According to a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Obama administration is not the most transparent in history, but rather the most secretive and least friendly to the press. Leak investigations and mass surveillance have together created a hostile environment for journalists and their sources.
It's interesting, then, that an American journalist, whose beat was largely surveillance and the privatized intelligence community, has been sitting in jail for over 400 days now. His name is Barrett Brown, the founder of Project PM, and he also spent some time as an activist embedded with Anonymous, which no doubt earned him the attention of the authorities.
Brown is a serious journalist who has spent the last several years doggedly investigating the shadowy and highly secretive underworld of private intelligence and defense contractors, who work hand-in-hand with the agencies of the surveillance and national security state in all sorts of ways that remain completely unknown to the public. It is virtually impossible to conclude that the obscenely excessive prosecution he now faces is unrelated to that journalism and his related activism.
Tens of thousands of people have signed petitions demanding his release and for the charges to be dropped, and hundreds have donated to his legal defense. Numerous reputable organizations have made statements of support or expressing concern, to include: WikiLeaks, CPJ, EFF, Reporters Without Borders, Free Press, Article 19, Demand Progress and Fight for the Future.
Despite all this, the Department of Justice remains largely unresponsive, and seems intent on allowing him languish in jail until he can get in front of a jury who will weigh whether he should be punished with decades of imprisonment. All for being a committed dissenter and angering the powers-that-be.
The charges pursued against him equate to a dangerous precedent, especially for anyone who reports on hacking or leaks of stolen information. It means that one can be charged with fraud and identity theft for simply pasting a hyperlink.
A slew of questionable, yet apparently routine, DOJ/FBI tactics have been demonstrated in this tangled case.
In the videos which led to his arrest, Brown contends that it was the FBI's own informants and security contractors who put him at risk, by publishing his address to the internet while he and Anonymous were engaged in challenging a very ruthless Mexican drug cartel during late 2011. Due to their actions, Brown had to fly to New York and spent several weeks below the radar while things cooled down.
The threat to his livelihood was so palpable, and the effects of informants concocting false intelligence about him so concrete, that he was in the midst of preparing civil lawsuits against those involved when he was arrested.
The government was so interested in the book he was writing about Anonymous, that on March 6, 2012 they paid his apartment and his mother's house a visit, taking with them his computers and the notes and manuscript for the book.
Afterward they were so intent on sending an intimidating message, that they brought criminal charges against his mother. This is what made him outraged at the FBI in the first place. Her sentencing has repeatedly been delayed, perhaps in order to secure her silence.
They were so worried that Brown might be able to hire a real lawyer with money that an independent legal defense fund had raised, that they asked the court to seize the funds -- a move which was ultimately shot down.
Brown was deemed such a threat to the establishment and a risk to the community that it was decided he would be indefinitely detained pending trial. We'll never know the faulty arguments which were made to support that decision, because the transcripts of the hearing were sealed.
Does this sound like justice to you?
Barrett Brown is neither a violent person or a flight risk. If they won't drop the charges altogether, then he should at least be granted bail and allowed to prepare a defense for his upcoming trial in relative freedom.
Follow Kevin M. Gallagher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ageis