Media's favorite Anonymous hacktivist charged with conspiracy against FBI agents
Nearly one month after being arrested at gunpoint by federal agents during an FBI raid streamed live on the Web, Project PM founder and Anonymous-linked hacktivist Barrett Brown has been indicted on three counts relating to threatening an officer.
Brown, a 31-year-old activist often portrayed by the media as an unofficial spokesperson for the Anonymous movement, was participating in a live webcam chat on September 12 at his Dallas, Texas home when a squadron of FBI agents unexpectedly stormed the residence and brought him into custody. Brown was booked at a local jail shortly after, but details surrounding the case have since been scarcely made available to the public, until now.
On Wednesday, The Dallas Morning News embedded a copy of the official indictment as it was released, revealing that Brown has officially been charged with three counts: making Internet threats; conspiracy to make publically available restricted personal information of an employee of the United States; and retaliation against a federal law enforcement officer.
All counts are related to perceived threats of violence and intimidation that prosecutors say Brown issued over the Web in the days leading up to September’s arrest. Brown’s home had been raided months earlier in an unrelated investigation linked to the FBI’s arrest of LulzSec hacker Hector Xavier Monsegur, or “Sabu,” whom Brown described in a March 2012 dispatch as “a degenerate pussy traitor who couldn't face two fucking years in prison, making him the biggest pussy in the history of mankind.” Monsegur reportedly ratted out several alleged Anonymous operatives and associates to the FBI and had been serving as an undercover informant in the months before authorities surprised Brown and others. During March’s raid, Brown’s laptops and other electronics were subsequently confiscated by the FBI, to which he demanded an immediate return shortly before his latest arrest.
The March raids of alleged hacktivists spawned several arrests of accused members of LulzSec, or Lulz Security, a hacker group that claimed to have launched assaults on Sony, the CIA and others during a string of attacks in the spring of 2011. Jeremy Hammond of Chicago, Illinois was arrested during one of the several international raids that happened concurrently with that month’s incident at Brown’s residence, and has currently been imprisoned without trial for over 200 days over accusations that he assisted the LulzSec hacking group with illegal operations.
In the weeks and months after Sabu turned informant and provided the FBI with information about LulzSec and Anonymous hackers, Brown claims several federal agents harassed both him and his mother, particularly an officer of the FBI named Robert Smith. It is the videos and Twitter messages Brown made public in the days leading up to last month’s arrest, Brown calls out Mr. Smith, suspected informants and others, and asks his supporters to conduct an investigation of their own into the alleged wrongdoing. Of particular importance, however, was that Brown finally have his personal computers returned to him so he could continue his ongoing personal endeavors, including Project PM: an open-source think-tank he founded that examines and uncovers corruption in the federal and private intelligence community.
“I want everyone to know a demand I’m making to the FBI today. That I will have my stuff returned to me in two weeks. No later,” Brown insisted in a video uploaded before his arrest. “When I get it back I’m going to release some stuff that’s on there, and they don’t know what I have access to. That I have copies of that is on there. They don’t want me to have it back. There’s a reason they’re not giving it back, even copies of it. They aren’t done with it.”
“My fucking mom is being threatened by a fucking US DA and a fucking chickenshit little faggot cocksucker, a little FBI agent — Robert Smith, who we are investigating now,” he said.
In one video uploaded to Brown’s YouTube account, he said, “Robert Smith’s life is over. And when I say his life is over, I don’t say I’m going to kill him. But I am going to ruin his life and look into his fucking kids,” suggesting it was retaliation for the harassment his own family has endured during 2012. That perceived threat and several others are included in the federal indictment, as well as several seemingly unrelated tweets and posts calling on his online followers to be weary of authority and to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Elsewhere on the indictment released this week, prosecutors call into question a tweet sent from Brown on September 4 that linked to a news article involving a Maryland police officer caught on camera pistol-whipping a civilian, unprovoked.
“Have you doxed a pig today?” Brown asked. “Be ready for the revolution.” Doxing, or a dox, is researching and collecting information about any person of interest and publishing it on the Web. Encouraging his supporters to investigate on their own is the basis of one of the three federal counts he now faces.
In other tweets listed on the indictment, Brown addresses a news article that the Department of Homeland Security has ordered thousands of rounds of ammo and asks his followers if they are doing the same. In another, he writes, “Kids! Overthrow the US government lol.”
Prosecutors also include tweets from Brown advocating anarchism and one in which he tells a Twitter user that he will shoot on sight if they attempt to trespass in his home. The indictment also quotes Brown as calling FBI agent Robert Smith “a criminal…involved in a criminal conspiracy”
Yet another tweet included as evidence in the indictment is a message sent by Brown on September 10: “A dead man can’t leak stuff…illegally shoot the son of a bitch.” In that instance, he was directly quoting Fox News analyst Bob Beckel, who used those words in reference to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2010.
Days after he was booked, Brown himself dispatched a letter to a friend condemning the case, but said he was barred from discussing the details until the indictment was disclosed.
“I, and everyone else in the court room, were ordered to refrain from discussing the complaint, affidavits, and warrant, all of which are sealed at the request of the author,” Brown wrote, adding, “if I had written something of such low quality and demonstrable untruth, I would burn it and ask forgiveness of every deity invented by man and the higher apes/dolphins/whales.”
“Apparently I am not just a danger to the fragile FBI agents who have taken to threatening my mother and fracturing my ribs in the course of heavily-armed raids on my uptown Dallas apartment, but must be prevented from explaining to my associates, followers, and even enemies why I have again been subjected to violence and indignity,” Brown added.