Journalist Barrett Brown on Prison, Leakers, and Private Intelligence Agencies

Brown just got out of prison this past November after four years behind bars for his association with "hacktivists."


Barrett Brown was just released from prison last November after four years behind bars for, among other things, posting a series of videos in which he appears to threaten an FBI agent. How things escalated to that point in the first place is a complicated matter involving email hacks, drug addiction, and the murky world of private intelligence contractors.

Often straddling a line between journalist and participant, Brown's rise to prominence tracks that of the hacker collective Anonymous, perhaps best remembered for its campaigns against Scientology. Media outlets characterized Brown, not always entirely to his liking, as the spokesman for Anonymous, and it would be his association with hackers that would later put Brown on the FBI's radar.

For his part, Brown believes that it was his investigation into several private intelligence contractors following the hack of a firm called HB Gary. Brown and his team discovered in the emails that several of the firms had joined together into a conglomerate called Team Themis, and that one of Team Themis' projects was to develop potential lines of attack against critical organizations like Wikileaks and journalists such as Glenn Greenwald.

Brown sat down with Reason TV in the Dallas headquarters of D Magazine, where he now works covering city council meetings, to talk about life in federal prison, the state of the private intelligence industry, what an ever-leakier world means for the future of U.S. politics and culture, and his plans to create a decentralized activism network based on lessons learned from Anonymous meant to shake up media and governmental institutions.

Approximately 19 minutes.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Camera by Mark McDaniel and Alexis Garcia. Music by Kai Engel.

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  1. Are hacktivists computer activists, or just really bad and unoriginal activists?

    1. Well a “hacktivist” typically doesn’t do any actual hacking (by the true meaning of the word).

      Often, the most they can do is coordinated DDOS attacks on websites, which are essentially scenarios where a large number of “hacktivists” run a program on their computer that hits a website with so many requests, coming from so many areas, that it can’t function for normal users.

      So I say both, because that’s just the computer equivalent of shouting really loud so people you don’t like can’t be heard, which is a really unoriginal strategy in terms of activism these days.

      1. which is a really unoriginal strategy in terms of activism these days.

        It may be unoriginal, but it sure seems to be popular.

        1. SHUT UP, TULPA.

      2. “Shouting really loud so people you don’t like can’t be heard” is the more public front-line tactic, there are still puppet-masters in the background hiding behind the shouters. You’re not going to see George Soros out there at an anti-Trump rally, and because all the TV cameras are focused on the noisy freaks you’re not going to know George Soros is involved in the anti-Trump rally at all. Who else don’t you know that you don’t know is involved? And that’s just the anti-Trump folks, who’s organizing and bankrolling all the other activist movements? You start falling down that rabbit-hole and you wind up in tin-foil hat land pretty quickly, but there really are conspiracies out there. The CIA’s got its fingers in as many pies as the KGB ever did, just google In-Q-Tel.

        The hacktivists can draw attention to this sort of stuff, but you gotta be willing to pay attention.

  2. ” in which he appears to threaten an FBI agent.”


    Don’t be such a mealy mouthed hack, Zach. You’ve watched the videos, what do you think he did? Did he, or didn’t he do it.

    1. I don’t think anyone disputes much that he threatened the agent. Barrett Brown doesn’t seem to, although he does make some excuses about his state of mind with regard to all the opiates he had been using, then kicking etc.

      I don’t have too much of a problem with him doing time for his threats in any way whatsoever, but charging him with an excess of 100 years in the slammer wasn’t justice, that was sending a message.

      1. I agree with most everything you said, other than the “anyone disputes” part. Because it does look like Zach, while maybe not disputing the facts of the conviction, does want to call them into question (without, you know, actually having to argue the question.)

        So, what I really don’t agree with is seeking to euphemise away the truth because you don’t like it, find it inconvenient to your premise, or do not wish to include the sorts of concerns you raised.

        It’s a form of airbrushing, a cheap rhetorical dodge of the dishonest sort, and it is wrong.

  3. Doesn’t he have a dog to fuck?

    1. hello it bothers me to see u boys disrespect Barrett for his honesty of his past drug use n some shit he said but risked his freedom n life for what he believes in and I’m here to help u chumps..This is What I see As A Woman to be a very rear Man, because he is so honest n don’t like lies…. he has a great mother because I’m the same way to my kids , if u believe in it I will support u at whatever cost… he went for something not for his self u lil panties waizte he did it for all of us to see the truth that the governments lies, n man I’m here to offer my services to Mr. Barrett Brown, so he can do his work as I watch all u lil boys play with his dog and let a real man do his thing… also this man has admit his faults n addictions to the world to me n I don’t know him yet, as well as going to prison for risking to get truth out to the world, u could get the pants on to do that …u can learn to be a mn if u stop hating a this real man, cuz he is what u wish to be…n really stop hating n ur still following him cuz u want to be n can if u pay attention…. so remember what I pointed out but say Mr. Brown s “Sexy Superhero” told me… now go grab ur dog n snack zit in ur room n think how u look like youngster n come out when u grow up n respect elders..

  4. Hello Mr.Barrett Brown, I’ve takena deep in trust in u f along while and have come to make my most favorable person in my life time, and hope to one day meet u as well… by the way u look good, lol… my daughter did time in Colorado and she has told me all the politics that ur pointing out, but women prison from male is different in some ways… this was a very powerful interview that I have heard from u and man gave me goose bumps hearing what u said being behind iron bars, my daughter also much needs to change in the prison system and how they do people, cuz I moved from another state to support my own, so she can come out, from what they sent me and I was way off… prison mentally screws up more then what u were going in and I know…I’m so grateful that ur the one doing this report on truth because was long needed… if u ever need to speak on prison my daughter said feel free to ask no problem… god bless u and looking forward to ur book…

  5. my buddy’s mother gets 66 each hour on the internet, she has been out of a job for twelve months.. the previous month her payment was 16114 just working on the internet four hours per day. go here to this

  6. Media outlets characterized

  7. What the heck? As I was saying: Barrett characterized HIMSELF as the “spokesman for Anonymous,” several times, including in a live CNN interview.

    As for Team Themis, it never existed except as a silly proposal for a contract that was never awarded…which makes it quite a silly reason for anyone to ‘go after’ the fool.

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