Posted on | December 7, 2012 | 13 Comments
Barrett Brown, whose online meltdown led to his September arrest for threatening an FBI agent, has been indicted for last year’s Stratfor hacking.
UPDATE: Brown acted as an unofficial spokesman for the Anonymous hacking conspiracy for more than a year and was raided (but not arrested) in March at the time the feds busted the “Lulzsec” splinter cell of Anonymous. Because Brown was not arrested, there was widespread suspicion from March onward that he was cooperating with authorities as an informant, in a deal similar to the one whereby “Lulzsec” leader Sabu ratted out his comrades.
Six months after the March raid, Brown posted a series of bizarre YouTube video rants in which he threatened by name an FBI special agent, and was charged with three federal counts related to that incident. Brown’s belated indictment for the December 2011 hacking of Stratfor (and distribution of illegally obtained credit card information) may help explain the strange paranoia that led to Brown’s September meltdown.
UPDATE II: Associated Press via Washington Post:
Barrett Brown, 31, was indicted in Dallas this week on a dozen charges that include aggravated identity theft and device fraud. He is accused of making public an Internet link providing access to credit card information stolen from Stratfor, which had emails taken during that same hack released by WikiLeaks. . . .
Brown was a de facto spokesman for Anonymous, willing to speak for a movement that prides itself on anonymity. The Stratfor breach claimed by Anonymous ravaged the company’s servers, leading to the disclosure of thousands of credit card numbers and other information.
UPDATE III: Brown’s egomaniacal arrogance caused him to be regarded as a selfish “famewhore” by some Anonymous members. When he emerged as the media-grabbing face of the hacker movement in 2011, I predicted that Brown would become a focus of law-enforcement scrutiny. Logically, Brown could not speak for the Anonymous hackers without communicating with them, and thus surveillance of Brown could lead the feds to other members of the group. Whether or not that’s what led to the subsequent arrests of Anonymous hackers, it’s now becoming evident that the feds have been watching Brown closely for months:
The new charges stem from a Christmas Day attack against Stratfor, a U.S.-based intelligence gathering firm, in which Anonymous hackers stole some 5.5 million emails, some of which were later published on WikiLeaks. Brown allegedly facilitated the hack by posting a hyperlink in an Internet Relay Chat channel he controlled, thereby providing others access to the credit card information and identities of 5,000 individuals in the Stratfor database.
That’s count one: knowingly trafficking in stolen authentication features. Count two alleges that Brown kept at least some of this credit card information for several months in an attempt to defraud the card holders. He is also charged with 10 counts of aggravated identity theft. All told, Brown could face up to 45 years in prison and a $3 million fine on the new counts alone.
Another Anonymous hacker, Jeremy Hammond, has been accused of orchestrating the Stratfor attack and could face life in prison.
So one of his erstwhile comrades is facing life, and Brown himself could spend 45 years in the pen. Guess that book deal won’t work out, huh?
UPDATE IV: I first became aware of Barrett Brown in October 2009, when he evidently got the idea that it would be cool to dogpile on Charles Johnson’s attacks against me. Rather than argue with him about that — or even mention his name — instead I put up a post mocking his former role as spokesman for an atheist group.
For a while thereafter, Brown would occasionally pop up online harassing me about one thing or another, and every so often I’d heap more scorn and mockery on him. In December 2010, I mocked Brown’s weirdly grandiose scheme for “Project PM”:
Has Barrett Brown slipped a cog? Is he zany, daft, wacko, loony, bonkers, Froot Loops, and cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?
Brown reacted by threatening to sue me for libel, which I laughed off as ridiculous, the evidence of Brown’s derangement being quite obvious. It was about two months later (February 2011) that somebody sent me an e-mail informing me that this narcissistic nutcase had made himself the public spokesman for Anonymous. Now here we are 22 months later, with Barrett Brown under arrest and threatened with the possibility of decades in federal prison. Perhaps his atheist pals will recommend that Barrett take comfort in praying to infinite eternal nothingness.
The self-proclaimed Anonymous spokesman said he was expecting to face fraud charges after his apartment was raided back in March. He mentioned them in a long, rambling video posted to YouTube the day on the same day he was arrested in September. “I bring in no money. I have $25,000 I brought in the last year from this f–king book deal. that’s it.” he said. “A f–king fraud charge for a f–king writer activist who has no fucking money.”
Later in the video, Brown railed against FBI Agent Robert Smith, saying that he was going to “ruin” Smith’s life “and look into his f–king kids.” The Anonymous activist said he was angry that feds were contemplating obstruction of justice charges against his mother.
Brown knew he was being investigated in connection with the Stratfor hacking, which explains a lot about his agitated state in that video. It doesn’t explain, however, why he was ranting about Jennifer Emick, HB Gary and other stuff he had been discussing with “Carlito2000.”