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The Strange Case of Barrett Brown (thenation.com)
643 points by dlss 1610 days ago | hide | past | web | 177 comments | favorite

There may be an argument for life in prison, or even execution, for people that are so dangerous that they should never be allowed in the society again. But either give life, or put a cap on prison sentences at say 25 years, total, like it's in many other countries.

This idea of "adding" sentences is ridiculous, and my guess is it's only (ab)used as a way to force people into agreeing to declare themselves guilty, and the prosecutors going "easy on them" and only asking for 30 years in prison, instead of 100, if they win.

That's not justice and people should be opposing this. I think it was on The Daily Show where a guest talked about a documentary called Gideon's Army where they're talking exactly about this issue, and how prosecutors are forcing 90% of the people arrested to admit guilt this way, before they even get a trial. So 90% go to prison without a trial!

It also must be very convenient that the US law is so complex now, and has gotten to the point where everyone can be incriminated with something, so basically the prosecutors can threaten just about anyone with at least a charge or two, if they want to. They must be BS charges, but lucky for them they manage to convince those people to agree with a "lesser punishment" before there even is a trial. I'm sure the private prison system and their lobbying plays a big role in this, too. It's self sustaining corrupt system.

Many civilised countries explicitely forbid this -- you only execute the highest punishment you are given if the accusations are related. So if you are accused of money laundering and get 8 years for that, and of information theft (which helped you do the money launering) and you get 5 years for that, the final punishment is 8 years -- because, arguably, what you're guilty of is money laundering, information theft or not.

The problem is how do we make migrating to such a scheme politically tenable? Right now we are in a situation where politicians dream up new "multiplier" laws (for instance, throwing on extra punishment or at least higher minimum punishments for committing a crime while wearing a mask) so that they can be seen as "tough on crime". We aren't just coasting in the wrong direction, we are making an effort to go in the wrong direction.

It seems hopeless to me. The general population doesn't give a shit, they are bloodthirsty and think of "criminals" as some distinct segment of society that they don't need to empathize with (hell, we can't even get executions widely abolished, a far more egregious issue...) So long as that is the case the politicians will keep on making the situation even worse for personal gain.

Under the U.S. sentencing guidelines (e.g. http://www.ussc.gov/Guidelines/2011_Guidelines/Manual_HTML/5... or state equivalents), this is already the case. Although you may be sentenced to "105 years" for multiple crimes, if they're related to the same activity, those sentences are usually served "concurrently." It's left to the judge's discretion.

Your complaint at this point should be with prosecutors that use the most draconian possible sentence to promote themselves and pressure defendants, and with a media that loves the shock value of numbers like "105 years" when such a sentence would almost certainly never happen.

Without the laws to enable it, the prosecutors would be unable to do that, and the only way to prevent prosecutors from doing that is to make laws that forbid it. The only way to change this while working within the system is through the legislators.

One way is to highlight cases with generally good people getting destroyed by overzealous prosecutors. Its unfortunate, but this is one of those issues where optics is huge. If you're black or hispanic or have tattoos, many people will assume "oh, well he probably committed another crime anyway, so its okay to go overboard on this one".

Or you know, under certain circumstances allow executing multiple prison sentences related to the same case in parallel, rather than sequentially.

That's already the norm for U.S. Federal sentencing guidelines though.

"Many civilised countries explicitely forbid this"

Like who?

In holland, if bank robbery and manslaughter would give you 10 years each, then combining those two at the same time would probably give you something like 12 years. Moreover, if you are doing these crimes apart while not being caught in between, you might get a 'combined' sentencing of 14 years.

Oh well I'm happy that you chose this example, because I happen to have a Dutch law degree, and if you're saying this to support the GP who said that "Many civilised countries explicitly forbid this" (cumulative sentencing / consecutive time), then you're wrong (as is the GP).

First, to be clear, there are two cases of committing crimes at the same time: one is when a certain act by necessity implies committing another, lesser offense (the textbook example here is raping somebody on the town square - this almost certainly qualifies as public indecency too, but you'll only be sentenced for the rape). This is called 'eendaadse samenloop' (roughly translated, 'single-act concurrency'). This is not what we are talking about.

What we are talking about is 'meerdaadse samenloop' ('multiple act concurrency'), the rules for which are set in art 58 Sr. (the Dutch criminal code) and basically say this (if lawyers weren't numerically illiterate - sometimes I get the feeling admission to the bar requires a selective lobotomy of those parts of the brain that work with numbers, but I digress -):

Let s be the final sentence, t1 and t2 the effective sentences for each of the individual criminal acts, and t1' and t2' the maximum sentences for those respective criminal acts:

s = min(t1 + t2, max(t1', t2') * 4/3)

In plain words: the prosecutor will charge the suspect with the separate crimes, and ask for separate penalties. The judge will sentence each criminal act separately, and then give the perpetrator a combined jail time for all the criminal acts which is maximized at 30% over the theoretical maximum for the punishment with the longest jail time.

So, in your hypothetical example, the maximum sentence for manslaughter is 15 years (art 287 Sr), for robbery resulting in death also 15 years (art 321(3) Sr). The typical sentence for manslaughter for a first-time offender would be something like 8-10 years; for the other the same. The maximum is 15 * 4 / 3 = 20 years; if the judge sentences the robber to 10 years for each, he will serve 20 years. Note that these are not two separate sentences that are served consecutively, but one sentence that takes into account both acts; but that's merely a semantic difference.

If you still don't believe me, let me quote from 'Een inleiding in het strafrecht in 13 hoofdstukken', Stolwijk (2009) p243, the relevant page of which is also available via Google Books:

"In de praktijk is het matigende effect van de samenloopregeling gering. In de strafzaak zelf wordt een werkelijk plafond in de straftoemeting niet bereikt omdat de rechter ook bij samenloop nimmer aan dat maximum toekomt. De vraag naar meerdaadse of eendaadse samenloop is daarom louter een kwestie van een juiste kwalificatie.'. (summary translation: the effect of the ceiling on combining sentences is very small because that ceiling is seldomly reached anyway).

would that cause criminals who have already committed a crime to commit more crime since each extra crime costs less due to the concurrenct sentence?

I'm pretty sure that this isn't the kind of mental framework most criminals use when deciding to commit crimes, but I'm no psychologist...

Sorry for the late reply :-). Canada is the first that springs to mind, and there is at least one European country (from the ex-Communist block no less -- Romania -- that does the same thing under certain circumstances).

Canada has concurrent sentences for offences that occur within the "same transaction".

This was all gone over with Aaron Swartz's case though. Normal guidelines for sentencing in U.S. Federal trials is for concurrent sentences for charges stemming from the same crime.

Prosecutors only have 1 trial for each given crime due to the principle of double jeopardy so they have to charge the suspect with everything they think they can prove in case one of the charges gets thrown out on a technicality.

The flip side to that is that typically any conviction(s) on those same charges results in concurrent prison sentences. IANAL so I don't know what types of cases end up in the atypical sequential sentencing but I don't see how this case could possibly end up with sequential sentencing, unless maybe Barrett threatened a cop's family or something like that.

But that's the problem. The goal isn't to put them in jail for any possible thing that can stick. When someone commits a crime (from which other crimes can stem), the purpose of bringing them to court is to get justice for that crime (not all the other incidental crimes). With that in mind, if the suspect is shown to be not guilty of that crime that prompted the trial in the first place then they should be freed. The prosecution should not being going out and looking for anything that sticks.

The entire premise of our legal system was founded upon the idea that it is better to let 100 criminals go free than let one innocent person rot in jail. Throwing several additional charges in the hope of getting a plea bargain is antithesis to the original intention of the system.

This doesn't explain situations like Brown's mother being charged. That's clearly just being vindictive and showing other would-be journalists how far the state will go if you out them.

Plea bargains bother me, in general, because they conflate two distinct ideas:

1) I am guilty of the charges

2) I believe I am not guilty, but I believe that I will be found guilty, nonetheless. To limit my risk of a bad outcome, I'm pleading guilty to lesser charges.

These are very, very different. Number (2) is actually an indictment of the system, not of the accused.

Is there a way to formally declare (2)?

They are also disturbing because they increase maximum prison times.

If real criminals are getting short sentences (because they were smart, and took a plea bargain), then politicians will be forced to increase sentences. Eventually, you reach a state where the maximum sentences are insanely high, to compensate for the fact that criminals will always get them discounted.

I believe a "no contest" plea is a formal declaration of (2). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nolo_contendere

In the US, an "Alford plea"[1] is a clearer vehicle for a protestation of actual innocence wrapped in a plea of legally guilty (or at least convict-able).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alford_plea

Doesn't the US constitution prohibit cruel and unusual punishments?

Sure, but have fun spending 10-15 years tied up in court cases and appeals to try and prove it.

Yes, but there are notable clauses where this does not apply.

The list of exceptions for the death penalty alone is pretty long:


How about 23 hour solitary confinement for multiple years as a cruel punishment?

You might not have noticed, but the US government doesn't really follow the laws they make. Those are for citizens.

Punishments can be either cruel or unusual. They just cannot be both.

Cute, but I[0] don't think the law is that straightforward to interpret. At least according to Wikipedia[1], "cruel and unusual punishment" is a legal phrase all into it's own, regardless our lay interpretation of the individual words.

In Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), Justice Brennan wrote, "There are, then, four principles by which we may determine whether a particular punishment is 'cruel and unusual'."

* The "essential predicate" is "that a punishment must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity," especially torture.

* "A severe punishment that is obviously inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion."

* "A severe punishment that is clearly and totally rejected throughout society."

* "A severe punishment that is patently unnecessary."

These "principles" probably themselves have oblique legal meanings seperate than what we'd expect, and there's probably been a new ruling or two on the 8th amendment in the past 41 years.


[0] IANAL.

[1] Yes, I know.

So we could bring back the stocks if we just make sure to use them a lot?

Seems like bullshit. Cruel punishment does not become okay if you do it frequently.

Would you like to explain further how you think that cruelty and unusualness are mutually exclusive, either in general or in the eyes of the law?

I personally thought it was an obvious point of logic.

The ban in the 8th amendment is on "cruel and unusual punishments". Therefore punishments that are cruel or unusual, but not both, are not banned.

For example it would be hard to argue that excessive prison time is at all unusual in this country. So no matter how cruel it may be, it passes muster. Conversely Shena Hardin was given the unusual punishment of having to stand on a particular sidewalk wearing a sign that said, "Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus." (She was, in fact, said idiot.) The punishment was unusual, but not cruel. It therefore passed constitutional muster.

However being kept in an overly crowded prison without appropriate medical care qualifies as both cruel and unusual punishment and is therefore unconstitutional. (As a variety of courts have had to repeatedly point out to California. Personally I'd love to see the fraction of the prison population that is over the design capacity of prisons in California become the portion of the year that key officials should have to spend inside of said prisons. I'm sure that we'd see Jerry Brown stop dragging his feet on the issue fairly promptly...)

The 8th Amendment is based on Cesare Beccaria's On Crimes And Punishments and the term "cruel and unusual" specifically means the punishment should be proportionate to the crime.

I find this theory unlikely given that many sources and a number of US legal cases cite a clause of the English Bill of Rights of 1689 as the source. Said clause being, That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;

See http://www.constitution.org/eng/eng_bor.htm for the full bill in question.

That Cesare Beccaria's comments could have given the idea more force I can believe. But they are not the source. Nor am I aware of any court case that has specifically discussed Cesare Beccaria for trying to understand this clause. By contrast search https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/501/957/case.htm... for comments about Titus Oakes (the historical cause of that clause).

Doesn't this make various three strike laws unconstitutional?

I certainly think so, not to mention inhumane, fiscally irresponsible and in defiance of all evidence about how to craft an effective criminal justice system.

Do you have an example of a "cruel" punishment?

How about solitary confinement, the long term use of which is most clearly torture? This happens very commonly in the US for all manner of "disrespect of authority" in prison, usually over political matters (prison politics, not red v blue for whichever dummy was going to say that after this post).

Many punishments are cruel. Prison is cruel. So is death.

Ask the SCOTUS. It was their interpretation.

I think he meant:

Punishments are PERMITTED to be either cruel, or unusual. But not both.

I took it as an ironic comment.

The way I understand the comment is that a punishment has been deemed legal if it is cruel XOR unusual, but not both.

How about pulling people's nails out? Isn't that both?

Evidently, only if you fail to do it regularly.

Yeah, we have that in our country (sentences can't be summed together); and that's the reason one infamous killer and rapist of more than 140 children may be released soon (if they were added the sentence would be of 1800+ years)

>This idea of "adding" sentences is ridiculous, and my guess is it's only (ab)used as a way to force people into agreeing to declare themselves guilty, and the prosecutors going "easy on them" and only asking for 30 years in prison, instead of 100, if they win.

Unrelated to this case, if you don't do that, won't it encourage people who are knowingly committing big crimes to commit smaller crimes on the way? Why would you want to essentially grant immunity because someone committed a bigger crime? Where's the deterrent?

Your question boils down to, "Is a 105 year sentence a better deterrent than a 25 year sentence?"

To answer that question, I'd direct you to a 2010 paper from The Sentencing Project. The thesis presented is that the certainty of being caught is a greater deterrent than the severity of the punishment. Further, increased severity does not appear to have a significant effect on deterrence.


Were I to hazard a guess, I'd say I was better informed than 95% of my fellow US Citizens. Yet though I'd heard of the HBGary incident, the fact that a journalist reporting about it was facing a criminal inquiry completely escaped my radar.

Perhaps this is a reflection on my own ignorance, but if so I fear it's a worse reflection on the ignorance of the average well-informed citizen.

It goes beyond saying that any sentence counted in "years" for making an online threat against an individual is beyond ridiculous, and clearly sought for politics and in this case for the purposes of retribution and precedent .. don't you dare oppose the FBI or we will destroy you.

I can't exactly express why, but having an administration with such an attitude (that of a bully) makes me sick. Sick to the point that I would sacrifice all common ground I may have had with them in order to kick them out of office.

It's actually become much more difficult to be informed. Print media's collapse in revenue has cut their investigative abilities. Network broadcast media has lost resources as the networks have been bought out by larger corporations. What's left is mostly the echo chamber of the web and it's aggregation sites.

There are very few organizations doing deep investigations these days. Anything deep is being done by individuals and sadly they are easily picked off by the police state.

It's less about politics and more about cop tribalism. All police forces in the USA behave in this manner - if you threaten them, they will make your life miserable.

cop tribalism is, to varying degrees, the same in every country (unfortunately).

Giving someone 'power' in any form, creates corruption in most individuals. History, psychology and no doubt our own experiences prove this (again, unfortunately).

I never realized how powerful HBGary was. I knew they employed dirty tricks but I did not know they had so many unpublished 0-day exploits and sophisticated rootkits. I had this impression from the Colbert Report that they were inept government contractors who taunted Anonymous. Reading this article from Ars is rather terrifying- http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/02/black-ops-how-hbg...

See, this is what happens when you make assumptions. You made assumptions then, and you're surprised to learn new information. But you're making assumptions now as well.

Please don't assume the only reason he's being prosecuted is for reporting a story, or for ranting about an FBI agent. He is more like a reporter who is embedded with drug dealers, and during the course of being embedded, committed crimes. But a little bit differently; he isn't just reporting Anonymous, he is the self-appointed representative face and mouthpiece for them.

And also please don't point this at the executive branch. Law enforcement and prosecutors around the country do this kind of bullying all the time, and have for decades. A horrible but justified example is the TV show Law & Order, which is modeled after real life case studies. Often they're hunting for anything they can use to prosecute someone after they blindly accept the person is guilty and must be prevented from doing some as-yet-unknown illegal act. (Of course on TV they never do wrong to someone they prosecute)

Reading disturbing articles like this, my thoughts race to the conclusion that the federal government has grown too large. It now seems only interested in crushing opposition and growing larger.

The fact that the executive (Obama) administration was cited does not seem to me to be inappropriate: they are the face and mouthpiece of government.

Perhaps consider the possible negatives (tyranny) that can come with a growing central government

The problem you describe is not intrinsic to governments, it's intrinsic to any powerful entity. If the government were weak, then corporations would take its place in abusing power. The key is to create a system where it's very difficult for any single entity to gain power outside of their niche or purpose.

The system of checks and balances in government was designed for this purpose.

Abuse of power isn't intrinsic to government, but there's a huge difference between the type of power that the State can abuse vs private corporations.

1. Your association with private corporations is voluntary, unlike (for the large part) your association with government. 2. The State can and will use physical force and threats thereof to enforce it's authority.

To the extent Corporations abuse power ungoverned by the free market, they do so primarily via association with government.


Let me reiterate the following though. It's important for people to understand that a free market doesn't exist where government serves to protect the "laws" of artificial trade entities (corporations).

Unfortunately, given the corporatism that currently exists in government, people are unable to make voluntary choices on a more concrete level. The most people can do is abstain from certain purchases and boycott certain industries that aren't tied to federal funding and mandates: an increasingly dim prospect at that. Outside of conscientious consumerism, a lot of natural, peaceful behavior tends to disobey the policies of corporations and, consequently, government. Voluntary actions and natural, nonviolent behavior become "criminal" conduct. The guaranteed funding of violent forms of power will make certain their growth, consolidation, and ability to crush dissent.

Voluntary actions are wonderful. Voluntaryist-based frameworks that serve to uphold free choice, speech, and markets do, indeed, stand as a separate entity from government. As you aptly point out: unlike the State, entities that engage in voluntary association should be unable to use physical force and massive economic constraints to intimidate and sustain their own authority.

Agree, pretty much entirely.

Corporatism is the greatest enemy of those who believe in freedom, and by extension in freedom of voluntary association.

But I don't think consumerism needs to be "conscientious" in the sense that consumers act altruistically. It's in my self-interest that my privacy is protected, for example.

I agree with your underlying statement.

However, this comes down to semantics now. I contend that altruism is innately human and, of course, common among many animals. Compassion and empathy run deep in the consciousness of many people. Altruism is generally the word used to describe actions based on a sense of compassionate imperative. As such, altruism as a word should be preserved and not confused with contradicting forces at play.

The contradicting forces at play are those that would mandate the way in which others act, even if it betrays the ethics of others. That isn't real altruism. It's artificial. Unfortunately, most people conflate the two as one in the same due to pseudo-liberal (read: not liberating) indoctrination that equates [using force to implore a moral imperative] as being justified by its ends without addressing the means which victimize people and don't allow for disassociation.

I imagine you agree fully.

Altruism is a word that has been perverted and besmirched by multiple sides. Altruism cannot exist in the context of force. Altruism nevertheless exists and it is 'good' in nature. In other words, no, I'm not implying that consumerism [needs] to be conscientious. Emphasis on [needs]. [Needs] implies a mandate which requires force. I would imply, however, as a human rights proponent and activist living in a world of governmental and corporate tyranny, that conscientious consumerism is one of the few and best remaining forms of intelligently advocating for one's interests and the interests of those who we care about: the people of this world that are often treated like serfs and subjects. Conscientious consumerism is part of the lifeblood of web-of-trusts within free and natural markets. Yes, I would encourage all people (who care about particular issues) to inform themselves and be mindful of the organizations and businesses they directly or indirectly support. I, for one, try not to support abusive companies with policies that noticeably exploit labor and land. Whether this is in my self-interests is merely semantics, for anything I believe and choose is inherently my self-interest manifesting itself through knowledge and action. Power in numbers still exists.

Indeed, altruism begins with the "self." This is another aspect many sides do not fully appreciate. Selfishness and selflessness are words that can possibly be interchangeable and inverted. More people should recognize their own individual self worth. To do so is to also recognize the humanity and self-worth of others. No law is inherently more righteous than the conscience of the individual who must decide whether he or she can morally abide by it. If more people valued themselves in a non-superficial sense, I feel they would be less willing to defer their rights and bodies to the authority of violent groups. Ironically in these words, if more people valued their self worth, I believe that more [selflessness] would flourish: real acts of compassion and community-supporting behavior - acts based on voluntary choice, which we could proudly label "altruistic."

Altruism is just plain practical.

If you've seen 300, you'll know that a collective 300 was stronger than a dispersed 300.

People are simply stronger in large numbers, and altruism is the high level understanding that the only way to maximize collectivism is to help others when they are trying to achieve similar interests to that of yours.

But power is power. There's no difference except that the government is given by default certain powers most corporations don't have.

However, corporations can still do assassinations, espionage, or even spying on customers. As long as the corporation is capable of doing it, and has ways of hiding it, then it can also be done.

There's a clear difference in power between power that controls police and military systems vs. power that's limited by the controls of natural, voluntary actions. I can't blame you for equating corporations with government and suggesting they both have unbridled power, given the current systems most of us live in. But it's absolutely wrong to infer that actions that would otherwise be illegal/violent by organizations are the equivalent of violent actions set into government policy. Again, the largest corporations many fear have disproportionate influence and market share specifically because of the backing of government law.

For instance:

When a group or psychopath commits mass murder, yes, it is a form of power. Yet, it's relatively contained. Society is more able to fight it and reject it. However, when a government that relies on involuntary funding commits mass murder - under the auspices of formal policy and fancy language - it becomes a form of power that society is less able to reject.

Power by definition, is something you can't reject. Otherwise you technically don't have the power...

I'd say the Mexican drug cartels are de-facto examples of private corporations when they don't or can't rely on government to give them their power.

The goal of a humane government structure should be to defend people and itself from abusive forms of power. Those cartels are analogous to (inhumane) government. They, as a result of US policy, have gained the ability to supersede previous governmental structures by using sheer force. They became dictatorial regimes. Conversely, private businesses acting as "corporations," as far as the US is concerned, are only powerful because of the system of government. The system inherently lends itself to corporatism through an architecture that allows for overreach at the very foundation of its design.

I don't mean to mince words again but I have to, for the sake of liberty activists who try, fail, and sometimes succeed. Power is something we can reject. We can do it individually and collectively. (I realize we're using different interpretations of the word "reject" but it's still a point.) Knowledge and civil disobedience are often options. If physically freeing oneself is unwise or nearly impossible, one may try to stay mentally free. Rejection begins with mentality. If we don't perpetuate the philosophy and beauty of liberation, of rejection over defeatism, then I worry that this 'eternal flame,' which sparks the struggle for freedom and pervades a yearning for individuality and truth, may grow too dim.

No, I know, the practicality of your words about power ring true. There are forms of power so hard to reject, physically and mentally, that they effectively render a person, or millions of people: powerless.

However, corporations can still do assassinations, espionage, or even spying on customers

Haha, funny that you find "spying on customers" to be more worthy of an "even" than assassinations or espionage :)

I remember an argument I had with a friend years ago .. would I rather have Google owning my information or the Government. I argued, Google of course, the worst they would use my info for was serving me better ads.

I was wrong because I never realized that the government could force Google to hand my information over to them.

It just so happens that the government is more powerful than Google.

Also public companies are less at risk to abuse power because there is a separation of powers. Lots of diverse stock holders usually.

"Corporations" are a protected class.

Corporations are able to exploit society, buffering themselves from many forms of recourse - not unlike any powerful government - specifically because they hold position as a protected class. The entity known as a "corporation" is granted the security of police and military systems thanks to the rule of corporate law.

I agree with you on the first part but let me interject a disagreement. Corruption seems intrinsic to any powerful entity, yes. However, it's important to recognize the fact that business entities in and of themselves are not powerful. They are not powerful without a societal structure that ensures that corporate law is enforced as "the rule of law." Translation: artificial entities - corporations - are only powerful because of consolidated government power.

The problem isn't that corporations would take the place of abusing power. That's somewhat of a misconception. In a humane government with a free market, corporations would not exist. The protected entity could not exist. The larger problem is that the structure of governance we have does not go far enough to preserve the freedom of people, nor does it go far enough to compartmentalize most forms of the collective force it wields. Corporatism stands in strict contradiction to humanitarianism, freedom, and free and open markets. Yet it is the model of this government. The checks and balances that exist are rather superficial. Oligarchical mob rule exists. Some euphemistically call it a representative democracy. Abuse isn't the fault of [business entities] per se. That's the cough. It's the fault of the structure of government. That's the body.

-- Wars of luxury and aggression.

-- Surveillance states.

-- Prison industry with dependent economies.

-- War industry with dependent economies.

-- Assault on civil liberties.

-- Loss of human freedom to manufactured "law."

-- Killing and dropping bombs on people and groups in the name of security.

-- Secret organizations plundering and abusing the public.

-- Loss of due process.

-- The war on humanity...

It continues. There are reasons in the scope of human history for so much suffering, in light of the lack of information that people had at their disposal combined with the technologies and tribalism that drive people into seeking power, security, and fortune.

Though there are no arguable defenses for the structure we have that continues the bloodshed, in light of the connected world that grows, and a trend toward seeking transparency amid the every-growing classification and hiding from the public trust. There are no arguable defenses other than the chain of succession, the companies, the propaganda, and the millions of Americans whose paychecks and careers depend on this apparatus of exploitation. It has consolidated enough power to get to this point where rendering it undone is the fantastical proposition it once was: a feat for humanitarian activists.

Where are the checks and balances?

Why did this system fail people to such a large degree?

One of the largest structural failures is when consolidated power is granted the ability to levy taxes: forced funding. It ensures that no one can disassociate physically or economically. Forced funding ensures that no one may engage in any practical form of disobedience beyond the last remaining threads of freedom of speech and any semblance of good left in the human spirit that is willing to engage in conscientious objection and civil disobedience. Forced funding ensures over the long haul that everything else will fall into play. Guaranteed revenue manifests the artifices used by power to sustain itself.

This is why all forms of governance that rely on it: corporatism, socialism, communism, and flavors therein are inhumane and prone to failure into various states of fascist governance. They all surrender the people's own voluntary choices and labor unto a Cesar.

The US Consitution didn't have enough language to protect people from its government. The idea was grand at the time. Though it didn't save people from the long-term threat of Congress. The federation should have only existed in the role of its Bill of Rights. A small central power, 535 people in Congress, should never have been granted ownership over the labor and humanity of so great number of people, 300 million people now.

It is un-fixable for now.

The article suggests at the end that the particular issue of persecuting people who reveal information points to a much larger systemic failure. It is, indeed, a systemic failure.

I had a hard time understanding most of what you wrote, but

"They are not powerful without a societal structure that ensures that corporate law is enforced as "the rule of law."

What are the cartels in Mexico then? I would argue that that's what corporations would look like if they could no longer depend on the rule of law and government to protect some of their interests.

It's true, US Corporations depend on the government's power for some of their enforcement and structure, but US corporations still wield significant power that could be abused. If the government went away, they'd just use that power to defend themselves and we'd end up with violence, intimidation, etc, like you see in cartels. Corporations don't completely rely on the government. Apple has billions in cash reserves and in the end it's the money that counts.

I don't advocate for disbanding the "rule of law." I'm not sure why that wasn't clear. Please forgive the misunderstanding.

I advocate for the rule of law being limited back into the original noble intent the Bill of Rights had, along with other changes. The government in a heavily limited role can be more powerful (in the sense of justification) if its primary role is one of humanitarianism. Governmental collective force and democratized architectures for assembly would still exist to protect people from violence. I'm not advocating for the government to go away. I've been saying nearly the opposite. It has to change. It has to reform toward humanitarian principles with more voluntaryist structures.

"Corporations" would not exist. The availability of power would be dramatically reduced to the actions of people. Couple that with a more humane justice system where the threat of caging, literally stuffing a person into a cell, could only be the recourse for containing unwieldy, physically violent people. I digress. The net positive of not having protected classes is numerous. More people are able to enter the market and empower themselves (e.g. no threat of patents, which could not exist). And the risk for undertaking dangerous activities grows higher. This induces a tendency toward natural regulation, because the threat of civil justice and recourse becomes higher for those who engage in exploitative behavior without gaining explicit consent from their customers or the people and lands they affect.

The US economy has never experienced this healthy abstraction. All we have is heavily-regulated markets within corporatism, which the biggest corporations thrive on. It guarantees the crushing of most small competitors. Of course, the internet was one of the most disrupting and democratizing forces to combat this unnatural market. Yet, as we all know, the internet is still not yet empowering enough compared to artificial entities known as "patents" that only exist thanks to corporatism, granting the full weight of police force to enforce the decree of big business. That's the real abuse of power. That's what we have today.

You mention Mexican drug cartels. They are largely the result of US policy. The "war" on drugs is a war on people and choice. Like any prohibition of people's consensual choices, this war on people directly forms the foundation of strong, well-funded underground economies with a nearly guaranteed revenue stream. Yes, often the leadership of these organizations care less about humanity and more about profit.

It sounds familiar.

"the federal government has grown too large. It now seems only interested in crushing opposition"

What opposition? There is no alternative body to the federal government other than state government, and the fed doesn't really have to crush what it already controls and governs.

An alternative opposition is "the people", which would be hilarious as the federal government is for the people, represented and run by the people. I find it fascinating when people basically claim that they, themselves, have grown too large and the people only seem interested in crushing opposition. If you'd ask 'what opposition is there to the people?' that answer is of course that the people oppose themselves.

IMHO, whining about the government becoming too big is like whining that your free beer isn't cold enough. Or a collective of chefs complaining that the food in the cafeteria sucks.

Tyrrany is also not the only negative from a growing central government. It's complacency and capitulation that harm the most.

What really gets to me in this story is that the mother is being prosecuted for 'obstructing execution of a search warrant', by -- allegedly -- helping her son hide a laptop. That's just cold, heartless fascism. In a decent country they would question her and leave it at that. Idem if it was a father, brother or a random friend, with otherwise no criminal record, no chance for recidivism and no other part in the crime being investigated. The government and the police should be here to protect us. You aren't protecting anyone by marking this woman a criminal and you are actively failing to protect her.

In a decent country they would question her and leave it at that.

I would say that our prosecutors are lucky they don't live in such a country, but frankly our prosecutors are a big reason why the USA is not a decent country. The fact that prosecutors can threaten any member of a defendant's family with any number of 3F/d crimes is a big reason they're able to coerce so many plea bargains. If we only had necessary laws that forbid actual crimes, instead of the many shelf-feet of unknowable laws we have, you'd see far more defendants claiming their rights to fair trials. Today's prosecutors probably wouldn't be able to cope, since they'd have to spend their time prosecuting rather than dreaming up new techniques of pretrial coercion.

I also find it ridiculous that they charged him for "obstruction of justice" for not being at home when they executed the search warrant. It's not like they told him in advance they were coming to search his house.

Not really understanding this myself... I'm pretty sure they don't need a key to come into a normal house or apartment. Unless he happens to live in a bunker...

I think the "obstruction" was taking his laptop to his mother's house. The warrant covered confiscation of his personal devices, so removing the laptop from the house would be an obstruction if he was doing it deliberately, which he most likely wasn't.

By that logic they could get him for taking his smart phone with him when he left the house.... something everyone is guilty of every day.

Yeah, but not everyone is having a warrant served against them. It's obviously ridiculous, just like charging his mother with obstruction is, but you kind of have to marvel at the prosecutor's deviousness in charging him for something that would have been innocuous if they weren't charging him for something else.

This is no different than a mafia good smashing out your teeth with a baseball bat because your nose hurt his fist. What's going on in this case is totally clear and the government doesn't care that it's illegal. By using all these nonsense "laws" to do what they would do regardless, they're just throwing salt in the wound.

> "The government and the police should be here to protect us."

With respect to invasions by foreign powers, yes. But neither the government nor the police can be expected to actively protect individual citizens. Protection via deterrent forces (e.g. laws against violent crime) is all the police and government can really do. If you want to actively protect yourself and your family, it's your responsibility to do so. Outsourcing that job to the government and police is how we got to a our current state--they can't "protect us" without sufficient power, which we readily handed over.

Personally I'm glad that NOAA, FDA, EPA and other agencies exist and help protect me.

You should learn more about the FDA. It kills many Americans by slowing down the adoption of new drugs, and by adding serious cost to the development of new drugs. In other areas, the FDA is "captured" by industry and offers no protection. For example, the FDA has no rule or standard on arsenic in food, despite evidence that the carcinogen is commonly in US brown rice. Placing your faith in a government agency is foolish-- we'd be better off without the FDA because people would take the threats more seriously and you'd have more effective private certification programs fill in the gap.

I'm not so sure about the "effective private certification program." How exactly would a private certification board avoid the same conflicts of interest that plague the FDA?

Also take a look at the current state of the organic and non-GMO certification programs that exist.

There's a link in here to Endgame Systems here that's dead [0].

Read a bit, then checked the wiki on them : "The Endgame Board of Directors is led by Christopher Darby, President and CEO of In-Q-Tel, an independent strategic investment firm supporting the missions of the intelligence community. Endgame announced in March 2013 that Kenneth Minihan, former Director of the National Security Agency and Managing Director at Paladin, had also joined its Board of Directors."[1]

And from the piece:

"While the media and much of the world have been understandably outraged by the revelation of the NSA’s spying programs, Barrett Brown’s work was pointing to a much deeper problem. It isn’t the sort of problem that can be fixed by trying to tweak a few laws or by removing a few prosecutors. The problem is not with bad laws or bad prosecutors. What the case of Barrett Brown has exposed is that we confronting a different problem altogether. It is a systemic problem. It is the failure of the rule of law."

And back to Obama's check list of questions during his speech weeks ago about the conditions that "we’re going to have some problems here" [2]:

Do we trust the Executive Branch? Do we trust Congress? Do we trust what is called "due process and rule of law"?




In-Q-Tel is the CIA's VC arm: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-Q-Tel

It's pretty clear at this point that any appearance of "rule of law" in the US is just an illusion. One instance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, pissing off the wrong person and that illusion will be blown away for you and possibly your family.

He and other journalists were analyzing documents from the Stratfor leak, and he had a copy of these on his laptop. His purpose was journalism, yet the FBI went after him for incidental data:

"The Stratfor data included a number of unencrypted credit card numbers and validation codes. On this basis, the DOJ accused Brown of credit card fraud for having shared that link with the editorial board of ProjectPM. Specifically, the FBI charged him with traffic in stolen authentication features, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, as well as an obstruction of justice charge (for being at his mother’s when the initial warrant was served) and charges stemming from his threats against the FBI agent. All told, Brown is looking at century of jail time: 105 years in federal prison if served sequentially. He has been denied bail."

Seriously? 105 years in prison because the leaked data he was investigating had some credit card numbers buried in it? Is there anything else? That seems like too much of a bastardization of justice. Hopefully his jury knows about jury nullification.

EDIT: I see from a comment below that 40 of the years are due to his withdrawal induced youtube rant and obstruction of justice charges. Which is still freaking ridiculuous, especially considering that wouldn't have happened without the BS credit card charges.

What is ridiculous is that the YouTube rant and obstruction of justice could get 40 years yet if he committed murder in a Federal jurisdiction (and thus being charged by the Feds and not state level) there would be a chance he'd get 15 to 25 years.


Wow this article is stunning. I mean, the tight links between government and corporations were always kind of supposed. But this story exposes it and it's scary! What happens in those backrooms is fucked up.

From the story:

The plan called for “disinformation,” exploiting strife within the organization and fomenting external rivalries—“creating messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization,” as well as a plan to submit fake documents and then call out the error.” Greenwald, it was argued, “if pushed,” would “choose professional preservation over cause.”

It's crazy to realize that when people have power and the power is being threatened, like in this case, they would do anything to preserve it at the dispense of people who try to do bring the truth to light. Because the truth will hurt them. Human nature at its best and capitalism at its worst.

Yeah and private contractors discussing rendering or assassinating people?!

How do we take our country back? For starters it seems like private contractors need to be subject to the exact same rules as the government that pay them, including FOIA. I'd put money on it that the demographics of t top secret work force are heavily skewed, suggesting institutional racism and sexism.

We have to end this stuff

All of this would end if enough people wanted it to stop. The trick is to get people to understand and care. I'm not optimistic about this but we can't let it stop us.

The great thing about our legal system: the government's actions don't have to be legal, just extreme enough to kill, make homeless and/or drive insane the victims before cases wind their way through the courts. So convenient!

To turn up the heat on Brown, the FBI initiated charges against his mother...made Brown snap.

I could relate to Brown here. FBI or SS would tail me when I was on pretrial, I'd hear awkward clicking on my phone, and I'd have severe anxiety attacks. Just recently, my paranoia back then has been confirmed with the PRISM leaks.

Political journalism is dangerous (I think anything in politics is risky though). I give Brown and Hastings a huge huge huge amount of respect to pursue the truth and uphold their own moral beliefs.

"Political journalism is dangerous (I think anything in politics is risky though)."

Doesn't this kinda defeat the purpose of politics tho? That's basically dictatorship.

Indeed. If any American find him/herself self-censoring for fear of America's security establishment, then they should conclude that America does not have freedom of speech.

I won't delve too much into politics, because I try my hardest to stay out of it (it's dangerous no matter where you are in the world...some more than others of course), but our society is capitalistic. In a dictatorship, the old regime will usually usher in the new one, where as a capitalistic one, money talks and is aimed to protect or provide favors for a collective interest.

Personally, I never really felt our president has the power to change things. I've always felt that he's the frontman for the IOU's behind him. Even in a dictatorship, they have interest behind them as well...usually military (North Korea is an example). Capitalism is usually favoritism.

This is why I stay out of politics (including omitting my opinion or speculation), because no matter what country you'd like to compare it's dangerous, whether for your life or livelihood.

If you had to say who is most mad at Snowden, at face value, you may say the NSA or administration...but technically he wasn't an NSA agent...who did he worked for (BA).

Why couldn't capitalistic country be dictatorship also? The only ruling part would be the rich people/companies.

So this author and journalist should have had

i) full disc encryption

ii) encrypted communication

iii) anonymous communication

iv) anonymous and encrypted dealings with a publisher

v) anonymous payment from that publisher

That's not someone writing about corrupt government in an oppressive regime, that's someone living in the US writing about US companies and government.

Hackers and designers should probably spend a little bit of time making anonymity and encryption easier to use.

Time for you to write that book on encrypted journalism.

While that's a stop-gap measure I heartily support, in the long run maybe we should all try and change the US legal as well as political system to make that kind of thing unnecessary.

I think the point is that it's not stop-gap in that process, it's step one.

If the opponents of the change you propose have access to your private data, they have an unfair advantage.

Rather than encrypting 'our' data, we could also strive to make 'their' data as accessible to us as our's is to them. Aka transparency.

I think that's a failing strategy. You can only trust that 'their' data is open as much as you trust 'them'.

This is the robustness principle (for API design/use ) applied. "Be lenient in what you accept from others, stringent in what you emit."

As applied to this case, it's "Be lenient in what you you expect reality is, but stringent in what you attempt to shift reality to."

Do you really believe that encrypting any data would have changed something? The government is making it up as they go along. I mean, his mother getting charged is a clear mafia-style message send.

Remaining anonymous is difficult to combine with making a living as a journalist.

I was following most of those revelations when they were happening, but I didn't knew how the story progressed, nor what implications it had for Brown.

Michael Hastings died in a car crash, Barrett Brown is facing 105 years in a prison, Snowden needs to hide from the authorities...as some of those (death of Michael Hastings) might be just unlucky coincidences, the list goes on. As much as we had made tremendous progress in every single area of life and science, I'm a bit concerned that the name "Dark Ages" is more relevant to present times than it is to the Middle Ages.

The situation in this country as become so strange that it's impossible to talk about it without seeming loony.

"The contents of the Stratfor leak were even more outrageous than those of the HBGary hack. They included discussion of opportunities for renditions and assassinations. For example, in one video, Statfor’s vice president of intelligence, Fred Burton, suggested taking advantage of the chaos in Libya to render Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who had been released from prison on compassionate grounds due to his terminal illness. Burton said that the case “was personal.” When someone pointed out in an e-mail that such a move would almost certainly be illegal—“This man has already been tried, found guilty, sentenced…and served time”—another Stratfor employee responded that this was just an argument for a more efficient solution: “One more reason to just bugzap him with a hellfire. :-)”"

How can you talk about this with friends and acquaintances convincingly?

There are conspiracy theories, and there are actual conspiracies. What we have here are documented instances of actual conspiracies. There should be no convincing needed when you're talking about actual events that are documented in writing.

FTA: "One can’t help but infer that the US Department of Justice has become just another security contractor, working [...] on behalf of corporate bidders, with no sense at all for the justness of their actions; they are working to protect corporations and private security contractors and give them license to engage in disinformation campaigns against ordinary citizens and their advocacy groups."

It's happening all over the country. For example: the guy who faces 13 years in prison for drawing in chalk outside a Bank of America branch: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/jun/26/activist-prosecut...

That example was overblown on reddit (and probably elsewhere).

This is simply 13 separate counts of graffiti, which has a 1 year maximum, and they are supposed to list the incidents separately (or something like that) when they charge him. He won't serve 13 years.

Yeah OK it's overblown, but the point is the guy should never have been charged with anything. For its decades of bad behavior, BofA deserves a great deal more public criticism than it has received. However, when prosecutors are so obviously its puppets, it's no wonder BofA is so rarely charged with fraud, etc. Public criticism, even when it takes the form of chalking public sidewalks, is a basic right that is guaranteed to the people of the USA.

1. It's just chalk. Children all over the country grew up drawing with chalk on sidewalks, etc.

2. Paint-based (and hence, more permanent) graffiti is a real problem in big cities. But till date I have not heard of a single case where the vandal was threatened with 13 years of jail. It would be interesting to see the track record of this city attorney, and how often s/he has prosecuted _real_ vandals.


By the way, does anyone know if ProjectPM is still alive in any form? echelon2.org and project-pm.org are both gone...

Yes, this is what I'm curious about. Is there anyone still looking into the stratfor info?

It seems to be available on archive.org. I'm curious as to whether there's any layperson's summary of the information though. Most of the articles seem rather drab.

“That’s why [FBI special agent] Robert Smith’s life is over. And when I say his life is over, I’m not saying I’m going to kill him, but I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids…. How do you like them apples?”

What could he have possibly been thinking? He had a good, defensible position. Everyone would have rallied around him. And then he said that.

Yes. And yet the people will not apply the same indefensible yardstick to the FBI improperly investigating his mother, and instead will rally round the FBI as upstanding people just trying to do a tough job.

"And if it’s legal when it’s done to me, it’s going to be legal when it’s done to FBI Agent Robert Smith—who is a criminal."

This is his mistake. There is no Rule of Law in the US anymore. It's one rule for them... and another rule for everyone else.

[edit: added rule of law comment]

In case you haven't heard the term before, the thing you're talking about is called Noble Cause Corruption.

"Noble cause corruption is a police crime in which police officers violate legal or ethical standards in pursuit of what they perceive to be the benefit of society at large."



The police/prosecutor/authority figure believes that their immoral behavior is acceptable because they are the "good guy". The disturbing thing (as you point out) is that regular people who read a story like this also become corrupted. "The accused did one bad thing, therefore all the bad things the police did don't count."

Exactly. Our speech is criminalized but their actions aren't.

The head of the NSA can lie to Congress with impunity and nothing happens to him. Let any of us try that and see what happens.

It's not a moralistic argument, it's a strategic argument. Threatening FBI agents the same way they threaten you could be morally ok, but not tactically.

They arrested his mother, and were coming for him. That's pretty scary stuff - people don't act logically when they're scared (that's why we give them defense lawyers).

I'm sure there's special agent training on applying pressure to unsettle a target, people don't know how they will react to such pressure.

He was kicking heroin at the time...

So? Was he forced to go on heroin in the first place?

"Oh I'm so sorry my son ran your daughter over, Ms. Sally, but he started having an epic comedown while driving his car!"

Well that's a pretty embarrassing comparison. For you. You appear to be saying that criticizing the public actions of a sworn officer of law enforcement is just as bad as killing someone.

I'm saying people should take responsibility for their actions. Including if those actions are threatening the children of a sworn officer of the law while withdrawing from drugs.

People always look for reasons to excuse themselves (or in this case, others). Drug withdrawal explains Brown's actions, but they are still his alone to be responsible for and no one else's.

You write as if the actual YouTube video isn't available for us to watch. (Did you actually watch it?)

Brown vows to subject Agent Smith and his family to the public opprobrium that he feels is due to LEOs who file fraudulent charges, frame innocent people, suborn perjury, and endanger the public, as Brown describes. The parallel he draws is that the same techniques he alleges have been used to destroy his reputation, will be used to destroy Smith's reputation. He also promises to defend himself from unlawful assault with deadly force.

I think Brown is a bit optimistic about the public opprobrium. People just don't care enough, and besides the people ain't running the show. At one point he seemed to expect to get some incriminating evidence about FBI malfeasance off his laptop once he got the laptop back from the FBI. That seems... naive. I don't think the system works that way. Of course, I also don't see the harm in the crazed ramblings of a drug addict on his back porch. While you're sure that such awful speech is the equivalent of vehicular homicide.

That still doesn't make sense.

By the way "the children" are a bit older than you may think.

If it was your mother on the line, I wonder what you would say or do.

I am very reluctant to draw parallels between real-life and fiction, but the steady stream of stories from the US from Bradely Manning to Snowden to Barrett Brown is making the possibility of a 1984 style state a real possibility. I have never been under any illusion that my data was safe from prying eyes but the extent of the lies, undemocratic procedures and brutality has shocked me. The commercialisation of intelligence, the penal system and war is adding to the issue.

I don't fear for the privacy of my data; I do feel very anxious about the world that my children will inhabit as adults.

EDIT: I'm not making out this a US-only problem.

Now I know why established newspapers like the times place such a high value on integrity of reporting and fact checking. We are in a time like the first newspapers - where Napoleon would publish outrageously biased journals, to attack the other outrageously biased journals. Eventually people listened to the ones who had the high standards of integrity.

Blogs, online websites etc are in the same position right now.

Who runs thenation? How can I trust what sounds like a well researched piece?

Are there really a wealth of funded private armies running around Americas underbelly interfering with its political process as USA was 1950s South America? Boy have those chickens come home to roost

The Nation is a generally respected leftist magazine with a long history of quality journalism. Similar to The New Republic and The American Prospect on the left or National Review on the right. Mostly serious political journalism with some obvious biases.

Thank you. History and reputation count in these things.

Interesting opinion on the timing and method of the michael hastings car crash: http://rt.com/usa/michael-hastings-cyber-car-218/

It's weak speculation, and hardly related here. If we allow our suspicions to recurse, perhaps I might suggest that your comment here is in fact disinformation designed to make people concerned about Barrett Brown's treatment sound like a bunch of conspiracy theory wackjobs. :)

I only mentioned it because of the article's odd mention of Michael Hastings at the end. Anyway, at this point you have to get pretty far out there to have a conspiracy theory which is genuinely crazy, given the stated track record of the US government. Would you really think they would hold back from assassination if they believed national security was at stake? This is war, and in war ugly things are done.

Although it is true that what we know about Barrett Brown is bad enough that we don't need to go looking further than that. In Rumsfeld's terms: the unknown unknowns really don't need to become known at this point, because the known knowns are bad enough.


> His car malfunctioned. It wasn't careless driving.



You keep on saying 65 mph in a suburb as if that's surprising, but it really isn't.

Many people jump red lights, and at speed, and in suburbs.

Losing control after hitting a pothole could easily happen if the driver is intoxicated. I'm not saying this driver was intoxicated. I'd be interested to see the numbers of cars that crash because the driver is drunk or on drugs vs because the car is broken.

Yes, I should probably be a little ashamed to admit it at my age, but I exceed 65mph in a suburb just about every time I drive a car. And fairly often, so do the people in front of and/or behind me. It's not evidence of anything.

And, I don't think we need to get all extreme (-ly gullible or naive) and start accusing the feds, on thin circumstantial evidence, of violently murdering American journalists in the middle of Los Angeles.

Because what we already know they are doing -- be it engaging in conspiracies with these weird and shadowy 'defense' contractor corporations to perpetrate mass-scale 'disinformation' campaigns, or setting up secret courts to rubber-stamp their secret requests for secret police to secretly surveil all citizens based on secret interpretations of the law -- is plenty egregious, outrageous, and fundamentally dangerous enough.

I'd be interested to see the numbers of cars that crash because the driver is drunk or on drugs vs because the car is broken.

I have an annoying tendency to occasionally lose track of time and not get anywhere near enough sleep for a couple nights in a row. According to the internet, driving like this is actually more dangerous than being legally drunk.

This is a textbook case of extra-legal harassment. There was an excellent article of this subject in the recent issue of 2600[1], which unfortunately is not available online, but can be found in any Barnes and Nobles.

When an individual meaningfully opposes the state, they become a target of extra legal harassment, which includes attacks from outside the legal system, as well as within it. This includes things such as police raids of your home, intimidation of friends/family, trumped up charges designed to bring you into financial ruin, hit pieces in the media, and much more.

For example, $20,000 that was raised for Brown's legal defense from supporters was confiscated by the courts[2].

The entire purpose of extra legal harassment is to get a person to give up, and correspondingly, the best way to fight back is to continue doing activism, and to survive.

In this case, Brown made a major mistake by threatening an FBI agent in a you tube video. Perhaps if he had been less naive about the inevitable repercussions of his activism, he would have been better prepared for the campaign against him and would have known that his primary goal should be to survive and be able to continue his work, and that the worst mistake he could make is to give the authorities an excuse to lock him up.

[1] http://store.2600.com/spring2013.html [2] http://frontburner.dmagazine.com/2013/04/18/feds-seize-barre...

The 20,000 was held pending use to pay part of the cost of the public defender http://cryptome.org/2013/04/brown-050.pdf.

In other words, it is being used to pay for his legal defense.

Isn't the purpose of a legal defense fund so that the person doesn't have to use a public defender? They are saying if you can't afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you, and if you can afford a lawyer, then your money will be confiscated and we will use it to pay the lawyer we appointed for you.

The real problem here is that our backstop against this kind of abuse is "write your congressman", "rock the vote", and "peaceful assembly" in a free speech zone, if you have a permit.

This is just scary. How can anyone now think that a government having any data about our online activity is remotely a good idea? Clearly, the potential for misuse is far greater than the prospect of actually finding terrorist activity through it.

Thank you for sharing this. Absolutely stunning.

Bruce Schneier wrote an article recently on his blog about what a show trial plea bargaining has become.

Another problem is the insane US prison system with an exploding reoffender rate. Even National Geographic is considered contraband.

Prison racial segregation also doesnt need to happen, and is mainly a weird American thing. I know this because if anybody has done time at D Ray fed prison where they keep incarcerated foreigners the first thing you notice is there is no racial problems because there arent any American inmates.

Obviously, all charges are alleged.

* 20 years for charges stemming from going off the deep end and making threats directed at an FBI Special Agent.


* 20 years for hiding two laptops and deleting evidence after being served a warrant.


As mentioned in the article, his mother pled guilty to helping him hide the laptops.


* 15 years for copying and pasting a hyperlink to a document that contained credit card info for at least 5,000 people, and 30 years for possession of stolen credit card numbers and CVVs.


I only see 85 years, I'm curious how the author obtained the number of 105 years.

> Considering that the person who carried out the actual Stratfor hack had several priors and is facing a maximum of ten years, the inescapable conclusion is that the problem is not with the hack itself but with Brown’s journalism.

He was facing 30 to life in prison [1], and had that reduced to 10 years after pleading guilty. Barret Brown has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

> The Stratfor data included a number of unencrypted credit card numbers and validation codes. On this basis, the DOJ accused Brown of credit card fraud for having shared that link with the editorial board of ProjectPM.

"Editorial board" here is referring to a public IRC channel. Elsewhere it is stated that it is a private IRC channel, but it appears to be posted publicly on a Pastebin dated May 2011 so that seems a doubtful claim. [2]

I hate seeing so many obvious mistakes in a piece as biased as this, since it forces the reader to cross reference everything. It's particularly amusing given the constant interstitials asking for donations to support this journalism.

1. http://rt.com/usa/anonymous-stratfor-hammond-judge-440/

2. http://pastebin.com/QNuXwRTn

What I found weird about this article is its portrayal of Barrett Brown as just another journalist. Sure, he was technically a journalist, but calling him that doesn't paint the most accurate picture of the situation.

Barrett Brown wasn't attached to some independent news organization that was doing investigative pieces on Anonymous -- he was a "leader" of Anonymous itself. And he tried hard to be one of their main public faces.

I always thought of him as someone who kept his hands clean of most of the dirty work just so he could maintain his public image. While he wanted to help the cause, he didn't want to shun the spotlight and assume a pseudonym, so his hands were tied. But he still kept in close contact with many of Anonymous's other less-than-law-abiding leaders, which of course, made him quite the target.

This article is good too, says he's contributed to the Guardian, Vanity Fair, was an activist, affiliated with Anonymous. [1]

I haven't seen anyone else except you, calling him a 'leader' of anonymous, where are you getting that info?

Is 'anonymous' the only thing you think differentiates him from being "just another journalist"?

Weird statement from him saying he wasn't informed about the leak..

"I wasn't informed of the leak or the nature of the leak," he told me at the time. "I do defend them for it and I will take responsibility for defending them. But if I had my way it would have been done differently. I have no... they don't need me, basically, so they don't ask my opinion." [1]

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/mar/20/barrett-bro...

For what it's worth, his Encyclopedia Dramatica entry [1] is in the series "Leaders of Anonymous", along with Sabu, Ryan Clearly, etc. It's pretty well known that he was heavily involved, but like most things on IRC and 4chan, the text is ephemeral and/or private, so there's no good records other than miscellaneous pastebins.

On the other hand, I found a decent comment [2] from someone who seems to know what they're talking about that suggests he was just an eager journalist that got pulled too far into this whole thing.

For a quick overview of much of Anonymous's history, I recommend the documentary We are Legion [3]. It features an interview with Barrett Brown, and I think has a much better handle on the whole situation than most MSM reporting does.

[1] https://encyclopediadramatica.se/Barrett_Brown

[2] http://www.reddit.com/r/anonymous/comments/zt41f/barrett_bro...

[2] http://wearelegionthedocumentary.com/

Encyclopedia Dramatica is not meant to be taken seriously. Please don't cite it unless you are making an elaborate joke.

Um, I'm not sure why you felt the need to point this out because anyone who visits the site knows that. I can't fathom how you think someone might not comprehend that.

Don't take everything so literally. Just because the site is full of unabashed trolling, doesn't mean you can't read between the lines and see that my point still stands.

-- Edit --

The reason you don't see any recent MSM articles referring to Barrett Brown as a "leader" of Anonymous is because they don't know what they're talking about. If you want to know the extent of his involvement you have to go to sources published by people who at least have paid attention to this whole situation for reasons besides pageviews. You need to hear from people who have been following the situation for more than just the past month.

But as expected, the closer you get to Anonymous, the more "uncredible" the sources look. Sure, ED and 4chan are rife with trolling -- everyone familiar with the subject beyond today's news article should know that.

However, that doesn't mean these sources don't have merit. They're written by people who know more about the issue than the MSM. They're written by people who (1) know what they are talking about but are (2) trying to troll people who don't know what they're talking about. But you don't have to tease out much misinformation to see that Brown has a long history with Anonymous, and is more than just a "journalist".

I wouldn't have known that and didn't have time to click the link.

From the number of conversations I've had with folks, Barrett Brown has never garnered much respect from any party. Anons in particular view him as a hack that is, at best, only semi-informed on the topics he takes on. He's known as a borderline-schizophrenic, self destructive drama queen that was bound to get partyvan'd eventually.

Guy was still fighting for what he believed in, and most certainly doesn't deserve even 1/10th of the sentence he's being threatened with.

So being interested in a particular group, collecting data on them and reporting on that makes someone the public face of that group and a leader?

Sounds like using that criteria is a good way of accusing independent journalists of guilt by association.

Barrett Brown did a lot more than that in Anonymous.

Anonymous is like a mosh pit. It is a swirl of activity by different actors that come together in a very loose way with very little organization but that brief shared purpose.

Brown may have joined the fray when certain songs came on and maybe influenced the dynamic of the activity for a little while, but it seems like he was mostly on the edge looking in. But it is absurd to call him a leader in the same way it is absurd to say someone 'leads' a mosh pit.

HBGary got pulled into the pit and some blood was splattered on Brown. That doesn't make him guilty of assault just by being able to accurately describe the activity that led to HBGary's broken nose and pointing out the blood stains to the media after the fact.

This was my impression of him as well. I always thought he performed a uniquely valuable service both to anon and to those of us outside anon (and the media etc.).

It's sad to hear what all has happened to him. The way they treated his mother is especially shameful. Really this is just a very upsetting piece in general.

Article says there was 5 million emails and it was that which he pasted the link to, therein contained credit card info for 5k people. How would he have known to screen it for credit card no's? What were the credit card details doing in the emails? How did stratfor come in to possession of them, wikipedia says it has 70 employees? Was that possession legal?

The release was announced here: http://pastebin.com/f7jYf5Wd

See also: http://venturebeat.com/2011/12/30/stratfor-data-dump/

"It's time to dump the full 75,000 names, addresses, CCs and md5 hashed passwords to every customer that has ever paid Stratfor."

That is followed by a request for other people to make use of that credit card information.

I don't know enough to make a judgement on whether he can be expected to have known that the data dump contained credit card information.

So he was not the one that actually released it then. A forbidden URL, he really is being charged for copying and pasting it. Bizarre language, "caused the data to be made available to other persons online". The indictment has the hyperlink in it itself, I would imagine the indictment has been read by more people than were in the IRC channel. Seems hypocritical to me.

It was stratfor subscriber information that contained billing information.

Jesus. He would have gotten less prison time if he'd chopped off some random head.

Fantastic! Now when he's served the first 60 years of his service, medical science will have advanced to the point where we can pay to elongate his life (as a basic human right) so he can serve out the remainder of his sentence, at which point he will leave prison and die near instantly as he can't afford medical care.

I'm sorry I upvoted this. This article does not do justice to the story.

I knew we were in trouble when the author started listing associates of people. (This is when you see a sentence constructed as so: "John went to work for Company X which uses the same lawyers as the mafia". A sure sign extra spin is trying to be added)

"...government contractors were attempting to undermine Americans’ free speech—with the apparent blessing of the DOJ..."

Slow down a freaking minute. Free speech means just that. I can lie to you, plant disinformation, do all kinds of things. I am free to speak. Yes, these groups may have been trying to subvert the credibility of those speaking, and it might have made a great committee investigation to watch on the news, but that's not the same thing as undermining free speech. Now we're getting deep into bullshit territory.

The we get to Stratfor, an organization which explicitly exists to both analyze geopolitical situations and speculate on various blue sky options. Those guys talking about the options to do some kind of crazy op isn't a scandal, it's their job.

The Endgame stuff was intriguing. Could some of this security state, zero-day-exploits and such already be available on the open market? My money says it will eventually, but right now, based on this piece, this still looks like a lot of hand-wavy speculation.

The author claims that this points to a much deeper problem. I'm not so sure. Sounds like Brown went hell-for-leather with a flame-thrower through as many defense contractors and hangers-on that he could find, and finally the system stepped on him like a bug. Not a good thing -- a very bad thing. But hardly at the level of the NSA spying story.

In short, the author overreaches with his thesis, asking the audience to give up NSA paranoia for his version of the military-industrial complex paranoia. You either understand that good people are working in bad systems, or you live in a world where there's good guys and bad guys. The author seems attracted to the latter position. Brown may be a sympathetic character. I'm not sure. Even after reading this piece. Just to be clear, I'm happy his case is getting more attention, because it definitely looks like a shitty thing that's happening to him, but I'd be happier without all the hyperbole. This piece could have used a better editor, somebody that would have challenged the author to tighten up his argument. You don't have to push this story so hard. It's bad enough as it is.

>I knew we were in trouble when the author started listing associates of people. (This is when you see a sentence constructed as so: "John went to work for Company X which uses the same lawyers as the mafia". A sure sign extra spin is trying to be added)

It is quite relevant that all of the players running these governmental departments, companies and quasi-governmental entities (In-Q-tel) all know each other well and seem to be doing each other favors.

>"...government contractors were attempting to undermine Americans’ free speech—with the apparent blessing of the DOJ..." Slow down a freaking minute. Free speech means just that. I can lie to you, plant disinformation, do all kinds of things. I am free to speak.

Sure, you are free to speak as a private citizen but the government should not be allowed to quell citizen's political speech through their own governmental mechanisms (including intimidation) or through private agents under their employ. That is the heart of the right to free speech. They should also not quell legitimate journalism through these mechanisms as that tramples all of the right to free press.

>Those guys talking about the options to do some kind of crazy op isn't a scandal, it's their job.

Fair enough. But it is troubling that these guys are paid to know what is feasible from an operational standpoint and they are suggesting illegal assassinations. Therefore, they must have reason to believe that illegal assassinations are feasible. That is disturbing.

>In short, the author overreaches with his thesis, asking the audience to give up NSA paranoia for his version of the military-industrial complex paranoia.

I think it is valid to say that the government has been shown to be willing to engage in unsavory activity and, by the way, here is some more.

>You either understand that good people are working in bad systems, or you live in a world where there's good guys and bad guys.

But somebody sets up the system. Systems do not form in a vacuum. And, if the system becomes corrupted over time, it is our duty as citizens in a democracy to suss that out and eliminate it. Beyond that, it is our duty to figure out what allowed the corruption in the first place and at least try to make sure it cannot happen again.

> You either understand that good people are working in bad systems

Bad systems can turn good people into bad people and they'll still believe themselves to be "good".

And then we have the current situation: the bad systems have been at work long enough they've attracted and/or manufactured people bad enough to make the systems worse.

I don't know, your reading of this is a lot different than mine. I never felt like it crossed into "the scary bad guys" territory.

The good-people-in-bad-systems thing reminds me of the HBGary story generally. I don't know that I would describe Aaron Barr as a "good" guy at all--I certainly would not wish to ever associate with him--but his motivations throughout seemed pretty banal. Ambition, desire to take down the "bad hackers" in a showy way, desire to defend institutions he sees as basically okay.

Furthermore it does not always have to be the case that good people are working in rotten systems. Some people are genuinely terrible. And even in the case of basically good people who actions are warped by a rotten system - I think any basic idea of moral responsibility prevents us from excusing them for that. And at a certain level I'm not sure what the usefulness is in continuing to call them "good people." It instills empathy and prevents us from constructing cartoon-images of these people in our heads, but it can cross over into becoming an exercise in glossing over worthwhile anxiety . . . "Things aren't really -that- bad, it's just a case of good people stuck in a rotten system . . . "

Finally, the feds coming down this hard on any journalist--it shouldn't matter that he's independent, and possibly kind of hackish--is an alarming compromise of free speech.

Stratfor: I just don't see how you can dismiss this as "just their job." This isn't even a potential op. It's the case of a private company openly toying with the idea of illegally executing some dude for personal reasons. That seems reprehensible in any context, and certainly worthy of whatever scandal it generates.

"Could some of this security state, zero-day-exploits and such already be available on the open market? My money says it will eventually, but right now, based on this piece, this still looks like a lot of hand-wavy speculation."

Purchase and sale of zero-day exploits is already common: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/03/23/shoppin...

Also: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2012/03/21/meet-th...

Everyone laughs when you compare living in the US with living in China and yet... With stories like this of the US going after journalists and even bullying their families to make a point, I wonder how far are we really.

So the ProjectPM site is cached on archive.org, but I really don't know what to make of all the information. Is there a summary of the key findings anywhere?

Stratfor sells news analysis. They are not a "private security company".

Much of their "analysis" relates to security.

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