Yes, everyone is still writing about Syria right now. But I wanted to take a moment away from that important story to remind you of another one: Barrett Brown, the writer and computer expert who is facing a hundred years in prison for the crime of posting a link
I'm serious. That's the charge
Two of the indictments—the threatening of an FBI officer in a YouTube video and the concealing of evidence—do not seem worthy of such a harsh sentence, considering a man in Houston recieved only 42 months for threatening to blow up an FBI building, and a former dentist got 18 months for threatening to kill an FBI agent. The third, however, pertains to Barrett Brown's pasting of a link in an Anonymous IRC chat room to a document full of credit card numbers and their authentication codes that was stolen from the security company Stratfor, in the midst of a hack that released over five million internal emails. Those emails were published to Wikileaks.
I've seen the "threat," which wasn't really a threat: Fortunately, Brown kept his wording somewhat vague. His message was pretty effing stupid, but not, I think, criminal.
At the time of the Great Stratfor hack -- which Brown did not himself commit -- most bloggers sniffed that the revelations proved that Stratfor head George Friedman was a pompous, irrelevant ass. I disagreed. The data dump included some very important material, as detailed in previous Cannonfire posts, here
Some of these claims may not be true, but all are worthy of further investigation:
-- Pakistan knew where Bin Laden was all along.
-- Bin Laden was not buried at sea; the body was shipped to Dover AFB.
-- Israeli commandos secretly destroyed much of Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
-- Israel had an "inside source" close to Hugo Chavez.
-- Stratfor worked with Goldman Sachs to develop an investment fund based on what looks very much like insider trading.
-- The US government has partnered with Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel to fight that cartel's competitors.
I think the real reasons Brown is being persecuted has to do with Stratfor's hunger for vengeance.
A verdict against Brown could turn the entire internet into a hellish place
In a nutshell, a verdict against Brown could mean that sharing certain links will land you in prison, according to legal experts.
If Brown is convicted, “it means that one of the great things about modern technology – the ability to disseminate information widely and quickly – can be used as a means of locking people behind bars for many years,” says Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who has been closely following the case against Brown.
Specifically, Brown was charged under a broad identity theft law, 18 USC 1028(a)(2), which criminalizes a person who “knowingly transfers an identification document, authentication feature, or a false identification document knowing that such document or feature was stolen or produced without lawful authority.” As Fakhoury explains, an “authentication feature” is a credit card number or the “CCV” number (found on the back of most cards). But it may be possible for people to be charged for sharing links to other types of stolen or otherwise illicit data – like child pornography, copyrighted material, or the top-secret NSA documents swiped by Edward Snowden.
By this logic, I could be indicted, since I've linked to news stories which included those NSA documents. And I'm sure I've linked to copyrighted materials, as have all other bloggers.
This prosecution could turn us all