Erstwhile #Anonymous Spokesman Barrett Brown Scores Six-Figure Book Deal, Raided by FBI, Denounces Snitch
Posted on | March 11, 2012 | 40 Comments
Barrett Brown, blabbering vulgar gibberish into his webcam, March 2011
“The fact that Amazon is now providing money to me and Housh — they’re going to help us get our message out.”
— Barrett Brown, November 2011
Longtime readers of the blog will recall that in February 2011, I put up a post with this headline:
An atheist heroin addict from Texas, Brown had begun promoting himself as public spokesman for the criminal hacker group “Anonymous,” which gained notoriety as a sort of volunteer amateur auxilliary to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks.
This development was bizarre beyond words in two ways:
- Brown was generally known to the blogosphere as a sort of D-list troll, a narcissistic braggart with obvious mental-health issues, prone to boasting of his plans to create ‘A Communicational Schematic That Is Superior to Anything Else in Existence’, getting himself banned from group blogs and engaging in such ill-advised stunts as threatening libel suits against his online critics; and
- How does one act as “spokesman” for a gang of computer-hacking criminals without becoming complicit in their crimes?
The second point was blindingly obvious: Either Brown was exaggerating his role with “Anonymous” or else he was up to his neck in a very serious international criminal conspiracy.
Yet the mainstream media, in their eagerness to report on the “Anonymous” phenomenon, seemed to take him at face value. Brown appeared on NBC News in an interview with Michael Isikoff who described him as “an underground commander in a new kind of warfare.”
This was either (a) total bulls–t, or (b) an admission of guilt to several potential federal felony charges, and it didn’t really matter which one it was in terms of its larger signficance, i.e., Barrett Brown had somehow self-promoted his way to Troll Stardom.
By showering attention on this amoral sociopath, NBC (and other media who treated Brown as a legitimate source) were incentivizing the very worst sort of online activity. Delusions of grandeur are a common trait of trolls, who always imagine themselves as heroic figures.
Weren’t the media helping Brown troll his way to fame and fortune? Why would they make a celebrity of a borderline psychotic whose modus operandi is blabbering vulgar gibberish into his webcam?
Well, fast-forward: I last took notice of Brown in June 2011, when British police arrested a “Luzsec” hacker whose crimes raised questions about “Anonymous.” However, I wasn’t paying attention a month later when federal agents arrested 14 members of “Anonymous” (and five other members were arrested overseas) for engaging in denial-of-service attacks against PayPal.
Because I was busy covering the fight for the Republican presidential nomination, Barrett Brown and “Anonymous” dropped off my radar screen, but it appears our boy has kept busy in recent months.
In November, it was announced that Brown and a dweeb named Gregg Housh had scored a deal (with a reported six-figure advance) for a book to be titled Anonymous: Tales From Inside The Accidental Cyberwar which was “pitched as Barbarians at the Gate for the digital era.”
Let’s pause to examine Brown’s would-be co-author: Housh has been described as a “seventh-grade dropout, devout atheist, and proud computer troll” who once served “three months . . . in federal prison for copyright infringement via software piracy.”
Now let’s pause to consider whether someone like Housh could, in collaboration with someone like Brown, produce a book that would earn back a six-figure advance payment.
Once you’ve stopped laughing, consider this: The company that gave Brown and Housh this book contract was Amazon, which had been targeted in a denial-of-service attack by Anonymous in December 2010. So it appears that Amazon was willing to pay big money to two members of this criminal gang that had tried to destroy Amazon’s business during the biggest online sales month of the year.
Do you see what I mean incentivizing bad behavior?
Fast-forward again to last week, when law-enforcement agents busted the “Anonymous” offshoot known as “LulzSec”:
Among those charged Tuesday was 27-year-old Jeremy Hammond of Chicago. Investigators said Hammond boasted that he’d snared the personal data of a former U.S. vice president and one-time CIA director as part of an attack in December of Strategic Forecasting Inc. or Stratfor, a global intelligence firm in Austin, Texas, that affected up to 860,000 victims.
The government said Hammond conspired to hack into computer systems used by Stratfor, which describes itself as a subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis.
It said he and co-conspirators stole credit card information for approximately 60,000 credit card users and used some of the stolen data to make more than $700,000 . . . in unauthorized charges. . . .
Also charged with conspiracy to commit computer hacking were Ryan Ackroyd, 25, of Doncaster, England; Jake Davis, 19, of Lerwick, Scotland; Darren Martyn, 25, of Galway, Ireland, and Donncha O’Cearrbhail, 19, of Birr, Ireland.
The charging documents in the “LulzSec” arrests revealed that this bust was made possible by the cooperation of an “Anonymous” hacker known as “Sabu” who was arrested in June:
Hector Xavier Monsegur, a hacker with the group Anonymous cooperating in a U.S. probe, won’t face prosecution on charges including attempted drug-dealing and illegal gun possesion, according to a plea deal.
The agreement, made public today, stated Monsegur, 28, won’t face federal charges for hacking the website of an online casino, trying to sell five pounds of marijuana, receiving stolen property and gun possession.
The U.S. also said Monsegur won’t be prosecuted for using an employer’s credit card to make $15,000 in unauthorized charges. The government said Monsegur’s hacking activities date back to 1999. . . .
(In other words, this career criminal has evidently been given immunity for a slew of crimes in return for ratting out his accomplices.)
Monsegur, a former member of the Anonymous, Internet Feds and LulzSec hacker groups, began secretly cooperating with U.S. investigators after his arrest on June 7, according to a court transcript. Monsegur began working “around the clock” to inform on his colleagues, prosecutors told a judge. . . .
Monsegur, who pleaded guilty Aug. 15, began cooperating with U.S. authorities, including Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, after his arrest, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska at a court hearing in August, according to a transcript.
Monsegur, who used the nickname Sabu and is described as an “influential member” of all three hacker groups, admitted to staging cyber-attacks against the websites of the governments of Algeria, Yemen and Zimbabwe, according to a criminal information unsealed March 6. He also said he conducted hacks on Tribune Co. . . . and . . . Fox television, prosecutors said.
“Since literally the day he was arrested, the defendant has been cooperating with the government proactively,” Pastore told Preska at the Aug. 5 hearing, according to the transcript made available yesterday. “The defendant has literally worked around the clock with federal agents. He has been staying up sometimes all night engaging in conversations with co- conspirators that are helping the government to build cases against those co-conspirators.” . . .
I believe the appropriate term here is “LULZ!”
The bigger the conspiracy, the greater its vulnerability to snitches. This is a basic fact of criminal activity that the “Anonymous” idiots failed to comprehend, just like they didn’t understand why serious criminals have a basic rule of survival: Don’t roll with punks.
A punk is the kind of foolish coward who, as soon as he’s busted and pressured by cops, will spill his guts and turn informant on everybody he knows in order to avoid the consequences of his own crimes. Experienced criminals are usually quite wary of getting involved with any accomplice they don’t know well enough to judge whether he might be either an active informant or else the kind of gutless punk who would rat them out the minute the cops show up with an arrest warrant.
- Question: How can anyone ascertain, in a virtual environment, the true character of another person, if that other person is skillful at deception and has strong motives to deceive?
- Answer: You can’t.
- Question: Given that hacking is an activity that necessarily involves deception and theft, wouldn’t it be the kind of activity that would attract a lot of pathological liars?
- Answer: It would.
- Question: Aren’t most liars and thieves also cowards?
- Answer: They are.
So as soon as Barrett Brown began boastfully promoting himself as the public spokesman for “Anonymous,” it was as certain as night follows day that this episode would not end well for him. It was therefore a predictable ROTFLMAO moment to read Brown’s account of what happened when the feds showed up Tuesday:
On the morning of the 6th, three FBI agents came to my mom’s door and asked if I was there. She woke me up and I went down to talk to them. They told me that they’d executed a search warrant at my apartment and that the door had been broken in the process, and then asked me if I had any laptops with me here at my mom’s place that I wanted to give them. I responded in the negative, and they left. At that point I began taking calls and e-mails from the press regarding Sabu, whom I learned was in fact a degenerate pussy traitor who couldn’t face two f–king years in prison, making him the biggest pussy in the history of mankind. . . . At any rate, the Feds came back a couple of hours later with a search warrant for my mom’s place — they fully intended to take a certain laptop, and did.
While this is is funny enough — at his mom’s house! — in its own right, but am I the only one who sees the comedy in Brown’s denunciation of “Sabu” as a “degenerate pussy traitor”?
As court documents make clear, “Sabu” was threatened with a lot more than “two f–king years in prison.” In fact, the feds had enough on him to put him away for the rest of his life.
Beyond that, however, exactly how does Barrett Brown think the feds identified “Sabu” as the ringleader? How did they bust that “LulzSec” hacker in June? How did they bust those 14 “Anonymous” hackers in July? Doesn’t it seem obvious — as it seemed obvious to me as early as February 2011 — that having a self-promoting public spokesman created a distinct vulnerability for this hacker conspiracy?
Look: All it took was for one member of the group to be identified as such by law enforcement, at which point they could get a warrant that would permit them to monitor every communication — e-mail, chat, phone, whatever — in which that person engaged, and . . .
BARRETT BROWN IDENTIFIED HIMSELF!
How stupid do you have to be not to see what that meant?
Certainly, I’m not that stupid, nor am I so stupid that I didn’t realize, when I got an e-mail tip about Brown’s emergence as “Anonymous” spokesman, that the feds probably already had Brown under intense scrutiny. Even if Brown’s publicity-seeking hadn’t been enough to elicit law-enforcement attention, the person who tipped me surely would have tipped the feds before alerting me.
There was always something weirdly suspicious about this episode, and any supporter of “Anonymous” who suspected that Barrett Brown was himself a federal informant . . .
Well, who knows? Maybe he was just too stupid to understand what he was getting himself into, or maybe he was just bulls–tting all along about being privy to the inner workings of “Anonymous.” Maybe he’s lying about the FBI raid, too — or maybe the feds just wanted access to his hard drive in order to be able to add more evidence to what they’d already gotten by wiretapping Brown’s online communications for the past year or more.
Will this jeopardize Barrett Brown’s book deal? Is Brown’s co-author Gregg Housh also a federal suspect, or maybe an FBI informant? Are there many “Anonymous” and WikiLeaks sympathizers who would like to strangle Brown and Housh for cashing in with Amazon? Here is an episode of the left-wing broadcast Democracy Now! in which host Amy Goodman proves herself too stupid to think of asking such important and relevant questions of Housh:
We await further news about the continuing adventures of famed cybergenius Barrett Brown, a troll so obnoxious he managed to get himself banned from Little Green Footballs!