Barrett Brown is a writer/activist who has written for Vanity Fair, The Guardian, and who acted, for a time, as a self proclaimed spokesperson for Anonymous. In 2012 he was arrested on charges related to the hacking of private security intelligence firm Stratfor. Another individual, Jeremy Hammond, is currently serving a 10 year sentence for hacking Stratfor, stealing credit card information from their servers, and releasing email addresses obtained through the hack to WikiLeaks. However, Barrett Brown had seemingly no involvement in the hack itself and had only shared a publicly available hyperlink to the leaked information in a chatroom. For the crime of encouraging others to investigate the leaked information, the federal government charged Barrett Brown with crimes ranging from aggravate identity theft to “trafficking in stolen identification features”, carrying a maximum sentence of over 50 years. While free speech advocates and journalist rights organizations have spoken out against criminalizing the act of “copying and pasting a hyperlink” Barrett Brown has now been in jail for 18 months as legal proceedings have wound through the court.
However, despite the relative successful defense of Barrett Brown’s case, the harassment and threats made by the federal government to whistleblowers, ‘hacktivists‘, and journalists has hit a fever pitch in recent years and seriously threatens a free press.
For a full rundown of the alarming repercussions of this case check out the Electronic Frontier’s wonderful analysis here.