The Other McCain

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

Maniac Rights? ‘Democracy Now’ Whitewashes Barrett Brown’s Crimes

Posted on | July 13, 2013 | 40 Comments

Sept. 12: Barrett Brown rants on YouTube about his plan to ‘destroy’ an FBI agent

Donald Douglas at American Power called attention to an absurdly dishonest puff piece about Barrett Brown, the erstwhile “Anonymous” spokesman whose online meltdown in September 2012 resulted in his arrest for threatening FBI Special Agent Robert Smith.

You can click here to read the transcript of the broadcast, but the gist of it is this: Northwestern University philosophy professor Peter Ludlow seems to have bought into Barrett Brown’s idea that any random psychopath, simply by claiming to be engaged in journalism, can engage in criminal behavior, and that if the psychopath-“journalist” is then prosecuted for his crimes, well . . . “chilling effect.” Watch:

People might actually believe that dishonest one-sided propaganda if they knew nothing about the nature of Anonymous, or about Barrett Brown’s “journalism” career, or the allegedly sinister conspiracies that Brown claims he was investigating. Here’s just one short excerpt of Brown, after he was raided in March 2012 in connection with the “LulzSec” hacker cell, spinning his self-serving bullshit:

The warrants themselves refer to the information that they’re seeking as regarding Anonymous, of course, a few other things of that nature, and also two companies: HBGary and Endgame Systems. Both of these are intelligence contracting companies that Anonymous had a run-in with in February of 2011, during which a number of emails were taken from HBGary, in particular, which themselves revealed a number of conspiracies being perpetuated by those companies in conjunction with Justice Department and several other institutions, including Bank of America, against WikiLeaks and against several journalists.
The time since, I’ve spent a lot of time going over those emails, researching them, conducting other research, otherwise trying to expose a number of things that have been discovered by virtue of those emails from HBGary having been taken. I sincerely believe that my activities on that front contributed to me being raided the other day and will no doubt contribute to any further action that the FBI decides to take. I would just also note the Justice Department itself is very much intertwined with this issue, and has been for a while, and in no way can conduct a fair investigation against me, based on what I’ve revealed, what I’ve helped to sort of emphasize about them.

First: The hacking of HBGary’s e-mails was a crime, an act of terroristic vandalism and theft. What had happened was the head of the firm’s Internet security subsidiary had publicly boasted that he had information that was going to take down Anonymous. A cell of hackers known as “LulzSec” then broke into the HBGary’s server and also hacked the boastful executive’s e-mail account.

There was no “conspiracy” revealed by those e-mails. Instead, they showed the executive, Aaron Barr, suggesting various schemes he proposed for attacking Anonymous. If you will recall, Anonymous zoomed to prominence by its actions in defense of WikiLeaks. Everybody in business and in government was trying to find ways to defend against these online attacks, which had been aimed at a variety of entities — including Amazon, Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — viewed as “enemies.”

It was digital vigilanteism, a thug mob engaged in terroristic intimidation: “Do what we say, or else we will shut down your servers with a DDOS attack and maybe also hack your files.” You could compare Anonymous to the Mafia, the Hitler’s SA Brownshirts, the KKK or any other group that uses terror tactics to achieve its aims.

Aaron Barr was trying to win contracts for HBGary to provide security against such threats, and while pitching his services to prospective clients, Barr proposed a number of . . . uh, innovative approaches.

We could just say that some of the stuff Barr suggested was as shady as the stuff Anonymous was doing. Or we could quote this exchange from the Democracy Now broadcast:

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Ludlow, talk about what he had released. Talk about what he got from HBGary and how this links to Glenn Greenwald.
PETER LUDLOW: Sure. Well, what they uncovered was—I mean, it’s actually a little bit subtle, right? Because it begins with the Bank of America being concerned that WikiLeaks had information on it. Bank of America goes to the United States Department of Justice. The Department of Justice leads them to Hunton & Williams, the big law fix-it firm in the D.C. area, who in turn hooks them up with a group of private intelligence contractors that went under the umbrella Team Themis. And Team Themis had a number of proposals and projects that were exposed in all of this. They included running kind of a PSYOPs operation against the Chamber Watch, which is a group that sort of monitors the Chamber of Commerce, and it was an attempt to undermine it and Glenn Greenwald and other individuals. And, I mean, there were many, many plans that they had, many, many things, but some of the documents released showed that they were saying they were going to create fake documents, leak them to Greenwald, and then, when Greenwald eventually released them, they would expose it as a fraud and attempt to undermine him in that way. And they had a similar plan for Chamber Watch, as well.

Pay attention: “Team Themis had a number of proposals” — key word, proposals — which was all it was, because the ad-hoc consortium known as “Team Themis” never got a contract to do this stuff.

To characterize some of the things in Aaron Barr’s e-mails as “projects” or even “plans” is horribly misleading. Barr and his friends were brainstorming and Barr, coming from a military background, kept offering wild-ass ideas that sounded like spy-vs.-spy stuff: Devious “dirty tricks” operations and so forth.

Neither Bank of America nor any other client ever signed off on any of these “plans,” which as I say, weren’t really “plans” at all, but rather just stuff that Aaron Barr wrote in his e-mails. The e-mails sound scary when described as if they were something that somebody actually did — “projects” — or something intended to be done — “plans” — but what if everything you had ever merely proposed to do in an e-mail were published and presented to the world as if it were an actual event?

Would that be realistic? Would it be . . . “investigative journalism”?

See, this is where the whole phony career of Barrett Brown comes into focus: Barrett didn’t know what the fuck he was doing. Period.

Barrett Brown was never on the staff of any magazine or newspaper, never worked under the supervision of an experienced editor. That drug-addled son of a bitch never so much as covered a city council meeting or a zoning board hearing and yet — thanks to the Internet — he could sit at his laptop promoting himself as an expert on subjects that he simply was not qualified to discuss. And be taken seriously by other “journalists” who don’t have enough basic common sense to come in out of the rain.

God, I despise gullible fools like Amy Goodman.

Carefully parse this sentence from Barrett Brown’s interview:

[A] number of emails were taken from HBGary, in particular, which themselves revealed a number of conspiracies being perpetuated by those companies in conjunction with Justice Department and several other institutions, including Bank of America, against WikiLeaks and against several journalists.

Or, so says Barrett Brown. The e-mails “revealed a number of conspiracies being perpetuated by those companies,” says Barrett Brown, with the confidence of a natural-born bullshit artist.

There were “a number of conspiracies,” that number being zero.

But never mind that: Barrett Brown says he is a journalist and indeed such a journalist is he that the federal government framed him for a crime just to stop him from continuing his journalism.

How many articles did Barrett Brown publish about the HBGary e-mails, “Team Themis,” etc.? Who published these articles? What were the publication dates and word-counts of those articles?

Good luck with that research, Peter Ludlow and Amy Goodman — or anybody else who wants to try to compile the bibliography of Barrett Brown’s “investigative journalism” about HBGary and whatever “number of conspiracies” he says were being “perpetuated.”

You naive chumps — Barrett Brown scammed you. You suckers got played. Let’s re-read Brown’s description of his “journalism”:

I’ve spent a lot of time going over those emails, researching them, conducting other research, otherwise trying to expose a number of things that have been discovered by virtue of those emails from HBGary having been taken. I sincerely believe that my activities on that front contributed to me being raided the other day.

Barrett “spent a lot of time going over those emails,” you see. The HBGary hack was February 2011, the FBI raided him in March 2012, so for 13 months Barrett was “going over those emails” and producing what?

Please, Amy Goodman and Peter Ludlow, show me what Barrett Brown actually reported — you know, real “journalism,” published somewhere besides Pastebin documents — that made him such an Enemy of the State that the FBI raided him to shut him up?

Three words: Bull. Fucking. Shit.

If all I ever did all day long was “going over e-mails” that wouldn’t make me a journalist. Hell, I wouldn’t even be a blogger.

You could call Barrett Brown a lot of things. Adrian Chen of Gawker called him a “famewhore” after Brown announced in November 2011 that he and Gregg Housh had signed a “six-figure” deal for a book about Anonymous. What happened to that book deal? Somebody should ask Gregg Housh if he and Barrett ever delivered so much as a draft chapter to the publisher. And what about Dan Conaway, the big deal New York literary agent who scored that deal? Has anybody asked Dan Conaway how far along Barrett and Gregg were on their “six-figure” manuscript before his client Barrett Brown went berserk and got busted by the feds?

See, these are common-sense questions that a reporter would ask about a story like this, if he were actually interested in the truth, rather than doing publicity or propaganda, which is what Peter Ludlow and Amy Goodman are providing for Barrett Brown: Accept his story about himself at face-value, without bothering to check his story to see if it matches up to the actual facts.

Having cursorily checked the facts, I find that in 2007, Barrett Brown co-authored an anti-creationism book, Flock of Dodos, with a Texas A&M sociology professor, and the blurb says:

Barrett Brown has written for several national magazines including National Lampoon, Cracked, Jest, Wired, Playboy and for

Perhaps someone could provide a listing of the articles that Barrett contributed to those humor magazines. A search of the archives at yields exactly one result for Barrett Brown, a 2003 column of Internet sex news compiled with Sarah Harrison.

My point is that it might be helpful, in understanding him as a journalist, to study Barrett Brown’s work history prior to his bursting upon the scene as the face of Anonymous in February 2011.

Because from my own knowledge of Brown’s career, whatever his skills as a famewhore/spokesman, I can’t really see anything that would particularly qualify him to do anything else with those HBGary e-mails other than, well, “going over those emails, researching them, conducting other research, otherwise trying to expose a number of things that have been discovered.”

Spinning his wheels, wasting his time, and publishing . . . what?

Between February 2011 and his September 2012 arrest, what did Barrett Brown actually publish? Maybe I missed some journalism important enough to merit his arrest by the FBI because, as everybody knows, this is what the FBI does: They arrest investigative journalists who are Getting Too Close to the Truth.

No, I don’t believe that. And you don’t believe it, either.

You’d have to be as thick-headed as a Northwestern University philosophy professor to believe something that preposterous. But right there it is, the headline at Democracy Now:

Jailed Journalist Barrett Brown Faces 105 Years
For Reporting on Hacked Private Intelligence Firms

If you’re the kind of person who believes everything you read on the Internet, that settles it, right? Whatever you do, don’t try “Reporting on Hacked Private Intelligence Firms,” or else the feds will kick down your door and send you to prison, too.

Hell, folks, I’m scared to death even to link that headline.

Journalist Barrett Brown spent his 300th day behind bars this week on a range of charges filed after he used information obtained by the hacker group Anonymous to report on the operations of private intelligence firms. Brown faces 17 charges ranging from threatening an FBI agent to credit card fraud for posting a link online to a document that contained stolen credit card data. But according to his supporters, Brown is being unfairly targeted for daring to investigate the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors.

Oh, damn. Now I’ve quoted the story! Is that a SWAT team outside my door? Do I hear the sound of hob-nailed jackboots of the fascist Surveillance State goose-stepping down my street?

“But according to his supporters . . .”

That’s an interesting sentence, isn’t it? Democracy Now didn’t talk to anyone who isn’t a Barrett Brown supporter, we must suppose, because Democacy Now thinks everyone should be a Barrett Brown supporter, and what they are doing is advocacy, not journalism. Here are a few sentences maybe Amy Goodman should read:

Brown wasn’t arrested for “reporting,” and his saga seems more properly understood as a morality tale about unsupervised amateurs who impudently imagine they can achieve fame and fortune by producing an ersatz imitation of actual journalism. . . .
What one usually finds among practitioners of Cargo Cult Journalism is a grandiose posture of contempt for the unglamorous toil of the workaday reporter. Many people who have never covered a county commission meeting, a high-school basketball tournament or a Fourth of July parade — such local tedium is beneath their notice — seem to harbor Walter Mitty fantasies of gaining worldwide journalistic significance. The Internet is a medium that permits these would-be Seymour Hersh types to catapult past the minor leagues of journalism where real reporters learn their craft. . . . Thinking himself a sort of one-man Woodward and Bernstein who would heroically expose the Hidden Secrets of the Surveillance State, Brown instead exposed himself as a blundering amateur who got himself in so far over his head that he couldn’t handle the catastrophic result.

It’s called “The Kook Who Knew Too Much” and — unlike anything Amy Goodman would ever say about Barrett Brown — it has the merit of being the brutal and ugly truth. Y’know, journalism? But let’s watch that 13-minute Barrett Brown meltdown again, just for laughs:

About a week before his epic meltdown, Barrett sent me an e-mail threatening to sue me for libel. He hasn’t sued me yet, but who knows? Maybe he will still be pissed at me in 105 years.

UPDATE: Perhaps it is not sufficiently clear to Peter Ludlow why criminal hacking is not what journalists do for living.

See what I mean? Anonymous had enemies — Amazon, Bank of America, PayPal, HBGary, etc. — and those enemies got hacked. We might add that Glenn Greenwald had enemies — the United States government — and so Edward Snowden took a thumb drive full of classified documents out of the NSA. Therefore criminals get to decide what we get to know or don’t know by their choice of enemies?

And the only real journalists are those like Barrett Brown and Glenn Greenwald who have criminal accomplices with the cunning to obtain information by breaking the law? Like I said: If these hackers get hold of Obama’s e-mails for Sept. 11, 2012 — well, that would be a crime worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, because the White House Press Office sure isn’t being very helpful with this Benghazi thing.

News flash: America already hates journalists. Do you think America will love us more if we were accomplices of thieves and traitors?



  • Brian

    Strangely enough, the other day, I stumbled onto this documentary featuring Brown and many of these topics. This is pretty much from these cyberthug’s perspective but give you a good idea of what kind of kids we are dealing with here, and where it all came from.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Don’t forget, Barrett Brown is a prison snitch too.

  • DatechGuy

    Have to slightly disagree, calling Amy Goodman a “gullible fool” assumes she doesn’t know this is all BS.

    I suggest she like many on the very radical left know exactly what it is and makes a living pushing this stuff to actual gullible fools.

    The only question is was she sponsored or did she figure out she could make a living this way on her own?

    Carney barkers still exists, just in a different form

  • WJJ Hoge

    There you go again, McCain, showing off your better grade of wacko.

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  • Anonymous

    This is what happens when addicts go off their meds.

    If he somehow manged to get to “Incoherent” it would be a vast improvement.

  • TC_LeatherPenguin

    SHOW OF HANDS: “Who knows Juan Gonz? Who knows what this chipmunk is all about?”

  • DonaldDouglas

    I knew you’d make good use of that Democracy Now! clip. Heh!

  • DaveO

    Whether it’s Barrett Brown, or Bill Schmalfeldt, it looks like the Left is having to spend more time and money shoring up their Cyber-Stormtroopers. But that’s what happens when you recruit mentally ill people to do the dirty work.

    But the Left isn’t that stupid. According to RSM, Rauhauser is known for creating cells, based on the on old communist model, that work in parallel, sometimes in collaboration, for whomever Rauhauser’s ‘client’ may direct. Those efforts are likely something that wouldn’t survive the cleansing light of day, so they have to remain hidden.
    The best way to hide is to hide in plain sight. The second best way to hide is to distract everyone. Brown and Schmalfeldt make for excellent distractions.

  • Matthew W

    Barrett Brown is also a prison bitch.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    You say that like it is a bad thing!

    Barrett has to keep occupied!

  • Matthew W

    Hey, I wasn’t complaining about it!!

  • Ken

    The “faces 105 years” narrative is forgivable — just barely — in a citizen who hasn’t bothered to educate himself or herself about the federal criminal justice system.

    In anyone who postures as a “journalist,” it’s not forgivable — it’s deliberate ignorance, a signifier of willful legal and civic illiteracy.

    105 years is the statutory maximum — that is, the theoretical possible maximum sentence. It has absolutely nothing to do with the remotely likely or probable sentence, the starting point for which is the recommendation under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

    There are three people who will use the “faces 105 years” language: (1) the United States government, which uses it dishonestly for deterrence, (2) dishonest and/or shitty journalists, or (3) people who are talking about a subject they haven’t bothered to learn about.

    See, e.g.,

    In the case of Democracy Now, it’s probably a mix of dishonesty and ignorance.

  • ajpwriter

    That’s the first time I actually clicked on the video and watched it. I’m a little disappointed. I was hoping for some “Big Dogs, Big Dogs, landing on my face!”

    Still, no clue what he’s on about, so that’s something.

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