Barrett Brown Is Writing a Book Critical of the Justice Department. They are Making it Hard by Trying to Prevent Him Being Paid His Advance.


Barrett Brown is currently out of prison and on probation after getting an over five year sentence for essentially linking online to hacked documents (and a supposed threat to an FBI agent that resulted during the investigation for the linking).

Brown tweeted today that the Department of Justice (DOJ), who are seeking to collect the nearly $900,000 in restitution he was found to owe Stratfor (the company whose hacked docs Brown linked to) is preventing him from getting any future money for a book he is working on for Farrar Straus & Giroux.

Free Barrett Brown twitter

In an email from Brown's literary agency I've seen, publisher Farrar Straus & Giroux is reported to have said that they have been told by the DOJ to disburse no further money from the book to Brown without the government's permission.

The next installment on Brown's advance is due soon, though this demand has not yet technically prevented money from reaching Brown's hands. Brown says his own lawyers have not been able to tell him whether the DOJ has the power to hold such moneys owed him in limbo as long as they want with such a demand.

According to Brown, his restitution order mentions he should pay "not less than 10 percent" of his gross monthly income toward that restitution. It simultaneously says that stating such a limit that apparently satisfies his obligation "shall not affect the ability of the United States to immediately collect payment in full through garnishment" and a list of other legal means.

At this link, an infuriating phone conversation can be heard between Brown and Emily Shutt with the DOJ out of the Dallas U.S. Attorney's office. She upholds the general principle that they can do whatever they want when it comes to trying to squeeze money out of Brown.

That link also contains a copy of an "application for a writ of garnishment" sent to Barrett's literary agency, Writer's House, demanding money from them. That document says, for what it's worth, that the amount Brown has to pay "is limited to the lesser of (i) 25 percent of disposable income for a week; or (ii) the amount by which disposable earnings for a week exceed 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage." (How they calculate how book advance earnings should be measured against "a week" is unclear. Books are written over many months.)

Brown thinks it is not at all coincidental that his book is highly critical of the DOJ's actions in prosecuting him. (I reported back in April on how Brown was temporarily taken back into custody for talking to the press without explicit Bureau of Prisons permissions; that post contains a brief assessment with links of his entire tortured legal saga.)

Brown figures what makes his case perhaps unique to the DOJ is that in most other cases, the agency "isn't…trying to complicate publication of a major book that will provide new information on criminality from its office," said Brown in an email today.

As far as Brown knows, a similar insistence on garnishment or holds on his income has not gone to one of his other sources of income, D Magazine. "If this was really about getting restitution for Stratfor, they would have been put through this same process," Brown suggests. "But D Magazine is run by Wick Allison, the former National Review [publisher] who was the one to pay $10,000 to that NYC firm to get me out when I was arrested in April, so they're probably reluctant to expose themselves to that."

This move of the DOJ's indeed might have a chilling effect on his ability to express his criticism of them, he says.

"The great majority of my income comes from these staggered advances, and any other income I try to make would result in further subpoenas and writes of garnishment for whatever outlet I write for," he says. "Even if I got a job at a burger joint, that money would likewise be denied to me indefinitely via this same process. I'll be out of money in a month. It's difficult to write a book under those circumstances, and it's difficult to get further work when the DOJ can force any employer to spend a great deal of time responding to subpoenas and ignoring further requests for direction."

He's unhappy but not surprised: "But given that they had me arrested without charges for giving an interview to Vice back in April, and only let me out when one of my other publishers hired a major law firm to threaten to take it to a judge and demand cause, these people know that they can get away with these things without prompting the degree of press coverage necessary to force them to stop their harassment campaign. This is the price we pay when we aggressively pursue corruption in law enforcement and intelligence; these people know they're immune to consequences."

Detailed background on Brown's legal travails can be found at the Free Barrett Brown website. The founder of that website is involved in an ongoing lawsuit against a U.S. Attorney for seeking via subpoena private information on everyone donating to his legal defense fund, claiming that demand violated both the First Amendment and Stored Communications Act.

NEXT: Watch Nick Gillespie and Katherine Mangu-Ward Debate Capitalism Against Jacobin Magazine in New York City

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “[DOJ]…who are seeking to collect the nearly $900,000 in restitution he was found to owe Stratfor…”

    I didn’t see anything in the linked Wired article which suggests why someone providing a link to another site owes anyone anything.
    Yeah, I know: FYTW, but they usually try to find some semblance of a fig leaf and I didn’t see it. Hints, please.

  2. This guy has been profiled multiple times in this magazine as something of a ‘heroic anti-authoritarian’. I can’t really think of any other way to characterize it.

    I first heard his plight described in 2014. it was described this way:

    he was targeted by the FBI (along with his mother) and faced 17 criminal charges related not just to the hacking but his emotional response to being targeted, which included a YouTube video naming and threatening retaliation against an agent.

    i watched that video. i also watched the prior 2.

    he doesn’t come across well, to put it mildly.

    It seems to me he’s a guy who has run headlong into a brick wall multiple times, and gotten angrier and angrier each time because the wall never says sorry.

    or maybe that’s the point. i don’t know. I just don’t think he makes a compelling libertarian poster-child

    1. I dunno, he may be an ass, but that doesn’t mean that the government isn’t fucking him over for shits and giggles.

      1. nothing i said has anything to do with whether or not the government has behaved abominably. I’m quite sure they have. I know this because i’m a libertarian, and i don’t really need more/new evidence that this is how they behave. In fact, its exactly why i avoid people like this like the plague: i can see how it will end.

        its that the more you look at him, the less-sympathetic you become.

        he reminds me of the sort of people who purposely go into border-patrol checkpoints and refuse to even answer questions. because its “their right” to refuse. because there is no prob. cause, etc etc. etc.

        And they (at least should) know that the more they keep posturing, the more the Border Patrol are going to go,’this guy is suspicious’, and press harder. And it will end with the border patrol smashing their window and dragging the screaming idiot out of the car while he vainly waves his little constitution around.

        are the BP in the wrong? of course. Was the guy a fucking idiot? of course.

        if anything, you’re inuring people to the idea that ‘well, look = that guy’s an asshole, and this sort of stuff is what happens to assholes’.

        You’re more likely to advance the cause of liberty writing an editorial to the local paper than sanctimoniously nailing yourself to a cross. you’re not a martyr anymore when you make youtube videos making death threats to FBI agents. You’re a fucking idiot who damages your own cause.

    2. he doesn’t come across well, to put it mildly.

      As well he shouldn’t. He’s a known world-class dirt-bag. Color me not impressed. I’m in no position to say whether what the government is doing to him is legal. But it’s certainly well deserved, legal or not.

  3. From one of the links here… ” conspiracy to make publicly available restricted personal information of a federal employee ” seems to be a crime.

    If my next-door neighbor is a fed employee, who gets on the public shit-list, and I tell a friend or two, where he or she lives, out of my own personal knowledge, from having chatted with him or her… That is a CRIME!?!?! This doesn’t seem to be a protection afforded to us peons, just to fed employees…

    This SUCKS!!! Our “pubic servants” have become our OVERLORDS, WTF?!?!?

    1. If the first part is true, then all new organizations are going down – – – –
      Oh, wait; does that apply to liberals, too?

  4. Theoretically, what if… What if I were saying,

    “If you wanted to use “booger beam” (obstruct one nostril at a time, and spew boogers & snot out of the other nostril, out onto the ground, sidewalk, posters of and faces of political foes, etc.), in order to express your political opinion, where…
    “Ooops, I lost my train of thought, where were we?
    “WHERE is an optimal place to have your voice heard? Maybe, just maybe, one such place might be…

    Satan J. Trump
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
    Washington, D.C. 20500”

    Notice that I am not SAYING that, I am asking, WHAT WOULD HAPPEN if I said that? Would that be conspiracy of the above sort?

  5. You need to know the most common prewriting strategies if you want to write a really good book!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.