The Other McCain

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

Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’

Posted on | September 9, 2013 | 37 Comments

Barrett Brown explains his
‘informational schematic,’ December, 2010

Excuse me for dwelling on Barrett Brown today, but amid a coordinated media push to beatify Saint Barrett of the Blessed Suboxone, it’s important to keep pushing back, even if some readers are getting bored by this celebrity criminal douchebag. Here’s a key section from Alexander Zaitchik’s Rolling Stone profile of Barrett:

The biggest fish flopping in Brown’s net was the story of a cluster of contractors known as Team Themis. The origins of Team Themis dated to Bank of America’s alarm over Julian Assange’s 2010 claim to possess documents that “could take down a bank or two.” The Department of Justice recommended Bank of America retain the services of the white-shoe D.C. law firm Hunton & Williams and the high-­powered intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. On behalf of Bank of America, Hunton & Williams turned to the large and growing world of InfoSec subcontractors to come up with a plan, settling on HBGary and two data­intelligence shops, Berico Technologies and Palantir Technologies.
The Themis three were also preparing a proposal for Hunton & Williams on behalf of another client, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The leaked HBGary documents revealed that Themis was exploring ways of discrediting and disrupting the activities of organized labor and its allies for the Chamber. The potential money at stake in these contracts was considerable. According to Wired, the trio proposed that the Chamber create a $2-million-­a-month sort of cyber special-forces team “of the kind developed and utilized by the Joint Special Operations Command.” They also suggested targeting a range of left-of-center organizations, including the SEIU, watchdog groups like U.S. Chamber Watch, and the Center for American Progress. (The Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America have denied ever hiring Team Themis or having any knowledge of the proposals.)
In pursuit of the Chamber and Bank of America contracts, the Themis three devised multipronged campaigns amounting to a private-sector information-age COINTELPRO, the FBI’s program to infiltrate and undermine “subversive” groups between 1956 and 1971. Among the Themis ideas presented to Hunton & Williams: “Feed the fuel between the feuding groups. Disinformation. Create messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization. Submit fake documents and then call out the error.”

This is something I’ve repeated over and over, but let me repeat it once again: NONE OF THIS EVER ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

That is to say, what was revealed by the HBGary hack was a series of e-mails in which Aaron Barr (as part of Team Themis) proposed to engage in various outlandish schemes against the enemies of the Chamber of Commerce, however:

  1. These were merely proposals made in e-mails in an effort by HBGary (in cooperation with Berrico and Palantir) to win a contact through a law firm working for the Chamber of Commerce;
  2. Neither the law firm nor the Chamber of Commerce ever approved a contract with “Team Themis” for this work; and therefore
  3. None of the shenanigans proposed in the e-mails were ever more than “stuff somebody wrote in e-mails.”

Barrett Brown’s obsession with Team Themis was fundamentally misguided. Aaron Barr’s wacky “Super Spy” ideas were never carried out by HBGary, by any of HBGary’s Team Themis partners, or by anyone acting on behest of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Furthermore, the idea that this Team Themis stuff was the subject of important “investigative journalism” by Barrett Brown and his grandiose Project PM group is ridiculous. Go read Nate Anderson’s excellent February 2011 Wired article, “Spy Games: Inside the Convoluted Plot to Bring Down WikiLeaks.”

That’s 4,400 words and Anderson was able to publish that rather exhaustive account within a few days of the HBGary hack. Barrett Brown then spent the next 18 months digging through the HBGary e-mails with his Project PM friends . . . for what?

Where was the big payoff? What did Brown uncover from those e-mails that meaningfully advanced the story beyond what Nate Anderson did in February 2011? To borrow Dorothy Parker’s famous putdown of Oakland, there was no “there” there.

Yet if you examine the transcripts of Barrett Brown’s September 2012 video meltdown — Transcript 1Transcript 2Transcript 3 — you find that, in his paranoid state, Brown acted as if Aaron Barr had committed horrible crimes and as if the very existence of Team Themis (an ad hoc collaboration that, in fact, ended in February 2011) justified Brown’s insane plans for revenge:

Then later, you know, more things happened. Among them, on February fifth, an article appeared in the fucking Financial Times, saying that, uh, this Aaron Barr fellow had found the identities of all these Anons, and knew their leader and their co-founder . . .
So we wrote a little funny press release, me and Topiary and a few other people, uh a couple in there I forgot we all kind of collaborated on it; put it out on my DailyKos account and on the AnonOps deals and blah-blah. And then the next day they hacked HBGary . . .
Anyway, so Aaron Barr resigned a month later after what was found, including the Team Themis stuff. Now, HBGary, that term, that got out a lot. What, what didn’t quite  make as much press, but made a few, was that all of these, this conspiracy directed against us, that involved me for some reason even though I was doing nothing even remotely wrong. . . .

Wait just a doggone minute there, Barrett. You can’t just make an off-hand reference to “me and Topiary and a few other people” and not explain that “Topiary” (a/k/a Jake Davis) is a criminal hacker indicted on federal conspiracy charges. You say that you collabored with this criminal hacker in authoring the Feb. 5, 2011, press release published under your name at Daily Kos, mocking Aaron Barr and “then the next day they hacked HBGary.” Gosh, what a coincidence.

Just hanging out in the IRC chats with your buddies, “doing nothing even remotely wrong,” writing press releases about Aaron Barr the day before he got hacked. And then the next day, within an hour of the hacking, you report the news at Daily Kos, subsequently updating with yet another “Anonymous” press release.

Because you were “doing nothing even remotely wrong,” obviously, despite this highly suggestive evidence that you had advance knowledge of their plans and your own admission that you were in communication with the criminal “Topiary” (a/k/a Jake Davis) “and a few other people.” Please, Mr. Brown, tell us more:

HBGary, uh, they got upset, and they went to the FBI . . . now they’re talkin’ to the FBI — we don’t know exactly what was said, and in fact I knew very little about their response and what they were doing until about two months ago, when another hack occurred. . . . It was a hack of a woman named Jennifer Emick. Jennifer Emick is a FBI informant. . . .
I can tell you that at the same time that she was an FBI informant, and in fact paid for supplies, given assignments, actively worked with by an agent named Daniel Borsuk, who’s gonna wish he never — anyway, uh, during that same time, she was being paid, or rather was supposed to be paid, by HBGary for her services. I don’t know if the FBI knew that, but they know it now, because I know it, and they monitor me.

Let us stipulate that Barrett Brown is crazy, and we can’t believe a word he says. With that in mind, what he is saying is that Jennifer Emick was both paid by HBGary and was an informant working with FBI Agent Daniel Borsuk. True or not, the point is that somehow, in Barrett Brown’s mind, the role of Jennifer Emick explains why the FBI served a search warrant on him in March 2012.

Does that make sense, or does it violate Occam’s Razor? Because see, as I’m looking at it, the FBI’s interest in Barrett Brown probably had something to do with his demonstrably close relationship with the criminal “Topiary” (a/k/a Jake Davis) “and a few other people.” But please, do continue with your explanation, Barrett Brown:

[T]here was very little for me to use to show what’s been happening to me, uh, vis-a-vis the Justice Department, um, since early 2011, when I was involved in exposing something that they put together, Team Themis, uh, in which they had some companies go after WikiLeaks and also Glenn Greenwald, the US citizen who’s a journalist who, uh, is the enemy of the state now apparently, um, plus other activist groups on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and all that, but Holder’s Justice Department did not investigate that, there were no raids. . . .
Every little news circus I create from here on out directs the media and the public to the criminal conspiracy that was never investigated last year involving Team Themis and the Justice Department, Eric Holder’s little fuckin’ Justice Department, already fuckin’ under a cloud, you know, not relative to the Bush administration but still almost as bad, ah, you know, and uh that helps, so I have no choice left but to defend my family, myself, my girlfriend, uh, my reputation, my work, my activism, my ideas, and the revelations that my friends are going to prison so that we can have a chance to get out for other people, so that they would matter. And frankly, you know, it was pretty obvious I was gonna be dead before I was forty or so, so I wouldn’t mind going out with two FBI sidearms and a fuckin’ Egyptian pharoah. Adios.

Right. There was a “criminal conspiracy . . . involving Team Themis and the Justice Department,” rather than, say, a criminal conspiracy involving actual criminals, among them the hacker “Topiary” (a/k/a Jake Davis) “and a few other people.”

What Barrett Brown has done, you see, is to turn reality upside down, so that the HBGary e-mails sent by Aaron Barr were a “criminal conspiracy.” The failure of the Justice Department to prosecute Barr and his Team Themis cohorts for the federal crime of sending e-mails is, according to Barrett Brown, proof that the Justice Department itself was part of this “criminal conspiracy.”

The fact that Team Themis was assembled to attempt to get contracts to protect clients against Anonymous hackers — well, that’s just evil, to Barrett Brown, whose mind can’t seem to grasp the concept that hacking into other people’s computers is actually a crime.

Speaking of crime, perhaps readers didn’t notice when Alexander Zaitchik described how Team Themis “suggested targeting a range of left-of-center organizations, including . . . watchdog groups like U.S. Chamber Watch” — does that name ring a bell?

The reference is to U.S. Chamber Watch, a wholly owned project of Brett Kimberlin’s Velvet Revolution! Of course, at that point, I’d never heard of Brett Kimberlin or Velvet Revolution, but it’s kind of weird how, over the course of several months in 2011 and 2012, these divergent threads came together. In September 2011, Neal Rauhauser e-mailed Barrett Brown’s colleague Gregg Housh to coordinate “Occupy” activism on behalf of Velvet Revolution. And in September 2012, Rauhauser as “Carlito2000” got Barrett Brown agitated about Jennifer Emick.

So while Barrett Brown is being celebrated as a journalistic hero by the New York Times and Rolling Stone, I’m being sued by the convicted bomber Brett Kimberlin for “DEFAMATION, MALICIOUS PROSECUTION, HARASSMENT, STALKING, CONSPIRACY, INVASION OF PRIVACY AND INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS” and yet — checking my e-mail inbox again — no, neither David Carr of the New York Times nor Alexander Zaitchik of Rolling Stone seems to find that story interesting.

Just a coincidence, I’m sure . . .







37 Responses to “Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’”

  1. MrEvilMatt
    September 9th, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

    Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’: Barrett Brown explains his ‘informational schematic,’ December, 2010 Excuse m…

  2. Lockestep1776
    September 9th, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

    Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’: Barrett Brown explains his ‘informational schematic,’ December, 2010 Excuse m…

  3. CHideout
    September 9th, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

    Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’: Barrett Brown explains his ‘informational schematic,’ December, 2010 Excuse m…

  4. Citzcom
    September 9th, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

    Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’: Barrett Brown explains his ‘informational schematic,’ December, 2010 Excuse m…

  5. jwbrown1969
    September 9th, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

    Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’: Barrett Brown explains his ‘informational schematic,’ December, 2010 Excuse m…

  6. rsmccain
    September 9th, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

    Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’

  7. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    September 9th, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

    There is this thing called Syria going on with John Kerry and Barack Obama being swatted around like wounded mice by a well fed amused cat named Vlad Putin.

  8. Currahee88
    September 9th, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’ #TCOT

  9. robertstacymccain
    September 9th, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

    Yeah, yeah — I’ll get around to that stuff. But you can get that on any blog. I’m the only guy on the Right paying any attention to this “Saint Barrett” campaign that the liberal media is running, just like I was the only guy paying attention to Kaitlyn Hunt, and so if I decided to dig a bit deeper, I hope you’ll see why I did it. Somebody’s got to keep an eye on these kooks. They’re dangerous, you know.

  10. rsmccain
    September 9th, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

    I’m sure @asherahresearch will be interested in “Barrett Brown and Team Themis”

  11. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    September 9th, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

    I trust you RSM! When you smell a story you follow it like…well that brings us back to the cat mouse thing!

  12. Dianna Deeley
    September 9th, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

    Every time you point out that the things Barrett Brown rants about never happened, I laugh. “Serious” reporters relate this giberrish, and somehow never mention it. The momenttthat point is raised, Barrett becomes a ranting lunatic.

  13. jakee308
    September 9th, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

    He looks like he’s selling Amway franchises.

    That’s prima facie evidence he’s a nutso. Or at least a cheap scammer. (that’s one step above a nigerian letter writer).

  14. Wombat_socho
    September 9th, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

    You think we could get Barrett Brown to shoot a selfie with a fish and a “419” hat?

  15. Eleanor D
    September 9th, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    The cheap scammer is Kimberlin.

  16. DaveO
    September 9th, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    I must be missing something. Why is Special Snowflake worth a Coordinated Media Response? This POS is just another home-grown entitlement-ist always-got-a-trophy can’t-hang-in-the-real-world equivalent of cannon fodder.

  17. Kirby McCain
    September 9th, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

    I wonder how many emails ‘Syd’ Barrett Brown got with the subject line, ‘Dude shut up. ‘

    You think he’s paranoid in the videos? You should see him in the shower wherever he’s being held. And those guys are plotting against him.

    So hacking is now the cyber equivalent of nonviolent protest?

    Did he ever figure out that there was a conspiracy to bang his girlfriend for the information that got him busted?

  18. Fareedi al Laayla al Qakhaul
    September 9th, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

    I’m a convert! I didn’t even know TOM existed until I googled St. Kate for more info after reading about the case at Breitbart, “smelling a rat” as it were, just a few months ago. Opened a whole new world for me, this blog did! Didn’t know nuthin’ but what I found at Drudge before then…

  19. rmnixondeceased
    September 9th, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

    We’re glad to have you here …

  20. Fareedi al Laayla al Qakhaul
    September 9th, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

    Thanks! Still consider myself a “foreigner” though…

  21. rmnixondeceased
    September 9th, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

    Heh … I’m the ultimate foreigner, I’m dead.

  22. Fareedi al Laayla al Qakhaul
    September 9th, 2013 @ 10:31 pm

    Nah, you’re “just restin’, pinin’ for the fjords”…

  23. rmnixondeceased
    September 9th, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

    Heh … I am definitely not a Norwegian Blue.

  24. K-Bob
    September 10th, 2013 @ 2:40 am

    Young Kid Wants To Be A Journalist:

    Kid: Hey, can I come be a journalist at your electronic media outlet?
    23-year-old “Editor”:Depends, are you any good at totally covering up anything that’s actually happening?
    Kid:What? I thought we were going to do “bias.”
    23-year-old “Editor”:No, bias is what you do if you are a Republican. We just cover shit up, now.
    Kid:But I’m really good at “spin” and stuff.
    23-year-old “Editor”: Nobody reads that crap anymore. Now it’s all cover-up, all the time. It just has to read like it’s interesting.
    Kid:Can I drop in movie references and stuff?
    23-year-old “Editor”:Movies suck. Just copy shit from twitter and be sure to follow the President’s twitter stream.
    Kid:Crap. Only old people use twitter.

  25. robcrawford2
    September 10th, 2013 @ 9:40 am

    And at behest of their political masters, the Maryland State Attorney’s office has dropped the charges against Schmaltfeldt for violating the peace order their own courts imposed.

    Apparently Kimberlin set up shop in Maryland because it’s utterly corrupt and controlled by his patrons.

  26. rmnixondeceased
    September 10th, 2013 @ 10:43 am

    “… with Liberty and Justice for all.”
    The unspoken finish is “who are useful to the party in power.”

  27. rsmccain
    September 10th, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    Here, @VinceintheBay: BARRETT BROWN AND ‘TEAM THEMIS’

  28. rsmccain
    September 10th, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

    Please, @VinceintheBay, read this which exposes the central theme of Barrett’s meltdown rant as complete nonsense.

  29. rsmccain
    September 10th, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

    The idea that Jen Emick (@asherahresearch) set Barrett up? Complete bullshit, Vince. @VinceintheBay

  30. yidwithlid
    September 10th, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    RT @rsmccain: Here, @VinceintheBay: BARRETT BROWN AND ‘TEAM THEMIS’

  31. robertstacymccain
    September 10th, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

    I’m glad someone gets this, Dianna.

    All the praise for Barrett “exposing” or “investigating” the allegedly shadowy world of e-security contractors? Hopelessly misguided, because “Stuff Aaron Barr Wrote in an E-Mail” is not the same as “Bad Things That Happened.”

    Everyone keeps acting as if Barr actually did that stuff, as if the wild-eyed Spy-vs.-Spy stuff he described was sanctioned and paid for by someone, and that therefore Barrett’s obsession with HBGary and other contractors was “investigative journalism.” But the actual journalism about HBGary and “Team Themis” was complete within a couple of weeks of the e-mail hacking.

  32. robertstacymccain
    September 10th, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

    Furthermore, we have no reason to believe that any prospective client of HBGary/”Team Themis” would ever have signed off on the various shocking things that Barr proposed in those e-mails.

    The whole point of that story (to anyone who has any sense) is that HBGary Federal failed in its attempt to get contracts for the type of “services” Barr described. From the time that Barr was hired in 2009 until he left in 2011, he NEVER got a contract like that, because nobody in their right mind would pay for it — not Bank of America, not the USCOC, not Hunton Williams, nobody.

    Any responsible person who saw the kind of fiendish stuff Barr was proposing would instantly think, “Hey, this looks shady, perhaps even illegal.” And their next thought would be, “We don’t want to do business with someone who would even think about doing shady and/or illegal stuff like this.” Which is why Barr never got any contracts, eh?


  33. Rule 5: Virile Russian Leader Edition | Regular Right Guy
    September 10th, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

    […] Barrett Brown and ‘Team Themis’ […]

  34. Prokofy
    September 15th, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

    I’m glad you’ve done this research on Barrett Brown, it’s a public service.

    Here is my nearly 8,000 word compendium of everything I’ve found personally about him, starting in Second Life, where I first saw him in about 2005-2006, going on through his HBGary hack:

    I also point out that the current media coverage of him is driven by pre-eminent hoaxer and pranker Peter Ludlow, who has made a career of exonerating hackers and doing social hacks about their crimes to minimize them in the media. I’ve followed him since about 2002-2003.

    What’s important to stress is that the case is not about pasting a mere URL online in some kind of act of journalism.

    The pasting took place in a private AnonOps IRC channel, and was posted in Brown’s personal channel ProjectPM. Journalism isn’t pasting things into chat channels that only hackers know about.

    Only after he released the red meat to the hordes — who indeed used these credit cards to steal and buy themselves World of Warcraft games and such — did he then post it on his personal blog on Daily Kos — blogging, not journalism.

    But that act was conducted with more IRC channel chat with the hapless victims themselves of the HBGary hack, who were trying to bargain with the hackers not to post their private emails. He threatened them and essentially blackmailed them.

    In numerous texts, most of which remain online, he reveals himself to be intimately involved in knowledge of Anonymous hacks before they happen, as they happen, and after they happen, and plays the role of spokesperson, PR manager, and abetter through attempts to harass and blackmail people and get their servers crashed.

    The “assclown” text documenting his real-time direction of Charles Johnson has been removed but I and others have copies.

  35. Prokofy
    September 15th, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

    You know, these topics are related.

    The same hackers who helped Anonymous helped WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. These networks do link, and the Kremlin does take advantage of them, when it doesn’t direct some of them from the get-go.

  36. Prokofy
    September 15th, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

    It’s also important to point out that a) their contemplated acts were not unlawful b) they are not charged with any crimes for them c) Anonymous first used these tactics — and worse. Which is why Anonymous members are in jail now, not HBGary.

  37. Prokofy
    September 15th, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

    Because they need to set the stage for exonerating Greenwald, Poitras, Appelbaum and of course Snowden.