How corrupt can we be? Let us take Barrett Brown campaigning against Fox’s calls to assassinate Julian Assange, and flip that to say he’s campaigning for the assassination of FBI agents and use that to put him away for a decade. And then, if he tries to talk about this abuse in order to re-establish the true context, we’ll gag him!”
Nothing so well describes the surreal universe that has enveloped the United States as yesterday’s sentencing hearing of Barrett Brown.
Barrett has been jailed without trial for over two years now. He faces eight and a half more years. His next sentencing hearing is due in January 2015. The situation also involves me personally and the work of WikiLeaks.
Barrett Brown’s Hunter S Thompson style, his public lampooning of the US security state and his defence of WikiLeaks and Anonymous did not win him friends in the US administration and soon enough the FBI was looking for any excuse to take him down.
The case against Barrett Brown can be broken down into two parts. Two charges against him occur as a direct result of his journalistic work on our Stratfor materials (anonymizing his sources and discussing, with others, the material they provided to him). These charges are at odds with national and international protections for the press and freedom of expression. The third charge concerns his speech acts after the FBI threatened to charge his mother unless he handed over his source material. There are no other charges.
The FBI showed up at his mother’s home on March 6, 2012. His mother hid Barrett’s journalistic notebooks among her pots and pans; an action any son could be proud of. Barrett didn’t co-operate and so the FBI made good on its threat. His mother was charged, convicted and eventually placed on six months probation—for obstructing the course of justice.
“My better judgement was clouded by my maternal instinct” she wryly told the judge.
Barrett reacted to this injustice inflicted on his mother like any son would. He became ill-tempered. But, being an American from generation Y, his anger was expressed on social media.
Barrett, a journalist as well as a son, said he was going to “ruin” the FBI officer concerned by investigating his connections—including those of his adult children. Not a complete fool, he stated, in the same sentence, that this was not a threat of violence, but rather the equalisation of a double standard: doing what the Bank of America did against WikiLeaks when it asked US intelligence contractor Aaron Barr to map out WikiLeaks’ relationships, including, specifically, with the journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Barrett’s angry comments to his friends was at odds with the times. Twitter is a police interview that never ends. Facebook has all your friends wearing a wire. Youtube has you in the dock talking to the judge. Every social media user creates a vast library of statements that may be taken out of context by vengeful or ambitious officials. Users should be displayed their Miranda rights each time they log on.
The most serious claim against Barrett Brown is that six months after the March 6, 2012 FBI raid on his mother’s address he tweeted “illegally shoot the son of a bitch”. It sounds bad. It is a clear incitement to murder. The FBI claim that the “son of a bitch” Barrett was referring to was one of their agents. That is false. The “son of a bitch” is me—and the person who called for my assassination was not Barrett Brown.
Barrett’s full retweet was “dead men can’t leak stuff… illegally shoot the son of a bitch”. The quote is from Fox news host Bob Beckel, who called for my assassination—an injustice that Barrett was trying to draw attention to. Here is the video proof.
The FBI took no action against Bob Beckel or the numerous other senior figures calling for my assassination. A bill was put before Congress to declare WikiLeaks staff “enemy combatants” in order to make our assassination legal. It did not pass, but the FBI still refused to act.
Two days after Barrett retweeted the Bob Beckel statement, the FBI arrested not Bob Beckel, but Barrett Brown. He has been in jail ever since.
The Barrett Brown case is such an obvious injustice that a public campaign by his lawyers to place the Beckel statement back into its proper context would be an obvious step for his defence team.
Indeed, after being publicly monstered by the FBI’s decontextualisation effort, Barrett Brown and his lawyers fought to place the quote back into its proper context. As a result he and his legal team were gagged.
“Brown has shown his intent to continue to manipulate the public through press and social media comments,” the government claimed to the court on August 8, 2013. Public commentary “made by or condoned by the defense will ‘undermine a fair trial.’” As a result, the court ruled it was necessary“to restrain Counsel and Defendant from making prejudicial statements to the press and media.”
How fine, how noble, how egalitarian. Fair trial rights for the government as well as the defence! Neither the defence nor the government can state their case to the public while Barrett Brown rots in jail awaiting his sentence—except to repeat the formal charges made by the government. Neither the greatest King nor the most destitute beggar may sleep in a box on the street. Fair’s fair!