The Other McCain

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

Notoriously Crazy Felon Barrett Brown Has Been Released From Federal Prison

Posted on | November 29, 2016 | 3 Comments

September 2012: Barrett Brown calmly explains his intent to ‘destroy’ an FBI agent

“You don’t need a lawyer, Barrett. You need a psychiatrist, or perhaps a priest to exorcise your demons. You are traveling a road to destruction, as harmful to yourself as to any of your chosen enemies. Get help.”
me, to Barrett Brown, Sept. 4, 2012

“I got to find out, thanks to a hack — thanks to another f–king stroke of luck, thank God — that HB Gary, since mid-February, had hired an FBI informant . . . making up reasons to raid Barrett Brown and get his information.”
Barrett Brown, “Why I’m Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three,”, Sept. 12, 2012

In January 2015, former “Anonymous” spokesman Barrett Brown was sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison after pleading guilty to “threatening an FBI agent, attempting to hide two laptops during the execution of a search warrant and offering to help another hacker.” Because he had been in custody for more than two years since his September 2012 arrest, I calculated at the time that Barrett would be out by 2017, but it looks like he got out a little early:

Dallas-born investigative journalist Barrett Brown was released from federal prison Tuesday morning after spending more than four years behind bars.
The 35-year-old was sentenced to prison for threatening an FBI agent and helping share stolen data, marking the end of a criminal case criticized by free-speech advocates. He originally faced charges that carried more than 100 years in prison, but Brown pleaded guilty to greatly reduced charges: transmitting threats, aiding hackers and obstructing authorities from carrying out a search warrant. Supporters say Brown, was targeted by the federal government after sharing data hacked from the Austin-based defense contractor Stratfor.

This “investigative journalist” bullshit is the hero-martyr narrative Barrett’s paranoid anarchist fanboys want to believe, in the same way some people want to believe Jim Garrison’s crackpot conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination, but it simply is not true.

Brown was an opportunistic famewhore who got in over his head trying to cash in on the “Anonymous” criminal hacking spree of 2010-2011. He appointed himself the unofficial spokesman for Anonymous, fooled quite a few clueless mainstream journalists into taking him seriously, hustled a book deal for himself and a co-author and then . . .

Oh, it’s a long, sad story. In March 2012, the FBI raided Barrett with a search warrant, but did not arrest him. Some of the Anonymous hackers had, by that time, already begun to distrust Brown. His publicity-seeking made him a target, and it did not escape notice that the FBI started busting hackers not long after Barrett began his “spokesman” duties. The logical deduction was that Barrett’s “opsec” was sloppy, that the feds had been scrutinizing his communications, identified his contacts within the hacker community, and thereby busted the perpetrators of various criminal escapades. Whether that was what actually happened or not, after the FBI raided Barrett in March 2012, he became radioactive, so to speak, and some suspected he had turned informant, ratting out his erstwhile Anonymous comrades in exchange for leniency.

Anyway, while all this was going on with Barrett, I was busy covering the 2012 presidential campaign, and only occasionally noticing the unraveling of Barrett’s “Anonymous” career. He had first crossed my radar screen back in the fall of 2009, when he belatedly tried to dogpile onto Charles Johnson’s ill-considered “white supremacist” smear against me. At that time, I had no idea of who Barrett was except that he’d once been involved in an atheist organization, so I sort of thumped him lightly and moved on. When he subsequently emerged as a the public face of “Anonymous,” I regarded him as a joke, but he evidently held a grudge against me. Then, after the Brett Kimberlin episode of May 2012, it seems that Kimberlin’s associate Neal Rauhauser decided to try to use Barrett in an attack against me and Kimberlin enemy Patrick “Patterico” Frey. This involved the fabrication of “evidence” that a former Anonymous supporter named Jennifer Emick had snitched on Barrett Brown, and a bogus theory that I was part of some conspiracy involving Emick and HBGary.

If this thumbnail version of the story sounds crazy and confusing, it’s because it was crazy and confusing, but Barrett was in such a state of paranoia (and also heroin addiction) that he took it seriously. So right after I returned from the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa, Barrett pops up on Twitter, insulting and threatening me, demanding that I call him within a certain time period — or else!

Certain as I was of my own rectitude — I had not “defamed” him or otherwise done him any wrong — I replied with a long email informing Barrett that he was insane, and that he was headed for serious trouble. Then I packed up and headed to the Democrat convention in Charlotte, forgetting all about the matter until a friend told me about Barrett’s YouTube meltdown, which I described as “13 minutes of absolute 100% bugfucking nuts,” and sufficient to get him arrested.

While in prison (and off heroin) Barrett actually did some excellent writing. He has a fine prose style, when he puts his mind to it, and if he were working with a good editor — someone to supervise his assignments and hassle him to produce actual reporting on a regular deadline — I don’t doubt Barrett could do good work. Of course, this would require him to recognize his shortcomings (e.g., laziness and arrogance), and I’m not sure he could handle that. Barrett Brown is a victim of his own grandiosity, as I have explained:

Once you understand paranoia as a narcissistic disorder, you see that Barrett’s fantasy of becoming a latter-day Sy Hersh involves a vast chasm between his grandiose ambition and his actual abilities.
Barrett Brown is not as smart as he thinks he is. More to the point, Stephen Hawking is not as smart as Barrett Brown thinks he is.

We shall see what becomes of him henceforth.

UPDATE: Forgot to hat-tip Donald Douglas at American Power.

Barrett Brown hasn’t had an Egg McMuffin since September 2012. Freedom is a trip to McDonald’s. There’s a metaphor there, I’m sure.