Barrett Brown is an activist and journalist best known for his work with Anonymous. The 35-year-old was sentenced to prison for threatening an FBI agent and helping to share stolen data. Though his original charges carried a sentenced of more than 100 years in prison, Brown ended up pleading guilty to much lesser charges that consisted of: transmitting threats, aiding hackers, and obstructing authorities from carrying out a search warrant.
Free speech activists urged that Brown was merely targeted by the federal government as a result of sharing data hacked from the Austin-based defense contractor Stratfor.
Brown was released from jail just this November after serving a controversial 4-year sentence, in which he spent at least six of those months in solitary confinement. Though he is currently free, he still faces six months of house arrest, and must pay more than $800 thousand in restitution fees.
The controversy of his jail time is largely in part to Brown ultimately doing time for a crime that was not even directly a result of his doing, however. The hacking charge revolved around Brown copying and pasting a link to WikiLeaks material that had already been hacked, and then putting it into a chat room for other activists and journalists to access and research. But Brown didn’t even carry out that specific hack, and wasn’t even accused of doing so. Nonetheless, Brown became a message to free speech activists that there are consequences to being a real journalist who isn’t afraid to expose secrets and crimes of those in power.
The establishment’s control over the media has spanned generations. This has caused a cloud to settle over society, where we are only given answers that stem from pre-approved questions and pre-approved answers from the elite via mainstream news outlets. Anything going against the grain isn’t just considered alternative, but a threat to the tightly-wound world the establishment has so critically created.
But there is only so much that can be done in a day and age where the Internet reigns supreme; where activism through this media always finds a way to present itself, especially with a growing number of people finally waking up.
Though Brown may have suffered consequences, he does not let his jail time instill fear in him to back down. Rather, it has further fueled his fire to fight against the establishment.
“I’m very much in favor of further leaks and hacks against select targets, those institutions we believe are engaging in crimes with the complicity of our government,” Brown said recently.
WikiLeaks celebrated Brown’s release with a tweet that revealed they had published a searchable archive of more than 60,000 HBGary emails. Brown’s Project PM, a crowdsourced investigation focusing on research and analysis of leaked documents, had been investigating the emails prior to his arrest.
Brown’s story is now being revealed in a new mini-documentary called Relatively Free that gives viewers a deeper look at his release from prison, and travel to the halfway house he has been ordered to stay at. The film was produced by Alex Winter, whose goal is to raise awareness regarding free speech, privacy rights, and the fight for the Internet.
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