Last week’s sentencing of US journalist Barrett Brown merely confirms that the US state will stop at nothing to neuter journalists, investigative or otherwise, who threaten the cosy and often criminal relationship between that state and private industry, particularly the security and intelligence community. If there is one lesson to be learnt from the persecution of Brown it is that journalists and investigative researchers can no longer play by the usual rules: they must regard themselves as outlaws and deploy every anti-surveillance resource they can muster to protect their investigations and sources. In the USA the NSA and the FBI monitors journalists’ communications and has done for years (and its partner, GCHQ, assist). Now the message is loud and clear – that any journalist who steps out of line will be imprisoned and financially ruined. To his credit, despite the harsh sentence he received, Brown is resolute he will continue his fight against injustices (see transcript of phone call with Brown below).
To see tips on how journalists and their sources can avoid surveillance, click here.
Brown was sentenced to 63 months in jail on charges ultimately stemming from re-posting a URL. He will likely serve another year behind bars before being eligible for supervised release, having already spent 28 months in jail since being arrested in September 2012. He has also been ordered to pay a whopping $890,000 (£595,000) in restitution. Although Brown did not receive the maximum 8.5 years jail time, the restitution add-on is nothing short of an insult. Unfortunately, under the arcane US justice system, it appears that no appeal will be likely even though there are grounds for such an appeal.
This is what Brown said in a telephone call after sentencing: “We need to restore a very rigorous tradition of civil disobedience until reasonable well-informed people are confident that the powerful are not above the law,” He added that he expects to return to “the necessary effort of investigating misconduct” by the government and the corporations with which it does business.
Here is a post-sentence statement from Brown: “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!”
An interview with Barrett Brown: https://medium.com/krautreporter-stories/barret-brown-612b35784c81
Statement by Brown during sentencing hearing: https://freebarrettbrown.org/allocution/
Post-sentence statements by Brown’s attorneys: http://tumblr.freebarrettbrown.org/post/109175645064/comments-of-charlie-swift-and-marlo-cadeddu
Understanding the charges against Brown: http://tumblr.freebarrettbrown.org/post/102978977219/understanding-barrett-browns-charges-and-conduct
Internet security for journalists: https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/information-security-for-journalists-/s2/a562525/
Using chat can be particularly dangerous: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1381935-discovery-index-of-logs-from-browns-seized.html