ll embellish their accounts or perhaps they want revenge. You can’t always count on a person’s memory either so it’s important to test them to discover if the story they are telling you has been compromised by time or their emotional state.
In this case, did your sources approach you?
Most of the sources approached us, but we tracked down quite a few of them by examining the online interactions of the victim and the suspects.
What have you learned about this case so far that you want people to know?
Only half of this case is about those four teenage boys and the alleged rape. The real guilty parties here are the adults that violated Rehtaeh. I would like to see those boys punished for what they did because I think it sets a terrible example for the other young men in Nova Scotia, but almost even more I would like to see the police and the school system pay for what they did to that girl. They had a responsibility to be there for her, to protect her, and to relieve her torment. They failed at every turn to help her. Now they’re all too busy blaming one another. The school claims they didn’t know. The police say they couldn’t find any evidence. They’re both guilty of incompetence.
We Spoke to Barret Brown from Prison
Since my initial piece on Barrett Brown about a month ago, there has been a small development in his case. Barrett, of course, is the journalist who is popularly mislabeled as a spokesperson for Anonymous and is facing a century of hard time in a federal prison for threatening an FBI officer, hiding evidence that obstructed his warrant, and sharing a link within an IRC chat room that contained the stolen credit card information of Stratfor customers (a security company that had 5 million of its internal emails stolen from them). While Barrett is still sitting in a federal prison waiting to see a judge, news broke last night that Barrett Brown’s mother pled guiltyto her own charge of obstructing a search warrant. She hid Barrett’s computers from the FBI and is now facing $100,000 in fines and six months of probation.
In addition, Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who is accused of actually hacking into Stratfor has been sitting in prison for 13 months without trial. His case was further delayed when it was discovered that the original judge who was appointed to try Jeremy is the wife of a man whose data was compromised by the Stratfor hack.
A couple of weeks ago, Barrett Brown called me from prison to talk to me about his case. We discussed the winding intricacies of his story in two 15-minute bursts, which was all the time the restrictions of his imprisonment would allow.
VICE: A lot of people say that you’re the spokesperson for Anonymous. What do you say to that?
Barrett Brown: I’m not. For two years now, I’ve denied that publicly. Every time I’m asked, it turns out that I’m not. The first thing people find when they google me should be a D Magazine article in which I explained that. No one is the spokesperson for Anonymous. It doesn’t work that way. I wouldn’t want that position if it were a position.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything Anonymous does. I don’t necessarily like a lot of Anons. I was very supportive of the dynamics that Anonymous represents. I’m very much an advocate (and continue to be) of these new sorts of communities to express yourself on the internet and the next move I’ll be making is deploying some communities—a little more structured than Anons’—to perpetuate themselves, and grow, while maintaining Anonymous’s core qualities. I’ve identified with Anonymous very closely for two years now, but one of the interesting things to me is how all the articles refer to me as the self-proclaimed spokesperson for Anonymous. They all copy off each other.
You did also call yourself Cobra Commander at one point.
Oh yeah, I called myself that after the NBC Nightly news called me the “underground commander in a new warfare.” Which is just a ridiculous thing to be called.
Yes, it sure is. What do you think of your 100-year sentence?
I’ve known for a long time that I was going to be incarcerated. There are several documentaries where I say that I’m going to jail at some point. You just can’t do these things and not fall on the radar of the FBI without retaliation or reprisal. I don’t want to talk to you about the case or the people involved at this point, but obviously I’m not terribly worried about it.
Why aren’t you worried?
Just because of my knowledge, I know how long they were in there monitoring our stuff… I know what documents and records of my activities are available. They’re trying to claim that I intentionally tried to spread credit card information, but I was opposed to that. And I was on record being opposed to it. They’re just not aware of that.
They don’t have their shit together in terms of going through what they spied on me regarding… and I obviously know what’s there in that evidence, so… I’ve always been opposed to spreading credit cards.
Anonymous Hacked Bank of America and Seemingly Revealed That the Bank’s Spying on Hacktivists
You’ve probably already heard of Anonymous, the world’s most infamous group of cybertrolling hacktivists. They frequently make headlines for crashing websites and looting corporate and government servers. Usually these hacktivists come together in defense of others, such as Julian Assange, the people of Gaza, victims of police brutality, or even victims of rape. But now, Anonymous has turned its eyes on a personal rival. This enemy has its own cybersquad of secret spies who, according to Anonymous, spend the majority of their time in chat rooms collecting intelligence about them. With this latest release of stolen data, Anonymous has just pulled back the curtain on their foe: the Bank of America.
On February 25 @AnonymousIRC, an Anonymous Twitter account with over 280,000 followers, began posting “teasers” about a massive Bank of America data leak. The first post declared, “If you spy on us, we spy on you.” What followed was 14 gigabytes of private emails, spreadsheets, and a “text analysis and data mining” program called OneCalais. The emails in the release originated from “Cyber Threat Intelligence Analysts” who identified themselves as employees of a company called TEKsystems. The TEKsystems website appears to be nothing more than a staffing agency and seems wholesome enough. There’s definitely nothing that screams “we are cyberspies!” It’s safe to assume these analysts were hired by Bank of America, regardless of their TEKsystems titles, because according to the leaked emails that Anonymous released, each of them were using @bankofamerica.com email addresses while filing their reports.
Having a team on staff to protect a corporation from potential cyberthreats is nothing new. This isn’t what caught the attention of Anonymous to begin with; it was the methods being employed by Bank of America to gather data. Each of the 500 plus emails pilfered reads like a surveillance report, most of them reporting on the activities of online activists from Anonymous to Occupy Wall Street.
Will Anonymous Retaliate for Christopher Dorner’s Death?
Yesterday, a man who wasprobably Christopher Dorner barricaded himself in a remote cabin near Big Bear Lake, California, after shooting two police officers and killing one, before the cabin burned to the ground. Throughout the media’s coverage of this final showdown between the LAPD and the man believed to be Dorner, the hacktivist group Anonymous was stirring a pot of skepticism to an audience of more than 883,000 Twitter followers on their @YourAnonNews account, a following that is more than half of the Associated Press’s primary Twitter account.
It is not surprising that Anonymous would come to the defense of Christopher Dorner. For one, anyone who has read Christopher’s manifesto will know that his rage appears to stem from the way he was allegedly treated during his time in the LAPD. He describes racist harassment from fellow cops, and writes about his firing from the force after he made a complaint that an officer kicked a homeless man, a complaint that a judge dismissed. He also accused another officer of jumping onto a 70-year-old woman and twisting the “thin elastic skin” of her arm, saying that that same officer found humor in “draw[ing] blood from suspects and arrestees.”
In his manifesto, Dorner insists that he has, “exhausted all available means at obtaining my name back. This is my last resort… The LAPD has suppressed the truth and it has now lead [sic] to deadly consequences.”
Anonymous has always come to the defense of whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked information from the military to Wikleaks; Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit who leaked academic documents and may also have contributed to Wikileaks; and Barett Brown, who is facing 100 years in prison and did detailed research into the inner workings of American security firms. But of course, a murderous ex-cop is a lot harder to defend than these nonviolent liberators of information.
Why Is Barrett Brown Facing 100 Years in Prison?
It was announced on Wednesday morning that Barrett Brown, a man who became a very public talking head for AnonOps (the brain trust that is arguably the cortex of the hacktivist group Anonymous, even though theretechnically isn’t one) is facing up to 100 years in jail for three separate indictments. The most recent two indictments—the threatening of an FBI officer in a YouTube video and the concealing of evidence—do not seem worthy of such a harsh sentence, considering a man in Houston recieved only 42 months for threatening to blow up an FBI building, and a former dentist got 18 months for threatening to kill an FBI agent. The third, however, pertains to Barrett Brown’s pasting of a link in an Anonymous IRC chat room to a document full of credit card numbers and their authentication codes that was stolen from the security company Stratfor, in the midst of a hack that released over five million internal emails. Those emails were published to Wikileaks. Some writers have rightfully raised their concerns about the legalities behind sharing a link that points to stolen material (which is why I have not linked to those five million emails) and whether or not that should be an indictable offense. However, Barrett’s work and research into Stratfor tells a much more complicated and disturbing story than a pile of stolen Visa cards.
Remember that time I interviewed revenge-porn king and self-styled “most hated man on the internet,” Hunter Moore? Well, karma might be coming around to bite him in the ass pretty soon. A couple of days agoAnonymous announced they were launching an operation named #OpHuntHunter against the founder of IsAnyoneUp.com, which, if you’re unfamiliar with its modus operandi, was a website where sad men could post revealing images sent to them by women who they felt had scorned them.
Recently, Hunter conducted an interview with Betabeat, in which he claimed that he was launching a new website, one that would not only feature stolen nudes of people but also their home addresses. He later backtracked on this, claiming it was a “semi-lie” he’d told because he’d been “drunk” and “coked out” when he did the interview. Speaking to the Huffington Post yesterday, he confirmed that he only planned to publish the addresses of people who had personally wronged him.
It’s in retaliation to these comments that a branch of Anonymous have struck, publishing detailed personal information about Moore on PasteBin. The thing is, he doesn’t really give a shit, and responded to the threat by provoking Anonymous to attack his websites in a series of tweets. Which must seem like a clever thing to do when you’re “coked out”, too.
With bravado on both sides of the battle heating up, who will come out on top? I spoke to the Anon leading the hunt for Hunter Moore to try to find out what the plan is.
VICE: Hi Kyanonymous, how much support do you have from the Anon community for the operation to fuck over Hunter Moore?
Kyanonymous: We are gathering support as we speak, it’s ever-growing. Anonymous is a collective of individuals with differing views, so some support Hunter Moore’s enterprise, some don’t – but most don’t, and majority wins.
I see. So, you’ve had to spend some time proposing this operation to the community to get that support?
No, Anonymous works like this: If you value freedom from oppression, and are willing to fight for it, and do it all in anonymity, then you are Anonymous. Me and @jackherer20 came up with the video, and the d0x file compiling all of Hunter’s personal info in one easy-to-use form, and it just took off.
So what’s the plan? DDOS his sites? Or maybe hack him?
We can’t discuss the details of the plan, that would be like walking through a herd of zombies screaming “Food!” I’m sure you can respect that.
I guess. Could you give away any time scales? When should Hunter expect things to kick off?
That’s the beauty of it, Mr. Moore can expect things always, there are moles in his team and until his revenge-porn sites and other imitation sites like his cease to exist, this will be an ongoing operation.