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Brown's lead defence attorney, Ahmed Ghappour, has countered in court filings, the most recent of which was lodged with the court Wednesday, that the government's request for a gag order is unfounded as it is based on false accusations and misrepresentations. The lawyer says the attempt to impose a gagging order is a breach of Brown's First Amendment rights as an author who continues to write from his prison cell on issues unconnected to his own case for the Guardian and other media outlets.
In his memorandum to the court for today's hearing, Ghappour writes that Brown's July article for the Guardian "contains no statements whatsoever about this trial, the charges underlying the indictment, the alleged acts underlying the three indictments against Mr Brown, or even facts arguably related to this prosecution."
The lawyer adds that since the current defence team took over in May, Brown has made only three statements to the media, two of which where articles that did not concern his trial while the third ran no risk of tainting the jury pool. "Defendant believes that a gag order is unwarranted because there is no substantial, or even reasonable, likelihood of prejudice to a fair trial based on statements made by defendant or his counsel since May 1, 2013."
Brown, 32, was arrested in Dallas on 12 September last year and has been in prison ever since, charged with 17 counts that include threatening a federal agent, concealing evidence and disseminating stolen information. He faces a possible maximum sentence of 100 years in custody.
Brown is a reporter and commentator whose work has appeared in the Guardian, The Huffington Post, and Vanity Fair. He has been described as being "obsessed" with exposing intelligence contractors, about which he has written extensively. This journalistic obsession ultimately came at a price: beginning in 2012, federal prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas began hammering Brown with a succession of felony charges. Brown currently faces a raft of charges that, if he is convicted on all counts, could put him in prison for more than 100 years.
Although Brown's charges loosely relate to breaches of data belonging to intelligence contractor Stratfor Forecasting by the hacker collective Anonymous, Brown himself has not been accused of hacking. Instead he is charged, in three separate indictments, with threatening an FBI agent, obstructing justice, and charges related to trafficking in stolen credit card information.
It is this third set of charges that is so particularly troublesome to technology and press freedom advocates. Prosecutors allege that Brown posted a hyperlink to a file available on the Internet to a chat room he set up to crowdsource information about the intelligence contracting industry. For doing so, he faces years in federal prison.
from the prosecutorial-overreach dept
We've covered the immensely troubling case against Barrett Brown a few times here. Brown is the journalist and activist who was arrested on a series of highly questionable charges, mostly focused on taking the astounding step of copying a URL pointing to a bunch of Stratfor emails that people in Anonymous had hacked, and placing it in a chat room that Brown managed, to try to crowdsource information about intelligence community contractors, known as Project PM. No one has accused Brown of being responsible for the hack -- but rather just posting the link to the hacked contents, which the feds are claiming is a federal crime, in part because the data it pointed to contained credit card info. There are two other charges, including concealing evidence (he put his laptop in his mother's dish cabinet) and "threatening a federal agent" based on a rambling video he had posted to YouTube, which was probably inappropriate, but was in response to being constantly harassed and threatened himself for merely reporting on the various information that had been leaked. Glenn Greenwald's summary from earlier this year is well worth reading.
The incredible thing is that the linking to leaked materials, including those that reveal hacked documents and things like passwords is fairly common. As the EFF pointed out a few weeks back, if what Brown did with the link to Stratfor emails was a crime then plenty of other publications are guilty of the same thing, including The Daily Beast and Buzzfeed, who both posted links to what some claimed were passwords for email accounts of Congressional staffers.
Even more ridiculous, however, is that the government is seeking to silence the media from reporting on the case, claiming, ridiculously that press coverage related to the case is something it can blame on Brown himself because various publications are reporting on the ridiculous details of his arrest and the charges against him.
What Brown actually did was post a link to a “data dump” of stolen information, including credit-card numbers, on his own Internet Relay Chat forum. He also had one or more text files containing about 10 stolen credit-card numbers on his own computer.
If that’s the case, then dozens of technology journalists, including possibly this writer, as well hundreds of technology researchers, might be considered just as guilty as Brown.
Many online news reports include links to websites where politically motivated hackers post their manifestos, and those manifestos in turn often contain links to file-sharing sites that house stolen data.
Are journalists who post those links trafficking in stolen goods?