Feds after Anonymous' Barrett Brown again, this time on evidence charge
Former self-declared Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown has found himself indicted on federal charges in the US for the third time in four months. This time officials charge the hacker with hiding evidence during a March 2012 raid on his apartment.
Brown was arrested in September after a separate raid on his Dallas flat. The following month federal prosecutors charged him for alleged threats directed at an FBI agent in a YouTube video. He was then charged in December with sharing information obtained by others during a massive hack on global intelligence firm Stratfor one year earlier that saw the release of hundreds of private company emails published in collaboration with WikiLeaks. The hack is said to have obtained some 5 million emails, as well as the credit card information for subscribers.
The new charges are technically for obstructing an investigation. The indictment states that during the March 6, 2012 raid on his residence, Brown "did knowingly and corruptly conceal and attempt to conceal records, documents, and digital data contained on two laptop computers."
Prosecutors say he was trying to "impair the integrity and availability" of whatever was on the laptops, which federal investigators had hoped would be available for use as evidence before a grand jury and in federal court.
Brown says he got wind of the impending federal search of his apartment before it happened in March and decided to go to his mother's. Federal agents proceeded to raid his flat, and eventually three FBI agents came to his mother's house, asking him if he "had any laptops with me here at my mom's place that I wanted to give them."
"I responded in the negative," he writes, "and they left."
Brown could face twenty years behind bars if convicted.
In his account of the raid, Brown says investigators left him a document stating that they were searching for evidence related to "conspiracy to obstruct justice, and the obstruction of justice, i.e. tampering with a victim, witness, or informant" and "conspiracy to access without authorization protected computers, and fraud and related activity in connection with computers (aiding and abetting)."
The document said they were on the hunt for anything that might tie Brown to the hack on HBGary, another intelligence firm targeted by Anonymous in 2012. They were also looking for information on Anonymous and its subgroup LulzSec; records from various websites and chat systems and addition to information on Infragard, an information-sharing partnership between corporations and the FBI; and Endgame Systems, a security firm like Stratfor and HBGary.
Brown is due in court on January 30 in relation to the alleged threats against the FBI agent.