The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Is the FBI Watching Barrett Brown? (And If They’re Not Already, Shouldn’t They?)

Posted on | February 14, 2011 | 26 Comments

One of those weird stories that just drops out of the sky: Regular readers will recall my occasional go-rounds with atheist blogger Barrett Brown, who first appeared on my radar amid the 2009 LGF blogwar and has since occasionally popped up from time to time. My status as a sometimes combatant with Brown resulted in me getting a tip that Brown has evidently become a public-relations agent for the hacker group “Anonymous,” which launched cyberattacks against critics of WikiLeaks.

Via his DailyKos account, Brown has posted a series of messages purporting to be press releases from “Anonymous.” One of Brown’s posts claimed that the hacker group successfully breached the computer systems of HBGary Federal after an official of that firm was quoted in a Feb. 5 Financial Times article warning that members of “Anonymous” had been identified and were vulnerable to prosecution.

Unfamiliar with (and not hitherto interested in) this aspect of the WikiLeaks controversy, I’m not sure what Brown’s trying to do. Some of what he has posted on behalf of “Anonymous” reads like demented satire. He may be joking, or perhaps just trying to insert his name into the middle of a story that interests him.

On the other hand, if he’s serious, he’s insane, because to make himself an online spokesman for “Anonymous” would almost certainly suffice as probable cause for a search warrant to determine how Brown is in contact with a group suspected of criminal activity online.

Maybe Barrett Brown’s computer activities are squeaky clean and perfectly legal, and he therefore feels entirely safe using his DailyKos diary to bait the Justice Department into launching an investigation of him. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but trying to elicit a search warrant that results in the FBI seizing your computer would seem rather an elaborate P.R. stunt, even for a self-dramatizing narcissist.

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