Barrett Brown

Barrett Brown

Part of a series on Anonymous. [View Related Entries]

Updated Jun 24, 2015 at 01:29AM EDT by Brad.

Added Mar 29, 2013 at 06:07PM EDT by Don.

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Barrett Brown is a writer and founder of the intelligence contracting industry wiki Project PM.[1] Brown has often been treated as a spokesperson for the ad-hoc group of Internet known as Anonymous by several news media outlets.

Online History

In April 2000, Brown began writing for America Online's features department, where he remained employed for the next four years. In April 2007, he began writing freelance for the satirical news publication The Onion. In August of 2009, he began contributing articles to the news site True/Slant and The Huffington Post.

Affiliation with Anonymous

In early 2010, Anonymous launched a massive DDoS attack against several Australian government websites to protest the proposed regulations and censorship laws on the web. On February 11th, Brown wrote a column titled "Anonymous, Australia, and the Inevitable Fall of the Nation-State" for The Huffington Post and Slate, which highlighted the group's efforts against web censorship proposals in Australia. On March 25th, 2010, an article by Brown was published on The Huffington Post,[2] which reported that the United States government was planning to destroy the online leak publication site WikiLeaks. On March 4th, 2011, Brown was quoted in an article on The Tech Herald[4] about Anonymous defense of Bradley Manning, in which he was referred to as "a self-styled spokesperson for Anonymous." On March 23rd, D Magazine[5] published an article titled "Barrett Brown is Anonymous," which described Brown as a ex-heroin addict and former Internet troll who had become passionate about hacktivism.

Operation Cartel

On October 6th, 2011, YouTuber MrAnonymousguyfawkes uploaded a video to YouTube (shown below, left) featuring a man wearing a Guy Fawkes mask ordering the Mexico-based International drug cartel The Zetas to release a member of Anonymous that had been taken captive during a street protest in Vera Cruz. The man in the video threatened to expose the personally identifiable information of individuals linked to the cartel if their captive was not set free, which was soon given the codename Operation Cartel (shown below). On November 2nd, Brown uploaded a video to his YouTube channel to confirm that the operation was still in motion despite and elaborate on the details of the operation (shown below, right).

On November 3rd, Gawker[8] published an article by staff writer Adrian Chen, which referred to Brown as "Anonymous' informal spokesman. The article went on to quote Brown who claimed hackers had compiled a list of 75 collaborators with the Zetas, which were planned for release as payback for the kidnapping of an Anonymous member in Veracruz. The following day, D Magazine[6] reported that Operation Cartel had been halted by Anonymous after the Zetas threatened to kill 10 people for each outed collaborator.

Arrest and Trial

On March 6th, 2012, Brown announced via Twitter that his apartment had been raided by the FBI following the LulzSec founder Xavier Monsegur (a.k.a. Sabu) was pressured into giving up information about Anonymous members.[9]

On September 12th, Brown uploaded a video to YouTube in which he threatens to destroy FBI agent for harassing his mother (shown below, left). The same day, YouTuber raincoaster uploaded a video featuring a Tinychat video session in which Brown can be heard being arrested in the background (shown below, right). On September 13th, The Huffington Post[10] reported Brown was arrested for threatening an FBI agent.

On January 30th, 2013, the Dallas Observer[11] reported that Brown was being charged with concealing evidence, threatening an FBI agent and disseminating information, for which he could face up to 100 years in prison. On the following day, Vice[12] published an article about Brown's indictments, noting that the concealing evidence charge was linked to Brown pasting a link to a document containing stolen credit card numbers into an IRC chat room.

Gag Order

In early August 2013, US Attorney Candina Health moved to have Brown's legal team restricted from press and social media access during his upcoming case, avoiding "trying the case in the media."[14] On September 4th, 2013, despite an argument[15] from Brown's lawyers, a federal court issued a gag order against Brown and his attorneys, disallowing them from speaking to any media outlets. The order (shown below) states that Brown and his team are only allowed to speak about information that is already in the public record without elaborating on them, however they are allowed to speak about topics unrelating to the charges.

On September 4th and 5th, Several news blogs covered the gag order, including The Guardian[16], The Daily Caller[17], Fire Dog Lake[18], The Daily Dot[19] and Salon.[20] Motherboard[21] spoke with the director of[22], Kevin Gallagher, who saw the gag order as an example of the Streisand Effect, as Brown had previously agreed not to write about his legal issues. Instead, the order simply draws more attention to the case. His trial is expected to begin in October, more than a year after he was first arrested.[23] The gag order remained in effect until April 23rd, 2014, when the court issued an order[25] to lift the ban and unseal a series of documents closely detailing Brown's affiliation with Anonymous.

Dismissal of Charges

On January 31st, 2014, Brown's attorneys filed a motion asking the court to dismiss one of the three indictments against him.

BB Motiontodismiss1

On February 14th, the U.S. court rejected the request, ruling that Brown’s “past association with Anonymous is crucial to understanding the significance of his threatening comments and conduct." The defense then appealed the verdict arguing that Brown’s affiliation with Anonymous had no relevancy to his indictment and that the government was implying guilt by association.

"As such, the government fails to show a reasonable basis upon which a juror could find that ‘Anonymous’ was a violent group or partook in violent activities."

On March 5th, Brown’s defense filed a second motion to dismiss the charges, this time arguing they were vague and violated their client’s constitutional rights, specifically those associated with Brown’s posting of a hyperlink in a chatroom.[24]

BB Motiontodismiss2

On March 6th, United States prosecutors announced they had dropped eleven charges against Brown, including the charge for posting a hyperlink to a website containing hacked email addresses and credit card information. Brown continues to face several remaining charges for obstruction of justice and alleged threats against an FBI agent.

Barrett Brown Court Dates Trial 1 Trial 2 May 19 April 28 2014 2014 1100 Commerce St. Dallas, TX 9AM

Guilty Plea

On April 30th, 2014, Barrett Brown pleaded guilty to the remaining three federal charges: 1) obstructing the execution of a search warrant; 2) threatening to shoot and injure federal agents; 3) being an accessory to an unauthorized access of a protected computer.


On January 23rd, 2015, a federal judge in Dallas, Texas sentenced Brown to five years and three months in prison and a fine of $890,000 in restitution for damages incurred as a result of his involvement in the hack of private intelligence firm Stratfor in 2011. Immediately after the sentencing, Brown released a statement to the press sarcastically welcoming the court's ruling and thanking the U.S. government for sponsoring his next investigation of life in prison.

“Good news! -- The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose [wrongdoing] by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system. I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into in bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. -- Wish me luck!”

Discounting more than two years of the prison term Brown had already served, the activist journalist could serve up to an additional three years, although it has been reported that he would be eligible for supervised release after serving one year.


In 2010, it was widely reported in the news media that Barrett Brown served more or less as a spokesperson for Anonymous, however, by May 2011, Brown had reportedly renounced his affiliation with the group. Since Barrett's arrest in September 2012, several civil liberties groups and digital rights activists have declared their support for the imprisoned journalist and the Free Barrett Brown[22] campaign, including WikiLeaks, Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), Reporters Without Borders (RWB), Demand Progress, Fight For The Future and Free Press, among others.

Ten years ago it would have been infeasible for tens of thousands of individuals with no physical connection or central leadership to conceive, announce, and implement a massive act of civil disobedience against a significant Western power, crippling a portio of its online infrastructure in the process - and to do all of this in a matter of days, and without anyone involved having to contend with the tear-gas-and-horseback response with which states have traditionally been in the habit of contending with mass action. But such a thing as this is happening today, and having been done once will almost certainly be done again repeatedly, increasingly, and with potentially significant consequences for the nation-state." Barrett Brown Arressted September 12, 2012 Currently facing 100 years imprisonment for sharing a link, making some angry YouTube videos and hiding his laptop. VE DO NOT FORGET BARRETT REEANO NTELLIG Par:AnoIA ANUNOPs ANONHMOUS OPERATIONS WE ARE FREEANONS WE WILL NOT FORGIVE AND WE WILL NOT FORGET UNTL EVERY ANON IS FREE We are inspired to action by the prosecution of our friends and fami Our friends and family, Anons prosecuted for having taken actions we believe are legitimate acts of protest against an urjust and corrupt state. OU CAN'T ARREST AN IDEA MailToTheJail FREE BARRETT 115 COMMUNE DE he Anonymous Solidarity Network provides support (or in Auonymous activiis

Portrayal in House of Cards

In the second season of Netflix political drama series House of Cards, Barrett Brown is mentioned several times by the character Gavin Orsay, a hacker-turned-informant portrayed by Jimmie Simpsons who demands the FBI to drop all charges against Brown and release him from prison while negotiating his terms of cooperation with the federal authorities.

Search Interest

External References

[1] Wayback Machine – Project PM

[2] The Huffington Post – CIA State Department Apparently Acting on Plan to Destroy Wikileaks

[3] Little Green Footballs – McCain accuses me of planning violent attacks

[4] The Tech Herald – Anonymous plans defense for Bradley Manning

[5] D Magazine – Barrett Brown is Anonymous

[6] D Magazine – Barrett Brown vs The Zetas

[7] Chron – Online hackers threaten to expose cartels secrets

[8] Gawker – Spokesman says anonymous will use

[9] Gizmodo – Anonymous Reacts to Sabus Betrayal of Lulzsec

[10] The Huffington Post – Barrett Brown Arrested

[11] Dallas Observer – Barrett Brown Found Competent to Stand Trial

[12] Vice – Why is Barrett Brown Facing 100 Years in Prison

[13] Encyclopedia Dramatica – Barrett Brown

[14] RT – Gagged: Federal court says accused hacktivist Barrett Brown can’t speak to the press

[15] Scribd – Barrett Brown Gag Order Response

[16] The Guardian – US stops jailed activist Barrett Brown from discussing leaks prosecution

[17] The Daily Caller – Imprisoned journalist Barrett Brown slapped with gag order

[18] FireDogLake – Judge’s Gag Order Cuts Off Press From Receiving Reports on Barrett Brown’s Case

[19] The Daily Dot – Barrett Brown silenced from speaking about his trial

[20] Salon – Judge hands gag order to Barrett Brown

[21] Motherboard – The US Government Just Upheld Barrett Brown's Gag Order

[22] – Home

[23] Rolling Stone – Barrett Brown Faces 105 Years in Jail

[24] Free Barrett Brown – Motion to dismiss

[25] Free Barret Brown – Gag order lifted, documents unsealed

[26] Washington Post – Ex-Anonymous spokesman pleads guilty to charges

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