Barrett Brown, the journalist that at one time claimed to be a spokesman for the hacktivist collective Anonymous, has been handed a 63-months-long prison sentence and has been order to pay $890,000 in restitution – most of it to Stratfor, the company whose stolen data he linked to, and other companies hit by Anonymous.
Brown has already spent 31 months in prison, awaiting for his trial and eventual sentencing, so he still has 2 years and 10 months of the sentence to serve. According to the Guardian, he will be eligible for supervised release after one year, but even if he is release then, his will have to submit to his computer equipment being monitored.
Brown is a renowned independent journalist who wrote for the Huffington Post, Vanity Fair, the Guardian and other publications, as well as the author of two books. He is also the founder of Project PM, a crowdsourced investigation project aimed at bringing to light the abuses effected by the intelligence contracting industry.
After Anonymous hacked the systems of Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), a US intelligence gathering and analysis firm, in December 2011, Brown linked to the archive file containing the firms emails on the IRC channel of his Project PM.
He was arrested by the FBI in September 2012. He was initially facing a considerable amount of criminal charges, including one for the aforementioned linking, which was later dropped-
Eventually, the US Department of Justice reduced the list, and in April 2014, Brown signed a plea agreement in which he admitted guilt on three charges: “transmitting a threat in interstate commerce,” for interfering with the execution of a search warrant (hiding a laptop during a raid), and to being “accessory after the fact in the unauthorized access to a protected computer.”
In his address to the judge before the sentencing, Brown said he was sorry for having threatened FBI agents via videos he published online, and to having attempted to hide the laptop from the agents. Still, he claims, he did the latter because he was trying to protect the identity of his sources.
He also said he worried about the contributors to his Project PM being hit with and subjected to the same charges and attacks from the government.
“Journalists are especially vulnerable right now, Your Honor, and they become more so when the FBI feels comfortable making false claims about them,” he said. “Every journalist in the United States is put at risk by the novel, and sometimes even radical, claims that the government has introduced in the course of the sentencing process.”
His post-sentencing statement had a different tone: “Good news! — The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrongdoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system. I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into in bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. — Wish me luck!”