U.S. Attorney’s Office asks judge to toss motion to intervene in the case of detained hacktivist Barrett Brown
Journalist-turned-hacktivist Barrett Brown has been in a federal detention center since September, when FBI agents raided his apartment while he was engaged in an online chat. And he will remain there until at least September, when he’s due to stand trial for more than a dozen criminal charges, among them threatening an FBI agent, conspiring to release the personal information of a U.S. government employee, identity theft and releasing credit card information.
Brown, the not-a-spokesman for Anonymous and the subject of a D cover story in 2011, has now become an international story: A lengthy piece on the U.K. Guardian‘s website appeared on March 21 beneath the headline “The persecution of Barrett Brown – and how to fight it,” and insists Brown’s being punished by the government for trying to reveal “the secret relationships and projects between … intelligence firms and federal agencies.”
Aside from its myriad indictments, the federal government hasn’t said much about its case against Brown — or what it’s after. But according to a motion to intervene and quash subpoena filed yesterday, the government is attempting to get its hands on records related to domain name server Cloudflare — and, more specifically, those involving someone named Sebastiaan Provost, who, according to the motion, “built newsgathering websites for Mr. Brown.” Jason Flores-Williams, a New Mexico attorney, filed the motion.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office promptly responded, asking the judge to dismiss the motion. Sarah Saldana’s office offers several reasons, among them Flores-Williams isn’t licensed to practice law in Texas and he
Flores-Williams is among a handful of activists attorneys who co-founded the Whistleblowers Defense League, whose creation was announced yesterday. Their website says the WBDL “stands with those brave souls willing to act against and expose the damaging corporate and political forces injuring our democracy.”
In a press release, WBDL co-founder and attorney Jay Leiderman, who has represented Brown in the past, says, “The internet is the new frontier for civil rights. This indictment of Barrett Brown, like Ai Weiwei, is an affront to democracy. We have to stop this government from criminalizing dissent in our society.”
Doug Morris, the public defender representing Brown, says it “appears the government is trying to get information from these folks, and they believe it’s related to Mr. Brown. That’s what it tells me.” And, for now, that’s all he knows about Flores-Williams’ motion. Morris also doesn’t want to comment on how his client is doing behind bars. For that information we must instead turn to Vice, which published an interview with Brown last week — shortly after Brown’s mother pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice by hiding computers for her son.
“I don’t want to talk to you about the case or the people involved at this point, but obviously I’m not terribly worried about it,” he insisted. When asked why not, he responded: “Just because of my knowledge, I know how long they were in there monitoring our stuff. … I know what documents and records of my activities are available. They’re trying to claim that I intentionally tried to spread credit card information, but I was opposed to that. And I was on record being opposed to it. They’re just not aware of that. They don’t have their [expletive] together in terms of going through what they spied on me regarding … and I obviously know what’s there in that evidence so … I’ve always been opposed to spreading credit cards.”
Brown, ruled competent last January to stand trial, was initially scheduled to go to trial in March. But his attorney asked the judge for the OK to put it off until September, which gave them more time for discovery.
“Every case is unique,” says Doug Morris. “If you have an illegal reentry case, that doesn’t take a long time. Felony possession of a handgun — did you have the gun or not? But if it’s computer-generated, there’s a lot of discovery, and it takes time.”
Brown remains behind bars because, according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Stickney’s September ruling, “Mr. Brown is a danger to the safety of the community and a risk of flight.”